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I've read most of Julia Quinn's back catalogue in the last six months since receiving my kindle, so I was excited to have the chance to purchase one of the books at its actual release. I was also excited about the prospect of a series of books about the Smythe-Smith girls, given what we've learned of them through attendance at their recitals in Quinn's other novels.
The first in the series revolves around Honoria, who knows how terrible their musical performances are but doesn't allow this to show because of her love for her family, and Marcus, who has become part of her family but lacks his own (save the wonderful Lady Danbury). I thought the development of their romance entirely logical and very well done both plot and timing wise, but for some reason it didn't capture me emotionally and for me, a romance novel has to do this to succeed. Who wants her first reaction to finishing a story about love to be "Yes, I could see the logic in that"? There's just no real spark here to carry you along.
The theme is the importance of family and that comes across very strongly, but having read the book I still don't feel I know Honoria particularly well outside that love for her family. I didn't think we were given much else to go on re her character and truth told, I found her dull. Marcus fared a little better - I enjoyed the insight into his mind provided when he was under the influence - but not much. I also wasn't convinced by the device used to separate the two after the initial period in which they realised they cared for each other - given what they'd already done together, I found it difficult to believe it wouldn't have been resolved quickly.
This being a series, there are what seem to be various subplots for later books introduced (Honoria's brother's bind, identity of the governess) and, because the main romance wasn't holding my entire attention, I found myself getting sidetracked into looking for clues to how those would be resolved. There are also so many other potential heroines introduced for the rest of the series (the governess again, the other three members of the quartet and Honoria's best friend) that I ended up wondering whether we'd get to see Happily Ever Afters for all of them plus Daniel. They were given so much focus that at times, the central romance seemed neglected.
One of the things I like about Quinn's writing is that she uses the universe she's created across her various series - as well as the infamous quartets and Lady Danbury, Mrs Gorely's novels have appeared in both this and the Bridgerton series in addition to the series which ultimately revealed the author's identity - and I had fun trying to work out from her subtle hints and the status of the Bridgertons mentioned where in her timeline this one fits. There are two incidents, revolving around a 'familiar looking' wallflower who likes eclairs and a letter opener injury, which give the answer in this case. The fact the latter also allows the plot of this novel to develop, by highlighting how the heroine has been affected by her experiences with the hero, demonstrates how skilled Quinn is when it comes to weaving plots together*.
There needs to be a balance between referring to existing people and events and developing your new characters and stories. Although this book forms part of a series it does need to be capable of being read on its own and I don't think Quinn has quite pulled that off here; in her previous works, she's been slightly more subtle setting up future developments (you were ultimately able to work out Lady Whistledown's identity from the hints spread across the books, for example, but there weren't so many hints that they detracted from the other stories).
I wavered between giving this book three or four stars, but having written this down I think it's a three. Not enough focus on the central romance and too much time spent setting up future potential novels to make this a truly satisfying read for me.
*Although having reread the beginning of the book since writing the review, I've realised there's actually a massive continuity error in one of the early chapters - a statement about a Berbrooke which suggests the story takes place after the timeframe which is later established.
I was pleased to start a new Julia Quinn series, particularly to find out the story behind the Smythe-Smiths and their awful musicale. I liked the characters, the plot was okay, but I don't think it was developed to the same depth as some of the other series. It is a pleasant read but that's about all I can say.
I am afraid that I shall have to agree with other reviewers in the fact that this was not one of Julia Quinns best books. I enjoyed reading it, and read it in one sitting but when I'd finished I felt dissapointed, I had been expecting a book of Julia Quinns normal passion, spirt, and humour and it didnt quite make it. I think my main problem with it was that it lacked plot. You already know that they are going to fall in love, just from the back of book, and this was just a gentle progression of their love, their were no evil relatives, or secrets or anything to keep them apart, and the few obsticals J.Q. did try to put in their way felt rather flat and half hearted.
But it was enjoyable to read, and while it's not up to her usual standard, I am glad I brought it and I shall read it again at some point. For people new to J.Q. perhaps start with the Bridgertons, or with other earlier ones- a personal favourite is
Everything and the Moon (Lyndon Family Saga)
J'ai acheté ce livre car je ne connaissais pas l'auteur et je voulais lire quelque chose de léger en vacances: mission réussie. Ca se lit facilement, avec un sourire et on oublie assez vite ce qu'on a lu. A recommander pour se vider la tête tout en s'amusant. Jane Austen sûrement pas mais c'est démodé avec beaucoup de charme!!!
3.0 out of 5 starsA simple and light romance, which is sometimes just what you need
Reviewed in the United States on 18 May 2020
When I first started reading romances, Julia Quinn was one of my favorite authors and I fell absolutely in love with her Bridgerton series, as I know many other romance readers did as well. The past few years, her books have been uneven for me, so I was a little nervous about picking this one up. The Smythe-Smiths were famous (or infamous is probably more accurate) but would it be what you expect from a Quinn book - a fun and light romance - or would it be like the past few duds?
