Never Wager with a Wallflower
by Virginia Heath
The Merriwell Sisters - Book 3
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: November 7, 2023
Reviewed by PJ
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?
As soon as Galahad Sinclair hit the pages of the second book of this series he captured my interest. By the end of that book I knew I wanted more of him and was over the moon when I discovered he would be paired with Venus "Vee" Merriwell in Never Wager with a Wallflower. I could hardly wait for these two adversaries to discover what we readers already knew. They were made for each other. Now, they just needed to lower their guards long enough to open their hearts - and minds - to that undeniable fact.
Both Gal and Vee carried a lot of emotional baggage from their childhoods into their roller coaster relationship, impacting each of them in different ways. I have to admit, I was Team Gal pretty much 80% of the book. It was only in the final 20% that I began to warm up to Venus. She did eventually win me over though so I'm glad I didn't give up on her. I do appreciate satisfying character growth. She's a complex character who protects herself with seemingly impenetrable, self-righteous walls when confronted with a man she unconsciously senses has the power to break through to her wounded heart. Watching Vee and Gal both evolve over the course of their journey was satisfying and heart-tugging.
The ensemble of secondary characters bring humor, conflict, and texture to the overall story. While the extended families once again have significant roles, it's three of the young orphans in this book who stand out for me, capturing my affection with their antics while also creating opportunities to delve more deeply into Gal's and Vee's priorities, vulnerabilities, prejudices, and emotional wounds, opening the door to understanding, forgiveness, growth, and love.
If you enjoy an enemies-to-lovers, historical rom-com with a slow-burn romance, significant emotional depth, meddling family, character growth, humor, and happy endings, give this one a try. It's the last book of a trilogy but can be read as a standalone, though I think it's more enjoyable to experience the evolution of all the characters by reading the three books in order.
Click the title to read my review of book one, Never Fall for Your Fiancee and book two, Never Rescue a Rogue.