It’s a Quinnestravaganza!
Oh man, I am just one book shy of making this post the Quintessential Quintuplet of Quinn Novels.
Author: Julia Quinn
Series: Splendid Trilogy
Tags: American, Indomitable Ingenue, Moody Duke, mistaken identity
Okay, so I looked up Julia Quinn and I found this interesting piece of information:
“Julia Quinn loves to dispel the myth that smart women don’t read (or write) romance, and in 2001 she did so in grand style, competing on the the game show The Weakest Link and walking away with the $79,000 jackpot.”
I love to dispel that myth tooooo!
Apparently, she was on her way to medical school when her first two books were bought at auction. She still graduated medical school much later, while she was also a best selling author.
Imagine going to your doctor and finding out that she was a highly acclaimed romance author??
Splendid was her first novel, and I am decidedly underwhelmed. It was fun and cute and thoroughly romance-novel-y, but ended up being a little too heavy handed and repetitive. Everyone was the #1 stereotype of each character trope: an outspoken but beautiful heroine, a moody Lothario duke caught unawares by his feelings for her, a mustache twisting villain…
And how many times do we need to fit in the word “splendid” to emphasize the title, really? One more time, you say?
The was a lot of repetition. I noticed that the characters would say they are doing something, and then the narrative would say they are doing it as well.
I ended up skimming the end, which is a feat over audiobook, let me tell you.
One thing I did like that was kind of unusual for a romance novel: the heroine didn’t want to get married. The hero wasn’t interested in getting married, being that stereotype ladies’ man, top-of-the-world, alpha male duke. But the heroine wasn’t interested in marriage either. She was planning to head back to America to take over her father’s company, and, eventually, marry someone over there, so she was not interested in the duke that way anyway. She was fine with him hanging out with her and scaring away all her suitors because she didn’t want suitors in the first place.
Basically, they hung out because they enjoyed each other’s company. They have a long, flirtatious friendship throughout the Season, with plenty of time to get to know each other. Everyone is expecting and conspiring them to get married, but they themselves only slowly come to realization that they can’t live without each other.
How interesting. Friendships, for heaven’s sake.
I can’t say how much I would have liked this book if I had read it instead of listened to the audiobook narrated by the WORST narrator ever. Her name is Lucy Rayner, and she’s going on my Audiobook Narrators I Broke Up With List.
She uses falsetto for a few of her female characters! FALSETTO! It sounds like Regency Minnie Mouse.
Not that great, but since I have been enjoying Quinn so much, I give her a First Book Pass. Let’s see what else she got.
Dancing at Midnight
Author: Julia Quinn
Series: Splendid Trilogy #2
Tags: Regency, war injury, limp, bluestocking, poetry
A little better than Splendid, with some great moments. Belle is not a stereotype bluestocking, she’s pretty and sociable…she just reads too much.
I hear ya, girl.
Our hero is an angsty war veteran with a limp. Oh Quinn, we have SO MUCH in common.
The best part of the book is their running joke. Belle thinks that the hero is a poet, since he loves poetry. She asks him to write a poem for her. The rest of the book he tries to get away with passing off great poems as his own, and she catches him at every turn. She starts reading poetry just so she can stop him from plagiarizing.
What a playful, lovely exchange. I just love when characters are fun with each other. There is just not enough humor or enjoying each other’s company in angsty vampire novels, a la Blood Shadows.
The poem he writes her at the end is movingly sweet.
I did think that it was still a bit heavy handed, especially since there were not one but THREE dream sequences, but in general it was fun and adorable.
My biggest problem was that damn damn narrator Lucy Rayner. Why, Rayner, whyyy did you decide to use falsetto with Belle’s voice?! Arrrgh!
I just have one more of this trilogy with that Rayner woman. I am going to power through it because it might be good, and I hate not finishing things. Blessedly, after this first trilogy, a new narrator was chosen.
The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy
Author: Julia Quinn
Series: Smythe-Smith Quartet #4
Tags: Regency, marriage of convenience, secret pregnancy
I was a little disappointed by this book.
One thing I like about ensemble casts is that the sheer number of main characters necessitates more personality development, or, at the very least, archetypes. It bothers me whenever a character is given a personality, only have it slowly stripped away by circumstances or drama.
