The Duke and I

The Further Observations
of Lady Whistledown

How to Marry a Marquis

It's In His Kiss

An Offer From a Gentleman

On the Way to the Wedding

Romancing Mr. Bridgerton

To Catch an Heiress

To Sir Phillip With Love

The Viscount Who Loved Me

When He Was Wicked

The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever
by Julia Quinn
(Avon, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-06-123-83-7
This is an entertaining book, if perhaps not one of Ms. Quinn’s finest.

Miranda Cheevers has been in love with her best friend’s older brother since she was ten and he was nineteen. Turner, who is Nigel Bevelstoke, Viscount Turner, heir to the Earl of Rudland, escorts her home from Olivia’s tenth birthday party. Turner is very kind to young Miranda on their short journey and suggests to the precocious young miss that she keep a journal. Miranda determines to do so, and his first entry reads: Today I fell in love.

Nine years later, when Olivia and Miranda are nineteen, Turner is burying Leticia, the woman who bewitched him into marriage when she was three months pregnant with another man’s child, then proceeded to cuckold him at every opportunity.

The night of the funeral, Miranda comes across Turner, drinking alone in the library, and he invites her to join him. Bitter and unhappy, he kisses her. Although this is something she has dreamed of most of her life, he scares her and she pulls away and slaps him.

The next morning, Olivia startles Miranda by proposing to match her with Olivia’s other brother - her twin, Winston. And suddenly Miranda notices that Winston is looking at her in an interesting new way. But Winston goes off back to school, Miranda and Olivia head to London for their long-awaited Season, and Turner ends up in London, as well, at the behest of his mother who wants his support for the launch of the two girls.

There can be no question that Julia Quinn is a wonderful writer. Miranda and Turner are lucidly-drawn, likable characters with their own personalities and wonderful chemistry. The pages zip by thanks to the author’s brisk pacing and deft hand with dialogue – and the conversation has plenty of Ms. Quinn’s signature light-hearted humor.

I also have a weak spot for the ‘friends become lovers’ scenario, although I have to say that I thought the sibling quality of Miranda and Turner’s interaction lasted too long. They have some very frank conversations, which are both entertaining and refreshingly intelligent, but when they squabble, which is fairly often, they behave very much like brother and sister. I’d have believed even more strongly in the romance if that aspect of their relationship had changed more over the course of the story.

I’d also have to say that I found this particular story a bit directionless. Miranda’s lack of enthusiasm for a London Season and the potential rival situation with Winston are emphasized in the early part of the book, but both potential sources of conflict fizzle out and go nowhere. In fact, given that Miranda is not that subtle about her feelings for Turner, there really isn’t anything keeping these two apart except his belief that neither women nor love can be trusted because Leticia betrayed him.

As motivations go, it’s pretty weak. It was weak in 99.999 per cent of all the other hundreds of romances I’ve read in which one or both characters swore off love because they or someone they knew had been hurt by the opposite sex, and even a writer of Ms. Quinn’s ability can’t make this tired attitude convincing.

So, for about two thirds of the book, our hero and heroine go back and forth, talking and squabbling while their physical awareness of each other heats up. Then there’s a crisis with, well, predictable results. However much you’re enjoying this reading experience, I suspect that no one will sit bolt upright and exclaim that they didn’t see it coming.

Ultimately, the resolution is satisfying because Miranda is such a sympathetic character. She hung in through all of Turner’s dithering, and her reward was the happy ending she’d dreamed of.

Summer is probably an excellent time for this book to come out. It would make good holiday reading – light and enjoyable if not terribly memorable. Not a bad recommendation, really.

-- Judi McKee

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