How to Be a Wallflower by Eloisa James was an adorable read when it came to the romance. The chemistry between the hero and the heroine was fire, and I appreciated the slow burn style with lots of kisses leading up to the love scenes. However, the romance itself could not save this book from a plot that was simply all over the place.

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The summary, from Amazon:

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! A perfect companion story to Eloisa’s My American Duchess.

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!

Buy How to Be a Wallflower here.

How to Be a Wallflower is about Cleo, an heiress to a toilet company who has been travelling around England for her entire life with her recently deceased mother who was a theater patron, taking a different lover every few days. She definitely has some mommy issues the overcome, and has come to London while still in half-mourning to get to know her estranged grandfather, a viscount her mother regretted no longer having a relationship with. Cleo will haver her Season, but wants to remain a wallflower. She has no desire to marry because that means her company will be owned by her husband. When the costume company of a friend gets bought up by Jake, and American, who plans to take the company overseas, Cleo buys it instead and the two become business rivals.

Just writing this I’m scratching my head and laughing as I remember how the absolutely bonkers plot meandered. For some reason that makes no logical sense, Jake and Cleo agree to have wardrobes made for one another. Cleo’s new wardrobe will show the merits of the costume company as a designer in general while Jake will be forced to wear colorful and foppish clothing. I genuinely have no idea if this was to make the company look bad, to make Jake look silly, or to make the company look good. It’s really poorly explained. Jake is just going alone with everything because he falls in love at first sight with Cleo. The chemistry is certainly undeniable, and Jake is willing to play the long game, though the two are staying in the same hotel and spend lots of time together.

Then there’s another subplot about jealousy and potential engagements and prior relationships but who even cares? I’m glad these two finally got together, but the convoluted way they went about it was totally strange. The author could have written three books out of the dozens of mini-plots she threw into this one. Nonetheless, I loved the whimsical charm of the characters. My only gripe is that Jake’s birth name was John Jacob Astor, who was an actual person. (Well, a few persons, as it was a family name.) Eloisa James is clearly writing about the Astor family and talks about it in the afterward, but it just felt strange to me. Authors make up members of the British aristocracy all the time when in reality there weren’t 200 dukes out there during the 1800’s. Why couldn’t she just create her own fictional American aristocracy? Readers familiar with history would’ve been able to see the similarities between Jake’s family and the Astors without it being so on the nose.

While the romance was fabulous and I adored Cleo and Jake as two non-traditional historical main characters, I just could not get over the soap opera style of this one. All in all, it was a 3 star read.

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How to Be a Wallflower (Would-Be Wallflowers, #1)How to Be a Wallflower by Eloisa James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So, this was cute – I’ve been describing Cleo and Jake’s romance to my friends as sweet but horny, which I am so here for. However, the plot was simply all over the place and made no sense. I feel like the author had ideas for three different books and jammed it all together into one.

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Book Club Questions

  1. Why does Jake agree to the clothing scheme?
  2. Describe the relationship between Cleo and Jake.
  3. Why is Cleo averse to marriage?
  4. Who do you think Yasmin ended up with in the epilogue?

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