WALLFLOWERS SERIES BOOK 1
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.
Lisa Kleypas’s popular Wallflowers series follows the schemes of four young ladies, Annabelle Peyton, Lillian and Daisy Bowman and Evangeline Jenner, to help each other find suitable husbands. The first book in the series, Secrets of a Summer Night, is Annabelle’s story and is a wonderful blend of humor, drama and, of course, romance.
Ms Kleypas has an innate ability to create some of the most memorable heroes ever and Simon Hunt is definitely one of them. He is fascinating because, on the one hand, he has had to be aggressive and ambitious to be so successful but, on the other hand, he can be tender, protective, charming and patient. It is these latter qualities that Annabelle gradually comes to appreciate; his tenderness and protectiveness when he cares for her following a snake bite; the charming gesture of the gift of the ankle boots; his infinite patience with her on their wedding night. However, I’m glad to say that he can still be a sexy bad boy as evidenced by the scene where he gives Annabelle an ultimatum in the card room that he is going to make love to her in five minutes’ time “wherever we happen to be….here….in our suite….or on the stairs.” Ultimately they make love in a linen closet!!
I feel sympathy for Simon because in some ways he treads a lonely path. His ambition has caused him to become distanced from his own family and, although he is tolerated within the upper echelons of society because of his wealth and connections, he will never be accepted into their ranks. However, he learns that all the money in the world cannot buy him the one thing he truly wants – Annabelle.
I enjoyed watching Annabelle grow as a person in the course of the book. Yes, she’s a snob at the beginning of the book but I see her as conforming to the accepted social mores of the day that the boundaries of class and social position were impossible to traverse. Yes, she wants to marry a peer but to me it doesn’t seem unreasonable that Annabelle would want the comfortable life and social standing she once enjoyed. The fact that her motives are not completely selfish was also a point in her favor. Her concern for her family is admirable; her mother would no longer have to entertain the loathsome Lord Hodgeham in exchange for settling some of their bills and her brother’s education would be secured.
As she comes to know the real Simon, her view of him and the world starts to change. I love the way in which she is fascinated when Simon talks about his work and it makes her want to know all his thoughts and feelings. She comes to value Simon’s achievements, seeing him as a man of influence whose opinions are greatly valued by the leaders of industry and enlightened members of the aristocracy like Lord Westcliff. When Simon takes her to Paris, she sees that there is a world outside the narrow one inhabited by the aristocracy and realises what a blinkered life she had previously led. It shows how far she has come when she says:
“There’s no dishonor in work, is there? Certainly it’s more admirable than idleness.”
Ms Kleypas allows the relationship between Simon and Annabelle to develop slowly and this builds up the romantic tension effectively and certainly kept me in suspense as to when Annabelle would finally realise that Simon is the one! I love the wonderful combination of pure romantic moments and raw, passionate love scenes and Ms Kleypas has the ability to portray sensuality like very few other authors:
He wanted to remove her ragged undergarments with his teeth and fingers, and the he wanted to kiss her from head to toe, taste her in sweet, soft places
The dramatic scene towards the end of the book is the perfect way of allowing Simon and Annabelle to admit their love for each other.
For me, the friendship between the Wallflowers never feels false although they are so different from each other. They have a common bond as all four are considered socially unacceptable in terms of the marriage mart. Annabelle has no dowry, Lillian and Daisy are brash Americans with few social skills and Evie is shy and timid with the added disadvantages of a stutter and a notorious father.
The scenes between the Wallflowers provide some hilarious moments and here’s an example:
“I wonder why Westcliff hasn’t married yet,” Daisy mused. “Despite his flaws, one has to admit that he’s a whale-sized catch.
“I’ll be thrilled when someone harpoons him.” Lillian muttered, making the other two laugh.
That brings me to Marcus, Lord Westcliff whom I like very much. Although a member of the upper class, he understands that the advances in science and industry are bringing far-reaching changes and, instead of ignoring them as most of his class are, he is actively embracing them. He has a genuine friendship with Simon and, even when he initially disapproves of Simon’s choice of bride, he still attends the wedding for his friend’s sake.
He is cool-headed and very self-controlled, a cold fish is how Lillian describes him. But I believe a very passionate man is just simmering below the surface and I can’t wait to read It Happened One Autumn. As the heroine is Lillian, I’m sure there will be plenty of fireworks before they reach their Happy Ever After!
VERDICT: SUPERB, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
RATING: STELLAR ★★★★★