Genre: historical romance.
Miss Prudence Merryweather Payton has a secret. Everyone knows that she’s the only graduate from her finishing school to remain unwed on her fourth season—but no one knows why. With her romantic illusions shattered after being compromised against her will, Prudence accepts a proposal even though her betrothed is not exactly a knight in shining armor. When he cowardly pushes her out of their stagecoach to divert a highwayman, she vows never to trust another man again.
John Roark, Viscount Castleton, is nobody’s hero. He’s a blue-eyed charmer with a mysterious past and ambitious plans for his future—that do not include a wife. When he finds himself stranded at a country inn with a captivating young woman, a delicate dance of seduction ensues. He knows he should keep his distance. And he definitely shouldn’t start falling in love with her.
When Prudence’s dark past comes back to haunt her, John must protect her—even though he risks revealing his own secrets that could destroy his future. (Goodreads)
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My rating: 3/5.
This historical romance is slightly unconventional. I read *a lot* of historicals, and I’ve come to expect a certain… lighthearted optimism from the entirety of the genre. Here, however, Maya Rodale starts off the story with a heroine, Miss Prudence, who is, for all intents and purposes, damaged. This defines her, of course, at least at the beginning, but she’s a really likeable girl through and through.
Even though the topic of the novel (or its main problem, whatever you want to call it) is very difficult and could have been the downfall of this story, it’s dealt with in a good, but not distasteful manner. Rodale shows her skill in incorporating such a serious event into a genre which is, as I’ve said, supposed to be more fluffy and positive than not.
I also liked the realistic manner with which Rodale described the public’s double reaction to Prudence’s story. Compassion and outrage on one side and finger-pointing and blame on the other – this is exactly what happens, even to this day, when such a story is made public. Sugarcoating is not something Rodale can be accused of, yet her novel never slips into an overly dark tones that would make this a bad example of the genre.
My slightly lower rating, however, is due to the fact that I couldn’t entirely connect with the hero of the story, John Roark. I’ve been thinking about him a lot and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s his dishonesty to Miss Prudence that I just can’t forgive, no matter how much he loves her. And it’s not some small, unimportant fib, but an honest-to-god game-changer that leaves Prudence stuck in a very uncomfortable position. Even when she tells him her deepest secret, he isn’t man enough to own up to his, so I find his behaviour decidedly ungentlemanly.
On the up side, John helps Prudence to overcome her problem, to accept herself as a woman, and to start enjoying life again, so I guess he’s not completely irredeemable. :)
I enjoyed What a Wallflower Wants and it’s a fun read, but it’s not without its flaws, of course.
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How do you feel about romances with difficult topics?
Have you read another one of Maya Rodale’s books?
I’d love to hear your thoughts! :)