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FYA’s Grown-Up Guide to Romance Novels: THE WALLFLOWERS Series by Lisa Kleypas

We're celebrating the most romantic month with a four-week series on some of our favorite romance novels. First up, The Wallflowers series by Lisa Kleypas.

FYA’s Grown-Up Guide to Romance Novels: THE WALLFLOWERS Series by Lisa Kleypas

Friends, lovers, dukes and duchesses, welcome to FYA's Grown-Up Guide to Romance Novels, a four-week series during the horniest month, in which we're exploring bodies...of work of some of our favorite romance authors. From modern day to historical, we'll get down and dirty with one series each week, and we hope you'll join us for the ride. 

The Wallflowers Series by Lisa Kleypas

Sub-genre: Regency Era
What to Expect: Swooning, corsets, manor houses, lords and ladies, marriages of convenience

The Deal:
When four young women enter London society, they decide that rather than fighting over the few available bachelors in town, they’ll team up to help one another find husbands and become lifelong best friends in the process.

From Fancy Dress to Fabio:
There are two iterations of The Wallflowers series covers. The first is a simple series of English landscape paintings, something that a classy grandmother might have on her nightstand. For our purposes, however, I’ve gone with the second iteration: the Fancy Dresses. The Wallflowers gets major points for variations on a theme: they clearly all belong to the same series, the cover models look exactly the way they’re described on the page, and the whole vibe for each cover matches the aesthetic of the season. Dresses show just enough cleavage to pay homage to bodice rippers of yore, but points deducted for lack of a single male pectoral.

Secrets of a Summer Night (Wallflowers #1)

Meet Cute:

While attending a panorama show with her younger brother, Annabelle doesn’t have enough money to buy them both tickets. She’s introduced to the butcher’s son, Simon Hunt, who loans her ticket money, then escorts her into the show and ravishes her with a kiss in the dark. Three years later, Annabelle and Simon are thrown together in London society. Annabelle detests Simon and everything he stands for. Simon, meanwhile, has all the money in the world, but it can’t seem to buy him the one thing he wants most.

The Leading Lady: Destitute Debutante

Annabelle Peyton is one of the most beautiful women in London, but her family is penniless, and without a dowry, she’s getting up in years (dear god, she’s almost 25 already!!!) and the husband pickings are slim. She’s getting desperate, but Annabelle is scrappy, and her pride won’t let her disgrace herself by becoming some rich man’s mistress.

The Leading Man: Brusque Baron

Simon Hunt was never part of the noble class, but as an adult, he’s made his own fortune as a shrewd industrialist. Now, he’s one of the richest men in London, but he refuses to play by society’s rules, which makes women (particularly Annabelle) detest him.

Risque Ranking: 6

If a six seems low, remember we’re working on a different scale from your average Swoonworthy Score. Just about any bodice ripper would have a 9+ Swoonworthy Score on principle. But a Risque Ranking is a totally different ballgame. We’re not asking if there are sexy bits, we’re asking how frequently do the sexy bits occur? How early in the book do they start? Do they make you blush and glance over your shoulder every other page because you made the mistake of reading this on your Kindle in public? *cough cough*

Anyway, Annabelle and Simon have a classic enemies-to-lovers thing happening, and Simon is a Big Fan of semi-voyeuristic public ravishings. While the build-up is hot, Kleypas definitely makes us wait for a proper hookup, which means points deducted in the final ranking.

Ms. Perky's Prize for Purplest Prose:

He made her forget everything in those silent, febrile moments--she lost awareness of time, of where they were, and even who she was. All she knew was that she needed him closer, deeper, tighter...his skin, his hard flesh, his mouth wandering in heated trails over her body.

Was It Good For You?

Rosemary: Sure, I mean, it certainly wasn’t not good for me. Though, I’ll admit that Secrets of A Summer Night was probably my least favorite of the Wallflowers books. It was a quick, enjoyable read, but I wasn’t feeling quite the same heat between Annabelle and Simon that I felt between some of the other heroes and heroines in this series.
Kate: Damn, I never knew it could be this good! *smokes cigarette* This book was my introduction to Lisa Kleypas, and I’m forever changed. Annabelle and Simon have chemistry from their first meeting, and the whole novel had me shivering with antici...pation.
Kandis: I was into how hot these two were for each other from the very beginning. That was kind of refreshing for the genre. And Annabelle’s family circumstances and her need to marry for money felt like a realistic thing keeping them apart. But damn, why you gotta make a girl wait so long?

 

It Happened One Autumn (Wallflowers #2)

Meet Cute:

Funny you should ask—Lillian Bowman and Marcus, Lord Westcliff actually had their meet cute in Secrets of a Summer Night, when Westcliff stumbles upon the Wallflower girls playing a game of Rounders (it’s kind of like baseball) in their knickers. By the time the Bowman family pays a visit to Westcliff’s Hampshire estate in the first chapter of It Happened One Autumn, the pair have already formed not-so-flattering opinions of one another.

