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The Rake

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There is not a more common hero archetype in historical romance than the “rake”. In my early days of reading, I always viewed the “rake” as a sign of virility of the hero.   In romance novels, the women titter about the rake’s scandalous reputation while parading their young in front of him.   The adage “rakes make the best husbands” is passed as truth.   In this post, I am making the case that the rake isn’t a very heroic trait.

What does a rake really signify?   There’s the saying “every man wanted to be him and every woman wanted to be with him.” To be a rake meant that you really made no effort to turn anyone down.   A rake is a man with few scruples.   He sleeps with widows, married women and often engages in dalliances with young unmarried women and certainly has sex with courtesans and maybe even whores of a lower class.   A rake is really a man with little honor.   By sleeping with married women, he engages in cheating.   By seducing the young unmarried women, he places his desires in front of their reputation, the most important thing a young girl had.   By dallying with servants, he takes advantage of someone who really can’t say no.   How many books have we read about the beautiful governess who is hassled by her employer.   The fact that a man is a rake doesn’t mean he is good in bed, it mainly means he’s indiscriminate.   Yet, for some reason, being a rake is something virtually celebrated amongst romance books.

One of my least favorite Suzanne Enoch books (and she’s an author I like quite a bit) is Sin and Sensibility, published in 2005.   The book opens with the hero getting a blowjob at a ball. He’s drinking whiskey while getting serviced, as if it isn’t anything more commonplace that sitting in the waiting room waiting for one’s oil to be changed.   As he is drinking his whiskey and observing the crowd, he presses his hand to the back of the neck of the married woman fellating him.   The coldness in this scene had a visceral impact on me.   I literally, from the first page, began to hate the hero.   Later, after he walks around the ballroom, he notes:

As he left, he glimpsed several young ladies following him with their eyes.   It was something he was used to, and offering the chits a slight smile, he memorized the faces for future reference.   One never knew when one might become bored with faro.

The heroine’s brothers are good friends with the hero.   Why? I’m not sure.   Why would you allow this person into the bosom of your family?   At least Deverill, the hero in Sin and Sensibility, displays his rake-like nature for the readers.   Oftentimes, the rake never acts on his rakish past during the pages of the book. He’s just given the “rake” trait as others talk about him. In other words, the readers are told that he is a rake but we aren’t shown he is a rake.   Because a rake’s actions aren’t very heroic.

I can’t remember when I started turning against the rake, began to see this usage as something dishonorable rather than attractive, a trait from which the hero must be redeemed.   In One Forbidden Evening, Cybelline seeks out Ferris because he has the reputation for being a rake.   She wants anonymous sex with someone who won’t ask questions, who didn’t care to know her identity, who wouldn’t have any real moral qualms about the setup of having sex with a woman at a masquerade when she doesn’t even want to take her mask off.   Ferris wants to be offended by this but he knows he’s at fault for building up the rake reputation because it provided a decent  camouflage.

Carolyn Jewel has two books wherein the hero’s “rake” behavior actually works against him.   In Lord Ruin, the hero is found in bed with the   heroine and even if the brother would like to prevent the marriage, the hero’s reputation is so scandalous that if the heroine doesn’t marry him, the hero will be ruined.   In Scandal,  the hero’s penchant for whoring and cheating prevents him from having the one woman he really wants.   The entire book is given over to him changing his ways, trying to become more responsible, convincing the heroine that he is worth the chance.

Many readers dislike Sebastian in To Have and To Hold by Patricia Gaffney because he acts despicable.   He basically rapes Rachel.   He says that she can either sleep with him or go to the gallows.   He hands her over as a sexual gift to one of his dissolute  acquaintances.   He is, in short, a villain.   The story is of his redemption; his climb from the very depths of execrable character to become a person worthy of Rachel’s love.    Sebastian is a true rake, someone so dissolute that buying a woman from the gallows to serve his sexual needs is nothing.

I think the “rake” is one of the examples of shorthand in the romance genre where authors use it to make the hero exciting, dangerous, and virile.   It’s something an author tells us but what does the author show us about a rake hero?   How is being a “rake” a good thing? and if it isn’t a good thing, then shouldn’t the fact the the hero is a rake something he should overcome/come to terms with?

Do you like the rake hero? What does it mean to you?   Do you think my interpretation of the rake is wrong? or too extreme?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

110 Comments

  1. Sam
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 04:40:12

    I hate the rake and try to avoid them if I can. Which is hard because it’s such a popular trope. It doesn’t help that I rarely buy the rake redemption, especially the “rake is reformed because the heroine is a sweet virgin”. I also can’t stop thinking about STDs when I read about a rake. Am I the only one who does that?

    I prefer the Darcy type of character. The man who’s responsible and usually does the right thing. Like the hero in “Make Me Yours by Betina Krahn” or “She’s No Princess by Laura Lee Guhrke”

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  2. M.
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 05:26:13

    Wow. Just wow. I never knew all those things about a rake. Thanks for the shaming lecture for those who enjoy a good redeemed rake story – and so early in the morning, too. I’ll try to read improving fiction from now on so my morals won’t be sullied by those trashy romance novels.

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  3. mina kelly
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 06:02:15

    @M.

    You seemed to have missed the point; after all, Jane specifically says she likes stories where the rake is redeemed (though I agree with Sam about the STDs!). It’s unredeemed rakes, and characters who are described as rakes but clearly aren’t, who are the problem.

    Peronsally, I do feel the term rake has to be justified; either in the character’s actions or in the other character’s perception of him – I quite like stories where the character has to prove they’re not actually a rake, for example. Irredemable rakes (or to use the modern term, “utter coldhearted bastards”) have their place, but it’s not as the hero of a novel.

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  4. Ros
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 06:09:53

    The appeal of the rake-story is, for me at least, the power that it gives to the heroine – she is the one who can redeem this man, who can tame him, who can change him. And while in real life rakes are not that easily redeemed, in a romance novel with a HEA, we can believe that they are. We can believe that the love of a good woman can overcome the dissolution, the lack of self-control, the devaluing of women and so on. So no, I don’t like rake-stories that celebrate rakishness. But I love the stories that redeem the rake and show his journey to integrity. Devil’s Cub is my total favourite here.

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  5. Emma
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 06:19:08

    Wow, #2, I think you need a break from the internet if your impulse is to read a personal attack into an op-ed by one reader about her feelings regarding a well-known literary trope.

    Anyway, back to the subject. I think there are many ways to make a hero seem unusual, wild, a bit scary, definitely sexy, and even, dare I say it, predatory in demeanor (if that’s what you’re going for) without making him a rake. But I think rake has come to be the shorthand for this set of characteristics.

    I only find “The Rake” (TM) sexy and “successful” if he is written well — and by “well,” I mean that his amoral philandering has real and serious consequences for the story stakes — in romance, of course, the main stakes are his shot at love with the heroine. You mention To Have and To Hold and Scandal, the former of which I loved, the latter of which I liked very much — and both of these books make rakishness one of the main conflicts to the HEA, which is why they work so well.

    But more often, rakishness is simply used as another character attribute, and I think it is considered to function as a shorthand for telling (rather than showing) two things: 1) the hero is dead sexy / really good in bed / a high-value “catch”; 2) his love for the heroine must indeed be “special,” because look at all the other women he’s scored with who could not tempt him to settle down!

    That sort of shorthand is lazy and also really ineffective. In my mind, heroes can’t be such if they do not have respect for women. Moreover, rakes also lack respect for themselves. If you don’t show me the process whereby love leads the disrespectful rake back onto the back of righteous respect and honorable behavior, both in regard to himself and the heroine — or, worse yet, you leave me convinced that his respect and courtesy are reserved for the heroine alone — then you ultimately fail to convince me that he IS the stuff heroes are made of.

    And yeah, I think of the STD thing too, Sam.

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  6. GrowlyCub
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 06:19:45

    “The Rake” made my Firefox crash… :)

    I certainly believe that the trope has been incredibly overused and the label slapped on way too many men who certainly do not qualify for it, just for the shorthand titillation factor.

    That said, I still love the original rakes: Damerel in Heyer’s ‘Venetia’, Avon from ‘These Old Shades’ and Dominic from ‘Devil’s Cub’. And in the next generation, Reggie from Putney’s ‘The Rake and the Reformer’.

    Interesting tidbit about Sebastian there. I’m stalled somewhere before she starts warming his bed. Didn’t know he handed her over as well. That’s pretty irredeemable to me I have to say.

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  7. Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 06:33:04

    I think Ros is spot-on. The heroine is really in ultimate control, transforming the selfish bastard into a loving man . I think the whole concept plays upon women’s fantasies of being that one special someone who can affect positive change (magic hoo-ha, if you will). Lord knows in real life, men are not so amenable to reformation, or even putting the toilet seat down.

    Because it’s fiction, I don’t concentrate on the icky past of the rake, the liklihood he’d be riddled with the pox and his nose might fall off at any minute. Again, in real life, I’d want to scrub him with Chlorox and not let him anywhere near me. But in fiction? A guy who knows just what to do after years of practice and somehow I make it all seem new to him? Sign me up.

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  8. Lizzy
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 06:52:20

    I still like a quality Rake story, but I feel it’s absolutely overused. Or do I? Actually, the more I think about it, the more I feel like there may be — at least in many of the more recent historicals I’ve read — what I would call the case of the near-Rake, e.g. a hero who has rakish qualities or raked about in the past, but isn’t what you’d call a dead-on rake. This allows him to be likeable to the reader (no STD concerns, not really, not anymore), but still sexy and alluring.

    I think Rakes are easy to write, which is why they get used so often. I mean, what’s the formula for a rake, really? First, he must be devilishly handsome, at least to the heroine. Second, he must have bad habits. Third, he must have adopted those bad habits to buffer the pain of some deep, unhealed wound, not because he’s actually a jerk. Fourth, having sex with a virgin (or virtuous woman) will bring about an entire personality conversion, at least until the Black Moment, at which he will once again act badly, but only until he realizes that was the wrong thing to do, upon which he will be contrite.

