Pandora's Box

Where's My Hero?

Julia Quinn and Kinley MacGregor
2003, Historical Romance
Avon, $7.50, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0060505249

Grade: N/A
Sensuality: N/A

There is a staff review of this book as well

Where's My Hero is an anthology of stories by Lisa Kleypas, Kinley MacGregor, and Julia Quinn - all of which feature secondary characters from previous books. Against the Odds by Kleypas features Dr. Linley from Someone to Watch Over Me and Lydia Craven, daughter to the couple from Dreaming of You, both of whom get locked in a wine cellar together and discover love. Midsummer's Knight by MacGregor is a Cyrano-like tale about Simon of Ravenswood (Master of Desire) and Kenna, a beautiful noblewoman who thinks she has been exchanging letters with Simon's best friend. Quinn's A Tale of Two Sisters stars Ned Blydon, who originally appeared in Splendid. Ned has made a duty-match to one woman, only to find himself falling for her younger sister in the days before the wedding.

Blythe:   Linda, I skimmed a message board conversation about this book a couple of weeks ago, and I noticed that several people don't like to read anthologies because they find them unsatisfying. They feel there is just enough story to give the reader a taste, but not enough to really provide full closure. I can understand that line of thinking, because I've sometimes read a novella only to have the thought that it would be absolutely perfect, if only it were longer. But while I didn't think the stories in this anthology were picture perfect, I enjoyed them for what they were. Maybe it's just where I am in my life right now, but there's something incredibly appealing about a story I can polish off in an evening. Lately, longer books are taking me five or six days to read, so for me this was a refreshing change.

Linda:   I really enjoyed this anthology, although it's unusual for me to read an anthology all the way thru! I often buy them for a story by a favorite author, then I read that story and not the rest. But, lately I've read several anthologies in which I enjoyed all of the stories and will have to perhaps re-think my habit.

Blythe:   Linda, you're going to laugh about this, but not only do I have to read all the stories in an anthology; I have to read them in order. I am not sure what I think will happen if I don't... maybe the anthology police will pop in and cart me away? For what it's worth, I'm like this in other areas of my life too. My other passion besides reading is scrap-booking, and I have to scrap chronologically. A friend who scraps whatever she wants (in whatever order she happens to choose) jokes that the world tilts on its axis if I have to go out of order.

Linda:   LOL, you are just like my daughter, and the term is anal. Anal is a derogatory term made up by us disorganized people to keep those who are organized from feeling smug. <g>

Blythe:   Yes, anal is probably an accurate term. I won't frighten you with my intricate rules governing the organization of cosmetics and socks. But I do have a single exception to my hard-line anthology rule. I don't "have to" finish anthologies featuring J.D. Robb stories (in fact, I usually only read the Robbs). Otherwise I have read every anthology through, start to finish, in order.

European Historical Romance (Regency England)

Blythe:   As for this anthology, I enjoyed all the stories to some degree. I felt MacGregor's A Midsummer's Knight was probably the weakest of the lot, and Quinn's A Tale of Two Sisters the strongest.

Linda:   This book was tied together using the theme of secondary characters from previous books finally getting their own story, but I had not read any of the books and still enjoyed it a lot.

Blythe:   I had actually read two of the books featuring these secondary characters - Kleypas's Someone to Watch Over Me and Quinn's Splendid. And lest anyone think that no one was actually requesting the stories of these characters, the following is a quote from my review of Someone to Watch Over Me, written way back in 1999: "It is refreshing to read about 'common' people with real professions. In addition to the Bow Street Hero, there is also a handsome, single doctor. I'd love to read a book about him." Ask and ye shall [sometimes] receive, even if it's four years later. <g>

Linda:   I can see that I need to pull a copy of Splendid out of my bookstore and read it, as I really liked these people. Quinn has been an author who has surprised me. I absolutely loathed How To Marry A Marquis - for me it was Legally Blonde as a Regency. The heroine was such an airhead that I doubt I would've ever read Quinn again - except we picked one of the Bridgerton books for Pandora and I've loved everything I've read by her since. I'm certainly glad that I "rediscovered" her. What did you think about the Quinn story? I especially loved the awful poem Ned wrote to Charlotte's sister - what a hoot. I'll bet Quinn had lots of fun writing such awfulness.

European Historical Romance (Victorian England)

Blythe:   Kleypas' story was pretty good too, but it is the shortest of the lot and it shows. I liked when the hero and heroine got locked in the wine cellar together, but I felt like we were a little short changed in the love scene department. Kleypas writes such expressive love scenes that I really would have liked to see the "real deal," so to speak.

Linda:   Yes, I felt that story was a little truncated but I loved the passion shown in the heroine's parent's marriage. Her Dad was a real hunk!

Blythe:   If I am not mistaken, Against the Odds is actually a sequel of two of her books. Isn't the heroine the daughter of the couple from Dreaming of You? I've never read it, but I know it's a favorite with many, and people seem to rave about the hero.

Linda:   I've only read a couple of Kleypas's books, so I really didn't know the characters' genealogy. But I really liked them a lot.

