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Meet the SOCIETY OF SIRENS—three radical, libertine ladies determined to weaponize their scandalous reputations to fight for justice and the love they deserve…

She's a Rakess on a quest for women's rights…

Seraphina Arden's passions include equality, amorous affairs, and wild, wine-soaked nights. To raise funds for her cause, she's set to publish explosive memoirs exposing the powerful man who ruined her. Her ideals are her purpose, her friends are her family, and her paramours are forbidden to linger in the morning.

He's not looking for a summer lover…

Adam Anderson is a wholesome, handsome, widowed Scottish architect, with two young children, a business to protect, and an aversion to scandal. He could never, ever afford to fall for Seraphina. But her indecent proposal—one month, no strings, no future—proves too tempting for a man who strains to keep his passions buried with the losses of his past.

But one night changes everything...

What began as a fling soon forces them to confront painful secrets—and yearnings they thought they'd never have again. But when Seraphina discovers Adam's future depends on the man she's about to destroy, she must decide what to protect…her desire for justice, or her heart.

400 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published April 28, 2020

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About the author

Scarlett Peckham

8 books829 followers
Scarlett Peckham writes sexy, gothic, feminist historical romances about alpha heroines. She splits her time between Los Angeles and the spooky cliffs of Coastal Oregon.

For a taste at her critically acclaimed Secrets of Charlotte Street series, download her free novelette, The Emerald Widow: https://geni.us/EmeraldWidow

To be the first to hear about her new releases and cat photos, sign up for her legendary newsletter: https://geni.us/TheScarlettLetter

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 588 reviews
Profile Image for Riley.
424 reviews20.8k followers
August 21, 2020
i would let Seraphina step on me
September 23, 2020

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One of my friends was raving about Scarlett Peckham's other series, so I was really excited to receive an ARC of THE RAKESS... which I haven't read until now because I am a trash person. I'm so bad at reading ARCs on time and it took me forEVER to read this one because I actually wasn't... that in love with it. It wasn't a bad book, which is why I didn't DNF, but there were some things about it that I really didn't enjoy, which made finishing a bit of a slog.

I will say that the author did a good job role-reversing the usual trope of the Draco in Leather Pants duke of slut who sleeps around because of past traumas (usually daddy issues). Seraphenia is definitely a rakess of slut, and yes, she does it due to past trauma, although she also seems to have confused herself of her own white feminist doctrines: in leashing the male gaze, she has become the mistress of her own femininity, et al. I may have rolled my eyes the tiniest bit. And no, it's not because I was annoyed that the heroine wasn't a virgin (I actually hate the trope where the heroine is supposed to be a famed mistress, but she's actually a virgin widow and her "reputation" is a total lie), I'm not a fan of emo manbaby dukes and having a woman wear the slutty pants from the Duchy of Sublimated Issues didn't really make me embrace it any more.

That said, what really ended up being the saving grace was the fact that she was obviously inspired by Mary Wallstonecraft, and she had some genuinely prescient things to say about why being a woman in Regency England really, really sucked, even if you were a woman of means, but especially if you weren't. That's something a lot of the Julia Quinn and Lisa Kleypas novels of this era sometimes forget. It's all fun and games to tup in the carriage until your lover gets tired of you and tries to ruin your reputation, pay off your male guardian to shut your pretty, kiss-bruised mouth, or lock you in an insane asylum (or some variant of all three). The past belongs in the past, and as fun as it can be to read idealized versions of it, it's important to keep that unpleasant grain of truth top of mind. There were some events in this book that felt a little like wish fulfillment, but it was fun to envision a version of the past where a woman could publish a book publicly denouncing those who wronged her and steal her friend out of an insane asylum, especially since Peckham did acknowledge that things were shit.

I also liked Adam, who's the no-nonsense hero of this book (with a kinky side), although he's set up to be so likable that he almost feels like a Gary Stu. A widower with two precious children who works as an architect and falls for the first damaged woman he sees, despite knowing that she's no good? It sounds like a John Green book or a Judd Apatow movie. Naturally, the two of them find solace in one another, and find out that they share many of the same sorrows. And naturally, she teaches him to be a better man, and they find sexual healing in one another because theirs is a matching of souls, et al. I was not a fan of the sex scenes, though. Too much stickiness and gushing fluids. Ew, no.

Perhaps I'm being too hard on THE RAKESS. I'm just disappointed, because I wanted it to be so much more than it was. I think if you're looking for costume historical fiction with themes of female empowerment, and don't mind sex scenes of the gloppy, dripping variety (still ew), you'll probably really love this book. I'm still curious about her other series, because I've heard it's much darker than this one, and I might even continue with this series as long as Seraphina and Adam aren't the main characters, but this just felt a little too stock, and even though I loved the feminist themes, I just couldn't quite get on board with the story-- or the heroine.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!

