THE PICTURE OF ROMANCE
A dedicated painter, Miss Sophia Hastings is far more concerned with finding the right slant of light than in finding Mr. Right. But when an overheard conversation hints at danger for another local artist, Sophia is determined to get involved. Even if it means accepting help from an impossibly good-looking vicar who insists on joining her investigationand threatens to capture her heart…
Reverend Lord Benedick Lisle knows that Sophia is no damsel in distress. But he won’t allow her to venture into peril alone, either. . .especially since he finds Sophia’s curious, free-spirited nature so alluring. But protecting her from harm is becoming more difficult than the vicar could have expected as he and Sophia confront their fiery mutual passion. Who could have known that the art of love would prove so irresistible?
Wallflower Most Wanted by Manda Collins is a page-turning Regency romance and part of the Studies in Scandal series.
“Plenty of pleasure.”RT Book Reviews
About the Author
Manda Collins is the author of The Lords of Anarchy series, The Ugly Duckling series and the Wicked Widows series as well as several other Regency-set romances. She spent her teen years wishing she’d been born a couple of centuries earlier, preferably in the English countryside. Time travel being what it is, she resigned herself to life with electricity and indoor plumbing, and read lots of books. When she’s not writing, she’s helping other people use books, as an academic librarian.
Read an Excerpt
Consumed by the need to capture the scene in front of her before the light changed, Miss Sophia Hastings didn't notice the newcomers until it was too late.
She'd struck out early that morning — an unusual occurrence for her — carrying her own equipment to her favorite spot at the edge of the Beauchamp House property, atop the chalk cliff overlooking the sea.
The desire to capture the morning light dancing over the waves had been building in her for days. It was always thus with her artistic motivations. Every painting she'd ever completed had begun as the kernel of an idea: a hint of color, a flicker of light, a touch of shadow. And slowly, over time — while she worked at other tasks — the idea would grow from thought to need. And she would give in to the impulse that made her try — however fruitlessly — to capture what she saw on canvas. Sometimes what she saw was a scene she'd crafted with models and costumes and props. But other times, like today, the scene was one that nature had provided for her. And that meant bringing her tools to the spot that nature herself dictated would give the best view.
Having removed her slippers so that she could feel the solid earth beneath her stockinged feet, she dashed her brush across the canvas, blending grays and blues and a hint of white in an energetic frenzy. Her arm arced in wide sweeps, mimicking the movement of the waves below and the wind that whipped around her. She'd been working for almost an hour, and was in that otherworld where her awareness of her own surroundings was dimmed by the vision before her, when several things happened at once.
A deep male voice sounded from somewhere in the trees behind her.
Footsteps crunched on the pebbled beach below.
And she lost her balance in the middle of a particularly energetic brush stroke, tumbling over the edge of the cliff.
The fall itself seemed to happen in an achingly slow unfurling of time, though in actuality it took only seconds for her to drop the ten or so feet from the precipice to the rocky beach. And somehow she managed to twist in such a way as to land on her feet and not her head.
Unfortunately, one of those feet landed on a rather sizeable stone that twisted her ankle.
She'd no sooner hit the ground than a large male form knelt beside her on the beach.
"My God. Are you hurt?"
Sophia blinked, and looked up into the alarmed face of Lord Benedick Lisle, vicar of Little Seaford. With a visage that was almost too fittingly angelic, his clear blue eyes and unruly brown curls had set every female heart in the vicinity into a flutter since his arrival some months earlier. And as an artist, with an eye for beautiful forms, Sophia couldn't help but notice that the vicar was almost perfectly made. That he possessed an innate decency and sense of humor was perhaps gilding the lily.
Now, however, his usual good humor was replaced with real concern.
"Of course you're hurt." He didn't seem to need a reply, which was good because she'd lost her breath from the fall. "No one can fall that far and remain unscathed."
He waited a moment, just taking her hand in his, watching her with a mixture of concern and wonder. Shoving away her response to his gaze, she began assessing herself for damage. Her arms and upper body seemed fine. But her right ankle was throbbing and when she gave it an experimental flex, it made her cry out in pain.
