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The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After, by Julia Quinn

Title: The Bridgertons: Happily Ever AfterBridgertonsEverAfter (Bridgertons #9)
Author: Julia Quinn
Year of Publication: 2013
Length: 374 pages
Genre: historical romance
New or Re-Read? New!
Rating: 4 stars

The Bridgertons are one of the best-loved families in historical romance, and for good reason. JQ did something extraordinary, creating a family that was close-knit and loving, but not cloying — always believable, full of rivalries and frustrations, rife with inside jokes, and ultimately, always there for each other. Even more incredible, she managed to sustain the charm across eight books — easily twice as long as most romance novel series. I always thought that the first half of the series was stronger than the second half (as you can see from my reviews), but they’re all solid and enjoyable.

Because this family is so cherished by her fans, JQ decided to do something special — a collection of Second Epilogues, showing just what happens in Happy Ever After. Some of these had been released before, but as I don’t have an e-reader, I hadn’t read any of them, so they were all new to me. And they’re pretty delightful. In so many ways, diving into this book was like revisiting old friends and discovering them, not unchanged, but just as dear and warm and lovely as ever they were.

I’m not going to review each one individually, because it’s really the collection as a whole that made the biggest impression on me. I just love the idea of it — of showing that the story doesn’t end at the altar. The stories in this collection span a wide range of time, some of them coming just weeks after the corresponding book ends, others stretching decades into the characters’ future. The ones I ended up liking the best were in that second category — showing our beloved heroes and heroines years and years on and still madly in love with each other. I appreciate the… I don’t know, the reassurance? So much conventional “wisdom” states that passion inevitably fades over time, that fires bank down to embers, and you’re lucky if you have warmth and comfort enough to sustain a relationship past that. But I have always wanted to believe that that doesn’t have to be true — not for everyone, anyway. And the Bridgertons show me that in fictional form — couples who still desire each other even after many children, even after their own children have children. Who still tease and laugh and flirt, decades into their relationships. Who continue to face challenges and continue to grow stronger from them. I love it.

The two Second Epilogues that stick out in my mind the most are Kate & Anthony’s and Francesca and Michael’s — unsurprising, since those are among my favourite books in the series, anyway. With Kate and Anthony, we get a glorious return to Pall Mall and the Mallet of Death. This Second Epilogue is as cheeky and tempestuous as I could’ve wished, really recapturing the spirit of the original. Francesca’s Second Epilogue, much like her own story, is told in a much different tone, slower and more introspective, but absolutely brimming with passionate emotion. Colin and Penelope’s was, sadly, one of the less sterling sections — sad because they vie for the top spot of my favourite Bridgerton novel. It’s a midquel, actually, for To Sir Philip, With Love, where we find out how Eloise learned Penelope’s great secret; unfortunately, the events aren’t that gripping, and the story sort of meanders.

I do sort of wish that at least one couple out of the eight had remained childless but content with that, even if it wouldn’t really be historically accurate, just because it’d be nice to see childfree families represented in the genre at all — but, I know that’s sort of an unreasonable request, given the market. I also wish that Violet’s novella had been longer — hell, I wish she’d get a whole book of her own, but JQ has always said that will never be the case. But I would’ve liked to have seen more of her and Edmund’s courtship — and of their marriage. The vignettes didn’t fully satisfy, as JQ moves on to the tragedy and its aftermath rather quickly. I see where she wanted to go with it, to show Violet’s entire arc, but I would’ve appreciated a little more

I very much can’t recommend this book to anyone who hasn’t previously read all of the Bridgerton novels — but, of course, I recommend those to all readers of romance, so this can just be the cherry on the sundae. And I do feel it fair to warn that there isn’t a lot of heat in any of these vignettes — JQ drops a few sizzling moments the readers’ way (in Anthony’s and Francesca’s stories, notably, which may also contribute to my favorable impression of those), but on the whole, these stories just aren’t long enough to sustain real sex scenes. By their very nature, they also don’t stand alone very well. Nostalgia definitely plays a large role in my enjoyment of them, but if you’ve missed the Bridgertons as I have, then I thoroughly recommend returning to their world with Happily Ever After.

