Feb 1 2017 10:30am

Reading Lisa Kleypas’ Wallflowers: The Layered Storytelling of It Happened One Autumn

In a delightful journey that began with Secrets of a Summer Night in 2004, we accompanied the Wallflowers—young society misses Annabelle, Lillian, Evangeline, and Daisy—as they banded together in a hunt for husbands that led to love and matrimony...if not always in that order.

But if we thought we’d seen the last of our beloved friends, we were (happily) wrong: Lisa Kleypas has announced the Wallflowers will return in her next historical romance, Devil in Spring with the story of Evangeline and Sebastian’s son!

In anticipation of Devil in Spring’s release on February 21, we’ve decided to do what any romance reader would: Revisit the books that started it all! And so, every week for the next four weeks, we invite you to join us in reading—whether for the first time or the fiftieth!—and discussing the first four Wallflower romances: Secrets of a Summer Night, It Happened One Autumn, Devil in Winter, and Scandal in Spring.

It Happened One Autumn by Lisa Kleypas

I’m thrilled to have won the battle royale between the rereaders to get my favorite Lisa Kleypas Wallflower novel, It Happened One Autumn. It’s hard to believe that last year I was a complete novice to the ways of Lisa Kleypas even though I’m an enormous fan of historical romance. I devoured the Wallflower series once I realized the error of my ways, reading them back-to-back was such a delight, but I know in my fervor to get to the next one and the next, I missed some things.

All that was remedied by this delicious reread, and I can say with absolute assurance that It Happened One Autumn is most definitely my favorite of the bunch.

This novel is so thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish because of how masterfully Kleypas layers the world, grounding this touch of mysticism with the perfume with real issues like Marcus’ awful mother and her dislike of the Bowman women to the point where she concocts a sinister plot with Lord St. Vincent. Showing the struggle between love and duty, a true battle of wills between two people who are too stubborn to fail at anything they want to do.

It Happened One Autumn is mostly definitely on my yearly reread list.

I am a sucker for sharp-tongued heroines and broody, know-it-all men who are humbled by them. You could give me 100 novels to read like this and I’ll never get enough of it.

For those of you following along, Jessica notes in her reading of Secrets of a Summer Night, that Lillian and Lord Westcliff really steal the show, and I can’t help but agree, which made the anticipation to get to their novel even greater when I first read this series.

This novel covers so many different tropes: enemies-to-lovers, a hero torn between duty and desire, a woman who willfully misunderstands a man, a scene of accidental drunkenness and almost confessions, so-called love potions, and a kidnapping to boot! How could you not just adore this?

For those of you who’ve not had the opportunity to read It Happened One Autumn, I will do my best to give you a coherent summary that is not 1000 words long:

Lillian Bowman is a headstrong, American woman who’s the second oldest of the Wallflower set and therefore it’s her turn to find an appropriate husband. Lillian’s mama is determined that her daughters, Lillian and Daisy, marry titled gentleman. Lillian has an olfactory gift that lets her detect certain notes in perfumes that are mostly undetectable to others. She gets a special blend from a shop proprietor with a note she can’t quite detect, and that’s significant later on in the novel.

Marcus, Lord Westcliff is charismatic and domineering. He believes his judgment to be infallible and finds Lillian Bowman lacking all the necessary social graces he deems acceptable. The two of them together are like kindling and gasoline. It’s delicious.

Lillian and Westcliff circle around one another like two territorial animals, searching out the other's weakness. Lillian takes every opportunity she can to defy Marcus, and Marcus uses every bit of influence he has to keep her from being able to do so. 

I love this novel so much because beyond being a wonderful story, full of twists and turns and tumultuous times, it speaks of the inconvenience of falling in love. I don't mean that in a snide way, but we fall in love with the totality of a person, even the parts that drive us crazy, to the point where we wouldn't change any of those things. Westcliff fights valianty against the inconvenience of falling in love with Lillian, her sharp tongue and even sharper mind while Lillian battles to not be taken down by Westcliff's high-handedness and desire to always be right. 

Favorite Line:

I have far too many to distill it down to just one, it’s not fair to ask such a terribly hard question! But, one of my favorite kinds of tropes in romance is when the hero is so overcome with love and devotion for the heroine, that he spits out a totally botched confession that makes him seem even more like an ass. I have a type.

“Lillian,” he whispered. “I’ve tried to leave you alone. But I can’t do it anymore. In the past two weeks I’ve had to stop myself a thousand times from coming to you. No matter how often I tell myself that you are the most inappropriate...” He paused as she squirmed suddenly, twisting and craning her neck to look down at the floor. “No matter what I—Lillian, are you listening to me? What the devil are you looking for?”

“My pear. I dropped it.”

I literally laughed out loud at this scene.

