Just Like Heaven (Smythe-Smith Quartet) - Julia Quinn Just Like Heaven is a tragic example of what happens when an otherwise stellar author phones it in. I love JQ. Her early work was flawed but captivating to read. Her Bridgerton series is legendary in her genre (Romancing Mister Bridgerton ranks up there with my all-time favorite romances). And then JQ started to stall out in the worst possible way. First, there was The Lost Duke of Wyndham debacle, which would have been totally fine if the two books in the series weren't practically the same thing. Then there was the contrived (but still lovable) Ten Things I Love About You, which showcased Quinn's sometimes cavalier attitude about the subject of rape. (That's a discussion for another time, though.) And then came Just Like Heaven, a book that is 99.5% fluff and .5% lackluster romance.

Curses. I feel mean now. See what you did to me, JQ? Oh, let's just get on with it.

Honoria Smythe-Smith, of the Smythe-Smith musicale Quinn universe in-joke fame, is a perfectly nice girl with a perfectly nice family that happens to put on a dreadful musicale every year to torment the people of the ton nice enough to attend. Marcus is the best friend to Honoria's brother. Captivating, I thought. This could be like Simon and Daphne from The Duke and I, right? Wrong. Honoria and Marcus are perfectly good friends. She gets it into her head to hunt for a husband, and Marcus has been dispatched by Honoria's missing brother to "watch over her." Yes. You see where this is going. No. I won't expand on the story.

Marcus is a really nice guy. I like nice guys in my romances, especially ones who aren't likely carrying every venereal disease in Regency London. His main motivation is his craving for family. Since the Smythe-Smiths have pretty much taken on that duty since he was young, he starts to long to become a real member of their special, tone-deaf club.

Honoria, when she isn't being a rather daft idiot on her husband hunt, is also a perfectly nice person. She helps Marcus when he gets sick, and she's genuinely nice to others. Honoria is also one of the only people alive who enjoys her family's musicale because it's a "tradition." Adorable.

The incessant banter made me do the unthinkable - I skimmed over portions of JQ's dialogue. This was a first-time experience for me and left me feeling hollow inside and guilty. Light-hearted fluff should not make one feel hollow inside and guilty. Incredibly, painfully LONG portions of the (already short) book are dedicated to Honoria preparing for that year's musicale with her cousins (who I'm presuming will be main characters in future books). There is no delicate way to say that I didn't give a damn about their stupid musicale, so I'll just be honest. I DIDN'T CARE. JQ's wit is usually her strong suit, but when it barely applies to the story and just resembles the inanity of daily interactions with family members, the writing is downright boring. And god love the Smythe-Smith girls, but they aren't particularly funny. They have no business performing a musicale or opening a comedy club.

The plot is very sparse. That's okay if the story focuses on character development, but as I stated above, WAY too much time is spent on the musicale. It consumed nearly half of the book, and Marcus is missing for most of that time. Marcus, the hero. You know, the other person featured in the blurb on the back of the book. Aside from the musicale planning, the whole middle of the book is focused on Marcus being ill, which incapacitates him for the most part.

The romance is almost non-existant. Sure, it's a love story when JQ isn't wasting countless pages on filler, but all of that relationship building I've come to expect from her is sadly absent. JQ's romance has never been particularly steamy, but Just Like Heaven had negative helpings of steam. Like, I'm not even sure if the book would sizzle on the hottest day in August.

Consider me disappointed. JQ is a fine writer, but I may hesitate before buying her next book. JLH is just too cute for me, and I can look at pictures of kittens for hours, so it took a whole bunch of cuteness to bring me to this point.