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The Lost Duke of Wyndham and Mr Cavendish, I Presume, by Julia Quinn

Title: The Lost Duke of Wyndham and Mr Cavendish, I PresumeLostDukeofWyndham
Author: Julia Quinn
Year of Publication: 2008
Length: 371 pages / 370 pages
Genre: historical romance
New or Re-Read?: re-read
Rating: 3 stars / 2.5 stars

Another double-header! These books are so closely interlinked that it just makes sense to review them as one — and, honestly, that’s the biggest problem with them. Julia Quinn chose to tell the same story twice, from different viewpoints — and while I admire the effort and like the idea, the execution was a little lackluster. The second book repeats far too much information and too many conversations. I think these stories better could’ve been combined into one slightly longer book, still exploring both couples, but unfortunately that’s not the way the romance novel publishing industry works.MrCavendish

So how do we end up with these two intertwined stories? Thanks to the heroes. Jack Audley is a highwayman who waylays the Dowager Duchess of Wyndham and her companion, Grace, on their way home one night — trouble is, the Dowager recognises him as the spitting image of her second son, who died traveling from Ireland to England years earlier. Her first son having also died without issue, the title is currently held by Thomas, the son of her third son. Thomas is engaged to marry Amelia, a neighboring daughter of an earl, but has sort of been dragging his feet on the matter. In order to figure out which of the two men is the real Duke of Wyndham, the Dowager insists on dragging everyone to Ireland to find out if John’s parents were legally married, which will settle the matter. So, there we are: two heroes, two heroines, one story.

I like Jack and Grace’s story better, though I don’t know if that’s because Thomas and Amelia’s story comes second, and thus it always feels like retread. Jack and Grace have a charming “love at first sight” dynamic. I think, for modern readers, that concept can often fall flat if not handled properly, but Quinn weaves them through it rather well. There’s a tenderness to them, along with the magnetic passion that you would expect from such a sudden attraction. Jack’s emotional journey is an interesting one, as we get to explore both the circumstances that led to him becoming a highwayman and his knee-jerk reaction to reject the life of entwined luxury and responsibility that the dukedom implies. Grace, too, has bounced up and down the social ladder in her life, and it’s one of the things that matches them nicely. It’s also a lot of fun to watch Grace deal with the decidedly unpleasant Dowager Duchess (such a contrast to JQ’s favourite dragon, Lady Danbury). The Lost Duke feels, on the whole, to be the stronger book.

The trap that JQ falls into with Mr Cavendish is in not spending enough time with Thomas, who does know what’s going on, and instead leaving the reader more often with Amelia, who is totally clueless for two thirds of the book. She’s assuming the reader knows what’s going on, as I imagine most do, but it’s still odd to be put into the head of someone so utterly out of the loop for the bulk of the story. What’s amazing there is that, rather than filling the gaps with new incidents, JQ still manages to repeat so much material — generally conversations with Grace or conversations Amelia overhears. The story between her and Thomas also just feels less genuine to me. I could believe their growing to attraction if, say, he’d been engaged to her yet never actually met her — but clearly he sees her all the time. So why does the spark not get set off till now? It doesn’t help that Thomas is a reserved, detached sort of person, and that doesn’t change much when we get inside his head. He isn’t a bad person, but he isn’t tremendously likable, either, and that makes his part of the story more difficult to enjoy.

So, ultimately, I don’t think this experiment in storytelling format worked as well as JQ intended it to. I’m not against the idea on principle, but the approach needs to be different, offering truly divergent perspectives on the same events. I agree with other reviews I’ve seen suggesting that the two books not be read back-to-back, as was probably my mistake with this re-read, because you really will feel the retread quite keenly. But, then again, I don’t know that they improve all that much with greater separation, either.

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What Happens in London, by Julia Quinn

Title: What Happens in LondonWhatHappensinLondon
Author: Julia Quinn
Year of Publication: 2009
Length: 372 pages
Genre: historical romance
New or Re-Read?: re-read
Rating: 3 stars. Ish.

I feel like I liked this book better when I first read it, although sometimes just the sheer excitement of having a new JQ novel can do that to me. On revisiting — well, I don’t hate it. I actually like half of the premise quite a bit. But the other half is odd and silly and never pans out properly, the whole thing takes quite a while to get going, and then when it does get going, the last act sort of comes out of nowhere.

