Tag Archives: Julia Quinn

The Smyth-Smith Quartet: The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy by Julia Quinn

 A new release, The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy is the fourth book in Julia Quinn’s Smythe-Smith Regency romance series. I feel like all of my reviews of her recent novels are repetitive, to wit:

  1. Julia Quinn is an excellent gateway author for people who want to try Regency romance.
  2. The writing is light and fun. Deft is the word I always come back to.
  3. Since her Bridgerton series, her quality has fallen off a bit.
  4. The Bridgerton series is really strong though. It has one or two classics.
  5. There is an overlap and interplay between Quinn’s books and I enjoy the guest stars and recognizing that events are being replayed from another perspective.
  6. I no longer pay for her books, preferring to read them on loan. Thank you, Malin.
  7. Not-quite-what-she-once-was-Quinn, is still better than most, and, again, witty and fun.
  8. Quinn is a skilled story-teller and very good at describing the feelings of falling in love.
  9. When the plot moves into more heavy sledding, things tend to fall apart a bit.
  10. All of the above apply to The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy.

Sooner rather than later, Richard Kenworthy is in need of a wife. For reasons of his own, he has a two-week timeline to find and marry pretty much any halfway suitable candidate he can find. A dowry would have been nice, but he has other considerations. The reader does not know what these are and such is the sense of portent, I was genuinely curious as to what on earth could have Richard so desperate to marry and then keep him from a full relationship his new wife.

Iris is the cellist in the current iteration of the Smythe-Smith quartet. Introduced in the Bridgerton series, these “musicale” evenings are the stuff of legend in their social circle. Each unmarried and of-age young woman in the family must participate in the humiliation. Iris, like most of her fellow embarrass-ees, is painfully aware that their musicianship is sadly lacking, despite the fact that she actually plays her instrument well, if unenthusiastically. She’s a clever, observant woman and unsure of Richard’s motivations, but her own incipient feelings for him lead her to accept his rushed proposal and intentional, if almost chaste, ruination to guarantee the nuptials.

Away Richard and Iris go to start their lives together in deepest, darkest Yorkshire. Tremendously drawn to one another, their marital relationship goes through fits and starts with Quinn’s usual aplomb until the reason for Richard’s haste to wed arrives in the form of his sister, Fleur. It was at this point that what had been a bit, “Oh, get on with it” took a turn for the overwrought. Not to spoil anything, the family is in crisis and Iris is Richard’s solution, although he is the only one who thinks he has the right remedy for their problems. Iris solves the puzzle and saves the day so she and Richard, who, wisely begs for forgiveness, can really begin their lives together.

I quite liked the book that preceded this one, The Sum of All Kisses. 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.

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The Complete Reading List by Author

Short Version: Recommended books are in bold, reviewed books are linked, these are ruthlessly streamlined recommendations lists –

So You Want to Read a (Historical) Romance
Ten Great Romance Novellas to Get You Started
Plus just for funsies: The Worst Romance Novels I Have Ever Read

I have more content based lists over there on the right  –>

Annual Reading Tallies & Author Commentary 2012 – 2017
On reading romance: Emotional Version and Pseudo-Intellectual Version.

My AUTOBUY List (Links Will Take You to a Summary of the Author’s Catalogue)
Tessa Dare (on double-secret probation right now actually)
Laura Florand
Lisa Kleypas
Julie Anne Long
Courtney Milan – The. Very. Best.

-A-
Albert, Annabeth Waiting for Clark (Bryce/Clark)
Albert, Annabeth Save the Date (Randall/Hunter)
Alexander, R.G. Ravenous novella (Declan/Trick/Jennifer)
Alexander, Victoria Love with the Proper Husband (Marcus/Gwen)
Alexander, Victoria Lady Amelia’s Secret Lover novella (Robert/Amelia)
Alexander, Victoria The Prince’s Bride (Rand/Jocelyn)
Alexander, Victoria The Importance of Being Wicked (Winfield/Miranda)
Alexander, Victoria Lord Stillwell’s Excellent Engagements novella (Winfield/ Felicia&Lucy&Caroline)
Alvarez, Tracey In Too Deep (West/Piper)
Andre, Bella The Way You Look Tonight (Rafe/Brooke)
Ann, Jewel E. When Life Happened (Gus/Parker)
Ashe, Katharine In the Arms of a Marquess (Ben)
Ashley, Jennifer The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie (Ian, not surprisingly/Beth) – GENRE OUTLINE
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The Smyth-Smith Quartet: The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn

