5 Stars / Harlequin / Mills & Boon / Historical / Review

Review: The Wallflower Wager by Tessa Dare

They call him the Duke of Ruin.

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.

Title:The Wallflower Wager
Author:Tessa Dare
Series:Girl Meets Duke (Book 3)
Category / Genre(s):Historical
Trope(s):Opposites Attract
Point of View:Third Person
Past Tense
Dual Viewpoints (Hero & Heroine)
Location:London, England
Release Date:13th August, 2019
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Such a vivid story

The last time I read a Tessa Dare book I wrote that I couldn’t understand why this woman wasn’t on my auto-buy list. Now I’m wondering why I don’t have a shrine to this woman and her writing. It’s just so. Damn. Good.

This is the third book in the Girl Meets Duke series – and I’m loving how we managed to get a lowborn hero in the series because he’s Gabriel Duke. Fear not – you don’t have to have read the first two books to understand and enjoy this one, even though both our couples from the first two books do appear in this one. I have read the first two books and all this book did was remind me of how brilliant – and hilarious – those first two books in the series were and make me want to go back and re-read them!

This time, Lady Penelope “Penny” Campion is our heroine. That’s Lady Penelope with the menagerie of animals living in her home. And the same Lady Penelope who makes the most god-awful sounding, experiments in finger sandwiches.

Gabriel Duke is a boy from the streets who’s made good. Very good. Oh, and he’s also turned into a man with a very bad reputation. But what a man! Anyway, when he moves in next door to Penny, he realises that having aristocracy next door will drive the price of his home up when he decides to sell. But only if she rids herself of her pesky pets.

Luckily for him, Penny also needs to find her pets new homes after a bargain with her aunt will take her out of hiding and back into society. So from the first, our hero and heroine forge a tentative friendship and are working towards the same goal. And I can’t tell you how wonderful that interplay is. Penny is finally free to be herself while Gabe realises that there are some people in the world – some people in the aristocracy – that are actually good people. They are honest with each other. Themsleves with each other. And it’s kinda great.

It’s so subtly done – I really couldn’t tell you if their love was an instant thing or a slow burn. The chemistry just sizzled and I loved how Penny and Gabe were with each other. They were soulmates finding each other – and finding out that happiness was all they had ever wanted or needed. Gah – it pierced my heart! Do they make men like Gabe in this day and age?

“Gah – it pierced my heart! Do they make men like Gabe in this day and age?”

There’s a secret of Penny’s that gets teased throughout the book and finally revealed in the last third of the book. At that point, the love story takes a very slight back seat for what is, or could be for some, uncomfortable or upsetting. It’s not done in much detail but perhaps read yourself some spoilers if you’ve got specific triggers.

I liked the fact that the sex in this book was more of two consenting partners who were all in from the get go. Penny was taking control of her life and I liked that it was her who pursued Gabe and propositioned him! It was an adorable about-play for an unlikely pairing. And that’s without mentioning the delicious build-up to said sex. That first encounter in the inn? Damn near set my Kindle afire!

With any Tessa Dare, not only are you getting a vivid romance with rich characters and hot sex – you’re also getting a huge dose of humour. It’s laugh out loud funny without being silly. But having said that, Ash and Chase’s bickering and back-and-forth was delightfully childish and I couldn’t get enough. I hope to read more of them in the future – hopefully with Gabe’s no-nonsense attitude thrown into the mix.

Nicola is the final friend in the four and I cannot wait to read her story. A massive tease was dropped in this book… and then nothing. Nothing. Damn you Tessa Dare – I need more right now!

I feel like it’s a bit of a betrayal to note a few American turns of phrase in the book. Hardly surprising but a little jarring to my British ears, especially in a Regency book. But it’s only a few tiny slips rather than anything horrific!

If you love Tessa Dare’s writing or you’ve never read her before, and like a smart and sassy historical romance, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Give it a try. I hope you love Penny and Gabe (and Bixby, Delilah, George, Marigold etc etc) as much as I did. 5 stars.

Tessa Dare is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of fourteen historical romance novels and five novellas. Her books have won numerous accolades, including Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® award (twice!) and the RT Book Reviews Seal of Excellence. Booklist magazine named her one of the “new stars of historical romance,” and her books have been contracted for translation in more than a dozen languages.

A librarian by training and a booklover at heart, Tessa makes her home in Southern California, where she lives with her husband, their two children, and a trio of cosmic kitties.

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The wonderful people of Mills & Boon sent me some rather delightful packages in order to celebrate the release of The Wallflower Wager by Tessa Dare.

Each package was to be opened at a specific page – and related to a passage on that page.

“Oh, and here’s my favorite.” Hammond shook open a letter and cleared his throat for dramatic effect. “‘Dear Mr. Hammond, if it is not too great an imposition, might I ask that your workers refrain from performing heavy labor between nine o’clock in the morning and half-three in the afternoon? Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals, and sensitive to loud noises. My dear Freya is losing quills. I feel certain this will concern you as much as it does me. Neighborly yours, Lady Penelope Campion.’” He tossed the folio of letters onto the table, where they landed with a smack.

“Her hedgehog. Really.” 

“If you won’t protect yourself,” Ash warned, “we will have to take protective measures on your behalf.”

“What sort of protective measures?”

Nicola rushed into the room. Wisps of ginger hair floated about her head in an unkempt halo. In her hand, she carried a brown-paper packet. “I brought the poisoned biscuits,” she said, breathless. “I’m still perfecting the spring-loaded trap for her door.”

Wonderful. Yet another addition to the “Protect Penny” brigade.

“That’s very kind of you, Nicola.” Penny took the packet of biscuits from her friend, tucked them behind her back, and while completing her circuit of the room, discreetly tossed them into the fire.

Gabe opened a strongbox hidden in a cabinet and withdrew a large, flat velvet box. He placed the box on the desk blotter, inordinately anxious. “Go on, then. Open it.”

She lifted the top and peered inside. “Oh, Gabriel.”

He moved behind the chair, looking over her shoulder at the sparkling array of rings. Diamond, ruby, sapphire, emerald . . . every precious gem he could think to request at the jeweler’s, and a few he hadn’t known existed.

I thought you’d prefer to be surprised, but I didn’t trust myself to choose one you liked. So I simply bought them all.”

They’re exquisite.”

He waved off her praise. “None of them are fine enough for you.”

Girl Meets Duke Series:

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