Once in a very great while, one is lucky enough to discover a book so strikingly original, of such sheer superiority that it becomes an enduring classic that sets a new standard of excellence. In September of 1989, Mary Jo Putney gifted the world with such a rare gem, THE RAKE AND THE REFORMER, published as a Signet Regency. Now, with tender loving care, Ms. Putney polishes this towering Regency landmark to fresh perfection to please the wider historical romance audience!

Reginald Davenport is the perfect scoundrel. A wastrel, not to mention a man inordinately fond of the drink, he has spent years in idle debauchery, making a living at the London gaming tables. He has no purpose in life, and his only family considers him a villain.

There is, however, more to Reggie than anyone, including himself, believes. To his surprise, when he comes into possession of an old family estate, he finds himself unexpectedly drawn to the idea of putting down roots. But what does he know about running an estate?

Fortunately for him, the estate already has a marvelously competent steward. What he doesn't know is that the miracle worker who saved the estate from bankruptcy is in fact a woman, Lady Alys Weston, who has managed to hide her true sex from the previous absentee owner for years.

It is at this point that the sheer brilliance of Ms. Putney's characterization turns this love story into something extraordinary, as Reggie is forced to look inside of himself and make excruciatingly difficult choices about his future. Will he find the strength to do what is necessary for the woman he comes to love so deeply?

Few other characters in romantic fiction have left as lasting an impression on the genre as Reginald Davenport. Ms.Putney ventured where no one had gone before in her compelling portrait of a man who finally learns to conquer the past. Today, Reggie is just as mesmerizing as he was when we first met him. Filled with sparkling wit, this splendid entertainment is quite simply the very best of the best. SENSUAL (Apr., 352 pp., $6.99)

Reviewed by: 
Melinda Helfer