The Wallflower Wager
To an undaunted wallflower, he’s just the beast next door.
Wealthy and ruthless, Gabriel Duke clawed his way from the lowliest slums to the pinnacle of high society—and now he wants to get even.
Loyal and passionate, Lady Penelope Campion never met a lost or wounded creature she wouldn’t take into her home and her heart.
When her imposing—and attractive—new neighbor demands she clear out the rescued animals, Penny sets him a challenge. She will part with her precious charges, if he can find them loving homes.
Done, Gabriel says. How hard can it be to find homes for a few kittens?
And a two-legged dog.
And a foul-mouthed parrot.
And a goat, an otter, a hedgehog . . .
Easier said than done, for a cold-blooded bastard who wouldn’t know a loving home from a workhouse. Soon he’s covered in cat hair, knee-deep in adorable, and bewitched by a shyly pretty spinster who defies his every attempt to resist. Now she’s set her mind and heart on saving him.
Not if he ruins her first.
Content warning: childhood sexual abuse (remembered)
I have been looking forward to this book ever since The Duchess Dealwhen I learned that Penelope has an otter. AN OTTER, YOU GUYS. *squee* And OK, while I wish Hubert (the otter) had played a bit of a bigger role, The Wallflower Wager delivers in Tessa Dare’s usual low-angst rom-com fashion, even when dealing with some really sensitive themes.
Gabriel is basically a burned Hufflepuff that has been hurt and betrayed in the worst way in the past, but deep down he WANTS love. I’m kind of a sucker for a burned ‘Puff. Surprisingly, I like Penelope as a character a lot less than I expected to. She’s this contrast between flighty and strong, and while I appreciate that people contain multitudes she feels less multi-dimension to me and more just… scattered. I do like the different take on their relationship that Tessa took with this book, giving Penelope a lot more agency in moving the relationship forward than many heroines in Regency romances have and making her sometimes more the pursuer and Gabriel the pursued. The tone of the book as a whole definitely felt more sweet and fluffy than hot/sensual, and I’m not sure if that’s always how Tessa writes or if it was something about these characters? There’s still plenty of on-page sex, I just… I don’t know, didn’t feel the heat and tension as much as I expected to. And then there is a HEALTHY dose of suspension of disbelief required for so many aspects of this book, mostly Penny living alone in a house with only ONE servant, and her entire animal situation. Also Gabriel appears to also have only one servant, plus what seems to be a live-in architect?
By far my favorite parts of the entire book are the bits with the main characters from the first two books in the series making an appearance, specifically Ash and Chase. Emma and Alexandra suffer from the all-too-typical fate of heroines from previous books in a series reappearing as side characters in that they’re sort of watered down and matronly and not at all memorable, but Ash and Chase arehilarious. To the point where I kind of want to go back and reread this book just for those bits.
This is the third book in the Girl Meets Duke series, and while it can be read as a standalone the characters from the first two books do make an appearance as side characters in this one.