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Books Read in 2014: JUST LIKE HEAVEN by Julia Quinn

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn
Audiobook performed by Rosalyn Landor
Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn

Book Blurb:
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

Together they:

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

My Review:

Rating:
Story: 4 stars
Narrator: 4.5 stars

      Goodreads bookshelves: audiobook, books-read-in-2014, hist-19th-c-romantic-victorian, historical-romance

      Read from April 30 to May 12, 2014

Why, oh, why, oh, why is Julia Quinn obsessed with the idea that a couple cannot have a happy ending without pregnancy/babies?

I’m getting ahead of myself.

After enjoying Quinn’s Bridgerton series (though I did skip When He Was Wicked after two attempts and not being able to get into it), I decided to go ahead and jump right into the Smythe-Smith series. At first, I wasn’t quite sure where this first in the quartet fell in the Bridgerton timeline (I didn’t look at the previous books for date-stamps), and at first thought it might be between Eloise’s and Hyacinth’s books, as Gregory is still at university in this one—but then Colin shows up and is still unmarried, so it falls much earlier in the Bridgerton timeline than I originally thought. Not that it means much, except for my surprise that Colin was still unmarried (and, come to think of it, no mention was made of Lady Whistledown’s column, which should have still been going strong at this point).

Anyway, back to the book. Lady Honoria Smythe-Smith is the youngest of a large family (and there’s the obsession with people having lots and lots and lots of babies again!). Her older brother, Daniel, had a school friend, Marcus, whom he brought home on holidays because Marcus is an only child and he and his father didn’t really have much of a relationship. So Marcus has been around pretty much ever since Honoria can remember.

As the story begins, mortified at the idea that she’s going to have to play in the infamous Smythe-Smith Musicale again this year, Honoria is determined that she will find someone to marry before the end of the season (which hasn’t quite started yet). She’s at a house party (her aunt’s house, IIRC), and the property just happens to be “surrounded” by Marcus’s estate. Though her aunt tries to cajole Honoria into inviting Marcus to the house party (after all, he’s an earl (again, IIRC—these details are a lot harder to remember when it’s from the audiobook version—young, handsome and, obviously, eligible), but when Honoria writes to tell him of the invitation, she reminds him how much he hates these kinds of social events and how awful it would be. Naturally, following her lead, he declines. But he wants to see her—because, secretly, he’s sworn to her brother, Daniel, that he’ll keep an eye on her and make sure she doesn’t make a bad marriage while Daniel is out of the country. (Long story as to why he’s absent—you’ll have to read the book to understand.)

Honoria decides to set a trap for one of the young men at the houseparty (Gregory Bridgerton, whom she thinks is the least objectionable of the lot) by digging a “mole hole” and pretending to twist her ankle in it. She does this, hides until she hears others out walking, then sets her scene. Only no one from the houseparty hears her calling out for help—but Marcus happens upon her in this undignified, unsuccessful pose. In his attempt to help her, he ends up stepping in the hole and twisting his ankle for realsies. But his fashionable boots are too tight for them to take off, and he can’t walk on the ankle. So Honoria—instead of going directly to his house, which would have been logical—goes back to her aunt’s house (and, naturally, it starts raining) to send a message to Marcus’s house for a footman to go out and get him.

Honoria and one of her cousins calls on him the next day or so and learn that he’s under the weather. She learns that he had to sit out in the rain for almost two hours before help arrived, and that when they finally did get him home, his valet had to cut his boot off because his ankle was so swollen, slicing Marcus’s leg in the process to add, well, injury to injury.

After the visit, Honoria returns to London with her mother to prepare for the Season—purchasing gowns, planning dinners, etc. But after just a few days, she receives an urgent note from Marcus’s housekeeper saying that Marcus is extremely ill and the housekeeper begs Honoria to come. She forces her mother to drop everything and leave immediately for Cambridgeshire to see him.

When they arrive, Marcus is not just sick, he’s delirious with fever, something that a simple cold from having been out in the rain for a couple of hours shouldn’t have caused. After quite some time of mopping his brow with . . . um, well, I’ll leave that for you to discover what she uses for that . . . she finally thinks to have a look at his leg. Lo and behold, the cut is extremely infected, causing the fever.

Quite a bit of the story is focused on this incident and its aftermath, with Honoria and her mother cleaning the wound and cutting away the dead tissue and, basically, saving his leg from amputation. Honoria realizes that she couldn’t face the prospect of losing him, and Marcus realizes that she was his touchstone and why he kept fighting during the worst of the fever. There’s even a stolen treacle tart involved. Ah, that’s true love—stealing a treacle tart for someone! 😉

This is the portion of the book in which Julia Quinn’s writing sparkles—the banter between hero and heroine. I also appreciate the fact that she doesn’t go for the “sick-bed sex”—the heroine giving in to her curiosity/temptation/desire about the hero and having sex with him while he’s out of his mind with fever, which many books I’ve read do. I love that while her characters may think about their attraction—or even desire—for each other, it never devolves into a rapacious, prurient, animalistic, “can’t control themselves” sex. They still maintain their faculties. The hero doesn’t get a hard-on every time he looks at the heroine; and she isn’t generating “moisture” every time she thinks about him—and I’m not talking tears, either. I never fail to appreciate this about JQ’s stories, and it’s here in full-force.