    There, I have just written every Rake, even the ones I absolutely love and would bone in a minute (Lord Dain, I’m talking to you.) And although you can add some layers in there, they just seem to be more predictable than other heroes.

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  9. Natalie Hart
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 07:35:56

    Rake stories can be fantastic, but I do prefer it when The Rake realizes his behavior is less than honorable [understatement] on his own before he meets the heroine. My *favorite* Redeemed Rake story is Villiers’s story in Eloisa James’ most recent, A Duke of Her Own. He has begun the work himself, and with the heroine, he completes it. Especially since we’d gotten to know Villiers over several books, knew his Rakishness had gotten him into some serious trouble, I cheered on and often laughed at every step of his journey towards redemption.

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  10. tricia
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 07:36:16

    I read a lot of historicals, and there’s almost no escaping the rake. And sometimes I have these same thoughts you’re having.

    When I think of friends I’ve known for years, almost all of them have been in “relationships” (sometimes of hour-long length, true) with the modern version of a rake. Fortunately, none of us married one or stayed with one. Maybe the rake fantasy plays on the men that we might have been passionate about at one time, the ones that aren’t suitable for real-life relationships but still make us wonder “What if…?” Just because I knew better than to (eventually) extricate myself from men who were players doesn’t mean they didn’t really excite me in some way.

    Our hormones are demanding things :)

    As with most things, it comes down to the skill of the writer. There are some writers who could show me scenes of pretty despicable behavior in a hero, and I’ll still root for him to get the girl, *and* somehow my modern sensibilities aren’t squicked. But when I start thinking about the diseases the guy’s carrying or how Country Miss X is ruined because of one night with the jerk, well… he remains a jerk to me. And it’s not a good sign when I start feeling protective of the heroine and wishing I could sit her down for a cup of coffee and a biscotti to tell her Honey No.

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  11. Carin
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 07:51:43

    @ Lizzy – I’ve read so many versions of that hero! Nice description.

    I’m neutral about the rake hero. In general, I don’t like him, but reading his redemption is wonderful. Although it’s rare, I really enjoy reading about non-rake heros!

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  12. Kati
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 08:07:02

    Huh. I have absolutely no issues with a rake hero. Assuming he’s well written. Perhaps because I cut my teeth on heroes of the 80s, where many were not just rakes but assholes. They don’t phase me, or even really raise a blip on my radar, honestly.

    But then again, many of the romance tropes that really aggravate the snot out of other readers don’t phase me. I love a good secret baby. I love a reformed rake. I’m generally not phased by forced seduction. Hell, I don’t even mind a Big Mis. Assuming that the story is well written and credible. If not, all bets are off.

    It’s not that I disagree, Jane. I think your points about a rake are well taken. It’s just…I dunno. I guess I’ve been reading romance for so long that I kind of inured to some of the tropes that seem to dominate romance these days.

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  13. Marianne McA
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 08:10:32

    I don’t think it’s just historical romance – when I started reading M&B it was fairly standard for the hero to have had a string of mistresses, which I understood to mean women who he had not had an emotional connection with.
    I don’t think that was spelt out, though.

    My Romance reading preference would be really strongly the other way – my favourite stories are where the hero has pined after the heroine for years – I love a faithful hero. I like a hero that respects women as well. I’ve stopped reading a book in the first couple of chapters because I didn’t like the hero’s rakish attitudes.

    Which isn’t to say I won’t or don’t read rake stories, but it’s a harder sell for the author.

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  14. joanne
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 08:17:55

    @GrowlyCub:

    I certainly believe that the trope has been incredibly overused and the label slapped on way too many men who certainly do not qualify for it, just for the shorthand titillation factor.

    Abso-flippin-lutely!

    Back in the day The Rake was a man about town, a man of fashion and panache with an elegance that gained him the reputation of not-marriage-minded. Those stories would start with the sighting of the heroine and start the hero on his way to the altar. That turned into, for some authors and/or readers, a man with little conscience and even less scruples who needed to redeemed.

    Like Ferris in Goodman’s One Forbidden Evening the original rake wasn’t really. Wasn’t really a nasty piece of work but rather a bit of a scoundrel. I confess to missing the ‘nice’ sophisticated man of experience who has been supplanted by what is probably a more realistic but less appealing picture.

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  15. Marissa Turner
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 08:34:54

    The rake hero always reminds me of the guys I went to high school who needed special shampoo for their crabs and drugs for their syphillis. I have no idea how they managed to keep getting laid either- not like they had winning personalities.

    Sam, you’re not the only one who wondered about STDs either.

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  16. Joy
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 08:35:49

    What’s in a name?

    It’s only 2 letters between rake and roue. The dictionary definitions are exactly the same. Yet in romance novels, one is a young, sexy, edgy, and promiscuous; the other is old, fat, and syphilitic.

    I like the “fake rakes” who are more common in romances–the edgy, slighlty dangerous young man with a reputation worse than his substance–better than a real rake who views women as sexual playthings and *will* age into a roue unless he’s redeemed somehow.

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  17. Christine Rimmer
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 08:39:48

    Rakes overused? Hell yes! Why? Because they work.

    As has already been said, you get redemption and the heroine with all the power in a rake story. What’s not to like? Since the trope is so powerful, it’s done a lot. And that means more chances for it to be done poorly. But still. I love a good rake plot. I do, I do!

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  18. Lynn M
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 08:42:56

    I’m wondering if the “rake” isn’t so popular – both from a writer and a reader standpoint – because he’s the one type of “bad guy” who isn’t truly bad. What he does is certainly morally suspect, but it’s not down right illegal (assuming we’re always talking about consensual experiences). I’d have a hard time with a story in which the heroine’s love redeems a thief from his wicked ways, or a murderer or a conman or corrupt politician. Those types of “bad” behaviours are somewhat irredeemable, IMO, and it’s hard to like a hero who is bad because he engages in them.

    But a rake is bad in a non-lawbreaking way, so it’s a tad bit easier to forget his bad behaviour once he’s met the heroine and fallen in love and been redeemed from his wicked ways. Thus it’s okay for us to see him as a “hero” than it might be if he had been a true criminal-type bad guy.

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  19. Joyce D
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 08:46:06

    I like the rakes.

    I’m actually married to a real rake–who has been redeemed by yours truly. Literally, the stories I hear about his past make me lightheaded and nauseated!

    But they can be reformed if they find someone who is worth it to THEM. Going on 20 years now, and my rake is now a broom–which he employs often, quite literally, when cleaning the kitchen. ;-)

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  20. Bianca
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 08:55:25

    Christine Rimmer: I agree it’s a powerful trope…BUT, only if done well. Most rake stories these days feature a hero where being labeled a rake is just lazy, ineffectual shorthand for virile, attractive and dangerous; a lot of authors that I’ve read recently don’t really bother developing the hero, so they just call him a rake and have some side dialogue with other characters lamely commenting on the hero’s “rakishness” and success with women.

    That’s the sort of rake I could live without.

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  21. Gina
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 08:59:40

    IMHO the rake was the “broken” man, in need of saving, not from the PTSD that we see in books now (soliders, police, fireman, etc), but from himself. The idea that he is a whoring bastard is underscored in red marker with a big giant “BECAUSE”… at some point in his past his mommy or daddy or nanny or neighbors best friends sisters dog did him wrong and he’s punishing his way through the female populace as a means of revenge. In steps the only woman who can see past the obvious to find the hurt, wounded little boy within and save him from himself.

    If a friend of mine were “saving” a rake I’d slap her upside the head and tell her to buy a clue, but in romance that scenerio leads to a steamy story and is worth suspending my natural instinct to yell “RUN” just to see how the author plays it out.

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  22. marga
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 09:02:27

    The rake is a tough one…some writers just use it lazily others turn him into an absolute despicable person.
    Personally i like a well written rake as much as i like a responsible hero.
    So the rake is not particularly heroic, but thats ok for me as i prefer my characters to be human and quite flawed…i dont buy into the argument that people love a rake because of the wish that they could reform one in real life; i like a rake because they are very flawed and quite often a fruit of their environment ( too much money, liberty, unearned influence, etc).

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  23. theo
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 09:04:11

    I’ve been reading historical romances forever. The character of the “Rake” has only ever bothered me when he’s such a dog (such as the one Jane mentions where he gives the hn to a friend) or there is rape involved.

    My favorite “Rake” of all time is Anne Gracie’s Gideon, Lord Carradice from The Perfect Rake. His reputation is worse than he is, he knows it is, but does nothing to convince people otherwise until he meets the hn. There’s no sex in the story until the last chapter or two which frankly, as much as I love good sex, is refreshing, and throughout the book, you see his growth and her questioning from his actions who he really is.

    One of the cutest lines to me, close to the end is when she says (paraphrasing) “But you’re a rake!” and he responds with “Yes, but a rake can be very useful.” When she asks him why, he points out how tidy he can help keep the grounds. In context, it’s very cute and gives another layer to his attempt to woo the hn.

    I’ve also read novels such as Sin and Sensibility where I ordinarily love the author’s work, but the author has gone so far to make the “Rake” a true ‘bad guy’ that he’s beyond redemption to me from the first few pages. They might end up being good reads, but I’ll never know because they’re automatic DNFs for me.

    So, all that to say, I think any trope can work, and continue to work well if the author can write it so the reader cares. I’m not much on hidden babies and secret titles and millionaires pretending to be paupers, but if the author writes it well enough for me to care about the characters, I’ll read it.

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  24. Chloe Harris (Noelle)
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 09:08:23

    I see your point about how a rake can be done wrong. I’ve read a couple of things lately where his Rake-ness is just a big misunderstanding. I’m not a huge fan of that.

