A marriage minded girl could overcome practically any obstacle, except the lack of a dowry.
This line, which comes after a prologue where the protagonists are first steamily introduced, sums up Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas, quite nicely. Annabelle Hunt is poor, and getting poorer by the day, and in this, her last Season, she must find a rich (and titled) husband. When she hooks up with three other wall-hugging, husband-hunting young women at a dance, and title themselves The Wallflowers, the fun really begins.
This is the second go around for me for the Wallflower series, and I had forgotten how well written, engaging and funny these books are. The heroines and heroes are so incredibly likeable and in most cases, so endearingly vulnerable with all their flaws and baggage, that you just want to take them all home and befriend them yourself.
Annabelle is set on marrying into the peerage. Gently raised, she scorns the mercantile class in terms reminiscent of Margaret Hale’s original thoughts on the subject. But there is something about Simon Hunt that repels and attracts her at the same time. She’s managed to avoid him for two years, or set him down in “his place” whenever they did happen to meet, and her refusal to dance with him at various soirees and balls results in a beautiful and poignant scene toward the end of the book (but I’m getting ahead of myself here).
Simon Hunt is a man’s man. He’s a butcher’s son, self-made into a wealthy industrialist and the antithesis of the genteel society of the British upper class of that time. His obsession with Annabelle, and her repeated rejection of his advances, is the basis for the book. What transpires is Annabelle’s inevitable attraction to Simon despite his pedestrian roots.
The story revolves around the Wallflowers machinations in getting Annabelle wed, preferably to a peer. Although, predictably, that’s not the result they obtain.
Lisa Kleypas writes this book with exceptional humor. At more than one point, I found myself laughing out loud. One of the most memorable scenes happens when the Wallflowers play a game of Rounders (like baseball) in a field, in their knickers. What transpires pretty much had me doubled over with laughter. What follows that is a series of situations where Annabelle realizes that her ticket to avoiding starvation and saving her family does not lie where she thought it did, but where her heart leads her; right to Simon’s door, and when it does, you’ll wonder why Annabelle didn’t see what you’ve seen all along.
The love scenes between Annabelle and Simon are well-written, very descriptive and as tasteful as a romance novel can get. Oh, and I should add, quite steamy and plentiful. The men in this series are all talented and extremely considerate of their partners. All four of these books have that in common.
The only part of the book which I found a bit jarring was a situation at the very end that forces Simon to see that Annabelle truly loves him for himself and not his wallet. The episode wraps the story up neatly, but it’s a bit contrived.
The Wallflower series is best read in order, although all the characters appear in all the books, and the relationships are explained in each. It’s fun to speculate on who is your favorite hero or heroine, or which book is your favorite. I have to say, I don’t have a favorite, I love them all.