REVIEW: Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn

Tuesday, June 21, 2011 1:00
Posted in category Review

Book Cover C2’s review of Just Like Heaven (Smythe-Smith, Book 1) by Julia Quinn
Historical Romance published by Avon 31 May 11

The Smythe-Smiths are here!  The Smythe-Smiths are here!

Who are the Smythe-Smiths?  Ask any Julia Quinn fan and they will tell you – the Smythe-Smiths host an annual musicale.  An infamous musicale. Why infamous?  Because *whispers* the Smythe-Smiths are not particularly musical.  Readers of Ms. Quinn’s books have often attended the musicale, but the Smythe-Smiths remained a bit of a mystery.  Finally, we get to meet them and, maybe, find out what in the world they are thinking with the whole musicale thing.

Honoria Smythe-Smith is a violinist in the Smythe-Smith quartet. Girls in the family are expected to be part of the quartet after they make their debut in society.  The only escape is marriage.  Some of the Smythe-Smiths really have no idea the damage they do to the ears of the ton during their annual musicale.  Others, like Honoria, are very aware but continue to do their familial duty.  Honoria even manages to do it with a smile on her face, because she loves her family and enjoys the time she spends with her cousins (even if the rehearsals really don’t help).

Honoria’s brother, Daniel, left England under a cloud of censure after wounding another peer in a duel.  Since he knew he wouldn’t be around to look after Honoria, Daniel asked his best friend, Marcus, to watch over her.  Marcus Holroyd, Earl of Chatteris, grew up very quietly with his stern father.  His life changed drastically when he went away to school and met the outgoing Daniel Smythe-Smith.  Marcus frequently went home with Daniel and was quickly absorbed into the loud, fun-loving Smythe-Smith family.  Marcus met Honoria, the youngest of the family, on his first visit – she was seven and he was twelve.  Oh, faithful reader, I do enjoy stories where the hero and heroine have known each other since childhood.  It lends an extra sweetness, says me.

When Honoria and some Smythe-Smith cousins are visiting the country – well, Cambridge, which isn’t so country – Honoria runs into Marcus (his family estate is nearby).  Since one of the reasons Honoria and the other young ladies are visiting is to meet eligible young men, her hostess insists that Marcus be invited to the house party she is planning.  Honoria is reluctant – she knows Marcus will hate it – but agrees to send him a personal invitation.  Best invitation ever!

…  I beg of you, do not accept.  You shall be miserable, and then I shall be miserable, fretting over your misery.

With affection, et cetera & et cetera,
Honoria

A few days later, Marcus runs across Honoria in the woods near his property line.  She is plotting – she plans to twist her ankle (faker!) in order to get and keep the attention of one of the young men attending the house party…one Mister Gregory Bridgerton.  When Marcus finds her, she is digging a foot-sized hole.  When Honoria explains her plan to him, even Marcus (who over the years has quietly and without her knowledge discouraged unacceptable young and not-so-young men from pursuing Honoria) cannot find any real fault with Gregory.

Still, plans don’t always work out as they are meant to.  Instead of Honoria have a fake sprained ankle when Gregory is around to rescue her, Marcus really does sprain his ankle. Honoria has to rescue him…or at least hurry back to the house and send word to his staff so someone can assist him.  And, of course, there is an epic downpour while he is waiting for help. Poor Marcus! He catches a horrible cold and loses a favorite pair of boots because his ankle is so swollen one boot has to be cut off.

Before returning to London, Honoria visits Marcus to be sure he is on the mend and all seems well – or as well as a sniffly, limping earl can seem.  However, just after returning to her mother’s house, Honoria receives a message from Marcus’s housekeeper – he has taken a turn for the worse and she is worried.  Since Marcus has no family, Mrs. Wetherby didn’t know of anyone else to contact.  Of course, Honoria and her mother race back to the country to see what has happened.  They find a very sick young man.  Marcus is out of his head with fever and no one knows what happened.  Finally, they find the problem and Honoria’s mother knows what to do – or at least what to try – while they are waiting for the doctor to arrive. Yikes! Poor Marcus. Such unpleasantness.

As Marcus’s condition improves, he and Honoria get to know each other as adults and grow closer.  But just as Honoria and her mother are getting ready to return to London, Honoria finds a letter from Daniel to Marcus thanking him for looking after her and getting rid of some icky suitors.  Honoria decides that Marcus doesn’t really care about her, after all, and is just doing Daniel a favor by being nice.

Will Honoria hook Gregory Bridgerton?  Will Marcus follow Honoria back to London and win her heart?  Will any eardrums rupture during the musicale?  Don’t you want to find out, faithful reader?  Of course you do!

If you are already a fan of Ms. Quinn, you will enjoy Just Like Heaven. If you have never tried one of her books (OMG, do you live under a rock?!) but enjoy light Regencies with banter and heart, give Just Like Heaven a try. Does this book stand alone?  Yes, although the Bridgerton series is tons of fun and there are several familiar faces in this book…there’s even a slight connection to the more recent Bevelstoke series.  Why not read them all?  :-)

CSquareds IconGrade: B+

Summary:

Honoria Smythe-Smith is:

A) a really bad violinist
B) still miffed at being nicknamed “Bug” as a child
C) not in love with her older brother’s best friend
D) all of the above

Marcus Holroyd is:

A) the Earl of Chatteris
B) regrettably prone to sprained ankles
C) not in love with his best friend’s younger sister
D) all of the above

Together they:

A) eat quite a bit of chocolate cake
B) survive a deadly fever and the world’s worst musical performance
C) fall quite desperately in love
It’s Julia Quinn at her best, so you know the answer is . . .
D) all of the above

Read an excerpt.

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