Never Wager with a Wallflower
by Virginia Heath
Man, I should have known better. Venus Merriwell was annoying as hell in the first book, but she was less annoying in the second, so I did hold out hope that she would be an interesting protagonist in her book. Alas! Alack! Woe! She was not. I still read the whole thing, though.
Venus Merriwell’s great passion in life is the orphanage that she runs with her partners. They need to expand and with a bequest from a recently deceased benefactor, she has her eye on the building next door. There’s a snag in the form of Galahad Sinclair, a family friend, who snapped up those buildings before Venus even realised that they were available for sale. Moreover, there is some nefarious activity but that’s not Galahad’s doing (it’s a long boring story), but Galahad is who Venus blames. They had a pretty fractious relationship up to this point (again, long story), and they had been softening towards each other again, but the sale of these properties really sets the cat amongst the pigeons. For this book to make any sense, you need to have read books 1 and 2 in the series.
According to Venus, her fatal flaw is that she’s a terrible judge of character. She supported her father in book one, and he was clearly a toad. She adored some of her suitors, but they were also toads. She does not adore Galahad Sinclair. Yes, she had been changing her opinion of Galahad, but finding out about this building sale puts them right back to square one. For Venus, this just reinforces her belief that she’s a terrible judge of character. (Side note: I agree with her)
This book was meh. There were some sweet moments and some lovely frisson at times, but for the most part? Meh. There are some inconsistencies in this book that bother me. Venus is painted as a pious character who abhors gambling. At least, that’s the impression she gives throughout the series and it’s certainly the impression she gives Galahad. But she herself is a card-counting fiend who remains unbeaten in the family. She freely gambles with her relatives, but takes a holier-than-thou approach to gambling outside of the home. She is forever whining about the orphanage’s lack of funds, but she now has ostentatiously wealthy relatives. Why does she not get money from them? This is never explained. In the first few pages of the novel, such a deliciously rich plot was offered up and I had such high hopes that it would deliver. Unfortunately, Venus’ perpetually pouty bottom lip and her tendency to judge meant that it all became rather repetitive and one-note – “woe is me, Galahad is evil, harrumph.”
I’m a real sucker for enemies-to-lovers and I think that’s what kept me going in this book – my love for the trope rather than my love for this book. I had rather enjoyed the first two books in the series, so I wanted to complete it, but I wish I hadn’t because now it’s left a distinct taste of meh in my mouth. I realise I sound a lot grumpier than the grade might usually indicate, but the missed opportunities here put me in Grouch Town, population: me. The book itself is … fine. Sigh.
Never Wager with a Wallflower is the third and final delightful installment in Virginia Heath’s Merriwell Sisters Regency rom-com series.
Miss Venus Merriwell has been waiting for her prince to come since the tender age of fourteen. She wants a man who is a selfless academic like her, and free from all the wretched vices her gambler father enjoyed far too much before he left the Merriwell sisters practically destitute. Unfortunately, after a slew of romantic disappointments, there is still no sign of that prince at twenty-three and the only one true love of her life is the bursting-at-the-seams orphanage in Covent Garden that she works tirelessly for. An orphanage that desperately needs to expand into the empty building next door.
For Galahad Sinclair, gambling isn’t just his life, it’s in his blood. He grew up and learned the trade at his grandfather’s knee in a tavern on the far away banks of the Hudson in New York. But when fate took all that away and dragged him across the sea to London, it made sense to set up shop here. He’s spent five years making a success out of his gaming hall in the sleazy docks of the East End. Enough that he can finally afford to buy the pleasure palace of his dreams—and where better than in the capital’s sinful heart, Covent Garden? The only fly in his ointment is the perfect building he’s just bought to put it in also happens to be right next door to the orphanage run by his cousin’s wife’s youngest sister. A pious, disapproving and unsettling siren he has avoided like the plague since she flattened him five years ago.
While Venus and Galahad lock horns over practically everything, and while her malevolent orphans do their darndest to sabotage his lifelong dream, can either of them take the ultimate gamble—and learn to love thy neighbor?
Historical: European, Romance
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