I was pleasantly surprised and somewhat relieved that I ended up enjoying it. I liked the simplicity of the book and the hero and heroine are very likable; one thing I love about Julia Quinn books is that her heroines are always women whom I think would be nice to have as friends. However the lack of any real spark made it not much of a keeper for me. When I really love a romance, I end the book with a ridiculously stupid grin on my face that doesn't go away for hours; here, that didn't happen.
PROS It did have some strong aspects, while also missing those that we - or at least I - often bemoan in romance book: — There was no contrived subplot - mystery, mass-murdering or otherwise — There is not instant lust; they've known each other since childhood and have considered one another practical brother and sister — There are no love interests thrown in for the sole purpose of dragging the plot out and making you squirm in your seat - or couch or bed - and there were no hated Big Misunderstandings — The book was really focused on the two main characters, Honoria and Marcus — One really gets the sense that they would make a lovely couple and have a lot of what the other needs
So why the 3 stars? I was actually torn between 3 and 3.5, but either way I think this book may have suffered having been read a day after I finished two absolutely great HRs that I gave 4.5 and 5 stars. It was a perfect light, simple, fun romance read and sometimes that is what you need. Quinn delivers on the dialogue and back and forth repartee, just as she used to so wonderfully in the Bridgerton books.
I also thought Marcus was a wonderful hero. Most romance heroes are rakes or rogues of some sort, but Marcus is actually a quiet, shy, serious (but not stuffy) sort of man. We're told that people often consider him formidable and imposing, but we're not ever really shown this, since we mostly see the softer side that he shows to Honoria. I loved that what he longed for was a family and someone to love who would love him in return. One of the things that draws him most to Honoria is her loving, carefree manner and the value she places on others, on family, and on tradition. In this sense, the story was truly lovely and Marcus's wonder in the Epilogue at the family he has begun to form is touching and sweet.
CONS My main criticisms that kept it from receiving a higher rating are the following:
(1) Marcus gets deathly ill and Honoria rushes with her mother to his bedside to nurse him. This part seemed to really drag on and the section of his illness *seems* to take up half the book. Other romances have this plot device and don't suffer from it, but here I think it dragged on too long and since Marcus is insensible for most of it, one doesn't feel that it develops their relationship much.
(2) While the part of his illness seemed dragged out, the rest seemed very, very rushed. What we enjoy is the process of them falling in love, them working their feelings out and acting them, and then the happy conclusion. This part of the story is not explored enough for me and besides for a brief little kiss when he gets better, the only other romance scene between them is at the end. Quinn's books have never been heavy on the steamy aspect, but I definitely expected more than this.
BOTTOM LINE Just Like Heaven is perfect for a light, fun afternoon read and I would recommend getting it from the library, but don't read it when you're wanting a romance that packs a punch and affects you emotionally.
*This review is of an advanced copy format of the book from the Amazon Vine Program.
I'm beginning to think I've read all the good Julia Quinn books. It might be time for me to move on from her. I really liked a lot of the books in the Bridgerton series. But Just Like Heaven about one of the Smythe-Smith women was extremely dull. About a full third of it takes place in one room. Marcus's illness goes on ***forever*** and it is so repetitive. There is next to no romance between the characters until the very end. And the most annoying thing about the book is that I get the sense that the author had to go out of her way to achieve a word count or something and was just creating endless, inane, boring conversations between characters that nobody cares about. I've noticed this at happening at times in her other books, but this one was simply the worst when it comes to that. I put it at three stars because I liked Honoria and Marcus when they were doing or saying anything interesting, but really it's more like 2.5 stars. It's simply not a great example of Julia Quinn's talent. You're much better off reading The Viscount who Loved Me, When He was Wicked, or To Sir Philip with Love.
Honoria grew up with Marcus. He was her brother, Daniel’s, best friend and he spent a good portion of his youth with their family.
Now, Daniel has been in Italy for 3 years and he asked Marcus to keep an eye on Honoria while he is gone.
When Marcus is seriously injured, Honoria and her mother take care of him and prevent him from death. They are also responsible for the fact that he does not lose his leg. During the time they are taking care of Marcus, he and Honoria begin to see one another in a new light.
He is not her brother and she is not his little sister. In fact, they are both adults.
This book also includes one of the Smythe- Smith musicales. Honoria is a violinist. Because Marcus has been treated as one of the family, he has endured these musicales for several years. So, it is obvious when he declares his love, it must be true love.
Ms Quinn is a talented author who creates characters who are both interesting and entertaining. Her dialog is generally sparkling and humorous.
This plot is a little slow moving at times. That would be the only short coming I would mention.
This is a good example of a Julia Quinn book. It is not her finest effort, but then her efforts are generally head and shoulders above others.