I do like the characters, and they’re probably the reason this book gets even a middling rating. Sir Harry Valentine is a son from a troubled home who escaped his embarrassing drunk of a father and his emotionally deadened mother by going into the army. Thanks to a ferocious Russian grandmother, he’s quite proficient in languages besides his own, which made him valuable to King and Country. Even with the wars over, he continues to work for the War Office, mostly translating documents — and somehow these circumstances lead to rumours swirling around him possibly having murdered his fiance? It’s very odd, because nothing ever explains how those rumours came about, nor why Olivia becomes so fixated on them that she feels compelled to spy on him after he moves in next-door. The eventual confrontation over that is the part of it that comes to nothing — it just sort of feels like an odd plot device that belonged somewhere else. The better part of the story involves Harry feeling the need to protect Olivia from the attentions of a visiting Russian prince, Alexei, whom the War Office has asked him to keep an eye on. Except even there there’s a bit of a muddle, because the potentially dark and serious plotline gets totally derailed by ludicrous literature. Harry bizarrely ends up reading Mrs. Butterworth and the Mad Baron to the Prince, and then his cousin Sebastian and younger brother Edward start up a staged reading, and it all goes distinctly odd from there.

All of these details and plotlines and detours sort of get in the way of Harry and Olivia’s love story, though. Which is a shame, because they’re both pretty interesting characters. Olivia is forthright but charming; Harry is observant and snarky. Each is a lot of fun, individually. But they sort of go from outright disliking each other to serious involvement in rather a hurry, and while I’m perfectly willing to believe in love stories that move at lightning pace, I need to at least feel it happening — and I couldn’t, here, and I think it’s because of all the other clutter in the book. The story elements never quite fit together in the right way. It’s as though they’re all jostling for attention, and as a result, anything deeper gets totally lost.

In the last forty pages of the book, Olivia gets kidnapped by the Russian ambassador — a villain who I don’t think ever even gets a name, which should give you a good impression of his general importance to the plotline. This could have been better done. We needed some hints beforehand, beyond the vagueness of Harry’s instructions to watch the Prince. He’s not much of a convincing red herring, especially since there’s nothing really to red herring for. The ambassador just wants his cousin to fork over some cash. That’s it. That’s all. Despite having a hero in the War Office and introducing all sorts of exciting foreign elements, JQ doesn’t really do anything with them. There’s no espionage, no scheming, no sinister plots. Olivia just gets kidnapped out of the blue, and I found it quite odd and jarring.

So, on the whole, this was a pleasant enough read, but it never really came together in a way that I found satisfying. Not one of JQ’s worst, but not one of her best, either.

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The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever, by Julia Quinn

Title: The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda CheeverMirandaCheever
Author: Julia Quinn
Year of Publication: 2007
Length: 384 pages
Genre: historical romance
New or Re-Read?: re-read
Rating: 2.5 stars

I’ve decided to revisit some romances lately, and I’m going for the ones I haven’t re-read (or re-read often) as opposed to the ones like the Bridgerton novels that I’ve read many times over. So I started with the first post-Bridgerton Quinn book — and I remembered why I hadn’t re-read it.

It’s not that there’s anything egregiously wrong with this book. It’s just that there’s not too much right with it, either. And I think one of the biggest problems is related to a very lackluster plot. Not much happens throughout the course of the entire book.

We meet Miranda when she’s all of eleven years old, at her best friend Olivia’s birthday party; when one of the other little girls makes fun of Miranda for being plain-looking, Olivia’s older brother Turner escorts her home and makes her feel better by promising that she will grow into herself. Miranda clings to those words as she grows up, and throughout her teenage years, remains in love with Turner. Turner, on the other hand, has gotten married in the meantime, and we tune back into him at his wife’s funeral. It’s not a cause for grief, though, as all we ever learn about Leticia is that she was a horrible woman who trapped Turner into marriage while she was pregnant with someone else’s baby, and she basically cuckolded him for years and he was too honourable to toss her out on her ear. He’s bitter and resentful and never wants anything to do with women ever again. But, he ends up in London to help his sister Olivia out with her debut, he and Miranda collide, and… events transpire, I guess?

The biggest plot point — which I won’t give away — happens only about halfway through the book, and I think that’s a big problem with it — everything after that moves so slowly, without any real incidents. It’s all thinking and talking and not-talking and thinking some more. And it gets dull. In classic fashion, Turner is having trouble coming to grips with being in love unexpectedly, and even when it’s clearly paining Miranda that he won’t do right by her, he basically behaves like a total spaz rather than stepping up to the plate emotionally.

