Book Review of Wicked & the Wallflower, The Bareknuckle Bastards

Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 4.23.10 PM.pngIt pains me to write this review (Sarah Maclean used to be one of my favorite authors) and yet I feel obligated to inform the romance community not to buy this book.

Scratch that: If you like super angsty, hyperbolic books that focus on bad boys with daddy issues and girls that “give them light” you might enjoy this book.

But as a reader who finds joy in light-hearted humorous romances, this book did absolutely nothing for me.

This book tells the tale of Felicity Faircloth — a 27-year-old wallflower who five years ago used to be the belle of the ball — and “Devil” a duke’s bastard son and ice smuggler who essentially runs the Covent Garden neighborhood of London along with his half-brother Whist and half-sister Grace.

Serious question: Why is it a “thing” for romance novel authors to name their main character Devil? We get it, the dude is bad. You don’t need to hit your readers on the head with a stick to make that point.

Anyhow, Devil’s evil half brother Ewan (also a bastard son of the Duke) has arrived in London to inherit the Duke of Marwick title to find a wife to procreate a heir and a spare. Devil is pissed about this: when Whist, Devil, Ewan, and Grace were children they all solemnly swore to let the Marwick line die out. Furthermore, Devil suspects Ewan’s motive for inheriting the dukedom is more complicated than just wanting the hundreds of thousands of pounds, fancy houses, and the title. Thus, Devil hatches a plot to stop Ewan. And Felicity Faircloth is apparently the perfect pawn…

Ugh. I knew just from the Amazon summary that this book was going to be angsty but I truly wanted to believe otherwise. After all, all three of Maclean’s Love by the Numbers books (which I believe are her three first books) are some of my favorite romances ever. However, as Maclean has written more, her books have become increasingly angsty. And the Wicked & the Wallflowerwins the title for the angsty yet!

I liked Felicity Faircloth: she had spunk, resilience, and a fun personality. However, as the book dragged on, I liked her less and less. She just made some honestly terrible decisions about her personal safety that I cannot condone. Furthermore, she constantly talks about her “obsession with the darkness” which is frankly the most annoying thing ever. Stop romanticizing violence!

Devil…oh wow where do I start? I never really did see what redeeming qualities he had. I guess he was devoted to Grace and Whist but I never really read a scene that exemplified this loyalty. He manipulated Felicity, continuously lied to her, and for much of the book planned on taking her virtue without her consent. Furthermore, his interactions with Felicity were incredibly patronizing and I never really felt like Devil respected or trusted her.

So if two angsty characters and an angsty plot line wasn’t enough, Sarah Maclean’s sentence structures were also very angsty. Before this book, I never really realized that one could write in an angsty manner. Yet through her obsession with sentence fragments and excessive periods Sarah Maclean’s writing style manages to embody angst.

Just read this random (I literally just opened my book to a random page) snippet of text:

“An illegitimate son, once willing to kill for legitimacy, now come for it on another path. One he had vowed he would never travel. And Devil would teach him a lesson. Which meant Felicity would have to learn it, too.”


Sarah Maclean, what happened to making your readers smile when they read your book? What happened to creating likable and affable characters with flaws a reader could forgive?

Rating: 1/5

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