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To what a bad choice is many a worthy woman betrayed, by that false and inconsiderate notion, That a reformed rake makes the best husband!
Samuel Richardson

Reformed Rakes are what happens when the heroine of a romance story wants to have her shallow little cake and matrimonially eat it too -- because, of course, former bad boys make the best husbands. This is a common Regency Romance trope. When it applies any man who didn't sleep around as a bachelor is supposedly going to be a boring wimp as a husband at best, if not an outright villain. Conversely men famous for cutting a swathe through the wives and mistresses of the town not only knows how to please a woman and protect her from harm, he is only waiting for that one special woman who will cause him to reform and cleave to her with unwavering fidelity as the perfect family man.

Never is it mentioned that there's a risk of disease from his antics, nor does he ever have any bastard children that he has to pay attention to, nor does anyone ever point out that real reformed rakes had a tendency to turn into gigantic prudes. He never backslides even when he is revisited years later in other books. Compare to All Girls Want Bad Boys, but here the trope is not just that the bad boy is attractive, but that all he needs is love to fix everything wrong with him, so you can have both that trope and Single Woman Seeks Good Man simultaneously.

More often than not, the core of Fan Fictions written by teenage girls, when they don't want their self-insert Relationship Sues to become a Love Martyr.

Also, an interesting Double Standard can be pointed out in light of this trope: men can be redeemed with a woman's love and become faithful, loving, protective husbands and good fathers, nevermind their criminal pasts. On the other hand, women wih a criminal record or, worse, who have known several men sexually are irredeemable, which is why no good man would ever bother with them in the first place. The Hooker with a Heart of Gold may defy this but, in most cases, she's at best a Temporary Love Interest.

Compare Ladykiller in Love, a more realistic take on this issue, and Female Angel, Male Demon for a metaphor of this trope when the two aforementioned characters are in love.

Related to Draco in Leather Pants.

Note this trope has nothing to do with restoration rakes, though they may overlap.

Examples of Reformed Rakes include:


  • Ladies and gentlemen, a book list.
  • Then there's Siren Publishing, an outfit that publishes "spicy" romances, including a line of novels under the imprint Reformed Rakes.
  • It all started in 1740 with Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded where the eponymous character overcomes Mr. B's rakishness with her Mary Sue-like perfection of virtue. Wildly popular to the point where it alarmed the author, Samuel Richardson, producing the opening quote, and making this Older Than Radio.
  • Seth from Wicked Lovely. He has piercings, lives in a train and has a reputation for getting around....yet he truly loves Aislinn to the point of Sacrificing his mortality to be with her for eternity.
    • In fairness, it is demonstrated very clearly that Seth does love her; it's not just an Informed Attribute, and as much as he gets around, he's not shacking up with someone new every night of the week -- or having sex with someone and lying about it, whether to a current partner or otherwise. He's also not seducing women away from their boyfriends/husbands, nor does he look at the people he does take to bed as conquests. As for his relationship with Aislinn, he goes to incredible lengths to help Aislinn and to keep her safe, and she does so in return. They have a very strong friendship as a base, as well as complete trust in each other. Above all, Seth respects her. Seth doesn't have the personality of a rake. He's just a guy who enjoys sex, but hasn't wanted to get too serious with anyone. When he does want to have a committed relationship -- specifically, of course, with Aislinn -- he's fine with sleeping with her alone.
    • Wait, what do his piercings have to do with anything? You might as well have mentioned that he owns a snake. No, not like that.
  • Rod of Out There offers this. [1]
    • And Wally does it...after being married a while. [2]
  • Naveen from The Princess and the Frog, after he marries. Considering he says that he's dated thousands of women...
  • There's a romance novel titled Stranger In My Arms that actually deconstructs this trope: The heroine's husband has been presumed dead for years, and she isn't too sad about it because he was unfaithful to her and never seemed to enjoy having sex with her. Then, out of the blue, he returns Back From the Dead, says that he's a changed man, and proceeds to be passionate and devoted to her in a way he never was before. The heroine is pleasantly surprised, but can't shake off the feeling that rakes don't reform that thoroughly, and gets uneasy when her friend uses her husband's changed behavior to justify her staying with her own physically abusive husband in the hope that he'll change eventually. It turns out that the heroine's husband did die all these years ago, and her current "husband" is actually her husband's half-brother who learned about her through diaries her husband left behind and decided to use his impersonation abilities to be the loving husband she never had.
  • Deconstructed in "The Rake's Song" by The Decemberists. The Rake gets married, is apparently reformed, "no more a rake and no more a bachelor"...but then he realizes that sex leads to babies and discovers that the married life really isn't for him. Cue infanticide and abduction!
  • Tramp from Lady and the Tramp. Falling in love, being adopted into a family, and becoming a father will do that to a dog.
  • One episode of Castle, "Food To Die For" has a victim that was trying to become this. After he got his foster brother's girlfriend pregnant, she rejected him, telling him that she couldn't rely on a man that slept around. However, he was honestly in love with her, to the point where he planned to quit his promising career as a chef and spent two weeks going to a cafe near her job, trying to get up the nerve to propose to her. Unfortunately, the foster brother found out and killed him.
  • Youth in Sexual Ecstasy arguably could be a reconstruction of this, the protagonist after being an expert womanizer, ends up settling down with a more prudish and conservative girl; it is stated that his past sexual experiences still do some harm to the sex with his wife, however, despite this with The Power of Love they are able to overcome them and become Happily Married.
  • Deconstructed in A Dangerous Compromise by Shannon Donnelly, in which the heroine thoroughly believes this trope, and her (decidedly not a rake) love interest decides to pose as a reformed rake to win her over, while battling for her affections with an actual rake who has absolutely no intentions of reforming.
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