These last three months have been good reading months for me, excepting the one dud which I didn’t finish. Here are the reviews of three of them, two from Julia Quinn, and one from a new-to-me author.
Let’s talk about the newbie first. Garden Spells from Sarah Addison Allen has the pre-requisite premise of romance against the backdrop of two sisters reconciling and reuniting after ten years apart, a touch of whimsical magic and the kind of heart-warming subtly hinted at HEA ending that made me feel all fuzzy and brimming with hope after reading it. This sweet small-town romance set in Bascom, North Carolina, is more than what the synopsis makes it out to be.
Gorgeous cover aside, this book is beautifully written, heartfelt in its approach towards abusive boyfriends/ domestic violence, sensitive in its treatment of the estrangement between siblings, and the heroine’s fear of abandonment, and realistic in its attitude towards the magical abilities or unexplained gifts of the Waverlys. Ms Allen’s book has the off-beat humour and whimsy of Like Water for Chocolate, and some similar plotlines to the movie Practical Magic, supported by a wonderful cast of secondary characters – Evanelle, Bay. It’s the perfect pick-me-up after a dreary summer afternoon. I finished it over two evenings.
Julia Quinn has long been one of my favourite authors. Her hallmark humour and heroines with modern-day feminist ideals, who get to spout witty repartees, has endeared me to her from the very first time I picked up her book. So, it should come as no surprise that I enjoyed both The Lost Duke of Wyndham and Mr. Cavendish, I Presume.
This time round, she’s created a memorable hero in Jack Audley, the sometime-highwayman turned Lost Duke. He’s got that kind of roguish charm and wry sarcasm that makes him easily likeable. Then, Ms Quinn made him all the more appealing by giving him real fears (of failure as duke), insecurities (that Thomas makes the better duke with his background and track record) and emotional baggage (misplaced guilt over a beloved cousin who got killed following him into war) as well a lovable heroine, Grace, to romance. Witticisms and intriguing plot angles aside, this winner packs a punch for Quinn’s well-written plot, hot chemistry between hero/heroine, engaging secondary characters. I’m not the only one who liked this book, Jayne and Kmont did too.
The second book was an auto-buy as the curious cat in me simply had to read the other book, Mr Cavendish, I Presume for the story told from Thomas’ and Amelia’s perspective. For a start, it filled in a little of the mystery surrounding some of the circumstances in book 1. That scene which led up to Amelia taking that life-changing trip to Ireland with the Cavendish clan and that crotchety grandmother of his, revealed much without both central characters saying a lot. I think the readers realised by then before even Thomas did that he has fallen hard for Emily, even though he has a rather funny way of showing it.
While some readers thought that this companion novel (it’s not exactly a sequel) a little weakened by the heightened expectations that came from reading the first book, I beg to differ. I thought Quinn was marvellous in the way she evolved both heroes and heroines, and the way she made Thomas shed all his inhibitions and hang-ups over his identity and the calm, collected manner he managed this personal crisis.
So it’s an IMB rating of 3.5 for The Lost Duke and Mr Cavendish.