Author Maya Rodale, who has previously inspired me to write a lengthy defense of romance novels, is currently balancing two series. The contemporary group (Billionaire Bad Boys) features a character who is writing her first historical romance. The Wicked Wallflower, from the historical group, is that romance. I purchased The Bad Boy Billionaire’s Wicked Arrangement for the low, low price of 99 cents on my Kindle thinking it was a novella when it was actually just an installment in the novel. It made for interesting reading as I kept projecting that story onto to this one.
In The Wicked Wallflower, Emma and her friends have become famous wallflowers. Despite that seeming oxymoron, the members of a gentleman’s club, White’s (it’s always White’s in a Regency romance), have labeled them “The Ladies Least Likely”. Lady Emma Avery is the least likely to misbehave and that is fine with her. What is not acceptable is that she and Benedict have been in love for three years, but owing to financial considerations, they are not married or even engaged. In a tipsy lapse of judgment, Emma’s friends decide to end her suffering and write a false betrothal announcement for Emma and the most eligible man in town: Blake, Duke of Ashbrooke. Contretemps lead to the declaration being published in the newspaper.
Surprised, but seeing an opportunity, Blake decides to play along with the ruse as he needs someone just like Emma, or “Emily” as he calls her, to improve his reputation. In between his carousing and debauchery, the gorgeous Duke is working on an invention for which he needs funding. An obscene amount really, £50,000, for a calculating machine/primitive computer along the lines of what Charles Babbage proposed in the early part of the 19th century. (I don’t know stuff like that off the top of my head, Rodale explained it in an end note). Conveniently, Blake has an Aunt Croesus who holds an annual competition to be made her sole heir. Blake convinces Emma to crash the contest with him thus throwing them into constant contact. The rake and the wallflower embark on an engagement of convenience.
The book was fine and passed the time pleasantly enough, but it didn’t have quite a enough energy or snap for me. More importantly, I was distracted by some of the pseudo-historical details, or lack thereof. If one wants a historical document, there’s always Jane Austen, but in romances published now a fine balance has to be struck between combining modern mores and viewpoints with the verisimilitude that’s required. The Wicked Wallflower took me out of its artificial reality too many times. There were lots of little details that irked, such as Blake and Emma traveling unchaperoned in a carriage; bare hands that I’m pretty sure would have been wearing gloves (it was a ball); Emma’s mother planning a wedding to take place within a week despite a need to settle the marriage contract (mentioned in passing) and either calling the banns (three weeks in a row in church), or to get a special license (not mentioned). They can’t just get married. It’s not Las Vegas. There was anachronistic language usage as well, both “totally” and “epic” made appearances. I’ll skip the virgin to adventurous acts in the blink of an eye factor. Admittedly, I am using Wikipedia as my source of information,
but the complaints are still valid and details like this are what separate the historical romance A list from the B list. They are also, within this genre, common knowledge. Also admittedly, if the writing had a little more smolder and crackle, none of it would have mattered.