I will admit this up front: this one came in a pile of potential review books from Avon. I think they know the authors in the pile were hits and misses for me, so they just gave me a handful and hoped for the best. But I was out of things to read and the titles were really good.
This one drew my particular attention: THE WICKED WALLFLOWER by Maya Rodale. Because I love wallflowers, especially wicked ones. Except I had read a Maya Rodale book before and had gotten annoyed with the anachronisms piled in the pages. It's fiction we're reading, but my limit of suspended belief can be quite small when it comes to the Regency period. Especially when the dialogue between characters is very much like the dialogue from the Vampire Diaries...it's just not...effective setting for me. And setting is very important to me in historicals. I need to believe my setting and the people who are living in it.
So I wasn't sure if I would like this book, from past experience. Then I read the back blurb and I knew I would at least have to try to read it. It sounded hilarious.
Aside from a few Vampire Diaries contemporary-esque dialogue exchanges, I was sucked into a fun romp between the heroine and her friends, all wallflowers. They were getting a little tipsy on sherry; and they were trying to figure out how to make the heroine's beau come up to scratch--and goofing around, one of them wrote up an announcement for the heroine to the Duke of Ashbrooke, who is everything opposite of her beau. Then by some mysterious horrible mistake: the announcement is put in the NEWSPAPER. The Duke of Ashbrooke catches wind of this and decides to use it for his own purposes. His reputation is so shot, his own beloved aunt won't invite him to partake in the Fortune Games this year--so he thinks bringing a suitable fiance will go about fixing his kinship.
It was the aunt and the Fortune Games where I really fell in love with this book. Clearly a hilarious montage of Survivor and the Hunger Games, relatives and friends that the aunt invites are allowed to participate to try to win her favor--and be named in the will for that year. If she dies that year, they win everything. These games have been going on for years. There are plenty of desperate and slightly dangerous relatives competing in this. The Duke is rather desperate for it himself, even though he's not destitute. He wants to make...well, it's the Regency version of a computer--and I have to hand it to Ms. Rodale for the historical part of this because this was very believable and well written. To make his version of the "computer", he needs 50,000 pounds...which he'd get if he won the games and his aunt died (though he doesn't really want her to die, just so we're clear.)
The romance and growing tension between the hero and heroine was very well done--I enjoyed their growth as a couple; and I loved Ashbrooke as a hero, who while yes self-serving, did adore his aunt greatly...and came to adore the heroine just as much if not more so. Emma, the heroine, was feisty and fun and clever. And the aunt--she's Betty White/Maggie Smith a la Regency period. Hysterical.
I'm very glad I put aside my experience with the previous book, because I enjoyed this one thoroughly! Well worth a read. (Though, yes, if contemporary dialogue irks you in historicals, there will be FEW problems here and there for you. If it doesn't, you'll probably enjoy the romp outright! The Fortune Games! So hilarious!)
What are you reading?