05-26-18 – Blog Queen - Sarah Raplee

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Wallflower Gets Her Man

by Christy Carlyle

My favorite romance trope or cliche involves the wallflower. Maybe it's because I've always related to wallflowers. They tend to be overlooked and underestimated. Haven't we all felt that way at some point? And I like the variety of wallflowers. Some are shy, some too intellectual to fit in with the other silly girls, and some are rebellious, purposely flouting social conventions. Those are my favorite kinds of heroines.

My heroine, Elizabeth Ainsworth, in my first novella, Scandalous Wager, is a bit of a wallflower. She's overshadowed by her prettier, more accomplished sister, or at least she feels that she is. She's more interested in her work as a teacher than learning how to flirt and be a coquette. But the hero, Detective Inspector Ian Reed, has eyes only for Lizzy.

That's what I love best about wallflowers. Underestimated as they may be by those around them, they always get their man. Well, at least in romance novels. And they don't just get any man; they get the dishy hero. One of my favorite combinations is the wallflower with the bad boy/rogue/rake hero that truly has a heart of gold and simply needs the healing, transforming love of the heroine to become the man he was always meant to be. In my opinion wallflower + redeemable rake = great romance.

Fantastic historical romance author Maya Rodale is currently in the middle of an entire series devoted to wallflowers. Her third book in the series is due out this month, but I thoroughly enjoyed the first two: The Wicked Wallflower and Wallflower Gone Wild.

Emma Thompson as Elinor
Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility
And one of my all-time favorite authors, Jane Austen, seems to have had a real soft spot for wallflowers. Her heroine, Elinor Dashwood, from Sense and Sensibility was a bit of a wallflower. More sensible and emotionally reserved than her younger sister, Elinor doesn't attract much notice as she focuses on managing her family, and she stoically faces the loss of her chance at love. But Austen manages the plot so that Elinor gets her man and yet never compromises her own principles and personality.

This is a key to the best wallflower stories. It should be the very aspects of her character—those traits which classify her as a wallflower in the first place—which capture the hero's notice, admiration, and love. Being loved for her unique qualities makes the wallflower's victory that much sweeter.

Do you like wallflower stories? Do you have a favorite wallflower from romance or literature?


Sarah Raplee said...

I do like wallflower stories! My favorite is a relatively modern-day one by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, This Little Heart of Mine.

Judith Ashley said...

I also like wallflower stories but can't come up with a title right now. Do you know where the saying "wallflower" originated?

Christy Carlyle said...

Hi Sarah! I haven't read that one. I am now adding it to my TBR pile. :)

Thanks for commenting!

Christy Carlyle said...

Hi Judith,

According to the OED, Oxford English Dictionary, the term was first used in a poem in 1820 and referred exclusively to women in the context of a ball or dance. They were women (flowers) who decorated the walls (by hanging back and not dancing) at a ball or social gathering.

Perhaps I love wallflowers because I imagine if you plopped me back in Jane Austen's era, I'd be one of those wallflowers, hiding at the edges of ballroom and hoping no one asked me to dance because I had no idea how to perform a quadrille. :)

Veronica Arellano said...

I'm also a huge wallflowers & rakes fan, so much so that it's the name of my blog! Ha! (

My favorite wallflower series is the quartet by Lisa Kleypas, but the book that epitomizes this trope combo for me is Sarah MacLean's 9 Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake.

Christy Carlyle said...

Oh, Veronica! I am bookmarking your blog right now. Can't wait to follow and see what you share.

Yes! Lisa Kleypas writes wonderful wallflowers and oh-so-yummy heroes. I love her books. I have Sarah MacLean's book on my TBR list, but I may have to move it up. :)

Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

Paty Jager said...

I would have to say wallflowers are one of my favorite cliches. I think most women/girls have at one time or another been a wallflower and reading about others who get their hero makes us feel better about men and their ability to see beyond the surface.

Christy Carlyle said...

Good point, Paty! I always prefer a hero who loves a heroine for aspects beyond a pretty face. I especially like it if her quirks (which others might shun or chastise her for) are the very aspects that draw him to her. We all want to be loved and accepted for our idiosyncrasies.

Anonymous said...

By any stretch of the imagination, I would never be called a wallflower,but I do like to see this kind of heroine get her man! Fiction or real life, I root for her over the sometimes more mean-spirited extrovert.

Diana McCollum said...

Wonderful post! I enjoy the wallflower heroine stories. Along with wallflower heroines I enjoy reading about widows deemed to old to marry, who find their hero.Favorite book: Mary Balogh "The Arrangement".

Christy Carlyle said...

Thank you, all, for commenting! It's heartening to know that so many root for the wallflower at times.

And thanks, Diana, for the Mary Balogh book recommendation. She is one of my all-time favorite historical romance authors too.