Swoonworthiest Scene:

I’m a sucker for hero-helps-heroine-with-her-form type scenes. When Westcliff catches Lillian playing a game of rounders with some of his servants, the attraction between them is deliciously palpable and so deeply sexy.

Reaching around her, he stunned her by placing his hands right over hers and guiding her in the slow arc of a swing. His mouth was at her ear. “Can you feel the difference? Try that more natural?”

Lillian’s heart had begun a rapid rhythm that sent the blood in dizzying rush through her veins. She had never felt so awkard, with the sold warmth of the man at her back, his sturdy thighs intruding in the light folds of her walking dress. His broad hands nearly enclosed hers completely, and she felt with surprise that there were calluses on his fingers.

Angstiest Scene:

The confrontation between Lady Westcliff and Lillian in the Butterfly Court right before she’s knocked out by Lord St. Vincent is the scene that really arrests my heart. I know a lot of people might say the kidnapping itself, but for me, that moment where Lady Westcliff lays out all of Lillian’s inappropriateness for Marcus give me all the Lady Catherine Pride and Prejudice feels. Such a loving woman.

“...My son cares nothing for you. You are merely a sympton of his past grievances against his father. You are a rebellion, a useless retaliation against a ghost. And when the novelty of his vulgar bride wears thin, the early will come ot despise you as I do.”

Scene stealear/MVP of the book:

Lillian and Westcliff command every page they’re on together, truthfully. I was so focused on them that I nearly forgot everyone else, but one scene tickles me greatly: when Lillian tries to prove that her perfume is a love potion and gets Annabelle to try it to see if it works on Westcliff as well, but it doesn’t—it works on her husband Simon.

Looking pale and exhausted, her blue eyes ringed with dark shadows, she swallowed a mouthful of heavily sweetened tea before continuing. “It was that blasted perfume of yours—as soon as [Simon] caught one whiff of it, he went beserk.”

Some assorted notes on It Happened One Autumn:

  • Sexual tension pretty much pours out of every single interaction between Marcus and Lillian. Have I mentioned my love of bickering couples to you today?
  • I love the way the Wallflowers speak to one another. How they care for one another, and how deeply committed to each other’s friendship they are.
  • Lord St. Vincent getting the ass kicking of a lifetime from Marcus, who’s described so beautifully and powerfully, gives me the greatest of pleasure. Are you ready to read The Devil in Winter now?


Learn more about or order a copy of It Happened One Autumn by Lisa Kleypas, available now: 

Buy at Amazon

Buy at B&N

Buy at iTunes

Buy at IndieBound

Buy at Kobo




And if you want to read ahead in Lisa Kleypas' Wallflower Series, here are the novels in order:

Secrets of a Summer Night (Wallflowers #1)
It Happened One Autumn (Wallflowers #2)
The Devil in Winter (Wallflowers #3)
Scandal in Spring (Wallflowers #)

H&H Editor Picks:

Reading Lisa Kleypas’ Wallflowers: The Importance of Female Friendship in Secrets of a Summer Night

New Excerpt from Lisa Kleypas’s Devil in Spring!

February 2017 Romance New Releases


Jen is the production associate for H&H, shipper, musical theatre nerd, and Thai food enthusiast. Tweet her or follow her on Tumblr.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. Tea-Tea
Swoon! You hit every nail on the head about why this is without a doubt the best Wallflowers book and possible my favorite Lisa Kleypas novel, period. This book shows all the messiness involved in love. Neither Lilian or Marcus will ever be perfect. They come together flaws fully intact, but their love for each other is truly as real as it gets. I could go on and on about my love for this book <3
2. dasky
Lisa Kleypas is always a must read author. My favorite series of hers is the Wallflower series. Re-read it every year. Agreed with many of your points about the novel. So many different scenese in the novel to love but the library scene with an inebriated Lillian was a favorite. Lillian and Marcus have to be one of my favorite couples, flaws and all.
3. Kriti Mishra
It's one of my favorite romances but the showstealer was that pear in the wine bottle. It gave me a craving for wine poached pears that doesn't seem to go away, for despite having tried so many recipes over the years, nothing matches the way the novel desribed the taste of them.
4. Amy O
I guess I'm in the minority but I remember not being a huge fan of this book. It has been a while since I read it, and I only read it once so I may not be recalling it correctly, but I remember being extremely put off by the fact that Lillian was basically drunk the first time she and Marcus had sex. It blurs the line of consent, and that never sat well with me.
Jen Wattley
5. JenWattley
@Titi: yes! I love them so much. Definitely my favorite Kleypas as well.

@dasky: there's certain things I pick up on each reread that hits me in a different way. The pear scene is magnificient.

@Kriti: haha, wine poached pears are actually delicious if you get someone who knows what they're doing.

@Amy: to each their own. no one says we have to like the same things.
Post a comment