Friday, August 19, 2011

Something Old, Something New -- Two by Julia Quinn

I was trolling around in OverDrive a few weeks ago, hoping to find Just Like Heaven, Julia Quinn's latest, but the only one of her titles available was Dancing At Midnight, one of her earliest works. Within days, or course, the paperback copy of Just Like Heaven showed up on my desk. No matter, it gave me a nice comparison of early-Julia and current-Julia, and while there are many similiarities, there are some significant differences as well.

In the earlier work, Lady Arabella Blydon is taking a break from the marriage mart and visiting her cousin in the country. There she meets Lord John Blackwood, wounded war hero recently given a title for his service to crown and country. Arabella is very bright, more than a little bored, and ready for a bit of an adventure with a handsome hero. John is also very bright, more than a little tortured, and ready to fall in love with the pure and charming Arabella if only it weren't for the horrors he endured during the war making him unfit for her company.

Make no mistake, both these characters are very likeable, and their interaction is enjoyable to watch. But things are a bit rushed in terms of both revelations about John's backstory and Arabella's willingness to behave improperly. It's in these kinds of details that the fact that this is an early effort shows. The fact that things are rather rushed makes John's continued self-recriminations tedious, and Arabella sometimes just seems willful. But overall, this is enjoyable enough if you are a fan of Quinn's characterizations and subtle humor.

Just Like Heaven is the story of Honoria Smythe-Smith, of the dreadful-annual-musicale Smythe-Smiths, and of Marcus Holroyd, Earl of Chatteris and best friend of Honoria's older brother. The two meet as children and practically grow up together, until a family scandal separates them for several years. A chance meeting and a freak accident bring them back together, and we are then treated to a charming courtship and an inside look at all that goes on behind the scenes of the annual Smythe-Smith musicale. There are even cameo appearances by a Bridgerton, the infamous Miss Butterworth and her Mad Baron,and the alarming and entertaining Lady Danforth! What more could one ask? While this one does not rank up there with What Happens in London and Ten Things I Love About You in terms of cleverness, it is still a charming story, and I would recommend it to all fans of historical romance.

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