first published in the Brisbane Courier-Mail 19 August 2006
One downside of avocation becoming vocation is the subtle erosion between work and play. Inevitably, my inner analyst becomes hard to turn off, even when reading for pleasure. Which makes finding a book that effectively silences her that much more enchanting.
The Perfect Rake begins in violence, and we meet Prudence and her sisters attempting to thwart yet another act of child abuse. Although a harrowing start to the novel, the attack positions the remaining story line. Through a number of ruses, the girls flee to London and gain the chance to escape brutality forever.
Prudence is the oldest sister and the plainest. She has no real hopes for herself, but great anticipation for the matches her beautiful sisters will make. She will do whatever it takes for them to get their chance, even if it means telling a fib or two. Unfortunately, each fib throws her in the path of Gideon, Lord Carradice, who has the annoying habit of playing along, and making each lie creep closer and closer to the truth.
Gracie creates a veritable minefield for herself with this novel, with girls named after virtues, larger-than-life men, and a villain that could easily slip into caricature. But she dances through with charm and grace, creating a light-hearted, but never shallow, lovely story.
There is so much about this novel that is good: the language and use of historical slang; the humour in the characters; the wit in the interactions; the exquisite last line.
The fact that there are 3 more books in the series…
The Perfect Rake is the type of novel that you thrust on everyone you know: family, friends, unsuspecting workmates. If they don’t believe you as you extol its virtues, you rush out to buy them a copy, then sit tyrannically over their shoulder until they read every word.
Alas, my finances are not such that I can buy the whole of Brisbane a copy, but I will say this. The Perfect Rake was nominated for, but did not win, the Romantic Book of the Year at this year’s Romance Writers of Australia conference. I have not yet had the opportunity to read either the winning novel or the other nominees, but if this one is any indication of the quality of the pool, then the future of romance writing in Australia is very bright indeed.