Blythe:   You know, I found myself wondering if I had Dreaming of You somewhere. My tbr pile has now reached the point where I no longer know what's in it. We may be different in our anthology reading habits, but if memory serves both of us are guilty of purchasing the same book more than once.

Linda:   LOL, I just discovered that I bought three copies of Quinn's latest book - I must really want to read it if I bought it 3 times, right? But, have I read it? Noooooo, it is on the tbr pile to be read after I finish Susan Grant's Star Princess (which I am enjoying - especially the character named for me) along with Diana Palmer's newest and Kasey Michael's latest Maggie book - "so many books, so little time" seems to be my eternal plight. I have enough books to last me the rest of my life if I never buy another book - like that is going to happen. When I was packing to move it was amazing how many books I found duplicates and triplicates of.... I guess I'm doing my part to support mid-list romance authors.

Blythe:   Same problem here. I've actually read all of Quinn's books except this most recent one, which is on my shortlist (right along with a couple of review books and the latest J.D. Robb). I think I only have one copy, but only the pile knows for sure.

Medieval Romance (1300s England)

Linda:   Blythe, like you I enjoyed Quinn's story best and would love to see this couple in a future book. I also liked the mathematical genius heroine in Kleypas' Against the Odds. But just as I wish Kleypas' entry was longer and would love to see Ned and Charlotte in a full-length story, I'm glad MacGregor's was "just" a novella. It was good, but I'm afraid if it had been longer we would have seen the heroine treating the hero to the cold shoulder for part of the book - and that is one of my least favorite plot devices. Even so, I did love the Cyrano-style hero of her story. And, it could be a problem only in our ARC's that will be fixed for the book - but the term 'ego' used in a story set in the Middle Ages really jarred me out of the story. Ego is a term basically made up by Freud and would have been okay, perhaps in a Victorian, but nothing earlier.

Blythe:   That word is jarring for me too. Libido is a similar word that pops up. I've actually gotten into arguments about it before on message boards, because while the word ego wasn't really in common use (and definitely not in the Freudian sense, which is how one often sees it in Regency historicals), the word "egoist" was. So some argue that ego is okay. I disagree, but then I also see the point of those (such as AAR's resident linguist, Teresa Galloway) who point out that the English in the latter Medieval period would all have been speaking middle English a la Chaucer, and we wouldn't be able to understand a thing they were saying, so it's all translation.

Linda:   Oh yes, I can still recite the opening lines to The Canterbury Tales - why on earth I would remember that and absolutely nothing useful like algebra or geometry is a mystery to me.

Blythe:   Doesn't it start: "In Aprille when all showres roote..." or something? Apparently I have been using valuable brain space on this too.

Linda:   Yes! And then it goes on to talk about Chanticleer and Perdeluta! Now why would we remember these lines? What possible use are they? But, as you say, we wouldn't want Medieval romances that read like Beowolf or even Pilgrim's Progress (even if Laura Kinsale wrote part of For My Lady's Heart in Middle English).

Blythe:   Talking about language in MacGregor's story reminds me of something that bothers me at times reading her stuff - the characters' names. I mean, come on... Draven? And Stryder? Isn't Stryder what they call Aragorn in Lord of the Rings before they figure out who he is? Anyway, I thought the story was kind of middling, but, like you, I enjoyed the Cyrano-esque plot.

Linda:   I have a thing about weird names in historicals. I've been known to put books back on the shelf because the hero was named Dafid or some other nerdy name and I didn't want to have to read 250 pages with that name. There are many old names that aren't weird - especially Hugh, which is one of the oldest names in the English language according to a baby naming book. I wouldn't want to read an entire book about Draven! Stryder sounds like a cool guy who is going to ride in on a Harley wearing a black jacket and wrap around sunglasses - but then perhaps as the baaaddest knight around, Stryder was the Medieval Equivalent of the Fonz <g>.

Blythe:   I also have a naming "thing," so a name that seems off to me can nag like a sore tooth. I guess Draven is better than a medieval Mykinzi, but not much.

Linda:   I love Amanda Quick (JAK), but the name of her heroine (Iphigenia) in Mistress drove me nuts - I found myself just calling her "Iffy" and moving on with the story.

Blythe:   I say we stop talking and get reading! I think this one is worth the time for anthology fans, particularly if you were one of the readers who really was asking, "Where's My Hero?" The Quinn story is great, the Kleypas story is good but short, and the MacGregor story is decent.

Linda:   Yes, there weren't any real clunkers in this anthology. I enjoyed all three stories and give an extra tip of the hat to Julia Quinn.

What are we reading next month?

Blythe:   Up next is Jennifer Ashley's The Pirate Next Door, which is apparently a Regency farce. Ashley is new to me, but I've heard some good things about her books from you and AAR Reviewer Marguerite.

Linda:   I'm looking forward to this one. Jennifer was the substitute MC at Celebrate Romance last May and if her book is as humorous as her witty ad libs were I will enjoy it indeed.

See you next month and happy reading.

Blythe:   Happy reading right back at ya. <g>

--Blythe Barnhill and Linda Hurst, for

-- Pandora's Box

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