A Perennial Wallflower…
When Mira Fitzhenry's guardian arranges her engagement to one of the most scandalous lords to ever grace the peerage, all of society is abuzz. After all, the man has left a trio of dead young women in his wake, including his first fiancée. But Mira doesn't see a killer in Nicholas's moonlight eyes, and she resolves to find the real murderer before the wedding.
A Gothic Villain…
Expecting to scare the chit away within five minutes of meeting him, scarred and brooding Nicholas, the Viscount Ashfield, is intrigued by Mira's tenacious resolve to prove his innocence. She's not put off by his imposing appearance, but his family's dark secrets mean he cannot let her get close.
As the wedding approaches, Nicholas and Mira grow ever closer, yet so does the danger.
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Once Upon a Wallflower
By Wendy Lyn Watson, Erin Molta
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Wendy Lyn Watson
All rights reserved.
May 30, 1809
Mira Fitzhenry sat at her dressing table, gazing forlornly at her reflection in the chipped and cloudy mirror. She knew she would never be a fashionable beauty: her curves were too bold for the diaphanous gowns, her feet were too large for the dainty slippers, and her hair was too ... well, red. Not a rich auburn or a sunny strawberry blond, but a true and tawdry red.
She felt ridiculous even trying to look the part of the lovely young debutante. She rather favored mathematics over minuets, anyhow.
Her brow furrowing in consternation, she stabbed a pin in her hair and tilted her head to the left. She caught sight of the folded copy of the Times resting on the corner of her dressing table. Against her volition, she leaned forward to read again the brief announcement that had changed her life forever:
Mr. George Fitzhenry announces the engagement of Miss Mirabelle Fitzhenry to The Right Honorable, The Viscount Ashfield.
She grabbed another hairpin from its box, but paused before working it into her tresses. Her hand in marriage had been lost in a card game, traded to Ashfield's father, Lord Sebastian Ellerby, Earl Blackwell, to cover her Uncle George's staggering gambling debt. Did a bartered bride really need to impress her fiancé?
As she pondered that question, Mirabelle Fitzhenry the Younger, known to friends and family as Bella, burst into Mira's bedroom without so much as a by-your-leave.
"There you are!" she exclaimed as she moved to the end of Mira's bed, and, with a little hop, perched herself there.
Mira continued to fuss with her hair, deciding that she should strive to look her best whether anyone cared or not. "Yes, here I am. Where else would I be?"
Bella kicked her slipper-shod feet back and forth. She did not even attempt to keep the smirk from her face or her voice when she responded. "I don't know. Given that you are about to meet a murderer, I thought you might have fled. After all, you are promised to him for the rest ... of ... your ... life," she concluded with melodramatic flair.
Mira shot a disgruntled look at her cousin in the mirror. "I am not at all certain this marriage will ever take place. Neither Blackwell nor Ashfield are fools. Once they realize they have been duped, handed the proverbial cuckoo's egg, Ashfield will cry off. It is as simple as that."
Bella shook her head, sending her own perfect blond ringlets bouncing. "I would not count on Ashfield jilting you just because you're a trifle long in the tooth and, well, plain. Maman says Ashfield cannot cry off because it is not the gentlemanly thing to do."
Giving up on her hair, Mira turned to face Bella. "There is a quite grievous flaw in Aunt Kitty's logic, Bella. Blackwell is desperate to find a bride for his son because he is an alleged killer." She swallowed and forced herself to go on, the voice of reason in this madness. "If he is guilty of those crimes, then he is surely no gentleman. Ergo, we cannot rely upon him to act as a gentleman in regards to the engagement, and there is a very real possibility that he will cry off. So I, for one, shall not be the least surprised when he publicly rejects me and denounces our entire family. Not surprised in the least."
