Thursday, May 3, 2012
Advanced Review: A Night Like This by Julia Quinn (4.9 stars, historical)
Full Description: Amazon
Rating: 4.9 out of 5
Thoughts After Reading:
Julia Quinn is my absolute, top-of-the-list favorite historical romance author. There are many HR authors whose works I have admired - Courtney Milan, Lynsay Sands, and Deborah Simmons immediately come to mind - but no one can quite compete with Quinn's consistent awesomeness (especially if we pretend Minx never happened). So when I was able to get a review copy of her latest masterpiece weeks before it was publicly released... well, let's just say I had to make sure Christmas hadn't come early. A Night Like This, the sequel to Just Like Heaven, was the quintessence of Quinn's work in many respects. Quinn creates a story by taking the basics of a familiar plot and turning it into something much, much better. The dialogue was charming and utterly hilarious. The plot remained thoroughly engaging without ever becoming filled with angst. The romance develops as a fun yet meaningful experience. And the resolutions are extremely satisfying. Frankly, there was only one blemish that - in my mind - caused A Night Like This to be slightly less enjoyable than its pretty-much-flawless predecessor.
The hefty level of fun in A Night Like This is definitely enhanced if the reader is already familiar with the infamous Smythe-Smith family. Our hero was already introduced in Just Like Heaven as the brother of Honoria. He had recently inherited the title of earl when, due to a gentleman's duel gone wrong, he was forced to flee England. At the end of that book, the hero had returned after a several year absence just in time for the Smythe-Smith family musicale. A Night Like This picks the story right back where it was left off, only this time from the current heroine's perspective. The heroine's backstory is sad, yet something that's probably not all too unfamiliar: she has become a governess for eight years after becoming a "fallen woman." When she was sixteen, she naively allowed a rake to take her virginity - believing his claims of love meant he was going to offer for her hand. After he heartlessly laughed at her assumptions, her family turned her out. Her situation was made worse when the rake tries to have sex with her again after she finds out the truth and - in defending herself - she makes a deep cut on his face. He vows to murder her, so she travels and works in fear under an assumed name. When the book opens, she is working as the governess of the hero's cousins. The hero first sees her at the musicale, and - after a few rough edges (in my opinion) - the romance takes off rather splendidly. There is the instant chemistry, of course, with the heroine being gorgeous and the hero not looking too bad himself. More than just sexual tension, though, Quinn knows how to write a solid love story. The hero and heroine really get each other's sense humor, and develop a genuine sense of camaraderie as they end up spending time together. This closer relationship allows for a deeper level of understanding between the two protagonists, and for the first time in her life the heroine is really able to open up. Quinn makes watching the romance progress especially fun by playing off of the heroine's three young charges. The children all have vivid personalities, and there ends up being quite a bit of silliness and humor between the whole group. Now that I think of it, all of the other minor characters were well-developed too. The hero starts out a bit clueless about where the relationship is heading (you know, the kind that has all the symptoms of being in love but can't think past really really wanting to bed the heroine), but figures out marriage is what he wants soon enough. The later romantic and external conflict are an excellent contrast to the lighter elements of the book, and on the romance side I love that the hero is determined to make things work. Everything is tied up at the end very happily, if a bit on the dramatic side.
So what made A Night Like This slightly less perfect than Just Like Heaven? Well, I always associate Julia Quinn with a primarily lighthearted storyline. I see it as fun, easy reading that's going to leave me with a big smile on my face. And - to the extent I can remember - Just Like Heaven fit very well with my expectations. As the heroine's backstory exemplifies, however, A Night Like This was tinged with dark elements. Along with the unhappiness of the heroine's past, the villain has violent plans for getting his revenge. The hero's history in regards to the duel was also quite serious, although I assume some of that is setting up for a future hero in the series. The dark elements were not bad by any means, but they did take away a small portion of my enjoyment.
A Night Like This was more or less like almost every book I have read by Julia Quinn - amazing. Or, more specifically, it was another one of her well-written novels with a romance storyline that was both emotionally touching and laugh-out-loud funny. My recommendation is to order A Night Like This right away, if you haven't done so already. And, if you haven't had the pleasure of reading Just Like Heaven... I'd pick that one up too.
"My lord..." "Daniel," he corrected. Her eyes widened with shock. "What?" "My name is Daniel." "I know. But I'm not going to use it."
But everything seemed to make him want to kiss her. He felt like a young man again, perpetually randy, except that this was far more specific.... He didn't want a woman. He wanted her.
"Take care of her," he gasped. "Get her warm." "Right away, my lord," the butler assured him, "but you-" "No!" Daniel ordered. "Take care of her first."
*This review was based on a digital ARC I received from Avon on Edelweiss. In other words, Avon is my hero.