Book Review

The Wicked Wallflower by Maya Rodale


Title: The Wicked Wallflower
Author: Maya Rodale
Publication Info: Avon October 2013
ISBN: 978-0062231147
Genre: Regency

Book The Wicked Wallflower SB Sarah has said it's really hard to write a 'meh' review, and 'meh' sums up my feelings about The Wicked Wallflower by Maya Rodale. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't great either. Maybe if I'd been really starved for a Regency, I would have appreciated it more.

Basically, The Wicked Wallflower is about a nerd heroine looking for a quiet life who falls in love with a rakish duke. The premise is great, and I enjoyed the characters, but there a few points in the novel where I found myself questioning the character's actions. Those moments of doubt were enough to pull me away from the text and prevent me from really enjoying the book. I read romance to escape my day-to-day (among other reasons), and it's hard to immerse yourself in a book when you keep going “huh?”

Enough bitching, on to summary. Lady Emma Avery is in a pickle. She's been out for three seasons, and her family can't afford a fourth. If she doesn't marry soon, she'll be facing spinsterhood. Emma is stuck with the unfortunate nickname “the Buxom Bluestocking” due to her love of reading (and presumably her boobs). She's also been voted Least Likely to Misbehave by some of the bitchier members of the ton. All of this adds up to a less than alluring catch for Society's eligible bachelors. Emma doesn't really mind all of this. She's got her eye on Benedict, a quiet, unassuming young man who shares her love of books. The problem is that Benedict needs to marry an heiress to keep the family afloat, and Emma isn't rich.

So one night, after drinking too much sherry, Emma and her friends write a letter announcing her engagement to the most eligible bachelor of them all, Blake, the Duke of Ashbrooke. The letter is just a joke, but it's lost, and then–gasp–mysteriously printed in the newspaper. Emma is ready to die of embarrassment when something remarkable happens–the Duke, who she doesn't know, shows up and confirms the engagement in front of a parlor full of people.

What the hell, right?

Blake is like any good Regency duke. He's smarmy, really hot, has good teeth, and he sleeps around more than James Bond. Seriously, Blake's brain should be melting from syphilis. But since romance heroes are immune from STDs, we'll ignore that and move along. So Blake has a problem. He's rich but not super-duper rich. And he needs an investment of £90,000 to build his dream invention, the Difference Engine. Basically, it's a calculator. People from Back Then used to use little cheat books to figure out math problems. The books weren't always accurate (neither were people's calculations) which created a slew of problems. And Blake's parents died when a shoddy building collapsed on them because the builder's math was wrong, etc, etc, you get where this is going.

Blake could go to his family, but they don't really like him because he spends a lot of time deflowering twins and shit like that. His Aunt Agatha has more money than God, but she disapproves of his ways. Every year Agatha, who is old and infirm, hosts an event called The Hunger Games where the gentry fight to the death… Oh wait, different book. She hosts The Fortune Games where her family spends a week at her country estate. Agatha changes her will at the end of the week, leaving her heaps of money to whichever relative she basically deems the most deserving/least irritating. Blake thinks he might win if he shows up with a nice, least-likely-to-misbehave fiancée on his arm.

He explains his scheme to Emma, and tells her if they win, they'll split the money. Then she can marry Benedict, and he can build his Difference Engine.

So Blake and Emma go to Agatha's estate for a week of hijinks, and you can figure out what happens next.

The premise of the Fortune Games was fun, and I liked Blake and Emma, so this story should have worked for me. But I couldn't really focus on the story because stuff kept bothering me.

That stuff includes:

1. The fact that Agatha (who is awesome, BTW) has to die for this plan to work out. It's kind of ghoulish, and even if it weren't, there's no guarantee either one of them will get the money. Regardless of the money, the plan is Emma dumping Blake in the end; her engagement to him will have piqued the interest of the ton and increased her chances for a happy marriage, which leads to:

2. Emma and Blake spend a shit load of alone time together. They travel alone together. They stay at an inn, with adjoining rooms. Even if Emma dumps Blake, won't everyone assume she's been ruined? The guy has a reputation for humping anything that moves. If the Duggar kids can't spend alone time with their fiancés in a hotel room, then I can't imagine a woman back then could either.

3. WTF happened to Benedict? Even as Emma and Blake start to feel the stirrings of true love, I kept saying 'Okay, but what about Benedict?” Benny isn't a cad or jerk. There's no nefarious plotting behind Emma's back that the readers know about but she doesn't. He's a nice, stable guy and he loves Emma. She didn't even tell him she was fake engaged when she and Blake left for the country. Eventually he's just sort of written off in a really WTF moment very reminiscent of Sarah's review of One Night with a Cowboy.

I liked how Blake and Emma finally come together in the end, but getting there was a little rocky. The Wicked Wallflower wasn't a bad book by any means, but with so many Regencies out there, it failed to stand out from the rest of the pack.

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Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Shem says:

    I’m half way through this book and having the same feelings. Especially the idea of the Fortune Games: no guarantee this is the year she’ll die and Emma is just relying on Blake’s honour to give her half when the time comes (because they will no longer engaged and she will be magically not ruined?) And the whole thing seemed very contrived to me.

    I will go back and finish it since you said you liked them getting together but…. quite disappointed since I liked the idea of a shy/sensible wallflower and a roguish Duke. One of my fave Romances is the Quiet Gentleman by Heyer because of how sensible the heroine is and how dashing the hero is he loves her sense/wallflowerness.

  2. 2
    Dora says:

    Aw. It’s such a fun idea for a story too. For myself, I can put up with a lot of stupid decisions and plot twists if I find the writer’s style to be engaging, but by contrast the reverse is also true. (Speaking of Fortune Games, for example, I have never finished the Hunger Games trilogy because I find her writing style to be dull as hell despite her great premise. Katniss, more like BOREniss. Heh?) I read the excerpt chapter for this on Amazon (how great is that “click to read” preview feature?), and while I liked that the dialogue and overall pace was snappy and fast-moving instead of getting bogged down in buckets of description and WAHHHHHH inner monologues, it also didn’t really grab me, so I’ll probably wait to pick this up on sale.

  3. 3

    The whole thing sounds like a transplanted New Adult. As if a duke needs to worry about finding a bride! There were only 25 around at the time, and “poor duke” was a bit of an oxymoron. And “voted” the Most or Least anything is school behaviour, not something Regency society would have worried about. A hero called Blake? Where is he from, Texas? The Fortune Games – far too vulgar for Regency sensibilities (there’s a big difference between outrageous/eccentric and outright vulgar in this period). Unless auntie is vulgar, from the Lower Orders, of course! Competing for money just wouldn’t be done, not overtly, anyway.
    Didn’t Ida Lovelace have something to do with the invention of the difference engine (or was it the analytical engine)? Lord Byron’s daughter was one of the foremost mathematical minds of her time. Now there’s a story!

  4. 4
    Lindsay says:

    I enjoyed this one, mostly because I was willing to suspend disbelief on a lot of the things that you mentioned. My big WTF was Benedict—seemed like a decent guy, there was a one-line allusion to something being up with him, and then we never really get anything resolved with him. While I’m glad he wasn’t villainized completely, I wanted a whole lot more closure than what we did get.

    The author’s voice I enjoyed, but simultaneously it really kept pulling me out of the story because it was so very anachronistic. It was cute and at times more like reading a series of blog posts than a book, if that makes sense? Part of it made it flow really lightly, but other times you’d get ALL CAPS and Important Caps For Things, and while that can work once in a while it was pretty overwhelming in how often it happened.

    I think that’s the only reason the Fortune Games worked for me, however, because it was so clearly a Hunger Games parody, right down to the cannonfire as people leave. I enjoyed it as a non-Regency Regency, if that makes any sense.

  5. 5
    CelineB says:

    I agree with Lindsay. I really enjoyed it mainly because of the author’s voice but I had to make a conscious effort to suspend all my disbelief. Every criticism in this review was something that came to my mind but I just let them go and went with it. After I finished, I thought about recommending it to friends but immediately realized that it was not a book that would be as easy for everyone to enjoy.

  6. 6
    Ella says:

    Okay… am I the only one who did a double take at the cover?I mean how long is her dress?Is she using force to de-de-de-deflower him or someting? If not why he looks so..constipated or something?
    The idea about the letter(or could it be just gossip eh?) is so interesting, but the let’s wait to auntie to die is a bit… unconfortable for me.

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