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 . . .
About the Author
A life-long romance reader, Sarah MacLean wrote her first romance novel on a dare, and never looked back. She is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of historical romances, and the author of a monthly column at The Washington Post celebrating the best of the romance genre. She lives in New York City with her husband, daughter, dog and a ridiculously large collection of romance novels. She loves to hear from readers.
Read an Excerpt
Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake
By Sarah MacLean
AvonCopyright © 2010 Sarah MacLean
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLondon, England
The incessant pounding woke him.
He ignored it at first, sleep clouding the source of
the irritating noise.
There was a long pause and a thick silence fell over the
Gabriel St. John, Marquess of Ralston, took in the early
morning light washing over the decadently appointed room.
For a moment, he remained still, registering the rich hues of
the chamber, adorned with silk wall coverings and gilded
edges, a garish haven of sensual pleasure.
Reaching for the lush female beside him, a half smile
played over his lips as she curved her willing, naked body
into histhe combination of the early hour and her heated
flesh returning him to the edge of slumber.
He lay still, eyes closed, trailing his fingertips idly across
his bedmate's bare shoulder as one lithe, feminine hand
stroked down the rigid planes of his torso, the direction of
the caress a dark erotic promise.
Her touch became stronger, firmer, and he rewarded her
skill with a low growl of pleasure.
And the pounding began againloud and constant on the
heavy oak door.
"Cease!" Ralston surged from his mistress's bed, entirely
prepared to terrify his intruder into leaving him in peace
for the rest of the morning. He had barely pulled on his silk
dressing gown before he tore the door open with a wicked
On the threshold stood his twin brother, impeccably
dressed and perfectly manicured, as though it were entirely
normal to call upon one's brother, at the home of his mistress,
at the crack of dawn. Behind Nicholas St. John stood
a sputtering servant, "My lord, I did my best to keep him
An icy look from Ralston stopped the words in the man's
throat. "Leave us."
Nick watched as the footman scurried away, one brow
arched in amusement. "I had forgotten how charming you
are in the morning, Gabriel."
"What in God's name brings you here at this hour?"
"I went to Ralston House first," Nick said, "When you
weren't there, this seemed the most likely place to find you."
He let his gaze slide past his twin to land on the woman seated
in the center of the enormous bed. With a lazy grin, Nick
gave a nod of acknowledgment in the direction of his brother's
mistress. "Nastasia. My apologies for the intrusion."
The Greek beauty stretched like a cat, sensual and sybaritic,
allowing the sheet she held in feigned modesty to slip,
revealing one luscious breast. A teasing smile played across
her lips as she said, "Lord Nicholas. I assure you, I am not
the least bit put out. Perhaps you would like to join us . . ."
She paused suggestively. "For breakfast?"
Nick smiled appreciatively. "A tempting offer."
Ignoring the interaction, Ralston prodded. "Nick, if you
are in such need of female companionship, I am certain we
could have found you a destination that did not so summarily
disturb my rest."
Nick leaned against the doorframe, allowing his gaze to
linger on Nastasia before returning his attention to Ralston.
"Resting, were you, brother?"
Ralston stalked away from the door, toward a basin in the
corner of the room, hissing as he splashed bracing water on
his face. "You are enjoying yourself, aren't you?"
"You have mere seconds to tell me why you are here,
Nick, before I grow weary of having a younger sibling and
toss you out."
"Intriguing that you would select such a relevant turn of
phrase," Nick said casually. "As it happens, your position as
eldest sibling is why I am here."
Ralston lifted his head to meet his brother's gaze as droplets
of water coursed down his face.
"You see, Gabriel, it appears that we have a sister."
"A half sister."
Ralston spoke flatly, staring down his solicitor, waiting
for the bespectacled man to overcome his nerves and
explain the circumstances of this surprise announcement.
Ralston had perfected the intimidation tactic in gambling hells
across London and expected that it would work quickly to
get the little man talking.
He was correct.
"Ithat is, my lord"
Ralston cut him off, stalking across the study to pour himself
a drink. "Spit it out, man. I haven't got all day."
"My mother, if one may use such a word for the unloving
creature who bore us, departed England for the Continent
more than twenty-five years ago." He swirled the amber
liquid in his glass, affecting a look of boredom, "How are
we to believe this girl is our sister and not some charlatan
eager to capitalize on our goodwill?"
"Her father is a Venetian merchant with plenty of money,
all of which he left to her." The solicitor paused, adjusting
his spectacles, warily eyeing Ralston. "My lord, he had no
reason to lie about her birth. Indeed, by all accounts, it
appears that he would prefer not to have alerted you to her
"Then why do so?"
