The wallflower heroine is one of my favorite historical romance tropes. As we are constantly bombarded with media images of airbrushed women and men, I think it’s nearly impossible not to feel a little insecure at some point in our lives. That’s why the wallflower trope is so popular. It’s nice when someone like us wins. So here are my favorite four wallflower historical romances.
1. Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
And so, on an otherwise unremarkable Friday afternoon, in the heart of Mayfair, in a quiet drawing room on Mount Street, Colin Bridgerton kissed Penelope Featherington.
And it was glorious.
Julia Quinn, Romancing Mr. Bridgerton
I should tell you the truth. This may be my favorite of wallflower historical romances, but it may be my favorite of all books. I have two paperback copies of this book. One in pristine condition and signed by Ms. Quinn herself. The other is permanently and irrevocably forever bent to open at the exact page on which this quote lives. (Cue the orchestra to tug at our heartstrings.)
Penelope Featherington is quite obviously the wallflower in this book, Romancing Mr. Bridgerton, and if you haven’t read the Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn (soon to be a Netflix series), I don’t know how we can be friends. Colin has always been my favorite of the Bridgerton siblings, and I might as well say it – I always wanted Hugh Jackman to play him in the movie version of the book. Alas, it is not to be.
What makes this wallflower historical romance utterly perfect is Penelope herself. She has a dark, dangerous secret. And not like – I watched someone get killed or I know who my mother’s lover was. This is actually a dangerous secret. One that if outed could ruin her and her family in society. Penelope’s secret is just not something women did in her time. And that makes Penelope courageous, innovative, and downright awesome. And Colin heartbreakingly wonderful for loving her.
2. This is All I Ask by Lynn Kurland
I get this is a post about wallflowers in historical romance, but can we talk about the hero in this one? Because he’s what makes this wallflower historical romance so utterly perfect. Set on the Scottish border (no, not a Scottish romance. Just the Scottish border.), This is All I Ask is a medieval romance that focuses on Christopher, the lord of Blackmour who swears to protect the sister of the man he did his knight’s training with, William. Will and Gillian both suffered under the hands of their abusive father, and when Will dies, Christopher does all that he can to fulfill his promise by marrying Gillian.
Gillian knows only the abuse of her father and suffers from many deep, psychological wounds, so when she’s wed to the lord of Blackmour who comes with his own menu of sordid, hellish rumors, you can understand how she would be a little nervous. This one is a slow, sweet burn as two tortured souls find healing in each other.
I want to be clear on two points: it’s NOT a Scottish romance. A lot of poor reviews note this as a mark against it, and I don’t understand why. It never claimed to be a Scottish romance. It’s set on the Scottish border on the English side. Number two: it’s a sweet romance. Another theme in poor reviews is that there is no steamy sex. I love Lynn Kurland when all I want is the deep comfort of a true love story. This is that kind of love story.
3. A Week to be Wicked by Tessa Dare
Wallflower historical romance meets road trip romance. Have two more perfect worlds ever collided with such exquisite explosion? Minerva Highwood is our heroine in A Week to be Wicked, the second book of Tessa Dare’s Spindle Cove series. (I loved them all but we’ll talk about that in another post!) Colin Sandhurst, Lord Payne (yes, really!) is our apparent knight in shining armor.
Yes, we have the adventurous wallflower, we have the dashing hero, and we have their intrepid journey, but what has stuck with me about this book – the discovery of dinosaurs!
I know. You didn’t expect me to say that.
But that’s what this book is about! It’s about the beginnings of paleontology and the science of studying fossils. As the daughter of an earth science teacher, this blew my mind as I was not expecting it in a romance novel! Or for the heroine to be the one to introduce it to us! Way to go, Ms. Dare!
Oh, and the sex is really good, too.
4. The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever by Julia Quinn
“Tell me, Miss Cheever,” he whispered, touching two fingers to the underside of her chin. “Have you ever been kissed?”
Julia Quinn, The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever
Did you hear me sigh just then?
In The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever, Miranda, our wallflower heroine, is given a journal by her father on the day she happens to fall in love with our hero, Viscount Turner, so she is able to make note of the event upon its occasion. She just so happens to be ten. What ensues is a young awkward girl who grows into herself and pursues the love she once knew for a young boy who has grown into a bitter man.
There is nothing about this wallflower historical romance that makes me reflect longingly on it years later, so why did I choose it for my top 4 favorite wallflower historical romances?
This is one of those books that I read at the right time when I really need to read it. It was the start of a new life for me, and one that had a foreboding start. But if Miss Miranda Cheever could do it back then in her fictional world full of twists and turns, I could do it too. The romance in this is beautiful and tear inducing. It really is. If you need someone to show you you can do it, read this book.
Ms. Quinn dedicated this book to all of the people who tipped well at Friendly’s so she could buy her first computer. I worked full time at Friendly’s while going to school full time and the tips helped me buy my first Mac, on which I would write my first romance novel.
Thanks, JQ, for so much.
My Own Wallflower Romance
If you’re looking for your next favorite historical wallflower romance, I invite you to check out the one I wrote!
The Duke and the Wallflower by Jessie Clever
Shunned by a society that puts attractiveness above all else, Lady Eliza Darby’s wallflower status keeps her from getting the one thing she wants most, namely, to be a mother. But when her scorned older sister returns home to see all of her sisters wed in happy matches, it may be Eliza’s only chance to secure a husband and have the children she so desires.
Jilted in a publicly humiliating display, Dax Kane, the Duke of Ashbourne, has sworn off love forever and has no wish to wed. But when the title demands it, he selects the most perfect candidate for the position: Lady Eliza Darby, a wallflower so unattractive he won’t be in danger of falling in love with her. But the Jilted Duke will soon discover looks have nothing to do with love.