Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean
Avon Books, 2018
It’s Anti-Hero week on Romancetagram which is perfect timing for me as I recently finished Sarah MacLean’s latest, Wicked and the Wallflower. But before I say anything else please allow me to beg your forgiveness for the beating this GORGEOUS paperback has already taken living with me. I have kids, people. And a sixty-five pound “lapdog”. I am pretty certain they would all spontaneously combust if they couldn’t climb all over me at their leisure. All my pretty books end up tragically creased these days.
Anyway. Wicked and the Wallflower! There is something about a love story featuring a endearingly awkward woman finding her confidence and the man who saw how amazing she was from the start that always hits me right in the feels. Before kids I would’ve shamelessly finished this book in one sitting. Give me underestimated wallflowers and scheming, brooding bad boys ANY. DAY. of the WEEK…
Felicity Faircloth, the daughter of the Marquess of Bumble, is a bit of a social bumble herself. Her highborn birth once gave her a coveted position within the “in crowd” of her day but, after a few disastrous debacles and mishaps, she now finds herself cast out of the inner circle, unmarried and twenty-seven. The horror! One night she is cornered by the brood of vipers she used to call friends and, in an act of frantic self preservation, she declares herself engaged to the hottest and most eligible duke in London. Which, of course…she definitely is not. Engaged to the Duke, that is. She’s never even met him.
Devil is an illegitamate son of a duke and, not at all coincidentally, the half-brother of the very Duke to whom Felicity has fictitiously affianced herself. Devil, a kingpin behind a powerful and wealthy smuggling enterprise, sees in Felicity the perfect opportunity to screw over his brother and exact the revenge he so obsessively desires. The only hitch in his nefarious plot is that it turns out Felicity is smart and sexy and fascinating and she soon turns his (under)world upside down.
Something I so dearly love about Sarah MacLean’s style is her ever-present undercurrent of defiance. She’s the literary equivalent of a dainty, manicured middle finger casually displayed for anyone who would try to stuff women into a prescribed box. And this delicious ‘take that, patriarchy’ is well represented in this book.
Felicity sneaks out of her house at night to seek out a man. Felicity picks locks for sheer thrill of using her powerful brain to break down the locked doors in her life, both literal and metaphorical. She’s not embarrassed by her very healthy and totally human feelings of female desire.
And Devil, he is just the sort of secretly wounded bad boy I can’t resist. (Derek Craven, anyone?) What is about a heart of ice being melted into slush that’s so very satisfying? Devil is utterly gobsmacked by Felicity and any annoyingly confident man getting knocked down a peg by a woman is always glorious, isn’t it? From their very first encounter the sexual tension between them is palpable and it only grew stronger and sweater as the story unfolded.
Now if I am going to quibble with anything about this book it would be the fact that the male protagonist goes by the name Devil. For me it was a little distracting at first because I couldn’t imagine talking to an actual person and calling him that. “Oh, hey, DEVIL. How’s the bourbon smuggling business?” But whatever. Don’t let that turn you off because ultimately it does come to make sense. This book is also a bit on the long side (396 pages) but, personally, I enjoy a longer romance. Additionally, Ms. MacLean has crafted some very intriguing supporting characters and I am really looking forward to seeing what’s in store for them. Unfortunately we will have to wait until next year for the next book in the series. Boo!
For those of you who are actually able to read by the pool this summer, this is a perfect choice. For all you romance loving mamas, it’s also perfect for squeezing in during naps and between the hours of 8pm and whenever you crash.
Happy romance reading!