"It's my ankle," she said through gritted teeth. It was mortifying to be in this situation. Not only because the vicar — who was undoubtedly the most handsome man in the county — was seeing her in such a vulnerable state, but also because he'd likely think this was some sort of ruse to get him to notice her. Not that he was vain — quite the opposite — but the unmarried young ladies of Little Seaford had all but turned vicar hunting into a sport. Why should he think she'd be any different?
But Lord Benedick didn't seem to be overly concerned about his hide, for he gave a grim nod. "I'm just going to feel for broken bones, Miss Hastings," he assured her solemnly. "Let me know if something pains you."
Moving back so that he could get to her foot — which was bare but for her stockings — he very carefully slipped his large hand beneath her heel and lifted it. Sophia bit her lip to keep from voicing her pain at the movement, and when he probed the joint with steady fingers she nearly levitated.
For a moment, all she felt was white hot pain.
"Easy," he soothed, lowering the offending extremity gently to the ground. "There's no sign of a break. At least not that I could feel. I think you'd better get Dr. —"
He broke off at the sharp bark of a shout from the cliff top above them.
Sophia's eyes flew to his as she recalled the man's voice she'd heard right before she fell.
She opened her mouth to tell him when Benedick raised a finger to his lips. Realizing that it might be best if they weren't discovered, she nodded.
"Damn you," the man cried. "I knew I should have seen to this business myself. You're far too soft to deal with our problem. Can you be relied upon to eliminate our little stumbling block if necessary?"
The other man's voice was too low for them to hear, but it seemed to be placating, because the first man's next words were calmer. Something about their location allowed his utterance to float down to the beach below with amazing clarity. "See that you do," he said in the tone of a man who has little patience with excuses. "If this scheme doesn't work out, I will hold you responsible. And I am not kind to those who disappoint me. You've been loyal enough so far. I hope you won't allow yourself to be weakened by your loyalty to people who don't care about you. I am the one who truly understands you. Only I can help you rise above your circumstances and achieve the success you deserve."
There was something familiar about the man's voice. But Sophia was still too shaken from her fall to concentrate on it.
Once again, they heard the low mumbling of the second man. Then, the sound of footsteps shushing over the dead leaves of the little wooded copse indicated that the two men were leaving.
Sophia and Lord Benedick were silent for a few minutes more, just to be sure the men were gone. The sound of the sea, battering into the shore again and again, punctuated their breathing while they waited. The sun, which had been wan when Sophia first came out that morning, had gone behind a cloud, and Sophia shivered a little.
"Who was that?" she asked glancing up at the cliff, almost afraid the two men would climb over. "Even only hearing one side of their conversation I know it was not about their plans for the village fete."
"I'm not sure," Lord Benedick said, following her gaze upward. "Perhaps it's best if we forget we heard that. It was clearly not intended for public consumption. And the louder man did not sound like the sort of person who would take kindly to having interference in his business."
Sophia turned to him in surprise. "I should have expected that attitude from other men, Lord Benedick, but I should think as a man of God your first responsibility is to help people. And clearly someone is in grave danger. We just heard one man tell another that he must be prepared to eliminate someone."
"I am aware of what we heard, Miss Hastings," he said stiffly, "but you are in no condition to look into the matter. We must see to getting you back to Beauchamp House. Whatever we overheard can wait for that at least, can it not?"
As if the conversation were over, he rose easily to his booted feet and put his fists on his hips. He rather looked like an avenging angel, now, Sophia thought sourly. An avenging angel who was urging caution.
She knew very well when she was being fobbed off. Still, she was determined. Her own sense of justice insisted. "Very well, Lord Benedick. It can wait. But do not think to dissuade me from learning more about those men. If someone is truly in danger we must do something to protect them."
At her vehemence, something in his gaze softened. "Very well, Miss Hastings. I will commit to learning more. But for now we must get you to the house."
She nodded, and was about to ask him for a hand up when he bent and gathered her into his arms, lifting her as if she weighed no more than a feather.
