I’ve been thinking a lot about rakes recently. Romance Land is overrun with them, but they’re like cartoon bunnies: a softer, fuzzier version of the real thing. Without those sharp little teeth.
Real rakes are something quite different: there’s an edge to them, something ruthless and more than a little bit dangerous. They have the potential to turn genuinely nasty. And maybe that’s their attraction.
So where does one find real rakes in fiction? Here’s my mini-list of rakish rakes:
— Lovelace from Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa: there’s nothing like starting with the original, and if there ever was a genuinely dangerous eighteenth century rake, Lovelace is it. I still keep hoping for the story to end differently…. (Confession: Sean Bean’s performance in the BBC version was a major inspiration for Lord Vaughn.)
— Keeping with the classics, Valmont, the hero (or anti-hero?) of Dangerous Liaisons. He and Richardson’s Lovelace would have a great deal to discuss.
— Vidal of Georgette Heyer’s Devil’s Cub, who is well on his way to going the way of Lovelace or Valmont when he accidentally kidnaps Mary Challoner– fortunately for him. Devil’s Cub is still up there as one of my all time favorite Georgette Heyer novels, which is saying rather a lot.
— Lord Vaughn of my own Seduction of the Crimson Rose. You name it, he’s tried it. If he has scruples, they’re buried deeply enough that they don’t trouble him. For the most part.
— Sebastian of Lisa Kleypas’s The Devil in Winter, who has proved his rakish bona fides by showing, in a previous book, that he has it in him to attempt to, er, forcibly seduce his best friend’s future bride. His gradual redemption is a true tour de force.
Can you think of any other mad, bad, and dangerous to know rakes in recent– or not so recent– fiction?