    But when it’s done right it’s still one of my favorites. What woman doesn’t want to be the only woman in the world that can save one seemingly unredeemable man?

    Right now I’m reading Wild Heart by Lori Brighton. The hero makes it clear he can’t wait to get back to Italy so he can whore and drink and not care what people think about him and he has some damn good reasons why he's killing his pain with women and wine. I'm only 1/3 of the way through but if she pulls off his redemption she’ll be added to my auto buy list.

    On another note, I’m just going to have to stop reading Dear Author until after Secrets of Sins is released. The Stress going to drive me crazy!

    Every time I turn around there is post that’s relevant to my story, I read the post and comments and one minute I think I’ve got a good thing coming out the next minute I'm panicked that everyone is going to hate it. Then the next day there’s another post that relates and the roller coaster starts all over again.

    What keeps me up at night is that people will see my hero as too much of a rake and not give him a chance for redemption.

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  25. Jane
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 09:20:54

    @Bianca You said it best. I failed to clearly make the distinction in the post that I do not mind the rake redeemed story – that can be very effective. It’s when the rake is presented as something attractive rather than a character flaw and then nothing is ever done with the “rake” characterization that I object to. The rake redeemed is a wonderful and powerful storyline (I loved Scandal by Carolyn Jewel) but in Sin and Sensibility, the hero’s opening behavior is never really addressed. Her family and his friends talk about how he is a hardened rake, but the storyline is simply him falling in love with the hero, never “growing” from what I perceived to be a character flaw.

    I think that’s the differentiating line for me. If the “rake” part of a man is presented as a character flaw, even if it is ineptly dealt with, I don’t mind it so much. It really bugs me when “rake” part of a man is presented as a character plus, as something to be admired.

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  26. GrowlyCub
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 09:25:35

    @Jane:

    I hope those rakes who fall in love with the hero aren’t in the UK… was a hanging offense, that. Sorry couldn’t help myself. :)

    Otherwise, I totally agree with your sentiments.

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  27. MS Jones
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 09:44:49

    Jane, you’ve addressed one of the things that bugs me about a lot of romance (not just historical), which is that sexual promiscuity is a man is often seen as admirable, whereas a promiscuous woman is a whore.

    In other words: rakes good, hoes bad.

    And yes, it’s bothersome that a lot of historical romance lacks verisimilitude in that STDs were widespread – probably more so among the nobility rather than commoners, since the former class could afford to buy sex, and the poor couldn’t.

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  28. foolserrant
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 09:49:57

    i wonder if people would like the rake trope as much if it were couched in thoroughly modern terms. Thinking of a modern man that behaves that way is pretty repugnant; it could be done as a hero of a romance but I wonder if people would be as accepting of it as they are of the rake trope.

    Then again, approximately 75% of Harlequin books seem to have “Playboy” somewhere in the title, so who knows.

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  29. Cathy
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 09:52:59

    What I dislike about rake stories is not only the moral abiguity, but I have difficulty believing the emotional attachment and HEA of the couple. We’re presented with a character who is a hedonist, and then he meets the heroine and her magical hoo-haw is going to be enough to keep his attention for the next 50 years? I so rarely believe the about-face to total love and devotion.

    I do sometimes enjoy the redeemed rake, the “I’m trying to outgrow the reputation from my youthful antics” story, but even those I feel like require a little extra convincing. I did thoroughly enjoy “Scandal,” though.

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  30. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 10:02:02

    Rake = historical playboy for me, and playboys RULE comtemps (at least they do in my experience). So it’s not just in historicals that you get guys who’ll bang anything in a skirt and be adulated by the masses for doing so. The monikers are examples of Jane's hated “shortcuts” (I think). Esp as so many rakes/playboys are really nothing of the kind.

    I've always loved a good rake redeemed story. Andover, the villain from Heyer's first novel The Black Moth discovers his own humanity via his love for the heroine. Her loss changes him (winning her wouldn’t have though, and I don’t think I’d have bought their HEA). He resurfaces as Avon in These Old Shades, ready to play the hero, albeit a very dark hero. I really love that transformation. And I like that of his son in Devil's Cub too. Though I think my favorite redeemed rake story may be that of Avon's great-granddaughter, Lady Barbara, in An Infamous Army. The redeemed female rake rocks!

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  31. Stephanie Draven
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 10:02:21

    It’s always interesting to me to see how closely our culture identifies sexual fidelity with a person’s moral worth as a human being. In the modern world, this is perhaps sensible, because we know about STDs and we don’t live in a culture that compels us to marry people we don’t want to marry. In short, our sexual freedom compels better moral behavior on our parts. It’s almost always the right choice to divorce your spouse instead of cheat on him in these times, but that wasn’t always the case.

    The rake is an historical figure, and he is a man of his times. His world is not ours. I am not a moral relativist, but the marriage of today is a covenant of love and choice. The marriage of his time was a contract which deprived women of meaningful choice and an anathema to feminist moral thought. The moral implications of that are different.

    Today, when a player sleeps with a married woman, he is assisting her in an emotional betrayal. When a rake sleeps with a married woman, he is also assisting her in violating the social norms that tell her she’s the property of one man.

    I have always loved a rake because he is a man who flouts social convention to the secret delight of every woman he touches and I’m not even always happy when he reforms.

    Thanks for the thought-inspiring post!

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  32. Kate Hewitt
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 10:05:48

    And what about the modern equivalent of the rake, which in most books (the ones I write for, anyway) is the playboy. I like the reformed/redeemed rake, and I’ve written several playboy-type heroes who are trying to move on from their pasts. But a rake or playboy simply as a character who has had a lot women and therefore must be sexy is not something I’d generally read or write.

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  33. Jane
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 10:09:50

    @Stephanie Draven What a fascinating look at the rake construct, Stephanie. I wonder, though, if the rake is really consciously assisting a woman in violating the social norms or whether he’s just taking his pleasure where he can find it.

    I often see a rake as someone who is quite selfish, focused on his own wants, desires and needs. I don’t think that a rake necessarily even means that he is a good lover. Just because he can and does get sex whenever he wants it, doesn’t mean that he is proficient at bed play.

    I also think that a man can assist in the bucking of social norms without being a rake. I.e., I’m not opposed to marital infidelity (although it is somewhat humorous to think that the man will honor his own vows when he clearly has no respect for others) in a historical for the very reason that you state – marriages were largely dynastic – but a rake is someone who sleeps with many, many woman.

    Can a rake be a man of discernment? Someone who is choosy?

    I guess it comes down to this. What exactly is the author trying to convey when she chooses to describe her hero as a rake? Is she trying to tell us that he is a social reformer? Is she trying to show us that he is flawed and needs redemption? Or is she simply trying to use that as a device to make the reader draw on her long memory of romance books and romance heroes to create a dangerous, virile specimen of masculinity? If the goal is to make us readers find a man sexy and dangerous isn’t there a better way that describing him as a rake?

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  34. Jane
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 10:11:03

    @Kate Hewitt I see the entire HP line, mostly, as about redeeming the rake.

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  35. Stephanie Draven
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 10:21:50

    @Jane: I suspect you’re right to think that the actual rakes of history were all in it for their own pleasure, but in most of the historical romances I’ve read the rakes were generous lovers. And even though they may not have consciously engaged in such behavior to defy convention, I’ve always thought that was the subtext. Otherwise, why would the rake be so attracted to the plucky heroine?

    The typical regency romance heroine is invariably independent, strong-willed, and the very antithesis of chattel, and I guess I always thought that was the point of these pairings. We have the rake, who lives his life seeing women as independent sexual beings with whom he can indulge in affairs, and we have the plucky heroine who has the outlandish notion that she should marry for _love_.

    When I see a rake, I don’t necessarily see a dishonorable man. I see a rebel and a bad boy, and I enjoy that.

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  36. Another Jessica
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 10:36:04

    @Stephanie Draven: I think that makes a lot of sense. There seem to be two different kind of rakes: the hero is the one who only has affairs with married ladies or maybe actresses/singers, but not innocent girls, while the bad rake is the one who will ruin a girl’s reputation without compunction. In the first case, although the married woman is cheating on her husband, she’s probably lonely (or selfish and hedonistic) and in a dynastic marriage. Or the mistress/actress/singer gets either money or a good time out of it. Ideally, no one gets hurt, so it doesn’t seem so bad. In the second case, though, an innocent person gets hurt.

    In quite a few of the Regencies that I read, at least the well-written ones, part of the sub-text is that everyone (at least the well-born) is very restricted in what they can and cannot do, and they seem to be very isolated/lonely. So taking your pleasure where you can find it doesn’t seem so bad to me.

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  37. Stephanie
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 11:11:44

    When I first started reading romances in my mid-to-late teens, I didn’t really understand what a “rake” was. After I did, I was a little turned-off, but in general, I tried to judge rakish leading men on a book-to-book basis. Sometimes, it worked for me, sometimes it didn’t. Usually when it worked, the rake had reached a point in his life when he was ready to make a change; he’d started to find the rakish lifestyle unfulfilling or detrimental to his health. Or he just decided it was high time to grow up. Sometimes the heroine was the catalyst for the change; at others, she came along just after he had made or was about to make this transition.

    The rake is still not one of my favorite romance tropes; at the risk of sounding puritanical, I think coming of age during an era when STDs were receiving widespread media coverage affected my perception of rakes. After seeing countless cover stories about herpes and the spread of AIDS, I found sexual promiscuity an increasingly undesirable trait in either a real-life partner or a fictional character, especially since there was no cure for the clap during the time most of my favorite historicals took place. I don’t necessarily object to a sexually experienced hero–or heroine, for that matter–because it would be boring if all the characters were as pure as the driven snow. But a little discrimination in choosing sexual partners can diminish the ick factor considerably.