The Leading Lady: Audacious American

When Lillian’s parents failed to find her a proper American husband, they moved across the pond in hopes of finding her a suitable match in London. But in Lillian’s own words, “No one wants to marry a nouveau-riche American girl.” It doesn’t help that Lillian has a brash, rough-and-tumble spirit about her. She rolls her eyes at people who take themselves too seriously, especially certain uptight aristocrats.

The Leading Man: Uptight Aristocrat

Marcus, Lord Westcliff has a real hitch in his giddyup when it comes to the sassy American Bowman sisters. In particular, he finds Lillian to be domineering, arrogant, and inappropriate. Me thinks he doth protest too much.

Risque Ranking: 8

With a hefty handful of enemies-to-lovers, mixed with a dash of opposites-attract, Lillian and Westcliff will have you feeling the heat early on. Westcliff can never resist ravishing Lillian in the hedgerow, after which they both spend a few pages pretending to hate themselves for it. It’s delicious.

Ms. Perky's Prize for Purplest Prose:

He laid claim to every inch of her in a slow, erotic pilgrimage of kisses and caresses. It seemed to her that his scent--and her own, for that matter--had altered in the heat of desire, acquiring a salty pungency that suffused every breath with erotic perfume.

Was It Good For You?

Rosemary: Yes. I liked Lillian a lot, actually, even if Westcliff wasn’t totally my type. Their penchant for *ahem* lawn sports was super hot, and watching Westcliff fight his ~urges~ for Lillian was entertaining as hell. I had a good laugh at the scene where Lillian gets her finger stuck in a bottle and Westcliff has to lube her up to get it free. Lisa Kleypas, you cheeky minx.
Kate: So good! Sure, Westcliff is a bit of a tool, but he knows how to get a girl hot and bothered. Seeing he and Lillian push one another’s buttons (heh, heh) is very much within my realm of interest. Plus, the secret garden scene had me fanning myself like Blanche Devereaux.
Kandis: This is my least favorite one of the bunch, mainly just because I find Lillian’s antics tiresome. If she’s old enough for hot make-outs in the garden, she’s too old to risk her neck on horseback just to prove how brash she is.

 

Devil In Winter (Wallflowers #3)

Meet Cute:

Non-existent. What?! A romance novel without a meet cute?! If you choose to read this series in order, then by now you’re well acquainted with Lord St. Vincent, and you know there’s nothing cute about him. He pays little attention to quiet, timid Evangeline Jenner until she shows up at his doorstep one night with an offer he can’t refuse: marriage.

The Leading Lady: Introverted Heiress

Evangeline Jenner is the most timid of the Wallflowers. The daughter of a gambling club owner, she was raised by abusive aunts and uncles, and she speaks with a stutter—which means she mostly chooses not to speak at all. Now that her father is on his deathbed, she fears her family will try to kill her for her inheritance and needs to marry for protection.

The Leading Man: Reformed Rake

Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent, owner of the BEST romance novel name in the history of rakish rogues, is as big a scoundrel as they come. And now that he finds himself totally penniless, he needs to marry up. Evie is the last sort of woman he expected to find himself with, and when she challenges St. Vincent to three months of celibacy to prove his faithfulness to her, he finds that he wants her badly enough to try and change his ways. Luckily for Evie (and for us), he knows a few ways to keep her satisfied in the meantime.

Risque Ranking: 10

Disclaimer: I didn’t read this series in order. I actually read Devil in Winter first, and with an elopement and consummation right off the bat, this book spoiled me on my expectations for the rest of this series. Truly, St. Vincent does NOT mess around, and he’s ready to get down and dirty within the first 50 pages. It doesn’t stop there, though, and as Evie and St. Vincent get to know each other, the sexy bits get so. Much. Sexier.

Ms. Perky's Prize for Purplest Prose:

It seemed her body was no longer her own, that she existed only to receive this torment of pleasure. Sebastian…she could not voice his name, and yet he seemed to hear her silent plea, and in response he did something with his mouth that launched her into a series of incandescent climaxes.*

*I considered many, many X-rated passages to include here, but at the end of the day, I’m too much a lady to type the words. I’ll save the best ones for you to discover as you read.

Was It Good For You?

Rosemary: Yes! Yes! Yes! Like, did this book get me pregnant? I read this after seeing it top a list of all-time best historical romance novels and it did not disappoint. St. Vincent is a dirty, dirty dog—a true scoundrel—but Evie continually surprised me by holding her own next to him. There was more at stake for both characters, and their arcs were really satisfying. It remains my favorite of the genre.
Kate: 100% satisfied. I’m a sucker for a sexy bet! The novel’s setting of a gambling club is a fun change from the country estate where the rest of the novels take place, and leads to more opportunities for impropriety. Possibly the most erotic part of the series (IMO): St. Vincent makes sure that Evie’s feet are warm during their travels. Swooooon.
Kandis: Yowza. This is definitely the hottest of the bunch. And I did not think Kleypas could make me like St. Vincent after his shenanigans in the previous book, but nope, I am suuuper into it. I’m not totally sure he and Evie really make sense together, but an elopement to Gretna Green will nearly always win me over, don’t ask me why.