The jolt to her injured ankle, however, soon replaced any shyness at being lifted bodily from the ground. Her head swam a little as the chalk cliffs spun by her as she was propelled upward. Closing her eyes against the disorientation, she concentrated on getting past the painful moment. When it had abated some, she took a deep breath and became aware of the warmth of the hard male chest against her side, as well as the bergamot mixed with pure male scent of him.
"I'm sorry," he said, and she realized she must have made a noise at the pain. "I'll do my best not to jostle you as we go up the sea stairs, but it will be impossible to avoid some bumping. It is the nature of stairs, I'm afraid."
She looked up into his eyes, which were once more creased with concern. She needed to be careful or she'd find herself enjoying this sort of tender care a bit too much. "Thank you, my lord," she said with a firmness that was as much for her as it was for him. "I will try to keep my cries of pain to a minimum."
Sophia was only half-joking.
"Good girl," he said with a nod. "Let's get you home."
* * *
Lord Benedick Lisle, vicar of Little Seaford, had been on his morning walk along the seashore when Miss Hastings had quite literally fallen from the heavens. Or at the very least from the cliff top.
One minute he'd been studying the crumbling stone sea wall that marked the boundary of the Beauchamp House property, and the next a female body was hurtling down from above.
He'd been too far away to do anything but watch in shock as he tried to make sense of what he was seeing. Then, he broke into a run. When he reached her side, he realized it was Miss Sophia Hastings, one of the four Beauchamp House heiresses.
She was an exceptionally lovely young woman — he might be a vicar, but he was still a man, and he doubted the Archbishop of Canterbury himself would be able to resist the pull of Miss Hastings' ample charms — but it was her spirit that made her truly beautiful. Whereas other young women with her looks might have gone to London and taken the ton by storm, or searched for a wealthy husband, Sophia was a painter of some skill and she was determined to make her mark. Which meant she spent a great deal of time in her studio, or painting outdoors. And when she wasn't working, she was surrounded by a cadre of young men from the village. She hadn't, so far as Ben could see, given any of them an indication that she was interested in more than flirtation, but she somehow managed to handle them without allowing them to get too competitive over her.
Ben had considered entering the fray himself, but with his own duties in the parish he hardly had the time for friendship, much less anything more serious. And, if he were being honest, as a vicar, he needed a certain sort of wife. He had watched his brothers Archer and Freddie fall in love and marry, and he certainly wanted the sort of partnerships they enjoyed with their wives. But he also had to be pragmatic when it came to choosing a bride. A vicar's wife would need to be content with sharing him with the parish. A vicar was never off duty. If someone were ill, or suffering, he had to be ready to leave at a moment's notice. And his wife would need to be someone who shared his dedication to caring for the people of his parish. Who wouldn't worry about getting her gown a bit dirty when she visited the homes of people who worked the land. Who could converse with all sorts of people, be they noble or commoner. He wasn't sure that Miss Hastings possessed those qualities.
Of course, that was putting the cart before the horse. But he was a sensible man, and he was perhaps a bit too prone to over think things. And if truth be told, he was unlikely to find Miss Hastings in a quiet moment to assess whether they could even be friends. She was always chatting with someone or working on one of her paintings.
If he'd wished for a few minutes of uninterrupted conversation with the lady, however, he hadn't wished for it to be while she was in excruciating pain.
He tried to be as gentle as possible while he climbed the sea stairs, but it was impossible to be as smooth as a well-sprung carriage, and by the time they reached the gardens behind Beauchamp House, he was panting from exertion and Miss Hastings' face was white with pain.
As they neared the fountain, he heard a shout from the house and Lady Serena Fanning, who served as chaperone to the heiresses, came hurrying out followed by the Duchess of Maitland — Lady Serena's sister-in-law and one of the four heiresses.
"What's happened?" Lady Serena asked as she reached them. Her strawberry blond hair was coiled tightly around her head in a rather severe style, but Ben knew she was fond of her charges. "Sophia, my dear, are you hurt?"
"I hurt my ankle," Sophia said through clenched teeth.
"But how?" Daphne, Duchess of Maitland, asked, her brow furrowed. "I thought you were painting this morning."
