A hero doesn’t do unheroic things. That’s a given in the romance world. However, my co-author Connie Mason and I decided to walk a razor-thin line in order to bring our Royal Rakes series to life. In WAKING UP WITH A RAKE, Lord Rhys Warrington agrees to seduce and ruin Olivia Symon, an heiress who’s captured the attention of the Duke of Clarence.
Setting out to steal a maidenhead in such a mercenary fashion is despicable. Certainly not heroic. But Rhys agrees to such a plan for a compelling reason. Enter the villain, the Honorable Fortescue Alcock, a member of parliament who’s intent on thwarting the royal duke’s plan to wed and then father the child who will one day wear the crown. Alcock threatens Rhys with an iron-clad scandal that will ruin his family if he doesn’t step in and seduce Olivia out from under the duke’s royal nose.
So to protect those he loves, Rhys reluctantly agrees to do Alcock’s bidding, but he’s deeply conflicted by the whole situation. When someone makes an attempt on Olivia’s life, he becomes determined to protect her. In fact, once he gets to know and admire Olivia, he’s so confused, even his usually rakish body won’t obey his heart’s demands.
Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 19 of WAKING UP WITH A RAKE:
“Rhys, what’s wrong?”
He didn’t answer. Instead he strode across the room and retrieved his discarded trousers. Keeping his back to her, he stepped into them and tugged them up.
Olivia climbed out of bed, letting the hem of her nightrail billow to the floor. Her shaking fingers fumbling with the buttons, she did up the front of her shift as she followed after him. She might not have much sensual experience, but even she knew something had gone horribly wrong.
“What just happened?” she asked in bewilderment. One moment he was making the sweetest love to her and the next he was flying across the room trying to put as much distance as possible between them.
“What do you think happened?” He sat in one of the wing chairs and struggled to pull on his boots. “I saved you from a very stupid mistake. Honestly Olivia, if you hope to be a queen one day, you really ought to use better judgment.”
She flinched as though he’d slapped her. He hadn’t meant any of it. The whole thing was some elaborate test, which she’d obviously failed. “But I thought—”
“That this was something other than a lesson from a libertine?” He pulled on his shirt and fastened it up at a blistering pace. “Where the devil did that button you tore off get to?”
She stared at him in disbelief. Her world was imploding and he was looking for a benighted button.
“Ah!” He found the lost button near the hearth and pocketed it. As he retied his cravat, he cast her a cynical look. “Close your mouth, Olivia. It makes you look like a cod. Surely you’re not that surprised.”
She couldn’t have been more so if he’d told her he planned to sprout wings and fly out her window. Everything had felt so real.
“Haven’t you any idea how close you were to ruin? You really are a silly little twit, aren’t you? I confess I thought you brighter than that.”
The way her stomach roiled, she feared she might be sick. But that would only mean further mortification before a man who’d seen her soul-naked, who’d used her for his own twisted purposes and now laughed at her. She couldn’t bear more. She swallowed back the rising bile and straightened to her full height.
“Get out of my room.”
“I would do so with pleasure, Miss Symon.” He retrieved his cufflinks from her vanity and reattached them at his wrists. “Nevertheless we have a small matter with which to contend. May I remind you there is still someone trying to do you harm?”
“More harm than you, you mean.”
“Yes, more harm than me,” he said testily, shrugging into his waistcoat and jacket.
“Since you think I’m a silly little twit, I have to wonder why should you care?” Nothing. What they shared in her bed meant nothing to him. She glared at him, taking refuge behind rage to avoid nausea. “With a reputation like yours, what’s another stain more or less?”
He clasped a mocking hand to his chest as though she’d sent a dart into it. “There’s a sting. Good. I was afraid you might turn into a weepy little puddle. But however you might feel about me at present, remember there is someone out there who seeks to do you ill. Until we discover who that person is, you’re stuck with me in your bedchamber by night.”
She whirled around and stomped back to the bed, trailing her dignity behind her like tattered wings. “Stay away from me, Rhys Warrington.”
“As you wish, milady,” he said with false amiability as he settled into one of the wing chairs and propped his long legs up on the other.
She climbed into bed and pulled the covers to her chin, biting back the sob that threatened to tear from her throat.
But that didn’t stop the tears from coursing silently down her cheeks. Her heart hurt, pounding erratically. She’d nearly been dashed to pieces in that ravine, but she hadn’t felt as close to death then as she did now, lying in the dark with her chest threatening to break open.
She replayed the interlude with Rhys in her mind, the intimate things he’d done with her, to her, the way she’d given herself over to him. How could he run so hot and then so cold? What had she done wrong?
Then she realized she hadn’t done anything. He was the one who failed to do something. Now that she thought about it, she realized in the final moments of their loving his glorious thing had suddenly become inexplicably much less glorious.
There’d been a stallion like that at Barrowdell once. Mr. Thatcher tried every trick he could to interest the horse in a mare that was in season, but for some unknown reason, the stallion wouldn’t mount. In the end, it was gelded and sold and as far as Olivia knew was still pulling a hackney cab around the cobbled streets of London.
An image of Rhys hauling around a cab with a bit between his teeth made her stop crying for a bit.
But men were not stallions. Rhys simply must not have wanted her after all and couldn’t pretend he did for another second.
Shame burned her cheeks, and she buried her face in her pillow.
END OF EXCERPT
Hope you enjoyed the excerpt from WAKING UP WITH A RAKE. There have been other books where the hero did things that seemed unheroic at the time. I remember being horrified when, in Diana Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER, Jamie beat Claire. It seemed a violation of everything we expect in a hero and yet . . . Gabaldon made it work somehow.
Have you read any books that pushed the hero’s envelope? What absolute no-no would put a hero beyond the pale for you?