2.5 to 3 stars
Profile Image for Lacey (laceybooklovers).
2,003 reviews9,920 followers
April 10, 2020
I had such high hopes for The Rakess as soon as I saw the title, blurb, AND cover. I mean, just look at that gorgeous, old-school vibes cover! And a female rake heroine? YES, please. I'm all for heroines in historical romances (and romances in general) who are feminist and love sex. I was also excited to be reading my very first Scarlett Peckham book – her historical romances have been on my radar since so many have raved about them. And while the concept of The Rakess is great and exactly up my alley, I had a tough time... reading it. The first half was so boring, it was a struggle to get through. The second half did get a lot better, but I’m so sad this book didn’t live up to my expectations.

Seraphina is as liberal, radical, and scandalous as you can imagine a woman who is feminist, fights for women's rights, and has lovers and affairs left and right is in the 19th century. And I truly loved her for all of that. She's on a quest to help women in need, while also taking down the powerful man who ruined and smeared her reputation. While in the countryside to write her exposé, she meets Adam Anderson, a gorgeous, Scottish single father she'd love nothing more to spend her nights with. Instead, this rakess falls for him and his two young children.

The idea behind The Rakess is fantastic. It just wasn’t executed well enough for me. There was barely any romance until 60% of the way through the book. The hero is an absolute Nice Guy and while I loved the gender flipping of the rake into a rakess, I never grew to love Seraphina’s character. She spends most of the story drinking/drunk and barely contributing to the romance. I wouldn't have minded that if she were focusing on the feminist movement instead of the romance, but that also doesn't progress until halfway through the book. It's only in the last 40% did I get the kind of story I was expecting when I went into The Rakess, and the book became so much more enjoyable.

Despite not fully loving The Rakess, I'm still very much looking forward to the other books in the series. We have two of Seraphina's friends who will be getting their romances, who are just as scandalous as this heroine, and I can't wait to see how they will turn out. Plus, I did enjoy Scarlett Peckham's writing – hopefully I'll enjoy her other series more than this book.
Profile Image for Jessica .
2,044 reviews13k followers
January 17, 2021
TW for loss of a loved one, miscarriage, and loss of a child.

THIS BOOK WAS SO FABULOUS. I know a lot of people didn't love this book, but I absolutely loved how it was a realistic portrayal of a rakess in society. Sure, we'd love a sex-positive heroine who lived like as a rake would during this time period. But that's not what Seraphina can do. At a young age, she was taken advantage of and exposed, and society immediately condemned her. Sera took control of her life and embraced the role of a rakess, which means that people absolutely detest her and often threaten her because of her reputation. It sucks, but that's the reality of how people viewed women versus men in that time period. I loved how much Sera was fighting for women's rights and I loved getting to know her more as she wrote her memoir about her past.

But let's get to the real reason I loved this book. ADAM. He lost his wife and felt like it was his fault, so he's very hard on himself and takes his job as a father to his two children very seriously. I just loved how sweet he was and how much he genuinely wanted to be there for Sera. Ugh. Adorable!

I really loved this book and am so happy I ended up picking this up. I cannot wait for the second book!
Profile Image for JenReadsRomance.
291 reviews1,460 followers
April 29, 2020
DNF at 20%

I probably should have known at the author's note that this book wouldn't be for me. Upending the rake trope has been the work of romancelandia for decades, and the rake / ruined woman characters she described in her author's note at the beginning? Honestly, I haven't seen that in romance since the 90s. However, when authors put their manifesto at the beginning, there's really no mistaking what they're hunting.

Sera isn't taking lots of lovers because she loves sex, she's doing it to forget. She's harming herself: Given the grip that anxiety had on her, to partake in intercourse at all was a kind of mental torture. As much as she enjoyed the act, every lover was a finger poised along the blade of a knife sharp enough to cut her.

It isn't sexy; It's sad. I was hoping it would feel sex positive, but it felt puritanical. The reason I stopped reading LitFic is because of the way pain and suffering is seen as having more weight and gravitas than the hope and promise of the HEA. And given the set-up of the first 20% is almost pure misery, with the promise of more to come?

I decided to stop reading. YMMV.
Profile Image for Becky (romantic_pursuing_feels).
688 reviews387 followers
April 30, 2020
Solid 3.5 but rounding to 4

Safety warnings attached at end.

Wow this book has been totally different than anything I've read...ever. This is my first Scarlett Peckham and I will be trying her again for sure. I think she's a great writer. Explicit sex, language, borderline offensive in some parts, just the rawness of real life people – the wonderful parts, the loving parts, and sometimes the true ugliness we can show. This was not an easy read. It's not light and fluffy. It's heavy. It's emotional. It's filled with angst and heart break. Parts were wonderful. Parts were horrible. It's definitely a memorable story.

So many stories about the rake. Oh he's so handsome with his flirtations, his sexual conquests, his ability to walk away from those nights emotionally unscathed. But, there is another side to these stories sometimes. The woman that is ruined. The woman who has no options in life anymore except what she scrape by with from the generosity of others. The woman who people run to other side of the street to get away from, laugh at, yell slurs to, threaten...the woman who is utterly broken by the choice made by two people yet only she is held accountable. This story is about such a girl, Seraphina.

