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?
Publisher and Release Date: Intermix, March 2016
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?