21 May, 2012

Review: A Night Like This by Julia Quinn

Smythe-Smiths,  I adore you.

Quinn writes firmly in Regencyland. She's not interested in layering on the historical accuracy. Where she excels is light comedic romance with well conceived side characters. You don't read a Quinn book solely for the hero and heroine, you read it for the ensemble cast. Few authors can pull this off without sliding into slapstick. There's something reminiscent of Alcott in Quinn's best books. If anyone ever markets Little Women With Land Sharks they need to tap Quinn for the job.

In this second book of the Smythe-Smith series we pick up independent of the first but in the midst of it's conclusion. Daniel has returned from a three year duel induced exile to find his best friend involved with his sister. Daniel left a slightly spoiled but basically good man and he returns as someone much older. He is not haunted by his experiences, but he is informed. Which will be needed since he has set his sights on his cousin's governess. Anne has made some unwise choices in her youth which led to her own exile from the rich and entitled. Of the two, I liked Anne better. Daniel has a strong sense of family and a realistic self importance (without being overbearing) but he doesn't quite spark for me. I never fully engaged with Daniel, although I liked him.

Anne has the clearer eyes. She cannot afford to lose her job (and thus her safety) because Daniel won't stop flirting with her. She makes every effort to avoid him, but Daniel is still the oldest son of a privileged family. What he wants to do, he does. Anne's inability to shut him down encourages his pursuit, even as he realizes it's not in her best interests. Anne knows that a few choices made differently would make Daniel's interest in her fairly acceptable. Those choices belonged to a younger woman, a woman she can't admit to being. Quinn places the bulk of A Night Like This firmly in her area of strength. When the focus is on family (Daniel, Anne's, the Duelist's) the book glides. The children Anne oversees squabble appropriately. The adults meddle in appropriate ways. Late in the book is where A Night Like This hits a few wrong notes.

Anne and Daniel both have stalkers. For the most part, this is handled exceptionally well. Until it isn't. I don't think the final chapters are poorly written, there is just a bit too much for my taste. Anne's stalker has a viable reason for his actions. I believed him just as I believed the actions of her parents. Unfortunately Quinn doesn't believe him. As a result she gives the stalker a secondary motivation that I couldn't buy. It was a step too far. Without that additional motivation, I would call this one a complete home run. A Night Like This is still a great read. If Quinn decides to move forward a generation, I hope Anne is the matriarch chosen.

*PS - While I love the colors chosen for this Cinderella cover, I have to question the model's balance. Either her legs are exceptionally long or she's about to take a facer in the mud. Unstable ground, spike heels, long skirts and that leg extension? Tragic. 

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