I loved and hated Sera. When she was honest about her feelings she was beautiful. Her memoirs broke my heart and were by far my favorite part of this story. So strong. Unflappable in the face of the cruelty of society. I cannot help but admire her. But her full recovery is far from complete. And while she is learning how to heal from all of her past hurts, she can be rather ugly. It's all completely understandable. I do not blame her for her choices even though I do not like them. But that's the draw of this story, its powerful realness. She's a radical, a woman's rights acitvist, fighting to give her sex the tiniest bit of freedom and rights. It definitely made me feel the inequality in this story. It made me fear living in this time as a woman. It brought life to those movements in a way I haven't read before.

Adam is the hero. Born a bastard, a widower with 2 children. He works with his in laws in an architect firm when his true passion is art. I liked Adam, but Sera's story so overshadowed him and their relationship, my feelings could only grow to lukewarm. I loved that he had truly loved his wife. So many books have to make something wrong with the previous spouse, like it always must be a once in a lifetime love and I just don't think that's true. While I prefer first love stories instead of second chance, I believe in loving multiple people and it was refreshing seeing someone recovering from that pain and moving forward. Enough time was spent on his feelings that it was acknowledged and gave him depth but it didn't overshadow Sera and Adam's relationship.

This book is probably a bit more just the story of Sera. Her life. Her choices. Her recovery. Her healing. The relationship of Adam and Sera to me got a bit lost in it all. Took the back seat of the plot of the book. And this might work for some people but it made me like the book a bit less than otherwise probably. There's a lot of sex in the book and it's NAUGHTY. The words...they are all used. So ye who offend easily begone. But the sex happened so fast to me and I kept waiting for more relationship, more friendship, more connection but it was soooo slow going. It made me care about the sex less. I also wish I had more time in Adam's head (from the book in general), or more feelings from the sex. Very explicit, mostly hot, but almost mechanical in some scenes. So all these things, couple with quite a few spots of boredom in the story (I felt like the non sex scenes with the hero and heroine were a very small part of the book) lead me to 3.5 stars.

I got this book from netgalley as an ARC. As always these feelings are completely my own opinions.

Safety warnings:
Profile Image for aphrodite.
377 reviews860 followers
January 7, 2021
a hot female seductress & a sexy scotsman have a FWB relationship turned romance.

this is a historical romance loving bisexual’s wet dream.

it’s me, I’m the historical romance loving bisexual.
Profile Image for Joanna Loves Reading.
559 reviews213 followers
October 20, 2021
This was totally different than any other HR I have ever read. The heroine is certainly what the title infers, and she paves her own way in life. It was dramatic but also heartfelt. I thought it did an excellent job of working this theme within the constraints of the time period. The intimate scenes were a bit more descriptive than most I read, which was fine with me, but FYI if it matters. While I enjoyed this and thought it an interesting story with a good emotional journey, I suspect Peckham may be too much for me at times as this book was A LOT.
Profile Image for fatma.
885 reviews522 followers
June 10, 2022
8 reasons why you should The Rakess by Scarlett Peckham:

#1: It's a romance that plays with the tropes of romance
I don't mean to make this novel sound like it's Not Like Other Romance Novels, but I just love the way that it flips the more conventional gender dynamics of the male rake who learns to let go of his of rakish ways because he falls in love with the female love interest. In this novel it is our female lead, Seraphina the rakess, who is A Lot: oftentimes prickly and defensive, loath to let anyone in too close to her--a "rakess" precisely because she doesn't want to let anyone in too close. In contrast to Seraphina, we have the ever patient and understanding male lead, Adam, who is emotionally open where Seraphina is closed. Which leads me to my next point...

#2: Its male lead isn't an emotionally repressed alpha type
THIS. I've been reading a lot of historical romances lately, and I've just become so deeply, deeply bored by emotionally repressed alpha male leads. I never much cared for them to begin with, and the fact that they seem to be everywhere in the historical romances I've been reading has pretty much reduced my tolerance for them to zero. I want male leads who are nice and kind and soft!!! Maybe it sounds dumb to say that I just want male characters who are Nice, but they've been so rare to find lately that I feel like it needs saying. The Rakess has exactly that--a male lead who is Nice--and let me tell you, it is an absolute breath of fresh air. I love how honest and kind Adam is; he cares so deeply for Seraphina, and his actions always show that. She pushes him away, and he holds himself back from her, but even through all that, Adam is never cruel, never careless with Seraphina and her emotions. He is good and decent all the way through, and I just want to underscore how much I loved and appreciated that.

#3: It examines the role of being a woman, especially in a historical romance setting
Even though The Rakess is, by definition, a romance with a HEA, it also really deeply engages with what it's like to be a woman in its historical time period (the late 1700s). I wouldn't say it's a depressing novel, but still, it manages to drive home how hard it is for Seraphina to inhabit her world as a woman, the way her choices are limited, and the way that she makes her own choices anyway, bearing the consequences. Peckham does an excellent job depicting this reality of Seraphina's without making the novel feel too too morose or bogged down in misery. The novel is certainly not flippant in the way that it deals with these issues, but I really appreciated that there was that sense of gravity to lend the story, and especially Seraphina's character, real stakes and depth.

