I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The writing is sly, sensual, humorous and firmly ensconced in the period. Even if I wasn't the biggest Anne Stuart fan on earth, I will still have found this book utterly enchanting.
I was really nervous with the storyline because I hate adultery with a burning passion. I'm happy with how things unfolded. There was no line crossing in this book that I couldn't live with. While Lord Kilmartyn is supposed to be a sleazy rake, I was completely in love with him quite early on in the book. I found him very seductive and I could see why Bryony fell for him, despite being a very sensible young woman. I liked the importance of his Irish heritage to his persona, and how it had gotten him into a shaky situation of late, but defined him in a way that he couldn't turn his back on. I wish that Ms. Stuart had delved more into where his marriage went wrong, but I got the impression that he wanted to be a good husband to his wife at some point, and he loved her, but now he hated her. In some books with the unrepentant, adulterous rake, I question the character's ability to remain faithful to the heroine, but I have no doubt that Kilmartyn would be capable of that with Bryony. His caring for her when she was in need was very touching and showed more than words.
I also loved Bryony as a character. Her pain in feeling unloved and unattractive because of her smallpox scars made sense. While it scarred her self-esteem, she was still a strong-minded person and no fainting flower in the face of her family's recent change in fortunes. I like her pluck and how her natural personality comes out in her interactions with Kilmartyn. I rooted for her to get him, and win him over in a way that didn't cross the line into adultery or illicit affair territory and I was glad Ms. Stuart gave her that happy ending with no compromise in that area.
The secondary characters are a fun addition to the book, with a little bit of the "Upstairs, Downstairs" vibe as Bryony gets engrossed in the world of the servants and they take her in, especially Mrs. Harkins the kindly chef.
I confess I read the last book before this, so I sort of know how it ends, but it didn't spoil things for me. There is still plenty of mystery in the storyline with what happened to Bryony and her sisters' father to keep the story interesting. That is if steamy romance with a soon-to-be reformed rake isn't enough to keep things exciting.
Never Kiss a Rake is a promising start to this newest historical romance series by Ms. Stuart. She brings all the steamy romance and engaging characters that make her books delicious reads for me. I hope to read Never Trust a Pirate very soon.