Breathe in. Breathe out. Okay.
Let’s fucking talk about Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean aka the first installment of The Bareknuckle Bastards aka the series I’m going to be thinking about long after it’s over.
I can’t ever recall being as pumped about a Historical Romance series as I am for The Bareknuckle Bastards. Sarah MacLean did basically everything on my wishlist and more. And, oh boy, she does NOT hold back on the drama. Wicked in the Wallflower is a superb opener. I am quite happy to have shared a birthday with this book. If you want to belatedly celebrate, get on the Wicked and the Wallflower bandwagon with me.
❈ Huge thanks to Avon for providing me with an ARC for Reviewing Purposes ❈
Title: Wicked and the Wallflower (The Bareknuckle Bastards #1)
Author: Sarah MacLean
Release Date: June 19th 2018
Genre: Historical Romance
Content Warning: Past Abusive Parent
When a man known only as Devil finds his way into her bedchamber and offers her his help in landing a duke, Lady Felicity Faircloth agrees. She might be a spinster, but she’s seen love in action and is willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that her future husband will love her beyond reason—even if it means she must make a deal with a man more dangerous than she could imagine.
Bastard son of a duke, and king of London’s darkest corners, Devil has made a lifetime of wielding power and seizing opportunity, and Felicity Faircloth is everything he needs to exact a perfect revenge. All he has to do is turn the plain little mouse into an irresistible temptress, set his trap, and destroy his enemy. If the girl is ruined in the process, so be it.
Except there’s nothing plain about Felicity Faircloth, and soon it’s Devil who is trapped…along with his heart.
THE HEROINE 🌷
Felicity Faircloth hit all the notes I’ve wanted from a Romance Heroine, without even knowing I wanted them.
Those of you who have read The Day of the Duchess might even be wondering why you recognize a name so belonging in fairy tales as Felicity Faircloth’s: Felicity was one of the girls in the Duke of Haven’s failed quest to find a replacement wife. Personally, I was gunning for the rejected girls to get their own stories. I’m beyond pleased Felicity was next on the slate.
Anyone who loves a former girl in the spotlight turned outcast, will easily fall in love with Felicity. Believing that she would be once again accepted in to society if she married well, Felicity set her eyes the mysterious Duke in town. Throughout Wicked in the Wallflower, Felicity mentions her want for “more than she could have” and “impossible” sort of things. There’s something eternally relatable about her struggle for a life beyond what she had been given. A lot of us desire something seemingly unattainable. And, a lot of us think we’re not the type of people who manage to catch that falling star. Felicity was filled with ambition, impossible dreams, and inner fire. As I progressed through the book, I remember highlighting quote upon quote of her beginning to grasp for what she wanted until she made it happen. In the strange gap of life I’m in, it felt like Felicity was personally inspiring me to open my own doors. The last heroine that made me feel as peace as Felicity did was Livvy from Hate to Want You, a comfort I missed.
Felicity also makes me want to take up lock-picking, but you did not hear that from me. While I am totally not-talking-about-lock-picking, I wanted to briefly mention how I loved that Felicity was a lock-picker. It meshed perfectly with her development about carving out her own beginning: a poetic detail.
THE ROMANCE 😈
My love for high-stakes Romances are no secret. Without a doubt, Wicked and the Wallflower is a high-stakes Romance with a satisfying payoff. From the plot triggering drama by Devil’s family to the relationship Devil and Felicity built together, nothing about their dynamic did NOT live up to its potential.
Originally, Devil and Felicity’s relationship was compelling to me because both of their initial actions were influenced by their families. Devil wanted to, without giving too much away, get revenge on his relatives for past wrongs. Felicity aimed to follow familial expectations. While Felicity and Devil are first motivated by family, their relationship and decisions clearly become motivated by each other down the line. I appreciated Devil’s commentary about Felicity’s family a lot. There’s more subtle ways that family members can use each other, which was addressed in the storyline. The similarities, and differences, between Devil and Felicity’s purpose and voice in their own families was A+.
