I just finished reading Maya Rodale’s Wallflowers trilogy – a historical series set (mostly) in 1820s. I love a great historical trilogy and these hit the spot. What’s interesting about this series is there is a contemporary element as Rodale has three modern day novels about the “author” of the historical Wallflowers series. I haven’t read those yet, but the concept is really interesting and also has a touch of transmedia storytelling to it (more on that below). But first, the reviews!
This might have been my favorite book. The series starts out as three friends, Ladies Emma, Olivia, and Prudence despair of being the only three graduates from Lady Penelope’s Finishing School for Young Ladies of Fine Families to not have wed by their fourth season. Adding to their panic is the school’s 100th anniversary ball that is only a few weeks away. Determined to not be the outcasts on their way to securing (the most) unflattering school history record, the girls scheme and plot to land husbands. The problem? They’re known as notorious wallflowers and are labeled as London’s Least Likely.
In this first book, we watch Lady Emma announce her marriage to the Duke of Ashbrooke in the popular The London Weekly newspaper. Of course, this all comes as a surprise to Duke Ashbrooke who has never met Lady Emma nor proposed marriage. Thanks to a bit of too much sherry and her devious friends, Lady Emma faces the decision of utter humiliation when the Duke denies the marriage or of even larger humiliation of attending the school ball husband-less. To Emma’s delight (or maybe horror), the Duke plays along with Emma’s scheme for reasons of his own.
Redeemed rakes are some of my favorite heroes, and this book doesn’t disappoint. Reading Emma and Ashbrooke fall in love (and the hilarious ways they go about it) is pure entertainment and quite a delight. What I really enjoyed about Emma is that despite (or perhaps because of) being a wallflower, not only does she believe in true love, but she also has a strong mind and wit. I enjoyed her kind nature, her spirit, and her unshakeable belief in HEA for her and her friends. Additionally, I love when the hero has a purpose and passion outside of the heroine (multi-dimensional characters for the win!),which Ashbrooke does with an invention that will change the world.
This book puts the series off to a great start and builds a wonderful cast of characters that soon are the stars of their very own love stories.
Shortly after Emma’s story wraps with a HEA, we see Olivia have her chance at marital bliss…to Lord Radcliffe, otherwise known as the Mad Baron. Rumors swirl that the Viscount murdered his first wife and has now returned to town to claim a second victim. To put off her would-be-husband, Olivia and her friends scheme once more and come up with deplorable and completely unladylike scenes to assure Lord Radcliffe that Olivia is certainly not the biddable, docile, and perfect English wife he thinks her to be.
The only problem? Lord Radcliffe is not only innocent (sort of) in his first wife’s murder, but he’s put up with far worse than Olivia’s attempts to dissuade him from the match. What we come to realize is that Lord Radcliffe feels an instant spark for Olivia, which soon ignites to full passion which is quickly followed by full-blown love. Despite not getting what he thought he had bargained for, Lord Radcliffe couldn’t imagine a more suitable wife. Which of course completely terrifies Olivia. But as Olivia roams about town wearing too much make-up, drinking too much wine, and causing tongues to wag amongst the ton, she starts to question everything she really knows about the Mad Baron…and if he is truly mad at all.
I really enjoyed Olivia’s antics because as a young lady myself once, who doesn’t want to break the rules and shake things up (even if we don’t really want to break the rules, right?).
A slightly darker turn than the previous books, as the last wallflower, Prudence gets ready to attend her school’s ball… alone…and as the only unwed lady in the school’s history. We learn quickly that there is a reason behind why Prudence so readily embraces being a wallflower…a secret that no lady should ever have to keep. However, her burden is slowly lifted and trust in men quietly repaired by Lord Castleton, who Prue meets while stranded due to a unflinchingly long storm outside of London. (How did she get there? You’ll have to read to find out!) Slowly, Lord Castleton and Prue develop feelings as he helps reclaim not only her body, but her soul. However, Lord Castleton has a secret of his own (as many of the best heroes do). One that could destroy himself and most definitely bring harm to Lady Prudence…for Lord Castleton is not who he says he is.
I applaud Rodale for taking on such a serious topic that many ladies of the time faced and for having Prue learn to love herself and another despite over coming a terrible thing in her young life. It was delightful to watch Prue grow and conquer her fears because fighting for love is the worthiest fight of them all.
I really enjoyed this entire series and was a little sad to have them end…the good news? Rodale has expanded her story world through the use of transmedia storytelling, which I teased at the beginning of this post. Stay tuned because a full exploration of The Wallflowers as a transmedia experience is coming soon!