Title: A Wallflower Christmas
Author: Lisa Kleypas
Genre: Historical Romance
Stand Alone/ Series: In the world of the Wallflower’s series but can be read as a stand alone
Summary: Wealthy entrepreneur Rafe Bowman has come to London to marry Lady Natalie, an aristocratic bride who will help to further his ambitions. But two things stand in his way : Lady Natalie’s disapproving companion Hannah . . . and Rafe’s passion for a woman he should not want and can never have . . .
Why did we read the book: It’s a Wallflowers book! (*Ana says* : It has St Vincent!) and another chance to do a Powerpuff Girls review with KatieBabs!
Ana: I had no idea what to expect when I got A Wallflower Christmas. For some reason I thought this was going to be an anthology and was surprised – and delighted – to find out that this is a full-length novel albeit a short-ish one (about 200 pages). I was absurdly pleased when the prologue sets the tone for a Christmas tale with an “Once Upon a Time” opening by reminiscing each of the Wallflower’s story and how they all found their happily ever after and reminding the reader that there is no shortage of wallflowers and this is to be a story about another one of them. From that moment on, I was captivated by the narrative, extremely happy to see the Wallflowers’ antics again and above all completely taken with Rafe Bowman and his heroine, Hannah. Well done, Mrs Kleypas.
Thea: Having read the Wallflowers books, I was very happy to discover this new, sleek and shiny volume in the mail. I didn’t even know another spinoff series was planned! And, given my great experiences with the first four books, Ana and I decided that we would most definitely do a powerpuff style review for this newest addition. Lisa Kleypas is true to form with this novel, in a light hearted, festive romance between a strong minded young companion, and the un-gentlemanly Rafe. As with all the other Lisa Kleypas books I have read, A Wallflower Christmas is a fun, well-written romance. While I don’t think it is as good as those first four novels, it still was nice to see all the girls together again, and meddling in other people’s affairs.
On the Plot: Christmas is approaching and Rafe Bowman – Lillian and Daisy’s brother – is coming from America to England to get married. As heir to their father’s fortune and with a keen eye for business, Rafe is ready to take over the European side of the business but his father imposes a condition – he has to marry into English aristocracy and the chosen bride is one Lady Natalie.
Not really caring about whom he marries with, Rafe is prepared to please and appease his father. The meddlesome Wallflowers, who are engaged in preparations for a huge Christmas party that is to take place at Lillian and Marcus’ country Estate are worried that Rafe would not know how to handle an English lady – and decide he needs to learn everything he can about her in order to woo her. They invite Hannah Appleton, Natalie’s poor cousin and companion for tea in order for her to tell them what are Natalie’s dislikes and likes. She goes, under great pressure form her uncle, who wishes for the marriage to happen. But Hannah who thinks Rafe is not the best choice for her beloved cousin is completely hostile to Rafe, at least at first. Sparks fly….witty conversation and angst ensue, a stolen kiss happens….
and…..you know how the rest goes.
Ana: From an extremely objective point of view, the plot of A Wallflower Christmas is not the most original out there: the callous rake with the daddy issues and the outspoken impoverished companion have been done a thousand times. And yet…..
… there I was, on my flight to Portugal and I open the book and I do not see the take off, nor the landing and I have this stupid smile of my face and I can not stop reading it, not even on the queue for passport control when I was nudged a couple of times by the annoying person behind me who fully expected me (the nerve) to be paying attention to my surroundings as if keeping my place in line was more important than to read about how Rafe and Hannah were falling in love with each other against all odds and how the wallflowers are amazing and help them and how OMG here comes St Vincent (as we know, THE BEST ROMANTIC HERO EVER) and he has jewels and he covers Evie in them and they have sex for DAYS and Marcus and Lillian have an amazing scene but it all goes back to Rafe and Hannah and all of a sudden, my perspective changes, the callous, cold yet humorous rake is an amazing hero with his sad, sad childhood and Hannah is this impulsive lady that calls on Rafe’s dreadful behavior but can’t help falling in love with him no more than I can’t help falling in love with the book.
