"Don't let yourself be fooled, Madeline: once a rake, always a rake." -- Mrs. Charlotte Harris, headmistress
When Madeline Prescott took a teaching position at Mrs. Harris's School for Young Ladies, it was to help restore her father's reputation. Instead, she's in danger of ruining her own. The devilishly handsome Anthony Dalton, Viscount Norcourt, has agreed to provide "rake lessons" to Mrs. Harris's pupils so they can learn how to avoid unscrupulous gentlemen, and Madeline is to oversee his classes. She has always believed that attraction is a scientific matter, easily classified and controlled -- until she's swept into the passionate desire that fiercely burns between her and Anthony. Nothing could be more illogical than risking everything for a dalliance with a rake -- even one who's trying to behave himself. Yet nothing could be more tempting....
Sabrina Jeffries is one of those authors that I thought I should love and I just could never quite figure out why I hadn't really connected with her writing style and I was beginning to think that I never would really connect. (Eloisa James is another author I think this about). Then I read Beware of a Scot's Revenge and I was really surprised by how much I liked it, but then I didn't want to get that excited in case it was a once-off, but I am glad to say that it was not because this one was great!
Having an experienced rake give a virginal young lady lessons in how to catch a husband is one of the standard story lines of historical romance, along with secret babies and marriages of convenience. What Sabrina Jeffries has done with this book is to take that standard and give it a twist. Anthony Dalton, Lord Norcourt, is a well known rakehell with a penchant for widows. When he needs to try and save his niece Tessa from his very scary aunt and uncle who currently have guardianship of her, he arrives at Mrs Harris' school looking for a place for her there. There he meets Miss Madeline Prescott who is something of a blue stocking and naturalist. Given that the school is currently not taking new students, and especially not at the request of one of those pesky rakes that headmistress Mrs Harris detests so much, Madeline comes up with an idea to have a new teacher at the school - a rake who can teach their students what to look out for when they go out into society - Lord Norcourt.
What isn't clear to either Mrs Harris or Lord Norcourt is that Madeline has her own reasons for wanting to spend time with him. He thinks he can give her a few lessons in pleasure but she has decided that he can arrange things so that she can meet one of his scientist friends who she believes can help save her doctor father from a scandal surrounding his use of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) on a young woman who subsequently died.
With both Anthony and Madeline having their own agendas the opportunities to spend time together are quickly mounting up as is the attraction between the two of them. With Madeline determined to attend one of the notorious nitrous oxide gas parties to try and meet up with Sir Humphrey and Anthony having decided that Madeline must not be a virgin because of the whiff of scandal that he suspects already surrounds her, the opportunities for half truths to be told and for misunderstandings leads to a night of passion that neither party will forget any time soon.
I really enjoyed this whole story, but there are two things that stopped me from giving this book a perfect score. One is that with the ending, there had been so much build up around the scandal that Madeline's father had been involved in that the way that it was resolved seemed to be an easy way out. The other thing was the hero's tendency to call his penis 'bad boy' and not in a fun way. It did make sense in terms of the way he thought of himself but it did get a bit old after a while.
I am looking forward to reading more in this series, but if I have to be honest, the one that I am waiting for is when we get Charlotte Harris' story and we get to find out exactly who the mysterious Cousin Michael really is and get to see the sparks fly when they meet in real life and not just through their correspondence!