Bella rolled her eyes. "Mira, Mira, Mira. It's more than manners! Ashfield can hardly expect a better match, being a murderer and all. Maman says that even if Ashfield wishes to cry off, Blackwell will not allow it. I believe you are well and truly stuck with Ashfield. And I am so very glad that you will marry him rather than me." With a shiver of delicious dread, Bella continued, "I would not wish to marry a murderer."
Mira did not travel in Society as much as did Bella, but she had friends and those friends did, on occasion, indulge in gossip. She had heard the stories about Ashfield, the man some called the "Butcher of Bidwell." About how he spent his days locked away in a tower practicing the black arts. About how he roamed the countryside at night, when the moon was new, searching for young innocents to sacrifice for his evil endeavors. About the one young woman promised to him who guessed his dark secrets and paid the ultimate price. Under other circumstances she would have found the tales wickedly, delightfully dramatic ... and utterly preposterous. As it was now, she could not help the foreboding that shivered through her at the very mention of Ashfield's name.
But she also knew that she had little choice but to go through with the meeting. If she refused Ashfield's suit, or attempted to undermine his interest in her, Aunt Kitty and Uncle George would turn her out. She would find herself on the streets, utterly without means. Women died — or worse — on the streets of London every day. So, no matter how frightened she was of the man, or how guilty she felt about the deception her family was perpetrating against him, Mira would meet Ashfield. She would be gracious and as charming as she could be. And, whatever it took, she would get herself out of this mess.
Fussing now with the bodice of her gown, or, rather, Bella's gown, which Aunt Kitty had decreed Mira must wear, Mira huffed a sigh of exasperation. "It remains to be seen whether either of us will marry him. As for him being a murderer — a point you seem determined to dwell upon — that is, as far as I know, merely gossip."
Hoping to put an end to the conversation, Mira added, "You might show a bit of gratitude. You know perfectly well that your papa intended to trade you away to Ashfield, and Blackwell is expecting you to walk across the ballroom floor tonight. If Blackwell finds a way to maneuver through this evening, you may find yourself engaged to the Butcher of Bidwell come tomorrow morning."
Obviously stung by her older cousin's reminder of her ever-so-close call, Bella glared at Mira, and for a moment she looked like Kitty Fitzhenry's daughter. By all accounts, Bella bore little resemblance to her mother ... or her father. Indeed, she was considered quite a beauty, and the whole family counted on that beauty translating into a lucrative match on the marriage mart. If she played her cards right, she would bring some handsome, wealthy, young buck up to scratch by the end of this, her first Season, or early the next.
"Maman will never allow that to happen. She loves me," Bella snapped.
"Bella," Mira said briskly, "if Ashfield killed three women, including his first fiancée Olivia Linworth, the authorities would have arrested him. This is England, after all. We have laws."
Bella snorted indelicately. "Arrest Blackwell's son? I doubt it. Blackwell is wildly rich and even more powerful. Besides, it is not as though anyone saw Ashfield kill those girls."
"Precisely," Mira said. "There is no proof that Ashfield did anything wrong at all. And without proof, you have nothing."
Bella lifted one expressive shoulder. "Sometimes you don't need proof, Mira. You simply know something is true."
"Nonsense. As I said before, Bella, the rumors of Ashfield's misdeeds are merely that: rumors. I am not the least concerned." She stood and fluffed her skirts, annoyed at the tremor in her hands.
Hopping down from Mira's bed, Bella cut her cousin a sly look. "You say that now, but I would wager you my new white hair ribbon you will faint dead away the instant Ashfield pins you with his evil gaze."
"I'm made of stronger stuff than that," Mira scoffed.
"Very well," Bella said. "You seem so certain that Ashfield will cry off because you are not me. I will wager you my new white hair ribbon and that sapphire colored pelerine you so admire that you will cry off before he does."
Mira paused to consider the offer for a moment. Bella could scarcely fathom being forced to do something one did not wish to do. Her position in the household was secure. But Mira knew where she stood in the Fitzhenry clan. She could not cry off, no matter how much she might want to. If the engagement were to end, it would have to be Ashfield's doing.
