From Eloisa James's "READING ROMANCE" column on Barnes & Noble Review
Courtship may seem to have no resemblance to preschool, but in fact, in both cases fairly ungovernable forces are corralled by rules that dictate everything from the first canoodle to safe sex (or, if you're a four-year-old, crayons and tantrums). "Don't Sleep With Your Boss" is probably the most important, though if you happen to be a Regency miss, you should adhere to a bigger decree: "Don't Sleep with Anyone." In short, historicals forbid unmarried sex, and contemporaries forbid sex that overlaps with work. While the contrast offers fascinating fodder for cocktail party conversation, the result is a raft of terrific romances in which the couples in question break the most important rules. They sleep with the wrong people, at the wrong time, and without (to put it formally) the benefit of matrimony.
Sarah MacLean's Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake begins when Lady Calpurnia Harwell, mortified by her wallflower status and hideous orange dress, slinks away from the ballroom without a chaperone. That's the first time she breaks the rules, and when she meets a wickedly handsome rake, Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston, she continues the trend. Still unmarried ten years later, Callie makes a list of the rules she'd break if she had the courage. Before she knows it, she's fencing, smoking cheroots and riding astride, firing a pistol and gambling. But there's one thing on her list that she can't do alone: Be considered beautiful. Just once. That's where Gabriel comes back into the picture. He thinks she's beautiful -- which leads to Callie breaking such a large rule that she didn't put it on the list. She throws herself and her heart at Gabriel, risking her last shreds of dignity. If you were ever humiliated at a dance, or wished that you could throw all the rules away, this is the book for you.
When my son started kindergarten, he used to hop most of the time. His new teacher called me up and said that he had to walk properly while in class. I've never forgotten the way his face fell when I told him. "You're trying to take the hop out of me!" he protested. Society has a way of doing that. These books celebrate women who look at social rules and realize that sometimes hopping is much better than walking -- it's closer to flying, and closer to joy. These are novels that celebrate breaking the most forbidding rules and remembering that in the end, the heart makes its own laws.