Once, a long time ago, before we had children or houses or (in one case) name recognition, Julia Quinn used to stop by periodically and offer me some of her pretzel bites. (They were delicious.) It’s not that we know each other, it’s that we were of similar age and I was selling shoes near where she was putting ‘Autographed By Author’ stickers on books across the state. I don’t actually know Julia Quinn, but I do know she has some serious marketing chops and a wicked sense of humor. What she does not have is a shoe habit, which I respect. (I was not selling particularly attractive shoes.) From her pen name to her section of the genre, Julia Quinn has made a number of very smart career choices. (And one misfire, but let’s leave Wyndham out of this.)
As an earlier adopter of interconnected series and e-book shorts, she’s proven to be an adaptive and interesting author who consistently delivers. Comedic romance is something that looks easier than it is. I can count the number of romance authors who have made me laugh during a book on two fingers. One if you only count authors who are still alive.
I laughed twice during Just Like Heaven because Julia Quinn’s ear for the sort of trash talking conversations that close cousins have is pitch perfect. (Unlike the Smythe-Smith family who wouldn’t know pitch if it came with a personalized calling card.) As a running joke through the Bridgerton series, the Smythe-Smith musical evenings are the sort of mind-numbingly bad recitals that any parent of a preschooler is familiar with. The sort where you begin to suspect that if the child really is a teapot, she cracked long ago. Breaking the Smythe-Smith’s out into their own series is inspired. With an explanation for their family tradition finally in hand, the reader is ready to meet another close knit group living in a Lady Whistledown world. We were all a bit lost when we ran out of Bridgertons, let’s admit it.
Joining Honoria Smythe-Smith is Marcus Holroyd. An only child to break other only children’s hearts, he is the older brother’s best friend to her annoying younger sister. It is only natural that his longing for Honoria was obscured by his longing for her family. Just as it was natural for Honoria to assume that her easy relationship with him was born of proximity instead of preference. While I am not a fan of The Big Health Crisis or the Secret Guardian plots, both of them are lightly combined to make a very engaging way of bringing Marcus and Honoria to the truth. In this case, the truth is that Julia Quinn’s warm family comedies are a unique and much needed section of my romance shelf. All hail the Smythe-Smiths and long may they reign. (Soundtrack thankfully not included.)