The Wallflowers are four young ladies in London who banded together in their wild and wickedly wonderful searches for true love. Now happily married, they join together once again to help one of the world's most notorious rogues realize that happiness might be right under the mistletoe.…
It's Christmastime in London and Rafe Bowman has arrived from America for his arranged meeting with Natalie Blandford, the very proper and beautiful daughter of Lady and Lord Blandford. His chiseled good looks and imposing physique are sure to impress the lady in waiting and, if it weren't for his shocking American ways and wild reputation, her hand would already be guaranteed. Before the courtship can begin, Rafe realizes he must learn the rules of London society. But when four former Wallflowers try their hand at matchmaking, no one knows what will happen. And winning a bride turns out to be more complicated than Rafe Bowman anticipated, especially for a man accustomed to getting anything he wants. However, Christmas works in the most unexpected ways, changing a cynic to a romantic and inspiring passion in the most timid of hearts.
Lisa Kleypas's A Wallflower Christmas takes a trip to Victorian London, under the mistletoe, and on a journey of the heart. With her trademark charm, sensuality, and unforgettable characters, there's no one like Lisa Kleypas to make you believe in the magic of Christmas.
About the Author
Lisa Kleypas is the RITA Award-winning author of many contemporary and historical romance novels, including the Hathaways series, Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor, and Love in the Afternoon. Her books are published in fourteen languages and are bestsellers all over the world. Kleypas graduated from Wellesley College and published her first novel at the age of 21. In 1985, she was named Miss Massachusetts in the Miss America competition. She lives in Washington with her husband and two children.
Read an Excerpt
A Wallflower Christmas
By Lisa Kleypas
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2008 Lisa Kleypas
All rights reserved.
"It's official," Lillian, Lady Westcliff, said with satisfaction, setting aside the letter from her brother. "Rafe will reach London in precisely a fortnight. And the clipper's name is the Whirlwind, which I think is quite apt in light of his impending betrothal."
She glanced down at Annabelle and Evie, who were both on the parlor floor working on a massive circle of red velvet. They had gathered at Lillian's London house, Marsden Terrace, for an afternoon of tea and conversation.
At the moment Annabelle and Evie were making a tree skirt, or rather trying to salvage the fabric from Lillian's previous efforts. Evie was snipping at a piece of brocade ribbon that had been stitched unevenly on one side, while Annabelle was busy cutting a new edge of fabric and pinning it.
The only one missing was Lillian's younger sister, Daisy, who lived in Bristol with her new husband. Annabelle longed to see Daisy and find out how marriage suited her. Thankfully they would all be together soon for the Christmas holiday in Hampshire.
"Do you think your brother will have any difficulty convincing Lady Natalie to marry him?" Annabelle asked, frowning as she encountered a large, dark stain on the fabric.
"Oh, not at all," Lillian said breezily. "He's handsome, charming, and very rich. What could Lady Natalie possibly object to, aside from the fact that he's an American?"
"Well, Daisy said he's a rake. And some young women might not —"
"Nonsense!" Lillian exclaimed. "Rafe is not at all a rake. Oh, he's sown a few oats, but what red-blooded man hasn't?"
Annabelle regarded her doubtfully. Although Lillian's younger sister Daisy was generally regarded as a dreamer and a romantic, she had a streak of clear-eyed pragmatism that made her judgments quite reliable. If Daisy had said their oldest brother was a rake, there was undoubtedly strong evidence to support the assertion.
"Does he drink and gamble?" Annabelle asked Lillian.
A wary frown. "On occasion."
"Does he behave in rude or improper ways?"
"He's a Bowman. We don't know any better."
"Does he pursue women?"
"Has he ever been faithful to one woman? Has he ever fallen in love?"
Lillian frowned at her. "Not that I'm aware of."
Annabelle glanced at Evie with raised brows. "What do you think, Evie?"
"Rake," came the succinct reply.
"Oh, all right," Lillian grumbled. "I suppose he is a rake. But that may not be an impediment to his courtship of Lady Natalie. Some women like rakes. Look at Evie."
