Title: Wallflower Most Wanted
Author: Manda Collins
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: January 2018
Length: 307 pages
Series?: Studies in Scandal #3
Genre: Historical, 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 overhead conversation hints at danger for another local artist, Sophia is determined to get involved. Even it means accepting help from an impossibly good-looking vicar who insists on joining her investigation—and 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?
Sophia Hastings is one of four bluestocking women who inherit Lady Celeste Beauchamp’s home. She leaves behind a letter and clues for each woman in the vein of their strengths. For Sophia, it is artwork. Sophia is a talented painter, as was Lady Celeste. Unfortunately, Sophia’s letter is delayed in reaching her until well into the story.
One unusually early morning Sophia is on the cliffside painting. She gets so engrossed in her work, she tumbles off the cliff to the beach below. Reverend Lord Benedick Lisle, the local vicar, is walking on the beach when he sees Miss Hastings plummet. The two overhear an indiscreet conversation about killing off an artist in some nefarious undertakings. Determined to collectively get to the bottom of the matter, the two spend more time together to puzzle things out.
Being the second son of a duke, Ben knew he was destined for the army or the church. Having no penchant for war, and visiting the properties with his mother as a child, Ben enjoys helping others, so the church was the best choice. While he leads his flock and offers comfort, he takes no interest in the politics of the church. While I don’t typically think of men of the cloth as men to be desired, I suppose a good-looking man can be.
When newcomer Peter Morgan, an industrialist, begins making big waves in Little Seaford, quickly followed by personal and professional attacks against Sophia Hastings. Her artwork is reputed to be obscene and unfit for sensible ladies, even those not of the nobility, too look upon…much less Sophia paint. She is a woman who cares about the social issues that run rampant in society, and she depicts such contrasts in social class in her art.
The sexism is very much alive in this installment in the series, and Peter Morgan calls in everyone up the line he can think of. When Ben will not aid him in his cause to have Sophia’s work removed from the upcoming art exhibit, he then pulls political strings and has the Bishop of Chichester to threaten Ben’s future.
One of Ben’s brothers pays a visit to Little Seaford and enlists Ben to assist the Home Office in investigating a forgery ring that’s operating in the are. With Sophia’s lifework revolving around art, and her contact with the local artist colony, she becomes an integral part of the investigation. As the investigation wears on, Ben and Sophia grow increasingly close and uncover a few key clues.
The mystery and suspense of the forgery and all involved kept me turning pages. I thought I had the forger pegged and I was adamant that I was right (just like Sophia). Then the possibility of two forgers surfaced and my theories all went downhill from there. The pacing of the book was just right and the cast of characters were interesting and gave some more insight into both Sophia and Ben’s relationships with their families.
Manda Collins 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. An affinity for books led to a graduate degree in English, followed by another in Librarianship. By day, she works as an academic librarian at a small liberal arts college, where she teaches college students how to navigate the tangled world of academic research. A native of coastal Alabama, Manda lives in the house her mother grew up in with two cats, sometimes a dog, sometimes her sister, and always lots of books.