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Mr. Cavendish, I Presume (Julia Quinn, Two Dukes of Wyndham #2)

1 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is a book of wasted potential. It had a great set-up as the companion novel, happening at almost the same time as Lost Duke of Wyndham, but told from a completely different perspective. There are lots of books about the new duke/earl/viscount and how they’ve suddenly risen to power/wealth, etc; there are very few that really address what it’s like to be the deposed, former nobleman, the riches to rags portion of the story. But… this just wasn’t different enough. There are swaths of the book that literally could have been cut and pasted from the first book, there are no surprises, no pay-offs for any number of potentially very interesting side characters and stories, and it was ultimately very, very boring. It’s something that could (and should) have just been edited and combined with the first book to be one, fully-functional novel: the dialogue drags, the plot isn’t just predictable, but redundant, and it’s just a waste!

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To Sir Phillip With Love (Julia Quinn, Bridgertons #5)

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.

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The Viscount Who Loved Me (Julia Quinn, Bridgertons #2)

4.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
In terms of pacing, characterization and dialogue, this book is nearly spot on in every category. It definitely plays up some common stereotypes, there’s a rake who needs to be reformed as well as a managing sister who considers herself a spinster. But… it’s done so well. The conversations are quick, witty, and fiercely entertaining. The characters are believable, and the love story doubly so. I don’t love the overarching fear that keeps Anthony from wanting to commit to anyone, and I think that it takes a little longer to resolve than it should have, but otherwise, this is a extremely well done historical romance.

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The Lost Duke of Wyndham (Julia Quinn, Two Dukes of Wyndham #1)

1.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
We start with a highwayman robbing a dowager duchess and her poor, gently bred companion. The dowager duchess is a steely old woman, who instantly (despite the mask, and the darkness of the night) recognizes the robber as her potential (long-lost, never-even-suspected-he-might-exist) grandson. This very far-fetched beginning is probably one of the best parts of the book, which really says something. There’s plenty of witty dialogue and banter, and the clever wordplay that Quinn is famous for (thus the 1.5 star, as opposed to… 0). What it doesn’t have is character development, a romantic journey, and half of the story (more on that later). There were some truly excellent scenes, and the beginning (despite how crazy of a start it is) was actually kind of enjoyable. But… a few chapters in, the scenes started to drag, the story seems to lose its focus, and then, suddenly, the book is over, and tied up with a cute epilogue. Argh.

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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.

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Posted in Author Pages, Best of, Romance

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.

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Ten Things I Love About You (Julia Quinn, Bevelstoke #3)

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.

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On the Way to the Wedding (Julia Quinn, Bridgertons #8)

1.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Such a disappointing end to her most famous series! I’ll admit that I hate the love-at-first-sight plotlines (even though here, the love-at-first-sight happens between the main hero and the main heroine’s friend and thus, doesn’t pan out), but I actually had trouble finishing this book! The main two characters just never seem to connect in a way that makes their love story believable, our male protagonist feels very immature and hasty in all of his life decisions, and the final plot twists and rescue just felt really forced. I’m giving it 1.5 stars because Quinn’s a talented writer, everything technically flows well and there are a couple of funny moments, but it just is nowhere near her other Bridgertons books.
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Romancing Mister Bridgerton (Julia Quinn, Bridgertons #4)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is another solid example of Quinn’s work — the dialogue is witty, the characters seem to have an infectious bubbly energy, and the journey is believable. However, while Colin and Penelope are, like all Quinn characters, engaging and entertaining, this book seems to rely a little too much on the assumptions we start with.  Despite the internal growth and development Quinn would like us to witness, too often we’re left feeling as though Penelope is still the shy, stuttering wallflower we were introduced to a decade ago, and Colin, despite trying desperately to get out of her elder brothers’ shadows, doesn’t seem to mature much beyond the charming, fun-loving caricature of himself he starts as.  Still, even a weaker entry from Quinn is very readable; this one just isn’t quite as entertaining and repeatable as you’d like it to be…
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The Duke and I (Julia Quinn, Bridgertons #1)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Definitely one of Quinn’s stronger works, this is an excellent introduction to her Bridgertons series We have the “Devastating Duke,” who is arrogant partially because he has had to overcome a traumatic childhood (father who ridiculed and ignored him because of his stammer), paired expertly with Daphne, the beautiful but usually overlooked beauty who has grown up surrounded by a boisterous, loving family.  They’re a very nice pairing in part because their backgrounds are so different, one bringing warmth and mirth to the other’s much colder, more solitary existence.  There is definitely some let’s-escalate-this-fight back and forth during the last one-third of the novel that keeps it from being a perfectly reviewed novel for me, but Quinn’s sense of humor (only sometimes over the top), and her deftness at drawing these characters saves it, making it a fun and refreshing read.

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