Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: October 14, 2008
Series or Standalone: The Wallflowers #4.5
Links:Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
Yes, I know it’s no longer Christmastime, but I ended up reading A Wallflower Christmas a few days after Christmas, so my first review of the year is a Christmas book. I love the Wallflowers series and was greatly looking forward to this novella. However, I did not like this book. I was disappointed with the romance and some secondary storylines involving the OG Wallflowers.
Rafe Bowman, Lillian and Daisy’s brother, has arrived at Stony Cross Park to meet Natalie Blandford, the proper British lady that his father wishes to marry to receive his inheritance. However, before his courtship can begin, he needs to win over the approval of her companion, Hannah, who takes an immediate dislike to him as she sees him for what he is – a rake. With the help of our Wallflowers, Rafe might just end up finding true love, but it might not be with the woman he thought.
Starting this book felt like being welcomed by an old friend. I truly missed hanging out with the Wallflowers and was excited to dive into another story involving them. I had high hopes for Rafe Bowman, as I truly loved the stories of his sisters, Lillian and Daisy. Unfortunately, that excitement dissipated pretty quickly.
My biggest issue with A Wallflower Christmas was I did not like Rafe Bowman and the romance felt uneven. Rafe was a bit of a dick. I know he’s supposed to be a rake and American (so even more wild than the Brits), but he came off incredibly aggressive and a bit rapey in his interactions with Hannah. His first romantic interaction with Hannah involves a non-consensual kiss which he justifies by saying this:
“This is how we court girls in America. We grab them and kiss them. And if they don’t like it, we do it again, harder and longer, until they surrender. It saves us hours of witty repartee.”
This really rubbed me the wrong way, particularly so early in Hannah and Rafe’s interactions. I know Kleypas does sometimes have some questionable consent in her novels and this one was pretty bad, in my opinion. Rafe continued to be a bit of a bully towards Hannah and it felt like she was forced to do things outside her comfort zone.
In addition to Rafe’s actions, I feel like we didn’t get to know him as a person. In comparison, I liked Hannah and felt like we got to know her quite well. Hannah felt like an incredibly well-round, three-dimensional character. In contrast, I felt I knew relatively little about Rafe and didn’t know his mind or feelings. I felt we spent more time with Hannah and not enough with Rafe, so I didn’t buy it when Rafe says he’s madly in love. I wish we could see more of Rafe’s character and get to know him better, as I think I wouldn’t have as many issues with him as I did. I also felt like Hannah’s feelings towards Rafe changed way too quickly based on how he treated her because he gave her a toy soldier. I didn’t buy it.
Outside of Rafe and the romance, a secondary plotline involving Lillian and Marcus from It Happened One Autumn (and my favorite couple!) rubbed me the wrong way. The plotline involved Lillian thinking Marcus was being unfaithful to her and it felt like it came out of left-field. There was literally no setup for it and it made no sense in the context of these two people. Marcus is wild for Lillian and her reasoning for thinking this was so thin. It felt very out of character for Lillian, who has always been so bold and sure of herself.
While this story overall didn’t work for me, there were a few things I did like. For one thing, Hannah was a bright spot. I felt she fit in incredibly well with the Wallflower gang and wasn’t afraid to call Rafe on his BS. I also loved getting to see the Wallflowers again. The scenes with all of them together were some of the best in the novella and I loved the scenes with them decorating Lillian’s obscenely large Christmas tree.
Overall, this is not the story I had hoped would wrap up the original Wallflowers series. However, I know we get to see more of the Wallflowers in some of Kleypas’ other series (including the Hathaways), which makes me feel a bit better as they deserved a better last book than they got.
If you’re a fan of the Wallflowers series, I do think you should check out this novella as many people do enjoy it! It’s also an easy, quick Christmas novella if you ever crave a holiday romance.