WALLFLOWER GONE WILD – Maya Rodale
Wallflower Trilogy, Book 2
London, England – 1824
It's now the fourth season for Lady Olivia Archer, and she's no closer to making an advantageous marriage than during her first season. She and her other two wallflower friends, Lady Emma Avery and Miss Prudence Merryweather Payton, well one now as her friend Lady Emma has just gotten married, are considered London's Least Likely. Could it be because her mother never leaves her alone at parties for one minute, always telling her to follow the “Rules” of Society? No wonder every man finds her deadly dull, and have even been known to fling themselves into the shrubbery to avoid her and her mother. As she's walking on the balcony during a ball, she happens to see a man who draws her attention. As she stares at him he looks directly at her, and when she walks down the stairs he, meets her at the bottom, and she almost talks to him, and longs to kiss him, but runs away in fear. The next day her parents inform her she is betrothed to The Mad Baron, Lord Radcliffe. Gossip has it he murdered his first wife (accused, never charged), and apparently her own family doesn't care if she's put in a dungeon and killed after her wedding. But as luck would have it, The Mad Baron is none other than her mysterious man from the night before. She would rather go to Lady Penelope's Finishing School for Young Ladies of Fine Families hundredth anniversary ball by herself, even though in the entire history of the school no girl has gone through her fourth season without getting married, than marry a murderer.
Phinneas Cole is in London to prepare the Difference Machine invented by himself and Lord Ashbrooke, Lady Emma's husband. They must get the machine ready for the Great Exhibition, and after seeing Olivia at the party and hearing what a quiet woman she is, he makes an offer for her hand to her father. A quiet wife is what he craves after the hysterics and death of his first wife; surely no one remembers him being called The Mad Baron after all this time! But Phinn finds the way to Olivia's heart is long and complicated; first because she believes she will be immediately murdered, or that he will put her in a dungeon in his house, or just make her live out her life in the middle of nowhere doing embroidery and watercolors. Perhaps, as her friends Emma and Prudence agree, maybe by making herself too outlandish and scandalous he will take back his offer for her and leave her alone. Despite the connection Phinn felt with Olivia that first night, she finds every trick in the book to make herself scandalous, but it always seems to backfire on her. Who couldn't help but fall in love with such an adventurous woman?
But all Olivia's tricks finally come to fruition, except now she is so notorious she must get married or forever live in shame. Will Phinn turn out to be The Mad Barron, or can Olivia let her true persona come out from hiding?
Maya Rodale is continuing her lighthearted look at society's wallflowers in London with Olivia. Always the dutiful daughter, her mother has never allowed her to be herself around any man, and she has no idea whether she really likes embroidery, the pianoforte, or painting, despite her mother telling her she does. As with many quiet women, she has a lively imagination and a relationship with her two friends that keep her sane. Phinneas Cole mainly spends his life designing and making his machines; his first wife created enough drama to last him a lifetime, but now he believes he desires a quiet, biddable wife to live with him in Yorkshire. Olivia proves to be vastly more spirited than he expected, and yet he feels a pull to her that can't be explained.
Secondary characters are mainly Olivia's friends Emma and Prudence. Phinn has a friend in Lord Rogan who always seems to give him the worst advice on how to deal with a woman, and Emma's husband, Lord Ashbrooke, is behind the Difference Machine that takes up so much of Phinn's time.
WALLFLOWER GONE WILD is in the best tradition of the English historical romance, with women invisible to Society yet yearning for someone to love them, bossy parents, and a man whose reputation is hard to ignore, yet appeals on all levels. WALLFLOWER GONE WILD follows THE WICKED WALLFLOWER (November 2013) in which we learned Lady Emma Avery's story, and Prudence's tale will come next year. A sweet and yet spirited story; WALLFLOWER GONE WILD is an enjoyable novel for historical romance fans, like me.