To Catch a Rake

To Catch a Rake

by Sally Orr

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781492630036
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 02/02/2016
Series: The Rake's Handbook , #3
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Sally Orr worked for thirty years in academic research. One day a cyber-friend challenged her to write a novel. Since she is a hopeless Anglophile, it's not surprising that her first book is a Regency romance. She lives with her husband in San Diego, surrounded by too many books, modernist mid-century dishes, and not enough English cars.

Read an Excerpt

One

London, 1825

What manner of ladies would he find on his doorstep today? Wilting Flowers or Happy Goers? Previous experience taught George Drexel that any lady who managed to discover his place of residence must be displeased with her perceived category in his book, The Rake's Handbook: Including Field Guide.

Four years ago, George had agreed to write the field guide on a drunken wager. A friend challenged his reputed successes with the fairer sex, so he wrote the book to prove his greater knowledge of females-and their bedroom behaviors-than the average gentleman's. In his field guide, he created fictional initials to describe each lady's best features and intimate habits. He then grouped these ladies into six representative categories. Of course, he'd never dare use the initials of real names, or he could find himself facing some husband seeking satisfaction.

At the time, the book proved his expertise and turned out to be a monetary success. The extra funds were welcome to a young man-about-town. Then last week the field guide's publisher announced that he planned to print a second edition in three months' time. Upon this news, many of London's older females-widows and married women-started to appear on his doorstep. The ladies called to plead for initials similar to their real names to be included in the next edition.

Sitting at his large desk by the window, he tucked his black hair behind his ears and examined the women on his doorstep. Since the day was a warm one, the ladies wore light muslin walking dresses, so he could easily admire the details of their figures.

The older, gray-haired lady, busy directing the younger one where to stand on his doorstep, likely possessed more experience in bedroom behaviors. She probably paid him a call today to ask him to move her presumptive initials into the higher category of lady termed "Happy Goers," a very popular category in the field guide. The other, possibly younger lady avoided her companion's direct gaze and appeared hesitant in her manners. From previous interviews, she likely suffered from an unhappy marriage. Still, he was able to discern that she possessed a very fine figure, indeed. This aging beauty might have assumed her initials appeared under the category of Wilting Flowers, a great injustice, so she had joined her companion today to complain to the author directly and request an elevated category too.

Much to George's surprise, these female visitors never complained about the impropriety of his book. Instead, every lady requested her position to be elevated to a more notorious category in the next edition. Whether the presumed advantage of a higher category resulted in practical gains, such as additional lovers, or greater bragging rights during card parties, he had no way to determine. But now after numerous interviews, he suspected these older ladies derived their greatest enjoyment from the excitement of believing themselves to be naughty.

Regardless of the ladies' aspirations, George resented this upcoming distraction, since he had an important business deadline to meet. He had been given a month to diagram a new drain for the Thames Tunnel, and with a little over a week remaining, only half of the plans had been completed. Picking up his pencil, he resumed work on his drainage plans.

A predictable thirty seconds after the ladies arrival, his ever-efficient housekeeper, Mrs. Morris, entered the cluttered parlor. "The first of the female callers has arrived today, sir. Shall I show them in?"

"Can I refuse?" George ground his teeth and kept his eyes focused on the detailed drawing in front of him.

Mrs. Morris did not reply. A distant cousin of his mother, she had successfully run the household staff with apparent ease and privately treated him like her own son.

Once aware of her unusual silence, George looked up and noticed her watery gaze. He dropped his pencil on the desk, moved close, and gave her a brief hug.

Her lower lip trembled. "Oh, sir, I am sorry. You worked so hard on that bridge. In my opinion, it's a crime to ask an engineer to work diligently, give him hope, and then crush him by refusing to fund it. All because of some stuff and nonsense about that silly field guide. A book I'd bet not a single one of those Bristol townsfolk would even admit they read." She sniffed. "If there is any justice in the world, those Bristol scoundrels should be arrested and jailed." She pulled out a white handkerchief from her apron pocket and wiped her eyes. "Your iron suspension bridge is beautiful, sir. I know someday another city will be fortunate to have it."

Mrs. Morris's vigorous defense of his latest failure brought him out of his doldrums and fortified his resolve. He'd never give up his dreams and ambitions. Perhaps someday his unique chain bridge would be built elsewhere. He desperately hoped so. Every gentleman knew that the future would be built using iron and steam, and he wanted his chance to contribute. He dreamed of building a grand structure to serve the people of England for centuries. Then, like the Pantheon in Rome, he'd credit himself as the builder by marking his creation front and center: George Drexel Fecit. "Thank you, Mrs. Morris, for your unbiased belief in my abilities." He winked. "But we don't want to keep the ladies waiting. I suggest you remain in the hallway, since this interview will last exactly five minutes."

