Review by Veronica

Series Name: Merriwell Sisters Regency, # 3 

There was something about Venus that made even the happily married men shoot her covetous glance. An allure that went beyond the lovely face, the enticing figure, and the graceful way she carried herself. Enough of one that even Gal, who really didn’t ever want to notice her, still found his eyes wandering her way whenever she was near.

Never Wager with a Wallflower is a fun and swoony Regency romance. 

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? 

I have to say this has been a solid and fantastic series. Virginia has done an excellent job at creating engaging and delightful characters and stories that are fun and unique. Now, for those new to the series, this book does read as a stand-alone, but I recommend reading the other books first because they are fabulous. I’ve been looking forward to Vee’s story right from the moment I first met her. Probably because I just loved the fact that she was a bookworm, and her love for the written is just so contagious and relatable. I am happy to report that Vee’s story did not disappoint. It was everything I hoped it would be. For those bookworms who want to read a historical Christmas story, you will be happy to know that this book takes place in the months leading up to Christmas, which was a delightful surprise for me. I just loved how the holiday season was woven into the story. 

One of the great things about Virginia’s storytelling abilities is that she knows how to create a story that is fun, light, and romantic while also having a great deal of depth. I found myself laughing multiple times while reading this book. Some of the situations that Vee and Gal find themselves in is hilarious, especially when the twins set their sights on Gal and make it their mission to make his life miserable. There is so much wit and delicious banter in this book, especially between Vee and Gal. I had to keep on reading because I wanted to see what their next exchange would look like. The secondary characters all bring something to the table in this book. They take this story to the next level. They added humour, heart, and conflict at just the right moments in the story. I loved getting to spend time with Minerva and Diana (Vee’s sisters) once again. It’s always a treat to see what characters have been up to since you last saw them.  

There is a lot packed into this story. You have Gal, who is trying to open up a new gambling business (right beside the orphanage that Vee works at). You have Vee, who is trying to figure out a way to help this struggling orphanage survive. Then you have all these wonderful side stories, some that revolve around some of the orphans, Vee’s sisters, or Vee’s love life. Virginia does an amazing job at balancing all that is going on in this book to create this cohesive story that is just a real page-turner.   

Getting to spend some one-on-one time with Vee was fabulous. She is so clever and kind and also vulnerable when it comes to matters of the heart. Vee has had a string of bad luck when picking a suitable husband. It seems to her that all men want from her is to sleep with her because of her looks. This shatters Vee’s confidence when it comes to men. She no longer trusts her judgment, and this mindset really dictates how she interacts with Gal. She doesn’t know if she can trust him or his intentions. Gal’s personality is this wonderful mix of broody and cinnamon roll. He can be a cocky, mysterious son of a bitch at times, but then he switches to this kind and understanding man that will do anything to help those around him. I loved those dualling personalities that he had. There was this mystery around his past that Vee was determined to uncover, and it was so enjoyable peeling back those layers and seeing what was beneath Gal’s exterior. 

The romance in this book is perfection. It’s this fabulous blend of enemies to lovers, slow burn, and forced proximity with plenty of miscommunication. At the beginning of the book, Vee and Gal aren’t on the friendliest of terms. They try to tolerate each other for their families, but it’s a struggle. When Gal realizes that his new club is going to be neighbours with the orphanage that Vee works at, he knows that being on friendlier terms with Vee would be beneficial to his business. The thing with these two is that even though they say they hate each other, it’s evident to everyone around them that they are really attracted to each other. There are a lot of ups and downs, and will-they-won’t-they tensions with the growing relationship between them. They fight those romantic feelings hard. It was great watching their internal struggles when it came to coming to terms with what they were actually feeling. 

Never Wager with a Wallflower is the perfect conclusion to a delightful romance series.

Thank you, St. Martin’s Press, for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.