"She has no other family to speak of although I am told
that friends were willing to take her in. According to the
documents that were sent to my offices, however, this is
your mother's doing. She requested that her"he paused,
uncertain"husband . . . send your . . . sister . . . here in
the event of his death. Your mother felt certain that you
would . . ." He cleared his throat. "Do right by your family."
Ralston's smile held no humor. "Ironic, is it not, that our
mother has called upon our sense of familial obligation?"
The solicitor did not pretend to misunderstand the comment.
"Indeed, my lord. But, if I may, the girl is here and
very sweet. I'm not certain what to do with her." He spoke
no more, but his meaning was understood. I'm not certain I
should leave her in your hands.
"Of course, she must stay here," Nick finally spoke, drawing
the grateful attention of the solicitor and an irritated look
from his brother. "We shall take her in. She must be rather in
shock, I'd imagine."
"Indeed, my lord." The solicitor readily agreed, latching
onto the kindness in Nick's eyes.
"I had not realized that you were able to make such decisions
in this house, brother," Ralston drawled, his gaze not
wavering from the solicitor.
"I'm simply shortening Wingate's agony," Nick replied,
with a nod to the lawyer. "You won't turn away blood."
Nick was, of course, correct. Gabriel St. John, seventh
Marquess of Ralston would not deny his sister, regardless of
his deep-seated desire to do so. Raking a hand through his
black hair, Ralston wondered at the anger that still flared at
the thought of his mother, whom he hadn't seen in decades.
She had been married at a young agebarely sixteen
and had borne twin sons within a year. She was gone a
decade later, escaped to the Continent, leaving her sons
and their father in despair. For any other woman, Gabriel
would have felt sympathy, would have understood her fear
and forgiven her desertion. But he had witnessed his father's
sorrow, felt the pain that the loss of a mother had caused.
And he had replaced sadness with anger. It had been years
before he was able to speak of her without a knot of fury
rising in his throat.
And now, to discover that she had destroyed another
family, the wound was refreshed. That she would bear
another childa girl no lessand leave her to a life without
a mother infuriated him. Of course, his mother had been
correct; he would do right by his family. He would do what
he could to atone for her sins. And perhaps that was the most
maddening part of this whole situationthat his mother still
understood him. That they might still be connected.
He set his glass down, resuming his place behind the wide
mahogany desk. "Where is the girl, Wingate?"
"I believe she's been placed in the green room, my lord."
"Well, we might as well fetch her." Nick moved to the
door, opening it and sending an unseen servant to retrieve
In the ensuing, pregnant silence, Wingate stood, smoothing
down his waistcoat nervously. "Indeed. If I may, sir?"
Gabriel fixed him with an irritated look.
"She is a good girl. Very sweet."
"Yes. You've mentioned as much. Contrary to your clear
opinion of me, Wingate, I am not an ogre with a taste for
young girls." He paused, one side of his mouth kicking up.
"At least not young girls to whom I am related."
The arrival of their sister prevented Gabriel from taking
pleasure in the solicitor's disapproval. Instead, he stood as
the door opened, his eyes narrowing as he met the eerily
familiar blue gaze leveled at him from across the room.
"Good Lord." Nick's words mirrored Gabriel's thoughts.
There was no question that the girl was their sister. Aside
from her eyes, the same rich blue as her brothers', she shared
the twins' strong jaw and dark, curling hair. She was the
image of their mothertall and lithe and lovely, with an
undeniable fire in her gaze. Gabriel cursed beneath his breath.
Nick regained his composure first, bowing deeply,
"Enchantée, Miss Juliana. I am your brother Nicholas St. John.
And this"he gestured to Ralston"is our brother Gabriel,
Marquess of Ralston."
She curtsied gracefully, rising and indicating herself with
a delicate hand, "I am Juliana Fiori. I confess, I was not
expecting" She paused, searching for the word, "I gemelli.
My apologies. I do not know the word in English."
Nick smiled. "Twins. No, I imagine that our mother did
not expect i gemelli either."
The dimple in Juliana's cheek was a perfect match for
Nick's. "As you say. It is quite striking."
"Well." Wingate cleared his throat, drawing the attention
of the rest, "I shall take my leave, then, if my lords have
no further need of me." The little man looked from Nick to
Ralston, eager to be set free.
"You are free to go, Wingate," Ralston said, his tone icy.
"Indeed, I look forward to it."
The lawyer exited, bowing quickly, as if afraid that he
might never escape if he tarried too long. Once he had left
the room, Nick consoled Juliana, "Don't let yourself be
fooled by Gabriel. He's not as wicked as he seems. Some
days, he simply likes to play the lord of the manor."
