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ARC Review: The Perks of Loving a Wallflower by Erica Ridley

Book Cover

Publishing Oct 26, 2021

Synopsis:

Fans of Bridgerton will love this Regency romp in which a proper Society miss recruits a very improper lady grifter in a quest for vengeance, only to find love instead.

As a master of disguise, Thomasina Wynchester can be a polite young lady—or a bawdy old man. Anything to solve the case. Her latest assignment unveils a top-secret military cipher covering up an enigma that goes back centuries. But when Tommy’s beautiful new client turns out to be the highborn lady she’s secretly smitten with, more than her mission is at stake . . .

Bluestocking Miss Philippa York doesn’t believe in love. Her cold heart didn’t pitter-patter when she was betrothed to a duke, nor did it break when he married someone else. All Philippa desires is to rescue her priceless manuscript and decode its clues to unmask a villain. She hates that she needs a man’s help—so she’s delighted to discover the clever, charming baron at her side is in fact a woman. Her cold heart . . . did it just pitter-patter?

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The most important point is that I absolutely ADORED this book. I was hoping Erica Ridley would get an f/f (or perhaps more properly sapphic f/nb) regency romance right and she definitely did. I absolutely cannot wait for the next Wynchester novel.

This novel was a joy and a delight to read. Having the Wynchester siblings AND an sapphic f/nb romance in one book — and genderfluid/nonbinary representation, demisexual representation, AND realistic body size representation all in the same main couple! — was more than I had ever hoped to see in a traditionally published romance. I felt seen. More than that, I felt loved.

I have always loved Erica Ridley’s gift for creating well-rounded characters that jump off the page and then giving them sweet romances where they overcome their own prejudices and doubts in order to enter into a partnership together. I would choose the Wynchesters over the Bridgertons any day. Not only are they a diverse bunch, but they each possess unique skills that they use as a team to (only slightly illegally) bring justice to those not normally served it.

I especially loved how Elizabeth was brought to life in this book. She is still a side character, but she has some delightful lines. In fact, half of my favorite quotes involve Elizabeth. I hope we see her story soon.

As for our main couple, Tommy is genderfluid / nonbinary, possessed of minimal curves, and a master of disguise. Philippa is a bluestocking who doesn’t believe she can love, possessed of lush curves (that Tommy is very obviously physically attracted to), and is stifled by her parents ambition. They each own their story and leap off the page, with a love story and life lessons I loved to root for.

I listened to the Duke Heist audiobook to remind myself of the characters before reading this, and I’m so glad I did because Moira Quirk’s narration was superb. I have now preordered this book as an audiobook.

*Thanks to NetGalley, Erica Ridley, and Forever (Grand Central Publishing) for providing an e-arc for review.


Favorite Quotes

And… what was wrong with Philippa’s breathing? Was her bosom heaving? Was this a heaving bosom?


“Everyone extorts everyone else all the time, darling”
“Do they?” Philippa said doubtfully.
Her mother pursed her lips. “That’s what a society is. A group of people with agreed-upon methods of social extortion. ‘Do this, or suffer the consequences.’ We call it ‘proper comportment’ so that it sounds nice.


“Tiglet is a homing kitten,” Tommy reminded him. “If she sets him down, he’ll run back to Islington.”


“Graham is out gathering intelligence, and Elizabeth… is off shopping for rapiers.”


“We call those ‘words.’ Extremely adept practitioners can advance all the way to ‘conversation.’


“I guess everyone has a weakness,” Elizabeth said with a sigh. “Mine is uncontrollable bloodlust.”


“Huzzah,” said Elizabeth. “Contravene patriarchal coverture’ is exactly the sort of evening activity I was looking forward to. I’m going to need a bigger sword stick.”


“…but being splendid at something does not mean a body is obliged to do it.”


Any sign.” Elizabeth patted the handle of her sword stick. “Blink if you want mayhem.”
Philippa blinked in surprise.
“Perfect.” Elizabeth unsheathed her sword. “I’ll attack first.”


Philippa was not afraid to be Philippa. She wore more lace on her person than most people owned in their entire wardrobe. Philippa was the bluestockingest ringleader of the bluestockingest reading circle in existence. Philippa was proud to be Philippa.


“We are all saving the day,” Tommy said firmly. “The Wynchesters are a family of knights of various colors and genders who save the day together as a team.”


Tommy grinned. “Elizabeth has even woken herself up giggling maniacally.”
“Not maniacally,” Elizabeth said from across the table. “Giggling with cold calculation.”


This was truly the worst library Philippa had ever seen.