Ya know, sometimes an author just isn’t the one for you, and I’m starting to think that’s the case with Eloisa James for me. I read How to Be a Wallflower a few months ago and it didn’t do it for me, and the second book in this series, The Reluctant Countess almost got me – but then… It did not. I feel like Eloisa James is always so close to hitting the nail on the head, but then she goes and drops the hammer directly on my toes instead.

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The summary, from Amazon:

New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James returns to the Would-Be Wallflowers series with an enemies-to-lovers romance between a proper earl and an entirely improper lady—whom he can’t stop thinking about.

Giles Renwick, Earl of Lilford, has never made a fool of himself over a woman—until he meets Lady Yasmin Régnier. Yasmin is ineligible for his attentions in every way: not as a wife, certainly not as a mistress (she is a lady!), nor even as a friend, since they vehemently dislike each other.  Her gowns are too low, and her skirts are dampened to cling to admittedly lovely thighs. She loves to gossip—and giggle.

She isn’t dignified, or polite, or even truly British, given that her father’s French ancestry clearly predominated. Not to mention the fact that her mother had been one of Napoleon’s mistresses, a fact she makes no effort to hide.

So what—in heaven’s name—possesses him to propose?

And what will he do if she says yes?

Buy The Reluctant Countess here.


Yasmin is known for her scandalous dresses and even more scandalous past. Her mother was lovers with Napoleon, and after all the drama of the French court, Yasmin has moved to England to live with her grandfather. In France, Yasmin had to deal with more than snide comments about her mother’s mistress status. Yasmin also was considered a fallen woman for being tricked into a fake marriage with an older man who left her after a week of pretending to be her husband. Of course, the drama of her mother’s relationship follows Yasmin to England. She decides to embrace the scandal and continue dressing in risque French attire.

Giles is a straight-laced earl who can’t keep away from Yasmin. They have always verbally sparred, but now that Giles plans to marry, Yasmin is all he can think about. The two engage in a relationship, but is Yasmin’s scandalous past too much for Giles to deal with? And is Yasmin willing to change or be put in a position where people are constantly criticizing her for her unconventional behavior?

While this was a fun read, Eloisa James doesn’t manage to quite manage to achieve what I assume she was aiming for. What I expected at first was some commentary on misogyny and slut-shaming. Instead, Yasmin is yet another one of those heroines I am so used to in romance who are imagined by society as more sexually experienced than they are. Giles, for his part, shows some character growth, but only after making a number of mistakes repeatedly. James relies on humor that just isn’t quite there – a retailer from Wallflower specializing in ugly clothing for some reason I suppose only James and her editor find humorous makes a reappearance. This just didn’t meet the mark for me and I don’t think I’ll be giving the author a third shot. Not sure why she’s so popular when I’ve read many indie authors who have more historical knowledge (James frequently uses “sexy” in her dialogue, though her books take place in the 1800’s and a quick Google search reveals it wasn’t in text until 1905 or common slang usage until the 1920’s) and can tie together a plot in a more solid, feminist fashion. Nonetheless, this read was just what I needed at the time – spicy and fun, 3 stars.

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The Reluctant Countess: A Would-Be Wallflowers NovelThe Reluctant Countess: A Would-Be Wallflowers Novel by Eloisa James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was exactly what I needed, though imperfect. In my experience with Eloisa James, she comes so close to hitting the nail on the head but then misses the point entirely. Some great points about misogyny are almost made – almost. The character development for Giles takes way too long – I’ve dumped more than one boyfriend over similar behavior after only one or two incidents of jealousy bordering on slut-shaming. I also would’ve liked to have seen Yasmin and Giles married throughout the course of the book rather than just engaged… didn’t feel realistic for the time – the same with some anachronistic language. Huge fan of Yasmin and her grandfather though, and the chemistry was 🔥

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Book Club Questions

  1. Describe the relationship dynamic between Yasmin and Giles.
  2. How does Giles change throughout the novel?
  3. How do others’ opinions influence Yasmin and Giles’ relationship?
  4. Why are people so critical of Yasmin? What do their opinions say about society, and about themselves?

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