Evie continued to snip doggedly through the brocade ribbon, while a smile curved her lips. "I don't l-like all rakes," she said, her gaze on her work. "Just one."
Evie, the gentlest and most soft-spoken of them all, had been the one least likely to capture the heart of the notorious Lord St. Vincent, who had been the definitive rake. Although Evie, with her round blue eyes and blazing red hair, possessed a rare and unconventional beauty, she was unbearably shy. And there was the stammer. But Evie also had a reserve of quiet strength and a gallant spirit that seemed to have seduced her husband utterly.
"And that former rake obviously adores you beyond reason," Annabelle said. She paused, studying Evie intently before asking softly, "Is St. Vincent pleased about the baby, dear?"
"Oh, yes, he's —" Evie broke off and gave Annabelle a wide-eyed glance of surprise. "How did you know?"
Annabelle grinned. "I've noticed your new gowns all have front and back pleats that can be let out as your figure expands. It's an instant giveaway, dear."
"You're expecting?" Lillian asked, letting out a tomboyish whoop of delight. She launched off the settee and dropped beside Evie, throwing her long arms around her. "That is capital news! How are you feeling? Are you queasy yet?"
"Only when I saw what you had done to the tree skirt," Evie said, laughing at her friend's exuberance. It was often difficult to remember that Lillian was a countess. Her spontaneous nature had not been subdued one whit by her new social prominence.
"Oh, you should not be on the floor," Lillian exclaimed. "Here, give me the scissors, and I'll work on this dratted thing —"
"No," Evie and Annabelle said at the same time.
"Lillian, dear," Annabelle continued firmly, "you are not to come anywhere near this tree skirt. What you do with a needle and thread should be considered a criminal act."
"I do try," Lillian protested with a lopsided grin, settling back on her heels. "I start out with such good intentions, but then I get tired of making all those tiny stitches, and I start to hurry through it. But we must have a tree skirt, a very large one. Otherwise there will be nothing to catch the drips of wax when the tree candles are lit."
"Would you mind telling me what this stain is from?" Annabelle pointed to a dark ugly splotch on the velvet.
Lillian's grin turned sheepish. "I thought perhaps we could arrange that part in the back. I spilled a glass of wine on it."
"You were drinking while sewing?" Annabelle asked, thinking that explained quite a lot.
"I hoped it would help me to relax. Sewing makes me nervous."
Annabelle gave her a quizzical smile. "Why?"
"It reminds me of all the times my mother would stand over me while I worked on my sampler. And whenever I made a mistake, she rapped my knuckles with a ruler." Lillian gave a self-deprecating grin, but for once the amusement didn't reach her lively brown eyes. "I was a terrible child."
"You were a dear child, I'm sure," Annabelle said gently. She had never been quite certain how Lillian and Daisy Bowman had turned out so well, given their upbringing. Thomas and Mercedes Bowman somehow managed to be demanding, critical, and neglectful, which was quite a feat.
Three years earlier the Bowmans had brought their two daughters to London after discovering that even their great fortune could not induce anyone from the New York upper circles to marry the girls.
Through a combination of hard work, luck, and a necessary ruthlessness, Thomas Bowman had established one of the largest and fastest-growing soap companies in the world. Now that soap was becoming affordable for the masses, the Bowmans' manufactories in New York and Bristol could scarcely keep up with the demand.
It took more than money, however, to achieve a place in New York society. Heiresses of undistinguished bloodlines, such as Lillian and Daisy, were not at all desirable to their male counterparts, who also wanted to marry up. Therefore London, with its ever-growing pool of impoverished aristocrats, was fertile hunting ground for American nouveaux riches.
With Lillian, ironically, the Bowmans had reached their highest pinnacle in having married her to Marcus, Lord Westcliff. No one could have believed that the reserved and powerful earl would wed a headstrong girl like Lillian. But Westcliff had seen beneath Lillian's brash façade to the vulnerability and fiercely loving heart she tried so hard to conceal.
"I was a hellion," Lillian said frankly, "and so was Rafe. Our other brothers, Ransom and Rhys, were always a bit better behaved, although that's not saying much. And Daisy would take part in my troublemaking, but most of the time she daydreamed and lived in her books."
