Sunday Salon: Julia Quinn

Since I’ve been fighting a nasty virus that has left me with an on and off again fever and sprawled out on the couch since last Sunday, I turned my attention to the books my mom checked out of the library for me before my arrival. She had selected a wide variety of books, but the first one to catch my eye was What Happens In London by Julia Quinn, which she selected based on the title since I’ll be headed to London in March. Despite my new decision to avoid modern romance novels, I found myself flying through What Happens In London and later checking out an additional three more — Everything and the Moon; To Sir Phillip, with Love; and The Viscount Who Loved Me.

What Happens In London is the second book in the Bevelstoke series, but it’s not necessary to read the first book in the series in order to understand what is occurring in the second. This one follows Olivia Bevelstoke as she investigates into the life of her new neighbor, Sir Harry Valentine, from her bedroom window after she is told he murdered his fiancée. Valentine, though, is alarmed at the girl’s prying eyes from her bedroom window, which gazes directly into his study, because he’s a translator of sensitive documents for the War Department. When a Russian prince arrives in London and is immediately infatuated with Olivia, the War Department instructs Valentine to begin spying on the girl spying on him.

This is definitely my favorite of the four I’ve read. Every character was fully fleshed out, their dialogue consisted of witty banter and inner dialogue that did not throw bumps into the story line, and the pace is just perfect except for a small glitch towards the end of the novel when I thought the story was going to suddenly stall out.  The cousin, Sebastian, provided comedic relief that had me smiling despite being ill, and it was a great diversion from the constant barge of  thermometers, water bottles, and cold compresses.

The first book in the Everything series, Everything and the Moon, tells the story of Victoria Lyndon, a vicar’s daughter, and Robert Kemble, the heir to the Earl of Macclesfield. Hopelessly in love, the two decide to runoff and elope despite the Earl of Macclesfield saying he will disown his son if he does so and the Vicar telling his daughter that Robert is going to ruin her and has no plans to actually marry her. Circumstances out of their control keep the two from meeting on their appointed night, and both leave their homes with broken hearts. Seven years later, Robert is disgusted to learn that Victoria is the governess at the house he is staying at, but he’s even more disgusted to learn that despite telling himself he hates her, he still desperately loves her.

I had a much harder time enjoying Everything and the Moon compared to What Happens In London. Their relationship as youth seemed completely rushed, frantic even, and I had a hard time believing the two to really be in love. Then, upon reunion, a wake-up call for one of the characters made their attempt to convince the other they are still in love and therefore the two must be married was off-putting. The relationship seemed to pushed on one side, and I understood the other person’s hesitation and suspicion. That part, and character, was the best part of this novel. The idea was good and should have been heart-wrenching, but that one character ruined it for me.

At the beginning of To Sir Phillip, with Love, the fifth book in the Bridgerton series, I thought I would find a novel on the same level as What Happens In London. Eloise Bridgerton, a young women of twenty-eight and soon to officially be a spinster, sends a letter of condolence to Sir Phillip upon the death of his wife, Marina, Eloise’s fourth cousin. The two strike up a friendship of sorts as they send letters back and forth, which ultimately leads to Sir Phillip asking Eloise if she would like to come for a visit and see if the two are compatible for marriage. Eloise never replies so imagine Sir Phillip’s surprise when she shows up early one morning without warning and without a chaperon.

Sir Phillip is completely disassociated with everyone around him including his children, preferring instead to spend his time alone in his greenhouse, and it’s difficult to imagine him ever having written letters back to Eloise. It’s also difficult to believe that anyone could fall in love with him as his personality is furthered in the novel. His horrible little monsters children, Amanda and Oliver, reminded me too much of the Von Trapp children in “The Sound of Music” with the toads, pine cones, and other governess ridding techniques. Eloise, who is supposed to be a bright girl that turned down proposal after proposal because she was smart enough to realize she wants a love match, doesn’t realize that running off without a word to her mother, four brothers, three sisters, or best friend might not be such a good idea. And she also doesn’t realize that living with Sir Phillip without a proper chaperon might force her hand into marriage, which she isn’t sure is a love match, when her brothers arrive at Sir Phillip’s home. The “heroine” is pretty unrealistic, and therefore the plot followsin the same direction.

