Four girls approach the Season no longer believing they have any real chance. It is not their first and they still have no prospects. Annabelle Peyton has beauty, but no money. Lillian and Daisy Bowman have scads of money, but they are uncouth Americans. Evangeline Jenner has money, but she is also common – as well as exceedingly shy. But these wallflowers make a pact: from oldest to youngest, they’ll help each other find a husband.
Secrets of a Summer Night (Book 1)
Released 26 Oct 04
Together, they manage an invite to Lord Westcliff’s country estate. Annabelle knows this is her last chance to catch a husband. There are no end of offers for her to be a lord’s mistress, but she’d work any job before that. Especially before becoming Lord Hodgeham’s mistress. Her mother has been sleeping with him to pay the bills, but he wants to move onto the younger model. Neither Annabelle nor her mother has any intention of allowing that to happen. Of course, the husband hunting would be easier if her brother Jeremy’s former peer Simon Hunt didn’t keep getting in the way.
This was my introduction to Lisa Kleypas after hearing all the other ducks rave about her, and it’s a good place to start. The Wallflowers are hilarious, especially Lillian Bowman. Annabelle is a great heroine. She’s practical and strong-willed. She knows what men want from her and she also knows not to sell herself short. There are some jobs she could take. She wants to marry more to help keep her brother and mother afloat as well than to just provide for herself. It’s nice to see a heroine with dedication to her family who knows not to martyr herself for them.
Simon Hunt is a good match for her, since he pairs sensibility with romanticism as well. (He is unfortunately blind to the fact Annabelle intends to become no man’s mistress.) And the men get dialogue as snappy as the women.
“Westcliff,” Simon asked conversationally, “does it ever occur to you that you might occasionally be wrong? About anything?”
The earl looked perplexed by the question. “Actually, no.”
It’s a nice, straightforward romance that manages to capture the historical feel quite well. Simon and Annabelle’s relationship is cute, as are their friendly and familial relationships. Kleypas does inject the right amount of drama with the loathsome Lord Hodgeham and some last minute fireworks. Secrets of a Summer Night isn’t revolutionary, but it is solid.
Four young ladies enter London society with one common goal: they must use their feminine wit and wiles to find a husband. So a daring husband-hunting scheme is born.
Annabelle Peyton, determined to save her family from disaster, decides to use her beauty and wit to tempt a suitable nobleman into making an offer of marriage. But Annabelle’s most intriguing–and persistent– admirer, wealthy, powerful Simon Hunt, has made it clear that while he will introduce her to irresistible pleasure he will not offer marriage. Annabelle is determined to resist his unthinkable proposition… but it is impossible in the face of such skillful seduction.
Her friends, looking to help, conspire to entice a more suitable gentleman to offer for Annabelle, for only then will she be safe from Simon–and her own longings. But on one summer night, Annabelle succumbs to Simon’s passionate embrace and tempting kisses… and she discovers that love is the most dangerous game of all.
Read an excerpt here.
It Happened One Autumn (Book 2)
Released 27 Sept 05
With Annabelle happily married, it’s Lillian’s turn to find a husband. “Marry Lillian; you’ll get a million,” the saying goes. But her mother wants nothing less than a titled husband for her. Lillian would prefer love. And she just received a magic perfume made from the Lady of the Night orchid, and she and the other Wallflowers are eager to test it out.
I do love Lillian. She boldly states her opinions, though they might go over easier if she were less rude. Her dialogue is full of zingers that play well off of the other’s conversation. It wouldn’t be a fun story if she fell for a man without her strength of will. So who can avoid being steamrolled by Lillian?
None other than equally steamroller-like, but more staid, Marcus Westcliff. He hasn’t thought much of Lillian’s character since he caught her playing Rounders-in-Knickers, but he has thought of her. It’s fun to watch the controlled man come undone over his attraction. He could end up being a total prig, but Kleypas both lets the reader into his mind and allows him to come alive in his scenes with Lillian. And it is fun seeing that kind of character set back on his heels, as Lillian puts it.
On the other hand, Lillian has another viable suitor – the handsome and charming Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent. He’s a rake and after her money, but they do enjoy each other’s company. He definitely has the turn of phrase down to match wits with her. You can see why Lillian is tempted by his offer of marriage even as she falls in love with Westcliff.
I enjoyed the love triangle, but one of the faults of the romance genre is that it’s pretty easy to tell which man will win even without knowing which one is the hero of the next novel beforehand. This one definitely wasn’t my favorite entry in the series. Kleypas does a good job with him, but I just don’t like Westcliff as much as the other heroes.
It Happened One Autumn is the story of Lillian Bowman, a bold and headstrong American heiress, and Marcus, Lord Westcliff, the most eligible peer in England. But even though Lillian is hunting for a husband, Marcus is the last man she would ever consider marrying.
Read an excerpt here.
The Devil in Winter (Book 3)
Released 28 Feb 06
I had high expectations for this one since I’ve heard Sybil’s praise of it (and St. Vincent). Unlike most stories, it opens with the marriage. Evie can’t stand living with her abusive relatives one moment longer – especially since they’re going to marry her to a loathsome cousin so that they can control her money. She also wants to be with her father as his final days approach. The only way for her to escape is to marry. She knows St. Vincent needs money enough to accept her offer, so the two head off to Gretna Green. The only catch is that she’ll only sleep with him once.