"Perhaps we can discuss this inside?" Ben asked. Sophia wasn't heavy per se, but he wasn't exactly Gentleman Jackson either and he didn't want to drop her.
"Come," Serena said and he followed her through the gardens toward the terrace where two French doors opened into a drawing room.
It was a comfortably appointed room with warm rose walls and a pair of overstuffed sofas before a low fire.
"Here is fine," Sophia said indicating one of the sofas. Ben lowered her as carefully as he could onto the cushion and inhaled the lemon scent of her hair just before he pulled away from her.
Stepping back, he found himself clasping his hands behind his back to stop the impulse to reach for her again.
"Perhaps you can ask Greaves to send for the doctor, Daphne dear," said Serena, who was obviously in caretaking mode, putting a pillow behind Sophia's back, and bringing her a light blanket.
"Stop fussing, Serena," the patient protested. "I'm perfectly fine."
"You are not fine," her chaperone corrected her. "But I will leave you be for a moment. I'll see if someone can find your sister. There's no telling where she's got to looking for her rocks."
Without waiting for a reply, Serena turned to Ben. "If you'll wait here a moment, I'll go get some ice for Sophia's ankle and ask cook to send some refreshments."
And then she was gone.
The urgency of the need to get Sophia up to the house had erased any awkwardness between them during the long walk, but now there was a tension between them. Not liking to loom over her, Ben lowered his tall frame onto the sofa across from her.
"You're in good hands, I think," he said, breaking the silence. "Lady Serena seems quite competent."
Sophia ignored his small talk and got right to the heart of the matter. "Thank you for rescuing me, my lord. I don't know what I'd have done if you hadn't happened along." Her blue eyes were bright with sincerity. "Not to mention what would have happened if those men on the bluff had discovered me."
At the reminder of the conversation they'd overheard, Ben's gut tightened. He didn't like to imagine that scenario. "I want you to promise me that you'll concentrate on healing and not try to investigate the matter on your own. I'll handle it."
She tilted her head. "You'll investigate it? I thought you said it was best to leave it alone?"
"As you said, someone is in danger." He wasn't sure what exactly he would do, but he knew he had to keep her away from the matter. There had been menace in the man's voice. And he sounded like the sort who would not take kindly to prying eyes in his business. "I'll ask a few questions."
Her pretty lips pursed in frustration. "It's not fair that I'm injured. I would like to know what they're up to."
He was entirely unsurprised that she was already chafing at the constraints of her injury. And it had only just happened. For her sake he hoped it would heal quickly.
"What if I promise to tell you what I learn?" he offered her. He didn't add that this way she could remain out of the matter, which would ensure her safety. He had a sneaking suspicion that she wouldn't give a fig for her own safety if it meant protecting someone else's.
Like a queen accepting a favor from a serf, she gave a regal nod. "I suppose that will have to do," she said with a moue of distaste. "Though I do wish I could go with you. Who do you intend to question first?"
He was saved from response by the arrival of the butler Greaves carrying a laden tea tray. "Miss Hastings," he older man said gravely, "May I say how unhappy I am to hear of your injury?" He gave a deep bow.
"Thank you, Mr. Greaves," Sophia said with a sweet smile for the butler. "It is an annoyance, but these things happen in the pursuit of one's craft."
Excerpted from "Wallflower Most Wanted"
Copyright © 2018 Manda Collins.
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
When Sophia Hastings is startled and falls off a cliff, she is saved by the Reverend Lord Benedick Lisle. They hear a loud voice from the cliff above saying that someone must be eliminated. Later, Ben’s brother arrives from London and tells about a group of art forgers that the Home Office has been searching for and who are believed to be in the local vicinity. Could the threat they overheard be connected to the forgers? The more they work together to solve the mystery, the greater their attraction to each other becomes. And the feelings Ben has for Sophia are not those of a vicar but those of a man, a man who is determined to marry the woman of his dreams.