I had to abandon the second book in the Bridgerton series, The Viscount Who Loved Me, the fourth Quinn book I’ve read. The book follows Anthony Bridgerton, the older brother of Eloise who I really liked in To Sir Phillip, with Love, and his relationship with Kate Sheffield. Paralyzed with fear that he too will follow in the same footsteps as his father, who died at the age of thirty-eight, Anthony refuses to allow himself to love Kate, which causes major friction in their relationship. Add that to the fact that Anthony was originally courting Kate’s younger sister, Edwina, and the relationship seems doom from the start.

This is one series that you must read in order. While I did not know the reasoning behind why Anthony’s marriage to Kate was not originally a love, the ending of the book was ruined for me by reading To Sir Phillip, with Love. Anthony and Eloise’s little heart-to-heart bares all. Kate is very much like the Katherina of “The Taming of the Shrew,” and Anthony is just as bossy as Petruchio. He’s also very whiny, though, so his mood swings from hot to cold very quickly. And for those reasons I had a very hard time continuing on and had to move on to something else.

Of the four novels I read, three of them trumpted Julia Quinn as “the Jane Austen of our time”. I would have to disagree 100 percent. However, they did provided a nice diversion from sickness for the most part, and I’m sure the next time I’m sick the continuation of the Everything series, Brighter Than the Sun, will probably be beside my sick bed.

Books Mentioned:

  • Quinn, Julia. Everything and the Moon. New York: Avon, 1997. Print. 372 pgs. ISBN: 9780380789337. Source: Library.
  • Quinn, Julia. To Sir Phillip, with Love. Waterville, ME: Wheeler Pub., 2003. Print. 426 pgs. Large Print. ISBN: 1587245361. Source: Library.
  • Quinn, Julia. The Viscount Who Loved Me. Waterville, ME: Wheeler Pub., 2003. Print. 485 pgs. Large Print. ISBN: 1587243830. Source: Library.
  • Quinn, Julia. What Happens In London. New York: Avon, 2009. Print. 372 pgs. ISBN: 9780061491887. Source: Library.

The Sunday Salon:

The Sunday Salon.com The Sunday Salon encourages bloggers to get together –at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones– every Sunday and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one another’s blogs. Salon participants are encouraged to blog about their time spent reading, pages read, information about current reading, discuss a reaction to a book, state what they plan to read the following week, or make suggestions for a group read.

Book Covers © Harper Collins and Wheeler Publishers. Retrieved: December 30, 2009.
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6 thoughts on “Sunday Salon: Julia Quinn

    1. I wouldn’t say I’m a fan, at least not a fan like some of the people on GoodReads are. But her books were a nice distraction while being sick. Happy New Year to you, too!

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    1. I hope your sickness goes away quickly, Eva. I was feeling well enough to go on a short hike yesterday and go skiing for about three hours today, so I think my virus is pretty much gone. I’m pretty exhausted, though, so maybe skiing was a bad idea.

      Anyways, I’ve noticed that’s true whenever I’m sick. I guess once you find one author you can focus on despite being sick, it’s difficult to move on to another author.

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  1. Add me to the host of people on the sick train… and much like you, my bug seems to come and go! One day I’m feeling halfway decent, only to be feverish and miserable the next. It’s the pits, especially because I really want to be reading, and it’s hard when the letters and words are all swimming about on the page!

    But as to Julia Quinn, while I don’t read any romance whatsoever these days, I went through a phase several years back where I read some historical/regency era stuff, and Quinn was one of those authors I did read. I think you’re right about her Bridgerton series needing to be read in order, in part because it starts to go down quality wise with each successive child (I believe there are 8 Bridgertons total)… And I think The Viscount Who Loved Me is actually the first in the series, as the Bridgerton kids are all named alphabetically (so Anthony is the eldest). I remember liking it quite a bit when I read it, but my vague notes from the time suggest that I wasn’t wild about To Sir Phillip, With Love. I agree that Quinn definitely isn’t the Austen of our day, but I think that she probably is fun enough to read when sick!

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    1. That’s exactly the same bug I had; fine one day and feverish the next. Must be winter blues or something.

      The Viscount Who Loved Me is the first but, as I said above, To Sir Phillip, With Love ruined the story of that book because of a conversation between Anthony and Eloise. I wish I had realized they were a series because then I would have, obviously, read the first book in the series before reading the fifth.

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