Between a Rake and a Hard Place by Connie Mason and Mia Marlowe

January 27, 2014

What's that smell? Could it be the heroine's feet?
Between a Rake and Hard Place, by Mia Marlowe and Connie Mason, is the third and final
book in the Royal Rakes trilogy - and I think the best. For those of you who don't remember the plot-line that has drifted through the series, here it is. The Hymen War Race Terrific, or looking for an heir to the throne of England that was done by the Dukes of Kent, Clarence and Cambridge, the eventual "winner" being Kent with the birth of Victoria. While the story about the race was true I have my doubts that any regular person of aristocratic birth was ever in the running. This would be because of all the small noble houses spewed all over Europe at the time. There would have been plenty of small royal houses willing to marry their daughters off to the three old reprobates who were the English Dukes. Nonetheless, there are three hot rakes who have been blackmailed into seducing the three aristocratic women - one in each book. And that is it, in a nutshell.

In this story, our hero/seducer is Jonah - and by the way there is a sub-plot weaving through the stories of these three men trying to prove they are not traitors. Anyway, I liked Jonah a lot - he's the best of all three of the men in the series. His internal conflict as he slowly falls under Serena's spell was wonderful to watch. There is some pretty powerful writing filled with some very vivid and poignant dialog.

As I consider Jonah the best of the three heroes, I also consider Serena the better of the three heroines in the series, although, in the beginning I had my doubts. You see, when she is first introduced to us, she is dressed in men's clothing trying to pass herself off as her cousin. I thought maybe we were going to be led down the silly girl-disguised-as-a-guy-and-never-found-out path. But, that didn't happen. Our hero is on to her right from the start; in fact he's been following her - he just doesn't know the why she's doing what she's doing. And the why part is one of the reasons I liked this story so much.

You see, our heroine has made a list of things she has to do before she is forced to marry the royal duke. When the reason is revealed, I actually felt a tear forming. Without giving too much away, all I want to say is that the bond between a mother and a daughter, no matter how short their time together, is well-written and I promise you, it will pull on your heart-strings.

A distraction. There was a moment in the book where my mind pondered the pristine world of romance. You know that world, the one without hairy legs and armpits. The one where women don't have visits from mother nature unless there is a baby. The one where no one seems to have bad breath except the villains. And, people can go for days without visiting the bathroom. Well, we have one of those occasions in this story. You see, our hero is going to seduce our heroine with his masterful hands. He's going to do a massage, eventually on her thighs. But first he will massage her feet. In order to do that he must remove her boots. Now, she's been in those boots almost all day and I really don't know what the condition of her feet were before she stuck them in those boots, but I've been around my share of feet coming out of boots and let me tell you they can be mighty odoriferous. Yep, feet can be downright stinky, and this guy's going to rub his fingers all over those smelly-feet. I know if it were me, I'd be trying to do all in my power to keep him from touching my funky toes. This is one moment I'm glad romance books are not scratch and sniff.

Back to the book. The characters in this story are well-developed and even with all the angst and melancholy our couple are very charming. They work well together and I had no doubts that their HEA was one that would really work. They balance each other.

I wish I could say that this was a perfect book, but there was an incident in the book that I found mildly distasteful. Maybe it's just me because I see it used as a comedy ploy in movies a lot., but I don't like to know about people's bodily functions or, more to the point, their loss of muscles that hold those bodily functions in place. I didn't understand why it was necessary to let us know that the villain could not hold anything in when he was being hung over the side. Didn't add anything to the story; we know he's a creep so I'm not sure what this was meant to show. I don't find excrement funny in movies and I don't like to read about it in my books. This is the romance world, after all, and none of that exists.

Other than that slight hiccup, this was a good romance with a delightful story and, in my opinion, the best of the three in the series. And, I hope Mia Marlowe and Connie Mason will work together again, because I have enjoyed their partnership. 

Time/Place: Pre-Victorian England
Sensuality: Hot

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