As a character, Miranda is pretty likeable, even if it does get a little painfully pathetic watching her wait around for Turner to admit he loves her. It’s also hard to believe her when she says that she’s stopped loving him in the puppy-crush fashion, that it’s evolved into something more real, because we never really see that turn. We’re just told about it. Turner, on the other hand, is not always that likeable. His “teasing” of Miranda can edge a little too close to mean sometimes, and while I could buy it initially as part of the bitterness from his first wife’s behavior, he never gets called out on it and he never reforms. He’s also pretty domineering, and not in a way I find attractive, just in a sort of blunt way. He’s a pretty under-developed character, and what is developed about him isn’t that appealing.

The side cast falls down a little bit here, too. Olivia (who I do remember liking better in her own book) attempts to set Miranda up with the other Bevelstoke brother, Winston (who happens to be Olivia’s twin). I suspect it’s meant to be charming and endearing, but mostly I find it obnoxious. Some of her dialogue is pretty good, though — but the famous Quinn sparkle just isn’t quite there.

Overall, The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever is lackluster, particularly compared to the better Quinn novels, and unless you’re a stickler for reading everything an author has out there, it could easily be skipped.

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A Night Like This, by Julia Quinn

Title: A Night Like This (Smythe-Smith Quartet #2)
Author: Julia Quinn
Year of Publication: 2012
Length: 384 pages
Genre: historical romance
New or Re-Read?: brand new!
Rating: just shy of 4 stars

As I predicted last year, Book #2 in the Smythe-Smith quartet focuses on the hapless governess who got pulled into the 1824 musicale, Anne Wynter. The book opens in medias res, at that very musicale, when Anne unexpectedly encounters Daniel Smythe-Smith, Earl of Winstead, and brother to Honoria, the heroine of Just Like Heaven. Since she’s never met him, his sudden appearance, lurking in the wings at the musicale, really startles her — and we learn right off the bat that Anne is hiding from someone, and fears that Daniel might be an agent of that person. Daniel’s surreptitious behaviour has a reason: he’s just returned from self-imposed exile and doesn’t want to detract attention from the musicale (much though the guests might have thanked him for doing so). Once Anne realises he’s not out to get her, they have a rather heated moment in the hallway, before Honoria’s story intersects theirs and Daniel storms off to, at least in his mind, protect his sister’s honour. The spark has been struck, however, and Daniel starts finding excuses to visit his Pleinsworth cousins, Anne’s charges, just to spend time with her. When accidents start happening around them, however, Daniel worries that his return from exile might not be as wholly embraced as he was assured it would be. JQ expands on a story we learned about in Just Like Heaven; Daniel got into a drunken duel with his friend Hugh Prentice, and though he meant to fire astray, he accidentally hits Hugh in the leg, crippling him. Though Hugh is inclined towards forgiveness, his father felt differently, and thus Daniel spent three years on the continent dodging the old man’s agents. Only when Hugh tracks him down in Italy to swear that his father has promised to relent can Daniel return to England — but these accidents make Daniel thing that perhaps things still aren’t settled.

Still, that fear doesn’t stop him from pursuing Anne, who has utterly struck him to the core — real love at first sight on his part, and though she tries to put him off, she’s more than a little intrigued by him. We eventually learn that the reason for Anne’s skittishness is not unlike Daniel’s: a man from her past has sworn vengeance on her, and she’s feared for years that he’ll find her and succeed. JQ gives us a flashback to the event, and it’s a little painful for anyone who’s ever been young and stupid and made poor decisions because she was besotted with some guy (so, most readers, I would assume). Anne gives up the prize to a man she thinks will marry her; he has no intention of doing so, but also no intention of giving up his bit on the side. I’ll say, I really thought for a moment that we were going to be dealing with a rape survivor in Anne. It doesn’t quite come to that, though not for lack of effort on the odious George’s part. In self-defence, Anne slashes his face open with a letter opener. This, naturally, causes some problems. In return for not pressing charges against her, George’s father forces her to leave the county, which is why she takes up first as a lady’s companion and then as a governess. George isn’t letting things go quite so easily, however, and vows to make Anne pay for having disfigured him.

