Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn
It has been quite some time since I’ve read any Julia Quinn books. Once a longtime addict of hers, my taste in books changed enough that I stopped compulsively buying after the second to last Bridgerton books (despite it being one of my favorite). Maybe it was because I did not want to see Lady Danbury get old. Maybe it was my increasing dotage too and while reading, I grew concerned about young women marrying at the age of twenty when I myself past that age long ago. Maybe it was the knowledge that if I kept reading on, it would become harder and harder to main my suspension of disbelief that almost everyone would get their happy endings…in that time period…all related…one big family. Whatever it was, I stopped – whether to preserve what was left of the copper coins slaved away, or the perfect memory of the world, I just stopped. Then came Just Like Heaven.
How could anyone resist reading about the Smythe-Smith clan? Their recitals famous in so many books where no one could endure listening to, yet some of the sweetest people around continued to attend and support the young women. When I heard this was out, I dutifully ran to the bookstore and purchased. :) I am so glad I did, this was a wonderful book. It reminded me of all the reasons why I once loved Julia Quinn’s books so much.
This was a simple book about the love and relationship between Honoria and Marcus and contained one of my favorite ideas, childhood friends turned love. In extension, the story was also about family and friends. It was an incredibly sweet story. Honoria has become one of my favorite characters. The youngest of a large family, she was sweet and honest, temperamental and brave. Honoria was very truthful with herself without being all mopey-angsty-self-pity. She hit just the right balance of being humble, yet fun loving humorous. She lead the musicale clan without being over-bearing. I loved how she was the only one to notice that Marcus was both very funny and shy. Her intelligence and observation could have turned her into a very snarky character, but instead showed how close the Smythe-Smith clan truly was. For example, the true reason for the musicales: family and tradition (but in a good way). I always loved how family was an integral part of Julia Quinn’s books. In this case, it was even more so.
Marcus was also becoming one of my favorite heroes. After all the chest pounding, smooth talking, testosterone oozing alpha heroes out there, Marcus was the perfect counter-weight and turned out even better. The prologue was a great set-up and gave us a nice look into our hero. Marcus was an only child and had no one really growing up. He was heir to be Duke, ergo groomed to be very good at just about anything he did except one: learn how to interact with people. Instead, what others assumed he was the high and mighty self assured Lord as so many other cookie cutter heroes, we saw Marcus as he truly was. Marcus was shy and sweet, sensitive and funny. He’s loyal to a fault and loves very deeply. And only a very small amount of people knew that.
In school, Marcus became best friends with Daniel, Honoria’s brother. Through whatever forces were in power, Marcus became a part of the Smyth-Smith family. Off screen, Daniel had to flee the country and made Marcus promise to watch over Honoria (make sure she does not marry some idiot pretty much). Off screen, Marcus had done so for three years. As the story picked up, Honoria and Marcus reconnect on a rain-filled day over delicious pastries and as they slowly got to know each other again. It was through an accident and injury (life threatening) that caused them to realize their love and affection for each other. They realized they fell in love, or maybe they always were in love. It was sweet, that was the only word I can think of to describe this book.
There were quite a few plot holes, but I was able to read through with no problem given that this was book 1 in a series. I enjoyed seeing old characters and especially enjoyed the inside jokes for those that read the previous books. The timing of the book did throw me off with the time period as it coincided with several others from years ago. Although Marcus healed very quickly for such a leg infection (I really loved his drugged mind – rabbit, carrot, onions…lol) and then fell very quickly in love with Honoria right after… it was all within the lines of believability. Their intimate scene at the end was very tender and sweet, but felt slightly forced in how it started. Also, it made me kind of freaked out that they were doing it in a house full of guests…right after the musicale. O__o The lost letters of Daniel were never really explained either, but I’m sure he’ll have his own story. As well as Sarah’s.
Overall, I really liked it and look forward to the rest of the quartet. :) I do love those slice-of-life romances that Julia Quinn does so well. No intense mystery, murder or mayhem. No family revelations, no skeletons in the closet to rip them apart. Just two people, falling in love – with the entanglements of the inescapable family. :)