I don’t know about you, but I have a good feeling about 2012. Just something in the air that speaks to me of good tidings. Also, I’ve gotten some sweet-ass book recommendations that I can’t wait to grumpy-read for you! I kid, I kid, I’m sure some of them will be lovely. Just lovely.
This weekend we spend some time with Honoria and Marcus, who are very nice people leading very nice lives and just generally being really super nice (and I am nice too! Exhibit A: I have never, EVER giggled to myself over the way the leading lady’s name could sort of sound like a venereal disease! NEVER!). Honoria and Marcus go way back, all the way back to childhood. You know this story – old mates who move on to, well, mating. I know this old story, too, and frankly I’m disinterested in the gradual blossoming of their love. Get over it and move on to the good stuff, I say! But that’s not what this book wants to be about, so tough cookies, me.
So Honoria’s older brother, Daniel, who was forced out of the country on the heels of a scandal, grew up jolly great friends with Marcus, who has no family and a very sad lonely life. Honoria and Daniel’s family is very loud and boisterous and they take Marcus into their happy nest. (Obviously all characters here are richer than your wildest dreams – bully for them.) Then Marcus and Honoria run into each other and bond over their shared love of sweet desserts (maybe this guy isn’t so bad, hey!) and much ado is made of Marcus being in town, so Honoria’s aunt or something decides to throw a weekend party at her country home, which is right next to Marcus’s country home, in the hope that somewhere among the bachelors in the group her daughter will find a husband. Honoria immediately invites Marcus and in the same letter tells him that he absolutely should not attend because it is going to be awful. Ha! Marcus ever so gracefully declines but he still plans to drop in and see what Honoria is up to – not because he likes her (good gracious, no!), but because he promised her brother that he would look out for her and make sure she didn’t marry anyone stupid. He’s spent the last year chasing away one beau after another to the point that Honoria is feeling pretty bad about herself and, surely, there is absolutely no way this could go wrong!
So, at the party, Honoria decides what she needs to do is dig a little hole and accidentally twist her ankle in it, and then have the strapping young gent of her choosing come rescue her. Marcus comes across Honoria digging a hole, and here I start to wonder if there’s ever been a heroine who’s been allowed to murder someone and dispose of the body in a self-dug hole and still get the guy in the end? Nobody steal that idea!!!! Anyway, Marcus is just soooo intrigued because Honoria is soooo intriguing digging her cute little hole in her sweet little dress, goo goo, ga ga, etc. But then MARCUS trips and falls in the hole and falls on top of Honoria (pause here for a collective gasp!!!!), but of course this is So Wrong, and in his hurry to get away from her, he falls in the hole AGAIN and actually hurts himself! And then he stepped on a rake and it hit him in the face! (that last one didn’t happen) Honoria starts to help him home but can’t, so she goes back to the house for help, and meanwhile he’s stuck in the rain, and his ankle is swelling up, and will he be eaten by wolves…? He will not. He will go home, where his valet will have to cut his boot off, and then he’ll be tucked into bed and get a nasty cold. Honoria, feeling a bit sheepish, goes to check up on him and he is a total invalid baby, but of course he’s soooo happy for her entirely platonic sisterly company.
Then Honoria goes home, but she gets a note! From the housekeeper! Marcus is gravely ill! PERHAPS EVEN DYING!!!! So Honoria and her mother rush to his side, only to find his leg straight up putrefying and it is some gross shit. At first Honoria is like, oh no, what will we do, I better bathe his face. But then Honoria’s mom is like, stand back girls! I saw this done once twenty-five years ago and I’m sure I can do it again no problem!, and she sets to work saving Marcus’s disgusting leg. Which she does, of course. Honoria helps. And then the doctor shows up – but not the usual doctor, who is awful and a quack, a younger smarter doctor – and he’s like, sweet job ladiezzzz. And Marcus eventually recovers, but not before realizing that HE LOVES HONORIA and likewise she realizes that SHE LOVES MARCUS. Little floating pink hearts everywhere!!!! But also a letter front Daniel comes and in it he says he’s coming home and also thanks, bro, for looking out for my super annoying little sister and chasing away all her boyfriends, and of course Honoria snoops and reads the letter and is very put out that he has been doing that and also that, I don’t know, she’s a responsibility to him and not, like, a lady he wants to make out with forever, so she gets real mad and stomps off. As one does! Vive le love!
