Tag Archive | Darcie Wilde

An Exquisite Marriage (Regency Makeover #3) by Darcie Wilde

an exquisite marriage

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Everyone knows Helene Fitzgerald will never marry. She and her wallflower friends may be on the rise socially, but Helene is still nothing but a sharp-tongued bluestocking who very publicly renounced her only marriage offer. Worse, her family is in serious financial trouble. So, how is Helene suddenly attracting the eye of Marcus Endicott, the Duke of Windford and one of England’s most eligible aristocrats?

Trapped by his father’s long legacy of mistakes, Marcus never thought he’d find a woman he’d want enough to risk his heart. But what began as a contentious friendship has transformed into a passion beyond anything he dreamed possible. Now, Marcus’s old secrets are threatening to destroy everything Helene and her friends have worked for. Can any passion be strong enough to carry Helene and Marcus away from their pasts?

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Publisher and Release Date: Intermix, May 2016

Time and Setting: London, 1817
Genre: Historical romance novella
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

This the final novella in Darcie Wilde’s Regency Makeover series and features the most admirable of all the heroines. Three debutante wallflowers seek acceptance in London high society by re-making themselves both socially as well as fashionably. Along the way, Adele, Madeline, and Helene become good friends and make love matches all under the sponsorship and limited supervision of Deborah Sewell, a lady novelist with a mysterious air who lives alone. The first two novellas had open-ended conclusions that read like serials while this one ties up all the loose ends.

Helene Fitzgerald is the strongest of the three young women. She’s smart, assertive, and has a backbone, yet Ms. Wilde also manages to show her vulnerability. She isn’t afraid to speak her mind or show her intelligence. She publicly broke off a high profile engagement in a scandalous scene that has pretty much blackballed her in the eyes of society. And if that wasn’t enough counting against her, there is also her family’s extremely reduced circumstances.

Ms. Wilde writes well and she pays attention to several historical details; however, the ending is a little too neat and twee. In fact, my only issue with this entire series is the rather caricaturish portrayal of secondary characters who get in the way of the heroines’ success; and in all three circumstances, it’s their families. As a result, the stories sometime come across as overly dramatic and unrealistic. If this doesn’t bother you, you could say they have an almost fairytale-like quality.

Marcus, the Duke of Windford, makes a very worthy hero. He has successfully revived his title and brought it back to sound financial footing as well as rectified the repercussions of his father’s mistakes. But the dukedom is his entire life and all that he knows. Ms. Wilde creates an exciting and well-developed banter between Marcus and Helene that realistically depicts their growing romantic relationship. I especially like how Helene offers up an alternative path for Marcus and challenges him to dare to pursue it.

The secondary storyline about Marcus’ young protégé is a touching subplot that mirrors Marcus’ own self-discovery and purpose. But the conflict that threatens Helene and Marcus’ relationship is a little strained, predictable, and melodramatic.

I have read the entire series and I still think Ms. Wilde should write the story of Deborah Sewell who, in this novella, takes almost a backseat to the forceful and determined Helene. If you like stories about quiet heroines overcoming adversity, you will enjoy this story and this series.

The Stepsister’s Triumph (Regency Makeover #2) by Darcie Wilde

The Stepsister's Triumph

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Madelene Valmeyer has never felt welcome in her father’s house. The daughter of his first wife, she will be one of the richest heiresses in England when she turns twenty-five. But for now, Madelene is just a miserably shy girl, tormented mercilessly by her stepmother and three half-siblings. Nearly unable to function socially, Madelene certainly can’t see that Benedict Pelham, the artistic son of a marquis, is falling in love with her.

Benedict Pelham hates London society, blaming its endless seductions for the death of his brilliant first wife. But in quiet, beautiful Madelene, Benedict believes he’s finally found his chance to begin life again.

Madelene, though, is done being quiet. With the help of her friends and fellow wallflowers, she is preparing to transform from shy mouse to brilliant Miss. But social success has a high price—is Madelene prepared to pay with her heart?

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Publisher and Release Date: Intermix, April 19, 2016

RHR Classifications:

Time and Setting: Regency London
Genre: Historical Romance (novella)
Heat Level: 1.5
Reviewer Rating: 3 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

Madelene Valmeyer is an heiress living with ungrateful and selfish relatives who constantly guilt-trip her into giving them more money to pay off their trivial debts, much to the irritation of her long-suffering trustee. She’s a very reserved and shy young woman whose meekness sometimes borders on the pathetic. I found myself constantly wanting her to toughen up and be a big girl and stand up to her good-for-nothing family, like her good friend, the strong-willed bluestocking, Hélène. Madelene is more like a kicked puppy.