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  38. Maili
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 11:22:48

    @GrowlyCub:

    I hope those rakes who fall in love with the hero aren't in the UK… was a hanging offense, that. Sorry couldn't help myself. :)

    I need to clarify that. Scotland’s legal system and England’s legal system are separate, so there’s no such thing as “the UK” (or ‘British law’), legal-wise.

    Henry VIII passed the Buggery Act 1533, which made anal sex a hangable offence, regardless of whether parties involved were male or female. And hanging as a legal punishment ended with Offences against the Person Act 1861, but gay sexual activities were still illegal under Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 until 1967. These acts apply to England and Wales only. (I believe Scotland finally made it decriminalised in 1980.)

    In spite of these acts, there were openly gay men, but just how openly depends on the social climate of the country throughout British’s centuries-long history. In modern history, for instance, the Georgian era was when gay men and – sorry, my brain is blanking on me as I can’t think of a correct term – cross-dressers openly moved through the society, and some time during the Victorian era, it was a secret. It also depend on geographical locations and each person’s social status of the society.

    ‘Confirmed bachelor’ was, for some and during certain time periods, a code word for a homosexual. The idea of two confirmed bachelors sharing a house during the Victorian era were accepted as the norm. Two women sharing a house during the same period was accepted as well. Speculations about the nature of their relationship were apparently few if any at all. I’m not saying it was an easy time as it wasn’t most times, but it always depends.

    IMO, these acts were largely used against poor-class, working-class and middle-class men and some women (regarding buggery charges), even if members of the nobility and genteel were caught with them. Edit: example – considering the difference in legal treatments of Oscar WIlde and Lord Alfred Douglas.

    Sorry for going off track, but I felt there was a need to correct a possible misconception. :) Edit: sorry about typos. Brain isn’t working well today, as usual. :D

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  39. Sherry Thomas
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 11:39:26

    I do believe rakes can be utterly charming, sexually satisfying, and glorious to have on one’s arm for a while, because he is so attractive and desirable. But rakehood, for the lack of a better word, is a character trait. A man is a rake because he loves the chase and the thrill of a new conquest. That is something no single woman can provide for him in the long term, it has to be the new and the different.

    Which is why most romance rakes are fake rakes–they are emotionally damaged men sleeping around to fill a void–because real rakes, men who just can’t get enough of pussy in every variety, make for sucky heroes.

    And I’m not really sure I’d call Sebastian Verlaine a rake. A rake is more harmless, usually, his chief sin being sexual indiscrimination and having too much fun to worry about the result of his action. Sebastian is far worse at the beginning of the book, a true villain not above trying to further destroy an already emotionally damaged woman just to see what it’s like.

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  40. Janine
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 11:46:21

    Many readers dislike Sebastian in To Have and To Hold by Patricia Gaffney because he acts despicable. He basically rapes Rachel. He says that she can either sleep with him or go to the gallows. He hands her over as a sexual gift to one of his dissolute acquaintances.

    Um, not exactly.

    S
    P
    O
    I
    L
    E
    R
    S

    He makes Rachel having sex with him “A condition of employment.” Without a job as his housekeeper, Rachel, an ex-convict, would go back to prison for two years (for vagrancy). Two years of prison isn’t the same as the gallows. It is true that in Rachel’s mind, it’s similar because she plans to commit suicide rather than ever go back to prison. But at this point in the story, Sebastian does not know this, so all he knows he is threatening her with is two years in prison. Which is still very bad, I agree.

    As for “handing her over,” again, I would say, not exactly. Sully asks Sebastian “Is she yours?” and Sebastian says no. Sully then takes that as permission and goes after Rachel, but I think it’s quite arguable that that’s not how Sebastian means his words. Once Sully goes, Sebastian tries to stay out of it to prove something to himself, but ultimately he can’t, and he ends up saving Rachel from Sully before anything happens to her and getting knifed in the process. This is the beginning of Sebastian’s redemption.

    All of this is not to say that Sebastian isn’t twisted in the first half of To Have and to Hold. I do agree that he’s a villain. I just think he’s a more multi-dimensional and redeemable villain than your post makes him sound. This is a brilliant book IMO, so I don’t want to see readers dissuaded from reading it.

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  41. Kate Pearce
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 11:47:39

    In the context of a romance novel, I like to see how awful a ‘rake’ really is before he changes into a man who tries to become something better because of the heroine. I like a bit of grit and depth to a character. I don’t like the term used superficially. I want to see a flawed character change and be redeemed. (Of course I wouldn’t necessarily want a man like that in real life, but this is fiction and the ‘rake’ is a very popular element of romance.)

    Maybe I’m in a minority, and I’ll certainly find out when Simply Insatiable comes out as that book features a truly unrepentant rake :) As a writer, what I tried to do with him was show why he was who he was, and let the reader decide whether he is really as despicable as all that.

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  42. Janine
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 11:51:28

    @GrowlyCub: Jane’s description of To Have and to Hold isn’t as accurate as it could be, so I hope you will give it another try. I would hate to see you miss out on such a great book. If you want to know what happens in the story, my post, @#40, describes it.

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  43. Janine
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 11:55:44

    @Sherry Thomas:

    And I'm not really sure I'd call Sebastian Verlaine a rake. A rake is more harmless, usually, his chief sin being sexual indiscrimination and having too much fun to worry about the result of his action. Sebastian is far worse at the beginning of the book, a true villain not above trying to further destroy an already emotionally damaged woman just to see what it's like.

    I don’t want to turn this thread into a discussion of the book, but I would also disagree with “just to see what it’s like.” Sure, on the surface, it appears that way at first, but I think Sebastian’s reasons for being, as he puts it, torn between wanting to save Rachel and wanting to destroy her, are a lot more complex and have to do with his feeling that his own death is imminent.

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  44. Maili
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 12:23:56

    I’m quite surprised that some don’t see ‘rake’ as a bad thing when history tells us that it was indeed a very bad thing. It was historically an insult – along with the group of historically social insults, such as whore, bastard, whoreson, son of a bitch and the like after all. :)

    If we were to modernise a rake for today’s world, he’d be a player who seeks affairs, drugs, parties, booze and throwing money at all sorts, such as yachts, lavish parties, sports cars, and so on. Do we admire this type? If not, how on earth could we admire rakes of yesteryears? :D

    I do like flawed heroes, but only if it’s themselves that want to change, not because the heroines want them to change. Having said that, I’m not keen on ‘fake rakes’ at all.

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  45. Sherry Thomas
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 12:24:04

    @Janine:

    I think Sebastian's reasons for being, as he puts it, torn between wanting to save Rachel and wanting to destroy her, are a lot more complex and have to do with his feeling that his own death is imminent.

    I’m sure you are right about his motivation. I only speak of his action. He knew he was pushing her toward the edge and he wanted to see how much more he could push her. And himself.

    She was the test to see whether his amorality was truly bottomless or whether it had a limit.

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  46. CD
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 12:29:10

    @Stephanie Draven:

    I suspect you're right to think that the actual rakes of history were all in it for their own pleasure, but in most of the historical romances I've read the rakes were generous lovers. And even though they may not have consciously engaged in such behavior to defy convention, I've always thought that was the subtext. Otherwise, why would the rake be so attracted to the plucky heroine?

    That reminds me of Laclos’ LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES where you have the compare and contrast between the male and the female rakes. Merteuil’s reasons for sleeping around are a lot more layered and interesting than Valmont’s. Both characters sleep around as a means exercising power and control over others, but Merteuil’s reasons are bound up with revenge and also a subconsious need to do everything possible to avoid being once again the victim. Valmont’s reasons are more bound up with his vanity and concern over his reputation which makes him a lot more conventional and less interesting than his female counterpart.

    My thought is that fictional (and probably non-fictional) rakes are by and large a pretty conventional lot – they conform to male stereotypes of virility but end up marrying virgins from their own class (or close enough) and concerned with passing on their titles to their heirs. In other words, they may talk the talk but they don’t do the walk. So I have difficulty seeing them as rebels or with any kind of social reformist agenda unless they show this by their other actions.

    To me, sleeping around to be isn’t necessarily a character flaw as such but it does say something about your character or your state of mind at the time. So it does annoy me that it’s not even addressed. The best rake stories are when you understand why the guy (or rarely girl) sleeps around, and then really understand why they stop.

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  47. GrowlyCub
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 12:41:37

    @Maili:

    For the majority of the situations described, being openly gay was not an option, and came with serious consequences, one of them death.

    If it’s my use of the word ‘UK’ that bugs you, I hereby withdraw it and substitute England.

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  48. MB
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 12:42:41

    I’m not a huge fan of The Rake myself. I do find myself thinking about STDs…(syphilis was horrible!). And even more, about his ingrained disrespect for women! And how that does not bode well for a HEA…no matter how strong his ‘love’ and sexual attraction is for the heroine. Also, how is he going to treat his future daughters? Is it a complete turn-around/redemption? (That’s all very well in fiction, but doesn’t happen too often in real life, and if so, doesn’t always last.)

    About the only rake that I like is the Duke of Avon in Georgette Heyer’s ‘These Old Shades’ and ‘Regency Buck’. (And I really DIDN’T like him in ‘The Black Moth’.) TOS is also one of the few novels where the huge discrepancy in age between the characters really “worked”. Partially because Avon’s rakish history that has aged and jaded his character really rings true. And Leonie is charming and her love for and rehabilitation of Avon just ‘works’!

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  49. kaigou
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 12:59:00

    @Lizzy:

    First, he must be devilishly handsome, at least to the heroine. Second, he must have bad habits. Third, he must have adopted those bad habits to buffer the pain of some deep, unhealed wound, not because he's actually a jerk. Fourth, having sex with a virgin (or virtuous woman) will bring about an entire personality conversion, at least until the Black Moment, at which he will once again act badly, but only until he realizes that was the wrong thing to do, upon which he will be contrite.

