THE WICKED WALLFLOWER – Maya Rodale
Wallflower Trilogy , Book 1
London, England – 1821
Lady Emma Avery, Lady Olivia Archer, and Miss Prudence Payton are all graduates of Lady Penelope's Finishing School for Young Ladies, and are also wallflowers. This is their fourth Season, and none of them is any closer to getting married than in the beginning. In three months there is Lady Penelope's Anniversary Ball. In the history of the school, no former student has ended her fourth Season unwed. After another night of no names on their dance lists, the three go over their depressing nicknames: Prudence is Prudie Prudence , Olivia is Prissy Missy , and Emma is the Buxom Bluestocking , and they are known as London's Least Likely . Emma has had a sort of beau for three seasons, but due to financial reasons he and his brother are now required to marry heiresses. After several glasses of sherry, the girls decide to write a fake newspaper announcement of Emma's engagement; then the man would be honor bound to marry her. Olivia and Prudence choose a rake of the first degree, the Duke of Ashbrooke, to be in the announcement. He might be good looking, but Emma knows he is a notorious libertine and has probably seduced half of the females in London. Unfortunately, a fire occurs in the kitchen at Emma's house, and the girls must run outside. It is only the next day when Emma realizes the fake announcement is no longer in her bedroom.
Blake William Peregrine Auden, the ninth Duke of Ashbrooke, is indeed known for his antics, usually involving women, but unfortunately he really needs to appear to be more respectable if he ever wishes to see his Difference Engine in production. This engine would perform calculations that could save lives, like those of his parents. When his friends show him his engagement announcement in the London Weekly , he knows who the wallflowers are, even Emma, voted Least Likely to Misbehave . He's about to disregard the announcement despite knowing what will happen if he ignores Emma when suddenly investors are talking to him as though he is now magically respectable, and he is reminded of his Aunt Agatha's Fortune Games.
Emma is astounded when Blake meets her at an event that night and takes her outside. While it looks as if he's proposing to her to everyone inside, he's trying to persuade this woman he's never talked to before into going along with his plan. What changes Emma's mind are the Fortune Games, an event Blake's Aunt Agatha puts on to determine her heir for the next year. After games of her own making and rules and scoring of her own invention, she changes her will every year to reward the winner. Blake is offering Emma half of any winnings they would get, and what tempts her is the idea that she and Benedict, her beau, could get married and not worry about his having to find an heiress. However, Emma is well aware of the Ashbrooke Effect, which happens every time a woman sees or talks to Blake…his beauty, smile and ability to make her knees weak. It is the Fortune Games which turn the balance in Emma's mind, and what happens there will determine both of their futures.
Maya Rodale has written such a cute and inventive story about Emma, one of the wallflowers. Blake has spent years in society being a total rake; if it wasn't for his Difference Machine that he has invented to perform mathematical calculations, he would live by his reputation that just recently has included the Tarleton twins. Unfortunately, he needs fifty thousand pounds to build his machine, and he isn't willing to bankrupt his estate. Emma and Blake each realize the unexpected engagement can help both of them: Emma will become a sensation for getting engaged to Blake, and he would get the respectability to encourage businessmen to invest in his machine. Once they each get what they want, if Emma wants to break off their pretend engagement they will both come out better than they were before.
Such an inventive story deserves equally unique secondary characters. Lady Olivia and Miss Prudence are all for encouraging the fake engagement; what better man could they choose for Emma? Blake's Aunt Agatha is a character all to herself and holds a special place in his heart. Even Emma's old beau Benedict figures in her engagement as she vainly tries to use thoughts of him to fend off Blake, to no avail.
THE WICKED WALLFLOWER is indeed a delightful and different story; if you like historical romance this is surely your cup of tea. You needn't have been a wallflower yourself to understand everything that Emma has gone through. The next book, WALLFLOWER GONE WILD, is due out in March 2014 and will feature Lady Olivia Archer or Prissy Missy and “The Mad Baron”. THE WICKED WALLFLOWER is delightful, and WALLFLOWER GONE WILD looks to be just as charming…I can't wait to read it, too. Get in on the first story in the Wildflower Trilogy and enjoy THE WICKED WALLFLOWER this month.