"You sound like you plan to eat them."

"Right, a happy thought. I'll enter the hallway and growl at them. My brown bear impression should frighten them enough that they will flee the house immediately. Then I can return to my work."

"I doubt that will prove effective." She shook her head, making the gray curls peeking out from under her lace cap bounce. "While in person you appear quite dark and scornful, your habit of spontaneous drollery usually endears you to the more clever ladies within minutes."

"I'll have you know my drollery is excessively planned." He took a deep breath. "Well then, if my growl is insufficient, I'll throw in a snarl or two."

"Any lady in her right mind will realize you pose no threat. These ladies may even like bears."

Mrs. Morris had been the housekeeper since his parents' marriage, so he could rarely fool her with any sort of gammon.

"Besides," she said, "these ladies are always very determined. They would have to be, wouldn't they? They must have a vulgar nature, indeed, to ask for the favors they seek. I would have expected them to be offended and take you to task for penning such a foolish book, but this forward behavior"-she shook her head-"well, that beats everything."

"I'm thankfully ignorant about the subject of ladies' jumbled motivations and wish to remain so. We'll just ask them to leave as soon as possible. Then I can finish my drainage plans on time." He'd rather instantly march them out of the door, but he must try to behave like a gentleman.

Just a month earlier, the youthful mistake of writing his shocking field guide had mostly been forgotten by society. But the news of a possible second edition revived all sorts of tittle-tattle. Today he needed a gentleman's spotless reputation to earn building contracts from local officials. The publication of a second edition might revive the scandal and damage his reputation. His new career as an engineer of public works would be finished before it even had a chance to start.

He chucked Mrs. Morris under the chin. "I also take exception to your evaluation that I pose no threat-I certainly feel like a dark beast. Let's get this interview over with, so I can return to work."

Mrs. Morris headed back to the ladies waiting in the hall, while he took a position in front of the fire with his fists resting on his hips and legs set in a wide stance.

The two ladies stepped into the parlor and froze. Their eyes widened as they glanced around the cluttered room.

George remained silent, waiting for the women to criticize him for the disorder created by the many wooden models of bridges, tunnels, and steam engines covering most of the tables and floor. If a lady smiled after viewing the untidy room, he would show his gratitude by making the interview quick but courteous. However, if the many tossed books, bits of iron, and wooden human models elicited the universally recognized frown of feminine disapproval, then he'd resort to the angry bear to hasten their departure.

The older woman frowned and shook her head. "Oh dear."

A wide-eyed, fixed stare graced the other lady's features. "So deplorable."

Right, time to open the cage door.

"Ladies, please take a seat." He motioned to a pair of ivory tub chairs directly in front of him. "I'm honored you've called upon me today. However, it is an inopportune moment. So speak up."

Both ladies stiffened. The older lady, perhaps fifty, held her lace handkerchief to her mouth and cleared her throat. "Well, I...I don't know how to begin." She continued to glance around the disordered room. "We...we heard a rumor that a second edition... Such horrid conditions," said the older lady. "You obviously lack a wife."

The prettier lady, not much younger, slouched in her chair.

He flashed his most wicked grin. "Are you applying for the position? As head of the household the position of wife is, of course, under me."

"Well, I never-" The older woman balled a fist.

"I doubt..." He paused and mentally kicked himself in the arse. For the sake of what remained of his gentlemanly reputation, he should at least try to adhere to his resolution not to offend them. "Let me be of assistance. Even though you fully understand my book is fiction...you ladies do understand the field guide is satire?"

The other lady quickly glanced at her companion.

Her friend patted her knee and gave him an affirmative nod.

Regardless of the lady's nod, most of them rarely believed that.

"But, sir, all of our friends gather so much pleasure from the assumption that you just altered real names," the older lady said.

The prettier lady turned to her friend. "Yes, trying to match his initials with real people is a very amusing game. But do you know, I'm not sure what satire is. Is it-?"

"I know my friend Mrs. Wittle-Mrs. Smith-is confused, but even though you say the names are fictional, surely they must be based on real females. Correct, Mr. Drexel?"

"Loosely based, madam, more exaggeration than fact." For some reason-he attributed it to the mysterious, unfathomable female mind-most women chose to believe that the initials in the field guide represented real people. Thankfully, none of the ladies sought satisfaction or felt ill-used, although one widow had brazenly volunteered to be "tested" for the next edition.

Time to deliver his well-practiced speech to quicken their departure. "At this moment, you're unsatisfied with the placement of your perceived initials in the book The Rake's Handbook: Including Field Guide. With some effort, you have learned that I penned the field guide. With my address in hand, you tracked me down like a hound on the scent. So you are here to request a favor-for reasons you wish to remain private." He gave them both a respectful, deep bow.

They tittered.