    Wow, you just saved me massive amounts of time actually reading any of the stories. I’m all set, now! Heh. Okay, just kidding — but still, that single paragraph does sum up pretty much the entirety of the trope.

    That said, it seems like there are several tropes hiding under the title of ‘rake’ — like, say, scamp, a more mischievous, less sexual cousin, and rogue, a not necessarily malicious cousin, but definitely more intentionally thumbing his nose at society. A rake seems to fall between them, as someone in it for his own good fun but with sexual overtones that a scamp might not have. If a rake happens to also break society’s rules at the same time, this seems to be treated as a side-effect, compared to the rogue gaining definite joy from skewering societal mores.

    I think that’s what’s under the differences in the thread, of some not wanting the rake redeemed, while others do. The rake can be redeemed, in a cultural/societal sense, because his motivation is simply to have a good time so long as the consequences aren’t too severe — as others have mentioned, the rake is really quite conventional underneath his fun-loving demeanor. If a partner comes along who can provide enough of that good time all on her own, then the rake no longer wanders.

    The rake may also get a kick out of thumbing society’s nose, but from the number of plotlines where a man claims to be a rake, or cultivates a rake-like style, I’d say the rake is the male-historical version of the female-tease: not necessarily committing to a life of being bad, but having fun toying with the idea. The rake is, however, sensitive to the consequences, which is why he’s more likely to pretzel himself into becoming a Good Match when he finds The Right Girl.

    The rogue may enjoy causing trouble for its own sake, or just not give a damn about the consequences, but he’ll never pretzel himself for anyone, and he doesn’t respect those who do. If a rogue is attracted to a partner who can’t match him in that (or who tries to convince him that trouble is not a pleasurable thing), I just can’t find that believable. I sure don’t see it as grounds for a long-term HEA.

    A rogue’s more likely to ruthlessly ruin a woman’s reputation, not because he wants to destroy her, but because he can tell she’s a kindred spirit who’d be much happier out from under society’s yoke. He’s not injured because mommy never loved him; he’s healthier than most of the hidebound ninnies simpering about reputation (okay, my bias there, heh). At some point, someone helped him see that life didn’t end if he stopped playing by the rules, and his treatment of the heroine is him doing the same in turn for her.

    Rhett Butler, frex, would be a rogue by this measure; he found definite pleasure in the vapors occurring in his wake. I read GWTW as a kid, and even then it was pretty clear that Butler broke it off largely because he couldn’t take O’Hara’s hypocrisy any longer, the way she gave into societal pressure and denied her own drives rather than meeting him head-on. Nearly the entirety of their relationship, he’s pushing something in front of her and she’s saying, “oh, no, I couldn’t,” despite wanting it badly, and he calls her on it, every single time. That’s not a rake’s dynamic.

    The rake might stop when told no, or the more sexually-aggressive (or drunk) version might try strong seduction shading into questionable pressure while his partner coyly protests. He ends up feeling like he got away with something, while she can blame her near-fallen status on him, instead of addressing her own desires. A rogue doesn’t hold with the coy protests: the woman who doesn’t honestly admit she wants this as much as he does isn’t even worth pressuring. Chances are, he’ll be turned-off instead, and walk out rather than put up with someone lying to herself. A rogue is also, I think, more likely to see absolutely no value in bedding a virgin.

    What was that bit from American Graffiti? “I’m a virgin.” “Yeah? Well, come back when you’re not.”

    I’d argue the rake is also less marriage-inclined, because it’s one more consequence among the many he’s avoiding. The rogue is not marriage-avoidant; he may disdain society as below him, but he’s honest enough to say he wants a partner, so long as it’s a woman who’s his equal; he’s not avoiding the consequences like the rake or the scamp. I do see the rogue as more likely to pursue a woman intensely — not to possess as an object, but in hopes of inflaming the spark of matching unconventionality in her until she agrees with him that they’re a great pair who’ll together rip society to shreds and love every minute.

    (It seems to me that Roarke, of In-Death fame, is definitely a latter-day rogue.)

    I guess I don’t mind if a rake is redeemed, though I find those stories boring, just as boring as the virginal heroine who coyly lets herself be seduced. Both flirted with being bad but in the end, they settle into the suburban home with the station wagon (coach-and-four?) and they freaking LIKE it. I prefer the rogues (male and female) who find a kindred spirit and proceed to set the world on fire.

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  50. Ros
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 13:14:30

    @MB: Avon was long dead by the time of Regency Buck. I think you mean Devil’s Cub.

    I don’t know why, but I’ve never thought of Avon as a rake. He… doesn’t seem to enjoy it enough? Or something about those sleepy eyes? Maybe it’s just because I don’t fancy him at all. Actually, I think it’s that he’s just too knowing. Everything is so cold and calculated for Avon.

    Give me his son Dominic – a real rake, ripe for the reforming – any day.

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  51. Ros
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 13:15:49

    @Kalen Hughes: So true! I love Bab, and I especially love the way that Heyer plays with the traditional gender roles in that story – the rakish woman, redeemed by the love of a good man. *swoon*

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  52. Jane
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 13:25:58

    @Maili I was thinking last evening that historical rakes reminded me of male celebrities of today (Jude Law, anyone?) and how none of those “rakes” seem to make very good husbands at all (Eddie, the man whom Leann Rimes (sp?) had an affair with is reportedly cheating on her with a former ex).

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  53. Janine
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 13:27:59

    @Sherry Thomas: Agreed.

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  54. Elyssa Papa
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 13:32:58

    @Jane: Ha, I was just thinking of famous celebrities who are Rakes that I would not want to be around—such as a famous actor who almost every woman seems to love but me. I just can’t help thinking that he’s a major player, a Rake, and totally not redeemable as a person.

    But yeah, I’d call Sebastian a “Rake” and your definition of it. But I do like reading them, or rather, I like reading them with certain caveats. I, too, could not finish the Suzanne Enoch book.

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  55. Chloe Harris (Noelle)
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 13:52:32

    Ha, I was just thinking of famous celebrities who are Rakes that I would not want to be around—such as a famous actor who almost every woman seems to love but me,

    For me that’s Colin Farrell. His Rake-ish excesses take him out of the realm of attractiveness for me. But if someone wrote a contemporary with a Colin Farrell clone who was somehow convincingly redeemed with the help of that one woman…score! Best romance ever.
    If it could be done.

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  56. Christine Rimmer
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 13:56:24

    Bianca, well said:

    Most rake stories these days feature a hero where being labeled a rake is just lazy, ineffectual shorthand for virile, attractive and dangerous; a lot of authors that I've read recently don't really bother developing the hero, so they just call him a rake and have some side dialogue with other characters lamely commenting on the hero's “rakishness” and success with women.

    But again, if done well, rake stories reallywork for me!

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  57. Claudia Dain
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 13:57:17

    The mythology about rakes that boggles my mind is the “he’s had so many sex partners that he’s GOT to be a great lover” angle.

    If we assume (a point currently under discussion) that the rake is self-serving, habitually seeking his own pleasure above and beyond all else, then he would be a lousy lover. He only cares about his own pleasure. Period. No matter how many women he beds on the basis of his reputation as a bad boy, dangerous to know type, he’s not going to care about learning what pleases a woman because he’s only interested in pleasing himself.

    And let’s not forget that women are not interchangeable; learning one woman’s secret combination does not automatically translate to every other woman.

    This is not to say that the rake (or all men) don’t get an immense amount of satisfaction out of knowing (or believing…ahem) that they are the master of all they survey in the bedroom, but it’s equally true that women have a long history of faking it, for a variety of reasons.

    The Rake as The Love Master is a hard sell for me.

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  58. Elyssa Papa
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 14:01:03

    @Chloe Harris (Noelle): Okay, I’ll name mine. Gerard Butler. He just gives me the squickies.

    And wasn’t Willoughby in Austen’s Sense and Sensibility considered to be a Rake? (After all, he did knock a girl up.)

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  59. katiebabs
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 14:02:50

    A rake to me is a way of thinking and a lifestyle the man embodies. Close to a duke of slut, but not quite there. Rake is fun loving and enjoys life, but can still be redeemed and has morals.

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  60. Tumperkin
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 14:03:50

    I’ll echo a lot of the other commenters by saying that my view is that rake storylines are female rescue fantasies. The stereotype of romance readers is of women fantasising about being swept off their feet but I think rake books tend to be more about heroines sweeping heroes off their feet. The heroines are *different* to other women; they *see* the kernel of goodness in the wastrel and are able to bring it out. They are *unique* among women. All of this is very appealing to the reader. I also suspect the exaggeration of the characteristics of the rake character (drunkenness, debauchery etc.) is a way of super-sizing the reader-experience.

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  61. Christine Rimmer
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 14:05:08

    Seriously. Hello. Redemption. You can’t redeem a fake rake. He has to be real and totally uninterested in making a commitment to having just one one woman for the rest of his life. So that when he does decide he can do that, stop samplng every skirt that wanders in range and be true to one woman, it’s a big, big thing. A complete shift in his being. Like, you know, huge! And I love that.

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  62. Caligi
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 14:21:17

    FWIW, this thread made me go buy To Have and to Hold off eBay.

    I guess that means I like a real rake, even though I know they’re irredeemable IRL.

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  63. Leslie Dicken
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 14:23:31

    I sometimes like reading Rake stories, but just can’t seem to write them. Not sure if I can’t do them justice and redeem him properly or a part of me despises his behavior.

    Interesting topic.

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  64. Jody
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 14:35:19

    A rake to me is a way of thinking and a lifestyle the man embodies.

    My thought is that fictional (and probably non-fictional) rakes are by and large a pretty conventional lot – they conform to male stereotypes of virility but end up marrying virgins from their own class (or close enough) and concerned with passing on their titles to their heirs.

    the rake is self-serving, habitually seeking his own pleasure above and beyond all else, then he would be a lousy lover. He only cares about his own pleasure.