"Lillian," Annabelle asked, carefully rolling a length of ribbon, "why has your brother agreed to meet with Lady Natalie and the Blandfords? Is he truly ready to marry? Has he need of the money, or is he seeking to please your father?"
"I'm not certain," Lillian said. "I don't think it's the money. Rafe has made a fortune in Wall Street speculations, some of them a bit unscrupulous. I suspect he may finally have tired of being at loggerheads with Father. Or perhaps ..." She hesitated, a shadow crossing her face.
"Perhaps?" Evie prompted softly.
"Well, Rafe affects a carefree façade, but he has never been a terribly happy person. Mother and Father were abominable to him. To all of us, really. They would never let us play with anyone they thought was beneath us. And they thought everyone was beneath us. The twins had each other, and of course Daisy and I were always together. But Rafe was always alone. Father wanted him to be a serious-minded boy, so Rafe was kept isolated from other children. Rafe was never allowed to do anything that Father considered frivolous."
"So he eventually rebelled," Annabelle said.
Lillian grinned briefly. "Oh, yes." Her amusement faded. "But now I wonder ... what happens when a young man is tired of being serious, and also tired of rebelling? What's left after that?"
"Apparently we'll find out."
"I want him to be happy," Lillian said. "To find someone he could care about."
Evie regarded them both thoughtfully. "Has anyone actually met Lady Natalie? Do we know anyth-thing about her character?"
"I haven't met her," Lillian admitted, "but she has a wonderful reputation. She's a sheltered girl who came out in society last year and was quite sought after. I've heard she is lovely and exceedingly well bred." She paused and made a face. "Rafe will frighten her to death. God knows why the Blandfords are advocating the marriage. It must be that they need the money. Father would pay anything to pump more blue blood into the family."
"I wish we could speak with s-someone who is acquainted with her," Evie mused. "Someone who might advise your brother, give him little hints about things she likes, her f-favorite flowers, that sort of thing."
"She has a companion," Lillian volunteered. "A poor cousin named Hannah-something. I wonder if we could invite her to tea before Rafe meets Lady Natalie?"
"I think that's a splendid idea," Annabelle exclaimed. "If she's even a little forthcoming about Lady Natalie, it could help Rafe's case immensely."
"Yes, you must go," Lord Blandford said decisively.
Hannah stood before him in the parlor of the Blandford home in Mayfair. It was one of the smaller, older houses in the fashionable residential district, tucked in a little enclave near Hyde Park on the west.
Comprised of handsome squares and broad thoroughfares, Mayfair was home to many privileged aristocratic families. But in the past decade there had been new development in the area, oversized mansions and towering Gothic-style houses cropping up in the north, where the recently moneyed class was establishing itself.
"Do anything you can," Blandford continued, "to help facilitate an attachment between my daughter and Mr. Bowman."
Hannah stared at him in disbelief. Lord Blandford had always been a man of discernment and taste. She could scarcely believe that he would want Natalie, his only child, to be married off to a crass American manufacturer's son. Natalie was beautiful, polished, and mature beyond her twenty years. She could have any man she chose.
"Uncle," Hannah said carefully, "I would never dream of questioning your judgment, but —"
"But you want to know if I've taken leave of my senses?" he asked, and chuckled as she nodded. He gestured to the upholstered armchair on the other side of the hearth. "Have a seat, my dear."
They did not often have the opportunity to speak privately. But Lady Blandford and Natalie were visiting a cousin who had taken ill, and it had been decided that Hannah would remain in London to prepare Natalie's clothes and personal items for the upcoming holiday in Hampshire.
Staring into the wise, kind face of the man who had been so generous to her, Hannah asked, "May I speak frankly, Uncle?"
His eyes twinkled at that. "I have never known you to speak otherwise, Hannah."
"Yes, well ... I showed you Lady Westcliff's invitation to tea as a courtesy, but I had not intended to accept it."
"Because the only reason they would want to invite me is to ferret out information about Natalie, and also to impress me with all the supposed virtues of Mr. Bowman. And Uncle, it is obvious that Lady Westcliff's brother is not nearly good enough for Natalie!"