"I believe that I am the lord of the manor, Nicholas,"
Ralston pointed out dryly.
Nick winked at their sister. "Four minutes older, and he
cannot help but hold it over me."
Juliana offered Nick a small smile before turning her clear
blue gaze on her eldest brother, "My lord, I should like to
Gabriel nodded. "Understandably. I will have your things
brought to one of the chambers above stairs. You must be
weary from your travels."
"No. You do not understand. I would like to leave England.
To return to Venice." When neither Gabriel nor Nick spoke,
she continued, her hands moving in time with her words, her
accent thickening as emotion crept into her speech. "I assure
you, I cannot comprehend why my father insisted I come here.
I have friends at home who would happily welcome me"
Gabriel cut her off, firmly. "You will stay here."
"Mi scusi, my lord. I would prefer not to."
"I'm afraid you do not have a choice."
"You cannot keep me here. I do not belong here. Not with
you . . . not in . . . England." She spat the word as though it
"You forget that you are half-English, Juliana," Nick said,
"Never! I am Italian!" Her blue eyes flashed.
"And your personality shows it, kitten," Gabriel drawled.
"But you are the very portrait of our mother."
Juliana looked to the walls. "Portraits? Of our mother?
Nick chuckled, charmed by her misunderstanding. "No.
You will not find pictures of her here. Gabriel was saying
that you look like our mother. Exactly like her, actually."
Juliana slashed one hand through the air. "Never say such
a thing to me again. Our mother was a" She stopped herself,-
the silence in the room heavy with the unspoken epithet.
Ralston's lips twisted in a wry smile. "I see we have found
something upon which we can agree."
"You cannot force me to stay."
"I am afraid I can. I've already signed the papers. You are
under my protection until you marry."
Her eyes widened. "That is impossible. My father would
never have required such a thing. He knew I have no intention
"Why ever not?" Nick asked.
Juliana spun on him, "I should think you would understand
better than most. I will not repeat my mother's sins."
Gabriel's eyes narrowed. "There is absolutely no reason
that you would be anything like"
"You will forgive me if I am not willing to take such a
chance, my lord. Surely we can reach an accord?"
In that moment, Gabriel's decision was made.
"You did not know our mother?"
Juliana held herself perfectly straight and proud, meeting
Ralston's gaze without flinching. "She left us nearly ten
years ago. I believe it was the same for you?"
Ralston nodded. "We were not even ten."
"Then I imagine neither of us has much love lost for her."
They stood like that for a long moment, each testing the
truth of the other's words. Gabriel spoke first. "I will offer
you a bargain." Juliana shook her head in an instant denial
before Ralston lifted one hand and halted her words. "This
is not a negotiation. You will stay for two months. If, after
that time, you decide that you would prefer to return to Italy,
I will arrange it."
She tilted her head as though considering the offer and the
possibilities for escape. Finally, she nodded once in agreement.
"Two months. Not a day more."
"You may have your pick of the bedchambers above stairs,
She dropped into a deep curtsy. "Grazie, my lord." She
turned toward the door of the study and was stopped by
"How old are you?"
Nick cast a fleeting look at his brother before continuing.
"You will need to be introduced to London society."
"I hardly think it necessary as I am only here for eight
weeks," Her emphasis on the last words was impossible to
"We shall discuss it when you are settled in." Ralston
ended the conversation and escorted her across the room,
opening the door to the study and calling for the butler.
"Jenkins, please escort Miss Juliana upstairs and have someone
assist her maid in.