"Right. Your presence here is to request that your initials be moved to the heading describing a higher, or rather, more notorious category of lady. It goes without saying that you realize this cannot be done immediately. However, you would be deeply appreciative if I make the change before the next edition is printed." He inhaled deeply and wistfully glanced at his drainage plans resting on the enormous desk by the bay window. "As a result of my granting your request, I will enjoy your utmost gratitude for years and years to come."

This time both ladies giggled loudly.

"I see you have been solicited before," said the older female wearing an indelicate, inappropriate grin rarely seen on a lady of quality. "Just how many ladies have made a similar request?"

"Including you, twenty-two."

"Oh." The other lady widened her eyes before dropping her gaze to the fine mesh reticule resting on her lap.

With a great deal of effort, he stifled a growl. "Now, ladies, if you will excuse me, I have work to finish." He grabbed two paper cards from a stack on the mantel. "Please write your initials on these cards-your privacy will be assured-and the appropriate heading you desire in the next edition of the field guide." He handed each lady a white card and pencil.

The two women exchanged glances, and the older lady nodded several times. They wrote their initials as instructed and handed him the cards.

"Thank you." He read their requests. "Wise choice."

Both ladies beamed.

"Now leave."

"But, sir," the older one said, wearing an indelicate leer. "Can you tell us the details? Will our initials be included in the next edition?"

The other lady whispered to her friend. "Do you really think we can trust someone like him to do our bidding?"

Her companion nodded. "Granted he is a"-she moved to whisper in her friend's ear-"scoundrel." Her voice returned to normal. "But even they must have a code of justice."

He ground his teeth. Misjudged in his own parlor; it was time to release the bear. He strode directly up to them and growled, "My housekeeper will show you out."

As if on cue, his housekeeper opened the parlor door, and both ladies fled the room.

"Ah, Mrs. Morris, please show these ladies to the door," he said with regained gallantry. Without waiting for a reply, he spun and returned to his drawing on his desk.

Seconds later he heard the front door close.

Mrs. Morris came into the room to retrieve the cards thrown haphazardly on the desk. "Oh, sir, I hate to give expectations that another edition will be published. It seems such a deception. Can't you rule it out forever?"

He gazed out of the large window at the ladies scurrying down the street. "You're a female, Mrs. Morris. Why do you think these women risk scandal to appear on my doorstep?"

She sighed. "When we get older, attention from gentlemen can be a lovely experience." Following a pause, she added, "Regardless of age, every female harbors a secret wish to find love."

"Love? What's the use?" He gathered up the wooden figurines. "But to answer your question, the decision to publish again is not mine. My friend Lord Parker's brother owns the rights. He controls whether or not a second edition will be printed. He even hinted he might add new names, so we owe these ladies' company to that piece of promotional gossip, the scoundrel." George had requested Lord Parker to plead with his brother to stop the publication. All he could do now was wait for an answer. If his friend proved successful, then this regrettable example of his youthful transgressions would be entirely forgotten.

"I've been keeping these ladies' initials, just in case they are needed." She headed for the door and paused. "You might let these interviews last awhile longer."

He failed to reply.

She ignored his reticence. "If you spend more time in conversation with these ladies, you might discover a suitable wife. After all, most of these woman are likely available. A respectable marriage would go a long way to lessen any tittle-tattle arising from that book."

"Mrs. Morris"-he looked up-"I'm shocked. You have never suggested a leg shackle for me before." He waved his hand. "I thought you believed in romantic love and all of that faradiddle."

She blushed. "Of course I do, but I know you better. Others have had their hearts broken at sixteen, and they all recover. I've seen many ladies in your life, yet you have never fallen in love. So I realize you're a hopeless case when it comes to romantic love. It's just that when you are as old as your parents, I don't want you to find yourself alone in life without a partner to share it with."

George glanced upward. In the bedroom above him, his father was reading a book to his mother or, more likely, just holding her hand. After her stroke, Michael Drexel had refused to spend any significant time away from his wife's side.

As a result, George had taken on the responsibilities of completing many of his father's contracts. On certain projects, when he had been overwhelmed by problems or needed his questions answered, he had asked his father for assistance or to join him at a construction site. But Michael refused to leave his wife's side. The reason always consisted of some incoherent mumble about feelings. Not spousal duty, or his mother's request, or any other reason that might rightly keep his father at home, but a reason George failed to understand-love.

What is the use of love, if it leaves you with nothing more than holding hands?

He had tendered a simple request for a father to assist his son. Was that too much to ask?

Mrs. Morris must have read his mind, because she narrowed her eyes. "Mr. Drexel would not want to be anywhere else in the world, except beside the woman he loves. Perhaps someday you will understand that."

