A fun, frothy complement to cultural historian Prioleau’s Seductress: Women Who Ravished the World (2003).
Between the numerous literary examples of famous lotharios, the author inserts plenty of real-life lady-killers and analyzes what it is about them that attracts women so avidly. Prioleau also dispels some of the myths about these roués—e.g., that they are in some way malevolent or that rakes are all rich and gorgeous. In fact, she writes, like the real Casanova, they are most often witty conversationalists, funny and truly fond of women. They might even be a little androgynous, like Gary Cooper, “more beautiful than any woman except Garbo,” and not even handsome, like British statesman Duff Cooper, who was “plump and saucer-faced with an oversized head.” “Rather than hackneyed, mustache-twirling stage villains,” writes the author, “they’re a mixed breed…who magnetize women to them.” Prioleau even delves into evolutionary psychology and cites wisdom from a variety of sources, including Darwin, who claimed that women are attracted to alpha males for mating purposes. A successful rake has a combination of traits like charisma, courage, a nice voice, the ability to listen and spout poetry, and he must convey his interest in the lady in question at all costs. In the final chapters, Prioleau offer some rather perplexing advice on how babe magnets keep their relationships fresh—e.g., “For lasting passion, an inexhaustible, expansive identity is the penultimate spell.”
A merrily readable literary history/dating manual.