And I can no longer be objective because so many wonderful things happen, from the first moment Rafe sets eyes on her and is rendered speechless for the first time in his life to the moment he realizes he loves her but can not have her; and there is heart, there is laughter and there is warmth in A Wallflower Christmas and it’s more than I expected and it’s Lisa Kleypas once again, taking romance novels to another level, departing from a well-worn premise, making it her own and granting me, us, whomever is smart enough to get this book, a few hours of romantic delight.
Thea: In this new installment to the Wallflower’s story, the plot follows Lillian and Daisy’s brother, Rafe Bowman. Rafe travels across the pond to marry Lady Natalie at his father’s behest–as part of a business arrangement, benefiting Natalie’s family with even more wealth, and the Bowmans with a noble title, while Rafe earns the full control of the European operations of his father’s business. Natalie’s cousin and companion Hannah vehemently objects to the betrothal, even before either of them have met. Hannah is set that Rafe, judging from his reputation, is no gentleman and certainly cannot make Natalie happy–and she is sent to meet the Bowmans and report back to her Lady with her verdict. And, of course, Rafe falls for the one unacceptable woman he should not care for–not Natalie, but Hannah. Interject their story with meddlings and help from the Wallflowers and their respective partners, and you have A Wallflower Christmas.
I cannot fault the plotting for this novel at all, it is what it is–Lisa Kleypas, doing her thing. The book is paced evenly and is a quick, light read. It certainly isn’t an original storyline, but in general (in my opinion, that is) most historical romance novels follow the same conventions. While there isn’t anything new or innovative in this novel, the quality of writing is up to Lisa Kleypas’s usual high standards. I will say that I highly enjoyed seeing the Wallflowers again, and appreciated that a good portion of the story was devoted to “catching up” with what they have been doing for the past few years–all the while keeping a steady focus on Hannah and Rafe’s budding romance.
On the Characters:
Ana: Starting with the original wallflowers: it was amazing to see them all again, to catch up with their happily ever after. Their interactions with each other are as endearing as ever as are their interactions with their significant others (St Vincent!) – there is a little bit of each of them in A Wallflower Christmas and it was like seeing old friends.
But really, as much as the wallflowers are amazing (and St Vincent!), the book belongs to Rafe and Hannah. From the get go when sparks fly and they have this incredibly witty banter – gotta love witty banter – that starts because Hannah can not stand the manners or the values (or lack of) of American ands considers Rafe wholly unsuitable for her cousin. Rafe is completely taken with Hannah and she may deny it but she is taken with him as well (as it should be). Their conversation are delightful, their repartee funny and yet every single one of them carry hidden depths and moments where they share almost unconsciously, their inner turmoil, their hidden secrets. They hear each other in what they don’t say.
Rafe is another worthy addition to Lisa Kleypas’ pantheon of heroes: rake extraordinaire, so callous when it comes to women, he merely expresses a “she’ll do” when he meets Lady Natalie. Rafe was an unhappy child, always alone, under the intolerable bowman parentage, a boy destined for great things, not allowed to play. His rebellion is to be a carefree rake even though he tries his best to please his father, but that is no pleasing Mr Bowman, not now, not ever. The more he sees Hannah , the more he wants her. One particular moment of enlightenment is when he realises how fascinating she is and thinks it would tale a lifetime to get to know her, whereas with Lady Natalie one hour was enough. He is drawn to her as a moth to the light and if there is one keyword for both these characters is “warmth” – Rafe for Hannah was like a sugared cup of tea and to him, she was like a ray of sunlight.
The major conflict comes from the consequences of one accepting their love for each other: for Rafe accept to his love for Hannah is also to accept that he can not, will not please his father ever and that brings a great sense of failure to a man that has accomplished much except the one thing that matters: the acceptance of his own father. Much has been said about the common-place that is for a hero to have “daddy issues” but truly, sometimes it works, when it is well done, as is the case here. Similarly for Hannah to accept Rafe’s love is also to understand that she is the wrench that will come between him and his father – and the prospect of losing his place in the family business which means a lot to him.
But alas, one can not stop the course of true love.
Thea: In my (granted, very limited) experiences with historical romance, the plot is often pretty cut and dry–which leaves it to the characters to make or break a book. Ms. Kleypas has a huge talent for creating wonderful characters, and A Wallflower Christmas reintroduces us to some of my personal favorites.