"I'll protect their rights and privacy to my last breath. Nor have I ever even hinted my need for Father's assistance in front of Mother. But I refuse to engage in unseemly, emotional balderdash." He lifted his chin. "I'm an Englishman, after all. For the sake of our family's future, I only ask for his presence and advice now and then. Otherwise, if my new drainage system is unsuccessful, I may not be promoted to resident engineer. Then I'd lose my best opportunity for advancement and chance to escape the notoriety generated from the publication of that damnable field guide." He sighed and dropped the wooden figures. "Please add these ladies to your list. I recommend the younger one"-he moved close to read the card-"the Mrs. A** W*****"-he smiled-"boot dear Ann up to the category of lady she desires. As for the other lady"-he chuckled and shook his head-"let's be generous and give her the category she desires too: Ruling Goddess. Ambitious that."

*
• *

"Please open the door, dear," Meta Russell said, evaluating the two ways to break into her sister's room. She could knock the door down or climb in through the window. Her sister, Lily, must need her, so something had to be done.

Last evening, Lily had escaped to her room in a fit of tears. At the time, Meta had questioned Lily's fiancé, James Codlington, about the reason behind her sister's distress. James simply announced the end of Lily and his betrothal, before he hurriedly exited the Broadshams' town house on Swallow Street.

"Lily, please." Determined to render assistance, Meta knocked harder than she had yesterday evening. "You cannot spend your life in your room. Please let me in. You obviously need my help." She placed her ear on the cool wooden door and listened. No sound from the room reached her ears, only the soft breaths of her brother, Fitzhenry, standing directly behind her. "I'll ask Fitzy to break the door down with a hammer if you do not open it this instant. Please, dearest, let me help you out of this muddle."

Her sixteen-year-old brother tapped Meta on the back. "Please move aside. Only a bang-up, out-and-out cove can properly handle this situation."

Meta stepped back. "I don't see how you can have better luck changing her mind."

A broad grin crossed his handsome, youthful face shadowed by slight whisker growth at least a year away from needing a regular shave. "I say, Lily, no use glumping. Meta is once again determined to render assistance. If you do not open the door, she'll make me use a hammer to knock it down. You know what that means. There is every chance my hands will be permanently damaged and it will be all your fault."

Meta shook her head. "You know I only want what's best for you and would never knowingly let you damage your hands. Box your ears, maybe." She reached out in a mock gesture to do so, but he leaned back out of her reach. "So why did you say such an unjust thing?"

"Because last week you asked me to shovel coals. A large lump of coal or the shovel could have fallen upon my hands and ended my artistic career before it even started."

"That was a temporary necessity, you must admit. You received nothing more than a little coal soot on your hands, and I doubt dirty hands would stop you from becoming a successful artist." She grinned. "It might even be a necessity for that profession."

Lily's muffled voice came from inside the bedroom. "I can hear both of you." The door swung wide, and the twenty-two-year-old Miss Lily Broadsham stood in the doorway. She wore an old muslin gown covered with embroidered purple diamonds that matched her eyes, which appeared violet in bright light. Considered the prettiest of the three Broadsham sisters, Lily could not claim that title at the moment. Standing erect, her swollen eyes, long black hair in a haphazard plait, and trembling figure indicated she had spent a sleepless night. "If you ruin your hands, Fitzy, that will be the last straw, and I'll just have to kill myself. There is nothing you can do, any of you. I apologize, Meta, but Polite Society might hear I've been jilted and will consider us all to be tainted. Susanna and I will never find a husband who will love and support us." She sniffed and struggled to hold back tears. "Fitzy will be unable to keep himself on the earnings from his art, so he'll have to beg a woman with a significant dowry to marry him." A tear started to fall. "And because of me, you will never find another gentleman to love you again." She buried her face in her hands.

Meta rushed forward to grab both her sister's hands. "Nonsense. Even if that happens, society's gossip is short-lived. As soon as the next bit of news arrives, your broken engagement will be forgotten. Please dearest, all of you will have the future you desire. I promise. And as far as my welfare is concerned, widows are on the shelf, even at twenty-four." As the eldest sibling, Meta had assumed the responsibility of shepherding her siblings into successful marriages and professions. Besides, once her siblings were settled, she'd be in her dotage. So even though she held dear secret dreams of falling in love and another marriage, her chances of achieving them seemed unlikely. Instead, a life sacrificed for those she loved suited her temperament, and serving her family's needs constituted the greatest goal of a successful life. She turned to her brother. "Fitzy, you can leave us now. I appreciate your help, but Lily and I are going to engage in female conversation. That means we'll indulge in talk of romance and most likely cry lots of tears."

"Eww. Right then." Wearing a guilty smile, the young man backed down the hall.

Meta leaned back out of the doorway to address Fitzy. "From what I've heard lately, it's all the crack for out-and-out coves and bang-up artists to study their mathematics."