Excerpted from Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean Copyright © 2010 by Sarah MacLean. Excerpted by permission of Avon. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
Wow, what a great book! I love it. One of the best wrenching-heart scenes ever...Fabulous!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It's Lady Calpurnia Hartwell's debut evening into the lion's den of high-muckety-muck English society. Calpurnia is a young woman who has played by the rules all her life; absolutely no one can find a single fault in her aristocratic frame. In fact, she reminds most people of the real Calpurnia - Empress of Rome - who turned out to be stronger and smarter than any of the men who surrounded her. So what would stop the young Calpurnia from being inundated with a mess of suitors? Unfortunately, she's a real woman, not a slender reed swaying in the wind. In addition, her mother, the Countess of Allendale, dresses her up in absolutely ridiculous clothing, and the only suitors who surround her are fortune hunters and old men with creepy looks on their faces. At the debut, Calpurnia runs away from the vat of hopelessly improper suitors and races into the garden, where she finds herself in the company of the King of Rakes - Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston. From that moment in time, everything in Calpurnia's life begins to change. She's tired of being passive, especially when her younger sister Marianna - the Allendale Angel - announces her forthcoming marriage. Calpurnia is immediately thrust into the role of family spinster, and confides in her beloved brother, Benedick, that she wants much more out of life. Her brother loves her with all his heart, and tells her to throw out her lace cap and have some sort of adventure (within reason). Calpurnia takes things one step further and makes a list of all she wants to do including; fencing; attending a duel; firing a pistol; and, smoking a cheroot. However, the most important thing on her list is to kiss someone passionately. She's been a lady on the throne of propriety for far too long, and wants to see how the "other half" lives. Ralston, for his part, is her intended "kissee;" and a deal is struck between them. If Ralston helps Calpurnia with her list than, in return, Calpurnia must teach his newly-arrived sister how to act and speak correctly in London society. As they work together to make Ralston's sister's debut a sparkling success, Ralston also works on aiding Calpurnia with her "list" of needs that could land the poor woman in the gutter. After all, Ralston is the biggest rake in town, so he should know all the "ins" and "outs" of getting around the rules of the ton. For all readers, this is truly a book filled with fun and frivolity. Yes, the romance is extremely well-written and does Avon Historicals proud. But the witty conversations, and the ridiculous moments that Calpurnia finds herself wrapped up in, keep the story fast-paced and extremely fun to read. Quill Says: To understand and love a rake.become one. Calpurnia's strong will and Ralston's protective nature will make readers run for pen and paper to start their very own list of adventures.
Even though I'm not a romance reader on the whole, I really loved this book. If you read Sarah MacLean's The Season, you know she's all about strong, smart heroines- and in 9 Rules, Callie is no different. Society says she's been put on the shelf, destined to be a spinster. Callie, however, has other plans- which include gambling at the gentleman's club, getting involved in a duel, and kissing Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston. As you might imagine, this causes more than couple problems for Callie, and everyone else! This book is witty, sexy and just plain fun to read. I couldn't put it down.
In 1823 after a lifetime of rejection and embarrassment except for those after her wealth, twenty-eight year old Lady Calpurnia Hartwell wants more out of life than being a prim and proper wallflower. However, she rejects those wastrels interested in her fortune not her. Still Callie seeks action and adventure so draws up a list of nine things prohibited for a lady of the Ton. Callie needs a hero to help her complete her taboo list. She selects Marquess Gabriel St. John, whom she has always wanted. He is fascinating by her brazen change, but accepts the terms of escorting her through life on the edge if she sponsors his out of control half-sister. Neither expected to fall in love especially him; but when they do and he compromise her and then demands she marry him. However Callie hesitates as she will only marry for love. This is a wild, fun over the top of Big Ben Regency romance that will have readers smiling all the way through the completion of the list (Sarah MacLean must watch MLB network with Callie's nine best rule breakers). Whereas she makes the tale, Gabriel falls in love with her while wondering whether he will survive her chosen nine. Fast-paced and amusing, fans will appreciate the charming wallflower's Nine Rules to break When Romancing a Rake. Harriet Klausner
In 1823, after a lifetime of rejection and embarrassment except for those after her wealth, twenty-eight year old Lady Hartwell wants something more meaningful out of life. She seeks draws up a list of nine things prohibited for a lady. Gabriel falls in love with her while wondering whether he will survive her chosen nine. A fun and exciting read. Nothing too deep, however.
I thouroughly enjoyed this book and I will be keeping my eye out for more offerings from Sarah MacLean. Callie and Ralston are great together. Callie is trying to seize the day because she on the shelf - so why not? Ralston is an alpha-make rake who is slowly but surely being wound around Callie's little finger - without her even meaning to. I enjoyed the scrapes she got into, the way he reluctantly helped her out of each one and the liaisons that invariably erupted from them!
I read a lot of historical romance books (3-4 a month at least) and this book was the best I have read in a LONG time. I am not normally one for Spinster story lines, however everything else about the book totally drew me in. The plot, the characters and the dialog were near perfect. I loved how wicked Ralston was and yet, he would become so undone by Callie. I bought this book last night, stayed up the entire night reading it, and then re-read passages with Ralston and Callie. I laughed, I cried, and I sighed. Thank you, Sarah MacLean for a wonderful read. You now join Julia Quinn, Lisa Kleypas and Suzanne Enoch on my auto-buy list! PS. I know they are already engaged (at the story of this book)...but I would LOVE to see Mariana and her Duke's story!
wonderfully entertaining - can't wait for the whole series to come out....if you like this you'll love the others from Sarah MacLean. Highly recommend!
