Sunday, January 1, 2023

Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean


So there's a thing I've noticed with Sarah MacLean novels and me. I'm completely on board for 25%-40% of the book, and then something happens and suddenly I'm like, WHAT AM I READING. I noticed this with ELEVEN SCANDALS TO START TO WIN A DUKE'S HEART, where at first I loved the intrigue and banter with the hero, but got disenchanted by the heroine being the other woman and spending an uncomfortable amount of time fat-shaming the hero's intended (calling her "the grape"). And I noticed it in this one where at first I loved the intrigue and the banter with the hero, but got disenchanted by the heroine acting a little too MODERN for a historical romance, not to mention being the first to pick the "unpickable" lock and basically having nothing to really cement her attraction to the hero besides, well, banter.

I love Sarah MacLean's social media presence and her passion for libraries and history is obvious. I also think that she's a genuinely good writer. Her books always rope me in; they just don't keep me. A hero who transports ice for a living is different and novel, but I could NOT get over the fact that he felt like a Walmart version of Derek Craven. And a heroine who used to be a bitch until all her friends abandoned her and she slowly starts to realize her privilege is a laudable concept-- when done well. But when I mentally turned the amount of times the hero said the heroine's full name-- "Felicity Faircloth"-- into a drinking game and realized absolutely no one should play this game or they'd be dead of alcohol poisoning, I had to come to terms with the fact that the glow of the novel had worn off and we were now at odds.

I did like that this appears to be a Rumpelstiltskin retelling (asking him for favors, the gold dress, jokes about taking her firstborn-- is it just me??) and I think Ewan was my favorite character because he felt like a tragic antihero. The idea of three bastard brothers teaming up against the true heir could have been so good. SO GOOD. But the author didn't really do anything with the drama. Also, getting to second base in a room full of ice and NOT engaging in ice play?? Is this even a romance novel? At least it has a pretty stepback. I think I'll probably gift this novel to one of my friends who likes Tessa Dare and Eloisa James. I tend to be the black sheep when it comes to my IRL reading circles, anyway.

2 to 2.5 out of 5 stars

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