It's in His Kiss (2006)
Author: Julia Quinn
Genre: Romance (Regency Historical)
Hyacinth Bridgerton is a sharp and clever 22-year-old who always has something to say. On her fourth year of the marriage market, Hyacinth has received and turned down a total of three marriage proposals—feeling discontent with the roster of men who are neither exciting nor intelligent enough for her. It is only when Hyacinth attends the Smyth-Smith Musicale with her friend Lady Danbury, a spry London socialite, and talks to her handsome grandson Gareth, that Hyacinth realizes she just met a man who has the ability to match wits with her. Their witty banter blossoms into something more when Hyacinth offers to translate the diary of his deceased Italian grandmother, Isabella. Hyacinth’s translation uncovers a mystery and a number of sensitive family secrets that bring them closer and threaten to tear them apart. SPOILER: Isabella’s diary reveals that Gareth’s uncle is actually his biological father. In addition, the diary gives a clue alluding to the location of a stash of family jewels. In an effort to recover the booty, Gareth and Hyacinth break into his father’s house, only to find more cryptic clues and no treasure. It is also during Hyacinth’s translation of the diary that Gareth asks her to marry him and she accepts. Soon after, a misunderstanding develops and Hyacinth believes that Gareth proposed to her to spite his father and Gareth must make a grand gesture to show her that his intentions were honorable. Four years after the couple have been married, Lord St. Clair dies in a horse-riding accident and the St. Clair estate is bequeathed to Gareth and his growing family. The final spoiler occurs in the final pages of the novel as Gareth and Hyacinth’s daughter discovers the family jewels and then, not knowing what to do, returns them back to their hiding place without revealing her secret.
Geographical Setting: London, England
Time Period: 1815-1833
Series: Book 7 in the Bridgerton series
Readers will find that perhaps one of the most charming qualities of the novel is Quinn’s ability to maintain a quick an easy pace through her use of witty repartee. This clever banter is most clearly seen in conversations between Hyacinth and Gareth, but also exists between Hyacinth and other secondary characters such as her friends, Penelope and Lady Danbury, as well as her mother. This dialogue serves to propel the plot forward and keep the reader engaged. Although the story contains its fair share of plot including the mystery about the family jewels, this only serves to further develop the already rich characterization. Great detail is given to describe the backgrounds and motivations of the characters and Quinn does an admirable job in explaining why Gareth and Hyacinth have remained unwed up to this point and why they are perfect for each other. Quinn’s writing style can be described as classic and much of this has to do with the proper English setting and the restrained Regency time period. Light humor dominates the tone of the book, which is occasionally punctuated by darker moments of secrecy and betrayal, primarily between Gareth and Hyacinth as well as Gareth and Lord St. Clair.
Read-alikes: Readers who enjoy the biting humor and well-drawn characters of It’s in His Kiss should consider reading The Duke and I, the first book in Quinn’s Bridgerton series. In the novel, the Duke of Hastings and Daphne Bridgerton are both sick of the marriage market and never believe that their fake engagement could lead to real love—until it does. Those who like Quinn’s Regency England setting and her light and humorous tone may enjoy An Invitation to Sin, by Suzanne Enoch. Young Lord Zachary Griffin visits the Whitfield house with his aunt only to find six women of marriageable age. All of the women take interest in Zachary except for Caroline, who doesn’t fall for him until she paints his portrait for entry into art school. Readers looking for a quick-paced story laced with humor should try Because You’re Mine, by Lisa Kleypas. Kleypas writes about Madeline Matthews who avoids a marriage to a man she does not love by fleeing to the Capital Theatre to seduce heartthrob and theater owner Logan Clifton. Those who are drawn to a more literary writing style with similarly well-drawn characters and a humorous tone might try Cotillion, by Georgette Heyer. The story’s main character is Kitty Charing, who refuses to marry her cousin, even if it costs her from inheriting a large family fortune. She instead has her heart set on a man with a less than stellar reputation and devises a plan to have another cousin pose as her future betrothed. Readers who enjoy the combination of both a town and country English setting, paired with strong characterization and a humorous and witty tone may enjoy The Perfect Rake, by Anne Gracie. In the novel, Prudence escapes her abusive grandfather by pretending to be engaged to a man who eagerly takes part in the ploy.
Red Flags: Explicit sexual encounters, premarital sex.
