The Wallflower Wager (Tessa Dare)

The Wallflower Wager - Tessa Dare
Published: 8/13/2019
They call him the Duke of Ruin. To an undaunted wallflower, he's just the beast next door. Wealthy and ruthless, Gabriel Duke clawed his way from the lowliest slums to the pinnacle of high society—and now he wants to get even. Loyal and passionate, Lady Penelope Campion never met a lost or wounded creature she wouldn’t take into her home and her heart. When her imposing—and attractive—new neighbor demands she clear out the rescued animals,…

I received this book as an ARC in exchange for an honest review.


This is the third book in the Girl Meets Duke series, and one that I was particularly looking forward to having met Lady Penelope Campion in early installments. She was the delightfully sweet animal lover who made sham sandwiches that Emma and Alexandra made their beaus pretend to like. I’m a sucker for any book with a lot of animals, and this definitely did not disappoint.

She lives alone with a chaperone who should probably retire, surrounded by her animals, but her aunt makes it clear that Penelope can only remain in London if she makes an attempt to marry and rejoin society. Otherwise, she will be forced to return to her brother’s estate, a fate she can’t face. Her next door neighbor is ruthless business man Gabriel Duke who bought and restored the town home next door. He knows social climbers will jump at the chance to live next to a member of the ton like Lady Penelope. He agrees to help Penelope re-home her beloved animals and keep her in London.

Their meet cute is probably one of the most adorable you’ll ever read — Penny has adopted a parrot that flies away and ends up in the house next door in the middle night. Dressed in her night clothes, she goes to retrieve the parrot, thinking the house is empty, only to find her new neighbor in little more than towel, fresh from the tub.

I like this book. It’s cute, there are a lot of animals, and we get to see the returning supporting cast. I like Penny and Gabriel and their various adventures in re-homing many of Penny’s animals. Their romance is lovely, and Penny’s backstory is suitably tragic. It’s as well written as you’d expect a Tessa Dare book to be, and I promise you, if you love her writing, you will like this book.

I think the problem I have with this book is not the fault of Tessa Dare, but something a bit more subjective for me. Everything about this book is good — all of the dots line up, things connect, and it’s good. But I will probably never be able to re-read it.

I’ve always read my ARC books a few times to get the best review possible, but for content reasons, I won’t be able to read this one again. I’ll get into that in the spoilers.

Let me repeat that this book is good. I think that I’m just not able to be more objective than that, and I feel really bad. This is probably the reason books should have content warnings, to be honest. I wouldn’t have asked for this book as an ARC if I’d known the content. I still would have read it once because I adore Tessa Dare, but this is a topic I don’t ever read about more than I have to.


Content Warning: The heroine of this book was molested by a family friend as a child, and this family friend became her brother’s father-in-law. In fear of him and for other reasons, Penny has exiled herself from her family in order to cope. Later, when her brother does learn the truth — he chooses the father-in-law. At the end of the book, the brother seems to be coming around, but this is the reason I can’t ever read this book again.

A relative of mine was molested as a young child by a member of our family. When she finally told my aunt, the one side of the family refused to believe the child. And my family split in two. We don’t speak to the other half and it took years for some of the relatives on that side to believe the child. Years. It’s painful, and it’s just—I simply can’t bear to read about this in my romance novels.

All of that is to say that Tessa Dare does an admirable job addressing the shame and the guilt, and I was happy to see Penny recovering at the end. I have no problem reading books with this topic once, but it has to be by authors I trust and enjoy and with the knowledge I won’t touch it again.

But Penny and Gabriel are sweet, so I probably can reread pieces of this in the future. I know I should be able to read this as a triumphant story of a young woman reclaiming herself, and the child in my family grew up to be a well—adjusted wife and mother, but it breaks my heart that she learned as a little girl just how cruel the world can be. The man who committed this crime got away with it, and she was made to feel for years that she destroyed the family. I’m glad Penny got a chance to stand up for herself, but how tragic that so little has changed in two centuries — the man still got away with it for decades.

This is a good book that I know a lot of people will love and adore. I’m glad Tessa Dare will have content warnings in the future for her books. I’ll be more careful about requesting ARCs with that kind of assisting.

4.5Overall Score

The Wallflower Wager

I received this book as an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Overall This is the third book in the Girl Meets Duke series, and one that I was particularly looking forward to having met ...

  • Plot
  • Characters
  • Romance

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