"Mathematics could never be all the crack. What a hum. Human feelings"-he sighed and tilted his head-"are the medium of the artist, not equations."

"Then I suggest you study your Renaissance artists again. They used mathematics to mark out the proper perspectives."

"No, surely not?" he said, his eyes widening.

"Determine for yourself. I left a book on the schoolroom table open to the very chapter you need to read."

Without a word, he spun and ran down the stairs.

Meta smiled, closed the door, and led Lily to a comfortable window seat almost covered in soft, peach-colored damask pillows. The two sat, and Meta reached for her sister's hand. "With all this rain, this seat is colder than it usually is. Shall we move closer to the fire?"

"Does it matter?" Lily's eyes focused on her lap for a full minute. "I've changed my mind. I wish to remain on this seat forever, the place where I write my stories. You see, I will never marry now. Instead, I'll publish novels about jilted heroines suffering cruel fates at the hands of fickle men."

"But it is chilly, and I don't want you to become ill." Meta had returned to the Broadsham family home after the accidental death of her husband. Despite rushing over two hundred miles to be by his side, she did not make it in time.

He died alone.

For as long as she drew breath, she would never forgive herself for not providing comforting words when her husband needed them the most. Since her father had become senile and rarely left his rooms, she had assumed the duties of meeting the needs of her family. This endeavor suited her to perfection and provided much needed relief from the remorse of not being with her husband after his accident.

Lily started to drag the cane chair next to her bed close to the fire. "Oh well, if we must move... But I am not in the least chilly." She took her seat, blew her nose into her handkerchief, and then stared listlessly into the glowing red coals.

Meta grabbed the dark oak chair in front of the vanity table and placed it next to Lily's chair by the fire. She reached for her sister's hand again. "James told me of your broken understanding, but he did not elaborate. So please, tell me what happened. I am absolutely confident we can set the situation to rights and get him to reconsider."

Lily shook her head. "No, he will never change his mind. He said his judicial career would be at risk if he resumes his engagement to me. He might remain a common lawyer for years and never ascend to serjeant-at-law. If society discovers my initials in the field guide, he says it will have serious repercussions. Serious enough for his mother to claim that if we wed, she will cut off his funds to save the family's connections and reputation. Then what will he do?"

"Field guide? I don't understand. How can marriage to a sweet girl like you risk his career in the court?"

Lily rose and fetched a small book from her vanity. Handing it to Meta, she sighed and took her seat. "James claims the entry on page one hundred and sixty-one is me. It isn't, of course, but he will not change his mind. Our families have been acquainted for ages, and I was eighteen when this book was published. How could he even consider the possibility that the entry was me?" She blew her nose again.

"That is something I intend to find out."

"It's no use; he's too frightened. Any hint of scandal, much less having your fiancée's initials appear in The Rake's Handbook: Including Field Guide, would be an end to his professional aspirations. He would become the lawyer with the scandalous wife and everyone knows that once society has spread tittle-tattle-even if false-it is impossible to change their opinions. Turn the pages and see for yourself. You must admit the initials are unusual and similar to mine."

Meta examined the small tome. Covered in plain paperboards, the palm-sized book contained just over two hundred pages. Turning to the indicated page, she saw the entry: "L****** B*******: This blue-eyed beauty enjoys the sport and is known for joining in the festivities with a lot more than just her heart. She is famous for her plush lacteal hillocks of passion." Meta shook her head. "Oh my, oh my, how vulgar." She snapped the book shut. "Enough! Except for the loose similarity to your initials, how can this entry be tied to you?"

Lily shook her head and shrugged her shoulders. "I told James the book must be about-well you know-those females. But he disagreed and said the book is about proper ladies and their-well, you know-bedroom habits." She sighed, then gave a dainty sniff. "He told me that down at his club the common name for the book is The Field Guide. I guess gentlemen are supposed to carry it so they can readily spot these women on the streets. He even told me that over a thousand of these horrid books were published and sold to men around Covent Garden."

Meta considered James Codlington to be an honorable, intelligent young man. Although he was still young and gangly in appearance, she had complete confidence in his good character. He would follow his father and be a successful justice in the Court of Common Pleas one day, an honored position held at various times by several members of his family. "How did James come by it?"

Lily glanced up, wide-eyed. "You know, I forgot to ask him. That is somewhat suspicious, don't you think? Maybe he is the sort of gentleman that purchases books like this one. Perhaps I should not wish to wed James after all. Maybe he is one of those men that keep secrets from their wives and cannot be trusted?"

"Nonsense." Meta had known James and his family for years. He did not have a secretive personality-far from it. "Lily, a more honest gentleman never lived; you know that. Besides, the two of you acknowledged your love a year ago and recently announced your engagement to your family. You even assured me it was true love, remember?"

