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Two hundred years on Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen are still seen as the ultimate chick lit novels so it is understandable why modern authors would like to emulate her success by setting their writing in the Regency period. American author Julia Quinn is one such author with a back cataloge of Regency romantic comedies such as "the Duke and I and "The Viscount who Loved Me" . I came across her when a friend lent me the subject of this review "The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever"
At 10 years old the ugly duckling Miranda fell in love for the first time at her best friend Olivia' Bevelstoke 's birthday party. Her schoolgirl crush is on her best friend's older brother the dashingly handsome Turner (real name the not so romantic Nigel) when he comforts her after she is taunted by another girl by telling her "One day she will be as beautiful as she is clever". Fast forward eight year to Miranda and Olivia reaching adulthood and preparing to make their debuts at their first London season. Meanwhile Turner has been released from a marriage full of betrayal when his first wife dies. Can turner love again after beieng cuckolded and betrayed? "Is the adult Miranda as beautiful as she is clever? So sets the scone for a will they won't they Regency love story.
I was initially disappointed with "The Secret Diaries of Miranda Cheever" as I had expected the narrative of the whole book to be told in diary form. Instead it is told in the third person with an omniscient narrator so the story could switch back and forth to the viewpoints of the main characters very easily. There are snippets of diary entries from Miranda especially at the end of the chapters. These were very enjoyable to read , as Miranda is actually a very likable, at times quite witty character and wish there were more of them. She reminded me a lot of Jo March from "Little Women" with her chestnut hair, long coltish figure and independent pronto feminist feisty spirit. If Miranda is Jo then Olivia is certainly Amy with her beauty and slightly spoiled, behaviour. The Little Women comparisions does not continue with the hero of the book Turner, as he is a mix of all the romantic heroes from female created literature from Mr Darcy to Mr Rochester and Heathcliffe rolled into one but is blond rather than being tall dark rugged and handsome!
As I have already noted the writing could be quite witty in places. There is one chapter in particular where Miranda wants to buy a particular book from a gentleman's bookshop and is refused because of her gender. This chapter is the stuff of high farce and had me in stitches. However on the whole I referred to "The Secret Daries of Miranda Cheever" as my little bit of frippery because the plot is as flimsy as a Regency gown. It is chick lit and there is a lot of boy meets girl and then they argue a lot and can't make up their minds about each other even though you know they are both infatuated with each other so try and avoid each other but bump into each other. I found that tiresome at times especially during the first half of the book and I almost gave u , as I go bored by the repetitiveness of the see through plot but luckily the second half was slightly more griping with a few false twists and turns. the paperback is 352 pages and it could easily have been 50 pages shorter.
My other main problem with the writing of the book was the very corny and downright embarrassing language used to describe the love scenes. There were invasions and the 2natural manliness of Turner" . Then again in places it read like a slightly milder version of a women's erotic novel such as Black Lace and I must admit getting a bit hot under the collar and embarrassed at reading the love scenes in public.
Quinn specialises in light Regency romances and to her credit she seems to have done her research pretty well and got the period details right from the fashion to it taking a number of days to get from Edinburgh to London. I was not sure whether the word brat was appropriate but apparently it dates from medieval' English and was not sure about the name Fiona being used , as I thought that was a more modern name (The character in question is Fiona Bennett so a bit too close to Austen for comfort).
On the whole "the Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever" was not dreadful but it did drag in places and was pretty formulaic. I would certainly recommend it to those who like the idea of Jane Austen novels and the romance of the |Regency period but do no have the time, or patience to read Austen herself (I must admit I read half of Northanger Abbey then gave up.). Wold I pick up another Julia Quinn novel? Only if I saw one in a charity shop, library or car boot sale or the like. I would not be going out of my way to buy one new , as Miranda was a nice light fluffy novel but pretty average really.
Available at Amazon for £6.39