    Oh, for heaven’s sake.

    There are rakes, and then there are rakes. And don’t forget rakes and the other kinds of rakes. It’s up to the author to define a character’s particular form of rakishness and I’d venture there are just as many kinds of rakes as there are authors–or readers to put their own interpretations on stock rakes. Yes, there are shortcut rakes, but use of the word ‘rake’ itself does not conjure up a single characterization, at least for me.

    I know that for me, a perfectly pure pillar of society is not interesting to read about, unless it’s as a foil to a less perfect character or if they suffer moral reverses. And no, I don’t enjoy reading about poxy, scrofulous, rapacious heroes either. It seems to me that in the best heroes there’s a nice balance of morality and rakishness, in whatever the the author’s sense of the word.

    Perhaps it’s more useful to define the anti-rake.

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  65. kaigou
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 14:43:45

    @Jody:

    There are rakes, and then there are rakes. And don't forget rakes and the other kinds of rakes. It's up to the author to define a character's particular form of rakishness and I'd venture there are just as many kinds of rakes as there are authors-or readers to put their own interpretations on stock rakes.

    I am never going to experience the local nursery’s gardening tool selection quite the same way, ever again. I have been rakefully-devirginated.

    Perhaps it's more useful to define the anti-rake.

    Try a spade or a pickax? Next row over, right by the hoes.

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  66. willaful
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 14:56:04

    Good points about what makes a reformed rake story especially interetsing or worthwhile. I would also add Liz Carlyle’s rakes as being particularly interesting because they’re generally so pathetic. (Somewhat akin to Dain in LoS.) Their reforms are believable because “raking” was a compulsive, sad behavior that did not make them happy.

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  67. Maili
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 15:04:27

    @Christine Rimmer:

    Seriously. Hello. Redemption. You can't redeem a fake rake. He has to be real and totally uninterested in making a commitment to having just one one woman for the rest of his life.

    You’ve articulated the reason why I’m not keen on fake rakes so well. Thank you.

    Further comments by the others (thank you) make me realise why I’m not quite keen on rake heroes: they are heavily associated with sex.

    I know there is a fantasy element of having the rake hero falling for the heroine above all other women, but I cannot help but feel sorry for women he used and dumped along the way.

    I particularly dislike a type of rake heroes who refer these women as whores, sluts, and so on. It’s his contempt for these women for sleeping with men like him that makes me condemn him altogether, because hypocrisy isn’t an attractive character trait.

    There is one type of rake heroes I do like – the hero who adores or at least respects women. I know there are some romance novels that feature this type, but I can’t remember titles right now.

    As a whole, I prefer anti-heroes to rake heroes, probably because there is a fewer opportunities for heroes to mistreat women so blatantly. Yes, I do judge heroes by their treatment of women (those who aren’t heroines). I think some authors forget this sometimes.

    @Jody:

    Yes, there are shortcut rakes, but use of the word ‘rake' itself does not conjure up a single characterization, at least for me.

    I do think the word ‘rake’ itself does conjures a single characterisation – an amoral man. Whys, hows, and whats that made him one are what an author need to characterise to convince us readers to understand or be sympathetic towards the hero.

    @kaigou

    I am never going to experience the local nursery's gardening tool selection quite the same way, ever again. I have been rakefully-devirginated.

    lol! Thank you for giving me the biggest laugh tonight.

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  68. A
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 15:05:30

    @Maili:

    I'm quite surprised that some don't see ‘rake' as a bad thing when history tells us that it was indeed a very bad thing. It was historically an insult – along with the group of historically social insults, such as whore, bastard, whoreson, son of a bitch and the like after all. :)

    I agree. Being considered a rake was not a good thing, unless, of course, one was extraordinarily wealthy. We’re referring to a period where the upper classes enjoyed social, legal, and moral privilege.

    Even with wealth, rank, and position, “rakishness” could impact one’s social standing and social opportunity.

    While it is easy for a modern audience to condemn the concept of people being involved in various liasions (i.e., adultery, mistresses, lovers and other “favoritism) one should keep in mind that, with discretion, these behaviors were generally tolerated.

    In a time when most marriages were contracted for financial advantage and/or social propriety, it was accepted that married men AND women sought love/romance/gratification beyond the marriage bed. A “gentleman” (read “non-rake”) often did not consider pursuing a liasion with a lady until after the lady was married because married women were “fair game” for guilt-free casual sex, while sleeping with an unmarried lady and “ruining” her might obligate the “gentleman” to marry her or otherwise compensate her.

    Virtually all the Prince Regent’s mistresses were married ladies. Their husbands politely looked the other way because their wives sleeping with royalty advantaged the family, socially, politically, and usually financially as well. Madame de Pompadour was married when she became Louis XV’s mistress. Madame du Barry, a common streetwalker, had to marry a nobleman in order to justify her appearance and residenc with Louis XV in Versailles. (NOTE: Louis XV probably qualifies as a “rake,” it’s just hard to be reviled as a “rake” when one is a nation’s annointed sovereign. His mistresses, however, were not what made him a rake.)

    A lot of behavior attributed to a “rake” in the modern-day mindset was acutally acceptable (within limits) in society’s eyes during the period. A “respectable gentleman” could have a mistresses or even several mistresses. More likely than not, the mistress was an equally “respectable” married lady, or a woman of common position who accepted the “gentleman’s” protection to better her lifestyle.

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  69. Gennita Low
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 15:07:27

    Hello, George Clooney, I’m looking at you. Let me redeem you from sleeping with all those women. I’ll even let you share me with that scoundrel pal of yours, Brad Pitt.

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  70. Stephanie Draven
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 15:10:47

    @Gennita Low: wrote:

    Hello, George Clooney, I'm looking at you. Let me redeem you from sleeping with all those women. I'll even let you share me with that scoundrel pal of yours, Brad Pitt.

    Ahem. Some of us are trying to get work done, Gennita.

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  71. DS
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 15:23:23

    @Maili: Mollys or Mollies and there were Molly houses. I know that Outlander makes you break out in hives, but Gabaldon wrote a couple of books about the character Lord John– Lord John and the Private Matter is the one I like best– that shows a very believable reconstruction of gay society in the mid 18th century. I don’t know if its accurate but when I read it I thought that it could have been like that, i.e., it was believable. — also, I listened to it on audible and the narration was impressive, which helped.

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  72. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 15:28:20

    Perhaps it's more useful to define the anti-rake.

    Try a spade or a pickax? Next row over, right by the hoes.

    Thank you for making me blow my tea out my nose!

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  73. katiebabs
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 15:30:03

    Anti Rake would be a virgin hero who doesn’t go to White’s and bet on when he will devirginize the heroine?

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  74. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 15:30:54

    @ Maili: Outlander makes you break out in hives? I thought I was all alone on that island!!! You have no idea how excited I am to be in such good company. *grin*

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  75. Anne Douglas
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 15:59:40

    I wonder how much peoples like/dislike of rakes falls into the ‘hello! It’s FICTION!!’ vs ‘got to be historically correct or I can’t enjoy it’ ?

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  76. gwen hayes
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 16:14:26

    I love this discussion.

    I think that we are always attracted to the bad boy, whether we know it’s unhealthy or not. By living vicariously through romance novels, we get to change that bad boy–something that we know logically (or from scar tissue on our hearts) doesn’t happen in real life.

    I even go so far as to say that I love reading comtemp. rakes. (I’m looking at you Bobby Tom Denton.)

    What I hate is the epilogue that shows the hero as pure as driven snow now. No thanks….I still want him to be slightly wolfish–just monogamous by choice.

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  77. Moriah Jovan
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 16:16:52

    @gwen hayes:

    By living vicariously through romance novels, we get to change that bad boy-something that we know logically (or from scar tissue on our hearts) doesn't happen in real life.

    Yup yup yup. I want my drama on paper, not in real life. I live a very boring life. On purpose. And I make sure it stays that way.

    I even go so far as to say that I love reading comtemp. rakes. (I'm looking at you Bobby Tom Denton.)

    And Alex Markov.

    Yeah, I’ve got a contemporary rake (cousin #1) and a matching antihero (cousin #2).

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  78. kaigou
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 16:20:49

    Maili, Kalen: *doffs hat* Thank you! I’ll be here all week. Try the veal!

    Back on topic, this thread’s moral (so far) seems to be: if you’re a character in a historical romance AND you’re having sex, you’re basically just a tool.

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  79. Jody
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 16:21:57

    Great discussion. Pickaxes, shovels, and hoes, indeed.

    Let us hoist a glass to rakeful-devirgination, courtesy of kaigou! *bows*

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  80. Julie James
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 16:22:38

    I think the rake character in contemporaries is about female conquest. The idea that one woman, our heroine, will literally bring this man to his knees when no other woman has even touched his heart before. At least, that’s what I intended in writing a modern-day rake. Granted, Jason didn’t sleep with innocent virgins, he just had threesomes with Laker Girls. It’s all relative. ;-)

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  81. Jane
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 16:22:58

    @kaigou Really? I don’t get that at all. I see the moral as being (for some commenters) that if you are indiscriminately having sex that isn’t sufficient to convince some readers that it is an attractive attribute for a hero.

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  82. kaigou
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 16:41:15

    @Jane: Was being facetious! (Mostly.)

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  83. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 16:57:27

    Mostly because it seems like we're ladeling an awful lot of modern expectations onto a historical stereotype

    As an author I see it as a balancing act (pretty much all historical fiction is) . . . as someone pointed out above, marriage was seen very differently for large parts of history, and the expectations fidelity and love were very different. Also, men visiting prostitutes or keeping mistresses was pretty much the norm. It certainly wasn't behavior that made him a “rake” (IMO “rakes” were the sort who “interfered” [to use Austen's term] with unmarried girls, forced themselves on the maids, and otherwise abused people's trust; they were not just indiscriminate male sluts, which is what most of the “rakes” in Romancelandia are). I guess what I'm says is not all lotharios are rakes.