Lily's almost violet eyes began to shimmer with unshed tears. "I-I certainly thought it was, I truly believed it was mutual, until yesterday. Oh, Meta." She covered her face with both hands. "Why has he insulted me in this way?"

Meta examined the small book again. The text was divided into two sections, with the first section titled: The Rake's Handbook. The second section, consisting of about fifty pages, bore the title: The Field Guide. Each page of the field guide described a lady's best features and amorous personality. It also provided tips upon how to recognize her in person, for example, a penchant for a favorite type of bonnet or colored spencer. "How could someone be so heartless as to write a book like this?"

Lily did not reply, resuming her vacant stare in the direction of the hot coals.

Meta flipped through every page in the book, then returned to the page in question. "How can James say it's your name on this page when the spelling is off? There are too many spaces for the word Lily and too few spaces to spell Broadsham properly. Therefore, this female cannot possibly be you. Did you point that fact out to him?"

"Yes, but it made no mark upon him whatsoever. He thought the extra letters in the first name were only because it meant Lillian. You know, while we all call you Meta, your full name is Margaret and would have eight spaces. James said the lack of a letter in the last name was merely a printing error."

"I wonder if his mother had anything to do with that excuse, since it does not sound like James at all."

Lily ignored her. "Most of all, he seemed consumed by the fact that my initials appeared under the category of Happy Goer-a subject he could not leave alone, although I had no idea what he was going on about." She looked up at her sister. "Oh, Meta, why didn't he believe me? Why didn't he know in his heart it was not me in that book?"

Meta glared at the small tome. "That is something I plan to discover. Indeed, I have numerous questions for James. But first, I don't see the words ‘Happy Goer' under the entry that he presumably thinks is you."

Lily blew her nose somewhat indelicately. "It's a term in the index, at the front of the field guide."

Meta flipped the pages and found the index, which consisted of six different categories of lady. She read the title of each category aloud: "Widow Makers Tied Up, Goddesses Who Rule the Roost, Happy Goers, Eager Out of the Gate, Wilting Flowers, and Rabbits. Oh my, I've truly never seen anything so vulgar."

"So vulgar," Lily repeated. "I don't really understand it. How could a lady be considered a rabbit? Cute and fluffy? Her breeding abilities?"

Unlike Lily, Meta had been married for almost two years, so she had heard enough of private masculine conversations to understand the section titles likely referred to the lady's amorous behavior in bed. "No, dearest, by using the word ‘rabbit,' I doubt the author meant the lady's number of children, or cute and fluffy, or even jumping."

Lily widened her eyes. "Jumping? Oh, what does that mean?"

Actually, Meta did not know the precise definition of each term, but she believed Lily would probably be listed under "Rabbits," speculating that the author meant "scared as a rabbit" as a metaphor for the ladies' lack of courage. "What sort of coarse and indecent man wrote this odious book?" She examined the title page and found the names Ross Thornbury and George Drexel. Mr. Thornbury's name was attached to the handbook section, and Mr. Drexel's name was listed on the title page of the field guide.

"Do you know the identity of any of these gentlemen?" Lily asked. "I suppose I cannot call them that, can I?"

"This Mr. Drexel is certainly not a gentleman. He's some vile creature that haunts the streets of Covent Garden, a heartless and jaded rake, no doubt. He might be dangerous, so I will try and talk to James first. Perhaps after a day of private contemplation, he now realizes the injustice of his accusation." She patted Lily's knee. "I don't want to elevate your hopes prematurely, but we might resolve this situation with only a little fuss. James might even be eager to make amends. I'll go have a word with him."

For the first time that morning Lily smiled-not a happy smile, more of a resigned one. "Thank you. But on this matter I do not need your help. James and I have already had a long conversation about this field guide. I pointed out the differences in initials, and he summarily dismissed me. Truly, all is lost. Please do not argue the point with James on my behalf. I have come to accept the fact that I will never marry, and you must too." She reached over to grab her sister's hand.

Meta had no intention of causing Lily additional distress by talking to James against her wishes. But she would do anything to ensure that Lily married the man she loved. "Then we must find this Mr. Drexel person. He wrote this filth, so we'll ask him to convince James that it's not your name in his cursed field guide. I'm sure when the scoundrel realizes he has hurt an honorable woman, he will do whatever it takes to right the wrong he created. I don't know how this can be accomplished, but he has no other choice, does he?" She turned to the front page and discovered the address of the publishing house. "The three of us will pay a call on his publisher and inquire about the whereabouts of this Mr. Drexel. Then we'll pay a morning call-if the man has a decent home to receive callers-and ask him to enlighten James about the real name of the woman mentioned on that page."

"But, Meta, you've seen his field guide. This Mr. Drexel is obviously a scoundrel of the worst sort. He is probably the sort of man who abuses his servants. The sort of man who spits in public. It's far too dangerous to ask Fitzy to join us, because Mr. Drexel may even be the sort of man who eats children."

