Back when BAVR still had her baby talons, we read a ton of Julia Quinn books. Almost all of them, really. And despite those years of frivolous happiness, I swore off Quinn books after the first in the Smythe-Smith series, Just Like Heaven, was pointlessly dumb enough to make me rethink what I was doing with my life. Did I really want to read the same banter and self-gratifying me so clever "comedy" for the rest of my life? No, I said. No, I do not want to read this funny stuff that isn't funny from an author who can do SO MUCH BETTER anymore. So I put away my Quinn books and summed this up to a "phase" never to be revisited again.
Then I came across A Night Like This, the second book in the Smythe-Smith series, on sale for $1 at a used book sale and bought it because REASONS, okay?
On the bright side, A Night Like This isn't nearly as mind-numbingly frivolous as the prior book in this series. There's a plot, there's more romance, the scenes didn't make me want to take a meat mallet to the next face that said something stupid. I was pleasantly surprised. Look at that. 3 stars. FOR AN AVON. That's, like, 3 billion stars in Avon ratings.
The story isn't particularly complicated. It's the standard regency fare, except that Quinn can write, so the tropes aren't quite as annoying. A Night Like This goes thus:
DANIEL, EARL OF WINSTEAD: Oh noz! I have accidentally attended a duel and accidentally shot my friend in the leg. These things happen!
MAIMED FRIEND'S DAD: I will KEEL you!
DANIEL: Oh noz! I must flee to the continent to avoid a sure death!
*THREE YEARS LATER - Daniel returns to England on the night of the infamous Smythe-Smith musicale, an event that has been DONE TO DEATH in Quinn's world. It's funny because the girls suck at playing instruments. But they play every year anyway. It's funny. No, really. Funny.
DANIEL: Hark! Who is this fair maiden I have never met sitting at the piano playing poorly. She is not my relative.
ANNE WYNTER, GOVERNESS: I am thine fair maiden, but you cannot eye-fuck me like that because I am a governess.
DANIEL: You are beautiful!
ANNE: I really can't ...
DANIEL: I must have you!
ANNE: Seriously, not a good idea. I still think you're hot, but ... Oh, what the hell? My feminine loins are quivering or whatever.
*KISSES, MAGIC, RAINBOWS, LOVE*
ANNE: But no! We can't do this because I have issues.
DANIEL: I don't care.
ANNE: I have issues, and fooling around with you will get me fired and thrown out on the street with nowhere to go. This is fucking 1815 or whatever. They'll make me be a prostitute probably, and then I'll die.
DANIEL: That's an excellent point. Nonetheless, I will have you still.
ANNE: Don't you listen? I'm, like, damaged and stuff.
*Daniel maneuvers blatantly obvious ways to see Anne that fool absolutely NOBODY and attempts to woo her.*
ANNE: *is wooed*
DANIEL: You have secrets. Let me help you.
ANNE: They're too shameful!
ONE OF ANNE'S SECRETS: Muawhahahaha! I will kill everybody because I was a dickbag a long time ago and ended up paying for it. *stalks Anne shamelessly*
DANIEL: Let me help you.
ANNE: I'm in mortal danger! *disappears*
DANIEL: ZOMG! WHERE IS ANNE? I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT HER WHERE DID SHE GO OMG I'M DYING GUYZ!
ANNE: *reappears* It's cool, stop crying. But I'm still in mortal danger! *tells him all her secrets*
DANIEL: OMG, I love you so much.
ANNE: OMG, I love you, too.
*They make all the love. Starbursts. Sunshine. Supernovas.*
DANIEL: Marry me.
ANNE: I told you I'm NOT WORTHY.
DANIEL: Marry me!
*Things are good for a minute*
ANNE: *disappears again*
DANIEL: ZOMG! I CAN'T EVEN WHERE IS ANNE? WHERE IS ANNE? I WILL DIE I WILL DIE. I MUST FIND HER. WHY DOES SHE KEEP DISAPPEARING THIS IS AWFUL OMG!
ONE OF ANNE'S SECRETS: I'm evil and bonkers. Time to kill Anne!
DANIEL AND WACKY SUPPORTING CAST OF DOOM: Oh, no you don't!
MURDEROUS PLOT: *foiled*
OBVIOUS HERO OF NEXT BOOK: I'm going to act really cool OUT OF THE BLUE for a couple of pages so readers will buy the next book.
BAVR: Fuck. Now we have to read the next book.
You know what I think the biggest problem is with Quinn's recent books? The characters are too NICE. She needs to rough them up a bit, give them something to fight about. Back in the day, she wrote a few intriguing jackholes. I MISS THE JACKHOLES. Daniel and Anne are wholly inoffensive. They never even offend each other. I think my husband and I piss each other off more in one day than they did in the entire book, and my marriage is incredibly civil.
Also, the secondary characters can be all kinds of distracting and annoying. Stop setting me up for sequels, writers. I don't bleed money.