I regret returning The Sum of All Kisses to the library quickly, but I don’t want to buy my own copy. This tells me that while I enjoyed the book, it didn’t make a lasting impression

If you are a historical romance fan, you already know who Julia Quinn is. If you are interested in trying historical romance, her Bridgerton series provides an excellent gateway. I use the words deft and witty every time I review one of her books because they are always apropos and Quinn is almost always a light-hearted, satisfying read. She is guaranteed to make you laugh and offer at least one truly romantic moment.

Quinn’s current Regency series revolves around a family group that puts on an annual concert of consistently awful quality. The Smythe-Smith quartet, as they are called, has an evolving membership and over the course of the novels, members get married off and make good their escape from public humiliation. This time up, it’s Sarah Pleinsworth and family acquaintance Hugh Prentice. He caused a scandal several years ago by dueling with her cousin and Sarah feels the resulting imbroglio ruined her matrimonial opportunities. She hates him. He finds her melodramatic. Forced to spend time together at house parties for their friends’ weddings, no one is surprised when they end up engaged in under three weeks.

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Agents of the Crown Series: How to Marry a Marquis by Julia Quinn

(This was written using the romance review template I created for my post on Mary Balogh’s A Handful of Gold)

How to Marry a Marquis is a romance of the “you are everything I never knew I always wanted variety”: Boy meets girl. He is the wealthy nephew of a marriage-minded aunt. She is the impoverished companion of said aunt and also responsible for her younger siblings. Boy and girl move forward together secure in their love and commitment.

 A historical romance set in rural Regency England and written by Julia Quinn, How to Marry a Marquis is my 15th or 16th book by this author.  I generally find her work fun. Quinn is a deft and witty writer who excels at spinning light-hearted romance. I have covered all of the novels in her justly famous Bridgerton series in previous reviews. I found How to Marry a Marquis enjoyable and romantic. I will continue to seek out Quinn’s other novels because this one was really good, and I would recommend this particular effort.

The main plot of How to Marry a Marquis  focuses on the reformation of a rake. James Sidwell,  Marquis of Riverdale is that rake. He is urbane, charming, and sincere. He handles challenging situations with humour and aplomb. The heroine, Elizabeth Hotchkiss, is a victim of circumstance. She is also charming, resolute, and hardworking. Elizabeth’s parents have both passed away and she is responsible for the financial well-being of the family. She works for local harridan (and Quinn fan favourite) Lady Danbury to help get by, but her financial situation is worsening. Elizabeth finds an instructional book called How to Marry a Marquis in Lady Danbury’s library and decides to “practice” on the new estate manager, James. What Elizabeth does not know is that James is a family member or his true purpose in the house. They are instantly attracted to each other. Over time, they come to discover that despite any challenges they face, they make an excellent team.

How to Marry a Marquis is one of Julia Quinn’s earlier efforts and it is delightful. I have read just about everything in her oeuvre and as her recent efforts are experiencing a, relatively speaking, fall in quality, it was nice to read something written when Quinn was coming into the phase in which she would produce her best work.  I recommend Quinn highly as a gateway author for those looking to give historical romance a try. She is the genre’s best at crafting deceptively simple, sincere, and funny romance.

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.

The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After by Julia Quinn

If you want to know if you should read this book, please answer the following questions:

