Title: The Ruin of a Rake
Author: Cat Sebastian
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Lenght: 352 pages
Genre: Romance, Historical
“Love involves making your heart sort of…available. Unprotected. And you can’t properly love a person who at any moment might step on your heart and toss it into the gutter. Or, I suppose you can, but it’s a bad practice.”
What makes Cat Sebastian’s books unique to me is how kind they are, both to their subjects, but also to their reader. “Come on over, and be happy with us,” they always seemed to say to me. A new Cat S. book is something to be cherished, and enjoyed when you’re feeling down. Ever since Soldier’s Scoundrel, I’ve felt comfortable and safe reading them, knowing I could trust her not to let me down.
When a book supposedly based on Lord Courtenay’s exploits gets published, he gets denied access to his beloved nephew by his protective father. Seeing how hurt her beloved friend is, Eleanor Standish asks her younger brother, the very prim and proper Julian Medlock, to help repair Courtenay’s image. Julian, desperate to get back onto his sister’s good graces, grudgingly accepts the challenge. Forced to work together, they find companionship and hidden depths in each other, yearning for things they are unsure they deserve.
Courtenay and Julian are both wonderfully complex characters who, despite everything, absolutely belong together. If asked, Julian might say he’s a bad person, who’s trying to be better. He is manipulative, completely out of touch with his emotions. He’s bossy and cold, cares too much about what others think about him and hides his true self behind a polished and shiny façade. But he’s also fiercely protective of those he loves, capable, clear-headed, and so, so very smart. People tend to forget how young he really is, Julian himself included. But when he’s around Courtenay, he’s able to start growing into his true, kinder self.
Courtenay is sweet and kind, with huge open heart that tends to break easily. He has so much love to give to others. He simply cares, and it’s often his undoing. When his responsibilities get too overwhelming, he locks them away in his trunk. He’s unable to plan in advance, be it a simple question of lodgings, or the huge, terrifying question of his own future, that seemed so impossible. It doesn’t seem like something he would deserve, same as happiness. But with Julian’s care, he starts to remember his self-worth, his strength, his responsibilities. He can look at their shared future and see something he wishes to fight for.
“Yes, that was how it was when your soul was in pieces and somebody else had one of them. Only when you were together would the pieces fit into place and become whole.”
Together, they are able to find the strength in each other, the mutual support they need so much, to become better people and find what’s really important in life. Their romance arc is nowhere near finished- they still have much space to grow, but they are ready to learn for the rest of their lives.
Where this trilogy shines through the most, at least for me, are the outside relationships of the main characters. They live rich lives outside the romance itself, and they have friends and supportive families. The importance of support system is shown again and again. All the secondary characters were absolutely delightful. There are several parallels between Julian, Courtenay and their sisters that made me, someone who has a complicated relationship with their own sibling, very emotional. Courtenay’s friendship with Eleanor was one of the sweetest friendships I’ve read about in romance novels and I’d welcome an entire trilogy just about them. It was joy finding out Julian’s best friend is Charlotte Montbray from Soldier’s Scoundrel. Eleanor and Edward Standish’s romance arc was wonderful, even if they made Courtenay want to bang his head against a table in frustration. Again, I’d welcome an entire trilogy just about them.
Another of my favourite facets of Sebastian’s books are the disability representation. Always done with care, she has always outdone herself, and this book was no exception. It was wonderful to have something such as the illness presented in this book to relate to.
The Brigand Prince, the book that is at fault for everything that’s happening, was a really interesting framing device, although I wish it was present more. The few excerpts Courtenay read were fascinating. The mystery over the book made me teary-eyed.
The Ruin of a Rake was a wonderful final part of a trilogy and gave it the sendoff it deserved. There were kittens everywhere. Wonderful, sweet, cuddly kittens. The characters grew on me during the last year, and I will miss them dearly, but I can rest, knowing they are all loved now, and that’s honestly all I needed.