One of the things I like about this book is that it sort of deals with the concepts of slut-shaming and victim-blaming, albeit from a Regency-era perspective. The rules for women were different then, even stricter than they are today, and the options a woman had were a lot fewer — but the slurs a woman would hear are still the same. She had it coming. She got what she deserved. She let him sleep with her once, so of course he would assume he gets to again. If she winds up pregnant, it’s only her own fault. JQ brings that up and doesn’t just brush it aside; those words clearly have stuck with Anne and affected her sense of self-worth. I, as I’ve mentioned before, love a non-virgin heroine. I wish we saw more of them — and I do wish we saw more where the circumstances aren’t like they are here, where it isn’t a source of trauma for the heroine, but I recognise that’s asking a bit much of historicals. What we do get, however, is a woman who does know what sensuality is — and who has to reconcile the idea of physical pleasure with having been mistreated, and to learn to trust another man not to treat her the same way the first did. It’s a very grown-up lesson, in a lot of ways, and Daniel is a hero eminently worthy of it. He has a boyish charm and sometimes roguishly oversteps boundaries — but when Anne points this out to him, he stops, and reflects, and apologises. He doesn’t let either his own self-assurance or his passion for her push him too far, he doesn’t ride roughshod over her hesitations — he takes the time to help her deal with them. Then, when he finds out she’s not a virgin, he quite flatly says that he doesn’t care, and he means it.

Overall, I quite enjoyed A Night Like This. It’s a perfectly solid Regency romance, and if it doesn’t have the laugh-out-loud humour of Just Like Heaven or the early Bridgerton books, it has instead a quieter sort of charm. And it does have its moments of JQ’s trademark snapping wit, My favourite:

Harriet let out a delighted gasp. “Maybe she has formed a tendre for one of the stableboys!”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” Elizabeth scoffed. “One of the stableboys? Really.”
“Well, you must admit, it would be very exciting if she had.”
“For whom? Not for her. I don’t think any of them even know how to read.”
“Love is blind,” Harriet quipped.
“But not illiterate,” Elizabeth retorted.

There’s also a fair deal of romping while the Pleinsworths are in the country, when young Harriet, an aspiring authoress, writes a multi-act play featuring evil queens, dashing heroes, and wild boars. As ever, JQ does a great job with family-building, and the Pleinsworths are an entertaining bunch. The climax of the book felt a little rushed and a little, well, too adventurous, in comparison to the rest of the book which had not really had that sort of tone to it. This is definitely a book where you can believe in the Happy-Ever-After, though, because Anne and Daniel complement each other so well, and that’s quite heart-warming. While not among JQ’s best (it’s going to take an awful lot to ever challenge Bridgertons #1-4 for that honour, after all), this is still a very strong book and well worth the read. There are ways in which JQ is starting to deal with more mature themes in her books, and mature in a way that has nothing to do with erotica and everything to do with people — with psychological troubles, old wounds, recovering from past betrayals, and the damage that society can do to a person — and I find that very interesting.

Coda: I’m hoping the next book will feature Hugh Prentice as the hero — and if I’ve learnt what I think I’ve learnt about how romance authors tend to work, I believe it will. We get a rather incredible glimpse into his character when he tells Daniel why he knows his father will no longer pursue vengeance: because Hugh has sworn to commit suicide if his father does anything to Daniel. He tells Daniel to be careful and “not get yourself killed in some unhappy accident,” because he would blame his father “and honestly, I’d rather not see myself off unnecessarily” — but there’s clearly a lot going on beneath the surface there. I hope, and anticipate, that JQ is going to let us in on that next year.

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Everything and the Moon, by Julia Quinn

Title: Everything and the Moon
Author: Julia Quinn
Year of Publication: 1997
Length: 384 pages
Genre: historical romance
New or Re-Read?: Re-Read
Rating: 5 stars

This is my favourite romance novel of all time. And, I’ll freely confess, not for any really good reason. It has some of the flaws typical of Quinn’s earliest books (mostly down to historical vagueness or just plain inaccuracy), the plot occasionally bounces around a little inexplicably, the writing isn’t always spectacular, but… it’s still just plain my favourite.