 

Scandal in Spring (Wallflowers #4)

Meet Cute:

Tired of investing time and money in Daisy’s London husband-hunting, father Bowman has decided to force his youngest daughter to marry Matthew Swift, the sniveling suck-up he hopes will one day inherit his soap company. Daisy hasn’t seen Matthew in years, but she’s always hated him. When she meets a handsome man in Hampshire one afternoon while making a wish at a wishing well (it’s not subtle), Daisy is shocked to learn that Matthew Swift has undergone quite the physical transformation. But despite Swift’s new lewk, Daisy refuses to be bought and sold like company stock.

The Leading Lady: Passionate Pixie

Daisy Bowman is a true romantic. Her head is always in the clouds or in a book, and she’s particularly a fan of romance novels (how meta!), so the thought of marrying without affection is her worst nightmare.

The Leading Man: Transformed Tycoon

What Daisy has never known is that Matthew Swift has loved her from the moment he met her. But that doesn't matter, because he has a dark secret, and he'll never be able to marry her without dragging her into his dangerous past.

Risque Ranking: 7

Similarly to Secrets of a Summer Night, Kleypas drags out the chemistry between Daisy and Matthew in Scandal in Spring so that much of the swoon manifests from passing touches, stolen kisses, and dirty daydreams; and no actual sexy time happens until later in the book. But the sheer amount of longing between these two lovebirds makes the payoff worthwhile.

Ms. Perky's Prize for Purplest Prose:

She was invaded by a sundering thrust, and Matthew murmured love words against her throat, trying to soothe her even as he pushed farther, taking her, holding her.

Was It Good For You?

Rosemary: Heck yes. My romance novel wishlist is generally, “Pride & Prejudice but with sex” and that is exactly what this book is. Matthew Swift is just my cup of tea, and Daisy loves books so you know I wish she was in my book club. This one was so much more than a hook-up for me—I felt a real emotional connection between us.
Kate: Well, I love Daisy, and isn’t it always good when it’s with someone you love? Sure, this book might not be as swoony as Devil in Winter, but when it delivers, man, does it deliver. Slight points deducted for Drama that leads our lovers away from one another (and thus, from more potential blushworthy bits) later on in the book.
Kandis: I am such a sucker for a pining dude. And I feel like Daisy was really able to put her dirty novel reading to good use. But like Kate, I deduct some points for that dramatic separation near the end.

 

A Wallflower Christmas (Wallflowers #4.5)

Meet Cute:

Like his sisters Lillian and Daisy before him, notorious scoundrel Rafe Bowman has exhausted his options in America, and so he heads to London at Christmastime to find a wife. He hopes to marry Lady Natalie Bowman and improve his social standing, but first he’s got to impress her companion Hannah Appleton. Sparks fly between Rafe and Hannah from the first moment they meet as an overcome Rafe steals a kiss and sets Hannah’s temper (and body) ablaze.

The Leading Lady: Prim and Proper

She may only be an honorary Wallflower, but Hannah fits right in with her bright wit. She’s not afraid to speak her mind about her dislike of Rafe and his American indelicacy. As a paid companion, it’s Hannah’s job to make sure that Lady Natalie doesn’t get “compromised.” Rafe is an affront to everything she stands for but she can’t seem to help herself around him.

The Leading Man: Loutish Libertine

Rafe the rake. I’m going to be honest - he’s not my type, per se. He’s coarse, he’s unrefined. He forces a kiss on Hannah in the first five minutes he meets her! But the man can write a damn love letter: “If only I could visit you as a foreigner goes into a new country, learn the language of you, wander past all borders into every private and secret place, I would stay forever. I would become a citizen of you.”

Risque Ranking: 6

Rafe and Hannah have crazy chemistry. Unfortunately, this one doesn’t turn into a barn-burner for them until near the end. We do get cameos from our other established Wallflower couples, including a positively unbridled Lillian/Westcliff scene set in the stables.

Ms. Perky's Prize for Purplest Prose:

She couldn’t seem to keep entirely still, her knees flexing, her hips rising in answer to a deep demanding pulse. She was saturated with sweetness and shame and need.

Was It Good For You?

Kate: It was…okay for me? Although it’s not my favorite of the series, it’s a wholly acceptable addition to it.
Kandis: Talk dirty to me. I really like the way they play off each other in their first meeting, but that swoony letter is what really does it for me.

FTC Full Disclosure: We did not receive money or Girl Scout cookies of any kind (not even the lame cranberry ones) for writing these reviews. The Wallflowers series is available now.

Grown Up Disclaimer: If you're new to romance novels, especially older, historical romance novels, be warned that women's sexuality, fantasy, consent, and the expectations of the time periods during which these books were both written and set are complex and nuanced, and some of the sexual and relationship dynamics might be shocking if viewed through a modern-day lens.

Rosemary Hallmark's photo About the Author: Rosemary lives in Little Rock, AR with her cute husband and even cuter dog. At 16, she plucked a copy of Sloppy Firsts off the "New Releases" shelf and hasn't stopped reading YA since. (She's still got a soft spot for the swoony, contemporary stuff.) A former magazine editor, she is now a freelance writer, graphic designer, art director and photo stylist. The rest of her time is spent drinking cocktails, renovating her house and laughing at her husband's ridiculous Pretty Little Liars theories.
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