Summary from Goodreads:
Meet the SOCIETY OF SIRENS—three radical, libertine ladies determined to weaponize their scandalous reputations to fight for justice and the love they deserve…
She’s a Rakess on a quest for women’s rights…
Seraphina Arden’s passions include equality, amorous affairs, and wild, wine-soaked nights. To raise funds for her cause, she’s set to publish explosive memoirs exposing the powerful man who ruined her. Her ideals are her purpose, her friends are her family, and her paramours are forbidden to linger in the morning.
He’s not looking for a summer lover…
Adam Anderson is a wholesome, handsome, widowed Scottish architect, with two young children, a business to protect, and an aversion to scandal. He could never, ever afford to fall for Seraphina. But her indecent proposal—one month, no strings, no future—proves too tempting for a man who strains to keep his passions buried with the losses of his past.
But one night changes everything…
What began as a fling soon forces them to confront painful secrets—and yearnings they thought they’d never have again. But when Seraphina discovers Adam’s future depends on the man she’s about to destroy, she must decide what to protect…her desire for justice, or her heart.
When The Rakess was announced, I was so into it. Lady Rake, thumbing her nose at Society, makes this really upstanding guy an Indecent Proposal With No Strings Attached. Ok, I’m in it. Plus, look at that cover!
|And then I got a galley and I just couldn’t get into it. I was really expecting a more of a romp given the cover copy. Seraphina isn’t a carefree Lady Rake (I was probably expecting someone like a considerably less-nasty Marquise de Merteuil). She’s very stressed about accidental pregnancy (birth control is not exactly reliable), her lovers are boring her, she’s actually fighting a drinking problem, she’s facing some scary harassment for returning to her family home, and one of her best friends is missing (likely in an asylum because guess what your husband can do to you for no reason at this time period with complete collusion from the “medical” establishment). So I had to set it aside for a bit until I could re-calibrate my expectations.|
I eventually read this book a chapter at a time until I got about halfway through and I had a better handle on Sera and Adam and the darker tone of this book. And then I started to really like it. A lot of The Rakess is spent working through the awful shit that can happen to women at the hands of men. There are a lot of content warnings: slut shaming, loss of pregnancy, alcoholism/addiction, among others. Adam has to work through his own emotional trauma as well. His parents were never married and his father was an alcoholic, so he’s been carrying those two bulls-eyes around on his back while trying to build a career that at this time often depends on the reputation of your acquaintances and less on your talent. The title of a garbage aristocrat holds more weight than a principled “fallen” woman fighting for her right to live her life. Some of this comes through in their sex scenes together, which really do help to fill out their characters. How Sera and Adam have sex in this book is very important – from their first scene where Sera explicitly asks for it to be rougher to the big, culminating emotional scene which has a much more tender tone.
By the end of the book I quite liked Sera and Adam together and how they decide to live their life together. And the introduction of Sera’s friends – who will provide the backbone for the rest of the books in the series – was a slightly harrowing but delightful jailbreak and reunion scene in the middle of the narrative. Given the epilogue to The Rakess, I would assume that these books will run on the darker side as well.
So if you prefer your romances on the lighter side, this might not for you. But if you are looking for grittier realism, you might like it.
Dear FTC: I read a paper galley of this book from the publisher.