"Done," she said. "I will accept your challenge."
Bella merely shrugged and headed for the door, but before she got there Kitty Fitzhenry appeared.
"Mira, it is time to go. Let's have a look at you, then."
Mira dutifully turned in a circle for Aunt Kitty's inspection. She knew that the white muslin dress did little to favor either her figure or her complexion. No matter how tight she drew her stays, the dress refused to follow her curves, snug where it should drape and gaping where it should be snug.
The corners of Kitty's mouth turned down in disapproval.
"You look like a blancmange. A blancmange with lopsided hair." Kitty sighed. "Well, I suppose it is the best we can hope for. One cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, after all. Let us hope that Ashfield is short-sighted ... or dim-witted. Come now, the carriage is waiting."
Bella tilted her head and batted her lashes coquettishly. "Why can I not come, Maman? Emily Armbrust said that the Farley ball is sure to be a crush. Everyone who is anyone will be there."
Kitty held up a hand in warning. "Bella, enough. You know you cannot go. We cannot risk confusion about which Mirabelle Fitzhenry is promised to Ashfield. It is crucial that Mira and Ashfield are linked publicly, so if Ashfield cries off it will be Mira who is disgraced, not you. Bella, my dear, you may be a social success, but I fear you could not weather such a blow to your reputation. Mira ... well, Mira has no prospects, so she does not have so much to lose."
No one paid the slightest attention to Mira's grumble of annoyance.
Kitty reached out to cup Bella's cheek tenderly, her tone melting in the face of her daughter's displeasure. "Believe your Maman when she tells you it is for your own good that you stay home tonight."
Bella stamped her tiny foot once more in annoyance. But there was no arguing with Kitty Fitzhenry, so Bella stood helplessly back while Kitty ushered Mira out to meet her destiny.CHAPTER 2
As predicted, the Farley ball was a crush. Nicholas Ellerby, Viscount Ashfield, stood in stoic silence, attempting to ignore the stifling heat ripe with the scent of Hungary water and humanity. Every now and then, he surreptitiously massaged the muscles of his left leg, still tense and cramped from his long ride.
His father stood at his side, his expression as bland as butter despite the wide berth the other partygoers afforded them. Nicholas rarely ventured out in London, but he'd long since grown accustomed to the curious stares and muffled conversations his presence prompted. His father on the other hand ... Nicholas knew that beneath his calm exterior, his father seethed at the humiliation of being ignored by people who should be groveling at his well-shod feet.
Father and son did not speak. It had been a tense evening.
Nicholas had been annoyed when his father summoned him to London from the estate in Cornwall, but he had been livid when he learned he would be handed his future bride, wrapped in a glittering blond bow, like a child receiving a sweet. Indeed, that is how Blackwell had described Mirabelle Fitzhenry: a yellow-haired confection, sweet as orgeat and malleable as mud. Nicholas could not imagine spending his life with such a creature.
Thankfully, the lovely Miss Fitzhenry was unlikely to wed him. He would stare at her intently, stand just a little too close to her so she would be reminded of his far-superior size, rest his large dark hand on her delicate wrist, and she would become overset. She would cry off before the night ended.
Blackwell scanned the room with his supercilious gaze. "Ah. There they are," he said, a note of smug satisfaction in his voice. He tutted softly. "I have no love for George Fitzhenry. No character, that one. But when I see him trailing behind that behemoth of a wife he has, it's hard not to feel a pang of masculine sympathy."
Nicholas followed his father's gaze and spotted a stately woman, bosom like the prow of a fine sailing vessel, a man in a pea green waistcoat scurrying behind. He searched around the pair for a virginal, yellow-haired debutante, but saw no likely suspects.
Blackwell must have reached the same conclusion. "Where is the chit? If Fitzhenry fails to deliver, I'll see the whole family in the poorhouse by morning."
