Let me start off by saying I have been a reader of Julia Quinn's novels for several years now. In highschool I discovered some of her earlier works from her adorable Bridgerton series (The Duke and I, The Viscount Who Loved Me, An Offer from a Gentleman, Romancing Mister Bridgerton) and upon finishing each book I always had a grin on my face. As time passed during my university years I would take a quick break from the concentration and intensity of my academic studies to read a lighthearted tale by this author in the form of the Bevelstoke series (The Secret Diaries, What Happens In London). I was disappointed with these, and decided not to spend any more money on buying Ms. Quinn's novels. Now, a few years later, I saw this brand new book at my local library with a pretty cover page and a blurb about the Smythe-Smiths, which I had recalled from her Bridgerton works. Why not give it a chance over the Christmas break, I thought. Upon finally finishing it, I am now writing this negative review because I feel that I thoroughly wasted my time in reading it, so much so that it will be the last book I ever read by this author.
There were several major things I didn't like in the story. The plot was sorely lacking. In short the characters have a flimsy 'I detest you!" relationship before they drop the pretense. The action consisted almost completely of dialog and banter that attempts to be witty and humorous but fails miserably. The prologue was promising but after 200 pages I was bored. In short they move from one wedding celebration to another, during which time the main characters get to know each other with meaningless fluff and chatter punctuated by quirking of brows. The climax of any novel should generally be riveting but I was close to snoring with this one. It was held in a nearby inn with a villain whose actions were more of a joke than anything else.
Secondly, the grammar was deplorable. Many times there were phrases that were repeated in the same paragraph for emphasis. In one case, the hero states over and over within one page that he loves the heroine, but this is overdone in my opinion. Words and descriptions should touch the soul, not hammer away like a bludgeon to the head. I also found that there were a few instances where connecting words were missing and I would have to mentally add the word into the sentence while reading, which was very annoying. If it was not a printing error, then the editor should have caught these mistakes. Whenever this happens with books, I usually give up and don't waste any more of my time reading it, but I know Ms. Quinn is very talented, so I persevered. Like an essay though, these are easy but critical ways to lose points as well the reader's trust in the intellect of the writer.
The characters were bland to the point that I probably won't remember their names a few months from now. I do appreciate the fact that the hero is not the typical alpha male but is one living with a physical injury and its limitations that make him feel sorry for himself and not worthy to be a husband to any gentle young lady. The heroine appeared selfish and annoying to me, so I didn't really care for her. But my main issue here is that there didn't seem to be an emotional connection that pulls the two people together. There was nothing really special about the couple that pulled at my heartstrings, which is the whole point for why I read romance novels. I want to laugh, cry and rage at the characters for all of their winning moments as well as their faults and then fall asleep dreaming of their happily ever after. All I found between them was boring babble after which they came to understand each other. Other than that, there didn't seem to be any other action in the plot.
Sadly this is the book that has crossed Julia Quinn off my reading list for good. Usually I read a historical romance in between other genres like fantasy, science fiction, mystery or contemporary, but I was so dissatisfied with this one that the next one I plan to read is not the complex Atlas Shrugged (whose first page held more interest to me than this entire book did) as I had planned but A Knight In Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux. I guess I just didn't get any of the satisfaction that I usually expect from historical romance with this one, so I'm going to try a classic romance tale that has received rave reviews before moving on to more serious literature.