Friday, October 24, 2014

Book Review: Wallflower Gone Wild by Maya Rodale

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Click here to buy the paperback at The Book Depository

In the second instalment of Maya Rodale's Bad Boys and Wallflowers series, Lady Olivia Archer is dreading the upcoming reunion at Lady Penelope's Finishing School, because she will be one of the very, very few graduates who have not yet married. It's one thing to be labeled a "wallflower" but it's entirely a different thing to be labeled a "spinster" and a "failure" -- but, just as she and her friends start thinking of an outrageous plan to get her married, Olivia meets Phinneas Cole, Baron Radcliffe -- and it's love at first sight for both of them.

I thought Maya Rodale's set-up for Olivia's story was exciting: she sees him from across the room and their eyes meet -- and then, sparks. Rodale captures the magical moment so vividly that I was swept away into the romance of the moment as Olivia meets Phinn for the first time. Then the author makes it even more exciting when, on the morning after, Olivia receives a proposal of marriage from a secret admirer, who turns out to be Phinn!

The Mad Baron -- who was indeed a corpulent elderly man with a dark scowl of disapproval -- loudly cleared his throat of phlegm. Olivia did not conceal her shudder of revulsion. The thought of sharing a bed with this man strengthened her resolve immeasurably.

She would not marry the loathsome man who looked so dismissively at her. She would not have him touch her. Honestly, she should have drenched a bottle of perfume on herself as well.

The other man -- his solicitor, presumably -- stepped forward and provided more of a heart-stopping shock.

She recognized his captivating green eyes and his mouth, which she had almost kissed.

The scar she had noted in the candlelight was far more foreboding in the daylight.


"Lord Radcliffe, may I present my daughter Lady Olivia," Lord Archer ground out. "I have no idea what has gotten into her. Or on her face."

But it wasn't the corpulent old man with the beady eyes who stepped forward. For a second Olivia felt relief. That is, before the truth of it dawned upon her.

Lord Radcliffe -- the man she'd presumed to be the solicitor, the man who was her handsome stranger -- fixed his gaze on her raccoon eyes and bowed slightly. A tremor of fear rocketed up her spine.

She had nearly kissed a murderer! Thank God she hadn't.
-pp. 38 - 40

It would have been fun to read this as a story of mistaken identities -- but, Rodale takes Olivia and Phinn's story in a different direction: Olivia discovers that Phinn isn't exactly "Prince Charming" but is actually known as the "Mad Baron" and rumoured to have killed his first wife. I have to admit I was a little surprised with Olivia's reaction to Phinn's proposal and I needed to see a clear reason why she would reject it without any serious consideration or thought. I worried for Olivia because I didn't think she knew what she wanted and what she was walking away from:

1. Is Olivia worried about Phinn's reputation as the "Mad Baron"? I think this is partly the reason for Olivia's reluctance, and Phinn didn't help clear this up by being deliberately vague about his role in his late wife's death. I would've thought that Emma's husband's trust in Phinn would have calmed Olivia's worries a bit (Phinn is helping the Duke of Ashbrooke build his Difference Machine) -- but Olivia was really, genuinely concerned about ending up dead. (A bit too extreme, IMHO.)

2. Olivia discovers that the reason why Phinn wants to marry her is because he thinks she's mild, meek, and biddable -- all the qualities that Olivia has been chaffing against her entire life. While she cannot deny her attraction to Phinn, Olivia does not relish the prospect of living the rest of her life as a well-behaved and proper lady.

Olivia's heart sort of broke with happiness for Emma that she should have the steadfast and eternal love of this man. And she was so glad that he was so good as to extend his kindness to her friends. And to her dismay, she was jealous. Oh, she didn't covet Ashbrooke, but she coveted the sort of love they possessed.

That was what she wanted. That was what she'd never have with the Mad Baron. Not when he'd spend all his time at work on his bizarre machines, leaving her to manage the servants and embroider. That is, before her [sic] murdered her.
- p. 137

I thought this was a very valid point for Olivia, and I saw how acting out scandalously would scare Phinn off, but I wondered if Olivia really thought beyond the outrageousness and see what damage she could do to her reputation.

Be careful what you wish for. Olivia and her friends had dreamed of making a match and getting married -- and, now, Olivia is finally getting her wish, but it is not without strings attached. He's handsome and titled, but he also wants her for all the wrong reasons. Instead of wanting to marry, Olivia is now scrambling to get out of marrying. There's nothing wrong with thinking and acting on her feet, but I worried about the long-term, life-altering implications of Olivia's decisions. (And I honestly thought all of her worries could have been addressed with a sincere, authentic conversation with Phinn.) I think this is something that Rodale wanted to address in Wallflower Gone Wild: Phinn and Olivia both struggled to express themselves honestly and took advice from everyone, which led to disastrous results. The message the author sends out is clear: what might have worked for Emma and the Duke of Ashbrooke would not necessarily work for Olivia and Phinn. (And Rogan's advice and "help" was not helpful at all.) In that, how our stories and relationships unfold are all individual and unique. It's when Phinn starts listening to his own heart that he's able to show Olivia the truth of himself.

