Okay. The very first thing I need to get clear is this: I love Julia Quinn.
I think she’s a damn good writer, her characters grab you by the throat (or heart, maybe) and don’t let go, and no one else writes a hilarious scene as well as her.
Think the argument over the word purview in What Happens in London.
Speaking of which – I think that was a masterful book. No plot gymnastics needed. Quinn made a superb book out of two people simply falling in love. How many novelists – particularly romance novelists – pull that off? I mean, just look to Quinn’s first novel Splendid and count the number of obstacles she threw in her protagonists’ path to make up for her lack of experience.
Okay. Now that we’re clear:
I was disappointed. And disappointed to be disappointed.
Her writing is as tight, funny and engaging as ever. But I think I’ve pinpointed the problem. One: I didn’t really like Annabel. Is that terrible? I just found her an unimpressive mixture of naive, wholesome, confused and bursting with sexuality. Sort of.
Two: I kind of didn’t feel like she deserved Sebastian…I wanted someone who challenged him and made him vulnerable. And while Annabel did that as far as the plot goes, I felt like Three: Sebastian was made less, not more by his transformation. And I had the feeling that Four: he was attracted to her because she was attractive – I just couldn’t really figure out what else about her drew him in so strongly.
Which leads to Five: from the scene on the Heath I was skeptical. I could imagine two attractive people sharing a kiss, but Six: I didn’t think they had much chemistry. Which is a shame, because Seven: the unfolding story relied on them having reacted really strongly to each other.
I admit that Eight: I spent a good part of it hoping Sebastian was going to run off with Annabel’s lovable cousin Louisa. Louisa was funny and endearing and insecure in such a wistful, plucky way. She would have surprised Sebastian, I think. I would have been excited for him to kiss her.
Okay, so there’s no point rewriting the book in my head, but you get my point, I hope.
I wasn’t on team Annabel. And I felt that Sebastian became less and less clear to me as a character as the novel progressed and that he was diminished from the dashing cousin in What Happens in London. Speaking of which (again), Harry and Olivia were just as great in this novel as in their own.
Also, Nine: I have this pet peeve about women shrieking during sex. Maybe if the scene is built and built and he does something particularly naughty to her… Maybe. But just for licking her nipple? Did any of you ever shriek for such a thing? Maybe it’s just the way I read the verb, but to me it’s kind of startling – and loud, and to do with fear.
Ditto writhing. (Of which there was none – whew!)
Anyway, there you have it, and I’ve no doubt there are hordes of people out there who disagree with me. I wish I could disagree with me.
Oh, and Ten: it made me pull silly faces like this: