What to Read, What Not to Read: Julia Quinn

Strengths:

Dialogue, Dialogue, Dialogue: Quinn’s ability to write witty banter is truly amazing. Whether she’s having her characters invent and argue over imaginary words or laughing at debutantes who think that “inclement” weather means weather “in Clement” she’s just fun, and entertaining. When the dialogue works, it truly sparkles, with back-and-forth quickness that carries you along.

The Un-pretty Heroine: While none of Quinn’s heroines are described as being ugly, Quinn’s best protagonists are pretty, or comely-enough, without being the belle of the ball. They’re women you’d have a good time hanging out with, who feel real and interesting and not overly-dramatic.

Connected Worlds: Quinn’s great at creating characters that are memorable, and that float from book to book. Lady Whistledown’s writings hold many of the Bridgertons books together (and were kind of a brilliant invention), but there are also details like the Smythe-Smith musicals (which start as a joke and later become their own spin-off series) and, of course, Lady Danbury. When you read a Quinn book, you know that you’re stepping firmly into her universe, and that we’ll be revisiting many familiar landmarks.

Good, Lighthearted Fun: With Quinn, you rarely have any dangerous kidnappings (meaning even when there are kidnappings, or highway robberies, nothing ever feels truly dangerous in a someone-might-die way), or terrible villains. Instead, you have people who might be nice or not nice, and might or might not mean well, but basically, you have semi-villains alongside your heros and heroines. There are quick, light, escapist reads and you don’t really have to worry that something terrible is lurking around the corner.

 Weaknesses:

I almost think she’s lost her edge: It’s hard to say this because, according to the bestseller lists, she’s still at the top of her game. And truthfully, Quinn’s name used to be enough for me to buy a book. Her good books aren’t just good, they’re great. But lately, she just doesn’t seem to be editing herself: the scenes drag on, and even the witty dialogue seems to go on for far, far too long. It just doesn’t feel like she’s editing, or outlining, or pacing herself. Which is frustrating; where her older books were kind of magical and fluffy delights the whole way through, much of her new stuff has glints of brilliance (or, a very strong beginning) shining out from a decidedly meh-overall book.

Details: There are authors who are simply obsessed with giving you details to try to ground you in the historical setting. Quinn is NOT one of those authors. The way everyone talks and laughs, you almost forget that you’re in a regency romance… and then there’s a ball, or someone says “your grace,” and you remember again. Even as a non-history-buff, I sometimes question how “correct” all of the details are, though again, especially in her stronger novels, I’m usually far too entertained to really care.

What’s Unique about Quinn:

I’m not sure what’s really unique about Quinn, but I don’t think that’s really her fault. She’s become such a success that her type of wordplay and dialogue is often copied, and many newer authors talk about loving Quinn (and were clearly influenced by Quinn). I mean, there was an article in Time Magazine about a decade ago now, talking about how she was changing the landscape, making it a more postfeminist one. Since then her style has been copied, aped, in some cases perhaps even improved. That makes it hard to say, now, what makes her unique. But what she is, and was, is influential,in that she’s truly had an impact on the landscape of romance writing.

What to Read (as in, if you don’t like these Quinn offerings, she’s probably not for you):

I really, really liked the first half of the Bridgertons novels. I didn’t give any of them perfect ratings, but in retrospect, maybe I should have. They’re totally re-readable, and I’ve read each of the first four multiple times. They’re just fun, and soothing, and a perfect way to de-stress at the end of a long day.

The Viscount Who Loved Me (Bridgertons #2)

The Duke and I (Bridgertons #1)

Romancing Mr. Bridgerton (Bridgertons #3)

An Offer from a Gentleman (Bridgertons #4)

It’s been a long time, but I also remember liking both Splendid and Minx (two of her earliest words) as well as How to Marry a Marquis.

What NOT to READ:

Um… almost all of her newer stuff, including, but not limited to:

The latter Bridgertons novels (5 through 8: On the Way to the Wedding)

 Ten Things I Love About You (Bevelstoke #3)

There are also quite a few new ones (like Just Like Heaven) which I feel just barely make the cut…

And, I’ll be honest, she’s started to write things like 2nd epilogues for the Bridgertons, which I just can’t bear to buy or even try… reading the descriptions, they just feel kind of like Pirates of the Caribbean 4, or any other movie that had one, or two, or three sequels too many!

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Posted in Author Pages, Best of, Romance

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