While I think I understand the thesis behind Wallflower Gone Wild, I think the author could have done a better job of presenting Olivia's dilemma more clearly. (For the most part, Olivia's behaviour appeared a bit childish.) The middle part of the story was hampered by Olivia's indecisiveness, but the ending proved to be satisfying and enjoyable, thanks to Phinn and Olivia's epiphany.

Rules, rules, rules! She knew them all too well. They took up too much space in her brain. They kept her all bound up, restrained, and squeezed into the old of Proper Lady until she couldn't breathe. ... there was only one rule she abided these days.

Make your own rules.

With a smile on her lips, Olivia picked up her needle and selected a vibrant pink thread. She started to stitch and kept at it until Phinn arrived.
- p. 303

Wallflower Gone Wild is book 2 in Maya Rodale's Bad Boys and Wallflowers series. To find out more about Maya Rodale and her books, click below:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Historical Romance Edition

Thank you to Shabby Blogs ( for the free frame!

Happy Thursday, everyone! And welcome to a new feature on Buried Under Romance and Love Saves the World.

What is Throwback Thursday?
Traditionally, Throwback Thursday celebrates nostalgia, asking participants to post a personal photo or an image from their past -- usually from 5 to 10 years ago. There are a lot of book blogs that also do a book-related Throwback Thursday.

The Historical Romance Edition:
Since Mary of Buried Under Romance and I are unapologetic lovers of historical romances, we've decided to focus on our beloved genre.

Here are our rules:
1. It must be posted on a Thursday.
2. It must be a historical romance novel published before October 3, 2008.

The Heir and the Spare (Negligent Chaperone Book 1) by Maya Rodale, published August 2007

All of London is raving about the newly arrived American, Emilia Highhart. She has beauty, charm, wit, and a hint of the exotic. Unfortunately, grace is decidedly not one of her virtues. Staircases, doors, even floors have proven her enemies, often leaving Emilia prostrate and mortified in a pile of muslin. Nevertheless, at her first ball, her dance card soon fills with the names of highly suitable men. But Emilia’s eyes are on just one -- one her aunt points out as the entirely unsuitable Lord Phillip ...

In fact, he isn’t Lord Phillip. While Phillip, the heir, goes about spending the good family’s funds, his identical twin, Devon, the spare, must attend society functions as Lord Phillip -- all because of a few blasted minutes’ age difference. Soon, both twins are vying for Emilia. And, under the not-so-watchful eye of Lady Palmerston, aunt and chaperone to the young lady, Emilia is unknowingly courted by two different men with the same face! But only one of them is the love of her life ...

How do you choose the books you read? Is it the cover? The blurb? I remember picking up and reading this book, but I can't remember why, but I do remember loving Maya Rodale instantly and buying all of her works since her debut novel. The word that comes to mind when I think back to Rodale's books is "quirky" -- there's always a fun factor in her stories and she's very good at writing women. Her current series about Wallflowers is very enjoyable. (I just finished book 2: Wallflower Gone Wild.)

To find out more about Maya Rodale and her books, click below:

Head over to Mary @ Buried Under Romance and Ki Pha of Doing Some Reading for their picks for Throwback Thursday.^_^

Fellow historical romance readers are welcome to join us. Enter your link below so we can visit your TBT: HR Edition post for the week! (Then go here to copy the Link code to your blogs.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book Review: Scandal Before Sunrise by Sabrina Darby (e-novella from the Scandalous Summer Nights Boxed Set)

Three years ago, Abigail Billings was the life of the party: she kept company with dukes and earls, and the most popular debutantes of the season. Then, in the middle of the Season, Abigail abruptly leaves -- never to be heard from or seen for three years.

Now, she's back and her former friends are expecting her to pick up where they all left off, but, the Abigail Billings who has returned to London is more quiet, and more circumspect -- much to her former friends' exasperation and bafflement. The new Abigail is a mystery to everyone, especially to Honorable Elliot Jones.

We've all been taught the importance of making a good first impression, but the thing with Abigail and Elliot is that, Elliot already had an impression of Abigail even before they met. He had expected a fun, bright, and bubbly girl -- and what he got instead was a polite, well-mannered, well-spoken girl. There's nothing wrong with the latter, really, except that it struck Elliot as being terribly inauthentic.

An opportunist. Changeable. With no true identity of her own other than the goal to become a nobleman's wife.

That changeability underscored how very like all the other marriage-seeking females she was.
- Chapter 1

It's very obvious to Elliot that Abigail is hiding her true self and he wants to find out why. I think what starts out as a challenge and a curiosity becomes an exercise in trust and building a relationship and it's wonderful to see how the shift in purpose unfolds between the two: Elliot's initial curiosity deepens into a true desire to get to know Abigail, and Abigail's misgivings of Elliot changes into trust.

"What is your game, Mr. Jones?"