"It appears he has been tried and convicted already," Lord Blandford said mildly. "Are you so severe upon Americans, Hannah?"
"It's not that he's American," Hannah protested. "Or at least, that's not his fault. But his culture, his values, his appetites are entirely foreign to someone like Natalie. She could never be happy with him."
"Appetites?" Blandford asked, raising his brows.
"Yes, for money and power. And although he is a person of consequence in New York, he has no rank here. Natalie isn't used to that. It's an awkward match."
"You're right, of course," Blandford surprised her by saying. He settled back in his chair, weaving his fingers together. Blandford was a pleasant, placid-faced man, his head large and well shaped, the bald skin hugging his skull tightly and then draping in more relaxed folds around his eyes, cheeks, and jowls. The substantial framework of his body was lank and bony, as if nature had forgotten to weave the necessary amount of muscle to support his skeleton.
"It is an awkward match in some regards," Blandford continued. "But it may be the saving of future generations of the family. My dear, you are very nearly a daughter to me, so I will speak bluntly. There is no son to inherit the title after me, and I will not leave Natalie and Lady Blandford to the questionable generosity of the next Lord Blandford. They must be provided for. To my profound regret, I will not be able to leave a satisfactory income for them, as most of the Blandford monies and lands are entailed."
"But there are Englishmen of means who would dearly love to marry Natalie. Lord Travers, for example. He and Natalie share a great affinity, and he has generous means at his disposal —"
"Acceptable means," Blandford corrected quietly. "Not generous. And nothing close to what Bowman has now, not to mention his future inheritance."
Hannah was bewildered. In all the years she had known Lord Blandford, he had never displayed an outward concern for wealth. It was not done among men of his station, who disdained conversations about finance as bourgeois and far beneath them. What had prompted this worry over money?
Reading her expression, Blandford smiled morosely. "Ah, Hannah. How can I explain adequately? The world is moving altogether too fast for men like me. Too many new ways of doing things. Before I can adjust to the way something changes, it changes yet again. They say before long the railway will cover every green acre of England. The masses will all have soap and tinned food and ready-made clothing, and the distance between us and them will grow quite narrow."
Hannah listened intently, aware that she, with her lack of fortune and undistinguished birth, straddled the line between Blandford's own class and "the masses."
"Is that a bad thing, Uncle?"
"Not entirely," Blandford said after a long hesitation. "Though I do regret that blood and gentility are coming to mean so little. The future is upon us, and it belongs to climbers like the Bowmans. And to men like Lord Westcliff, who are willing to sacrifice what they must to keep pace with it."
The earl of Westcliff was Raphael Bowman's brother-in-law. He had arguably the most distinguished lineage in England, with blood more blue than the Queen's. And yet he was known as a progressive, both politically and financially. Among his many investments, Westcliff had garnered a fortune from the development of the locomotive industry, and he was said to take a keen interest in mercantile matters. All this while most of the peerage was still content to garner its profits from the centuries-old tradition of maintaining tenants on its private lands.
"Then you desire the connection to Lord Westcliff, as well as the Bowmans," Hannah said.
"Of course. It will put my daughter in a unique position, marrying a wealthy American and having a brother-in-law such as Westcliff. As the wife of a Bowman, she will be seated at the lower end of the table ... but it will be Westcliff's table, and that is no small consideration."
"I see," she said pensively.
"But you don't agree?"
No. Hannah was far from persuaded that her beloved Natalie should have to make do with an ill-mannered boor as a husband, merely to have Lord Westcliff as a brother-in-law. However, she was certainly not going to impugn Lord Blandford's judgment. At least not aloud.
"I defer to your wisdom, Uncle. However, I do hope that the advantages — or disadvantages — of this match will reveal themselves quickly."
Excerpted from A Wallflower Christmas by Lisa Kleypas. Copyright © 2008 Lisa Kleypas. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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
Rafe has come from America to meet with Lady Natalie Blandford, a beautiful young woman with very blue blood, and one whom his demanding and overbearing father wants to align their family with. However, Lady Natalie's cousin and companion Hannah knows deep in her heart that Rafe is definitely not the right woman for her cousin. The Wallflowers recognize this also, though it could be that Rafe is just perfect for Hannah!
