Just Like Heaven (Julia Quinn, Smythe-Smith Quartet #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Light and fluffy with bits of enjoyable dialogue and amusing scenes, this is a retooling of the we’ve-always-been-friends-but never-been-lovers story. She’s the younger sister of his best friend… yeah… that story. It’s totally readable and pleasant, just not very memorable. Not to damn with faint praise, but it was really just… pretty good, a nice way to spend a couple of hours: there are a few light laughs (some of the scenes are a little drawn out), a lot of cameos from characters from Quinn’s other novels, a little medical drama, and then we’re done. The story is driven more by friendship and banter than passion or even a believable romantic journey, but it was cute… and mostly entertaining.

Greater Detail:
Honoria Smythe-Smith is one of the current members of the infamously bad Smythe-Smith quartet. The fact that this is a tone deaf, musically impaired family has been a long running joke in Quinn’s other novels (namely the Bridgertons saga). Honoria is part of that quartet up until the time she marries… which, after two seasons without any offers, is something she’s starting to despair will ever happen.

Little does she know that she hasn’t received any offers because Marcus, the Earl of Chatteris (and a longtime friend of Honoria’s older brother), has promised, in her brother’s absence, to screen all of her suitors. Marcus has scared away the ones who seem cruel, over-aged, or after her fortune… basically, all of her suitors.

Now, that set-up, the background that they’re friends, that the brother and Marcus were friends and that the brother is now abroad, is a lot of the plot right there. The middle section, where Honoria tries to entrap a man by tripping in a mole hole she’s dug, and where instead, Marcus trips and gets a gash in his leg that then gets infected, goes on for a LONG time (chapters and chapters of being ill, having an infection, treating the infection, Honoria’s viewpoint of this, Marcus’s laudanum-induced viewpoint of this).

And really, that’s my basic problem with this novel. If every scene were cut in half, or maybe just a third, this might have been more interesting. Instead, long after you get the point, the chapter continues… and continues…

The discovery of love part of this becomes the underdeveloped portion, and though it’s a harmlessly fun and light read, there’s little else to recommend it.

Comparisons to Other Authors/Books:
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.

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