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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

'10 Things I Love About You' by Julia QUINN


From the BLURB:

Ten Things You Should Know About This Book

1. Sebastian Grey is a devilishly handsome rogue with a secret.

2. Annabel Winslow's family voted her The Winslow Most Likely to Speak Her Mind and The Winslow Most Likely to Fall Asleep in Church.

3. Sebastian's uncle is the Earl of Newbury, and if he dies without siring an heir, Sebastian inherits everything.

4. Lord Newbury detests Sebastian and will stop at nothing to prevent this from happening.

5. Lord Newbury has decided that Annabel is the answer to all of his problems.

6. Annabel does not want to marry Lord Newbury, especially when she finds out he once romanced her grandmother.

7 is shocking, 8 is delicious, and 9 is downright wicked, all of which lead the way to

10. Happily. Ever. After.

Annabel Winslow is the eldest of eight children, daughter to a disgraced Ton darling who married a small-time Gloucestershire countryman (and is now widowed). It all falls to Annabel to save her family from the poor house, and she is quickly shepherded off to London for her first season of husband-hunting. Luckily for Annabel she (and her wide hips) have caught the eye of Lord Newbury. He is a friend of her grandparents. Her grandparents! She looks set to marry a man three times her age, but who can save her and her family from destitution.
If only she hadn’t stumbled upon Sebastian Grey on Hampstead Heath. If only Sebastian wasn’t Lord Newbury’s hated nephew. If only Annabel hadn’t liked kissing Sebastian quite so much.

This is the third book in Julia Quinn’s ‘Bevelstoke’ series. The first book was ‘The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever’, and the second book was ‘What Happens in London’.

It is from that second book that the hero of ’10 things’ is derived. Sebastian Grey was best friend and cousin to the male protagonist of ‘What Happens’ and he absolutely stole the show in that book. Sebastian was wholly funny and charming – at one point completely stealing the limelight when he dramatised a scene from a gothic novel that had the housemaids crying and a Russian prince applauding. I could not wait to read his HEA because he so captivated me in ‘What Happens in London’.

Sadly, I was disappointed in Sebastian’s book. I liked it, I didn’t love it.

My first complaint had to do with Annabel and Sebastian’s first meeting. The all important first meeting between a romance novel hero and heroine is crucial; it sets the tone for the whole romance and is the igniting factor for the characters interest, and the readers interest in the characters.

Annabel literally stumbles across Sebastian Grey in the dark of Hampstead Heath. Both of them are attending a Ton party, which Annbel promptly escapes from in order to avoid Lord Newbury’s groping hands. When she falls over him, Sebastian is sprawled out on a picnic blanket having just completed an interlude with a married Ton woman.
It sounds seedier than it is – Sebastian is fully clothed and the Ton woman long since departed when Annabel finds him. But still, this first meeting annoyed me. Sebastian can tell straight away that Annabel is a virgin, and he revels in scandalizing her and admitting that he was having a romp with a married woman. Regardless, Annabel still finds him charming.
I don’t think this is the most romantic way for a couple to have their first meeting. I just imagined Annabel telling her children one day how she first met their father – “oh, he’d just finished having a roll on the Heath with a married matron.” Ick.

And it doubly annoyed me that Quinn built Sebastian up to be such a rake, but when he meets Annabel he (and she) promptly forget his previous liaisons. Urgh. I really hate when regency romance writers do this – they try so hard to make a scandalous character, but the second he falls in love all past indiscretions are forgiven and forgotten. Not even Annabel (who stumbled across first-hand evidence of Sebastian’s rakishness) again mentions his womanizing and cavorting – not even to insist that he desist once they are married.

I really love Sebastian, and couldn't wait to read his HEA. But I think I preferred him in 'What Happens in London'. In '10 things' he just feels a bit muddled. There's a side-story about Sebastian having been in the war, and perhaps dealing with some post-traumatic stress from his experiences. But this storyline (which could have been the central plot of the book, IMO) didn't really pan out - it felt like a sloppy afterthought that was never properly executed or fleshed out by Quinn. A shame, really, because it could have added a whole new dimension to Sebastian's character.

I didn’t particularly like the Newbury/Annabel/Sebastian ‘love triangle’ plot. It’s all very convoluted, but I never for one second thought that Newbury was really a threat to Annabel and Sebastian’s love. At the end it just seemed like a lot of effort was put into a plot that I never really put much stock into.

One such reason the Newbury plot didn’t work for me was Annabel’s unconvincing dire circumstances. Much is made of the fact that Annabel’s family is fatherless and supporting eight children. But we never read any scenes of Annabel’s home life. She talks about them, sometimes, but because I never read a scene describing Annabel’s struggling home life I found it hard to have much sympathy for her plight.

Harry and Olivia from ‘What Happens in London’ do make lengthy guest appearances – but I wish they hadn’t. Olivia is fine, funny as usual, but I had a real problem with Harry in this book. I loved him in ‘What Happens’, he was a wonderfully romantic Beta hero – but in ’10 things’ he just comes across as a disinterested, absentee husband to Olivia. In the scenes Harry is in he’s reading the paper, seemingly ignoring his wife. Olivia goes on strolls with Sebastian because Harry is too busy with his translations to take his wife out. I really wish Quinn hadn’t written them at all because it almost taints their book.

One thing I will say for ’10 things’ is that Quinn improves on the sex scenes. ‘What Happens’ had only one (lukewarm) love scene. Sebastian’s book does much better – getting explicit and amorous;

He wanted to kiss her. He wanted to kiss her more than he wanted to breathe. He wanted to kiss her far more than he had sense, because if he’d been thinking sensibly, he would have stepped away. Walked out of the room. Found himself a very cold bath.
Instead he stepped toward her. Put his hand over hers, holding it gently in place over her eyes.
Her lips parted, and he heard a soft whisper of air rush across. Whether she’d exhaled or gasped, he didn’t know. He didn’t care. He just wanted her breath to be his breath.

I will also say that ’10 things’ elicits a few chuckles. One scene involving Annabel’s somewhat slutty grandmother, her wandering hands, and Sebastian is quite ‘laugh out loud’ funny.

I was really looking forward to this book because I loved Sebastian’s appearance in ‘What Happens in London’. Unfortunately Julia Quinn didn’t meet my expectations. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for a regency romance, or maybe my expectations were *too* high, but I found some faults with ’10 Things I Love About You’. It’s a shame, because the first two books in Quinn’s ‘Bevelstoke’ series are absolute favourites of mine.

2.5/5

2 comments:

  1. this in not my kind of book, but its a pity you didnt enjoy it =/

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh noes - ok first - I don't like when hero's past indiscretions are totally forgiven either! Give me Seb the rake!!

    Second - Harry - the disinterested hubs? NOOO!

    I don't know if I want to read this now....

    Thanks so much for the very insightful review..I love them so much :)

    ReplyDelete