Miss Prudence Merryweather Payton has a secret.
Everyone knows that she's the only graduate from her finishing school to remain unwed on her fourth season—but no one knows why. With her romantic illusions shattered after being compromised against her will, Prudence accepts a proposal even though her betrothed is not exactly a knight in shining armor. When he cowardly pushes her out of their stagecoach to divert a highwayman, she vows never to trust another man again.
John Roark, Viscount Castleton, is nobody's hero.
He's a blue-eyed charmer with a mysterious past and ambitious plans for his future—that do not include a wife. When he finds himself stranded at a country inn with a captivating young woman, a delicate dance of seduction ensues. He knows he should keep his distance. And he definitely shouldn't start falling in love with her.
When Prudence's dark past comes back to haunt her, John must protect her—even though he risks revealing his own secrets that could destroy his future.
**This will serve as a trigger warning for sexual violence. While its never explicitly shown and Prue is careful in her own explanation and memories of the incident, its still a very real plot point**
This is one of the few times that the historical novel outdid its contemporary counterpart in this unusual companion set-up Rodale had. Prue, who I did not always connect with and who I often felt at odds with from a personality stand point, was given a story that trumped the previous two novels. Not just in execution, but also Prue herself.
WHAT A WALLFLOWER WANTS is not by any means a "light" novel. Rodale's historicals trend more towards the fluffy and entertaining, with even the dark corners being rather dimly lit. However despite the wit and playful banter that occurs this book handles heavy themes. Which I found suited things just fine. From Prue's lacklustre fiancee basically handing her over to the highwaymen as spoils to save himself to John's murky past preventing him from achieving the only two goals he cared about, its a rocky road.
Prue's anxiety because of the Incident is understandable and I don't blame her for feeling trapped. Options were few and its a sad fact that the law may have been on her side, but in her world the law was not what was important. Society was and they were harshly condemning no matter the reason (often because of--she was right to fear that if she had come forward many would have decried her as a tease and tart for hadn't they seen her pleasantly socializing with him? Wasn't she looking for a husband and wouldn't he have made a good one?).
Quite frankly that jackass deserved far worse.
John meanwhile had his own demons to excise. The twist to his story is rather well foreshadowed once you know what you were reading. Unlike Ashbrooke or Phinn, who despite their reputations wielded enough social and financial power to basically swat aside most people, all John had was his brain. He proved several times to not only put that to good use, but also to be the Knight in Shining Armor he claimed he wasn't.
And while the entire courtship strained credulity quite a lot (especially the scene at the Ball) I found I didn't care because I wanted to see how they shared each other's burdens and came together. Truthfully that was far more interesting whatever was going on otherwise because you never knew what Prue or John would say next.