The Earl Not Taken (The Wallflowers of West Lane #1) by A.S. Fenichel (2020)
Left standing on the side while their contemporaries marry into society, four young ladies forge a bond to guard each other from a similar fate . . .
Finishing school failed to make a proper lady of Penelope Arrington. But as a Wallflower of West Lane, Poppy has a far more vital role—she and her three best friends have made a pact to protect each other from the clutches of dangerous, disreputable men. So when one of them is about to be married off to a duke sight unseen, Poppy makes it her mission to divine the prospective husband’s true character. If only she didn’t require the aid of London’s most unsuitable rake.
Rhys Draper, Earl of Marsden, has known the headstrong Poppy since she was a young girl naïve to the ways of men. To her eternal chagrin—and to his vague amusement—they have been at odds over the memory of embarrassing first encounter all these years. Now, with his services in need, Rhys sees a chance to finally clear the air between them. Instead, he is surprised by the heat of their feelings. If the two do not tread carefully, they may end up in a most agreeably compromising position . . .
A good, entertaining start to a new series by A.S. Fenichel.
The 'wallflowers' are a bunch of young ladies who have just finished school and whose views about marriage have been clouded by their friend's experiences in an abusive marriage. Seeing how Poppy's parents behave is another good reason as to why she, in particular, is so dead against getting married. Having this in mind when waiting for her and Rhys to finally come to an agreement is required as Poppy really does drag her feet an awful lot and it slows the pace of the novel somewhat especially as there isn't much else happening in the book.
A lot of time is spent setting up backstories for various characters and this is done very well. there is plenty to look forwatd to in the rest of the series. I can't wait for Aurora and Garrett's story. Aurora has a tragic past and it would be nice to see her happy. I am intrigued by Breckenridge's mysterious past and whether or not he and Faith manage to sort things out between them. His friend Geb is an unusual secondary character who was also quite charming. Mercy's story is not as well defined yet but it will be interesting to see what lies in store for her too.