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Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

06 June 2007

Rake or Libertine?

How do you feel about rakes? Personally, I’m not a big fan of the male slut as a hero who’s magically transformed by the power of his woman’s love (or private parts). I’m too conscious of venereal disease, I suppose. So how the heck did I end up with a 2008 book tentatively called A Rake’s Guide to Ruin?

Well, lucky for me, my hero is considered a rake by the ton, but he’s truly not. He was definitely headed for that lifestyle in his youth before stunning betrayal intervened, but now he is cold, powerful and mysterious, and consequently sought after by the ladies. Who doesn’t like cold, powerful and mysterious? Mm.

So what is a rake to you? I found an interesting description in the book Erotic Love by Sardi:


The Georgian rakes and Regency Bucks were not exactly Don Juans. The Latin
lover’s romantic adventures were motivated by sensuality pure and simple. The
English Beaux were little concerned with passion. Their approach to love affairs
was cold and calculated, and motivated by a power complex that found
satisfaction in a romantic conquest. Such was the rake who was the “hero” of
Richardson’s novel, Clarissa. Taine thus described the rake: “What a character!
How very English! . . . Unyielding pride, the desire to subjugate others, the
provocative love of battle, the need for ascendency, these are his predominant
features. Sensuality is but of secondary importance. . . In France libertines
were frivolous fellows, whereas here they were mean brutes. . .”

Wow, that is just spot-on for me. And actually, my hero thinks of himself as having a “libertine’s soul”. (Piggy-backing on Kristina's previous post, I get the feeling that her hero is the same.) My rake hero is a secret sensualist, not really a rake, but I believe those distinctions would be lost in the gossip of the ton. Plus “Rake” makes for a title that the sales department will like. *g*

So how do you feel about rakes? Your favorite kind of hero or a danger to his lover’s venereal health? Do you demand that your rakes use protection? (With everyone but the heroine, of course. I’m a sucker for the “swept away by a heretofore unknown emotion” plot device. I just am. Leave me alone.) And what are your thoughts on the differences between rakes, rogues and libertines?

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18 Comments:

Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

And what are your thoughts on the differences between rakes, rogues and libertines?

Are talking flavors of cake? LOL!

"Rake" has "asshat" written all over it IMO. I'm pretty much in agreement with Sardi. "Libertine" is a little softer. A libertine is more of an opportunistic sensualist for me. And “rogue” doesn’t imply anything sexual to me.

To date I’ve written “libertines”. I’m not sure I’ll ever write a “rake” in the true alpha-asshat sense of the word. I just don’t see how a “rake” can have an HEA. Thought I think one of my WIPs might have a libertine hero who’s had such a hard time of things that he pretty much acts like a rake.

8:33 AM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

"Rake" has "asshat" written all over it IMO.

HAHAHAHA Right on, Kalen. I think of a rake as someone who's taken the virginity of at least a few girls and thinks nothing of it.

8:36 AM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

. . . or is proud of it, actually.

8:38 AM  
Blogger Kristina Cook said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:49 AM  
Blogger Kristina Cook said...

I think my perception is influenced a bit by movies---because when I think 'libertine,' I think of a Syphilis-ravaged character played by Johnny Depp, pissing himself while his nose rots off! Ick!!!!! Which makes me think of a libertine as the 'worst' of the three--rake/rogue, libertine. Whereas 'rake,' I think of 'rakehell youth' describing those days when a man is sort of sowing his oats, so to speak.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

because when I think 'libertine,' I think of a Syphilis-ravaged character played by Johnny Depp, pissing himself while his nose rots off! Ick!!!!!

Oh, thanks for that, Kristina! Yuck.

9:53 AM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

But so hot at the beginning. That opening monologue is HAWT. And the carriage ride? Scorching! I just watch the beginning of the movie (over and over, LOL!).

Allow me to be frank at the commencement. You will not like me. The gentlemen will be envious and the ladies will be repelled. You will not like me now and you will like me a good deal less as we go on. Ladies, an announcement: I am up for it, all the time. That is not a boast or an opinion, it is bone hard medical fact. I put it round you know. And you will watch me putting it round and sigh for it. Don't. It is a deal of trouble for you and you are better off watching and drawing your conclusions from a distance than you would be if I got my tarse up your petticoats. Gentlemen. Do not despair, I am up for that as well. And the same warning applies. Still your cheesy erections till I have had my say. But later when you shag - and later you will shag, I shall expect it of you and I will know if you have let me down - I wish you to shag with my homuncular image rattling in your gonads. Feel how it was for me, how it is for me and ponder. 'Was that shudder the same shudder he sensed? Did he know something more profound? Or is there some wall of wretchedness that we all batter with our heads at that shining, livelong moment. That is it. That is my prologue, nothing in rhyme, no protestations of modesty, you were not expecting that I hope. I am John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester and I do not want you to like me.