Each former Wallflower gets a spotlight here–from Annabelle talking things over with Simon, Evie and St. Vincent holing themselves up for a couple of days, Daisy quietly giving advice to her brother and mediating tensions, and Lillian causing a ruckus over Marcus’s strange behavior. Since the hero in this story is another Bowman, there was more time devoted to the Bowmans in general–which is just fine by me, as Lillian is my favorite Wallflower! Initially I found the storyline involving Lillian’s misgivings concerning Marcus to be strange–but given Lillian’s tough exterior fronting for her very vulnerable feelings, her mistrust feels true to her character. When she does learn what Marcus has been up to, it is a touching, awkwardly funny scene–and reminiscent of their shenanigans in It Happened One Autumn, where I fell in love with both characters in the first place.
As for Hannah and Rafe, the central pair in this novel, they are both likable characters. Rafe Bowman is a dashing man, who has daddy issues. In the previous Bowman stories, some of Daisy and Lillian’s troubles with their father emerge, and it was very interesting to see things from the perspective of a brother. Hannah is an endearing heroine; she’s broke but does not have a problem with her situation, as she loves her dear cousin and is happy to be able to live as a companion. I was not swept away by these two characters or by their romance, but still found them agreeable enough.
Actually, more interesting to me (from a writing standpoint) was the character of Lady Natalie! Spoiled, selfish, and immature, Natalie can hardly live up to the Wallflower girls–and this is the most appealing thing about the character. I love that Ms. Kleypas wrote a main character that is neither Eeeevil! nor perfectly sweet and likable (as most characters fall into either category, nowhere in between). Natalie’s selfishness is not born out of meanness or a desire to squash Hannah (as say Joyce from Dreaming of You)–she simply is what you might expect a pampered, beautiful heiress to be.
Final Observations, recommendations and rating
Ana: A Wallflower Christmas is one of those small treasures. A delightful read not only because of Rafe and Hannah but also because we get to see those characters we have come to love – specially my own all-time favorite hero, Sebastian St Vincent. I may be biased because of that but there is no denying that this is a feel-good story, a captivating romance, with a fairytale-like narrative. I had a silly smile on my face for most of the read because this was just like waking up on Christmas morning to find a tree full of yet-to- be-discovered presents.
Thea: I enjoyed this book, finishing it within 2 hours on the plane. While I didn’t find it to be as great as the other Wallflower books, it’s still a trademark Lisa Kleypas read–that is, compulsively readable! Not spectacular, but very, very solid nonetheless. I enjoyed this one thoroughly.
Notable Quotes/ Parts:
Ana: they are all decorating the Christmas tree. Rafe dares Hannah to sing a carol. She does, to his utter delight, and he is completely captivated by her voice, and by the woman herlsef. Because she took his dare, he ows her a forfeit. She asks for a possession of his, anything he was carrying in his pockets at that moment. He gives her a toy soldier. She is puzzled by the fact that he is carrying it around without realising that he has given her his most treasured possession. Awwww. I will not spoil it, but The Secret meaning behind it is so heart wrenching and the fact that he has given it to her is one of the most heart warming scenes I have ever read in a romance novel. The whole sequence involving this event was amazing and I think I will always remember it.
Thea: I loved the passage where a certain young ‘un has stolen a certain toupee, and has gotten it stuck up in the enormous Christmas tree. Enlisting Hannah’s aid, she climbs up the treacherous ladder to retrieve said toupee–when the ladder collapses, Hannah is stuck on a ledge until Rafe comes along to observe the ridiculous situation. It’s funny, and very sweet.
Ana: 9 – this is one of those huggable books!
Thea: 6 – Good, A book I definitely would recommend for any Kleypas fan.
And this is Bubbles’ and Buttercup’s opinion on the book. Now, pop over to Katie’s (A.K.A Blossum ) to read her review of A Wallflower Christmas! Powerpuff girls: to infinity and beyond!
TOMORROW, FRIDAY 26TH SEPTEMBER: AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH THE ONE AND ONLY LISA KLEYPAS AND A CHANCE TO WIN A COPY OF SEDUCE ME AT SUNRISE!