(I received a complimentary copy of this ARC via Edelweiss+ but all opinions provided are my own.)
Tessa Dare’s The Wallflower Wager is an absolute, freaking delight. There’s a conflict in the book. A beautifully articulated, smart conflict, in fact. But still The Wallflower Wager feels so easy to read, so effortlessly written, like the story was inevitable.
It’s a dream of a historical romance, and it’s got my historical romance catnip: a strong, hard-working man overcomes all the odds against him to build a fortune but has locked away his heart in the process (and would, in fact, deny that he has a heart to begin with), and an aristocratic lady who looks soft, maybe is soft in some ways, but is stronger than anyone—but the hero (eventually)—gives her credit for.
Despite her family’s annoyance, Lady Penelope Campion has a need and gift for taking care of injured and/or unwanted animals. Do not call Gabriel, the Duke of Ruin, an injured or unwanted animal, despite the traumatic past that he keeps hidden from nearly everyone. He’s strong and powerful, and he will crush the aristocracy’s assets like a bigger, more muscular Pretty Woman-esque Edward Lewis, okay?
At the age of 26, Penny’s pretty much firmly on the shelf, with no apparent intention or desire of coming off it. She's content with her life on the very, very furthest fringes of aristocratic society. In fact, she’s so reluctant to return to her familial estate that she works with Gabriel to keep her in London. And what are his motivations for helping Penny retain her fairly independent status when he is self-admittedly so selfish? Gabriel needs Penny to remain in her current London home so that she’ll drive up the worth of the neighboring property he just purchased.
God, this book is sweet, and Dare draws out the building relationship between Penny & Gabriel exquisitely. Everyone deserves a champion, and Penny & Gabriel are that for each other. They’re also fantastically sensual, and those scenes deserve mention as well. Penny is a lesson in taking control of and pleasure in one’s sexuality. The way that she finds herself is lovely and sexy as heck and has all the steam that Gabriel wishes his new bathtub pipes had.
Dare’s also known for her humor, and this book sparkles with it. A special scene involving a goat (no spoiler alert here 😉) had me dying and appreciating how Dare tells a love story in a totally new way.
In case you couldn’t tell, I loved this book. It had me smiling on the outside and inside and wishing for a second, third, and fourth epilogue.
TNW Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
Q: what’s your favorite romance with a wealthy working-class hero and aristocratic heroine?
past sexual abuse.
Give me that HEA, please.
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