Brighter than the Sun

Dancing At Midnight

The Duke and I

Everything and the Moon

How to Marry a Marquis

Minx

To Catch an Heiress

 
The Viscount Who Loved Me
by Julia Quinn
(Avon, $6.50, PG-13) 0-380-81557-5
****
I've read most of Julia Quinn's novels, and whenever I pick dive into one of her romances, I'm usually rewarded with dialogue that sparkles, heroines who are sassy and intelligent, and heroes who are genuinely heroic, not to mention kind-hearted. So I'm happy to report that on these counts The Viscount Who Loved Me succeeds beautifully.

Kate Sheffield is having her first London season - at the ripe old age of twenty - along with her younger half-sister, Edwina, who is the beauty of the family. Kate and her widowed stepmother hope that Edwina will make a brilliant match on the marriage mart so that the cash-strapped Sheffields can live out the rest of their days in relative comfort. Kate, who is a "plain Jane" next to beautiful, blond Edwina, harbors no illusions about her marriage marketability, though she dreams of finding a kind-hearted gentleman to fall in love with someday. For now, her mission is to make sure Edwina meets - and marries -- the right Mr. Right.

Certainly, Anthony Bridgerton is not the Mr. Right that Kate has in mind for her sister. He's London's most profligate rake, and his exploits appear regularly in Lady Whistledown's Society Papers, which are read eagerly by Kate and her sister. When this handsome charmer begins to woo Edwina, Kate tries to cut him off at the pass.

Viscount Bridgerton is a man who doesn't like the word No. While Lady Whistledown's Society Papers report that he might be on the prowl for a wife, they don't know why he's decided to marry. In his mind, it's simple: his beloved father died suddenly at the age of 38, leaving behind a large family and a wife who loved him desperately. Anthony "knows" he, too, will die at a young age, and as a viscount, he's expected to marry and produce an heir. He decides that if he does have to marry, it'll be to a young woman who's pleasant enough, attractive, intelligent, but someone to whom he could never lose his heart. And Edwina Sheffield fits all those requirements.

Only Kate blocks his path.

Kate and Anthony dislike each other upon first meeting. In his eyes, she's just the meddling older sister in possession of a sharp wit she uses to keep Anthony far from her sister. And in her eyes, he's a scheming playboy who's eager to compromise Edwina so that she'll have to marry him. But as these characters find out soon enough, first impressions are often wrong.

The only fault I found with this novel is that it took me awhile to get a true sense of the characters, especially Anthony. While Quinn writes wonderful dialogue, early conversations between Anthony and Kate get a little tedious as they bicker and one-up each other. When the characters (and reader) finally begin to glimpse the goodness in each other (brilliantly done is some memorable scenes - Anthony rescuing a young woman who is insulted at a house party, for example), the dialogue becomes more meaningful, even when Anthony and Kate are still sparring with each other.

One thing I love about Quinn's books is that her fictional families are usually happy: there are no evil stepsisters or back-stabbing friends. In The Viscount Who Loved Me, Kate has a lovely relationship with her stepmother, Mary, and she adores her half-sister. Anthony, too, enjoys a strong, loving relationship with his family, and the Bridgertons eagerly accept Kate into their fold. In a time where so many modern-day familial relationships are strained, it's nice to escape to a place where sisters love each other and sons adore their parents.

Kate and Anthony ended up becoming an exceptional hero and heroine for this reader, and I closed the book with a big smile on my face, happy to know that these characters found long-lasting love. Julia Quinn has penned another Regency historical that I can easily recommend.

--Diana Burrell


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