0 out of 5 stars
Cut to the Chase:
I hated almost everything about this book: the heroine is supposedly to be charmingly awkward, but spends most of her time being head-palm-strikingly-annoying, the hero is supposed to be tragic-backstory-brooding, but instead feels inept and borderline unlikeable. Throw in some poorly drawn side characters, and a plot that has no forward momentum, and you get a tedious snoozefest. What’s worse: the “tragic” backstory of Sir Phillip is that he had a depressed wife he had no idea how to help, which means the novel literally begins with her suicide attempt, her death, followed by her husband and children comforting each other that she’s probably in a better place, since she was always crying when she was alive… this is my fluffy escapist fiction?? I think not.
Years ago, I skimmed the back cover of this particular Quinn novel and decided, nah, it wasn’t for me, and it was time to give the Bridgertons saga a rest. Even though it was book 5 of 8, and I usually have to complete everything, I decided I could come back to this one later: a romance begun over a series of letters written to a grieving widower… the plotline just never grabbed me.
Well, now that I’ve actually read the book, I can tell you it was much worse than I possibly could have imagined. The section below is full of spoilers, so stop reading if you care:
1. We start off with a suicide. Okay, technically, it’s a suicide attempt. Phillip is experimenting in his greenhouse when he sees his wife Marina walking… he suspects nothing (even though she rarely leaves her bedchamber these days), decides to join her and barely saves her from drowning herself. She of course, becomes ill, and dies three days later anyhow.
I’m okay with tragic backstory, but do we have to start with a suicide? In my historical romance?
And then, do we have to have an awkward conversation where clearly the kids and Phillip are sad but also kind of relieved that their sad mother/wife is gone and in a better place?
2. Then we have Eloise who has turned down several marriage offers (at least six that the book mentions) and has been conversing with Sir Phillip via letter because Marina was a cousin she met, like, once, and she decides to just run off in the middle of the night because Sir Phillip might be the one? You’d think that a woman discerning enough to turn down six (or more!) proposals wouldn’t decide to ruin herself (because that’s what running off without a chaperone meant those days) based on a few measly letters. (If we’d been told she was in love with Sir Phillip because of his letters, that might have been one thing, but she’s not, and in fact, complains that she isn’t, and doesn’t immediately fall in love with him).
3. And then it just drags. And drags. There isn’t enough tension, so suddenly, we find out that the children’s nurse has been abusing them by beating them with a book. And then that’s still not enough, so we make Sophie’s and Benedict’s (from Bridgertons #3, An Offer From a Gentleman) son fall terribly ill. We careen from unlikely, and clearly dreamt-up-on-the-spot event to event, because the book has no momentum, and if you take the sick and abused children out of the picture, all you have is Eloise, blathering on in a supposed-to-be-charming-but-actually-annoying way, and Phillip, complaining that his depressed wife ruined sunny days for him because she attempted suicide on a sunny day.
Sometimes, I complain about Julia Quinn being too light and fluffy. If this is her attempt at melodrama, I think she should stick to books where bees and Pall Mall grudge matches are the height of the action.
Comparisons to Other Authors/Books:
Julia Quinn made a name for herself by being a clever, smart writer who had a wonderfully deft hand, especially for creating memorable heroes and heroines with sparkling dialog. I don’t know what’s happened to her, lately, and you can read more about my thoughts of her here.