Friday, July 1, 2016

ARC Review: Unbuttoning the Innocent Miss by Bronwyn Scott (Release date: June 21, 2016)

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Click here to buy the paperback at The Book Depository

For three seasons now, Claire Weston and her friends have been content to play the wallflowers -- the ones who fade into the background, and are usually the first ones to leave any event, not that anyone even noticed.

When one of her dear friends drops a life-changing bombshell on them, Claire sees it as a wake-up call, and decides she is tired of playing the wallflower. She's loved Jonathon Lashley since she was a little girl, and, when Claire starts to hear whispers of Jonathon about to propose marriage to someone else, she realizes that she must act now.

With her friends' help, Claire transforms her wardrobe, and herself -- the plan was only to make Jonathon just notice her -- but the universe gives Claire a better opportunity: Jonathon is eyeing the diplomacy post in Vienna, and he needs someone to help him with his French. Claire is an expert in four languages, and she volunteers to help Jonathon.

Bronwyn Scott's characters need to sort out a few things before they get their happily-ever-after: Claire must overcome her doubts and find confidence in who she is, then she must stand up against Cecilia Northam, reigning belle of the ball, and happens to be the lady Jonathon is intending to propose marriage to. Jonathon needs to overcome his injury and, with Claire's help, learn to speak French again. He also needs to remove society's blinders and see and appreciate the gem that is standing right in front of him.

There's a reason why a seasoned diplomat like Jonathon can't speak French -- during the war, Jonathon was injured and it affected his ability to speak French. And, it isn't ambition or fame that Jonathon is after -- there's a reason why Jonathon is desperate to get the diplomatic post: he is still looking for his brother, who remains missing from the war. Jonathon wants to use his position to try to locate his brother and finally bring him home. It's a dream that has consumed Jonathon, and, if it means making compromises and marrying a girl not of his choosing, then Jonathon is willing to make the sacrifice.

Claire is the first of the shy violets who is embarking on a journey of discovering herself. Society pegged them as wallflowers, and they were only too happy to oblige, but Claire is tired of staying in the shadows, watching the dazzling world dance past her. I love that Claire and her friends are taking steps to change their situations -- and I love that the physical make-over is kept at a minimum and the author really focuses on how Claire changes her mindset: on how she views herself, and how she views society. What I also appreciate about Scott's take on the wallflowers trope is how she shows the mental struggle that Claire deals with: fighting her insecurities and her doubts, so she could present the best and most real version of herself to the people around her. In the novel, there are several instances when Claire gives in to her wallflower side and runs away from the party. The author shows a lot of the inner debate that goes through Claire's mind during each event -- and it's a very relatable experience.

I'n trying to decide if Jonathon's transformation is from enchanted to disenchanted or vice versa: he was a master of moving around society, and knew exactly what to say to who and when. But, being around Claire, Jonathon discovers that he's been wearing a mask all along. I think it's wonderful when you find someone who brings out not just the best in you, but also the most authentic version of yourself.

This is a solid, straightforward story -- I do wish the author delved more into the emotions and the growing intimacy between the main characters, but it was enjoyable as it is.

Unbuttoning the Innocent Miss is the first book in Bronwyn Scott's Wallflowers to Wives series, and was released on June 21, 2016. To find out more about Bronwyn Scott and her books, click below:


Disclosure: I requested this ARC through Netgalley. Thank you to Harlequin and to Bronwyn Scott for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.


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