Now I’d like to talk about two things in this book that annoy the ever-loving shit out of me. One is Honoria’s name – her last name, I mean. Smythe-Smith. SMYTHE-SMITH. As a member of the People With Hyphenated Last Names Are The Coolest And Also The Best club (it’s very exclusive, you probably couldn’t get in), I am DEEPLY insulted. Is she mocking the noble hyphen?! This will not stand, Julia Quinn!!!!! That name is stupid and the worst and everyone time someone says it I want to smash something into little tiny pieces with my fists. “Oh, I’m Julia Quinn and I write romance novels, and oh aren’t I clever, hahaha, Smythe-Smith, hahaha, so cheeky!” Shut up Julia Quinn. The second thing is this stupid quartet that all the unwed S-S girls have to be a part of; the joke here is that they’re terrible but they don’t know that they’re terrible. Except everyone knows that they’re terrible! They are terrible and always have been and why do they continue to put on this stupid performance every year? Because it’s tradition! A terrible, awful tradition! I like traditions and whatever (tradition is another word for routine, ie my favorite thing ever), but one should never continue a shitty tradition just for the sake of tradition. I get that Julia Quinn is trying to set up the big family with traditions who support each other even when they suck vs Marcus’s non-family, but it’s stupid. It is so dumb and it takes up SO MUCH SPACE in the stupid book and I hate it. And also their name is stupid!
Moving on: Honoria and Marcus run into each other two but she acts like a jerk to him even though she looooooooooves him and he’s like, why she being jerk me?, or something like that. Because he is dumb. And then it’s the day of the stupid music performance that’s horrible and he walks in on them practicing and his love boner basically turns itself inside-out and he runs away, screaming and clutching his bleeding ears. Sooooo then the musicale happens and it sucks, of course, but whatever. It is what it is. Afterwards Honoria is talking to this dude who seems really nice and awesome and even she thinks so, but then she’s like, “too bad I’m totally interested in Marcus or I would definitely tap this.” (Dear Authors of Romance: STOP DOING THIS. You’re only making your heroes look worse.) Of course Marcus sees them talking and he gets all RAAARRRRR AWAY FROM MY WOMAN, PUNK!!!!, and whisks Honoria away from the evil clutches of a decent guy. Ugh. UGH ALL OVER THIS. Then they finally, FINALLY, admit that they’re in love and get to screwing. You made me wait more than 300 damn pages for this, Julia Quinn!!!!!! It’s ok. I mean…you know. It’s fine. It is what it is. Whatever. And then they get dressed and they’re all giggly and weak-legged and kissy-faced and DANIEL BUSTS THE DOOR DOWN AND COMMENCES BEATING THE SHIT OUT OF MARCUS. This is literally the first time this book made me sit up and take notice, but of course it’s due to an older brother’s devotion to protecting the fragile jewel that is his baby sister’s virginity – which, gag me, please. So they roll around for a while and then finally Daniel lets Marcus tell him that they’re in looooove and they want to get maaaaaarried and have baaaaabies, so Daniel is like…OK dude, my bad. Back at the party, some random guy is heckling Honoria and the others and talking shit about how awful they are, which if I can take a moment to refresh your memory, is what LITERALLY EVERYONE INCLUDING HONORIA AND MARCUS HAVE BEEN DOING FOR THE ENTIRE BOOK. But that’s totally different because their shit-talking is because of love and family and whatever and this guy is just being a jerk. Enter Marcus, stage left. He orders the guy to leave and then THREATENS HIM WITH DEATH. Yes. “I am going to kill you,” he says. Look: there is a part of me that likes to idea of Joe going all FISTS OF FURY on some asshole who’s being mean to me, but this little interlude was deeply upsetting. Maybe because he says it totally calm and deadpan (which is the scariest way)? Maybe because a second later they’re engaged and making out? I don’t know. It’s just grody all over, but if that’s how Julia Quinn wants to leave things, whatever. Oh, but don’t worry, in the Epilogue we find out that they’re married AND EXPECTING A BABY and gloriously happy and attending the terrible musicale by choice and getting teary-eyed with familial pride or something.
Despite all the feelings I was feeling in that last paragraph, this book wasn’t bad. It was pretty non-offensive. Average, I’d say. Nice, you might call it. Just fine. Would I read Julia Quinn again? Yes. Does this book occupy a special place in my heart? Nope. But it could have been so, SO much worse, and I appreciate that it wasn’t. So…there’s that.