#4: Its characters have fleshed out backstories
The two leads of The Rakess have such developed and complex backstories. Seraphina has gone through a lot, and we hear about the ways in which she's been hurt and grown over the years. Adam also has a history of his own, one which has informed the way that he has chosen to raise his family now. Both of them come with a lot of emotional baggage, and I love the way that, in coming together, they're able to open up to each other and talk about the ways in which their histories have made them the people that they are now.

This is probably why this book is one of my favourite romances ever. (THE ANGST, Y'ALL!!!!) The reason The Rakess is so angsty--the reason its angst works so extraordinarily well and hits you so hard--is because the conflict in it feels real and believable. Romance readers everywhere know by now about the dreaded Third Act Conflict--everything will be going great in a romance until the third act rolls around, at which point the characters proceed to make the most idiotic, nonsensical decisions possible. What I love about The Rakess, and what makes it so deliciously angsty, is that its conflict is absolutely solid. There are real obstacles--both internal and external--that these characters have to deal with to be together, and they stumble on those obstacles, and those obstacles keep them apart and complicate their relationship. But you're there the whole way because you believe in that conflict, because Scarlett Peckham crafts it so that it makes sense for these characters and their world--and because you want to see these characters deal with their conflicts and come out the other side together. I just adored it all--I will choose an angsty romance over a fluffy one any day, and the angstiness of this one was executed to perfection.

#6: It's structurally interesting
I love the way this book is structured. We have our main present narrative, with Seraphina and Adam, which is interspersed with snippets of a book that Seraphina has written. But then, the narrative stops, takes a short break, and we return again to Seraphina and Adam, this time in a different place (I don't want to get too spoilery). The way that Scarlett Peckham has structured this story is why, I think, its romance ends up feeling so believable: you get the sense that these characters have spent a considerable amount of time together, and have grown close over that time, just as you have spent time with and grown close to them. It's also why the novel's conflict feels so solid; the characters are given time to grow close, but also to be apart, to miss each other, to want to come together again.

#7: Its romance feels EARNED
This one ties into points #6 and #7, but I wanted to talk about it separately because it's the reason why this novel is one of my all time favourite romances. So let me say it again: the relationship in The Rakess feels SO earned. The characters go through a lot, and while their struggles and traumas are not treated lightly, the novel also allows them to find comfort in each other, to heal together--they go through a lot, but that only makes their romance feel that much stronger when they do actively decide to be together. Peckham lays out the foundation for their relationship slowly and organically over the course of the novel, so that by the end what you're left with is a romance that's fully formed, one that feels so strong and grounded that you can't help but root for and be invested in it.

#8: Its main characters have cool jobs!!!
This one is kind of a small bonus thing that I liked and wanted to mention because it adds a really cool element to the story. Seraphina is a writer and an activist for women's rights (and in general), and those things are very much at the heart of her character in the novel. And Adam! Adam is an architect, which I just found so interesting and a nice change of pace from all the dukes and earls and marquesses. His work ends up playing into Seraphina's project, too, and also really informs the decisions he makes throughout the course of the novel.

Anyway, I absolutely adored this novel. It's my favourite historical romance ever, and I can't wait to see where this series goes next.

reread: april 14-16, 2022

just as good the second time around, if not even better. im going to write a whole review for this soon because it's genuinely one of the most well executed and well crafted romances ive ever read.

first read: june 18-19, 2021

4.5 stars

this was honestly one of the best romances i've ever read.

i don't tend to enjoy romance books that have a lot of plot, because frankly, i'm not here for the plot, i'm here for the romance. but The Rakess is such a well-crafted novel. every one of its elements just FLOWS so smoothly. the characters are well-drawn, the dialogue feels organic but still "historical," the romance is of course great, and the ANGST is perfect. there is so much angst in this book, but it's the kind that makes the romance feel so much more earned rather than melodramatic. I absolutely loved this, and it's one of those rare romances that i read and then keep thinking about even after i finish them.
Profile Image for Sheena ☆ Book Sheenanigans .
1,409 reviews334 followers
January 20, 2020

“The Rakess” positives are far less than the negatives, leaving me torn on how I feel about the overall read. Starting off with the positive, I liked the strong sensual heroine Seraphina who wasn’t ashamed to showcased her attraction towards the architect, Adam, who did everything in his power to fight the urge to submit to her wild ways. It was a constant (and shall I say tiring?) back and forth between the two throughout the entire novel. I say about ⅓ I was already done and over it, and the repetitiveness allowed the story to draaaaaag on. Despite the 380+ pages, there were far more tedious scenes that could have been cut out to make it a smooth sailing ride. I can’t even tell you how many times I check the % of the book to see if I was making any progress. It seem like I was just stuck and that's something no reader wants to experience.

