Rakes and Radishes
by Susanna Ives
ebook – Carina Press $5.39
I loved Rakes and Radishes! This is one of the best books I’ve read all year. It made me cry. It made me laugh. It made me want to shake some sense into the main characters.
Ok, so I’ve become quite friendly with the author, Susanna Ives. She looks to be quite a bit younger than me, but we hit it off a while ago, and I really get a kick out of her. BUT, I’m telling you, I would not be reviewing this book if I didn’t love it. I had to ask her permission to review it because when we swapped books, she told me not to review it–she just wanted to know what I thought of it.
Anyway. Caveats aside.
Henrietta–how’s that for an non-glamorous heroine name?–dreams of London. She dreams of her future with her cousin, Edward, with whom she lately became secretly engaged. And she dreams of her favorite novel, the fictional The Mysterious Lord Blackraven. What she doesn’t dream of is a future with her grubby neighbor, even if he is the Earl of Kesseley. Kesseley is just a friend, but in him, she confides anything.
Kesseley is the one who dreams of a future with her. Henrietta knows this, and it makes things a bit awkward in their friendship.
When Henrietta learns that her cousin–a recently published and feted poet–is now engaged to one Lady Sara, this year’s Diamond debut, she feels betrayed and heartbroken. She comes up with a scheme to transform Kesseley into a rake–modeled on Lord Blackraven–so he can steal Sara away, leaving Henrietta to pick up the pieces.
Yeah, so she’s a twit. I have a soft spot for twits–especially when they have to grow up and become wise young ladies. And Henrietta does a lot of growing up in this novel.
Kesseley has his dreams firmly in the earth. He is a farmer, heart and soul, and turns his scientific mind toward increasing the crop yield and figuring out better irrigation methods. He is so NOT a gothic hero–he has dirty fingernails and grubby clothes. And his one-armed, color-blind valet does not improve Kesseley’s state of dress. When Kesseley finally decides that Henrietta is forever out of his reach, he turns to The Mysterious Lord Blackraven–and Kesseley becomes him. Suddenly, Henrietta goes from the only one who would dance with him to one in a crowd.
I’m leaving out so much. I have not mentioned the aging princess and her companion, who has a secret occupation. I have not mentioned the dashing old man who wanders the park, and with whom Henrietta has many mysterious encounters. I have not brought up Kesseley’s mother’s secret heartbreak, nor the man who emotionally abuses her. And I haven’t brought up Kesseley’s dead rake of a father, who still torments Kesseley and his mother from beyond the grave. And what about the attempts of Henrietta’s entire family to discover a planet that they just know is out there, and can prove it mathematically? There are many plot threads that Ms. Ives deftly twists and turns and weaves together until we have a dazzling tapestry of a story. The timing is impeccable and the metaphors are inspired.
Nitpicks? Only one. But I can’t get specific without spoiling a plotthread, so I’ll just move on. All I’ll say is I wonder what became of Henrietta’s father.
But most importantly, this book made me cry. I hate crying over a book, but an author who can make me cry has ensured that I will never forget the book. For some reason, I have a tendency to cry over twits that grow up. The last time I did so was over Amanda Ashby’s You Had Me at Halo. I cry over kids’ movies all the time. I have to leave the room during The Little Princess when Sarah is saying goodbye to her friends–especially when she hugs the girl who was her enemy. Up sent me over the edge when the boy was eating ice cream with the old man. I never cry over romances. But I cried over this one.
Therefore, I must say brava and well done. A keeper.
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