This is the final Wallflower book, I've only read the first of them here. Just wondering: why does the cover of this book feature three girls with their heads cut off so we're just staring at their cleavage?
This features the now-married Wallflowers all together for a giant Christmas party at the Westcliff's, as Lillian and Daisy's brother Rafe Bowman is pondering marriage to the high-born Lady Natalie Blandford. The Bowman kids's parents are awful, but their dad is especially awful and really mistreated his oldest son Rafe even worse than the other kids.* Dad enjoys making everyone dance to his tune ("Why should you be exempt from playing a price? Why shouldn't you try to please me?") and then making sure everyone knows he can never be pleased. Even though Rafe's gotten fed up enough to stomp off and make his own fortune elsewhere, he wants in on a business partnership with his father. And his father says he can't get it (or remain an heir of his) unless he marries Lady Natalie. Period.
* "My father is the kind of man who would lure a dog with a bone, and when the dog is in reach, beat him with it. And then throw a tantrum if the dog doesn't hurry back to him the next time." -Rafe.
At the beginning of this, Rafe is....not super enthused at the idea, to say the least. But to some degree he's all, well, I want that partnership, I'm gonna have to marry somebody and it doesn't matter who, this chick is as good as any other and she's the sort I figured I'd end up with anyway, so okay, fine, whatever. He's not terribly happy about it, but not terribly against the idea either. He thinks he can suck it up and do it. I thought that logic seemed reasonable enough for me to buy into why he'd originally go along with it, even though I found a review that questioned why he would. He knows he can never please his father and he ain't trying to earn that, but at least he can get the share of the business. Right?
However, the Wallflowers invite Lady Natalie's poor cousin/companion Hannah Appleton over to ask her how best to woo the lady, and Rafe has the whopping hots for Hannah at first sight instead, for whatever reason. Hannah, for the record, thinks Rafe is a complete jerk--and boy, does he ever come off as one in the start of the book and I don't blame her a bit**--and she tells him to his face she's not supportive of this potential marriage at all and he's not nearly good enough for her cousin. The fact that he's kissing her behind everyone's back and making comments about making her his mistress doesn't help either.
** There's one particularly obnoxious scene a bit later at the house party in which he breaks a cup. I'm with Hannah: I don't care if the hosts have fifty cups, that's still kinda rude to smash one rather than be too rude and lazy to take it into the house.
As for Lady Natalie herself, wow, that girl. I thought from Hannah's mention of her that she must be the sweet, saintly type, but HELL NO. She is QUITE the saucy, manipulative minx, who's rejected four marriage proposals so far, has made out with pretty much every guy because Hannah hasn't realized what she's doing behind her back, and is basically a female Rafe. Which probably explains why despite Lady Natalie's bragging that a man likes mystery, Rafe doesn't find her mysterious in the slightest. Meanwhile, the blunt and honest Hannah is more of one to him, so there you go.
Natalie isn't particularly in love either, but he's handsome and rich and she's willing to go along with it as long as she gets some kissing samples in first just to check. I thought Natalie was a hoot at first and I thought she'd be more of a featured character in this (see Quote Corner), but she gets a bit more obnoxious as things go on--she's particularly rude and mean to Hannah when Hannah refuses to leave the two of them alone for smooches because Hannah doesn't want her to get compromised and get trapped into marrying him. I kinda lost sympathy for her around that point, but she kinda drops out of having scenes after that so it's just as well. Which is a shame, because I was curious about the dude Hannah wants her cousin to marry, and that guy literally gets one scene and a HEA off the page. The book's barely over 200 pages, they couldn't spare some room for that, or tell me more about why Natalie should marry this dude instead? It could have used some double romance, I think. Natalie sounds like a flamboyant enough girl that except for her jerk moments, could have been fun to go into as well.
Anyway...we eventually find out that Rafe's how he is because he had a tortured childhood***, and he stops being less of an ass, but I still can't say I thought he was a super wonderful dude and perfect for Hannah by the end of it. Sure, they seem to have whopping sexual chemistry up the wazoo, and Rafe isn't a total ass, but I wasn't swept away by him as a human being. Eventually Rafe just decides to fuck pleasing his dad, and everything works out, so there you go.
*** the story about his toy soldier is particularly heart-panging.
As for the Wallflowers, there's tiny to minuscule cameos from their husbands covering how their romantic relationships are going these days (pretty well, thanks!), but mostly the ladies are either decorating the new giant tree or working on matchmaking because they're always happy to enlist a new Wallflower into the family.
I guess I'll give it three stars overall. It was okay, mildly amusing in places, but didn't blow my mind with the awesome match.
- "Oh, heavens, the moment a girl approaches courtship as a serious matter is the moment she's lost the game. We must guard our hearts and hide our feelings carefully, Hannah. It's the only way to win." --Lady Natalie
- "Most people don't have facades. Oh, everyone thinks they do, but when you dig past the facade, there's only more facade." -Lady Natalie
- "When you're genuine, there's no mystery. And above all men like mystery in a woman." -Lady Natalie
- "An hour in her company, and one knew virtually everything there was to know about her." --Rafe's thoughts on Lady Natalie.
- "Have you been a good girl in my absence?"
"Yes, of course."
"We'll have to remedy that immediately. I refuse to tolerate proper behavior from my wife." --St. Vincent and Evie
- "What part did you miss the most?"
"I was hoping for a far more depraved answer than that."
"Your mind is depraved." --St. Vincent and Evie again.