Search This Blog

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

'Wicked and the Wallflower' The Bareknuckle Bastards #1 by Sarah MacLean


From the BLURB:

When Wicked Comes Calling...

When a mysterious stranger finds his way into her bedchamber and offers his help in landing a duke, Lady Felicity Faircloth agrees—on one condition. She's seen enough of the world to believe in passion, and won't accept a marriage without it.

The Wallflower Makes a Dangerous Bargain...

Bastard son of a duke and king of London's dark streets, Devil has spent a lifetime wielding power and seizing opportunity, and the spinster wallflower is everything he needs to exact a revenge years in the making. All he must do is turn the plain little mouse into an irresistible temptress, set his trap, and destroy his enemy.

For the Promise of Passion...

But there's nothing plain about Felicity Faircloth, who quickly decides she'd rather have Devil than another. Soon, Devil's carefully laid plans are in chaos, and he must choose between everything he's ever wanted...and the only thing he's ever desired. 

‘Wicked and the Wallflower’ is the first book in a new historical romance series – ‘The Bareknuckle Bastards’ – by bestselling US author, Sarah MacLean.

Sarah MacLean is already one of those ‘automatic-buy’ authors for me. Each one of her historical romance series has been better than the last, her books column in the Washington Post is *superb* as is her ongoing list of recommended romance reads. Not to mention her Twitter presence is *kisses fingertips*. But what really tipped this book over for me, from ‘automatically going to buy’ to ‘I NEED THIS BOOK IN MY LIFE’ was a column Sarah wrote back in 2017, ‘How Trump killed off my romantic lead.

She’s not talking about ‘Wicked and the Wallflower’, but rather ‘The Day of the Duchess’, final instalment in her ‘Scandal & Scoundrel’ series. But I do believe this revelation of writing romance (let alone historical-romance) in the era of Trump, has had wonderful ramifications on ‘The Bareknuckle Bastards’ series idea she’s now writing to – based around a family of illegitimate offspring, born to a cruel duke – who have spent their lives in the muck and mercy of the cutthroat Covent Garden, to become the “Kings” of that underworld realm of London.

But as MacLean wrote in that article, she no doubt had a dilemma while writing her first rough and tumble hero of the new series;

That hero? The one I’d lovingly crafted in that mold of masculinity that romance readers have loved for centuries? Sure, I had plans for him to see the promise of gender equality, but at that moment, I wanted him gone. This dude wasn’t just aggressively masculine. He was toxic. Indeed, I suspected he would have voted for Donald Trump. And I wanted nothing to do with him.

Suddenly, there was no promise that he would change. That hero — the one whom so many others in the genre have written for centuries, the one who grows into his awareness that everything is better with equality of partnership — he wasn’t enough. I wanted a hero who had that awareness from the start. I wanted an alpha feminist from Page 1.

Reader, I rewrote him.

I want to read that revelatory usurping of a historical-romance hero that I myself have loved to read.

And let me tell you, Sarah does not disappoint (does she ever?!) in ‘Wicked and the Wallflower’. This book is one that lifted me out of a months-long reading slump and dropped me right in the middle of a brilliant set-up to a fascinating new romance series.

There’s a level of ‘upstairs / downstairs’ to this tale, as the heroine – Felicity Faircloth – is desperate to be welcomed back as a sweetheart of the ton, until a rough and tumble Covent Garden ‘King’ named Devil makes her rethink everything she has ever craved.

The BANTER and dialogue in this book in particular is bar-none. But I also loved the little asides – a ‘proper’ heroine who is also mad for lock-picking (because she does not like doors being closed to her), and a dressing-down she gives the hero Devil when he dares suggest that how a woman dresses has a direct correlation to how inviting she is to men’s unwanted attentions. These little moments that tell me Sarah MacLean knows *exactly* where this historical-romance story sits in the modern-era, and she’s no intention of writing toxic clichés to appease any damn one.

I cannot wait for the next books in this series. The “underworld” of London that Sarah has set up – which isn’t the depraved, and gloomy setting we’ve read again and again – is beautiful in Felicity’s eyes, a place of freedom for women and made by the hard working-class men, women and children of London. It’s a place to thrive and one that welcomes change. It’s a wonderful fairground for these constrained heroines to break free, and their kind gentleman suitors to support them in their independence. 

5/5


No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.