a. Have you read at least five of the Bridgerton family books by historical romance author Julia Quinn?
b. Did you like them? (Except Francesca’s book. No one in their right mind liked Francesca’s book.)
c. Do you like new stories about characters you already know?
d. Did you fall at the zoo because you were carrying your child who is too large to be carried?
e. Did you spend the evening icing your bruised left foot and probably sprained right ankle?
f. Did you fall asleep on the couch with your legs elevated above your heart?
g. When you awoke and hobbled to the bathroom, did you manage to call out to your spouse/significant other right before you fainted on the potty?
h. After coming to, did you have cold sweats for 45 – 60 minutes, you can’t be sure how long because time had lost all meaning, but that’s how long your spouse/significant other said it was?
i. When you went to bed did stomach flu start, but no matter what you tried you couldn’t throw up?
j. Did you go to the bathroom to wait out the nausea and to continue trying to throw up?
k. Did you want something light to read to fill the time?
l. When you succeeded in throwing up (toothbrush), did your spouse/significant other call out a supportive “Yay!” from the bedroom?
m. Did you and your spouse/significant other go to the walk in clinic while your mother who is visiting and had planned to go with you to the Metropolitan Museum to see this exhibit stayed with your child?
n. Did you have three hours to fill at the walk in clinic while they confirmed your bruised left foot and definitely sprained right ankle?

If you answered, “yes” to these questions, this is the perfect book for you.

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.

 

The Bridgertons Series: On the Way to the Wedding by Julia Quinn

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.

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The Bridgertons Series: The Duke and I by Julia Quinn

Let’s start with a visual, shall we? After all, it is a romance novel and book cover art can be so dull.

The Duke and I is the first novel in Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton family series. It features Daphne Bridgerton, a young woman in her second season “out”, and Simon, Duke of Hastings, the erstwhile best friend of her brother, Anthony. Simon has been away for 6 years waiting for his father, a complete bastard, to die. He has returned to London to inherit his title and in doing so both accept and reject, as far as he is able, his role in life. Simon attends a soiree at the home of (recurring character) Lady Danbury and runs into Daphne as she tries to quash her only suitor’s advances. Daphne has not had luck with beaux. Men only see her as a friend because, rather than a fashionable flibbertigibbet, she is lovely, grounded, and kind. Now, who would want that? Guess. Simon is attracted to her instantly, but realising she is his best friend’s sister, errs on the side of propriety and backs off. The Fates and Plot Points intervene and the two of them settle into a friendship based on London society’s perception of their affection for each other: He escorts her to balls to deflect the unwanted attentions of marriage-minded women and to simultaneously make Daphne seem more appealing to suitable men by association with him. It works, but of course they fall in love, and, of course, there are obstacles, specifically Simon’s reluctance to marry and carry on his family name. The moment he gives in to his feelings for Daphne, they are caught in a compromising situation and the dance toward the happy ending is set in motion as, of course, they must marry…

While it would seem that I read the best of the Bridgerton, series first, I really enjoyed The Duke and I. Julia Quinn is especially good at the banter I look for in these books and she also manages to create a sense of anticipation in a story with a pre-determined ending. That is no small feat. This novel also had the added advantage of characters having genuine conversations. It doesn’t seem like a lot to ask for, but often romance novel interactions consist of projecting personality factoids at each other and waiting to kiss. Quinn creates believable people; they are beautiful, rich and charming, but at least they seem real enough to let you care about them. Lastly, Quinn is by far the best author I have found for balancing the love and sex elements.

A Bridgerton series summary is included in my review of Gregory’s book On the Way to the Wedding.

Reviewer’s Note:

I’ve read 20 historical romance novels in the past month and I have to ask –

What is with all of the French kissing? As God as my witness, last weekend, I read a kissing description in which the hero licked the roof of the heroine’s mouth. Is that even possible? Was he Gene Simmons? Is that an image you want in your head reading one of these books? Let me answer that for you: No, it is not. Do you remember when you discovered kissing, or, better still, kissed someone you were so smitten with that it was heady, electric, devastatingly swoony, and so many other delightful things? Remember those kisses? These books need more of that. In romance novels, the men are experienced, but the woman are certainly unaccustomed to being kissed. So imagine yourself as an inexperienced and, no doubt, uninformed young woman. You are being kissed by this man, this beautiful man. How much tongue is involved? How quickly? Is he flossing your uvula? These writers use tongue calisthenics to show the intensity of the leads’ connection, but don’t necessarily capture that magical kiss feeling. The racier the novel, the more violent, thrusting (in a “primitive rhythm”), sweeping, possessive, and getting into every nook and cranny of her mouth his tongue gets. There must be a way to describe kissing that is romantic, passionate and erotic, and doesn’t slide into inept erotica.

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.