Pursuing a role in Parliament, Christopher Lattimar needs a virtuous marriage to make society overlook his roguish past. When beautiful and disarming Ellie Parmenter offers to reform and refine him, he’s too tempted to say no.
Once a courtesan, Ellie knows a thing or two about polishing a diamond in the rough. She has no designs on Christopher—or any man in search of a wife—but their best-laid plans begin to tumble once lessons in respectability turn to seduction…
Click on title for Amazon buy link: Secret Lessons with the Rake (Hadley’s Hellions)
Tess Wanstead was raised to be a lady, but at age sixteen, her father literally sold her to an older man, Summerville, to pay off his debts. She was removed to town, and set up in a house, where she became his mistress for almost a decade. In order not to bring shame to her family, she became “Ellie Parmenter,” and Tess no longer existed. During this bleak time in her life, one of the few bright spots was her friendship with Lady Vraux, and her son, Christopher Lattimar. Though Lady Vraux is married, she is notorious for her scandalous affairs, and for having born children whose fathers are not her husband. Christopher has lived on the fringes of society, and has spent his time in his mother’s world, dallying with mistresses and courtesans, rather than respectable debutantes. He has been a close friend to Ellie for years, and has secretly desired her.
Now Christopher seeks to become influential in Parliament, and has decided that he must seek a respectable wife, one whose social position will benefit his political goals. This means also that he needs to learn how to act properly and court a lady. When Summerville dies, Ellie is finally free. He was generous enough to leave her a home and a small income, which she intends to use to set up a school for young girls who were forced into prostitution, or those who simply want to leave that life. Ellie, herself, has no intention of ever being a man’s mistress again. Christopher knows that Ellie was raised a lady, and asks for her help in “tutoring” him on how to act as he eases into proper society. Ellie agrees to help, knowing that Christopher’s marriage will take him out of her life. Though Ellie has never experienced true physical pleasure with Summerville, she feels desire for Christopher, as well as deep friendship.
As Christopher and Ellie spend more time together, their bond, their affection, and their attraction grows. It’s a bittersweet time for both, as Christopher wants to change the direction of his life, while not disrespecting Ellie’s wish to never be a mistress again. At the same time, Ellie doesn’t want to jeopardize Christopher’s plans, yet she longs to experience the fulfillment she’s sure she’d find in his arms. Eventually their passion wins out and they become lovers. Now, how can Christopher possibly marry a society lady when he’s finally found the woman who is perfect for him in every way? Every way, but one…
I admit to being a little nervous about reading this book when I learned it was the story of a courtesan, as that’s not a subject I’m fond of. But Ellie did not choose this life, she was forced and blackmailed into it by her loser of a father. Ellie gave up her own future to protect her younger sister and her mother, which makes her a victim, who became a hero. As soon as she was able, she left the life, vowing never to live that way again. I have only admiration for her strength of character, and her ability to not become jaded and unable to care. I found Christopher’s lack of judgment amazing. I loved that he admitted his feelings for Ellie, and he never looked down on her, or his mother, either. I think that SECRET LESSONS WITH THE RAKE showcases two outstanding people who were able to overcome obstacles that were not of their making, determine what is important in life, and to make their own happiness.