And I have to wonder about Benedict Pelham’s own motivation when he only seems to want to protect and save Madelene from her parasitic family. He somehow sees the attractive woman hiding inside the meek façade but honestly, I don’t really see how he could, given the extremely humble way that she presents herself. Perhaps their one enlightening conversation about the painting he creates of her in the first chapter at the gallery provides a tiny clue but before that, he only saw her spying on him when he was commissioned to paint another work at a mutual acquaintance’s house party. So how he made the leap from the timidity he sees to guessing at the genuine woman inside is sort of a mystery to me. But after the drama of Benedict’s tragic first marriage, Madelene’s submissiveness is exactly what attracts him in the first place.

Benedict is an artist and widower, whose first wife’s death causes great speculation and gossip in the ton. He is drawn to Madelene but fears he isn’t good enough for her because, well, he’s an artist, something that wasn’t exactly an acceptable occupation in Regency England.

Madelene and Benedict are a very quiet and understated couple so their passion isn’t very passionate. Their weaknesses – her lack of self confidence, his past demons – aren’t absorbing enough to merit the great conflict of why they cannot be together.

As in the previous novella, Madelene’s best friends Adele (The Bride Behind the Curtain) and Hélène (the next novella) support her and one another in their common quest to conquer London society by dressing well and entertaining the most important names in the aristocracy. Their unconventional chaperone, Deborah Sewell, a novelist (gasp!), continues to intrigue this reader with her secretive and colorful life as she guides and advises her young protégées. I hope Ms. Wilde writes her story in this Regency Makeover series, as she’s a fascinating character.

However, Ms. Wilde does write well – I very much enjoyed her provocative début, Lord of the Rakes – and her pacing is good, keeping the story moving along at a steady clip. This series reads like a serial in that it is presented in installments without a true resolved ending for each of the stories so far. That’s not a complaint, merely an observation. Ultimately, The Stepsister’s Triumph is disappointing, and I just didn’t find Madelene or Benedict very exciting. Likeable – yes. But also a trifle boring.

The Bride Behind the Curtain (Regency Makeover #1) by Darcie Wilde

the bride behind the curtain
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Even wallflowers find a way to bloom…

Adele Edmundson has always been considered too plump and too awkward for the fashionable world. But the girl has a discerning eye for fashion, filling notebooks with designs for beautiful dresses. She also has an eye for the dashing son of French expatriates, James Beauclaire. With a little help from her friends, and a talented modiste’s assistant, Adele’s gowns take society by storm and she begins a secret flirtation with James, who finds himself torn between family loyalties and true love. But as all Adele’s impossible dreams begin to come true, can she resist the temptations of a world suddenly throwing itself at her feet?

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Publisher and Release Date: Intermix, March 2016

RHR Classifications:

Time and Setting: Regency London
Genre: Historical romance novella
Heat Level: 1.5
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

James Beauclaire is a dashing young Frenchman trying to make a respectable living in England after his prominent and wealthy family lost everything in the Revolution. The problem is his father’s irresponsibility is hurting the family and James is the sole breadwinner trying to keep himself, his sick mother, and his young sister afloat, much less getting ahead himself. As a result, he resorts to gambling to make money quickly, and he also seeks an heiress to wed but, because he is a gentleman and mingles in high society, he cannot let on and must conceal his desperate need for money. With her hero, James, and his sister, Marie, Ms. Wilde gives the reader a poignant if small glimpse of the struggle faced by French aristocrats shortly after the Revolution.

Lady Adele Edmundson is a shy and, at times, martyr-like wallflower, the slightly overweight and dowdy older sister disparaged by her aunt and bullied by her prettier, younger sister, Patience, and her friends. Darcie Wilde’s portrait of a painfully insecure young woman sometimes creeps toward the miserable and Adele’s turnaround to survivor and expert dress designer is a little unrealistic. Adele’s sister Patience is truly horrible and a bit over the top in her evil attitude toward her sister and I am not quite sure why she is so hateful to her sibling. Their brother, Marcus, is pretty clueless about anything and is not supportive or loving at all. Adele seems quite alone in the world until she meets Deborah Sewell, Helene, and Madelene.

Still, Ms. Wilde writes very well – I loved her historical romance debut, Lord of the Rakes – her pacing keeps the story fresh and engaging, and this is a light-hearted novella with a fun, unique, serial-like presentation.

Adele is one of three wallflowers ignored by society and regularly put down by their nearest and dearest. With the assistance of a scandalous, elegant, and confident lady novelist, Deborah Sewell, who acts as their chaperone, Ms. Wilde’s clever Regency Makeover series documents the trio’s metamorphosis into social successes. At a time when to remain single increased the chances of poverty for a woman, this series creates an original story portraying the travails of the Regency marriage market.

The love story between James and Adele proceeds very quickly, but this is a novella so events must move along at a fast pace. And the secondary characters are interesting as well. Deborah Sewell is an interesting and enigmatic woman of a certain age whose story I would very much like to read.

Note: The Bride Behind the Curtain concludes on a cliffhanger ending with several loose threads. Future stories will feature Adele’s comrades, Helene and Madelene. And perhaps Deborah Sewell?