In spite of the scenes that I found redundant, it wasn’t a complete terror to read. It was easy to see and feel the connection between Adam and Sera, and despite their social standing, I did quite enjoy how their relationship came to be. Moreso, I think the author did a decent job touching sensitive topics such as grieve, death, loss of pregnancy, addiction/alcoholism, animal cruelty, kidnapping and false imprisonment.

“The Rakess” left me caught between a rock and a hard place, and can easily be a hit or miss for readers.

Profile Image for aarya.
1,207 reviews
June 14, 2021
Discussed in twitter thread: https://twitter.com/ardentlyaarya/sta...

My friend b.andherbooks graciously allowed me to copy/paste her thorough list of content notes. Thanks, B! Her review is here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

Content Notes:

“Sirens, you see, are not born thirsting for justice. Sirens are made.”

Wow. Okay. So the content warnings are a lot. I would not recommend this book to folks if they dislike any mentions of those CWs. I honestly did not think I’d love THE RAKESS as it utilizes certain tropes/plot decisions that I normally dislike. That plus early polarizing reviews made me wary. So I wasn’t expecting to love it and was on the fence for most of the book.

In the end, when I took a step back and analyzed the experience.... yeah, I loved it. I think there are some aspects that are flawed or not interrogated enough for my liking, but my overall experience was deeply enjoyable. Despite certain qualms, it’s going to stick with me for a while. I adore those kind of books. I look forward to discussing THE RAKESS with folks who both love and loathe it.

Disclaimer: I received a free e-ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Fadwa (Word Wonders).
543 reviews3,550 followers
October 1, 2020
CW: talk of death of a new born, talk of death in childbirth, miscarriage scare, grief, harassment, threats, trauma, alcoholism, mental breakdown

I had this one on my radar for a few months but then a few days ago, I picked this one up on a whim and so thoroughly enjoyed it. Things I really loved about it:
- A rakess and her "depraved" friends make a feminist club where they stand up to the patriarchy and call out the unfair treatment of women in society at the time in all ways that they can.
- The central part mental health takes in this as both MCs struggle with different things to variant degrees, but I especially appreciated the portrayal of depression and alcoholism and how insidious they can be through the heroine's POV.
- Absolutely adored the group of friends and how huge of a support they are of each other.
- Okay fine I like the romance too. The sexual tension and chemistry are palpable and the sex scenes are STEAMY.
- Really liked the talk of contraception especially for the time period
Profile Image for Ashley.
236 reviews19 followers
May 18, 2020
In the headnote, the author explains that she was so inspired by Wollstonecraft's "Vindication of the Rights of Women" that she wanted to write a book (or series, I suppose) of novels featuring womens' rights activists. Secondarily, she wanted to invert the classic "rake" trope by allowing a woman to occupy the role instead. (It's worth noting she says this like it's never been done before, which...seems to me that Peckham might not be as well read in the romance genre as she claims.)

And yet despite these grandiose assertions, this book reads like a 90s romance novel that substitutes trauma for character growth and punishes its characters for transgressiveness rather than actually pushing the narrative in a feminist-forward trajectory. Here's basically what happens:

1) The main character, Seraphina, flagellates herself for being ruined as a girl. While trauma is real, her sexual exploits are destructive rather than progressive. She's a "rakess" because sex is how she deals with her pain, not because it's a healthy, natural indulgence for women both in and out of wedlock.

2) Her earlier transgression is punished AGAIN through traumatic child loss. Seraphina loses everything because of her youthful indiscretion. Because OF COURSE she has to go through the meat grinder again — being used, ruined, and cast off by her family isn't enough.

3) Seraphina's redemption comes through motherhood. This has long been the narrative of patriarchy: the way for women to be whole is through the transition from woman to mother.

The fact that the author finds these ideas "progressive" isn't necessarily a complete slight against her so much as it's indicative of how ingrained patriarchal structures are in the ways we think about womanhood and what women deserve. In fact, part of me thinks that the trauma included in this book is to make it a more "literary" read, which...okay, I guess.

But here's the core of the problem: the anger/hate/condemnation Seraphina suffers as a result of her actions isn't just social, it's largely internal. Seraphina hates herself because of her ruin and subsequent losses. And that's not an example of trauma — it's indicative of internalized misogyny, and Peckham never acknowledges that in any meaningful way outside of lip service-y epigraphs.

This is complicated by the fact that Peckham has SO many balls in the air that she can't juggle them all in a way that is both sincere and effective. Seraphina is a drunk, using sex to self-destruct, has lost a child, was kicked out by her family, is being harassed by the locals, and has to also rescue a friend from an insane asylum...all while writing a trauma-exploiting memoir to fund a home for wayward girls. Adam, our hero, thinks sex and pregnancy will kill women and has tons of hang-ups that miraculously resolve by the book's conclusion. There's just so, so much going on here that it's impossible to manage all the plot points while still building narrative authenticity.