For the fairy tale fans out there: you are going to LOVE Devil and Felicity. Perhaps one of my favorite details in Romance is when fairy tale-esque situations are referenced. Having a name like Felicity Faircloth, it would’ve been remise for there not to be some references. Luckily, you get plenty in Wicked and the Wallflower. Even the book itself starts like a fairy tale. It was a real treat, which you can check out below!
Last, but certainly not least, Devil and Felicity’s relationship was about being emotional equals. Although I like groveling and drama as much as the next guy (I mean, I adore The Day of the Duchess which is angst on angst), there was a true air of “these two people developed along in parallel and are now in a partnership together”. Seeing that was refreshing. They both come to conclusions about their feelings separately, and become empowered by love rather than one party succumbing to the past events while the other has to make the move.
SERIES SET UP 🌷
Honestly, I don’t know how I am supposed to wait for Brazen and the Beast. Anyone up to sneaking into Avon Romance headquarters to get a copy can contact me. But in all seriousness, the future of The Bareknuckle Bastards has me hyped to the point of needing a jog to let out my excitement.
In case you didn’t know by now, this series revolves around a family: a screwed up one at that. Sarah MacLean did a stellar job of revealing enough of the Bastards history to get you intrigued while not giving away too much. Reading it gave me “break the cycle” trope type vibes. History is a heavy burden. All of these characters are living under the weight of it.
The stakes in this series are, quite literally, life or death. Long have I been awaiting a family centered series that gives that kind of pay off. While I know fully well The Bareknuckle Bastards is a Romance series with HEA guaranteed, I. AM. STILL. TERRIFIED for all the characters. There isn’t going to be an easy way out…
If the next two books are as well done as Wicked and the Wallflower, I might have a new favorite Historical Romance series.
If you want to read an amazing Romance, I would recommend Wicked and the Wallflower. It’s officially inducted into my rec list I give to Romance reading newbies.
The three were woven together long before they were aware, strands of spun, silken steel that could not be separated—not even when their fate insisted upon it.
Brothers, born on the same day, in the same hour, at the same minute to different women. The high-priced courtesan. The seamstress. The soldier’s widow. Born on the same day, in the same hour, at the same minute to the same man.
The duke, their father, whose arrogance and cruelty fate would punish without hesitation, stealing from him the only thing he wanted that his money and power could not buy—an heir.
It is the Ides of March the seers warn of, with its promise of betrayal and vengeance, of shifting fortune and inalienable providence. But for this sire—who was never more than that, never close to father—it was the Ides of June that would be his ruin.
Because on that same day, in that same hour, at that same minute, there was a fourth child, born to a fourth woman. To a duchess. And it was this birth—the birth all the world thought legitimate—that the duke attended, even as he knew the son who was to be his heir in name and fortune and future was not his own and still, somehow, was his only hope.
Except she was a daughter.
And with her first breath, she thieved future from them all, as powerful in her infancy as she would become in her womanhood. But hers is a story for another time.
This story begins with the boys.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR 💐
New York Times, Washington Post & USA Today bestseller SARAH MACLEAN is the author of historical romance novels that have been translated into more than twenty languages, and winner of back-to-back RITA Awards for best historical romance from the Romance Writers of America.
Sarah is a leading advocate for the romance genre, speaking widely on its place at the nexus of gender and cultural studies. She is the author of a monthly column celebrating the best of the genre for the Washington Post. Her advocacy for romance and the women who read it earned her a place on Jezebel.com’s “Sheroes” list of 2014 and led Entertainment Weekly to call her “gracefully furious.”
A graduate of Smith College & Harvard University, Sarah now lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.
PRIZE: To celebrate the release of WICKED AND THE WALLFLOWER by Sarah MacLean, we’re giving away two $10 Amazon gift cards!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open internationally. Two winners will each receive a $10 Amazon gift card. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Avon Romance. Giveaway ends 6/29/2018 @ 11:59pm EST. Pure Textuality PR is responsible for the prize and will send the prizes out to the winners directly. Limit one entry per reader and mailing address. Duplicates will be deleted.