This week’s romance trope is Reformed Hero (sigh), aka the Reformed Rake. First up is Viveka Portman, who got us thinking about how much rake is too much rake…
The reformed hero is commonly known in Historical Romance as the ‘rake’—and doesn’t he sound delectable? A little naughty, a tad forbidden, a wicked little fantasy in which to indulge.
We all a love a bad boy and I am no exception, especially when he’s dressed like Darcy in a daydream. That’s why chose to write The Wicked Confessions of Lady Cecelia Stanton using the ‘reformed hero’ trope.
But what is a rake exactly? The consensus seems to be that ‘rake’ is a historical term for a man who is habituated in immoral conduct (particularly womanising). A rake’s habits also included wasting his inherited fortune on gambling, wine and music while incurring excessive debt in the process.
He’s not looking quite so sexy now, not even if he is wearing Darcy’s dripping shirt.
My books, although romantic to bone, are realistic, and I’m not one to turn away from a challenge. Therefore, I made my hero Lord Stanton every inch the typical rake: womaniser, gambler, drunk.
He is so bad, one reviewer even went so far as to call him ‘venereal disease in a petri dish’.
Ouch. Maybe I shouldn’t have told you that.
It really goes without saying Stanton’s philandering really gets under some reader’s skin.
Not unlike herpes.
I’m kidding. I’m kidding.
Stanton is a rake in the truest sense of the word and the process of reforming him made me love this trope even more.
In all honesty I’ve never read a hero in a romance quite as rakish as Lord Stanton. I’m not going to lie—as he’s a married man, the gritty issue of infidelity raises its head and gives you a solid hairy eyeball thoughout the story. Yet, realistically, the issue of infidelity in marriage is a conflict many real-life women deal with and resolve as best they can.
The closest character I can think of would match Lord Stanton’s level of rakishness would probably be Killian Jones aka ‘Captain Hook’, in the TV series Once Upon a Time. He drinks, he gambles, he womanises and he’s unbearably gorgeous. The only difference is, he and his lover aren’t really an item (yet) and certainly aren’t married.
This was a very challenging trope to write, and it’s subverted because not only is Lord Stanton being unfaithful, his wife (the heroine of the story) is also in love with her maid.
I’ll let you process that for a minute.
Yes, Stanton’s wife is also unfaithful with her maid.
Truly, it’s a marriage made in hell, rather than heaven.
Still, married women didn’t get property rights until about 1889, and so there was no chance that Lady Cecelia Stanton could leave her husband, let alone live happily with her maid and retain a decent lifestyle for herself or her children.
Wait, children? They have children?
Yes, Lord and Lady Stanton are the parents of four children, with one on the way. I probably forgot to mention that Lady Cecelia is pregnant during the book too.
So, both parties have very little choice but to make the marriage work, and eventually they do, albeit in a highly unconventional way.
I do like keeping a trope fresh!
Of all the books I have written, The Wicked Confessions of Lady Cecelia Stanton remains the most controversial. Many readers have loved exploring the intricacies of a very complex historical marriage, while others found Lord Stanton’s rakishness too far from the safe familiarity of the usual reformed hero trope.
All I know is that I thoroughly enjoyed writing this book, and will leave you to make up your own mind about how much of a rake is rake enough.
When faced with a rakish, lusty husband, what is a proper English wife to do but educate herself in the art of bedplay?