In this case, Iris had a personality that separated her from the other girls in the quartet, only to slowly sound like every other woman once her foils are taken away and the story is focused on her. She is very dry witted, and I found her less so when it became her time to shine. There is some continuity, but I guess that I wanted it to be more pronounced. I was looking forward to seeing her character develop, and I was disappointed.
TANGENT: I have always said “I’m not a plot person; I like characters.” I just realized while writing that I don’t particularly mean character development when I say I like characters.
Character development–that serious pursuit that is always treated with much gravity in fiction writing workshops–is either a little too linear (his parents were killed in carriage accident THEREFORE he gets carriage sickness), or you end up with characters too complex to grasp for easy reading. Ironic characters like Emma are fun to think about, but can leave me in a state of tension that I just can’t do 24/7.
What I actually like is PERSONALITY, or, from Austen’s time, manners.
They don’t have to be complex characters (Mrs. Bennett is terribly flat) but they have to have a continuity of disposition that fits every scene they are in. There also has to be a variety, since people are so different and think so differently. Nothing makes me want to put down a book more than characters that sound the same, think the same, and act the same.
Whenever I think of character personality, I think of the most extreme example: Power Rangers.
Somewhere in the middle of a friend’s and my ambitious goal of watching all (at the time, 19) seasons of Power Rangers, we started to notice a plot pattern. A character would be given a special skill (super strength, telekinesis, etc.) to separate themselves from the pack, they would use it once, and we would never see it again!
How’s that super strength going, Red Ranger? Or Yellow Ranger, with your jumping thing? Really? You can’t think of another way to use these skills, when your main activity is fighting?
Obviously, no one expects Power Rangers to hold themselves to a high quality of character development. But, aren’t there other stories out there, even highly acclaimed ones, that are just complicated versions of the same thing??
Keeping the personality alive is a tall order if you have one person as a narrator.
It could be that the narrator affected me in this disappointment. I just love it when narrators have different tones and accents for different characters, and they carry that tone through the series. I don’t think that happened here.
There are other problems with this book, though. SPOILER: the conflict of the story is that Sir Richard has to marry so that he can pass off his unwed sister’s baby as his child and his sister can save her reputation.
So of course he doesn’t tell her FOREVER. And we are waiting in suspense to hear what his big deep dark secret is that will make her hate him forever. I guessed it once I met his petulant sister, probably because the reveal of One Dance with a Duke is very similar.
I just didn’t like the premise, and how he treated her. That whole bit about giving her a romance so she can feel she had it before it all crashes down is just dumb. I’m a little surprised that she didn’t call him out on it. God, I love with heroines call out the men on their shit.
What Happens in London
Author: Julia Quinn
Series: Bevelstoke #2
Tags: regency, spy, nextdoor neighbors, translator, Russian prince
Rating: Super yay!
I loved him!
Quinn, I will say it again: GET OUT OF MY MIND!
Intelligent translator spy stodgy humorous man, who is more clueless than Lothario, but not debilitatingly so. I am 110% behind this guy.
And the heroine is pretty fun too.
This book has a particularly theatrical feel to it, since they are next door neighbors that meet by speaking to each other from their windows. Just so adorable, and you can totally see it put together on a stage.
The characters again seem to really enjoy each other. I don’t know what it is about a Quinn couple, but I like to think they are friends first.
The hijinks! A Russian prince courts our heroine, with a giant Russian bodyguard at his heels. Harry fumes at the prince’s impertinence, secretly understanding Russian. Harry’s smooth friend is delightfully droll. There is an ongoing discussion of a particularly salacious gothic novel, which both main characters hate, though every one else of their acquaintance loves it. The best scene ever is coming upon Sebastian standing on a table doing a dramatic reading of the novel, while the prince, bodyguard, and three tearful maids look on in rapt attention.
There’s a 14 year gap from when Dancing at Midnight was published (1995) to this book (2009), and you can really see the improvement in her craft. Plot: on point. Characters: delightful. Scenes: full of giggles.
All you can ask for in a romance novel.
Julia Quinn, you are now officially on my Go-To List.
On the Radar