From the BLURB:
A lady does not smoke cheroot. She does not ride astride. She does not fence or attend duels. She does not fire a pistol, and she never gambles at a gentlemen's club.
Lady Calpurnia Hartwell has always followed the rules, rules that have left her unmarried—and more than a little unsatisfied. And so she's vowed to break the rules and live the life of pleasure she's been missing.
But to dance every dance, to steal a midnight kiss—to do those things, Callie will need a willing partner. Someone who knows everything about rule-breaking. Someone like Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston—charming and devastatingly handsome, his wicked reputation matched only by his sinful smile.
If she's not careful, she'll break the most important rule of all—the one that says that pleasure-seekers should never fall hopelessly, desperately in love.
Okay, so - in the first Melbourne lockdown I decided that *eventually* I'd get into a reading-rut that I'd need to be sucked out of and so I decided to finally invest in buying and reading all of Sarah MacLean's backlist books that I didn't own yet.
I came to be a MacLean fan during her 'Scandal & Scoundrel' 2015-2017 series and owned all those books, as well as her most recent 'Bareknuckle Bastards' trilogy - so I needed to source and find this series 'Love by Numbers', 'Rules of Scoundrels' and her stand-alone YA regency romance (and debut book) 'The Season'. Via eBay and Booktopia I did it and then the deliveries slowly started trickling in and LUCKILY by Melbourne Lockdown 2.0 I owned literally *all* of her books. And boy, am I glad that past Danielle in a total 'Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure' move preempted that I'd need these books because I have indeed been in a RUT!
It's a combination of course of the current circumstances, Netflix and Stan Australia being a comfort, 'Hamilton' having dropped and been watched on-repeat and just ... my short-term memory feels a little lagging lately. So I decided to just go easy on myself and see if I couldn't tempt my brain into reading with this book, 'Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake' and then - LO! - one day and night later I'm officially back and ready to tear through all of MacLean's book.
'Nine Rules' is my favourite trope of historical romance - unrequited love, with a wallflower-spinster added into the mix who has been pining after a notorious rake for YEARS! This here is my catnip. Add in a surprise sister for the rake, and the wallflower-spinster determined to start a list of scandalous activities she wishes to complete (with the help of said rake) and I was HOOKED.
This is MacLean's second-published book after YA stand-alone 'The Season' and there are a few tell-tale signs that she was finding her footing in this book. For one thing, it's quite long at 397-pages. For a paperback romance and definitely in comparison to her other books, this one is a little over-inflated ... and I started to feel that at around page 287 when I thought we'd entered into maybe one-too-many "he can't love me because I'm plain" woe-is-me moments between the heroine Calpurnia (Callie) and her rogue, Ralston.
There's also a slight case of *everything but the kitchen sink* in terms of plots and secondary stories - but this was MacLean trying to establish a family trilogy based around Ralston, his twin-brother, and their long-lost sister so she's attempting to throw out enough intriguing life-rafts to pull readers in ... but I probably could have done without the "wooing me to win a bet" secondary story that starts unfolding properly in the latter-half and added to the plot's slight bloat.
I also see a lot of criticism of this book centring around 'lots of sex, not enough romance' and for sure there are *lots* of sex-scenes in here (all very well done, and offering a tease of MacLean's future Queendom status in the genre for this very reason) but I can see why some people found them laborious to read through ... I think it's also that, this *is* one of my favourite tropes - unrequited love and spinster-meets-rogue; and for that reason I also occasionally found myself wanting more stuff that centred on those dynamics as opposed to just - working them out physically.
Overall though, I loved this and it was exactly what I needed in the moment.