Last year Julia Quinn gave us Just Like Heaven, the first in a new series starring her Smythe-Smith family and their notoriously terrible musicale. In A Night Like This, governess Anne Wynter has been tasked with the prospect of filling in for her employer’s all-too-conveniently ill daughter at the yearly musicale, an event which catapults her into an unlikely meeting with the handsome, hunted Daniel Smythe-Smith. Anne has grown accustomed to living in quiet anonymity as she attempts to hide from a tumultuous past under the guise of a new identity. She knows it’s only a matter of time before the reality of her youthful plight catches up with her, but she carries on all the same. Daniel, as well, is trying to move on from past circumstances: after nearly killing his good friend in a drunken duel, Daniel was forced to leave the country for years to escape the murderous vengeance of an irate marquess. But now, Daniel has been made to believe he may return to England with his head intact. This doesn’t stop him from perpetually looking over his shoulder, and the reader can imagine that while our heroine is busy looking over her own shoulder there’s a good chance the two may very well misstep their way into love.
I appreciated Quinn’s departure from the more formulaic concept of only one main character harboring secrets from the past, and I think she did an admirable job of working two very different stories into a point of connection for her hero and heroine, as well as filling the book with the sort of chemistry that has brought her to become one of the most recognized and celebrated romance authors of today. I’ve only made a small dent on my Julia Quinn reading list, but I found all of my favorite Quinn traits in A Night Like This: a wonderfully detailed variety of characters, spot-on chemistry, and the sort of comedic banter (from the characters as well as the narrative) that spark spontaneous smiles and fits of giggles. She has a unique way of taking an era famous for its attention to social nuances and infusing it with some of the most out-right hilarious situations, all the while maintaining the sort of class and propriety that’s expected from a journey into Regency era England. A Night Like This was the perfect illustration of those qualities.
I was tremendously fond of Anne as a heroine, as well. She’s strong, charming, and resourceful. She’s also said to be far more perfectly beautiful than a governess ought to be; but Quinn also uses this as a tool for conveying the character’s strength rather than marking it as simply a stroke of great luck that our heroine was hit with a branch from Mother Nature’s pretty tree (repeatedly, and with vigor). She boldly displays Anne in a light which could easily destroy a heroine’s credit: as a self-absorbed, possibly even conceited girl in her youth. This made for a triumph, in my opinion, as the novel proceeds to reveal the truth of Anne’s past – presenting her with perhaps the greatest lesson she could learn in life – and goes on to illustrate how her character changed as a result. There’s something to be said for an authoress who’s not afraid to allow her heroine – or any of her characters, really – to be revealed as very imperfect for even a small moment in a novel. But imperfection is of course a very relatable thing and it made Anne all the more appealing to me.
I also feel compelled to add, because they were just such a source of charming entertainment throughout so much of the novel, that Quinn creates some of the most adorable characters in the young Pleinsworth sisters, Anne’s charges. From Harriet who writes horrible stage plays to Frances who thinks she’s a unicorn, following their antics and lightning-fast quips made for a great addition to the novel. It all came together to make A Night Like This an endearing, sweet fairy tale with plenty of substance. And now I begin the process all over again of waiting in anticipation for the next in this series. (Insert a dreamy sigh right about…here.)
Title: A Night Like This (Smythe-Smith #2)
Author: Julia Quinn
Genre: Historical Romance
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Release date: May 29, 2012
Provided by: Personal collection
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