I honestly don't know why I've spent so much time writing this up...except to say that I was particularly irked to have this book billed as some feminist manifesto inspired by Wollstonecraft when it's just echoing many patriarchally inscribed traumas. I do believe that romance is a genre capable of incredible feminist work and insight! But this book sets up ambitious goalposts in its headnote that it just doesn't reach.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for b.andherbooks.
2,067 reviews897 followers
April 15, 2020
I am going to have a whole slew of content warnings for this romance, one of my most anticipated of 2020. You can find them behind the spoiler.


This trope flipping romance has much to love for those seeking dark, soul wrenching stories. Peckham's master of words and language is in full effect her, making you feel every lash of wind and rain on the Cornish cliffs and every dramatic pulse of lust and romance. Adam and Sera's characters are well drawn and the moments they are together shine. I loved how brittle and prickly Sera is, how she strives to embrace her rejection by society and revel in her freedom from expectation, yet how lonely she is and how she longs for love and friendship. Thank god for her friends, who's books I'm also dying for.

Adam is a stuffy, uptight, and grief stricken hero who is both blushingly stern in the streets and domineering and hot in the sheets. I loved that he adored and grieved for his wife. They had a love and lust match which is rare to find in romance novels.

What kept me from loving this story has a lot to do with the CWs listed above involving pregnancy. I'll write a better review closer to publication date, but feel free to reach out to me if you have questions!

Thank you to the publisher for the ARC!
Profile Image for Brigid .
161 reviews222 followers
Want to read
February 5, 2019
about radical, libertine ladies—the first featuring a female rake—who weaponize their scandalous reputations to fight for justice and the love they deserve along the way

You had me at female rake but my head exploded at the idea of female rakes fighting for justice. Oh look head stuff on the carpet.....

Profile Image for melanie.
369 reviews
April 30, 2020
She wept for herself, for her unbearable sadness, her own capacity for cruelty, the terrible force of her rage.

I spent a lot of this book crying to the point of a headache (and finished it in one sitting)– out of sadness, out of recognition, out of the pure joy of reading a romance novel that delivered on what I've wanted for a long time. Seraphina is a very rare heroine in romance, allowed to be truly flawed but still loved and deserving and capable of love despite those flaws. Adam feels, in comparison, not as deep as Sera, but his fears cage him in as much as hers, and I adored his relationship with his children.

I've compared Scarlett Peckham to Laura Kinsale before, and here the comparison is apt, as both authors have heroines who do cruel things but still get their happy endings (here I am mostly thinking of Kinsale's FOR MY LADY'S HEART). What a raw, wonderful romance. Christ. More heroines who are likely to piss off readers expecting perfection! I want them all! Tangentially, another thing Peckham does well, which most historical romance authors are very bad at (even the ones I love), is that even if women are virgins at whatever age (Sera is very much not, but in general), they’ve probably masturbated. Like. Women get themselves off. They do not orgasm for the first time with some pnv sex.

I loved Seraphina and Adam and his family and her friends, and I cannot wait to read the next books in this series.
Profile Image for Lily Herman.
543 reviews564 followers
May 7, 2020
Me: Okay, I think I've read enough feminist historical romance for now and I have a million other books to read.

Me: *immediately picks up entire book about subverting rigid patriarchal norms around institutions of romance*

Scarlett Peckham's goal with this book is an honorable one: Take one of historical romance's most time-honored tropes, the rake, and give it a gender flip to show that we don't necessarily see the role in the same way. She had an incredibly thorough and thoughtful author's note at the start, and that really did center the whole story. I'm intrigued to check out her other work and keep reading the Society of Sirens series.

That said, something never quite worked for me with Sera and Adam's love story, but I didn't dislike it either. I just didn't find myself hurling my iPad across the room when I read the moments where they were fighting, or yelling "YESSSS LEGENDS!!!" when they were back together. I'm not exactly sure if I like on-and-off couples in books, but again, I didn't hate it here. And I really enjoyed the utter drama in the last third of the novel.

You've also been warned: On the steaminess scale, this book is a solid "wait, she's doing what with HUH?"
Profile Image for Stacee.
2,692 reviews702 followers
April 24, 2020
Everything about this book excited me: the cover, the title, the synopsis. I could not wait to get to this story and sadly, I’m quite disappointed.

I liked Sera and Adam well enough. They’re both good people with good intentions. Adam’s children were adorable and I did like Sera’s friends who make up the Society.

Plot wise, it was a bit of a struggle. The first half of the story was boring. It was all bluster with copious use of the c-word, and Sera being drunk nearly the entire time. The second half was more promising with the fight for equality showing up on the page, meaningful conversations, and Sera getting sober.

Overall, I had high hopes for this story and while the execution didn’t completely work for me, I am intrigued to see what happens in the next book.

**Huge thanks to Avon Books for providing the arc free of charge**
Profile Image for Diane Peterson.
1,019 reviews75 followers
April 28, 2020
A truly unusual and fascinating book. The author modeled the heroine after Mary Wollstonecraft and the strong feminist views come through clearly. The hero is a perfect antithesis for the heroine -- he is kind and accepting. Their situations cause both of them to question assumptions about themselves.