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To Catch a Rake 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
debwill74 More than 1 year ago
To Catch a Rake is a delightfully wicked read. I'm not sure which character I liked better George Drexel, the architect who is trying to overcome the reputation of his past and convince his publisher not to release a second edition of a book he and his rakish friends had punished in their youth. Or the widow Meta Russell who will do anything for her family, including tracking down the man who had authored the book that was ruining her sister's chance to marry her true love. This book is a must read for your 2016 To Be Read Stack. Don't be the one who is left out on discussions regarding The Rake's Handbook: Including Field Guide. I received this copy of To Catch a Rake by Sally Orr from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
MoniqueD More than 1 year ago
Sally Orr writes the most charismatic rake in this deliciously sensual and witty book! George Drexel is ambitious; he is involved in the construction of a tunnel under the Thames. He has also written The Rake's Handbook: Including Field Guide, a fictionalised account, which supposedly mentions the initials of ladies who behave naughtily. When there is talk of a second edition, George is displeased; it could be detrimental to his budding engineering career were it to happen. Mrs. Meta Russell’s sister Lily has just been jilted by the fiancé she adores because someone thinks her initials were mentioned in the Field Guide. Meta, a young widow who takes care of her young siblings, takes it upon herself to rectify the situation. Meta will see Mr. Drexel herself, and to her horror she finds him very appealing, and long-forgotten erotic feelings resurface in the rake’s mere presence. In TO CATCH A RAKE, Ms. Orr has created some of the most extraordinarily appealing and seductive characters, and I fell under George Drexel’s magnetic spell, just as much as Meta. George is absolutely irresistible: confident, handsome, charming, and a true rake. Meta is a fascinating woman: young, beautiful, she dedicates her life to the well-being of her siblings and charitable causes. She has no wish to marry again for a specific reason, but try as she might, she cannot help herself but being enthralled by George. The romance between Meta and George is the epitome of classy and elegant sensuality; it is an erotic pas de deux between George and Meta, and most of the seduction happens mostly through conversations, barely noticeable gestures, and those heart-melting winks! Sally Orr has thoroughly mastered the art of exquisite, sensual subtlety. The extensive research done by the author on engineering and architecture, mostly the Thames Tunnel, pays off; I believe I found it as exciting as Meta. The descriptions, the retelling of the construction, the myriad details make for totally absorbing reading. I also loved that real historical figures participate in the narrative. Sally Orr truly possesses an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Regency era, which enriches the book instead of dragging it down. TO CATCH A RAKE is superbly written, respectful of the era’s language, the dialogues are deliciously witty; and even the secondary characters are so well fleshed out, they jump off the page, such as Mr. Cole, Meta’s man of business, whom I could picture as if in Technicolor! And aside from all this magnificence, apart from the smouldering passion and romance, there are a few parallel stories, which are as captivating as the wickedly divine main romance. I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Cynthia181 More than 1 year ago
I won this book at Goodreads Giveaways for an honest review. I loved it. It is about two people who find themselves falling for each through circumstance of a sibling and a book that showed the young women to be something she wasn't as she lost her betrothed because of it. The sister who is a widow go to the man who wrote the book and tries to get everything righted for her sister and ends up both helping and hurting the man, but in turn the man has found out what true love is and sees why his dad is so devoted to his ill mother. Happiness in the end after many twist and turns. I so enjoyed this book and especially the story behind the building of the Tunnel under the Thames.
Historical_Romance_Lover More than 1 year ago
This is book 3 in the Rake's Handbook series. George Drexel gets visits from all sorts of woman wanting to be in included in future editions of his book, The Rake's Field Guide. Unfortunately all this notoriety is jeopardizing his reputation as an engineer. No one will take him seriously with all the talk about the book, so he has tried to distance himself from it. But when Meta Russell comes calling, not to be in the next book, but to right a wrong that it caused, he finds he has other problems to deal with. Meta Russell wants nothing more than to see her sister settled into marriage. But when the wedding is called off because of the Field Guide, Meta does everything in her power to get her sister and her fiancee back together again..even if it means spending time with one of London's biggest rakes. Neither George not Meta had counted on being attracted to the other, but when neither can seem to forget about the other, they wonder if the other is exactly what each of them need. I liked this story so much better than book 2 in the series, When a Rake Falls. Both George and Meta were likable characters and I really enjoyed the secondary characters as well (I'm hoping the Orr creates a series about the ladies in Meta's philanthropic group). It was a light read with nothing too heavy in it! Made for an enjoyable afternoon read! Thanks go out to Sourcebooks via NetGalley for a copy of the book in exchange of an honest review.
TheLustyLiterate More than 1 year ago
