Anne Stuart is one of my all-time favourite authors. I think the first book of hers I read was one from her House of Rohan series when I bought my Kindle. Over the years I've read most of her books - not as easy as it sounds, because she has been writing for over 40 years (mainly romantic suspense and historical romance) and some books are out of print. The Spinster and the Rake is one of her older books, originally published in 1982 and now brought out as an ebook, revised and with new material.
The Spinster and the Rake is a familiar trope to readers of romance: bad boy meets innocent heroine, but as usual Anne Stuart puts her own twist on it.
Gillian Redfern divides her time between the households of her two sisters and domineering elder brother, running errands for them, helping with their children and generally behaving as an unpaid servant. She does have her own money, thanks to legacies from her mother and an aunt, but has sleepwalked into her current lifestyle without realising it. It takes a chance meeting with the wicked Marquis of Marlowe for her to understand what she has been missing.
I enjoyed the banter between the characters and their growing respect for each other. I liked the way Gillian was not some downtrodden Cinderella character but quite capable of standing up to her bullying elder brother. The minor characters were well-drawn too - Gillian's nephew, who has incurred gambling debts, and her niece, who is determined to marry an impoverished Vicar. Not to mention her sister-in-law, who hardly moves from the sofa, no matter what disaster threatens the family!
If you enjoy this book then you will love The Devil's Waltz, which has a similar plot and is one of my all-time favourite books. If romantic suspense is more your thing, then I'd recommend Anne Stuart's Ice series.
Thank you to Anne Stuart, Bell Bridge Books and NetGalley for my copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.