The writing is excellent, a notch above the usual. I thought this book was compelling and it caused me to tear up several times. I will watch anxiously for the next book due to a little cliffhanger at the end of this one. The Rakess was written with great sympathy for the plight of women, but offers hope at the same time. I loved it.

ARC provided through Edelweiss
Profile Image for Jess.
2,809 reviews5 followers
July 19, 2020
So, I get why this is a divisive book and I'm a little surprised at myself as to how much I liked it? The heroine is definitely what would be called, in some quarters, difficult. But as with any character that is difficult, I believe that it is the author's job to make us understand why the character is that way and I did think that was done well. Did I think that she often treated the hero very badly and that if I were him I might be reluctant to keep going back for more? Sure. But I also got why he did and that's what I need most to have a romance work for me. Very curious to try the rest of the series.

Read for The Ripped Bodice Bingo 2020 square: Suffragettes
Profile Image for Lauren Reads Romance.
384 reviews45 followers
July 11, 2021
DNF@ 33%. I had high hopes and was intrigued by the twist of this story—a reversal of the reformed rake trope—where Seraphina, the heroine is the notorious Rakess and feminist fighting the patriarchy. Unfortunately, the writing and characters didn’t grab me. I felt restless and bored and just couldn’t get into it.
Profile Image for Heather *sad DNF queen*.
Author 17 books442 followers
January 24, 2022
I really enjoyed The Earl I Ruined, and I was interested to read more of Peckham's work. However, the synopses of her other books just didn't call out to me, so I didn't. Then I felt the need to read something on my Kindle, preferably a romance to give me a reprieve from all the dark thrillers I've been devouring. So I downloaded this, since it was already on my radar and the concept of a true female rake was interesting.

Well, I really liked Seraphina, the rakess in question. Her destructive behavior, loyalty to her friends, and moving back story grabbed me. I loved that she actually drank and smoked and slept with men (in the book, she sleeps with one man in the beginning before sleeping only with the hero). Sidenote:

I had a harder time liking Adam, the hero, and never really warmed to him. He was SO nice, but that's not really my thing, and although he stepped up, there were times he didn't do it to my satisfaction, or did it too late. Also, his POV was him constantly thinking about Sera and his architecture plans. Not very exciting! It was also EXTREMELY tedious how focused he was on having "killed" his wife with his lust, aka having sex with her and then she died in childbirth.

There were some words used in the sex scenes that don't appeal to me in that context, namely "hungry" and "oozing." Also, not a lot of P-in-V action here (see: hero is afraid his penis is murder). I do give props to the author to making the leads do other things that showed how much in lust they were (however, this was a very insta-lusty book, and I don't like that).

This ended up feeling really long, and I didn't enjoy it the way I did EARL. I'll still keep an eye on Peckham's future work, and I may even check out the rest of the Society of Sirens series when it comes out.

2.5 stars.
Profile Image for Christi (christireadsalot).
1,632 reviews427 followers
October 19, 2020
Wow what a powerful story. The author’s note at the beginning of the book with an ode to Mary Wollstonecraft pulled me in and gave me all the feels; that alone was worthy of all the stars and really prepared me for what was in store with this read. This is a very powerful feminist historical romance read. It’s dark and moody and broody and heartbreaking and sweet and just filled with so many emotional pulls. This is definitely not the read for everyone, it is a heavy historical romance and if you’re looking for something light/fluffy/romcom funny, this isn’t it. But wow was I so impressed with the author’s writing and this story.

The Rakess is a gender reverse role for the classic “rake” trope. The story takes place in the late 1790s in England and follows Seraphina, a forward-thinking feminist fighting for women’s rights. She is in Cornwall for the summer at her family’s home as she works on her memoir and an expose to fight the patriarchy. Seraphina gets a lot of hate because of her radical ideas about women’s rights and her openness with sex and taking lovers. One evening she meets Adam, an architect who’s also there for work for the summer and Seraphina approaches him to spend their summer nights together. Adam is a single father and really trying to focus on his career when Seraphina offers up these nights spent with her.

This story isn’t just about the romance though as it heavily deals with how women were unfairly treated at the time and the unequal ways women and men’s actions were looked at. This book deals with a lot of heavy topics: alcohol abuse, a wife wrongly committed to an asylum on the whim of her husband, an mental/emotional breakdown, depression, heartbreak, loss/grief, death. I really adored Adam’s character, he was a genuinely nice guy and his 2 children were a nice addition to the story. I really liked Seraphina’s character as well, her strength through her hardships and reading her memoir snippets provided throughout the story was just so powerful. And while the romance isn’t the main part of this story, the steamy parts are STEAMY!
Profile Image for Caiti Radjewski.
152 reviews3 followers
April 28, 2020
This book ripped my guts out. It does exactly what I need a historical romance to do while simultaneously burning down some (unofficially) established historical romance boundaries.

The Rakess is raw and it’s scathing. I’m still sorting out my feelings but what I found so compelling was the way SP speaks to trauma and it’s impact on sexuality and beyond. And how human beings cope with trauma and the fear of reinjury or subsequent loss. Adam, the hero, denies himself. He tries to make it life as safe an orderly as possible. Seraphina drinks and engages in emotionally empty sex. (Hence, she’s a rakess.)