Wallflower Most Wanted by Manda Collins is book Three in the "Studies in Scandal" series. This is the story of Miss Sophia Hastings and Reverend Lord Benedick 'Ben' Lisle. I have read (and Loved!) the previous book in this series but feel you can make this a standalone book if you choice to do so. Sophia loves to paint and is really good at it. On one of her outings to paint she happens to fall but is helped by Ben. They happened to hear overhear a morbid plan to kill a fellow painter. Of Course Sophia wants to find that person and help save him. Ben being worried for her, has insisted that he will help her. This takes them on adventure that leads to possible art forgery ring and some danger. But more importantly its leading them to have strong feelings for each other. Really good story that is hard to put down!~
When Miss Sophia Hastings and the local vicar accidently here a deadly conversation between two unknown men, they decide work together to prevent a murder. The consequences of this decision puts them in danger as they try to find those involved in an art forgery ring. Will they accomplish their goal? Lord Benedick Lisle, vicar of Little Seaford, wants to protect the lady. I admired his caring attitude, but I was pleased that Sophia refused his request. She's an accomplished artist who can help him. I loved the flirty interaction between these two. Lord Benedick is a true hero who follows his heart. Their story pulled me in. I loved the combination of romance and mystery. The plot was well written and had unexpected twists. Sophia and Lord Benedick were likeable. I quickly cared about them. Plus the secondary characters added romance and drama to the story. I enjoy the writing of Manda Collins. She does an excellent job with this series. I received a copy of this book which I voluntarily read and reviewed. My comments are my honest opinion.
This is a great series IMHO and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys engagingly written historical romantic suspense. Each story focusses on one of the four blue stocking heirs to Lady Celeste and in this book it is the talented artist, Miss Sophia Hastings, who is the lady who has a mystery to solve and true love to find. Sophia was out on a clifftop painting the turbulent sea when her enthusiastic brush strokes accidentally caused her to tumble down to the beach near the handsome, single, Reverend Lord Benedick Lisle. As he ensures she isn’t seriously injured, they overhear an intriguing and threatening conversation but can’t identify who is talking. This starts them working together to investigate just what is going on . . . . It turns into a real page turner, a suspense filled murder mystery with an added element of romance that I thoroughly enjoyed. Characters from the previous stories still play significant roles in this one and it is a great addition to the series. Now I can’t wait to discover the investigation Lady Celeste will have left for Sophia’s sister, which I presume will be the focus for the next story in the series! I requested and received a copy of this novel. This is my honest review after choosing to read it.
Sophia Hastings is an artist and fairly well known. She is also one of the four ladies to inherit a mansion and were called Beauchamp House Heiresses. Lord Benedick Lisle, is the second son of a duke and a vicar. He finds Sophia charming. There is a mystery, that came from Ben's brother, Frederick. There appears to be a forging ring of priceless paintings, occuring in their town of Little Seaford. The home Office was concerned. Since Ben lived there, they hoped he would look into it for them. Four women inherit land, and each is talented in a different field. As you can tell the characters are exactly that, they are funny, kind, loving and fiesty. There are a couple of surprises, mixed in, but this is a well thought out tale. It is well written and engages your interest thru out the whole book. I enjoyed it. I received this ARC from Net Galley and voluntarily reviewed it.
the third book in the studies in scandal series, wallflower most wanted, has miss sophia hastings falling off a cliff in front of lord benedick lisle. he's the county vicar and a duke's son, and nothing like mr. collins from pride & prejudice. something the characters very kindly point out and is just the kind of detail i love. sophia and ben get caught up in a plot to find some murderous art forgers and there are a lot of red herrings, because the real villain of the piece is a true surprise. ben is such a steady, level-headed presence. he’s not some close-minded pastor and is liberal enough to accept and understand sophia’s art. it speaks to him in a way that lets him understand the woman she is. and that happens to be someone he wants to have a future with. there’s not a lot f drama between them, and that’s okay, because they have this really sweet romantic story. and now i’m kind of hoping we see something develop between gemma, sophia’s sister and the last remaining beauchamp heiress, and cameron lisle, ben’s younger brother. **wallflower most wanted will publish on january 30, 2018. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/st. martin’s press in exchange for my honest review.