As a Kleypas fan from the beginning of her career, I buy anything with her name on it and I am happy to report, Lisa has never failed to entertain me with likeable characters and lovely sensual romances. While this book was short as well as lively and witty, the author did do a very thorough job of fleshing out the character of Rafe and a reasonable job with Hannah. If you are new to the series, you can gauge enough of the other Wallflowers characters to have some idea of what their stories would be like and these glimpses will be enough to whet your appetite for the previous books in this series. I confess to having all of the Kleypas Wallflower books in by TBR stack and after reading this novella, I am definitely going to make it a point to read them sooner rather than later. Not only did I fall in love with Hannah and Rafe's characters, and the trials they needed to overcome in order to achieve happiness, I found myself totally intrigued with the rest of the Wallflowers and know their stories must be equally fabulous as well.
Rafe Bowman comes to London to marry so that he can get rights to his estranged father's European market. The deal is to marry Lady Natalie, but as an American there is much to learn about courting an English Rose, so when his sister and her three friends begin matchmaking they contact Lady Natalie's companion and cousin Hannah Appleton to learn more about Lady Natalie. Hannah arrives for tea and is met by a rough, rude and unsophisticated Rafe Bowman who is supposed to marry her cousin, and she leaves with one stolen kiss that kindles a fire inside her and stout determination that he's a Rake and should not marry her cousin. As both families travel to the country to spend Christmas and hope for an engagement, Hannah vows she'll try her hardest not to let Natalie fall for Rafe's pretend charms. Rafe has never in his life met a woman like Hannah, and the more he spend time with her and speaks with her the more he can't understand why she holds something that ties his attention only to her. Sure he's to marry Lady Natalie, a decent enough marriage, but he can't seem to keep away from Hannah, her smile and determination to dislike him. But it's not a game lost yet because to every kiss he¿s stolen she¿s responded to. ~*~ I absolutely loved this book, couldn't but it down! From the very beginning this book was charming, intriguing and deliciously proper and passionate at the same time. I loved Kleypas's writing, she's superbly talented in creating characters that are sophisticated, proper and have so many passions boiling just underneath the surface. Rafe, I think I have a little crush, he comes to London to marry an upper class girl because of a deal with his father and falls for the charms of the lady's poor cousin and can't seem to get his head right between what's expected and how he absolutely doesn't want to do anything that is expected of him. He's charming, little rude but in a delicious way that makes a girl swoon. Hannah is a wonderful character, she's smart, headstrong and tries to be practical to fault, but whenever she's around Rafe she loses some of her cool and picks up on his fire for life, his passion initiating hers. She's the perfect Victorian heroine, not too modern but modern enough for her time to be little out of place, even though she tries her hardest to be proper and practical she's sporting quite the temper when flared. If you love historical Romance this is for you! And if you love Christmas you'll love reading this! But on some classical baroque or waltz Christmas music and thoroughly enjoy this novel. I did. I will be re-reading this every Christmas from now on, I loved it!
All of Kleypas's Wallflower series had made me laugh head over heels and I think this one will do the same. I love the way Lillian and Daisy make joke oevr each other and humor over each others tactics. Annabelle and Eve are also best with their freinds. Kleyps likes to humor her readers and herself. I keep on loving her books with the humor she awakes from her readers with her humoreous tone.
I'm a huge fan of the Wallflower books, and this novella truly is a delightful addition to the ongoing story. The interaction of the Bowmans, the wallflowers, assorted spouses, and an errant toupe make for a very entertaining read. The plot involving Rafe Bowman and Hannah was tender and funny at the same time, and if my husband would write a love letter to me that even came close to what Rafe wrote his beloved, I'd quit nagging him about picking up his socks. Or at least I'd settle for the stink eye and keeping silent.
It was wonderful to see how Annabelle, Lillian, Evie, and Daisy had settled into their marriages, and I fell in love all over again with their husbands. The entire narrative truly captured the Christmas spirit, and A Wallflower Christmas is a keeper.