What’s so brilliant to me is how SP walks this line. Seraphina’s sexual appetites are celebrated. It’s a clear No Slut-Shaming Zone. But the fact that Seraphina is using sex and alcohol to numb herself and wallow in her unhealed trauma is not ignored either. It’s complex and visceral. It’s truth telling.

There is an HEA. A great one. But it’s an unconventional HEA for a HR and it unsettled me at first as a prolific HR reader. BUT (BUT! BUT! BUT!) I’m also compelled to probe at why I feel that way which is a very good thing.

Thank you Netgalley and Avon for the opportunity to read an advanced copy. I voluntarily read and reviewed this book and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Content warnings: Alcoholism, stillbirth and pregnancy loss.
Profile Image for Sarah.
142 reviews36 followers
May 2, 2020
I read a lot of historical romance books, hundreds a year and there is one thing they all have in common: the rake and the virgin. No matter what other tropes are thrown in the majority of HR novels are about rakes and virgins and I am so sick of it. In recent years I find authors are embracing a divergence this trope, which I applaud, but Ms. Peckham turns this trope on its head. I loved it! I have always wondered why the rake is always redeemable but when you have a woman who embraces her sexuality she is usually an ex-mistress in the role of villain. Why is this woman not deserving of love? Why should she not have her HEA. In The Rakess she does!
I have to note that I hate it when the hero’s sexual past is noted repeatedly or when the hero has sex with OW after meeting the heroine. Turns out when it’s the other way around and we learn about the heroines sexual past and she has sex with OM after meeting the hero it didn’t bother me at all. This book wasn’t perfect but my issues with it were minor and I’m still giving it 5 stars.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,244 reviews219 followers
November 30, 2020
This is loosely based on the life of Mary Wollstonecraft, and if anything, is less interesting than that lady's life. I will also say that while I enjoyed the novel immensely, the author's note at the beginning is possibly the best part of it and should be required reading for any fans of the historical romance sub-genre. Also, this novel comes with a bucketload of content warnings which it's not being overly cautious about.

Seraphina Arden has returned to her childhood home in Cornwall in an effort to write her memoirs, due to be published, and expected to be scandalous. After all, Seraphina is the infamous rakess. While waiting for an assignation she encounters Scottish architect and widower Adam Anderson who's come to Cornwall on a commission. They have an immediate and impossible attraction, mostly because Adam can't risk his firm's good graces by being seen with Seraphina. While eventually their attraction beats the social issues keeping them apart, both of them have some serious personal problems to overcome before they can be with each other.

This novel works on so many levels. On a purely surface level flipping the rake role to a woman and imagining what that would be like is quite brilliantly done (particularly in light of the author's stated intentions). At a character level, Seraphina is a brilliant character with a great depth of feeling, and deeply self-destructive with good reason to be so. Adam's own trauma is one that people of the time would have had to deal with time and time again. And that their relationship is the foundation that addresses these issues is just brilliant.

The supporting characters here are also wonderful, from Adam's sister and daughters, through to Seraphina's roguish friends. I can't wait to read more about their stories.
Profile Image for Alloverthebooks ✎.
411 reviews34 followers
July 20, 2021
Ce roman a presque été un coup de cœur, mais vraiment ! J'ai adoré du début à la fin !

Les personnages sont super attachants et leur part de ténèbres est très bien exploitée. J'ai beaucoup aimé le fait que pour une fois, la personne la plus libérée sexuellement ne soit pas le personnage masculin, mais bien féminin. Car de cette façon, on peut voir la problématique différemment. Le regard des gens est aussi différent. J'ai eu beaucoup de peine pour Séraphina, elle m'a beaucoup touchée finalement. Son passé est horrible et son présent n'est pas des plus glorieux. Heureusement, elle est capable de garder la tête haute dans n'importe quelle situation.

La fin est peu ordinaire pour une romance historique. Mais c'était totalement en adéquation avec la philosophie des personnages, donc c'était la fin parfaite selon moi.

En conclusion, dans cette romance, j'ai eu le cœur brisé plusieurs fois, j'ai versé des larmes, j'ai ri et j'ai eu chaud. Énormément de sensation en une histoire. Foncez la lire !
Profile Image for Rachna.
316 reviews70 followers
September 15, 2022
It's weird to say I "enjoyed" this, because it did often brush against sadness and trauma and Bad People in a way that does NOT make this a fun read, but Peckham does it with such a confident, kind touch, and is so good about acknowledging and separating the bad feelings from the good. I'm often also really wary of romance authors' handling of single women and children and wanting it vs not wanting it, and this book did a really good job of balancing all of that without feeling melodramatic. It's also absolutely the smartest take on Radical Women I've ever seen in a historical series - these women have a clear idea of what they're fighting for, and are very aware of all the forces they have against them and the work they have cut for them, and they're so publicly loathed it makes their fight more impressive!!

So I did actually enjoy it. I'm really excited about the rest of this series!
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