Manda never fails to amuse and delight me with her books. Great stories and characters
This isn't my preferred genre, but I think I went in with an open mind. I do enjoy historicals and it was a nice change of pace for me. I also learned several new words! The thing I liked most about Wallflower Most Wanted had to be the heroine. She, as well as the other heiresses in the book, was an in control, take charge, brilliant, not to be put down woman. She knew what she was about, what she wanted and that no one was going to get in her way. That's why it was so charming when Sophie injured herself and the vicar, Ben, swept her up into his arms and carried her back to the house. Just as charming, was the fact that Ben was quite out of breath from the exertion and his muscles were later very fatigued. This book had mystery, murder, romance, sex and love, patrons of the arts and just an overall fun relationship between the man and woman. I really enjoyed it!
Wallflower Most Wanted by Manda Collins is a fantastic read. Ms. Collins has given us a book that is well-written. She has loaded the book with amazing, lovable characters. Sophia is an artist and overhears a threatening conversation. The voices startle her and she falls over a small cliff. Benedick is the local vicar and comes to her aid. Their story is loaded with drama, sizzle, intrigue, action and humor. I totally loved reading Wallflower Most Wanted and look forward to reading more from Manda Collins soon. Wallflower Most Wanted is book 3 of the Studies In Scandal Series but can be read as a standalone. This is a complete book, not a cliff-hanger. I voluntarily read an Advance Reader Copy of this book that I received from NetGalley
I love a romance with a little mystery in it. Sophia, our beautiful and intelligent heroine, and Ben, the handsome smart hero, overhear a murder plot on the beach. Together they try to figure out what’s going on while sparks fly between them. I think why I like this book so much is because I like the two main characters so much. I love that Sophia was intelligent and stood up for herself. I love that Ben let her be that way. Great read!
Sorry folks but this one was not for me. I found it to be too slow, and I made myself turn the pages and I hate that, if I get a book I want to be interested but when you kind of make yourself try to get into it, it just kills is for me. It was discombobulated for me, slow then dry then rushed..Hate bad reviews, but sometimes you can't help it.
I really enjoyed Sophia and Ben's story! The artist with the vicar, what a combination!! Forgery, murder and intrigue, what more can you ask for in a story!! Gemma's story is the last in the series and I can't wait to see what happens!!
Manda Collins has become one of my favorite Historical Romance authors. She never fails to please. Once again in Wallflower Most Wanted, book #3 in her Studies in Scandal series I have been charmed by her well-developed and "oh-so-lovable" characters. At first glance artist Sophia Hastings and vicar Lord Benedict Lisle seem an unlikely couple. But they find themselves attracted to each other as they attempt to solve a mystery in their village, Little Seaford. The author's pace of this storyline of mystery and romance flows well. The plot is laid out such that clues appear along the way as Sophia and Ben follow along, yet there are surprises along the way too. All in all this is a truly delightful story full of sweet romance and mystery. I highly recommend this book! I voluntarily read an ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley for an honest review.
This book is part of a series "Studies in Scandal" but I have not read the other two. This book read well as a standalone but am sure it would be even better with the other books in the series. Sophia Hastings is one of four heiresses who has inherited Beauchamp house and are all pursuing their individual interest. Sophia is the artist of the four and paints from her heart pictures that are not that popular with the general public. She meets up with Benedict Lisle, the local vicar who she had met before and they overhear a conversation that puts them on the alert. Thinking someone is going to be murdered, they work together to solve the mystery. Of course being thrown together in close proximity, the spark between them comes to life and has a will of its own! An intriguing mystery and love story that takes the reader through many paces to find out who the culprit is in the end. An enjoyable, you ready to pick up the next installment in this delightful series!
I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book. One thing I’ve enjoyed about this series is the mystery each heroine has had to solve. I thought the twist as far as the mystery thread in the story and the reveal was well-written. As far as the romance, Benedick and Sophia began working together to solve the mystery and their relationship built from there. I felt the conflict for why the hero and heroine couldn’t be together was brought up and mentioned but the characters didn’t come across feeling very strongly about it. As a result the romantic conflict wasn’t as strong. Overall, I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to the next book in the series.