I think what captured my attention was the sweetness of how the two characters met and developed their relationship at a young age. It was endearing. Both are wholesome without a single deceptive bone in their bodies (I'm looking at you Duke Hastings). I would have enjoyed to have seen Marcus and Honoria interact a little more together versus the snapshot the author gives us. I felt that some parts dragged and then all of a sudden you're on the last chapter thinking well that was fast... 3 stars because it was cute (Honoria is really a comical sweetheart), love the cousins bonding, and for cameos from characters of the Bridgerton Series.
After weeks, months even, of reading heavy non-fiction and literary novels, I was ready for something light that could make me forget just for a few hours the horrible news of this week (the bombing at the Boston marathon). Julia Quinn's "Just Like Heaven" was a pleasant escape from the worries of the world. I do have to state that Ms Quinn has never been a regular read for me, and I am totally unfamilar with the Bridgerton Series, where apparently the Smythe/Smith sisters and cousins are at least minor characters (two Bridgertons appear briefly in this novel). And perhaps that is a good thing, as some readers may have been suffering from a Bridgerton overload when they read "Just Like Heaven." SOME SPOILERS.
The premise is not all that unusual in romance novels -- a man and woman who have known each other for years, and consider themselves more like brother and sister or cousins, suddenly realize there is a strong attraction. What to do? Honoria Smythe/Smith's older brother Daniel was a boyhood friend of Marcus Holroyd, the Earl of Chatteris. Honoria was the pesky younger sister who always managed to attach herself to the pair as they went about on their adventures. We get their backstory in the prologue, and by the time Chapter One arrives Daniel has been in exile on the continent for three years due to a dispute with another hot-head, and Honoria is now 21 years old, to Marcus's 28. Neither is married, although Honoria is desperate to become so, and Marcus is trying to avoid the parson's mouse trap. One of the things Marcus admires about his old friend's sister is that for the past few years she had played in a annual musical recital with her cousins, none of whom have a lick of musical talent. The story takes place in the weeks surrounding the recital of 1824, and involves Honoria and her mother saving the leg, and, possibly, the life of Marcus when a cut on his leg becomes infected. It is during his illness that the two of them begin to realize their true feelings.
The story is primarily what is called a "sweet romance" (no explicit sex) up until the very end when their passion overcomes their reluctance to acknowledge their feelings. This is not a "hot romance" novel and there are some who will not be happy with this , but I feel it is more in tune with the time period and the lives of well-brought up single women. At times the story seems to drag on -- there are several scenes of the Smythe/Smith cousins rehersing for the annual recital, or planning a house party, that seemed to go on forever, even though the dialog was witty. I had no objection to the prolonged scene at Marcus's estate where Honoria and her mother ministered to a very ill Marcus, but at some point I felt like jumping ship when Marcus thought ONCE AGAIN about how lovely Honoria had become (one could almost do a drinking game it come up that often). The idea of a group of young and untalented women holding a recital every year was more than a little improbable, but it was at the same time amusing. While the cousins and friends all seemed interchangeable, Marcus's elderly great-great aunt was quite amusing and gave just the right touch of harmless acid to a book that could have been too sweet. As I stated, "Just Like Heaven" is a pleasant diversion that will not tax you unduly, but it also won't linger on in your memory for more than a day or two, and sometimes that is just what the doctor ordered!
I've loved the Smythe-Smiths in the Bridgerton books so I was eagerly waiting for this story. Unfortunately, it didn't meet my expectations.
The hero and heroine are nice, but they are a little bit boring. As several other reviewers have pointed out, the sudden romance between them comes out of nowhere. I have nothing against the plot of childhood friends discovering that they love each other - a similar storyline was between Penelope and Colin, after all, which is one of the top 3 JQ books in my opinion. But in that book they discover things about each other, and when they start to see each other with different eyes you can see why. Here, you do not. There is no conflict, no spark, no passion. Everything is just... lukewarm. It feels like Marcus actually loves more Honoria's family or the idea of belonging to such a family than he loves her. As for Honoria, well... I just couldn't see how her love for Marcus appears. It's simply out of nowhere.
The convalescence plot line is very long and doesn't really enhance their relationship.
I love it when sparks fly between hero and heroine, and you can really see their chemistry. I love it when passion and lust and love all feel like thunder strikes. I love it when they argue and really show that they have inner strength and depth and that they are not perfect. As it happens with Anthony/Kate from The Viscount who Loved Me, or with Colin/Penelope from Romancing Mister Bridgerton. It does not happen in this book.
The funniest parts are actually those when Lady Danbury makes an appearance, even if they feel like they are inserted just because everybody loves the Bridgertons.
The interactions of the quartet members are not as funny as you would expect. Given that they are all set up to be the next heroines (presumably), Iris and Sarah are OK, but Daisy is simply annoying! The entire story of how they keep doing the musicales just because it's a family tradition even if they know they are horrible, feels forced and unbelievable and didn't really move me in any way.
This is not an ugly book, it's just too shallow. These are not the characters I expected from JQ. I'm so sorry...