If you know someone who scoffs at romance novels—or God forbid, you are the scoffer—I’d point them toward the nearest Sarah MacLean book. Tell them to park themselves in their comfiest seat—preferably a couch that sucks them in and is difficult to rise from—nibble on their favorite snack, ignore their children/pets/laundry/other responsibilities for several hours and just get lost.
Sorry. I just got captivated by my own fantasy for a moment.
Sarah MacLean doesn’t just know how to write beautiful romance. She’s a beautiful writer, period. Her books are filled with drama and action and yes, physical attraction, but they also have the prose of epics. There’s the looming, and yet, not didactic, sense that her characters matter, that you won’t just read about two people falling in love, but about betrayal and violence and redemption and saving grace.
Wicked and the Wallflower picks up with some of the characters from MacLean’s The Day of the Duchess, namely Felicity Faircloth and Devil. Felicity and Devil come from markedly different lives, but they’re both searching for acceptance of some kind, even if they won’t admit it.
Felicity is looking for a husband. She’s a “plain” member of the aristocracy who has been implicitly rejected by them, and as she tells Devil, she wants to be embraced again.
Devil is a bastard son of a Duke who has had to do desperate things in order to get to the financially successful place he is today. He’s the ruler of Covent Garden and he controls it all with the help of his brother, Whit, his cane, and his fists.
Neither character is quite what they seem. Felicity is a lockpick, who, thanks to her spinster status, has quite a degree of freedom. She also has a keen sense of adventure that leads her across London and to the forbidden nooks and crannies of Devil’s home and warehouse. From the beginning, it’s clear to the reader that she doesn’t belong with the cruel group of aristocratic friends she wants to return to—she’s kind, unconventional, and spirited, and their world is too small for her, even if she doesn’t see it yet. And Devil may occasionally use violence to reinforce his reign in Covent Garden, but he’s also tender and loving, once the right woman gets past his defenses.
Their attraction to one another is complicated by the fact that Felicity has landed herself a Duke by lying and claiming that she has landed a Duke, and said Duke happens to be Devil’s bastard brother, the man whom Devil plans to ruin. Unfortunately for Felicity, Devil’s plan includes ruining anyone the Duke plans on marrying and having children with, and thanks to Felicity's lie, that specifically includes Felicity.
Through the book's tension between dark and light, Covent Garden and Mayfair, bastard and legitimate aristocrat, MacLean makes it clear that neither Covent Garden or Mayfair is an easy world for our characters. But, it’s possible for them to be happy, and to be happy together, if they’ll only accept themselves and that they are worthy and deserving of a huge love.
Wicked and the Wallflower is not a small book. It’s a book of big deeds—fights and daring and sensuality—and of characters who would not be content with safe, small lives. They’re just too brave for that. It’s a world where love is a luscious, wondrous thing, where the characters take risks every day, and love is the greatest one of all.
Pssst! If You Like This Book, Try: MacLean’s other books. She’s taking us into the future with historical romance, and you really can’t go wrong with any of her backlist. Some of other favorite historical romance novelists are: Elisa Braden, Tessa Dare, Eloisa James, Lisa Kleypas, and Julia Quinn.
**I received a free copy of this book in an OSRBC giveaway, but all opinions included here are my own.
Give me that HEA, please.
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