by Julia Quinn
“It’s too hard to explain,” he said in a petulant mutter. “If you want a new direction for your life,” she said, “then for heaven’s sake, just pick something out and do it. The world is your oyster, Colin. You’re young, wealthy, and you’re a man.” Penelope’s voice turned bitter, resentful. “You can do anything you want….Next time you want to complain about the trials and tribulations of universal adoration, try being an on-the-shelf spinster for a day. See how that feels and then let me know what you want to complain about.”
I enjoyed this much much more than the previous 3 Julia Quinn books I have read or re-read recently. For one thing, I liked both Penelope and Colin. They seemed to have a little more complexity than the main characters in previous books. Colin was never a jerk to Penelope. They had one big fight but Penelope gave as good as she got. None of this “You’re despicable!” as if it were a rational argument.
I loved the development and portrayal of their relationship. There was no “big misunderstanding” that drove and kept them apart because of a lack of honest communication. There were, it is true, a few little misunderstandings and creating problems out of thin air, but such things were quickly resolved because they liked and respected each other above all petty considerations and misplaced priorities. Once they forthrightly declared their love for each other mid-book (which bypassed another bone-tired trope) they were an inseparable team and unfailingly had each other’s backs.
And throughout the book, there is the specter of Lady Whistledown. I have put a spoiler alert on this review for those maybe 2 people on this spaceship Earth who do not know the real identity of the mysterious Lady. In addition to the romance, Penelope and Colin’s “finding themselves”, and more family shenanigans, we have the mystery of who Lady W. is, the big reveal to the reader, to Colin, and the potential fall out of possible public exposure.
Although there were some genuinely amusing situations and conversations, the book does suffer somewhat from Laughtrack-itis. That is, for example, a writer will have the characters in the book laugh uproariously over a “quip” that is not witty or funny at all. I really think this trick does fool some readers into thinking that they must be reading a funny book. Or someone in the book will go into raptures over another’s clever strategy when it’s not clever at all. And, guess what? It doesn’t make the character bright or clever either. It’s a version of telling, not showing. I’ll get off my soapbox.
This was a happy, fluffy, light-hearted book. I was never frustrated by stupid, silly, or offensive behavior which is unusual. It is about two good-hearted people whose relationship has simmered for three books. It was just what I needed and did not disappoint.
February 25, 2021