The day before Honoria and her mother are to return to London, Marcus receives a letter from her brother, Daniel, stating that he’s coming back to England. He tells them this, but that Daniel doesn’t give a date. This, of course, throws the mother into a frenzy of wanting to get back home to prepare for his arrival.

The next morning, when Honoria goes to Marcus’s bedroom to say goodbye, she learns from the housemaid that he’s in the dressing room with his valet taking a bath. Because they need to get on the road early for the twelve-hour drive back to London, she decides to leave him a note. Seeing the letter from Daniel on his bedside table, she goes against her better judgment and reads it. And, of course, this is where the Big Misunderstanding enters the story.

So . . . the scene shifts back to London and the looming Smythe-Smith Musicale. Things happen. Marcus shows up. They go to Lady Bridgerton’s birthday party. Marcus gets jealous over his great-aunt, Lady Danforth, introducing Honoria to Colin Bridgerton. Other conflicts ensue, and, finally, we get to the night of the musicale.

If you’ve read any of the Bridgerton books, you know what the Smythe-Smith Musicale means, and this time we get an insider’s perspective of it, which only makes me happier that I didn’t actually have to sit through it myself.

Honoria goes upstairs to lie down after it’s over, and, naturally Marcus follows her.

I’ll close the door on that, except to say that the Big Misunderstanding is resolved, and then catch up with them again when they’re at the back/servants’ door kissing goodbye so that Marcus can sneak off home and Honoria can sneak back into the post-Musicale party, when Marcus is attacked by . . . someone. And I’ll leave that there for you to read about.

Honoria returns to the party only to be publicly insulted by some random person who’s never (to my knowledge) been mentioned in any of the Bridgerton books and hadn’t been seen/introduced/heard of in this one before he starts insulting Honoria in front of everyone in the room (she doesn’t even know who he is).

It was so . . . out of left field that it was quite obviously a setup for Marcus to come in as the knight in shining armor and defend her honor. And while Honoria wasn’t one of my favorite Quinn heroines to begin with, the fact that she didn’t say a word in defense of herself or her family, just stood there letting this man insult her in her own home, left me with a really bad taste in my mouth. I appreciate the fact that she was taken off guard—but to not say anything to this man who went on and on and on, with increasingly nasty insults? And then for others in the room not to say anything in protest or defense? The Smythe-Smiths are supposed to be a HUGE extended family—there wasn’t one male cousin or uncle who would have stepped forward in defense of a famale family member??? Well, the scene just became more and more contrived. Of course, Marcus comes in to save the day (and then proposes to her in front of everyone); but by that point, the scene had lost all credulity for me.

And then there’s the epilogue.

If I’d been reading the book on my Kindle, I would have just skipped it. I’ve learned from the other six Quinn books I’ve read that the epilogue is just going to make me angry with its “baby ever after” cap to the story, but as I was listening to the audio, I went ahead and let it run. And, naturally, Honoria is pregnant. And not only that, but, sitting there at the next year’s Musicale, she beams and gets teary-eyed, and says to Marcus how much she’s looking forward to having many, many daughters who can play in the Musicale.

Excuse me? The very thing that she’s been complaining about for the ENTIRE BOOK—she’s going to inflict it on her own children. Really????? And, of course, all Marcus can do is look down at her big preggers belly and agree with her, because we all know that romance heroes lose their ability to reason and do anything but think about having lots and lots of babies and keeping little wifey-poo eternally pregnant and popping out more little babies for the rest of eternity. Because, apparently, copious fertility is the only way to prove that the hero/heroine really are in love.

Gag.

I really need to stop reading/listening to these epilogues, as they give a really sour note to the endings of JQ’s books for me.

There wasn’t an obvious set-up for the next book. Several characters were introduced who, I’m sure, will be featured in the remaining three installments in this series (Daniel, Sarah, Iris/Daisy???), but I like the fact that even though I know it’s a series and even though characters I’m sure will show up in subsequent books appear in this one, JQ doesn’t give much, if any, page room for setting up those other stories, beyond world-building and extensive casts of characters. (Unlike Eloisa James in her Maiden Lane series, where the next book’s character gets his/her own POV scenes which may have absolutely nothing to do with the plot of the current story.)

Epilogue aside, I did enjoy this book. While I don’t feel it’s the best JQ has written, it was far from the worst.

______________________________________________

My rating matrix:
5 STARS = one of the best I’ve ever read
4 STARS = a great read, highly recommended
3 STARS = it was okay/not a favorite
2 STARS = I didn’t enjoy it all that much, not recommended
1 STAR/DNF = I hated it and/or Did Not Finish it

3 Comments leave one →
  1. susansnodgrass permalink
    Tuesday, May 13, 2014 7:32 am

    When will you have another book out?

    Susan Snodgrass

    Like

  2. Tuesday, May 13, 2014 8:24 pm

    “Why, oh, why, oh, why is Julia Quinn obsessed with the idea that a couple cannot have a happy ending without pregnancy/babies?”

    Yes!

    I’m a mother. I love my children. But they are not the be-all and end-all of a marriage, or a life. And I can assure authors that finishing on a birth scene reminds me not of the magic of falling in love, but of the painful, messy process of childbirth.

    Like

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