ARC Review – The Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean

Posted June 19, 2018 by smutmatters in ARC, Historical, Reviews / 0 Comments

I received this book for free from Avon in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

ARC Review – The Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLeanWicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean
Series: Bareknuckle Bastards #1
Series Rating: three-stars
Published by Avon on June 19, 2018
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Source: Avon
Barnes & Noble
Apple Books

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.

I’m struggling with this one a little bit. Every time I picked this book up, I was completely engrossed in it, to the point of ignoring everything going on around me. But when I put it down for whatever reason, I was reluctant to pick it back up. I’d actively choose a different book, or a movie, or ER binge or something. I never quite got fully connected with the characters, and I think some of that is due to Sarah MacLean wanting to leave some of the backstory to be discovered in future books, and because of that, I was left a little confused by parts of it.

Devil (Devon), Beast (Whit), Dahlia (Grace), and Ewan are all siblings born on the same day to the same father. They have 4 different mothers, though. Their father pit them all against each other for the right to be his legitimized heir, the future Duke of Marwich. Well, the boys, anyway. Grace is, of course, not involved in this because, you know… vagina.

We get all of this in drips and drabs, putting the meager amount of information together over the course of the book. What’s completely unclear to me is the actual mechanics of how all of this works. Grace can’t be the heir because she’s a woman. Ok – I get that. He pits the boys against each other so one of them will become the heir. Ok… sure. But this competition starts when the boys are 10 and continues until they’re 12. Is the rest of society under the impression that he’s childless for those 12 years? How exactly does he introduce this new 12-year-old heir? Does he just show up with Ewan at a ball and announce that he’s an heir? And no one says “Ummm…. so… where did this kid come from?” And Grace, who should, by rights be the heir because she was born to his wife within the confines of his marriage, is just… forgotten about? No one asks about her and her whereabouts? Especially since it’s stated that if it’s discovered that Ewan isn’t actually the heir because he’s not legitimate, Ewan will be executed, it seems like a big freaking deal to just gloss over. Again, maybe this will be further explored in future books, but I was still confused by the end of this book.

Another piece of this book that confused me was the relationship between Ewan and Grace. Devil and Beast are doing everything in their considerable power to keep the two of them apart. Mainly out of spite because they hate Ewan for taking what they see as Grace’s birthright. Which again makes me confused about the sudden appearance of Ewan in society. But, anyway. They want to keep Grace away from Ewan to punish Ewan for his transgressions and, it’s implied, for Grace’s safety. Because, technically, if Grace is discovered, Ewan will immediately be executed for taking the position as duke that wasn’t actually his. Has anyone else read this book? Do I have this right? And keeping Ewan and Grace apart is also punishing for Ewan because he’s in love with Grace. But…. they have the same father? As far as I can tell that’s the case, but no one mentioned that it’s weird for Ewan to be in love with his sister, so maybe I’m missing something.

I loved Felicity Faircloth, the actual heroine of this book, though I haven’t mentioned her yet. I was so busy trying to figure out the backstory of the Devil and his siblings that I didn’t give her the attention she deserved. And she really did deserve a lot of attention; she was fantastic. She may have gone along with the bullshit her family pulled, but she let them know it was bullshit and exactly how she felt about it. When Devil was a dick to her, she called him out on it explicitly and walked away with her head held high. She never let anything as trivial as a locked door get in the way of what she wanted, teaching herself to pick any lock in existence. When we first met her, she was a little too wrapped up in trying to get back into society’s good graces, but that’s hardly unusual for a lady in society in 1837 London. She wants to get back in after being disgraced, even as she fights against the constraints that same society forces upon her. She was a complex, fully-drawn figure, and I loved everything about her.

I liked Devil, too, though he was a bit of a Gary Sue for my tastes. No name, raised as an orphan, smuggler, wealthy beyond imagining, obeyed throughout Covent Garden by literally everyone without question, a great fighter, great lover, etc, etc, etc. All he had to do was say out loud that Felicity was off limits and suddenly every rapist and pickpocket in a 5-mile radius just melted into the shadows and left her alone forever. He was also troubled by his childhood, and his constant claims of not being good enough for Felicity began to ring false after a while. Actually, that’s not true. They didn’t really ring false, they just became repetitive. I loved his interactions with Felicity, he just didn’t come across as well-drawn to me. There was a little less to him.

I’ll probably read book 2 in this series when it comes out, but I can’t say I’m eagerly anticipating it.

About Sarah MacLean

New York Times, Washington Post & USA Today bestseller Sarah MacLean is the author of historical romance novels that have been translated into more than twenty languages, and winner of back-to-back RITA Awards for best historical romance from the Romance Writers of America.

A columnist for The Washington Post, Sarah is a leading advocate for the romance genre, speaking widely on its place at the nexus of gender and cultural studies. Her work in support of romance and the women who read it earned her a place on’s Sheroes list of 2014 and led Entertainment Weekly to call her “gracefully furious.” A graduate of Smith College & Harvard University, Sarah now lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.