An Offer From A Gentleman (2001)
Author: Julia Quinn
Genre: Romance/Regency Romance
This is an adaptation of the Cinderella story. Sophie Beckett may have been the illegitimate daughter of the Earl of Penwood, but she was still raised in comfort at the Penwood Estate. That is, until the Earl married and her new stepmother, Araminta, came to live at Penwood. The Earl's untimely death transformed Sophie from a member of the household into a servant. She was forced to wait on her stepmother and two stepsister hand and foot. When it came time for Lady Bridgerton's famed masquerade ball, the other servants of Penwood helped Sophie sneak into the ball, so that she could have at least one night of enjoyment. She immediately becomes the center of attention and everyone wants to know who the Lady in Silver is, Especially Benedict Bridgerton. He spends the entire evening with her, but when the clock strikes twelve, Sophie dashes from the ball to return home before her stepmother and stepsisters return from the ball. Araminta finds out that Sophie was actually at the ball and turns her out of Penwood Park without a penny to her name. Sophie is forced to find work as a house maid to make a living. All the while, Benedict is madly searching for his Lady in Silver. After two years, the two have a chance encounter, and Benedict takes Sophie into his care. He still pines away for the Lady in Silver and dreams of marrying her, but has also falls in love with Sophie the maid. In his dreams, he sees himself with both women. Sophie refuses to be his mistress and won't tell him that she really is the Lady in Silver because she is ashamed of her birth and social situation. SPOILER: Benedict eventually figures out that the two women he desires are actually the same person. After moping and ranting about how he was deceived, he realizes that he can't live without Sophie. Also, Araminta is the only person that knows that Sophie was an illegitimate child. Araminta stole Sophie's dowry, and is forced to stay quiet about this little known fact or face the wrath of the Bridgerton family and the authorities.
Geographical Setting: London, England
Time Period: 1815-1817
Series: Book 3 in the Bridgerton Series
One of the major strengths of the novel is the wide range of interesting side characters (nearly all of them female). In addition to the capable, smart Sophie, and bitter stepmother, Araminta, there is the gossipy Eloise and the frumpy but sweet stepsister Posy. Benedict, meanwhile, holds his own with Sophie and is both charming and noble. The story begins at quick pace with Sophie’s childhood and the masquerade ball, and then settles into a slightly slower but steady pace as the romance develops. The story is centered on the two main characters and their feelings, as well as the several steamy encounters between them. Also, the dual perspectives of a maid and aristocrat create some additional interest to both the story and the romance. While it is set in the Regency period, details are kept to a minimum, leaving the reader free to focus on the story while still adding all the expected charm of balls, petticoats and coaches. Quinn’s style is light, and she focuses heavily on the thoughts and reactions of Sophie and Benedict, with plenty of lively dialogue between them. Her twist on Cinderella is entertaining, creative and insightful as it brings up the topic of illegitimacy from Sophie’s sympathetic viewpoint. This book was a 2001 Library Journal Best Romance Book.
Read-alikes: To read more about the Bridgerton family, start at the beginning of the series with The Duke and I. Christina Dodd’s Some Enchanted Evening centers on a disguised princess that becomes romantically entangled with an Earl while she tries to support herself and a younger sister. Readers looking for books with independent heroines and an element of disguise in a Regency setting may be interested in this title. Arabella by Georgette Heyer is a more traditional Regency romance focusing on a poor clergyman’s daughter travelling to London for the first time and having a variety of experiences (romantic and otherwise). Readers wanting another Regency romance that includes colorful secondary characters and conflicts of class may investigate Arabella. Amanda Quick’s Ravished is a reworking of Beauty and the Beast that features a studious heroine who, after a compromising situation, finds herself abruptly engaged. Readers that enjoyed the fairy tale twist, unconventional heroine and Regency setting (without too much historical detail) of An Offer from a Gentleman could enjoy Ravished. The Abduction of Julia by Karen Hawkins is an award-winning Regency romance about a plain Jane that is mistakenly married to a man looking to protect his inheritance and the love that eventually blooms between them. With an entertaining writing style similar to Quinn’s and solid characters, this book should appeal to fans of An Offer from a Gentleman. Finally, Betina Kahn’s The Perfect Mistress involves an illegitimate heroine who makes a business deal with an earl that soon develops into something more than business. This book is a good option for readers wanting a romance involving social issues, such as illegitimacy, but with a light writing style. For a humorous and historically accurate regency romance, try An Unwilling Bride by Jo Beverley. If you are looking for a regency romance with a heroin that speaks her mind, witty conversation and the fairy tale element, try Amanda Quick's Ravished. Georgette Heyer's Frederica is a good read alike for it's historical accuracy and witty conversations. Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice doesn't have sensual scenes but it is set in the Regency period, has well developed characters that build strong and loving relationships and enjoy witty conversation. Many of Quinn's fans enjoyed the Whistledown column in her books, so she created a series of books about the mysterious gossip writer. Try The Further Observations of Lady Wistledown and see if you can figure out who she is. Amanda Quick also writes Regency Romances. If you enjoyed the fairy tale aspect of Quinn's book, then try Ravished by Quick. This is an adaptation of Beauty and the Beast.
