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ARC Review: How to Be a Wallflower by Eloisa James

Publication Date: March 29, 2022


From New York Times bestseller Eloisa James, a new Regency-set novel in which a heiress with the goal of being a wallflower engages a rugged American in a scorchingly sensual, witty wager that tests whether clothing does indeed make the man—or the wallflower!

Miss Cleopatra Lewis is about to be launched in society by her aristocratic grandfather. But since she has no intention of marrying, she visits a costume emporium specifically to order unflattering dresses guaranteed to put off any prospective suitors.

Powerful and charismatic Jacob Astor Addison is in London, acquiring businesses to add to his theatrical holdings in America—as well as buying an emerald for a young lady back in Boston. He’s furious when a she-devil masquerading as an English lady steals Quimby’s Costume Emporium from under his nose.

Jake strikes a devil’s bargain, offering to design her “wallflower wardrobe” and giving Cleo the chance to design his. Cleo can’t resist the fun of clothing the rough-hewn American in feathers and flowers. And somehow in the middle of their lively competition, Jake becomes her closest friend.

It isn’t until Cleo becomes the toast of all society that Jake realizes she’s stolen his fiercely guarded heart. But unlike the noblemen at her feet, he doesn’t belong in her refined and cultured world.

Caught between the demands of honor and desire, Jake would give up everything to be with the woman he loves—if she’ll have him!

My Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This was my first book by Eloisa James and it shan’t be my last. It was an amusing and engaging romp and I enjoyed it a lot. The characters were relatable and sympathetic, the side characters quite amusing, and the premise just absurd enough to inject quite a lot of humor and shake up the typical regency romance plot.

I greatly enjoyed hearing about Cleo’s mother and seeing her work through her grief and mixed feelings. I also enjoyed the wardrobes Cleo and Jake created for one another — and especially Byng’s joyful and colorful takeover of the designs. Cleo and Jake’s closeness and respect for one another was also quite wonderful.

The plot at times felt a bit thin, and the ending a bit contrived. Also, Cleo got over her shame and humiliation just a little too fast to be believable. It felt a bit like the story had to hurry up and conclude within a certain page count.

Overall though, a highly enjoyable read and I recommend it. I also look forward to the sequel(s).

*Thanks to NetGalley and Avon for providing an e-arc for review.

Favorite Quotes:

She loathed stubborn men: they were so often underqualified and overpresumptuous.

They were a wild and undisciplined people who wouldn’t agree to pay taxes, even for tea. They’d rather drink coffee, simply to avoid taxes.

Which said about everything that needed to be said, given that coffee was a vile drink that tasted like fusty beans.

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