Nicholas winced at the thought of a girl being delivered to him like a new horse or a pair of Hessian boots. He reminded himself that, with his menacing appearance and more menacing reputation, this farce would soon be over.
At long last, the Fitzhenrys made their way across the crowded ballroom. George and Kitty greeted Blackwell politely, the formidable Kitty actually blushing a bit as she traded niceties with one of the most dashing rakes of her youth.
Without further ado, Blackwell pinned George with his stare. "Well?" he queried.
"Oh. Yes, of c-course," George stammered. He grabbed the hand of a voluptuous redhead with a lopsided coif and a muslin dress stretched taut across her full breasts and thrust her inelegantly in Blackwell's direction, where she dropped into a neat curtsy. "My Lord, may I introduce Miss Mirabelle Fitzhenry."
Blackwell narrowed his eyes in suspicion, barely glancing at the girl. "I was given to believe your daughter had yellow hair."
George shot a nervous glance at his wife, who glared back at him. "Um, yes," he said. "My, uh, daughter is indeed blond. Miss Mirabelle Fitzhenry," he added, gesturing to the redhead at his side, "is my niece."
Blackwell closed his eyes. "Your niece."
Nicholas chuckled darkly at his father's annoyance. "It would appear the world is graced with two Miss Mirabelle Fitzhenrys," he murmured for his father's ears alone.
Blackwell sighed. While he was clearly disappointed with the particular Mirabelle Fitzhenry with which he was presented, the entire ballroom watched the exchange with eager eyes. With his scandalous son at his side, he would not make a scene.
Nicholas allowed himself a moment to study his would-be bride. Her solemn blue eyes were fixed on his face, but he could not read her expression. She was not conventionally pretty, her nose a bit too short, her brows a bit too straight, her hair an unfashionably brazen color. Still her features held a certain appeal: skin as pale and luscious as Devon cream, a mouth as succulent and voluptuous as her curvy body, and hair the vibrant red of Chinese silk. A far cry from a picture-perfect blonde, but infinitely more intriguing.
Shaking off her lingering befuddlement, Miss Fitzhenry dropped into another curtsy. In a thready voice she choked out a greeting. "Lord Ashfield. I am delighted —"
She looked up in surprise. He coughed slightly and continued, "Please, Miss Fitzhenry. I reside primarily in the country, where people do not stand so much on formality. I much prefer my Christian name."
She straightened and offered him a shy smile. "Nicholas. And my friends and family call me Mira. It avoids a great deal of confusion," she added, her smile turning wry.
He frowned. Young girls had been known to faint at the sight of him. They did not smile at him. Ever.
Before he could weigh the true gravity of that small smile, the Fitzhenrys tumbled forward to greet him, clearly eager to bask for a moment in his infamous light, and he lost Mira to his father's company.
Their small party was the subject of curious stares and whispered speculation, yet they all carried on as though the situation were perfectly normal, perfectly natural. Blackwell engaged Mira in a lively conversation about Lord Byron's recently published invective, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers — a conversation in which Mira appeared to be holding her own against Blackwell's overbearing opinions about the upstart Byron. Meanwhile, George and Kitty assaulted the reticent Nicholas with questions about hunting hounds and haberdashers.
The banality of the conversation pained Nicholas, yet every time he glanced toward Mira, he caught her smiling at him ... and that smile was driving him mad.
Kitty was in the midst of asking him about his tailor when he abruptly broke away from her with a muttered apology and took Mira by the arm.
* * *
Nicholas's grip was firm, yet surprisingly gentle for a man of his size. Without a word, he led her toward the dance floor.
This, she thought, would be her chance to employ the desperate plan she'd concocted on the carriage ride to the ball: allow Nicholas to end the engagement at the expense of Mira's honor. He would be spared from marrying a woman not to his liking, and she would be spared the possibility of being wed to a murderer. Her reputation seemed a small price to pay for the bargain. The icing atop the cake? She would win her wager with Bella.
Excerpted from Once Upon a Wallflower by Wendy Lyn Watson, Erin Molta. Copyright © 2013 Wendy Lyn Watson. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
My first time reading this author and I LOVED HER! This was not your normally regency romance. Wallflower has a backbone :) and the hero is not some perfect guy. The connection between the two is amazing, the humor throughout is wonderful and she even throws in a mystery that keeps you guesses to the very end. However you do get your HEA w/a twist at the end. So if you're looking for a R.R but something a little different then this is what you want.
Double Header.............................................................. Good mystery. Good romance. Heroine is the sacrificial lamb. Except Mira is no lamb. Hero is the big bad wolf. Except he is more misunderstood then bad. Throw in a couple of seriously dysfunctional families. Add a few murders and you have one heck of a story. Well written.
I loved the fact that Nicholas and Mira are able to see more in each other than others do, looking below the surface and past the rumors to find someone worth loving. And Watson does a great job of mixing their growing relationship with the mystery, giving readers a good balance of both romance and suspense. Once Upon a Wallflower is a fantastic read and perfect for those that like their historical romances with that little extra bit of drama. - Full review available at BookTrib's website or RomanticReadsandSuch on wordpress.
ONCE UPON A WALLFLOWER by Wendy Lyn Watson is an exciting Georgian era Historical Romance/ Romantic Mystery set in 1809 England. Fast paced filled with action,mystery,murder and intrigue. When you think you know who the culprit is you are presented with another possibility. Keeps you guessing until the end, An on the edge of your seat Georgian era mystery with a bit of romance included in the mix. A quick read full of possibilities. Well written with intrigue and romance. The characters are charismatic and engaging. A must read for anyone who enjoys mystery, romance and intrigue and of course the Georgian era. I absolutely loved it!! Received for an honest review from the publisher. RATING: 4.5 HEAT RATING: MILD REVIEWED BY: AprilR, Review courtesy of My Book Addiction and More
Gothic mystery and sweet romance come together in this book and it was brilliant! Once Upon a Wallflower was a wonderful historical romance. The mystery was thrilling, the romance was off the charts and every other bit of it was lovely. I really liked Mira. I thought she was a wonderful heroine. She very strong, very intelligent, and a very admirable character. Mira is the type of person to rely on logic, which helps her out in the case of this mystery. But, she also knew when intuition, even when it defied logic, is sometimes more valuable. She was a very likable character and I thought she was great. Nicholas was a puzzle. Though I knew that he had to be innocent, this guy is a master at looking suspicious. It was immediately obvious that he knew more than he let on, but what is that information he keeps secret? That's a mystery. Despite his infamous reputation, Nicholas was a gentleman at heart. He as so sweet and I adored him. The romance was wonderful. Mira and Nicholas were so sweet together. There was only a sprinkle of spice in this book, but the chemistry between these two was constant. They were more sensuous than hot, and I really liked that. They were a lovely couple. The plot was fast paced and I was on the edge of my seat with the mystery. I began to suspect who the killer was about halfway through the book when some hints were dropped. But the scene where the killer was revealed still blew me away. Even as I suspected the killer, the author did a great job casting doubt on several other characters. I was completely caught up in the story and the ending was brilliant. Once Upon a Wallflower was a brilliant historical romance with a thrilling murder mystery. I absolutely loved this book! Romance lovers, if you want something to keep you on the edge of your seat, then you have to read this book. *I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
I loved this romantic yet suspenseful tale of love, honor and fate. Mira Fitzhenry is engaged to Viscount Nicholas Ashfield. She is to be his bride because her guardian lost her hand in marriage when he lost a card game. Her intended is the notorious, Butcher of Bidwell. He is suspected of killing his previous fiancée as well as several local women. However when Mira meets him, she is charmed. Now, as she prepares for her wedding, she decides that she will prove Nicholas innocent. Mira must be on the right track since someone tries to kill her. What is a lady to do? Should she follow her heart or her head? Can there be love without trust? The story is filled with unexpected surprises and plenty of suspects. You won't know until the end who committed the crimes and why. The heroine is intelligent and logical as well as a very loving person who stands up for those she cares for. Nicholas is scarred by his mother's death. He is afraid to love but he's drawn to Mira and wants to claim her. I melted when he calls her 'Mira-mine'. I love Wendy Lyn Watson's writing style. It is filled with passionate emotions and love. This story is a must read. I received a copy of this book from the Publisher in return for an honest review.