This is the third book in the Studies in Scandal series and I liked it very much. The series revolves around 4 intelligent young women, each with a different talent, who inherit an estate. The books can be read on their own, but you might keep up with the characters if you start with book one. This book is talented artist Sophia’s story. She is painting on the cliff one day and overhears a threat to someone. Then something, or someone, made her fall. Lord Benedict Lisle, the town’s handsome vicar, saw her fall and helped her back to the house. There is an upcoming art show in town and the new, wealthy commoner, Peter Morgan, does not want her work in that show. Who else doesn’t want her work in the show and who murdered the town’s art store owner? The answer will surprise you. Yes, there is a HEA with the vicar, but you will have to read this book to get the details. Thanks to the publisher for allowing me this ARC. No one has asked or required me to write this review.
I wasn't that impressed with the story of Ben and Sophia. They started out as a cute couple and the story looked to be well written, until a vicar had sex with a woman and they weren't yet married. It Totally lost me at that point. I read romance and am used to the whole sex before marriage trope, but with a Vicar it lost me right there. 3 stars for the story up until that point. Thank you NetGalley for an ARC, and this is my review of it.
Miss Sophia Hastings enjoys painting the views of the sea from a cliff at the edge of the Beauchamp House property. This morning she is so startled at hearing a man’s voice that she falls of the cliff spraining her ankle. Thankfully, it wasn’t a very steep cliff. She looks up to see the handsome Lord Benedict (Ben) Lisle, vicar of Little Seaford. As he examines her ankle, they overhear two men discussing a planned murder. Sophia is a lovely young woman and one of four Beauchamp House heiresses and scholars who live together and study in their different fields of expertise. Sophia’s main joy is her painting. Ben knows he will need a wife who will be happy dedicating herself to helping the members of the parish. As much as he attracted to Sophia, he is not sure she would be content in that role. Even with her injured ankle, Sophia is determined to attend a ball that same evening. Her aunt has told her about a man named Peter Morgan whose political ambitions could be a detriment to the area and the people too. When she learns a few days later that Peter Morgan has protested the paintings that she plans to place in an upcoming show, she and Ben are determined to discover his reasons. The paintings are very moving and depict the suffering of the people employed by the cotton plant that the man owns. However, Sophia still plans on showing her paintings. She also learns that there are believed to be some counterfeit paintings being sold locally and Peter Morgan is alluding that Sophia is the one painting them. Why is the man doing this to her? This is an interesting story but my difficulty is with it keeping my attention. While the book was well written, it read almost in a monotone way which did not keep me interested. I do enjoy this author’s work, but this one just didn’t do it for me. Copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Overall an enjoyable read, though it did drag at times. I didn’t really feel Sophia was a “wallflower.” To me, a wallflower is someone who is shy and/or socially awkward. Sophia was neither of those things, she just didn’t care about the typical society events that others were. Regardless, I still adored her and the Reverend! However, one of the quickest ways to annoy me is to ramble on about how attractive and perfect the hero and heroine which the author does from the very beginning. I honestly felt like I spent the first couple chapters reading about how attractive the leads were to the point that they each were constantly being pursued or surrounded by admirers. It was tedious, to say the least. That being said, it was a cute romance with enough action to keep the reader entertained.