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  84. A
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 16:59:13

    @Anne Douglas:

    I wonder how much peoples like/dislike of rakes falls into the ‘hello! It's FICTION!!' vs ‘got to be historically correct or I can't enjoy it' ?

    I LOVE historical romance, particularly Regency romance, and I don’t have a problem with the elasticity of the term “rake.” In some stories, I think it comes down to a question of “confirmed rakehood” versus “rakish behavior.”

    That said, I do believe accuracy is important.

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  85. Janet W
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 17:51:52

    Two great reviews of To Have and To Hold — and I too disagree with how Sebastian is described in this blog. He’s amoral and in need of redemption but well, read these reviews, or better yet, read the book.

    http://www.likesbooks.com/cgi-bin/bookReview.pl?BookReviewId=4586 (All About Romance)

    http://www.racyromancereviews.com/2008/09/22/review-to-have-and-to-hold-patricia-gaffney/ (Racy Romance Reviews)

    I don’t really think about rakes as a character type that I either seek out or avoid. Every character, in the hands of a wonderful author, is worth reading, and badly written is badly written. Do I think a lot about historical accuracy (i.e., STDs? Sorry, not so much … that would REALLY cut into my TBR).

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  86. Jane
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 17:56:34

    @Janet W I agree, read the reviews. They tell the story of Sebastian, his rape of Rachel, his descent into lowest depths of amorality and his redemption.

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  87. Janet W
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 18:09:00

    I would agree with your summary except for the word rape: that is not how I see it. And I certainly don’t want to hijack your fascinating thread with an argument on THATH — it’s clear, from the outpouring of comments each time this book is mentioned, that there is some grey middle ground. Or at least, that’s my opinion.

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  88. Jane
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 18:11:49

    @Janet W I was simply summarizing Jessica’s review to which you linked.

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  89. Janet W
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 18:24:07

    @Jane, you’re right, you summarized accurately. I just can’t separate the different parts of the book and the redemption, for me, bleeds backwards … and that makes no sense, I know.

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  90. Jane
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 18:26:35

    @Janet W I think the power of To Have and To Hold is that Gaffney did not try to make Sebastian softer, nicer, less of a rake or a villain. Sebastian was horrible and thus his redemption is all the more emotionally gripping.

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  91. Sherry Thomas
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 19:27:08

    @Tumperkin:

    I'll echo a lot of the other commenters by saying that my view is that rake storylines are female rescue fantasies. The stereotype of romance readers is of women fantasising about being swept off their feet but I think rake books tend to be more about heroines sweeping heroes off their feet. The heroines are *different* to other women; they *see* the kernel of goodness in the wastrel and are able to bring it out. They are *unique* among women. All of this is very appealing to the reader. I also suspect the exaggeration of the characteristics of the rake character (drunkenness, debauchery etc.) is a way of super-sizing the reader-experience.

    Beautifully said, Tumperkin. The Rake in romance is a literary device, in many ways. His whole purpose is to see the error of his ways for that one special woman, to deliver the fantasy fulfillment for the reader.

    It is not impossible–see Warren Beatty, reformed rake and devoted family man–but it is rare enough and startling enough to be endlessly fascinating.

    @Gennita Low:

    Gennita, I gave up on Mr. Clooney long ago. He invariably dates softcore porn girls–cocktail waitress was totally a step up for him. I think George likes him some seriously nasty kinks in bed and I am just not nasty enough a girl.

    @Julie James:

    LOL, you’ve just made me even more interested in your books.

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  92. Miki
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 20:11:05

    As someone who came to read historical romances “late in life”, I never knew rake was a historical term for a truly despicable man. I always took it to be the period’s version of “bad boy”.

    I’ll admit that I have a harder time reading the romances with the repugnant “heroes”…I have a hard time believing in the their conversion. So I guess I prefer my incorrect definition of “rake”, when it comes to my romances!

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  93. Carol
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 20:35:00

    I used to like the rake. I thought he’s exciting and so manly. Maybe it’s how the author portrayed him, or maybe I was a thoughtless young girl then. (And erm, the heroes I’ve read usually had a code of honor, which is they don’t defile young unmarried women, although yes, they could be adulterers, though that particular term didn’t enter my mind then.)

    After a hundred (or several hundreds) books or so, I started to hate (not the hero for he had no choice about it) the author for making him a rake and then for showing me just how much of a rake he is. I didn’t like the books that opened with the hero getting serviced at a ball or a card game party by his mistress or current paramour, which is about every other book.

    And usually, his past is taken as a matter of fact, by himself, by the heroine, by almost everyone, as though a man has no choice but to be a rake to prove himself. And once he met the heroine, his rakish past is not mentioned again, and no remorse is shown for how he has lived his life. Which is why, I like Tempted All Night by Liz Carlyle, wherein the hero, Tristan, regretted his past. He had become a rake for a reason, which is not really justifiable as he could’ve taken another path, but at least, there’s a reason. And in Wicked All Day, still by Liz Carlyle, Mercer felt ashamed of his past.

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  94. marga
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 21:05:11

    @katiebabs
    It would be Simeon Jermy, Duke of Cosway from Eloisa James When the duke returns.
    He saved his virginity for his wife ( he didnt want to catch any STDs)

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  95. Evangeline
    Nov 10, 2009 @ 23:12:09

    I just can’t do rakes. Try as I might, when I write bad heroes, he’s bad in all areas, not just regarding his sexual prowess. The rake is a romance trope I despise because it continues a sexist cycle–men can’t control themselves, all men think about is sex, masculinity is defined by sexual conquest–that both men and women buy into. I don’t find a man who can’t keep his dick in his pants an honorable specimen, or even a man of principle and discretion. I would also posit that a rake is contemptible simply because his partners are always, always women of little power: servants, married women, prostitutes, etc. Couple this with pairing rakes with proto-feminist, crusader heroines and I’m done. I understand the fantasy, but the older I get and the more rakes I see in real life–who’ve left real devastation in their wake–the less I want to see them in romantic fiction.

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  96. Kaetrin
    Nov 11, 2009 @ 03:11:30

    Maybe I just have a different definition than others. For the most part, when I think “rake” I think “rogue” (as per kaigou’s earlier comments) – a smooth sexy suave man who loves women and their company and is ++ masculine. I don’t necessarily associate those traits with villainy. I suspect I’ve gotten my “view” of history from the various romance books I’ve read and a “real life historical rake” would have been an anathema to me. But, that’s not what I think of when I think “rake”. I wouldn’t have described Dain or Sebastian (To Have & To Hold) as “rakes” according to my personal lexicon.

    So, according to what’s in my mind when I think “rake” – I like ‘em. I’m happy to read them. I loved Bobby Tom Denton – he was awesome. I love Roarke. I love that type of hero in a contemporary, a paranormal or a historical. But, I don’t like heartless, amoral, lying, cheating “heroes”. That, to me, is something other (? what?) than a rake.

    I’m tired, so I’m not sure if I’m making sense. I don’t think it’s a problem for a single man to have enjoyed a healthy sex (consensual) sex life before the meets the heroine in a romance novel. Bobby Tom didn’t lay a hand on another woman after he met his match. I found their HEA totally believable. I didn’t think he’d stray just for the sake of it. I don’t think Roarke will ever cheat on Eve but he was with many women before her. I don’t have a problem with it.

    But, I think Jane’s talking about something else and we just have different definitions. Maybe others feel the same???

    Going to rest now…. sorry if I’ve rambled!

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  97. Eileen
    Nov 11, 2009 @ 07:36:13

    Kaetrin – I feel the same way you do. I never thought “rake” meant villain and necessarily encompassed all or many of the bad traits others have pointed out. Unless the author specifically stated that the hero had done some horrible things, I take a “rake” as a sexually confident (and expert) hero who is also charming, funny, and really good looking. A man whom women are attracted to and has been around.

    I’m really surprised that so many readers think about the rake hero getting an STD if he was sleeping around so much. I guess I never thought that realistically about romance books. It’s the same as the way everyone bathes so much in medieval romances. No one wants smelly heros or heros with an STD. Why even go there? Romance books are fun fantasy for me not reality.

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  98. DS
    Nov 11, 2009 @ 12:59:43

    Wikipedia actually has a pretty interesting article on the Rake as a character. It touches on the Restoration Rake as well as Hogarth’s satirical 18th century prints that make up Rake’s Progress. I’ve seen these hanging at various museums but they are also available on line. It’s necessary to look at them up close because nearly every detail means something. It concludes with the rake in Bedlam. The discussion divides rakes into three types: the extravagant rake, the vicious rake who would probably be the villain in most romances, and the philosophical rake.

    I’m not going to repeat the whole article but there is also some comments on the origin of the term. While had always in the past bought into the folk etymology– I also always liked The Rakes of Mallow, a cheerful song with memorable words and tune (in fact a bit of an earwig) that we sang in grade school: “Beauing, Belleing, Dancing, Drinking, Never rising, ever sinking, Live the Jolly Rakes of Mallow….” I bet you couldn’t even get away with that one in grade school at this time, even if you called it a folk song.

    ETA: I never bought into the HEA of Gaffney’s book. In fact, I remember being fascinated with it much as I was fascinated with Burford’s Edward, Edward but never wanting to think about it again.

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  99. willaful
    Nov 11, 2009 @ 13:11:30

    “Bobby Tom didn't lay a hand on another woman after he met his match.”

    Oh my goodness, how could you forget that scene where he deliberately kisses and folndles another woman in front of her? Oh the agony! But back to the point, I think the issues raised above are more pertinent to the historical rake rather than a modern man who has a lot of lovers. The power imbalance issue is far different and I think most contemporary heroes (I’m sure there are exceptions, no need to list them!) don’t commit a lot of adultery.