In response to the fact that it's short, why yes, it is, and by the time one uses their B&N discount, it's about the same as a paperback. It's also intended to be a novella.
Truly fun, engaging, and best enjoyed with a cup of caramel coffee and a snickerdoodle cookie.
I started this Wallflower series at the end and was so delighted that I have to go back to the beginning and finish the rest of the books—I could just tell that the entire series would be The Best Ever! Rafe is the brash American hero in search of a rich titled wife and Hannah is not titled but a companion accompanying the woman supposedly meant for Rafe. Ha! Everything goes topsy-turvy as Rafe and Hannah fall for each other in this cute holiday courtship!
A very, very enjoyable series of novels. LORRAINE
I love the wallflower series and this one did not disappoint me.
WOW!!!!!!!!!!!! What a very good read. I love the alpha male type that Rafe is. He is unapologetic and is comfortable in his own skin. The book was humorous so much so that it made me laugh out load at certain points. I love that fact that Rafe gave Hannah the little tin solider. To me that defined how much he truly loved her. So if you want take charge men who do it well while they are taking charge, this is the book for you!!! This was my favorite in the series. Although the series was spectacular too...
I couple days ago one of my book groups on Goodreads You'll love this one...!! A book club & more there was a 24 hour read-a-thon and while I only participated for about 17 of the 24 hours I had a lot of fun and this was one of my reads. Last November I read & reviewed one of Lisa Kleypa's books called Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor. It was one of her contemporary romances and I just could not get into it so when I pulled this one off my shelf to read it on Saturday I was a little nervous. However, her historical romance novel A Wallflower Christmas was nothing like the contemporary read by her I read last year. While I did not read the previous 4 novels in this historical romance series I was able to follow the story line because while the couples from the previous books are in this book the main focus is on Rafe Bowman who is brother to Daisy and Lillian who are two of the Wallflowers from earlier books as well as young Miss Hannah Appleton who is Rafe Bowman's intendeds companion. Whilst trying to ensure that her brother is on his best behaviour when he meets his intended Lillian his sister invites Hannah to meet Rafe so both parties can learn about each other in a round about way. However instead of being interested in gleaming information about Natalie from Hannah her cousin Rafe finds himself inexplicably drawn to Hannah. While Hannah is attempting to put her attraction to the rakish Rafe on the back burner they end up in a heated embrace not long after they meet. This sets off a whole chain of events and while Rafe and Natalie's parents are still trying to get them together over the holidays when all the Wallflowers come together with the Blandfords, Rafe, and Hannah in tow. But, against all odds fate, the spirit of Christmas time and the strong willed Wallflowers bring Hannah and Rafe together. I thought that this was a wonderfully written Christmas historical romance novel. I was very surprised by how much I loved the writing in this book because of my experience with one of the author's other books but I couldn't be happier. The characters were great. I really loved Hannah. She was a lovely girl who wasn't interested in Rafe for his money but only for his love. She was witty, smart and unbelievable charming but still had her share of backbone. Rafe was the typical rake but I loved him nonetheless because of how sweet, kind, and passionate when it came to Hannah, his two sisters and his young niece. While he could be pushy I didn't mind the way he came off in the beginning as being stuck up because I thought he redeemed himself when it came to getting the woman he's been waiting for. I also really enjoyed all the different characters of the Wallflowers. After reading this book I'm very excited to read the preceding novels in the new year. This was a great Christmas read because it was cute, funny and sweet too. I would highly recommend reading this book despite it being the 5th book in the series it's great read as a standalone. Lisa Kleypas seems to have redeemed herself in my eyes and if her other historical romances are as good as this I'm set. If you're looking for a quick, funny holiday read that's also a historical romance. Check this one out!
Really enjoyed the other Wallflower series so I loved this cute Christmas story. Definitely read the others before the series or you won't get as much out of it.
As all Lisa Kleypas novels she writes a good plot and I enjoyed an ending to the Wallflower series
I really enjoyed all the Wallflower series, but recommend you read them in order. The heroines are all distinct and different, but you can see how they would become friends.
Every bit as good as the others. Wish it were a full novel though, would love to have read more about Hannah and Rafe. Just a good story all around... sso gla I bought it.