Review – Once Upon a Rake, by Samantha Holt

A Second Chance at Love

Sensual Victorian Romance 



In Victorian England, Little Ellie Browning swiftly discovered happily ever afters did not exist and rakes were simply rakes. When the man she had adored for years kissed her and left her heartbroken and she was forced to marry an elderly earl to save her reputation, she resolved to put any dreams of fairy tales aside.

Seven years later, the now widowed Eleanor, Countess of Hawthorne, has returned to England after years of travelling and is now part-owner of a cotton mill left to her by her late husband.

But the owner of the mill, and the very same handsome rake who hurt her years earlier, has no desire to let a woman interfere with his business, let alone little Ellie Browning—no matter how fascinating he finds her since her transformation from coltish scarecrow to almost graceful countess.

Lucian is still recovering from the after-effects of one of his mills succumbing to fire, and now he’s fighting to save the other in a tough economic climate. He doesn’t need this new distraction, especially when, after a series of accidents, it becomes clear someone wishes the mill to close and he has to find the culprit—fast.

With things heating up between Ellie and Lucian, it’s apparent that not only is the mill in peril—they are both at risk of getting burned…

My Review

A Second Chance at Love *****

Once Upon a Rake is the second of Samantha Holt’s Victorian romances I have read, the first being Tempting His Mistress and once again it is a fantastic read! It is a tale of second chances and an unexpected reversal of fortune for both the hero and heroine, where they must help each other recover from old and new wounds before their HEA can be reached. It also delves into the social issues of the day surrounding the working conditions in cotton mills, which I enjoyed reading.

When Ellie Browning is found in a compromising position with the rakish Lucian her father marries her off to a much older man, to preserve her reputation. Fast forward seven years and the newly widowed Ellie, now a countess, returns to England determined to participate in the running of the mill that her deceased husband had invested in. Lucian, the mill owner, is no longer the rake he was, cutting himself off from society and throwing himself into the business to keep it afloat. Ellie by contrast is now to all intents and purposes an accomplished young woman, having gained much confidence from her life with her late husband. Yet both are lonely and the heroine still feels unworthy of a man like Lucian, who she is still very much attracted to.

Although Lucian resents what he views as Ellie’s interference in the mill, she will not be prevented from helping. I loved Ellie’s tenacity in persuading Lucian to let her get involved. The more time he spends with and comes to know Ellie, the more respect he garners for her and he becomes obsessed with her, despite himself. However, he has little to offer this woman who is now his social superior and begins to regret how he acted towards her in the past.

I just loved the handsome but taciturn hero Lucian! When he is first introduced in the book he comes across as a thoroughly self-centred and unlikable character, totally unworthy of the adoration of the young heroine Ellie. Samantha Holt manages to redeem his character as we learn about what has happened to him since he last saw Ellie. By the end of the novel he had totally redeemed himself in my eyes, having learned a lot in the intervening years, yet still remained as devilish as ever! I found the way in which the author portrays Lucian’s dawning realisation that Ellie is the woman for him very well done.

I adored that Ellie is an unconventional woman in terms of her impulsiveness, outspoken nature and her interests. She comes across as a very believable and worthy heroine. Although she strives to be confident she has a number of vulnerabilities, which I was rooting for her to overcome. I also liked how she sees past Lucian’s grumpy demeanour and slowly finds out about the reality of the man that he has become. Dare she take a chance on him this man who once broke her heart?

The sexual tension between the couple simmers until passion ignites – and ignite it does! The lovemaking scenes are sweet, sensual and sizzling and I really wanted the couple to admit their true feelings for one another. The read also has an element of danger and suspense as Lucian and Ellie try to get to the bottom of problems at the mill.

I recommend this read to lovers of historical romance who are after a fast-paced, entertaining and sensual read.

Reviewed by Tina Williams

Purchase Links

Amazon UK    Amazon US

Author Links


Check out Samantha Holt’s Tempting His Mistress, also set in Victorian England.

Amazon UK   Amazon US


About Tina Williams

Book reviewer and blogger and co-organiser of Tamworth (UK) Literary Festival

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