The Rake by Mary Jo Putney (2001)
Well, I thought this theme was RITA winner or finalist so that’s what you get from me!
I saw this book recommended on Twitter and after checking out the blurb, decided to give it a try. I struck gold. This is a rich, intense story that is all about the redemption of the titular rake, Reggie Davenport and while Reggie receives encouragement and nudges from those around him, his redemption comes from within and it doesn’t come easily, both of which I appreciated.
Reggie’s had a tough life–family wiped out when he was 8, raised by an uncaring uncle–and to make things worse for himself, he’s made some really bad decisions. Now in his late 30s, he’s an alcoholic with few friends and no family. Except a distant cousin reaches out to him and gives him an estate (for a good reason). When Reggie arrives at said estate he discovers the steward is a female named Alys Weston and she’s done an awesome job of running the estate. Alys also has a secret and it deeply affects her reaction to Reggie. There is a lot of plot going on in this story, not least of which is Reggie’s alcoholism, which is not glossed over and is treated in a realistic manner. I give Ms. Putney kudos for taking this direction. Reggie’s road to sobriety is a long one and while his actions often frustrated me I was glad that he wasn’t magically cured by a relationship with Alys. And that relationship is a fabulous one. Reggie is a man who appreciates intelligence and hard work, whether it comes from a man or woman. The romance between Reggie and Alys is wonderful, though I will admit there was a time or two when I wanted to knock their heads together.
I discovered halfway through this book that it’s an older title, originally titled The Rake and the Reformer, from 2001, but nonetheless I highly recommend it.