Thursday, March 17, 2022

BOOK REVIEW: How to Be a Wallflower by Eloisa James

 I received this book for free from Netgalley. That did not influence this review.

Bestselling Historical Romance novelist Eloisa James has a new novel coming out this month: How to Be a Wallflower.

The heroine is Cleo Lewis. Cleo is an extremely beautiful, hard-nosed businesswoman. Her father (a blacksmith’s son) invented valves for commodes and built a water-closet empire, which Cleo inherited. Her mother was a free spirit – a lady who ran off and eloped, and then never met an actor she didn’t sleep with. Cleo is also the granddaughter of a viscount. Now that her parents are both dead, Cleo wants to have more of a relationship with her grandfather. Naturally, he wants her to marry a worthy gentleman. But she has no interest in marriage at all. First, her husband would automatically gain control of her company and her fortune. And second, after seeing the way her mother constantly hurt men, including her father, Cleo wants no part of love or sex.

The hero is Jake Astor Addison. Jake is very large (all Regency Romance male protagonists are behemoths) and very American. He’s a businessman as well. He’s come abroad to buy things and invest. Eventually, he plans to return to the U.S. and marry the sweet, dull, cow-obsessed woman his mother has picked out for him. Then he meets Cleo.

They are vying for the shop of a theater costumer. It isn’t much of a contest. Jake never met the proprietress and just assumed she and all her staff would move to America for the money he was offering. The woman doesn’t want to move. Cleo offers more money and a chance to stay in London. 

Jake doesn’t like to lose, so he starts making plans to ruin the woman’s business so that she will be grateful for his rescue. Cleo heads him off there as well. They enter into a wager, involving commissioning clothes from the costumer. But before the wager gets far off the ground, Jake falls hard for Cleo and changes his plans. Completely. He doesn’t want the business. He doesn’t want to return to America. He no longer wants to marry the girl at home. He wants Cleo.

Fortunately, Cleo wants him as well. She just needs to be wooed, reassured that he won’t take control of her fortune and her business, and reassured that her need for Jake is nothing like her mother’s need for any man on a stage.

This is an entertaining, fairly quick read. The conflicts are muted. The development of the romance relies very heavily on sexual attraction and much of the plot revolves around their mutual seduction. (The business wager that was set up comes to nothing.) But the characters have interesting internal conflicts. Cleo is clear-sighted and kind. Jake grows from bullying and unlikeable into a devoted, giving man. Fans of Eloisa James will not be disappointed.

1 comment:

  1. It's been years since I read an Eloisa James novel!

    Thanks for sharing with the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.