2 March 1810 . . .This was my first book by Julia Quinn, although she's been writing for a goodly long time. I think I saw the blurb on a website and thought it looked like fun. When a friend said she was getting it from the library I magnanimously offered to share the borrowing time with her. (I'm generous that way.)
Today, I fell in love.
At the age of ten, Miranda Cheever showed no signs of Great Beauty. And even at ten, Miranda learned to accept the expectations society held for her—until the afternoon when Nigel Bevelstoke, the handsome and dashing Viscount Turner, solemnly kissed her hand and promised her that one day she would grow into herself, that one day she would be as beautiful as she already was smart. And even at ten, Miranda knew she would love him forever.
But the years that followed were as cruel to Turner as they were kind to Miranda. She is as intriguing as the viscount boldly predicted on that memorable day—while he is a lonely, bitter man, crushed by a devastating loss. But Miranda has never forgotten the truth she set down on paper all those years earlier—and she will not allow the love that is her destiny to slip lightly through her fingers . . .
I read this book in about a day and really liked it. It was fun and witty and, well... fun. If I was trying to write a cover quote for it, I'd come up with something like "light-hearted and sparkling". This is not a deep and difficult book, but it is peopled by engaging characters and I was cheering for their happy ending.
Miranda is a fun heroine. She isn't what is considered beautiful and she knows it - and while Turner finds her beautiful, he also acknowledges she's not conventionally beautiful, which was nice and real. Often, it seems to me that once the hero decides he finds the heroine beautiful, he insists that she is totally and absolutely so and anyone who doesn't agree is wrong. I like it much better that characters can find the beauty in each other and acknowledge the absolute truth of that for them, but still know that society in general may not agree with them.
Miranda's friend Olivia (who is also Turner's younger sister) is conventionally beautiful and has the admirers and reputation that go with that, but she too is a real character, and she knows Miranda's true worth - the scene where she confronts Turner over his actions is wonderful and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I found Turner to be a less well developed character than Miranda, which I found interesting as in my, admittedly limited, experience of romance novels it is often the other way around. He's a solid, decent guy who doesn't let himself look beyound his bitter experience with his recently-deceased wife, much to his detriment. But he does do his best and works well together with Miranda.
Neither Miranda nor Turner is ever really stupid, which is a plus for both of them. Any stupidities they show are minor. And as annoying as it was for Miranda, I really liked the way Turner progressed to knowing he was in love with her as that felt appropriate. As the reader I might have figured out early on that he loved her, but he wasn't in a place to be able to figure it out himself.
I really did enjoy this book. It was light and entertaining and just the break I was wanting at the point I picked it up. I don't think I could live on a diet of books like it, but I know I'll enjoy slipping one into the menu on a regular basis. I'll be reading more Julia Quinn.
The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever