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This was a book I picked up at my local library this week. I was in the mood for something light and fluffy and this book seemed to the fit the bill as a bit of historical romance stroke chick lit
About the author
Julia Quinn is the pseudonym used by Julie Pottinger (born Julie Cotler in 1970) an American historical romance author, who says she chose her pseudonym so her Regency romances would be on bookshelves next to those of the successful romance writer Amanda Quick.
If you want to read further details about Julia Quinn she has a website with a section about herself at www.juliaquinn.com
This is a sequel to "to catch an heiress" but it is easy to read this without having read To catch an Heiress and you certainly won't miss to much out of you read this as a stand alone novel rather than in chronically order.
About the book
This book as with the majority I think of Julia's Quinn's book is set in Regancy England. The author admits the inspiration for this was the self help book "The Rules". For those of you who haven't heard of the rules this was a dating manual for women telling them if they followed these rules they would end up marrying their man!
The story follows Elizabeth Hotchkiss who is the eldest of four children. She is raising the other three following their parents death and money is very tight. They are the distressed aristocracy which is a favorite theme of Julia Quinn's. Elizabeth is a companion to the irascible Lady Danbury. Elizabeth decides the only way out of their financial problems is for her to marry someone preferably rich. Having made this decision she stumbles across a copy of How to Marry a Marquis in Lady Danbury's library. Alongside this James Sidwell the Marquis of Riverdale has been summoned by his aunt Lady Danbury to help her as she is being blackmailed. Because of the blackmailer may be someone in the house she instructs him to be in disguise as her new estate manager.
This is romantic fiction at its lightest and most frivolous so don't expect much depth and plot twists. Julia Quinn writes in my opinion an adult fairytale, by this I mean you know that the ending is going to be nice and everyone will live happily ever after no matter which of her books you read. This makes her books a feel good book without stretching your brain too much.
Though this novel is set in Regency England there really isn't much in the way of history in the book, the emphasis is definitely on romance not history. The Regency period makes a great backdrop for the coming and goings of the characters. The formality and rules of the time are written well and how high society views the different sections of society are touched upon but not explored or elaborated on. It is for example used in reference to the fact that Elizabeth couldn't hope to marry a Marquis as she is too poor and not high enough in the society peeking order.
This is where Julia Quinn has her strength in my opinion she is able to conjure on the pages characters that invoke a response from the reader either positive or negative depending on their traits and nature
Elizabeth is a modern woman probably in some ways to modern for the time but you do suspended belief when reading this novel so just go with the flow. She is clumsy and often seems to cause disaster. Think Bridget Jones clumsy attempt at skiing and you will be able to imagine Elizabeth. She does have a wonderful witty sense of humour and is able to laugh at herself and others in a delightful way. She also has morals and ideals which you see her struggle with as the book progress. As the story progresses you find yourself willing her along to succeed in her adventures and worrying about her as things go wrong.
James is certainly the dashing hero of romantic novels, good humoured, dashing and a caring gent. He does have a few flaws which Quinn pens eloquently to endear him to the reader. The charisma that she gives him and his warmth towards Lady Danbury leap out at the reader from his first interactions with the other central characters charming him too you straight away.
My favourite character in the book is Lady Danbury she has appeared in several of Julia Quinn's other books notably the Bridgerton Series. When I read Lady Danbury's interactions and comments she makes to other people it makes me want to be like that when I get older. Which I think displays talent in the writer to get you to so identify with a character you want to be like them. I can only imagine Julia Quinn is familiar with the poem "When I am old I shall wear purple" as the whole essence of that poem is summed up by Lady Danbury's character. Her ability to say what she thinks without seeming to care for the affect on others is highly amusing, that said she only uses her cutting remarks on those who deserve it and has a strong sense of fair play. The sense of mischief that is part of Lady Danbury's character is written in a delightful way that really engages the reader to the story and the motives of the characters. She is basically a no nonsense mat rich with a heart of gold.
There is even a cat Malcolm who seems to inject humour and a sense of chivalry into the book. As a cat lover I was certainly able to see how a whimsical cat could help the plot along and help save the heroine.
The pace of the story felt right to me there are a few initial chapters to set the scene and help you get to know your hero and heroine before the romance part starts. The flow is then full of fast paced humour, conflict and romance. As an author I think Julia Quinn has a terrific way of bringing together family and friends within a novel and using them as comic foils to the main characters. She is a writer of strong relationships between women as demonstrated within this novel by Elizabeth her sister and Elizabeth and Lady Danbury. She is a creator of characters who like each other; the love element is slow burns in this novel rather than that of instantaneous falling in love. She has created some depth in her characters without losing a fast pace within the novel to get characters to fall in love and you as a reader to will them to do so.
A great historical romance though it does have more emphasis on the romance part than the history. Full of whimsy and witty characters that you can't help but warm to and hope for their happy ending. It is a light and fluffy read but great fun and of this genre of novels a bit of a gem.
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Piatkus Books (4 Sep 2008)
Currently available from Amazon for £5.49 or from the market place from £2.64
If you are looking for a light and frothy historical romance which is light on the history and great at the romance, you couldn't do better than pick this book. This is an early Julia Quinn novel, before she got started on her Bridgerton family series of Regency novels.
Synopsis: When Elizabeth Hotchkiss stumbles upon a copy of the book, How to Marry a Marquis, the timing is all too appropriate. She must marry for money to support her siblings, and a guidebook to seduction might be just the thing she needs... But when James Sidwell, Marquis of Riverdale, offered to help her find a husband, he never dreamed that the only candidate he could propose would be himself...
Julia Quinn is an American romance writer, who in her early career was often hailed as the new Georgette Heyer. In my opinion, although her books are light and romantic, she lacks that essential quality for a truly believeable Regency romance: being British. With the best will in the world, no-one born outside of the UK has the in-depth knowledge of the English language as spoken by us Brits, other than a native. And as a consequence this book has the usual quota of anachronistic Americanisms but, surprisingly, I found it easy to ignore these and just enjoy the story.
It's difficult to elaborate on the synopsis without giving away too much of the plot but suffice to say, there are secrets that our hero and heroine are hiding from each other, which helps to move the story along nicely but this is essentially a character driven romance and with Elizabeth and James, together with their friends and family, Julia Quinn doesn't disappoint.
Not only the lead characters are well defined but also the secondary characters, especially those of Susan, Elizabeth's younger sister and also James's aunt, Lady Danbury, who I swear must have been based on Dame Edith Evans - or at least that's whom I pictured as I read this book.
As I said in the beginning, the book is light on historical detail but Julia Quinn has certainly given a flavour of the time and place which is, if not Regency England as it actually existed, at least a Regency England that most romance readers will recognise.
This book is a great beach or garden read. There's not too much thinking required and the ending, although like most romances is totally expected, leaves the reader with a warm and well-contented feeling.
It's a shame there isn't a half star rating because this book, to my mind, is more than 4 stars but not quite a 5. I'd definitely give it 4½ stars.