A Rake's Reform - Anne Barbour This book is a great traditional Regency. Spinster Hester Blayne is a radical who is content to write her treatises in her country cottage. It's not until Charles Trent, Earl of Bythorne (known to his intimates as Thorne), shows up on her doorstep that she realizes that the new "maid" whom she has hired is actually Thorne's wayward ward, Chloe. Quite the rakehell, Thorne has no idea how to deal with his ward. Since Thorne sees that Chloe will have nothing to do with his highhandedness and, in fact, appears to listen to the blistery Miss Blayne, Thorne determines that he must somehow bring Miss Blayne with them to London so that she may provide a guiding hand to young Chloe. Through a series of events, the three return to London, where Hester and Thorne have to navigate the waters of London society...and their feelings for one another.

There are a lot of secondary characters in this book that add to the story, and the secondary romances in particular tie into the story well. Thorne has arranged a match for Chloe, but she resists. John, her potential fiance, is in love with her, though, and their courtship flows throughout the book. One of Hester's "duties" as companion to Chloe is to tame Chloe enough to see the merits of a match with John. Also, Thorne has been casually courting a certain Lady Barbara for years. In the course of the Season, Hester also finds herself with a suitor. (Thorne can't stand it, and what is this...jealousy??) Little do they know, however, that Hester's new beau is Lady Barbara's erstwhile suitor.

I really like this book - it's one of my "keeper" traditional Regencies that I like to pull out every once in a while to read through my favorite parts. Thorne is a fairly typical rakish hero who doesn't quite know how to handle the firebrand who is Hester Blayne. Could he really have feelings for a 30-year-old radical? Hester is pretty wonderful. She's independent, has strong opinions, and she refuses to fall for "The Smile" whenever Thorne tries to pull it out and use it on her. The ending is really sweet and romantic, and it's also satisfying to see the secondary romances between Chloe and John and Robert and Barbara come to an amiable conclusion.