SMYTHE-SMITH QUARTET SERIES ( #1)
Setting: England 1824
Honoria Smythe-Smith is:
A) a really bad violinist
B) still miffed at being nicknamed “Bug” as a child
C) not in love with her older brother’s best friend
D) all of the above
Marcus Holroyd is:
A) the Earl of Chatteris
B) regrettably prone to sprained ankles
C) not in love with his best friend’s younger sister
D) all of the above
A) eat quite a bit of chocolate cake
B) survive a deadly fever and the world’s worst musical performance
C) fall quite desperately in love
It’s Julia Quinn at her best, so you know the answer is …
D) all of the above
Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series is a great favourite of mine and anyone who’s read the series will be familiar with the Smythe-Smith quartet. For those readers who haven’t read the Bridgerton books, the quartet of three sisters and a cousin gives an annual musical performance which can only be described as a discordant cacophony of sounds! So I was delighted to discover that Ms Quinn’s new series features the young ladies of this quartet. The first book, JUST LIKE HEAVEN, is a delightful story full of romance, charm and humour.
Feeling down? Well this book is the ideal cure! It has no great conflict, no heartrending angst and no threatening villains but I loved escaping into the cosy world Ms Quinn has created with an enchanting friends-to-lovers story.
I adore Marcus and Honoria because neither of them conforms to the typical hero and heroine you find in so many books. Marcus is not one of those drop dead gorgeous rakes whom every woman drools over. In fact, he’s shy, not particularly handsome, and hates being the centre of attention. Honoria is very down to earth, honest, loves getting together with her cousins just to chat and longs for a husband, her own home and a big family. I found it easy to relate to them because they seemed so much like real people.
Marcus’s illness provides the impetus for them to recognise that their feelings for each other are something more than friendship. Some reviewers have complained that Ms Quinn devotes an inordinate amount of the book to Marcus’s illness but I feel that these scenes are integral to the story. They reveal Honoria and Marcus’s innermost thoughts about each other and move their relationship forward to the next level. They also serve to highlight Honoria’s single-mindedness and courage in the face of adversity.
Ms Quinn also manages to blend in touches of her trademark humour as well. I love Honoria’s chatter to Marcus, even though he can’t hear her:
“I am thinking that when you are better you should come to London.” Honoria went on, fixing her voice back into a facsimile of good cheer. “If nothing else, you will need a new pair of boots. Maybe something of a looser fit. It’s not the style, I know, but perhaps you can set a new trend.”
I’d probably be just like Honoria, babbling a lot of trivialities, if I were sick with worry!
Marcus’s laudanum induced hallucination is also very funny:
He might have slept for a bit. He rather hoped he was sleeping, because he was quite certain he’d seen a six-foot rabbit hopping through his bedchamber, and if that wasn’t a dream, they were in big trouble.
I love how Ms Quinn emphasises the importance of family and friends, something that seems sadly missing in our 21st century society. Marcus values his friendship with Daniel and the sense of family he finds with the Smythe-Smiths because he’d never experienced either before. For Honoria, family means everything, and although she knows how truly dreadful they are, upholding the tradition of the musical performance is very important to her. She regards her cousins as friends as well as family and loves the rehearsals because it gives her the opportunity to simply chat with them.
Their first kiss seems such a natural progression and in perfect harmony with the story. Honoria is so happy to see Marcus recovered that she’s sobbing and naturally throws her arms around him and then:
“Honoria”, he whispered, looking down at her as if he’d never seen her before. His eyes were warm, chocolaty brown and rich with emotion. Something flared in their depths, something she didn’t quite recognise, and slowly, ever so slowly, his lips dipped to meet hers.
Marcus has always found Honoria’s ‘lucky red shoes’ a turn on and it is these shoes that ultimately move the story towards the big love scene which is really worth waiting for! Ms Quinn doesn’t do steamy but her scene is both tender and poignant with lovely touches of teasing between them.
The Smythe-Smith Quartet themselves provide some really funny moments with their friendly bickering and it‘s a bonus to meet some familiar faces from the Bridgerton series including my favourite Colin Bridgerton and the indomitable Lady Danbury.
If you’re in the mood for a tender romance with endearing characters, sparkling dialogue and delightful touches of humour, JUST LIKE HEAVEN is simply perfect. I’m now looking forward to reading the other books in this series but will be sure to have my earplugs at the ready!
RATING : ★★★★★
SENSUALITY RATING: WARM
Read September 2011