Wicked and the Wallflower is the first installment in the Bareknuckle Bastards series. It’s an historical romance of the noble-lady-meets-dangerous-scoundrel variety. And it’s surprisingly entertaining. I didn’t expect much when I started it, but the story pulled me in entirely. The writing is totally engaging and the world building is awesome.
It’s the story about Lady Felicity Faircloth – spinster and wallflower, and an underworld kingpin known as Devil. Felicity has given up on ever finding a husband, which of course should be her only objective as a Lady according to her peers. But her knack for lock-picking and her general disregard of decorum has ruined her in the eyes of highborn society. So, when being ridiculed by her former so-called friends during a ball, Felicity’s temper has her telling a lie that is sure to shut them up. But to falsely proclaim that she is engaged to the Duke of Marwick may not have been the wisest decision. Only, then a man, calling himself Devil, turns up in her bedroom promising to make her lie the truth. And the next morning, it appears that she is indeed engaged to be married to a Duke that she has never met.
This story is never boring and quite unpredictable. And there’s so much going on apart from the main love-story. I always enjoy being surprised by a storyline, and this one has many twists and turns. Some questions are answered in the book, but it’s clear that I’ll have to read the next installments if I want the full back-story.
I don’t read very much historical romance nowadays. I used to, but it’s a rather difficult genre since it requires so much research to be believable. So, too many of historical romance stories are either silly, clichéd or obviously based mostly on whatever the author has learned from costume dramas on TV. Also, it’s really hard to write historical romance with contemporary characters. Because really, even though some cave-manly behavior might be sexy, no woman alive wants loverboy to be a chauvinist pig. MacLean however, manages quite beautifully to create characters that appeal to my 21st century, feminist self without them feeling out of place in a story set in historical London.
The entire novel was very well written, and I was especially impressed by the way the character development was described. Both Felicity and Devil evolves and grows in the most natural manner. There’s none of those, all too common, noticeable leaps in development that always makes me cringe and pulls me out of the story. MacLean is really talented that way.
If I have to name one thing about this read that I had a hard time with, it would be the chosen name of the main male character. To have him called Devil is just ridiculous. It could perhaps work in certain situations, but having Felicity call him Devil almost throughout the entire book gives the entire read a level of silly that could have easily been avoided by using some other name.
Anyway, I really recommend this book for those who are looking for historical romance with a pinch of naughty. But I must stress that it’s only just a pinch. Which of course is disappointing as heck. I mean, everything is better with a good helping of sexytimes.