Miss Juliet Shelby, along with her cousins Madeleine and Cecily, all wallflowers, have been labeled the Ugly Ducklings by snobbish Amelia Snowe, who had been a sensation during her first Season. During the past Season, Cecily had found Amelia’s dance card and used it as her own. Subsequently, she had met and married the Duke of Winterson. Afterwards, she gave the dance card to Juliet, hoping it would bring her luck. The three women had hoped that Cecily’s marriage to the duke would have improved their standing in society, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Due to an accident years earlier, Juliet suffers with pain in her leg and walks with a limp. For which, some in society ridicule her. In fact, Juliet’s mother, Lady Shelton, has given up on the idea of Juliet ever marrying and holds disdain for her daughter. But suddenly, Lady Shelton has made plans for Juliet to marry the older, unsettling Lord Turlington, despite her daughter’s refusal to marry the man. Lady Shelton is determined that the marriage will go ahead no matter what she has to do and will go to scandalous lengths to make it happen.
Recently, Juliet discovered that her piano teacher and friend, Anna Turner, who had been like a mother to her, was missing. The fact that she left behind her young daughter makes her believe that foul play is involved. When Alec comes upon a tearful Juliet, she tells him about her missing friend and he agrees to help her find the woman. When he finds the young daughter, not being sure if his unscrupulous uncle has something to do with the missing woman, he takes the child home with him, giving her a home where she will not be abused. But they discover that Anna is not the only woman missing and some of the bodies have been turning up. An artist is suspected of being involved due to the subject matter of his paintings, but no one knows his true identity. As they spend time together investigating, Alec begins to fall in love with Juliet’s beauty, intelligence and generous heart. However, Juliet has a secret, one that makes her feel unworthy of Alec. But she is not the only one with a secret; Alec is still struggling with something from his past. Can they get beyond their secrets and give into their feelings for each other before Lady Shelton dooms any future they may have? Can they find Anna, or is it already too late?
Absolutely delightful, HOW TO ROMANCE A RAKE, the second book in talented author Manda Collins’ UGLY DUCKLING series, is an emotion-packed, passionate historical romance set in the Regency era. There is a delicious chemistry between Alec and Juliet that turns up the heat whenever they are on the same page together. This beautifully penned story is packed with mystery, passion, humor, warmth, surprising plot twists, clever dialogue, secrets and romance as it compassionately addresses the issuesfacing thosewho have suffered physical and/or emotional distress. These qualities will keep readers eagerly turning pages to see what happensnext. The foibles and vulnerabilities of the characters in this story make them believable, as Ms. Collins succeedsin bringing this story to life. This story is the first one in this series that I have read, so I can state unequivocally that it can be read as a standalone. However, to gain further background into this series and for further enjoyment, I advise also reading the first book, HOW TO DANCE WITH A DUKE. I highly recommend HOW TO ROMANCE A RAKE and look forward to reading the third book in this series, HOW TO ENGAGE AN EARL, which is due out in February 2013.