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Just Like Heaven: Number 1 in series (Smythe-Smith Quartet) Paperback – 2 Jun 2011
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From NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Julia Quinn comes the first, dazzling instalment of the all-new Smythe-Smith Quartet that will appeal to fans of historical and women's fiction alike
About the Author
Julia Quinn started writing her first book one month after finishing college and has been tapping away at her keyboard ever since. She is a graduate of Harvard and Radcliffe colleges and lives with her family in Colorado.
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Marcus is a lonely, gentle character and I could quite see why he fell for Honoria. She is an appealing heroine who I immediately wished well. There was always going to be a happy ending - but there was Ms Quinn's usual humour along the way. I always find her books easy to read and would happily recommend this to anyone wanting a charming holiday read.
"Just Like Heaven" I felt was back to the Julia I know and love, I couldn't put the book down and read it in one sitting, which completely messed up my body clock but who cares. The characters were charming and I really wanted the hero and heroine to end up together, which they do so don't worry. I'm can't wait for the next book in the Smythe-Smith Quartet to come out. It was also nice to finally get their stories after hearing so much about them in her other books, however, that is not the only reason you should buy this book. It stands by itself as a must-read book and has, for me, reinstated Julia Quinn as a must-buy author again!
Now, I don't wont to say anything more detailed about the plot, as I and probably some over people don't particularly like spoilers, but you should buy this book and don't be put of by the 3stars, it isn't a three star book.
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.
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