Robert Kemble, Earl of Macclesfield, meets Victoria Lyndon, the new vicar’s daughter, when he stumbles on her in the woods one day. They’re both young — 24 and 17, respectively — and they fall in love at first sight. Due to the differences in their stations, however, their fathers oppose the match. Robert’s father fears she’s only after his money; Victoria’s father fears he’s just out to ruin her. The lovers plan to elope, but Victoria’s father catches her sneaking out and ties her to the bed to keep her from leaving. Robert, wondering where she is, goes to her window, sees her in bed and hunched up, misunderstands, thinks she’s decided against him, leaves for London immediately. Victoria rushes to him to explain the next morning, finds he’s not there, and his father tells her he’s gone in search of a proper wife. Sadness and heartbreak abound.

Seven years pass. Victoria, unable to stay in her father’s household any longer, has been working as a governess, and lo and behold, Robert ends up as a houseguest at the manor where she’s working. They’re both still hurting and each lashes out at the other, but they’re still very obviously attracted to each other. Robert makes some headway by being sweet and useful — and then promptly undoes it by asking Victoria to be his mistress. She takes off again and takes up as a seamstress in London, and finds that she really enjoys the work; it gives her money of her own, she makes friends, and the work is fulfilling. Then Robert shows up asking her to be his wife. And then he, well, kidnaps her when he finds out she’s living in a dangerous neighborhood. Victoria is understandably pretty upset about this, and I enjoy that she actually calls Robert out on his high-handed and disrespectful behaviour. He once again finds himself with ground to make up, and he has to work pretty hard to regain her trust.

So what is it I love about this book? Well, for one thing, Quinn’s sense of humour is in fine form here. When Robert, particularly, is on an upswing, he’s warm and witty and a little bit random, which is really entertaining. Consider the following:

“Today,” he announced with great cheer, “is a superb day to be married.”

Victoria was certain she’d misheard him. “I beg your pardon?”

“Married. Man and wife.”

“You and me?”

“No, actually I think that the hedgehogs out in the garden need to be joined in holy matrimony. They have been living in sin for years. I can no longer stand for it.”

“Robert,” Victoria said, giggling despite herself.

“And all those little illegitimate hedgehogs. Think of the stigma. Their parents have been breeding like rabbits. Or like hedgehogs, as the case may be.”

There are little nuggets of delight like that sprinkled throughout the entire book, and that makes it, on one level, a joy to read. But this is also a book about recovering from pain. It’s about regaining trust, and the bravery that takes. Victoria expresses the pain of loss, of finding out you put your faith in someone unworthy:

“You gave me the moon, Robert.  No, you did more than that.  You picked me up and put me right on it.”  There was a long, painful pause.  “And then I fell.  And it hurt so much when I landed.  I don’t want that again.”

“It won’t happen again. I am older and wiser now. We are both older and wiser.”

“Don’t you see? It has already happened twice.”

“Twice?” he echoed, thinking that he very much didn’t want to hear what she had to say.

“At the Hollingwoods,” she said, her voice oddly flat. “When you asked me to be your—”

“Don’t say it.” His voice was curt.

“Don’t say what? ‘Mistress’? It’s a fine time for you to suddenly develop scruples.”

He paled. “I never knew you could be so vindictive.”

“I’m not being vindictive, I’m being honest.  And I didn’t just fall off that time.  You pushed me.”

She also gives voice to the fear that comes with opening yourself up again:

“Life isn’t about crawling under a rock and watching the world go by, desperately hoping it won’t touch us.  Life is about taking chances, about reaching for the moon.”

“I took chances,” she said flatly.  “I lost.”

If you’ve ever been in a similar situation, Victoria really doesn’t have to say more than that. Lose faith enough times, take the wrong chances, trust the wrong people, and eventually it just wearies you. It drains you of emotional energy. And it’s a long, long road back.

There’s also a lot of negotiation that has to happen in this book. Victoria actually enacts a lot more agency than your typical Regency heroine. She discovers that she likes working and likes the freedom that it gives her, and so she and Robert actually talk through that, and talk about how she’ll be able to still have that usefulness, that source of pride, and that liberty as a Countess. She forces him to see her as a person with her own needs and desires, not just as the object of his love, and Robert proves himself worthy by coming to understand that.

So, on top of Quinn’s typical quality writing, I enjoy that she addresses some tough issues in this book. The drama is entirely inside the characters, not because of a melodramatic plot, and that makes it very real and easy to relate to. She upends a lot of the stereotypes of love at first sight, and she shows how much work love can be. I appreciate the emotional honesty.

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