Absolutely utterly fantastic!! Wow - a definite reread. It was wonderful and I was so glad to read a great Putney book after finding her most recent release pretty weak. THE RAKE, however, is not weak at all, but rather completely 100% great!!!
One of the greatest things about this book was that it tackled the very serious issue of alcoholism extremely well, dealt with it compassionately, and portrayed it very vividly/starkly. Seriously, I *never* get emotional when I read my historical romances (unless it's extreme giddiness, lol), but there were parts of this book that were just utterly heart-wrenching.
The other great aspect of the story was, as it should be, the relationship between Alys and Reggie. It was very well developed and the intellectual/emotional connection between them was wonderfully written. It's a romance so obviously there is romance and the hero and heroine have great physical chemistry, but the book focuses on much more than just that aspect. They are complete opposites starting off - Reggie is one of the most dissolute and disgraceful rakes that I have ever come across in the genre (that's saying something) and Alys is a hardworking, admirable, very responsible, reserved, and almost-stern woman. They're both extremely lonely, though, and it's great watching them not wham-bam fall-in-love but see it slowly happen as they come to like, respect, admire, and trust each other and form a wonderful and - dare I say it? oh, it's so corny - beautiful friendship.
Wow, this was 5+ stars. An incredible story with two very strong and amazing characters. The secondary characters are all well done too. The H&H are not like those in any other romance I have ever read. Possibly the best thing Putney has ever written, and a top notch example of the "reformed rake" story. She does not take the easy way out, because her H&H both make mistakes and do things that could be dealbreakers, yet they remain likeable and you are rooting for them all the way through. This is not a light book, although there is some humor. It's very emotionally intense. The rake's reform is quite realistic and does not happen overnight, but by the end you really feel he has earned his HEA.
In short, I loved this book. If you haven't read it, get it right away!
It was predicated that Reginald Davenport, disinherited and discrased, would come to a violent end. But fate has given him one final chance to redeem himself, by taking his place as the rightful master of Strickland, his lost ancestral estate.
Masquerading as a man in order to obtain a position as estate manager of Strickland, Alys fled a world filled with mistrust and betrayal.