Tuesday 15 December 2015
#CBR7 Book 137: "Winning the Wallflower" by Eloisa James
Rating: 4 stars
Miss Lucy Towerton is very tall and until she inherited a fortune from a distant aunt, she was a wallflower without many promising prospects. So when Cyrus Ravensthorpe - handsome, rich, yet with some unfortunate family connections (his mother, the daughter of a duke, ran away to marry his father, the family solicitor) proposed marriage to her, she could hardly believe her luck. Now her mother wants her to break off their betrothal so she can catch herself a more suitable husband, possibly even Mr. Raventhorpe's cousin, the Duke of Pole. Lucy doesn't actually want to marry anyone else, and contrives a plan to be caught in a compromising position with her intended.
Cyrus Ravensthorpe is a man with a plan, a very carefully detailed plan that will ensure that his family regain the position in society they lost when his mother created a scandal by running off to Gretna Green after falling in love with his father. He has worked extremely hard to make himself a fortune, and proposed to Miss Lucy Towerton because 1) She was the daughter of a baronet, 2) Had a spotless reputation and 3) As a wallflower of several seasons, it wasn't like her family were going to turn down the offer. Now he arrives at a ball to discover that his fiancee is likely to throw him over, as she's come into a fortune of her own. She no longer needs the money he can offer her. Being so scrupulously careful to avoid anything that smacks of unseemly passion or inappropriate desires, Cyrus made sure he arranged the betrothal with Lucy's father and paid her the expected calls, but hasn't actually really paid any attention to the lady, until he may be losing her.
Lucy, emboldened by her new prospects, has been thinking about her fiancee's strange and restrained behaviour and confronts him (pretending to all others that she intends to break it off with him, so they'll be left alone). Discovering that she's only one of many steps in his plan to secure respectability and position, and doesn't know the faintest thing about her, she jilts him, not to please her ambitious mama, but because she's come to the realisation that she can do better. Finally seeing Lucy properly for the first time since they met, Cyrus realises that she's completely right to break the betrothal, but becomes determined to her back, with a proper courtship this time.
This novella is part of Eloisa James' Fairy Tales series, where the author takes famous fairy tales and writes historical romance versions of them. I don't actually think this novella fits with a specific tale and mostly serves as a fun interlude. It introduces Olivia Lytton, the heroine of The Duke is Mine, which Goodreads assures me I read back in August of 2012, but which I never reviewed and can barely remember. Olivia is Lucy's best friend, and the one who convinces her that she needs to fight to keep Cyrus if she actually likes him.
Eloisa James' writing can be a bit hit and miss, but she's got a clever way with words, and this little story is a fun take on the woman who learns to stand up for herself and demand what she deserves, plus the stuffy, proper hero with hidden passionate depths who is completely taken aback when he's suddenly overwhelmed by unexpected feelings. While Cyrus' motivations were very understandable, he was clearly a screaming bore before Lucy snogged the cravat off him and he realised he was going to do some pretty impressive grovelling to get back into her good graces.
Romance is usually written by women, for women about women and it's stories like this, about women taking control of their lives and destinies, speaking up about what they want, no matter what the conventions and consequences that are part of what makes the genre so enjoyable. Because it's novella length, it's a quick and fun read. There are some developments mentioned in the epilogue which I'm unsure of are historically accurate, but I really didn't care enough to bother checking whether Ms. James was taking anachronistic liberties or not. Despite that, this novella is absolutely recommended.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.