Awkward writing ruined it for me
Love it!! Loved it!! Loved it....I couldn't put it down. I was up all night reading this book and paid for it the in the morning because I had to work. That's how good this book was.
Very good romantic history. Love this kind of book!
One of my favorite historical romances.
Awesome book! I applaud Callie for not letting anyone or anything stop her from fulfilling her list and living the life she chooses when women were not allowed to. Ralston was the perfect guy for her and their adventures together are hilarious!
Such a wonderful story!
I enjoyed the dialogue and relationship between the romantic couple. It was pretty predictable but enjoyable for a light quick read.
I love this book! I love the story. I love the characters! I'm sold! Callie is my new hero!
I really enjoyed this book. I won't get into the plot details, but the male and female leads were well-rounded and likable. It was fun and sexy but also touching. Predictable? Of course! It's a romance, BUT it's still a wonderful romance :) I'd buy it again.
Sarah MacLean really knows how to make her characters come to life! i just can't wait to read her next book (which isn't even out yet)
Lady Calpurnia Hartwell is a dreamer, romantic and woman who sees herself as simple and much too uninteresting to ever find a love match. At 28 years of age she had long been put on the shelf to sit with the spinsters when the dancing to begins. Gabriel St. John, The Marques of Ralston is a notorious rake and die hard realist who along with his twin brother Nicholas as a child survived the desertion of their mother and his father's grief at losing her. But watch out because Callie and Ralston are set on a course of interaction from which the Ton may never recover. Callie decides enough with spinsterhood it is time to live life to the fullest and experience some outright fun. So she sets upon devising a list of the 9 most outrageous and daring things that she can do to get the most out of life. Everything will change for her and about her yet that is just what she is looking for - a surprise. Callie understands that the most enjoyment is had by the gentlemen so certain items on her list are going to transform her into something she never could have imagined herself to be, a man. But if you are going to live life on the edge anything is possible. The first item on her list requires her to be every ounce the woman she is to obtain a kiss from the one man she has always loved and longed for, Ralston. She knows this is the last person she should desire let alone love but one cannot control the ways of the heart or the direction of your passion and all paths lead to Ralston. Ralston is more than willing to help her with this adventure but in exchange for Callie's help in getting his recently discovered sister ready to meet London's proper society and he definitely thinks this arrangement should be sealed with a kiss! After taking that first step toward perdition by kissing Ralston the rest of the items on Callie's list seem tame and she becomes more resilient to keep knocking items off one after another. But every time she is embarking on some adventure there is Ralston either by coincidence or intent helping her out by both being in the way and offering too much of his person for assistance. If she were suspicious she would think he was following her to see what she was going to do next. Callie is helping his sister and doing her best to keep things casual with Ralston but that is easier said than done when the man of her dreams and desires is standing right there tempting you every moment especially when keeps finding herself kissing him. There is some faux competition for Callie's attention but Ralston slow, one small step at a time starts to realize that love is not a doomed affair but a wondrous adventure. So who accomplished more of their personal goals the woman with a list or the man without one? This book is a great addition to the historical romance genre because it shows what an empowered woman can and will do when reaching for her dreams. Callie is naïve and shy but once she gets past her inhibitions and starts pursuing her goals you feel her personality jump for the pages and leap toward freedom. Ralston is such a great character in that he was a wounded child and guarded adult that when his shield comes down and love flows in you can visually see the change in him the writing is that well developed. Mary Gramlich is The Reading Reviewer located at www.marygramlich.com
This is one of my all time favorite books in the genre and also by this author. It's a book that I will pick up on a rainy day and read all over again. Even though I've read it before, there are parts of it that still make me tear up, even knowing what's coming, and I think that's what makes this book so good. Its author clearly knows how to convey genuine emotions in her characters - anxiety, depression, happiness... Callie is a strong heroine with flaws, but you love her all the better for those same flaws and how she grows and overcomes them throughout the novel. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
A really cute love story with a bold herione and a handsome leading man, a great read for any romance readers who love a classic "boy meet girl" romance.
Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake is the first book in the Love By Numbers series by Sarah MacLean. Lady Calpurnia is tired of being perfect, and all this good behavior really hasn't gotten her anywhere. So, she's making a list of all the things she wants to do, regardless of what society thinks of them. It was fun going on these adventures with her, and became even more fun when Gabriel was with her. While Calpurnia has admired Gabriel from afar for years, she wasn't even a blip on Gabriel's radar. I enjoyed their bantering and teasing, and I especially loved watching how she changed in his eyes. Their story had this feel of innocence to it, even if there as quite a bit of naughtiness going on.