Review: What a Wallflower Wants by Maya Rodale (2014)

Bad Boys and Wallflowers, Book 3

Heat Factor: A scene where they masturbate together is spectacular

Character Chemistry: Prudence is terrified of men, but John wins her over. 

Plot: Prudence and John are both stuck in an inn because it’s raining. (Rain! In England! Shocker!) 

Overall: Despite a rocky start, this book delivers

What a Wallflower Wants is a bit of a departure for Rodale, as she openly states in an introductory author’s note. In case you are not the kind of person who reads authors’ notes, let me tell you: this book deals with the fallout from a sexual assault. So it’s (appropriately) a bit more serious than her standard fare. 

Because I did read the author’s note (I always do), the first line threw me for a loop. 

The book opens with: “Are you there God? ‘Tis I, Prudence.”

Callbacks and winking references are something I expect when I read a Rodale. However, a callback like this sets the tone, and in this case, it doesn’t work. Prudence finds herself violated and utterly alone, and this line is meant to convey her losing her faith in a long-held idea that she will be rescued, which is a hard thing and also hugely important for her character. Making an obvious pop culture reference to do this work cheapens the moment. 

I continued to be skeptical when I first met John. John will always rescue a Damsel in Distress. Excuse me while I go collect my eyes, which rolled so hard they fell out of my head and are currently residing under the couch. 

And then, I got to the first of these one page interludes that are sprinkled between chapters throughout the text. In them, John is thinking about how he’s being thwarted and there’s a woman he has to go to because he promised. They are distracting. I think they were meant to show that there was going to be a Big Dramatic Moment that we were building towards, but honestly… I already was expecting a Big Dramatic Moment. I am reading a Regency Romance Novel about a Man with a Mysterious Past and the Woman He Loves. How could there NOT be one?

I soldiered on, however, and I’m so glad I did. At about the midway point, there are two scenes where Rodale utterly killed it. 

First, the flashback to Prudence’s rape. Not because I love titillating sexual violence – which I hasten to assure you, this absolutely isn’t. What is really effective here are all the little moments where Prudence goes along with what’s happening, even though it makes her uncomfortable, because that’s what a Lady does. So when the Beast asks her to dance, she kind of wants to say no, but feels like she can’t because that wouldn’t be polite. The tiny moments build and build until she’s in a place where she both feels empowered to refuse and where her refusal no longer matters. The progression is chilling in its emotional veracity. 

On a lighter note, the other scene that clinched my positive opinion of this book is a scene where Prudence and John masturbate together. More specifically: John describes how he would like to touch Prudence, and she touches herself to his directions. Now, I don’t LOVE the whole “I’m a man and I will teach you to have pleasure in your woman’s body” thing, but this is a Regency Romance. If we’re going to have John teach Prudence that her body can bring her pleasure – as is standard in the subgenre – this scene is a nice play on that theme. 

After these two scenes, things pick up a bit. It helped once John had more personality traits than “I must rescue the womenfolk!” He turns out to be a really great hero, and I was genuinely surprised about his mysterious past. 

My advice: Even if the first couple of chapters don’t grab you, this book is worth the read.

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

Looking for something similar?

Men with Mysterious Pasts, which they are not entirely upfront about

I love me some pop culture references! What else have you reviewed by Rodale?

Rolling Hills. Green Grass. Rain. So Much Rain. Yes, it’s England.

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