2 out of 5 stars
Cut to the Chase:
The story starts off strong. Quinn’s a very talented writer, and we start with a believably tormented insomniac of a hero, Sebastian, as well as a genuinely likable heroine who feels like it may be her responsibility to provide for her recently semi-destitute family. But… I’m not sure that I ever really got into this story. The characters are likeable, but there’s a cutesiness that is overdone, and you’re never really sure why these particular character like and eventually love each other… which is a rather key element in any romance.
I really had high hopes for this novel — I generally like Quinn’s novels (especially the older ones and most of the Bridgertons series). Sebastian, as a tortured hero, reminded me of a mix between Simon (from Bridgertons #1) and Colin (from Bridgertons #4) — he’s less tortured than Simon, and a little less carefree than Colin, but still handsome, likeable, intelligent and charming, everything we want and expect from a romantic hero. Annabel is similarly likeable — she’s got a voluptuous figure, and a family in need of funds, which means she seriously considers marrying an older man who has a fortune and a need for heirs.
The problem I had with this book is that I just couldn’t get into it. You can kind of predict from the title that there are going to be cutesy lists, and so maybe I should have known what I was signing up for… but it just got a little annoying after awhile. The conflict that they each feel seems forced, and the humor (and by this I mean the overly cutesy humor, which I find borderline annoying) seems to be more central than the romance itself. There are funny one-liners, likeable characters… but just, I don’t know, there seemed to be no believable, palpable chemistry… at least not to the degree I would like to have in my romances. There were also a lot of really interesting backstory bits that were just left dangling and unexplored (like Sebastian’s insomnia and PTSD-like symptoms). Also… the aging earl with the jowls of flesh… we know it’s not really going to be a choice, right? It would have been nice to have less farcical, unbelievably one-dimensional side characters.
It was lighthearted… but almost too lighthearted. I didn’t really regret reading it, but it wasn’t really super-engaging even while I was reading it, nor was it very memorable once I put it down…(I’m struggling, even now, to remember enough to write a full review…)
Comparisons to Other Authors:
You can tell that Quinn is an Austen fan (there are actually little details and quotes here and there that have just been slightly tweaked, i.e. “it is a truth universally acknowledged that a married man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of an heir”). And her novels always rely more on well-developed, multi-layered characters who are fun, genuine, and easy to relate to, as opposed to shocking twists in plot and/or creative details and asides. Her sex scenes are sensual, though they vary (sometimes you get just the one consummation, other times there is more foreplay, etc), but the sex is really secondary to the character development (in a very well-written way) and usually an extension of the characters’ development and feelings as opposed to just… there… as it is with some authors. I think that Tessa Dare and Julie Anne Long both are similar in terms of wittiness of dialogue and such, but when Quinn is on, she’s probably my favorite of the trio. If you’re looking for good examples of Quinn’s work, I would suggest The Duke and I, Romancing Mr. Bridgerton, An Offer from a Gentleman or maybe even Minx.