Red Flags: language, explicit sexual scenes, pre-marital sex and some violence (attempted rape)
The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever (2007)
Genre:Romance (Historical Regency)
Miranda Cheever has been in love with Viscount Turner, the brother of her best friend and almost sister, Olivia, since she was 10 years old. Even then she showed no signs of becoming what society wanted of its women, much to everyone’s dismay. When a girl at her friend’s birthday party made fun of her, Turner was there to comfort her. He told her that she’d grow up to be a fine woman and that she should keep a diary to remind her, to look back on, and to laugh at. Miranda did exactly that, keeping many diaries of everything that happened in her life. At 20 she is ready to go have her debut in England along with Olivia. Turner, on the other hand, has just lost his wife in a riding accident and couldn’t be happier about it. His marriage has left him bitter, due to his wife’s many infidelities and hateful disposition, leaving him sure he’ll never love again. Miranda, still having deep feelings for Turner, hopes that he will come around. There are many tense, amusing and steamy scenes as the two develop a relationship during Miranda’s first Season in London. SPOILER: Turner and Miranda finally marry, Miranda eventually becomes pregnant and things should be no less than perfect. But will Turner ever tell Miranda that her loves her, or will his wounds from his previous marriage haunt him?
Geographical Setting: Primarily London, England. Some Scottish and English countryside scenes.
Time Period: Regency (1811–1820)
Series: No series, but a very minor character appears in an earlier book by Quinn.
The story is set in Regency-era England, complete with discussions of etiquette, family scenes, debuts, balls, social events and the ever important marriages. Quinn uses very familiar, easy-to-read language to describe a time period that not everyone may be familiar with. The pace is medium, due to descriptions of people and place, and languid scenes in which nothing much happens. That’s not to say that the novel is boring; there are quick-paced scenes which can be humorous, romantic or exciting interspaced throughout, that hold reader interest. The characters are rounded-out and have unique personalities, even if they fall into the same romance story stereotypes that people seem to adore. Miranda follows the popular theme of a girl who doesn’t quite fit in with her peers due to being opinionated and intelligent. Turner, on the other hand, is the dark and brooding type who has to be convinced that love can be a part of marriage. Olivia adds the part of the meddling friend who has to be kept from trouble. Readers may also enjoy the themes of best friends sticking together and helping one another and the idea of childhood romance coming true. The overall tone is hopeful, showing that love can overcome misunderstandings and bad past experiences. A good deal of humor is also involved, keeping the novel light despite a few darker scenes. The sex scenes are explicit, but not frequent or story-overriding. They are handled very tastefully, dotted with euphemisms and gentle language and not overtly erotic.
Read-alikes: Readers who like well-rounded characters, clever heroines and men being convinced to fall in love in a Regency setting may enjoy The Ideal Wife by Mary Balogh. In this novel, Abigail Gardiner is looking for a job referral, as she’s had a bad turn of luck with her last job due to her opinionated ways. She visits her distant cousin and finds herself with a proposal from Miles Ripley, Earl of Severn. Ripley has been looking for an easy-to-manage girl that he can marry and send off to the country. Instead, he winds up with Abigail, who he comes to love over the course of the book. The Ideal Wife might also be good for readers who like tamer sex scenes. If Regency-era debuts, marriage, and strong minded girls make a book for you, you may want to read Cotillion by Georgette Heyer. The main character Kitty Charing convinces Freddy, her cousin who never plans to marry, to pretend to be engaged to her in order to make her real crush, Jack, jealous. Of course, Freddy winds up falling for Kitty and vice versa. The novel has many developed characters, plenty of humor and a medium pace. If you like Julia Quinn’s writing style, enjoy Regency romances and want a spicier read you may try Rebellious Love by Julie Garwood. An American girl who wasn’t raised with the stuffy Regency sensibilities, Caroline Richmond finds herself in England rescuing a dandy who has been attacked by thieves. When Jered Benton, the Duke of Bradford, arrives on the scene, he finds himself instantly in lust with Caroline. Caroline, however, finds herself in love with him and there begins the problem that is also visited in Quinn’s novel. Filled with humor, this book follows Caroline as she solves her friends’ love problems as well as her own. If you enjoyed the interaction between Olivia and Miranda in The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever and would like a similar level of sensuality you might enjoy At the Bride Hunt Ball by Olivia Parker. Madelyn Haywood is invited to a bridal ball thrown by Gabriel Devine, Duke of Wolverest, in order to find his brother a wife. While she wants nothing to do with the scene, she is pressured by her step-mother into going. She also decides she would like to keep an eye on her best friend, Charlotte. Of course, Gabriel, who has sworn to never marry, falls for her and what follows is a fun and humorous romance. If you adore the Regency era and you’d like to know more about this section of history I might recommend An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England by Venetia Murray. This is an excellent source of information on the period, its high society and the numerous rules and intrigues. This history book is easy to understand and quite humorous in places. It includes many letter and diary excerpts as well as images which help you get a feel for the period.
Red Flags: Explicit sex, some language, miscarriage.