by Julia Quinn
This light and fluffy Regency Romance is one of Quinn's Bevelstokes series. I read What Happens in London some time ago, and absolutely enjoyed it. I thought The Secret Diaries was good, but not nearly as good as the former. I am realizing this about Quinn's writing: most of the time it's good, sometimes it's stellar, occasionally it's mediocre. I would put this in the good camp, which is always a little disappointing because I know what it could be.
Miss Miranda Cheever is the childhood BFF of Olivia Bevelstoke. Olivia is everything Miranda is not: beautiful, vivacious, and likely to marry very well. However, this doesn't get in the way of their relationship; Olivia relies on Miranda to keep her entertained and down-to-earth, because in addition to being gorgeous, Olivia's quite a bit more intelligent than most people expect. Miranda relies on Olivia for companionship; by extension, Miranda relies on the entire Bevelstoke family, because she is the only child of a very distracted father. She's practically part of the family. Which is why no one is particularly worried about her relationship with Olivia's elder brother Nigel being inappropriate. They're practically siblings, right? Well... not quite...
I really liked Miranda especially. She's got all the hallmarks of a good Quinn heroine; feisty, smart, funny, and pretty but not too pretty. She's also the closest to a modern woman in Regency clothing that I've seen Quinn write, at least in some ways. She's quite a feminist; there's a scene in a men's bookshop that would be funnier if it wasn't so believable. She's also a pragmatic woman, and a realist, with few illusions about the way her life will be. The thought of what will probably happen makes her quite wistful, though. I do like that this is a fell-in-love-as-a-child romance, where Miranda holds a torch for the hero from the moment she meets him, and it actually ends up happily for her. It's a sweet story, and the fantasy of every ten-year-old child who has a crush on someone.
Nigel (or Turner, as he prefers to be called), on the other hand, I found difficult to get a handle on. As did Miranda, so that makes sense. He's mercurial, and in contrast to Miranda's forward-thinking ways, Nigel's probably the most traditional male I've seen from Quinn. It's an interesting contrast, and it does make me examine my love of Regency romances a little. If most men were like Nigel, but more so, I find that ... an unpleasant set of characteristics. Paternalistic, protective, and uncommunicative. Not sexy. Nigel did have some redeeming qualities, mind you -- he is a hero, after all.
Once again, we have our conflict, which I think maybe went on a bit too long (this is why Secret Diaries is not as good as What Happens in London) because it really started to feel manufactured at the end. Then the rather dramatic climax, which... well, actually, was pretty believable as something that might have happened at that point in history, so points for that. It fits a bit better with the story and the time period than some of Quinn's climaxes do, and while dramatic isn't ridiculous.
Overall, a good bit of fun, even though I probably won't feel the need to read this one again. It does, however, make me want to read What Happens in London again. I do believe it's also available for e-lending. Off to the virtual library I go...