Wallflower Most Wanted by Manda Collins is the third story in her Studies in Scandal series, about a group of young ladies, all bluestockings, who inherit a country estate from a mysterious benefactor. Each story in the series has had a mystery to be solved combined with a delightful and entertaining romance. While one might think that having a vicar as the hero would keep the story rather tame, the enterprising and handsome Reverend Lord Benedick Lisle and his sleuthing companion Miss Sophia Hastings find ways to heat things up in a fashion that suits their characters. Painting is Sophia's passion and when a cliffside morning session ends with a small tumble onto the beach below, she's rescued by the always pleasant and devilishly handsome local vicar, Benedick. Out of sight, they overhear a not so private conversation above that leads them to realize something nefarious is afoot. Sophia's sprained ankle gives Benedick an excuse to visit socially and Sophia uses the visit to insist that they investigate the mystery together. It turns out that Benedick's brother has been asked by the Home Office to investigate a forgery ring that's believed to be operating in their area, and with Sophia's connections to the local artists colony, she insists on being part of the search. Plus, she's planning to exhibit her own paintings in an upcoming exhibition, to the consternation of the some of the more conservative members of their village, who could also be involved. As Benedick and Sophia uncover the clues to solve the mystery they also find themselves developing a tendre for each other. Sophia doesn't believe she is the kind of woman Benedick would want as his wife, and he's got enough local ladies vying for the job that she can't imagine he'd consider courting her. Yet all signs point to a mutual affection. When their mystery turns into a more deadly affair, will their chance to have a happy ever after be cut short? If you love a good regency romance with an intriguing mystery, you'll definitely want to read this series. Even with the mystery to be solved, and usually a murderer afoot, the stories are low angst and a lovely way to spend a few hours. Because of Benedick's occupation, the romance between him and Sophia is a slow burn one, though there are some sexy times later in the story once Benedick realizes that Sophia is the woman he wants to marry. Sophia is a virgin but Benedick is not, having been somewhat of a playboy before taking his vows to serve the church . He treats her in a gentle and respectful manner, even while showing her the heights of physical pleasure. He has to do a little convincing to make Sophia consider marrying him, as she worries that her art, which aims to show some of the realities of life for the poor, will be too controversial for a vicar's wife. But Benedick values Sophia for all of her talents and her generous and forthright character, making him definite hero material. The mystery plot has some interested twists and turns and while not overly suspenseful, was definitely intriguing. I enjoyed meeting Benedick's brothers and the camaraderie between Sophia, her sister Gemma, and the other two now married women living in the Beauchamp house. All the women in the series have traits that make them stand out for their time, feminists of their day, and are lucky enough to find men who appreciate them. I'm looking forward to continuing the series.
This is set in the small village of Little Seaford after the Napoleonic war and during the Industrial Revolution. It's a good reflection on the working conditions and a woman’s place! Ben is the vicar in this small village. He is popular, mainly with the ladies for his good looks, and he comes from a titled family. Sophia is one of four heiresses and a talented artist. Something that is frowned upon, for tapistry is more suitable for "respectable" ladies. Ben and Sophia know each other through the church, but are not friends as such, until she falls at his feet. Literally! Ben comes to her rescue and they accidentally overhear the discussion about a possible murder. Since this ploy is related to an artist and an upcoming exhibition, she feels that it's her duty to investigate. Now that Ben is getting to know her, he starts to admire her free will and her determination. He fears for her safety and knowing that she won't give up on her quest, he insists on helping her despite her protests. Besides, they like each other's company and romance is in the air! They have suspicions about the guilty parties, but without proof, it's not going to be so easy. While they are investigating, someone is murdered and this complicates matters even more. The main culprit is full of threats, sure of himself and lies through his teeth to get what he wants. There is a twist when one of his unsuspecting allies take matters into his own hands and turns everything around. It's a good plot with interesting characters. Ben and Sophia make a good team. The romance is gradual, but real. The pace is a little slow and even though this can be read as a standalone, I would have enjoyed it even more if I had read the previous ones. All in all, a fairly good read. I was kindly issued with an eARC and the views expressed are my personal opinion.
Vicar and a Lady Artist The title is misleading as Miss Sophia Hastings, is both beautiful and brilliant and all the single young men are drawn to her. She has little interest in them, though good manners means she is unfailingly pleasant to her suitors. She does find the vicar attractive but knows she, as a lady artist, is hardly suitable to be a helpmate to someone in his position and anyway has no intention of competing with the ladies of the village who throw themselves at him. Until that is she does exactly that by falling over a cliff edge and landing at his feet! Another story, with an unfolding mystery, involving one of the Beauchamp heiresses and although the third in the series can be read as a standalone. I was disappointed not to find out what happened to the captured villains in the epilogue but I did enjoy the story. I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley. I was not compensated for my review, and I was not required to write a positive review. The opinion expressed here is my own.