I honestly have no idea why I am being so productive on this blog of late. I figured I'd start it full of vim and vigor, and slowly peter out. I'm impressing myself, if that's okay to say. Self-congratulation aside, my work for the day:
Just Like Heaven
Author: Julia Quinn
Genre: Romance novel-ish, historical fiction
Series: The Smythe-Smith Quartet #1
Published: May 2011
Marcus Holroyd is the best friend of Honoria Smythe-Smith's brother, Daniel, who lives in exile out of the country. Marcus has promised to watch out for Honoria and takes his responsibility very seriously. But he has his work cut out for him when Honoria sets off for Cambridge determined to marry by the end of the season.
After reading three pretty emotionally fraught novels (Games to Play After Dark, Lock and Key, The Truth About Forever) I was in desperate need for something light, easy, fluffy, fun and cute. I saw Just Like Heaven and looked at the blurb on the back:
Honoria Smythe-Smith is:
A) a really bad violinist B) still miffed at being nicknamed "Bug" as a child C) not in love with her older brother's best friend D) all of the above
Marcus Holroyd is:
A) the Earl of Chatteris B) regrettably prone to sprained ankles C) not in love with his best friend's younger sister D) all of the above
A) eat quite a bit of chocolate cake B) survive a deadly fever and the world's worst musical performance C) fall quite desperately in love
It's Julia Quinn at her best, so you know the answer is . . .
D) all of the above.
This is clearly more romance novel-ish than I usually read, but it was set in 1825 London/Cambridge and it sounded so cheekily fun, I went against my grain and decided to give it a try. Happily for me, it delivered on all counts, proving to be a charming and diverting story.
I had read one novel prior to this by the same author (The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever), which was a merely decent novel, though with lovely prose. Just Like Heaven was a huge improvement, though it did seem a tad reminiscent of the same basic plot as The Secret Diaries in the introductory chapters (young noble girl must find husband, falls in love with a family friend, mishaps and misunderstandings occur, ensue and are, eventually, overcome).
Ms. Quinn has several series and beloved characters that are referenced throughout the novel. For her more devoted readers, I am sure it is a fun insight into past storylines and cherished characters. For a two-time reader like me, all the Bridgertons, et al. mentioned made keeping all the characters and relations distinct more difficult. However, I managed to muddle through, and it was not too distracting from the main story. Cleverly, these cameos also made me curious about the other books Ms. Quinn has penned. Well done, there.
I enjoyed every single character in this book, without falling in love with any. Honoria, our female lead, is spunky, musically inept and devoted to her large, fractious family. Family has always and will always come first for her. Tellingly, when her only brother is exiled in shame to the Continent she does not give up on him, even though most of the family seems to. Honoria, as are all females of the Smythe-Smith clan, is required from early teenage years until marriage to play an instrument and perform yearly in the world's most tone deaf musicale. Thanks to this 18 year tradition, we get to meet three of Honoria's numerous female cousins: the difficult but loving Sarah on pianoforte, the talented but whiny Iris on the cello, and the too-literal Daisy also on violin. These three were hilarious and have a familial camaraderie that is believable and viciously loving. I hope that the remaining three novels in this series focus on Honoria's cousins and their lives and loves.
Marcus pulls off the brooding, reticent Earl admirably well. His hidden wit and unexpected humor were a good contrast to Honoria's more blatant sense of humor. Marcus is almost taciturn at the beginning of the novel, but he grew on me like moss. Slowly, but inexorably, I became more and more invested in this lonely, awkward Lord Chatteris. The inevitable mishap that keeps the lovers apart is mercifully short, and thankfully doesn't require either Honoria or Marcus to act out of character for it to happen. It genuinely comes across as a mishap, rather than a contrived plot point to ratchet up the tension and drama.
All in all, just what it looked to be: easy, fun, with a happyending for all. I fully intend to read the remaining three in the Smythe-Smith Quartet, and possibly even check out this author's numerous series.