3/3.5 Stars | Moderate Steam After reading some saucy snippets from TO CATCH A RAKE, I couldn’t wait to discover Meta and the infamous George Drexel for myself. Breezy and light with a madcap feel, this moderately steamy Historical romance is a fun introduction to Sally Orr’s unique writing style as well as a diverting fictionalization of the historic construction of the Thames Tunnel. Standing out amongst the cast of main characters is George Drexel, my favorite personality from the novel. Amusing in all of his roguish charm, George was just the unconventional hero I was hoping to meet. He’s a whirlwind of energy and motion—frequently agitated and hilariously gruff. However, he's thankfully graced with intelligence, kindness, compassion, and serious sensual appeal. It’s no wonder that Meta can’t resist him. All in all, TO CATCH A RAKE is a pleasing feel-good afternoon read. And that beautiful cover! WOW! Complimentary copy provided in exchange for an honest review.
Lashea677 More than 1 year ago
Anything you can do... I loved George and Meta. The way they got under each other's skin was priceless. To Catch a Rake is sexy battle of wills that has the irresistible flavor that I look for in my reads. I received an ARC of this story in exchange for an honest review. The mix ups, tension and determination to get even had me engrossed from beginning to end. I loved reading this.
gaele More than 1 year ago
3.5 stars rounded The second I’ve read in this series, the premise: a slam book for the more scandalous adventures of the ladies of the ton is a runaway best seller. Using initials and the whiff of scandal, the book has created several different reactions, from ladies looking to have their identity confirmed and their position bettered within the next installment to the premise of our story, a broken engagement when an innocent appears to have garnered a mention. The author, George Drexel never really considered a childish prank to have caused so many issues, and is determined to focus on his engineering. A current project, a tunnel underneath the Thames is occupying all but a few moments of his day. Through no action of her own, Lily Russell is jilted by her fiancé as he believes the “LR” in the handbook and field guide is her. While not wanting that particular man back (smart girl) she does want to discover why her initials are used, and if there is any way to sort the issue. She takes to her sister, the widowed Meta, to confront and resolve the issue. Not easily daunted or derailed, she discovers much more to George than just the profligate rake she was expecting. Characters are a strength in this story, while I found George to be a bit difficult to appreciate, I did enjoy all of the engineering problems and information thrown up throughout the story. Meta is solidly in her sister’s corner, but it was her tenacity in digging behind George’s façade to find who he truly was that made this story so enjoyable. Secondary characters played nicely into the story, adding elements that allowed both characters to show their innate kindness and generous spirits, and kept me reading on. Less fantastical than When A Rake Falls, this story uses Orr’s research, skills in characterization and some truly fascinating history to move the story forward and bring out couple together. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
London - 1825 George Drexel is the author of “The Rake’s Handbook: Including Field Guide.” The book details the bedroom antics of certain women around town distinguished only by their initials. They are also listed under different categories such as “Wilting Flower”, “Happy Goers”, etc. This book has been a big seller. Each day brings women to his door wondering, or hoping, that the initials of women mentioned in the Field Guide could be their own and, if so, that they could be moved to a higher ranking. They then leave their own initials to, hopefully, be included in a projected second edition of the Field Guide. An engineer of public works by profession, George is working on the design of a tunnel beneath the Thames that, when completed, will speed traffic from one side of London to the other. George is a very intelligent man who is always busy working on his project. However, he allots just a small amount of time each day to allow women to drop by and leave their initials. His housekeeper keeps reminding him that he needs a wife. George’s parents live with him. His mother has had a stroke which has left her bedridden. Her father spends as much time as he can reading to her and just holding her hand. He loves her deeply. Miss Lily Broadsham’s fiancee has just broken their engagement and she is devastated. His reason is that her initials have been found in the Field Guide and if word gets out that that could be her, it would not be good for his political career. She turns to her older sister, Meta, a widow, who lives with the family and has assumed responsibility for the house, her younger siblings, and her ailing father, a widower. Upset that her sister, Lily, has been treated unfairly and is innocent, Meta decides to visit George Drexel and ask for an explanation as to why her initials are in the Field Guide. Once there, he assures her that the whole thing is fiction and is meant to be viewed as such although some people like to think that it’s true. While visiting with him, she takes an interest in his engineering career and some of his inventions. As Meta searches for a way to reunite Lily and her ex-fiancee, she and George continue to see one another. She also offers her support through her women’s groups for his project of building the tunnel beneath the Thames. Although they challenge one another, their talks instill an attraction to each other. But what happens when the tables turn and some ladies write their own book about men? This was a good book. The writing was well done and the characters are well-defined. George is a busy man who appears not ready to settle down. Meta is a woman who tends to meddle in people’s business too much. Do come and read this book. I know you will find it very enjoyable. Copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley