Eloisa James is by far one of my favorite contemporary historical romance authors. She has a consistently funny and entertaining style and memorable characters. She also is a master at crafting the hero, with a unique insight into the male mind.
Winning the Wallflower, a novella, was a short and sweet read. I burned through it easily in a few hours, if that, as half the download were excerpts and ads for other titles related to James’ “Fairytale Series.” Here is the back cover teaser:
Lady Lucy Towerton Plain and tall. (According to the lady herself.) Titled, and irreproachably proper. (According to her fiancé.)
Until, overnight, she becomes
Lady Lucy Towerton Heiress. (Thanks to an aged aunt’s bequest.) Belle of the Ball. (So say the fortune hunters of the ton.)
In charge of her own destiny (finally!), Lucy breaks her engagement and makes up her mind to never be proper again…
Except for the last sentence, that pretty much sums up the plot. I am not too sure if her behavior constitutes a total propriety breach, or just a embrace of circumstance.
But the real gem of the story is the hero. Eloisa spends what little time she has developing a truly interesting character that I think is more original than most heroes I read. Although the exposition and backstory are minimal, with a few simple words we get it. I don’t want to spoiler too much, so I will just say that he is ambitious to the point of having tunnel vision. And yet somehow, he is likable.
The heroine on the other hand, meh. She’s not unlikable, but she’s not an Original. We see a lot of heroines in the hist-ro realm who are too tall wallflowers (or maybe serepindty has just thrown those plots my way lately) that learn to straighten their spine and shine. And the real character arc, which I feel James sets us up for with a detestable mother character, never pays off.
Here are another couple of sticking points. Its short. So the conflict/resolution/love happens really fast.
Calling it a Regency romance is stretching it. Its more like a romance set in the Regency. Speech is very modern and snappy and the pace is music video.
But overall, I thought it was a sinfully delicious novella that I probably will speed read again (when days are short and time is even more so).
For a short novel, there is surprisngly a lot of action of the naked variety. It was tasteful, but still probably a bit too graphic for teens under 15.
(4 out of 5) There is no doubt that Eloisa James is a talented author who knows how to craft characters and spin an entertaining yarn. Points taken for brevity and above mentioned sticking points.