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The last time I read about Roman Alexander was in his brother's book in 2013, and, if it's any indication of how great Emma Locke is, I haven't forgotten about Roman all these years. It's been an agonising wait, and, I was beyond thrilled when Locke finally announced the release of Roman's book. And, of course, being the fan that I am, I spent the whole night reading it -- and up to 1 in the morning thinking about it, before reading select chapters again until 2 in the morning. (Did I mention I needed to wake up at 5:30 that morning because it's a school day?)
Roman Alexander holds the distinction for being the most transparent man in all of London: Roman doesn't keep many secrets, and all of his motivations and actions are clear to everyone. Everyone knows him, everyone knows what he does, and everyone knows what to expect of him. It's a bit tragic how Roman has been pigeon-holed into this role -- by his brothers, by his friends, and by society. He's expected to entertain and amuse and look pretty -- and nothing more.
But Roman Alexander also holds the distinction for being the most misunderstood man in all of London -- everyone thinks they have figured him out. Everyone thinks they know everything about him. Everything thinks they know how he'll act and react in certain situations. But, everyone is so very wrong about Roman.
While not intended, I appreciate the break between the stories of Constantine and Roman because it allowed me to reflect on how I've perceived Roman's character since I first read about him in The Trouble with being Wicked, Emma Locke's debut novel. And I realised I had loved him for all the wrong reasons back then -- much in the same way Lucy did. I think Lucy first loved (and hated) the danger and excitement that Roman's life presented. Lucy had been living under the watchful eye of her always-correct brother, Trestin, but Lucy knew she wanted more from her life than what her brother had planned for her.
Roman's world was London, and it seemed so liberating to Lucy. But Lucy also thought Roman was a typical rake who just needed to be reformed, and Lucy would not be the one to do so. Lucy's family history is one of infidelity, jealousy and tragic death. Lucy is afraid that she has followed in her mother's footsteps, and inheriting her madness. Lucy is afraid that she would end up hurting Roman, the same way her mother had hurt (and killed) her faithless father.
Oh, but he was wrong. There would be consequences. Her broken heart, for one. His cold, dead body for another. When she looked at him, all she saw was his blood on her hands.
- Chapter 1
Throughout the story, the idea of "love" is called into question many times -- Roman claims to love Lucy, but Celeste and Trestin don't believe it's real. Lucy thought she was firmly and decidedly in love with Roman, but realised that the love she felt for him was conditional. Roman on the pedestal was safe for Lucy to love. She was able to idealise him in all his imperfection, but, Roman up close and personal is very different and difficult to love, but equally difficult to hate. Lucy realises this when she sees more and more of Roman's world, and when Roman reveals more and more of himself.
Love is constantly tested at every turn and encounter -- there were so many opportunities where Lucy could have just given up -- surrendered, packed up her toys and left -- but she continued to stay. And it didn't drive her mad.
In the same way, Roman's love for Lucy was also constantly challenged. Roman could've been content with their current arrangement -- where lust and passion overcome reason. Roman could've chosen not to tell Lucy all of his secrets. He could have chosen to allow Lucy to cling on to her image and idea of him -- but that would not be real, and it would not be love.
... Who was he, really, besides a man even he didn't want to like?
He turned away from the house. He should have refused Lucy's request to introduce her to his friends. She might be in disgrace, but there was no need to corrupt her with his brand of entertainment. No need to show her who he'd been, before. Who he still was because he had no idea how to be anyone else. And yet, there was no better way to gain her trust than to let her taste what she thought she wanted. Worldliness, vice, the lure of the forbidden.
Didn't those terms describe him, too?
- Chapter 8
Emma Locke calls this her Naughty Girls series, but it's also the Alexander Family series -- the drama of Roman's family unravels with every instalment. Dare's gambling troubles continue to snowball in this story -- and it's one of the calls to action that drives Roman forward, towards an unknown, but potentially promising future.
This is a novel with an amazing, amazing heart -- and that heart belongs to Roman Alexander. He might not be the hero we dream of, but, considering how bravely he bared himself, and wore his heart on his sleeve, I think he is a hero most worthy.
The Art of Ruining a Rake is Book 3 in Emma Locke's Naughty Girls series. To find out more about Emma Locke and her books, click below: