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Books Read in 2014: THE CAPTAIN AND THE WALLFLOWER by Lyn Stone

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Captain and the Wallflower by Lyn Stone
The Captain and the Wallflower | Review on KayeDacus.com

Book Blurb:
Badly scarred captain Caine Morleigh must marry to inherit. Who better than the homeliest young woman left over at the end of the London season? After all, she will require little attention to keep her happy.

Lady Grace Renfair leaps at the only chance to escape her emotionally abusive uncle and accepts Caine’s proposal. Soon she blooms with confidence and beauty, causing her husband’s forbidding exterior to crumble.

If she could only reach beyond his scars to the gentleman beneath…

My Review:

Rating: 3.5 stars

      Goodreads bookshelves: books-read-in-2014, hist-19th-c-georgian-regency-napoleonic, historical-romance

      Read from May 19 to 21, 2014

**Slight Spoiler**
This is the first marriage-of-convenience (MoC) story I’ve ever read in which the h/hn don’t actually get married until the end of the book.

There was so much potential in this story, aside from the MoC trope: a wounded, scarred war hero; an unattractive wallflower; an ultimatum to marry from the hero’s uncle. It’s a standard setup for what has the potential to be both a humorous and emotionally engaging story.

Unfortunately, this story didn’t quite live up to that potential.

Caine Morleigh, a captain in the Royal Army, was injured in battle right at the end of the war. It scarred his eyes and possibly blinded him. The prologue opens on the day he’s to have his bandages removed for the first time. He doesn’t know if he’ll be able to see, but it’s the moment of truth. A moment that is made all the more important by the arrival of his intended. When the bandages are removed, Caine is relieved to be able to see—but the twit of a girl he’s supposed to be marrying screams and faints . . . and then goes about town telling everyone how he’s a deformed, horrendous beast.

A month later (chapter one), Caine has received an ultimatum from his uncle, to whom he is heir, that Caine must marry or he’ll only receive the title while all the unentailed lands and wealth will go to his wastrel cousin (who has recently married). With his best friend, Trent, as his accomplice, Caine goes to the last ball at the end of the season and tells Trent to find him the ugliest, stupidest, most desperate spinster there to arrange an introduction so Caine can marry her. He wants a marriage in name with someone who will leave him alone and because she’s just so content at the change in her status/name. (At this point, he’s wearing an eye patch over one eye, while there is still visible scarring around the other.)

This, of course, is where our heroine comes in. Homely, dressed in a shapeless, ugly yellow gown, and looking as if she’s not long for the world, Lady Grace is only at the ball because her guardian/uncle has trotted her out to ensure the world that he hasn’t done away with her. (Do you sense where this is going?)

Long story short, Caine makes a public proposal in front of everyone at the assembly so that her uncle cannot gainsay them.

It’s at this point that the story starts failing in its potential. While Grace is set up to be an ugly duckling who must learn to become a swan, it’s quickly (almost immediately) apparent that she’s actually just a swan who stepped in a mud puddle and simply needed a quick rinse to be back to her majestic, beautiful (Mary Sue) self. She can do absolutely no wrong.

Carriage with her and two other women attacked on the highway by an armed assailant? No problem. She’ll kick him in the family jewels and save the day.

Country house in disarray when she arrives? No problem. She’ll whip everyone into shape (and set guards about the estate at the same time for protection)—and they will all love her for it.

Major General of a housekeeper? No problem! Grace will win her over and have her eating out of her hand in no time.

Fiance with an eye patch and horrible scarring? No problem! Grace will remove the eye patch to discover he still has his eye (and sight) and that he’s just being vain and covering up the worst of the scarring, which, of course, isn’t nearly as bad as he thought once she doesn’t react negatively to it.

Uncle with a failing heart and not much more time to live? No problem. Grace knows how to use foxglove to treat him and bring about what seems a miraculous recovery.

Suffice it to say . . . Grace not only meets every challenge she faces in this book head-on, she easily overcomes it.

Oh, and once she’s away from her evil guardian/uncle and can start eating again without fear of being poisoned and, thus, regains her health, it turns out she’s physically beautiful, too.

As far as Caine and his scars/injuries go—it’s a convenient plot device in the beginning to set him up as a “beast,” yet it doesn’t actually seem to affect his life at all. There’s no lingering social stigma from it, nor is there any lingering physical effects or emotional trauma from it. A good example of a hero with PTSD this is not.

Then, there were all of the attempts by the villain of the piece to kill Grace and/or Caine. Shootings, stabbings, and explosions, oh my! And how this mystery was solved and the perpetrator brought to “justice” in the end . . . ridiculous. I’ve read multiple stories with almost the exact same trope—the villain has done something evil and is either blackmailing the heroine into marrying someone of his choosing, keeping her from marrying someone she loves (the hero), or is trying to kill her in a way that won’t throw suspicion onto the villain. As a matter of fact, Julia Quinn used this same type of situation (pretty much down to what the villain had done) in On the Way to the Wedding.

Toward the end of the book, I found myself skimming (after the villain had been revealed and he’d pontificated about his motivations/other crimes) just waiting for the wedding to actually happen and the book to end (which it did at 92% on the Kindle—there was a sample chapter for another book that, along with the backmatter, took up the remaining 8%).

I never really liked or connected with either of the main characters—nor did they really seem to have true chemistry between them. The story takes place over the course of about three or four weeks (hard to tell since they kept postponing the wedding, which was supposed to take place three weeks after the opening, but then after postponing it, they then sped it up at the end). For at least half of that time, Grace was out at the country house and Caine was in London. Not a great setup for relationship building. But, oh, it was instalove, once Grace was no longer the ugly duckling wallflower and had put her Mary Sue powers to work in making everyone else around her adore her.

Caine has the personality of a wet paper towel, and is about as useful. If he’s not confined to bed recovering from a bullet wound, he’s just sitting around thinking about how hard his life is going to be as an earl and how he needs a wife who isn’t going to put any additional expectations on him and who isn’t going to want any kind of a social life whatsoever and who will be content living in the country while he stays in London and how Grace is so exquisite now and so vivacious that she’s not the right woman for him even though he wants her and how someone is trying to kill either her or him or both of them. If it weren’t for his best friend and cousin, he’d never have figured anything out or been able to make any decisions on his own.

All of that said, it was an entertaining read—for the sheer quackery of it if nothing else.

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My rating matrix:
5 STARS = one of the best I’ve ever read
4 STARS = a great read, highly recommended
3 STARS = it was okay/not a favorite
2 STARS = I didn’t enjoy it all that much, not recommended
1 STAR/DNF = I hated it and/or Did Not Finish it

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