    I also would never consider Roarke a rake anyway, regardless of the time frame, because he clearly has had actual relationships in the past and is open to having relationships. He may have slept around a fair bit, but I never get the sense that it was indiscriminate, even if I sometimes wonder at his taste. ;-)

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  100. Valerie
    Nov 11, 2009 @ 14:13:27

    Thank you for this. Although I will say I do like quite a few redeemed rake stories, it drives me absolutely insane when either a) the hero is proclaimed a rake, but never does anything to deserve the title, either in the narrative or, in some cases, in the exposition b)the character is a dirty dirty bad rake, and everyone STILL wants him without reservation.

    Also, I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who’s brain screams: STDs!!! Syphillis, gonorrhea, herpes!!! when reading a rake hero. It is amazing to me how many men in romancelandia get away with having lots and lots of unprotected sex with all variety of women (including prostitutes) without any health consequences. I get that its hard to write a HEA when the hero’s wang is liable to fall off from STDs, but you know, maybe that’s a good reason NOT to write rake heroes.

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  101. Stephanie Draven
    Nov 11, 2009 @ 14:24:13

    @DS: Thanks for the wikipedia reference. That was very interesting to read.

    I will note as a matter of personal reading preference that I prefer not to think about STDs while reading romances of any genre. However, in contemporaries, it’s hard to avoid–the fantasy is shallower because the characters are closer to our own world. But historicals are more fantasy than reality and I prefer it that way.

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  102. Kaetrin
    Nov 11, 2009 @ 19:43:33

    @ willaful – see what happens when I just go from memory! *grins sheepishly* I don’t remember that from the book – maybe I just blanked it out!!

    My point about contemporary/historical Roarke & Bobby Tom etc was simply that my (personal) definition of a romance “rake” is different to yours (and, from her post, Jane’s). I think Roarke is very rakish. He’s smooth, suave, sexy and I have the sense that he was never short of female company before he met Eve (and after too, because, well, there’s Eve). To me, that’s a rake. Another poster called him the “rogue”.

    Most of the romance novels I’ve read have had the rake as that kind of character and that’s where I’ve pick up my definition from. I think (maybe) other people – Jane ?, yourself ? ++ other posters here – have the more historically accurate definition.

    If that’s the case, then it’s easy to see where the diversion is.

    If the authors of the “rake” books think of a rake like I do, they will, according to Jane’s definition (and I stress here that her definition is not wrong – in fact it is, far as I can tell from comments above, historically accurate) not in fact be rakes at all. That’s one of the bugbears isn’t it? The “he’s called a rake but he doesn’t do much ‘raking’”? If the definitions are different, then we’re at cross purposes.

    The way I see it, the “author shorthand” referred to is consistent with my definition (which is not trademarked or anything by the way!!) of a rake and when I read those books, I don’t feel fooled or misled in any way – that is consistent with my headspace.

    The man who is contemptuous of women – like the one from Sin and Sensibility referred to in the originating post, sounds like an asshole. (I stress I haven’t read the book and I only know what is stated in the post above). He doesn’t fit within my definition of a rake.

    I don’t disagree with the sentiments of many of the posters above, it’s just that the terminology I’d use is different. I think “your” rake and “my” rake are different beasts. Make sense?

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  103. Kaetrin
    Nov 11, 2009 @ 20:07:33

    by Elyssa Papa November 10th, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    @Jane: Ha, I was just thinking of famous celebrities who are Rakes that I would not want to be around-’such as a famous actor who almost every woman seems to love but me. I just can't help thinking that he's a major player, a Rake, and totally not redeemable as a person.

    and

    by Elyssa Papa November 10th, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    @Chloe Harris (Noelle): Okay, I'll name mine. Gerard Butler. He just gives me the squickies.

    @ Elyssa Papa

    In the interests of full disclosure I’m a mad keen Gerard Butler fan. He clearly doesn’t float your boat and that’s okay. He can float a whole flotilla for me!!

    Can I just say that much of what is printed in the tabloids is either untrue or an exaggeration? He [GB] has stated on numerous occasions, for example, that he has never dated Cameron Diaz or Jennifer Aniston but the press keeps reporting it (if the latest mags at the supermarket are right, JA is back with John Mayer, but I digress). Apparently Brad and Angelina break up 2 or 3 times a week. (Must be exhausting!) One reportedly “intimate and cozy dinner” GB had with JA was actually a dinner with 3 or 4 other people as well, to discuss an upcoming movie project.

    (GB freely admits to a “wild” youth/early 20′s but has stated in interviews that in his mid 20′s he realised where he was heading, didn’t like it, gave up drinking and cleaned up his act. This was also about the time he started his acting career.)

    However, even if all the press is true – he hasn’t dated anyone under age, he hasn’t dated any married women. Far as I can tell, he hasn’t been accused of stepping out on a girlfriend. What’s wrong with him dating a single consenting adult if he wants to? He’s a single man. He hasn’t stepped out on a wife like Tom Cruise or Mel Gibson.

    If the worst a celebrity does is have his name linked to a single attractive adult female – well, I don’t think it’s fair to compare him to a rake in the sense of the original post (ie where a rake = Sebastian from To Have and To Hold).

    I get that you don’t go all gooey over him. that’s fine. But, I don’t think it’s fair to label him as you seem to have done. Just sayin’.

    (not trying to start a flame war – I just thought it was a bit unfair, that’s all).

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  104. Sharon
    Nov 11, 2009 @ 21:26:27

    I’ve been lurking on this site for a while now; it is very interesting and enjoyable. This discussion on rakes prodded me into finally commenting. I, also, am one of those readers who have always loved the fictional type of rake. I started reading romance with Georgette Heyer, and I was in love with Dominic of The Devil’s Cub for the longest time. However, I just have to say that after seeing the movie The Libertine starring Johnny Depp as John Wilmot, Lord Rochester (I think that is the correct name), I’ve been looking at rakes quite differently, much more historically accurately, as Jane and others have indicated. There was nothing sexy about his life and the decline mentally and physically he suffered due to syphillis. Now I have to make a deliberate effort to think of Dominic and other fictional rakes without thinking about the realities of what such a lifestyle would have meant.

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  105. ReacherFan
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 11:32:49

    I’ve always distinguished between a rake, who is to me a playboy, and a sexual predator, a male with near sociopathic tendencies where sex is concerned. A man who buys a woman, rapes her, and then forces her into sexual servitude is not a rake, he’s a pervert, a sociopath and a narcissist.

    Sebastian Ballister, aka Dain, in Lord of Scoundrels is dissolute, a scoundrel, and to some extent a seducer, but he involves himself only with those who are willing. To me there is a huge difference between that and a man who uses women as sex slaves. I can enjoy the first, but to me, love cannot ‘redeem’ someone from criminal behavior.

    Rape is a crime, a vile act of violence committed on a weaker victim. I have no patience whatsoever with books where a despicable man, a criminal, morphs into a hero thanks to love. He didn’t love his previous victims (numerous!) and he deserves not happiness but punishment.

    Redeem all the seducers you like, I can buy into that, but I will not buy into the rapist as hero.

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  106. Selene
    Nov 13, 2009 @ 02:49:52

    So… can we have an “If you like ‘To Have And To Hold’ by Patricia Gaffney” thread? :-) I for one would certainly like some recommendations in that direction!

    Selene

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  107. Venus Vaughn
    Nov 17, 2009 @ 22:37:54

    This follows my idea about the alpha-hero who has no problem executing the bad guy or living with his “band of brothers on the outskirts of society” and working outside the law for the “greater good.”

    In the real world we call these guys murderers and lock them up. In romances they’re celebrated as heroes.

    Same with the rake.

    In the real world, a woman wouldn’t touch that penis with a ten-foot pole (Do you know where that thing’s been?). In romances, the alpha-whore is seen as an exciting and desirable conquest.

    I think it stems from the need to take the literary archetype to the limit of its bounds. He’s protective. Just how protective is he? Would he kill for her? Real life, No. Novel, Yes.

    He’s hot and all the chicks want him. But can the heroine steal him away from all the free p*ssy? Would he willingly go? Real life, Not so much. Novel, Yes.

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  108. Stephanie Draven
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 09:19:51

    @Venus Vaughn: Venus, I dunno. Your comparison is so telling. It’s not just that some of us would see murder as way more wrong than promiscuity–it’s that some of us don’t attach a moral onus upon promiscuity at all. The lying, the cheating, the spread of STDs, sure. Those have moral implications. But the idea that someone likes to have sex with a lot of people? It’s not a crime, but I think society conditions us to think it were…and that’s something to think about.

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  109. Venus Vaughn
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 19:14:03

    @Stephanie Draven: Stephanie, I can see how my statement came out as a moral judgment, when that wasn’t my intention at all. I was more talking about the extension of an archetype to the nth degree.

    The moral judgments around sexuality in romance novels is a subject for another day – especially in regards to the double standard applied to men and women. Don’t even get me started. But that wasn’t what I was trying to say. I consider myself pro-sex when practiced responsibly (protection against STDs, unwanted pregnancy and unwanted feelings).

    I got so irritated recently reading Someone To Watch Over Me by Kleypas. The heroine was a courtesan, and the hero’s unwillingness to pay attention to any other part of her personality almost had the book hitting the wall. But the sexually virile woman isn’t a valued archetype.

    It’s like those Harlequin titles. The men just can’t be rich, they have to be billionaires. They can’t just be successful, they have to be magnates. It’s not enough for them to be sexy or know their way around a woman’s body, the author needs to take it to the extreme, and that extreme is a rake.

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  110. Stephanie Draven
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 22:15:13

    @Venus Vaughn: Point taken, Venus, especially about the double standards!

    ReplyReply

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