Julia Quinn is an excellent gateway author for people curious about historical romance. I raced through her catalogue (as did my mother) at the beginning of my obsession, when I was greedy and the entire genre lay before me like a shameful buffet. I came back to her now because even lesser Quinn is better than most everything else, and I just can’t face any more bad romance (although I’m not ready to change what I’m reading). Last year, I didn’t bother to read this last book in Quinn’s justly popular Bridgerton family series because the reviews were comparatively lacklustre, but reading one of her new-to-me books after so much tripe was a treat.
Gregory Bridgerton has watched all seven of his siblings make happy marriages. He longs for true love and will settle for nothing less. Pole-axed when he lays eyes on the beautiful Hermione Watson, he decides that this must be it. Hermione’s best friend, Lucy, is accustomed to witnessing these reactions, but decides to help Gregory because he is the lesser of two evils, the other one being Hermione’s unacceptable secret love for her father’s secretary, and because he is the best of the long line of besotted fools. Gregory gets distracted by Lucy.
Delightfully wry and fun, you will find yourself laughing out loud at Julia Quinn’s books. She is a deft writer, witty and charming. The prose is clever and feels effortless, and she limits herself to the love story which greatly appeals to the purist in me. Quinn does longing and banter extremely well, as well as that fluttery feeling of incipient affection. Her characters are extremely likeable and the family dynamics are particularly entertaining. The only challenge is that it seems to be hard for her to shift gears when the going needs to get tough. Everything glides along beautifully, but when the action in On the Way to the Wedding gets ratcheted up, it’s too sudden a tonal shift and jarred with the carefully crafted buoyancy of the rest of the story, but that’s a quibble, not a condemnation. However imperfect, Julia Quinn is still one of the best writers in the genre.
The other reason I stopped reading Quinn is because, frankly, she has peaked. She did so spectacularly and has five terrific books out of eight in the Bridgerton series, but her more recent works offer diminishing returns and lack the spark of her earlier novels. I would go so far as to say that at least one of the Bridgerton books is a classic, I just can’t decide which:
The Duke and I – Julia Quinn Daphne/Simon – Very good, the ending had a bit too much sturm and drang for me.
The Viscount Who Loved Me – Anthony/Kate – Fun, but I wasn’t big on Anthony. I have only so much patience with officiousness. Kate is fabulous. They are a well-matched couple. Great sparring.
An Offer from a Gentleman – Benedict/Sophy – A Cinderella story, my first Quinn, absolutely delightful .
Romancing Mr. Bridgerton – Colin/Penelope – Might be a classic of the wallflower winning variety. Colin is the good-lookingest and charmingest of the four brothers. You can’t help but root for Penelope.
To Sir Phillip, With Love – Eloise/Phillip – It moves a bit too quickly, but Eloise is fun. Not up to the same standards as the rest, but has some nice moments.
When He Was Wicked – Francesca/Michael – I can’t fault Quinn for trying something different, but that doesn’t mean I want to read it. An unsuccessful attempt at a change in tone. I hated it.
It’s in His Kiss – Hyacinth/Gareth – Sweet and charming, might be a classic of the breezy and winning variety. Hyacinth is a force of nature.
On the Way to the Wedding – Gregory/Lucy – Please see above.
Quinn’s current Smythe-Smith books are based around a running joke in the Bridgerton novels about awful music recitals. The series is really just getting going and I have read everything in it so far, and will probably continue to do so, but they are actually too light for me. Honestly, sometimes it feels like Quinn is tired of writing these books but has contractual obligations. Even so, the newer books are a safe choice and guaranteed to be entertaining, if not memorable.
A summary of Julia Quinn’s catalogue can be found here. Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.
Tagged: book reviews, Bridgerton, historical romance, Julia Quinn, Regency romance, romance review
Yeah, Julia Quinn was my gateway drug. I read The Duke and I first and it’s still my fave. Have to admit that by the time I got my hands on On the Way to the Wedding I did a lot of skimming. Just didn’t have the spark of the earlier books in the series, as you point out. But your review is making me want to give it another try.
Have you read any Laura Kinsale? I’ve only read a few, Flowers from the Storm being the first I read and so far best, in my opinion. For My Lady’s Heart also had a great hero, but it’s medieval and I find myself getting distracted by how dirty everyone must have been. I have a few others in my TBR pile. She’s a good writer, and it’s interesting that she seems to set her novels in various time periods rather than sticking to one as many other authors seem to do.
I’ve heard of the Kinsale as it appears on Best Of lists all the time. I should track it down.
I can’t read medievals for the exact same reason, plus the whole subjugation of women thing.
I just realized I totally missed this review somehow. Julia Quinn and Loretta Chase were totally my gateway reads back into romance. I don’t remember many of the romances I read as a teen, except some of the more outrageous ones by Bertrice Small. I do know that I read quite a few Old School rapey ones, though. So glad that trend is no longer a popular.
If you haven’t read them yet (and I can’t be bothered to reference your Shameful Tally, sorry), enjoyable Quinn novels that you might like are How to Marry a Marquis (about Lady Danbury’s companion and nephew, who used to be a spy), What Happens in London and Ten Things I love About You. Slightly lesser ones that are still good – The Lost Duke of Wyndham, To Catch an Heiress, Everything and the Moon and Brighter Than the Sun. Stay FAR away from The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever (the only Quinn I’ve actively disliked) and Mr. Cavendish, I Presume (Companion novel to the Duke of Wyndham one, fairly pointless a lot of the scenes are repeated, just from a different point of view).
I do have some gaps, although I’ve read What Happens, Ten Things, Moon and Sun. I am smart enough to have listened to your advice about Cheever/Wyndham.
I’ve working on a new author – Victoria Alexander. I’ve read a novella and I’ve started on my first novel by her. The heroine is named Jocelyn!
I saw one of her books being so favourably reviewed that I’ve put it on my TBR list (The Importance of Being Wicked). Let me know if you like her, I’m always on the lookout for new, fun romance. By the way, I’m going to read Kleypas’ Tempt Me at Twilight later in the month, as it qualifies as a triple whammy with regards to my reading challenges. It fits Monthly Key Word, Mount TBR, AND it’s historical romance. I just need to read a few that aren’t historical romance first, so I feel I’ve been all diverse and stuff. 😉
I read it the same weekend I read Devil in Winter, Sebastian was my first Kleypas. Originally, I liked it better than Devil. I’ve come to my senses, but I have a soft spot for Harry.
[…] books where there is no outside party trying to interfere with the lovers are generally better.” Mrs. Julien is with us too: “the only challenge is that it seems to be hard for her to shift gears when the going needs to […]