Review: The Reluctant Countess

Review: The Reluctant CountessThe Reluctant Countess (Would-Be Wallflowers, #2) by Eloisa James
Series: Would-Be Wallflowers #2
Published by Avon on November 29, 2022
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed this book because Yasmin is so resilient, and I loved how she stands up for herself despite the approbation of society and even Giles at times. I loved how Giles’s love for Yasmin transforms him and how he struggles with his societal expectations. This book manages to be sweet and hot at the same time.

THE STORY: Giles Renwick, Earl of Lilford, is undone by Lady Yasmin R├ęgnier. Yasmin is everything he could want in a wife, except that her dress and her behavior, and her history are not what he sees as proper. That makes her ineligible for consideration as his countess, but he can’t stop wanting to spend time with her. Yasmin has a past and is determined to be strong in the face of the disapproval of British society and Giles. Giles is too stuffy and judgemental, yet Yasmin finds that Giles constantly exceeds her expectations.

OPINION: This book is so much more serious than the initial setup appeared to portend. Yasmin and Giles have to learn to speak to one another about their fears and dreams. There was so much I loved about this book, but I really couldn’t stand Gile’s sister, who just drove me crazy for the entire book. I understand that she is hurting as well, but being hurt doesn’t give one the privilege of hurting others.

Despite this, however, I really did love the characters as they worked out their relationship with one another. There was something incredibly romantic about how Giles is completely undone by Yasmin and realizes that he has to change to have what he wants. He begins so judgmental but realizes that he is wrong. So rarely does a hero contemplate his own actions and realize that he was wrong without having an extremely dramatic situation. I ended up loving Giles because he is willing to change to be worthy of Yasmin. Those changes are about mindset and attitude and about his judgments rather than something external to himself. While the reader understands why Giles is the way he is, it is understanding rather than justification.

I really loved Yasmin, who has taken the roughest part of life and made something sparkling and joyful for herself. That is why Giles falls for her and why I like her as well. So much in life could have struck her down and destroyed her, and yet she remains positive about so much.

I think I really have a thing for the grumpy hero and the ray of sunshine. This book has some of that and yet upends all expectations of that trope. Giles is not as grumpy and reserved as he appears, and Yasmin has depth and real pain in her life.

WORTH MENTIONING: I can’t wait to read Silvester’s book. He is adorable in this one.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE RELUCTANT COUNTESS is the second book in the Would-Be Wallflowers series. The romance here is self-contained, and there is no overarching storyline, so that this book can be read as a standalone. There are appearances, however, by characters from the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: How to Be a Wallflower

Review: How to Be a WallflowerHow to Be a Wallflower (Would-Be Wallflowers, #1) by Eloisa James
Series: Would-Be Wallflowers #1
Published by Avon on March 29, 2022
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384


FINAL DECISION: This book gave me such a warm feeling. The hero is so amazingly supportive. He knows that he loves Cleo from almost the beginning and the book is how he shows her that he will always be supportive of her. There isn’t much drama in this book (except for the ending) but the relationship between Cleo and Jake was all that I needed.

THE STORY: Cleopatra Lewis had a unique upbringing. While she will agree with her grandfather’s desire that she have a season, she intends on dressing like a wallflower as she intends to never marry. Instead, she will continue with her business interests. One day she meets Jake Astor Addison, an American, and the two quickly are engaged in a battle of minds when Cleo sweeps in and takes a business from right under Jake’s nose. Determined to change Cleo’s mind, Jake proposes a swap — he will design Cleo’s wardrobe for the Season and she will do the same for him.

OPINION: I admit that I’m a sucker for books that are lighter on plot and more focused on the personal development of the characters’ relationships with one another. That’s what I loved about his book. The real conflict here is Cleo dealing with her own past and being able to trust the relationship between Jake and herself.

I thought from the blurb of this book that there would be a lot of conflict between Jake and Cleo, but I found this book to be much more about these characters growing towards one another than I expected.

Cleo has independence and strength and yet her life has left her with scars that she has to confront in this story. She runs her deceased father’s business and is determined to continue to do so, and as such, she doesn’t plan on marriage. At the same time, her mother’s endless affairs have soured her on the idea of romantic love. I was drawn to Cleo because she demonstrated how much she cared for those around her even as she sometimes espoused a cynical view of the world.

Jake is the type of hero who makes it his mission to support the heroine and is a genuinely good guy. The book sets up the story to be an enemies-to-lovers story with a lot of conflict between the main characters. I was pleasantly surprised by how that expectation was subverted. I loved Jake as a character and quickly was rooting for him to show Cleo that he is exactly the man she needs. Jake turns the world over for Cleo. The great thing is that his being an American seemed to fit exactly the path he takes. In a world that seems to be bound by so many rules and expectations, Jake is willing to accommodate where he must and shove aside what he can to be with Cleo.

This book just made me feel comforted and warm inside. This is not a book about high drama and angst. While I like those stories, I have plenty of love for a romance with a highly competent woman who finds a man who is strong and supportive of her. And who will do anything for her without having to first battle against her.

WORTH MENTIONING: The Earl of Lilford and Yasmin are the main characters in the next book in the series THE RELUCTANT COUNTESS. Good thing because I loved them in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HOW TO BE A WALLFLOWER is the first book in the Would-Be Wallflowers series. The hero, however, is the childhood friend of the heroine of MY AMERICAN DUCHESS and she makes an appearance in this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.