Evie is a total sweetheart, though Kleypas puts steel under her caring exterior. Evie needs it in order to escape her family and live in her father’s gambling hall. She deserves someone who will watch out for her, so it’s very nice to watch St. Vincent mature into the role.
While St. Vincent has done some villainy in the past, he can be redeemed. And it’s not a cliché, love of a good woman redemption, though Evie’s love does factor in. St. Vincent flourishes when given responsibility, as he begins to pay attention to the gambling hall he will inherit and adapts his skills to the task of bringing in new and more respectable customers. When given something to do other than drink and go wenching, he rises to the task.
It’s easy to see why this one ranks so high on Sybil’s list. Evie and St. Vincent have tangible chemistry as well as being great characters in their own rights. There’s a stronger plot running alongside the romance than in the other Wallflower books, due to Evie’s variety of family troubles. It adds some moments of danger throughout the novel. In addition, I like the character of Cam Rohan, the gypsy Evie grew up with. I even bought a copy of his story, Mine Til Midnight. (As of writing this review I haven’t read it, but I do look forward to it.)
I did notice, while reading Devil in Winter, how good Kleypas is with continuity. She strings little details like Evie’s cold feet throughout the story, mentioning it enough that it sticks in your mind without becoming intrusive. Those details are part of what makes her characters so attractive.
A devil’s bargain…
Easily the shyest Wallflower, Evangeline Jenner stands to become the wealthiest, once her inheritance comes due. Because she must first escape the clutches of her unscrupulous relatives, Evie has approached the rake Viscount St. Vincent with a most outrageous proposition: marriage!
Sebastian’s reputation is so dangerous that thirty seconds alone with him will ruin any maiden’s good name. Still, this bewitching chit appeared, unchaperoned, on his doorstep to offer her hand. Certainly an aristocrat with a fine eye for beauty could do far worse.
But Evie’s proposal comes with a condition: no lovemaking after their wedding night. She will never become just another of the dashing libertine’s callously discarded broken hearts — which means Sebastian will simply have to work harder at his seductions…or perhaps surrender his own heart for the very first time in the name of true love.
Read an excerpt here.
Scandal in Spring (Book 4)
Released 25 July 06
The youngest Wallflower finally gets her chance to marry, though it may come sooner than she wants when her father gives her an ultimatum. If she doesn’t have a fiancé in two months she must marry his protégé Matthew Swift. As Daisy recalls, he’s coldly ambitious, not to mention scrawny and pale. Once more the Wallflowers set out to Westcliff’s estate to gather eligible men together for Daisy to choose from.
At this point I realized that I’m confused by the titles of the series. Annabelle was summer, so she can have a just born baby in spring. But Lillian was autumn, so she can’t physically have a healthy baby in spring – there’s only six months between the two. So I’ll choose to ignore the titles since I was mostly ignoring the timeline anyway. It’s just one of those things that bothers me if I think about it.
I empathize with Daisy, who is the Wallflower I’m probably most like. She enjoys reading fiction and is not grounded in reality sometimes. She’s the least practical of the Wallflowers and wants romance, rather than an arrangement with a business associate of her father. However, she is pleasantly surprised when she becomes reacquainted with Matthew.
Matthew has grown up and filled out. (Though he’s secretly still a total dork, since he’s been in love with Daisy for as long as he’s known her.) Though Daisy realizes she’s not all that adverse to marrying him, he doesn’t want to marry her due to the secrets of his past. And even if he does clear up the troubles from his past, Lillian doesn’t approve of the match. She’s hormonal, protective, and holds a grudge.
Reading about Matthew and Daisy falling in love and then working to be able to marry is fun, though Scandal in Spring is not as dramatic as Devil in Winter. Matthew balances Daisy well, as many of the characters note. It’s a strong finish to the tales of the Wallflowers, as all four previously unmarriageable ladies end up with love matches.
After spending three London seasons searching for a husband, Daisy Bowman’s father has told her in no uncertain terms that she must find a husband. Now. And if Daisy can’t snare an appropriate suitor, she will marry the man he chooses—the ruthless and aloof Matthew Swift.
Daisy is horrified. A Bowman never admits defeat, and she decides to do whatever it takes to marry someone . . . anyone . . . other than Matthew. But she doesn’t count on Matthew’s unexpected charm . . . or the blazing sensuality that soon flares beyond both their control. And Daisy discovers that the man she has always hated just might turn out to be the man of her dreams.
But right at the moment of sweet surrender, a scandalous secret is uncovered . . . one that could destroy both Matthew and a love more passionate and irresistible than Daisy’s wildest fantasies.
Read an excerpt here.
I’m glad I gave Lisa Kleypas a chance. The Wallflowers series is composed of four solid historical romances that showcase a nice variety of heroes and heroines. I love the friendship the heroines form as well as the one that already exists among Simon, Westcliff, and St. Vincent. This series also made me want to find copies of Kleypas’s contemporaries.
Overall grade: B+