I just finished Once Upon A Wallflower by Wendy Lyn Watson. All right, I picked this book for a couple of reasons. 1) The Cover. If we remember I'm a coverwhore. Yes, this cover is beautiful. Plus, I love how it is all dark with that little splash of color. It really catches the eye. 2) A wallflower. Yes, I tend to root for wallflowers, especially when they are a bit of a blue-stock. Mira Fitzhenry has been sold into an engagement to cover her uncle's gambling debts to a notorious man, Nicholas Ellerby, the Viscount Ashfield. Nicholas isn't a rake, actually he's a bit different. However, that isn't what is concerning. Oh no, it's that he's been accused of murdering three women and has gotten away with it. The danger that lays ahead of Mira. I'm in awe with Once Upon A Wallflower. Once Mira and the family start to make their way to Cornwall, the mystery begins. Mira decides to prove that Nicholas didn't commit the crimes and find the real criminal. It was like playing Clue, but you knew where the girls were murder and how they were murder. However, you were missing the motive and the person. Once at Cornwall, you meet the list of suspects: Lady Beatrix (step-mother of Nicholas), Lord Blackwell (father of Nicholas), Jeremy Ellerby (half-brother to Nicholas), and Lady Phoebe (cousin). The fantastic part of the story you would get a little piece here and there and made you question if you had the right person. I was guessing all the way till the end of the story and I was like, wow. Seriously, a fantastic historical mystery. So, if you like regency and mysteries, you might want to checkout Once Upon A Wallflower. It will keep you guess till the end. Rating: 4.5 Stars Copy provided by the publisher
A charming read, ONCE UPON A WALLFLOWER held my interest from beginning to end. I enjoyed watching the romance unfold between the two main characters as they worked to solve the mystery woven into the plot. Watson captures the historical time period nicely, and I look forward to reading more of her work. Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book.
What's not to love about a Gothic romance with a brooding hero and mystery of murders thought to be by his own hand? Not much and this one embodied it all around! An arranged engagement to a lord of the peerage, Mira hopes that he will call off the wedding. Nicholas really does not want to marry, after all, why would she want to marry a man accused of murder? Surely she will call it off herself. But as fate would have it, they find they actually like spending time in each others company and start feeling attraction. So as the wedding draws near, neither call it off. Mira is determined to stop the rumors and innuendo that has been circulating the Ton and prove him innocent. But will she end up in the same manner? This was an enjoyable romance with the mystery underlying and I really like these two characters! This is the first book I have read by this author, but hope to read more!! I read this through NetGallery. Lori D
It had the gothic appeal I look for. It had a romance where they looked past the surface. Enjoyable read.
This was an amazing suspenseful and romantic story. It was an exciting plot. I loved it .
Well written and engaging. Look forward to reading more by this author.
Can't wait for the next read
Couldn't put it down .
This is a good old Recency mystery. Of course there is a good bit of romance around too. Someone has murdered 4 girls in Cornwall. Nicholas,the Earl' s son, is the favored guilty choice. Then the Earl is suspected but no proof again. Nicholas is waiting for his fiancee to arrive for their marriage-sight unseen. Mira is a poor relative and has always been told she is a loser. They get to know and like each other and Mira is determined to clear Nicholas's name. I thought this was a fun read. I admit I was sent on lots of wild goose chases but I won't tell you if I finally figured out the right one. So I guess you should read this book and choose for yourself.