"I want to meet the irrepressible Miss Billings."

"No, you want to meet the young woman with poor judgment who would have ended her Season in scandal is she had not left."
- Chapter 3

My one big problem with this novella was Elliot Jones. I didn't think he was a distinct or a very well-defined character in his own story: his friend, the Duke of Manfrey was more interesting. (I'm very curious about his story with Sasha, Lady Winterbottom). His character didn't develop beyond his physical attractiveness (which Abigail kept noticing). I also felt he judged Abigail too much and was too passive about the goings-on of the Season (and of Abigail).

"Then why me, Abby? I'd be a wretched husband."

"I don't have the luxury of time. I was giving you a chance. I don't know why. Stupidity, I suppose. Not as mature as Lord Norwood thinks me. But ... if you plan to marry someday, Hones, do so now. We'll have time to grow into it."

"All right."


""I'm agreeing to your damnable plan."

For some reason that made her more furious, which was ridiculous.

"But I can't promise fidelity, or love, or anything more than the desire to have you."
- Chapter 5

I thought Sabrina Darby presented a broad picture of London society: of the frivolous and the worthwhile, of the insouciant and the desperate -- Abigail has enjoyed one end of the spectrum and now finds herself on the opposite end. This, perhaps, is this novella's strongest point -- how life is a cycle of ups and downs and how we are humbled by these moments. Sabrina Darby wrote of Abigail's troubles a bit too subtly: her mother runs off with her lover, her family is in dire straits, and there's the scandal threatening to ruin Abigail's reputation -- and the resolution for the third was a bit too quick. I really would have loved to read more of the troubles that Abigail was experiencing, and would have loved to read a more triumphant rise from all those problems. Still, this was another enjoyable read from Sabrina Darby and I look forward to reading the rest of this series. ^_^

Scandal Before Sunrise is Book 0.5 in Sabrina Darby's The Weekly Scandal series. To find out more about Sabrina Darby and her books, click below:

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Book Review: Our Little Secrets by Merry Farmer

Click here to buy the book on Amazon

Charlie has just arrived in Cold Springs, seeking a fresh start for herself and mistakenly thinks Michael West is a porter and asks him to get her luggage. She eventually realises that he's the owner of the town's convenience store and quickly apologises for her error. It's the beginning of a conversation that proceeded with an invitation to dinner and ended with a proposal for marriage. Merry Farmer's Our Little Secrets features a very different spin on two tropes: the mail-order bride, and the marriage of convenience.

...Was she really mad enough to marry a stranger in a frontier town?

Of course she could, she answered herself. Michael West presented her with the opportunity to start over with everything she wanted, a job, a home, and a purpose. It was more than her step-father had ever tempted her with.
- p. 42

Charlie really isn't a mail-order bride, but just happened to be in a train-full of them -- she is, however, like the women onboard the same train, desperate for a new beginning. What's inside her carpet bag? Why is she running away from her step-father?

She's a character with so many secrets, which is fine with Michael West, who also has secrets of his own. He also came from Philadelphia three years before, and the author did a good job of hinting at Michael's secrets: who is Emily? Why did Michael leave Philadelphia? While Michael has done well for himself and has succeeded in Cold Springs, his present life isn't free of trouble: there are the persistent rumours regarding his sexuality, and thugs his competitor hires to intimidate him. I appreciate the balance that Merry Farmer has brought to portraying life in the Historical West: it isn't perfect, but it is, sometimes, people's best option.

It's interesting to see how Charlie and Michael's relationship plays out, agreeing that the past isn't part of their bargain and the compartmentalisation of past/present/future is curious -- and I read on, wondering if it was possible to live a life just in the "now" -- with no thought to the past or the future. It worked for a while, as our hero and heroine go through the honeymoon stage of their marriage -- when that's over, however, is a different story altogether.

..."Is there something you're not telling me?"

She forced a laugh. "There are lots of things I'm not telling you, remember?" She caught her breath and distracted him with, "Will you show me how to fill out the deposit slip?"
- p. 168

We cannot escape our past. We cannot hide our secrets forever. It was riveting seeing Charlie and Michael wrestle with truths that slowly emerged and they became confronted with questions that tested the promises they made to each other before they married and the affection and love that has grown since then.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Merry Farmer's Our Little Secrets. I did get confused by all the characters/people she introduces in Cold Springs, and wished she had taken some time to deepen each character's story, but it did serve to show the greater community (and life) that Charlie and Michael belong to. The author stayed true to her purpose and played up the "secrets" between Charlie and Michael very well, and she did a good job with all the surprises and twists that happen in the story.

The breakthrough character for me was Phin Bell, owner of the bank, and Michael's long-time friend. He left Philadelphia with Michael and has stayed his loyal friend throughout. His story, Somebody to Love, was published this April 2014.

Our Little Secrets is Book 1 in Merry Farmer's Montana Romance series. To find out more about Merry Farmer and her books, click below:


Disclosure: I received this review copy as part of the blog tour event. Thank you to Merry Farmer for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.


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