11:29 AM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

18th century French libertine novels are very subtle about the psychology of seduction and the amazingly convoluted ego-trips that twine round them. I read some for The Bookseller's Daughter, because Joseph is exactly that sort of a libertine, and he's written a book called A Libertine Education.

Unfortunately, the libertine novels weren't much when it came to graphic stuff -- in Bookseller's Daughter I just sort of imply that Joseph's book is more explicit than it actually would have been. And I have him write an "oriental" harem story as well -- also very popular in pre-revolutionary France.

The Libertine Reader is a great source for all this.

11:42 AM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

Trust Pam to have something far more erudite to say than "asshat". LOL!

12:15 PM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

Thanks. I guess. ;-} (Now to write my monthly "nerd city" entry on my own site)

1:25 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Wow--I haven't seen "The Libertine", but I have read a bunch of Rochester's poetry and that monologue sounds exactly like something I think he would say. Like Kristina, I tend to think of "libertine" as more extreme than "rake'--not sure why exactly. And "rogue" to me involves some element of living by his wits . My favorite rake hero is Damerel in Georgette Heyer's "Venetia". I haven't actually written a lot of rake heroes myself i realize. In one of our Anthea Malcolm Regencies my mom and I started out with the idea of a hero who had been a coldly-calculating seducer, on the model of Valmont, but in the book ("A Touch of Scandal") he turned out much less cold and calculating and much more idealistic and compassionate, even *before* he learned and grew in the course of the story.

2:12 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Rakes, rougues and libertines...I love them all.

And I think if I were to meet the Second Earl of Rochester, I would be immune to his charms because I KNEW what he was up to. I'd be wise, and smuggly secure that I was NOT attracted to him...;-)

And of course, like any heroine in a romance novel, it's that attitude that would get me in trouble...

3:26 PM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

HAHAHA

Perfect, Kathrynn. You are a true romance writer.

4:02 PM  
Blogger Caffey said...

I'm just a reader here so I'm not familar with The Libertine and Rochester poetry, but I'm going to be looking it up! I've always taken for granted what I read is just historical romances so I never knew much of the real history and never did til a bit recently when I've gone on blogs to learn about more. So its been opening the floodgates recently! I want to learn lots but I'm afraid I'll get into it so much I'll be reading that rather than my romances! But I do plan to look up those both to get a feel for them. I do know that I love reading a Rake story in my historical romances whereby his falling in love makes him a one woman man :)

5:42 PM  
Blogger Camilla said...

I just once want a rake/libertine/rogue/whatever hero to be one because he LOVES women and finds them all irresistible--not because he was betrayed and uses women callously to keep his heart protected. (Blech!) I'd find a hero like that--charming and promiscuous in it--who is "tamed" by the heroine a lot more realistic because his libertine tendencies aren't motivated by a dislike of women. Or at least a hero as a rake because it's all he's known, it's condoned, and he doesn't know that it's "wrong". Generally, just some variety in the reasons for being a man ho and them not being so manufactured.

1:11 AM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Caffey, go for it! I promise it will only make your romance reading more enjoyable.

Camilla, your comments made me happy. The hero I'm about to start work on definitely isn't a rake, but he LOVES women. Loves the way they taste and feel and smell. Loves the way they think. Would much rather be lounging for days in a woman's bed than hanging around his club. And he's fairly upset that he's been reduced to fortune hunting. LOL

You've inspired me! I've been dreading having to sit down and write the synopsis, so thanks for hte much needed inspiration!

7:24 AM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

I love and am inspired by both Caffey and Camilla's posts. And suggest you check out Casanova's memoirs (in a library, unless you want to buy the 12 inches or so the 6 volumes will take up on your bookshelf). I love the story of his first young-teen erotic encounter, with a very opinionated slightly older girl, who knows exactly what she wants, and his delight in doing it. Very cool.

I haven't read much of it, but I've very much enjoyed what I have read. There's also recently come out a handy guide and summary of the 6 volumes. It's supposed to be excellent. All I know offhand, tho, is that the author is a woman. Anybody know who?

9:02 AM  
Blogger Caffey said...

Thanks for the wonderful suggestions! I'm now checking the library online to start reserving some. Its just so great to read! I get goosebumps reading the posts here! You all are great!

7:34 PM  

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