In The Viscount Who Loved Me, the second book in Julia Quinn's series about the Bridgerton siblings (following The Duke and I), we meet Anthony Bridgerton and Kate Sheffield. Anthony has determined at last to marry, but for reasons of his own, he doesn't want to risk his heart. He sets out to court Kate's sister, the beautiful Edwina, but Kate is the woman he can't stop arguing with - and dreaming about...
Blythe: Linda, for once I feel like the "expert" here. I've read all of Julia Quinn's books, and while not all of them are real favorites, I've liked them all to one degree or another. I'm pleased to report that The Viscount Who Loved Me (TVWLM) will join my list of favorite Quinn books. I thought it was well written, humorous, and lots of fun. I believe this is only your second Quinn book - how did it work for you?
Linda: Much to my relief, I liked this one! I really didn't like How To Marry A Marquis (HTMAM), I thought the heroine was a complete airhead and the characters spent the book searching for a plot <g>. But, TVWLM had a bright, intelligent, if impulsive, heroine and there was definite plot. I disliked Marquis so much I couldn't figure out why everyone was making a big deal over Quinn's books - comparing her to Garwood and Quick - but this one changes my opinion about them. Perhaps if I go back and read The Duke and I, it will convince me that I have found "another Garwood". Heaven knows I am always on the lookout for another Quick or Garwood <g>
Blythe: Naturally, HTMAM is one of my very favorite Quinns. <g> Viscount is actually the second in a series; it follows The Duke and I, which features Anthony's sister Daphne and his best friend Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings. But TVWLM stands on its own, and although I liked Duke, I liked Viscount even more. The heroine, Kate, is a likable woman who is used to playing second fiddle to her beautiful younger sister, Edwina. Kate feels herself falling in love with Anthony even though he is ostensibly courting Edwina. Naturally, Anthony is drawn to the prickly Kate and feels almost nothing for Edwina. It's a fine tangle that provides a satisfying conflict.
Linda: The dialogue between Kate and Anthony was just sparkling! I love that bright, witty stuff and Kate was just so sharp and quick of tongue and Anthony gave as good as he got, plus the sexual tension ran high. The humor came out of the characters and wasn't as forced as I found it in HTMAM. Having not read the earlier book I felt it stood well on its own. There was enough back story about Daphne and the Duke that I figured out there was a book with their story in it, but didn't feel any lack in this one because of not having read it.
Blythe: Much of the humor comes from the banter between Kate and Anthony. I always enjoy watching two people fall in love in spite of themselves, which is more or less what these two do, and their arguments are quite amusing. But one of the funniest scenes includes several of Anthony's siblings. They are playing Pall Mall (I didn't really know what it was until I read this book, but it's obviously the same thing as croquet), and there are some LOL moments. The mental picture of the virile Anthony with his pink mallet was hysterical.
Linda: And Kate, of course, having the "mallet of death" was truly funny. This was my favorite kind of book: a character-driven romance. The humor wasn't forced; it grew from their adversarial relationship and I also like watching people fall in love in spite of themselves. The plot just flowed naturally and believably. My problem with HTMAM was that the plot was just so trite and predictable and
the characters had so little depth. But, I was in the minority here, many loved that book. Anthony and Kate are just wonderful characters and even all the secondary characters like Colin and Edwina are well done. And I loved the dog - what an invention - right up there with the sainted dog in Family Man by JAK.
Blythe: The dog reminded me very much of the "baluchistan hound" in Heyer's Frederica, although this dog was a little smaller - a corgi. While Viscount is a funny book, it's not just a romp. Both of the main characters have some challenges they need to overcome which involve things that happened to them in the past. So there are some serious moments. But there is a good balance between the humor and the darker elements. I think humorous books sometimes get the short shrift; writing them has got to be challenging, and humor is so subjective (some of us found Marquis very funny, after all <g>).
Linda: Yes, humor is subjective and sometimes I wonder why everyone else thinks a book is so funny and I just don't think it's funny at all. What made this book work was that the characters had true depth. The best "romps" have some depth to them, even if on the surface they seem like "cream puffs" and I think they are much harder to write well than the three-hankie weepers. There has to be character growth in a book to make it work for me. Also, when the reasons for their fears were revealed they made sense and why Kate was afraid of storms was truly moving. One could also understand why Anthony thought he would die young too. This is a very good read; I liked it enough that I may go back and read the prequel. I trust we will see a book about Colin? I liked him a lot too.
Blythe: I think there will be a book about Colin but next up, next July, is Benedict's story. I have a theory that Colin will hook up with Lady Whistledown, who appeared in both this book and the previous one. Lady Whistledown writes a no-holds-barred gossip column that is widely read by the ton. Her identity is a secret, but I have my suspicions. I thought I had guessed who she was in the first book, and the second seems to support my original guess. I don't want to name names though - this is something every reader should guess on their own!
Linda: Oh heck, now I'm curious because I didn't have a clue - I guess this means I am going to have to read The Duke and I. I wondered if Colin would be paired with her too; that should be lots of fun. The dialogue should be even more sparkling and acid than Kate and Anthony's. I do like connected books where you get to revisit favorite couples from previous books; it is like seeing old friends again. I am glad that you "forced" me to give Quinn another try, as I doubt I would have done it on my own and I really enjoyed TVWLM. Kate is my favorite type of heroine: smart, witty and extremely loyal to her family. Anthony is also a favorite archetype: the semi-reformed rake who meets his match.
Blythe: I really liked Kate's family relationships here. She and Edwina share a real bond. They reminded me somewhat of Jane and Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, but then I have been on a P&P kick lately so I see parallels everywhere. But the relationship between Kate and her stepmother, Mary, is also very interesting. Sometimes Mary seems more like a parent, and other times she seems more like a friend.
Linda: Yes, Kate's family members were well drawn and the bond between them was very believable. It isn't too much of a stretch to the P&P sisters either. I really like to see books where women are friends and not adversaries or competitors. Anthony assumes that Kate would be jealous of her sister and that she purposely dunked Edwina in the river. It is a revelation to him that Kate feels no jealousy towards her sister and Kate is shocked that he would think she would be jealous and vindictive. I liked this because so often one sister is shown as being jealous or petty and Kate was neither. There were some poignant moments that I loved - when Kate was "talking" to the flowers Edwina had received, about where she would put them (since Edwina was allergic to them) and of course being caught by Anthony. Her pleasure at him giving her flowers, even if it was a "pity" bouquet, was sweet.
Blythe: That was a scene I could really identify with. I once had flowers arrive at my door and I assumed they were for my attractive, single sister who was living with us at the time - and had many admirers. They turned out to be for me, from my husband. I still remember how pleased I was. There is another poignant scene when Kate and Anthony make love for the first time. I don't want to give anything away, but Kate's reaction, and Anthony's reaction to her reaction, was very touching.
Linda: Yes, and I liked the wedding night scene a lot too. It was also wonderful watching Anthony fight a losing battle not to love Kate. This is a fun book with some substance to it and a pleasant plot. Not a lot of action here, just a nice character-driven romance.
Blythe: The somewhat modern feel of JQ's books puts off some people. I can see where they are coming from, but for some reason it doesn't bother me at all. Was this something you noticed?
Linda: Well, I like Julie Garwood and Amanda Quick and they are often criticized for the same thing - but it doesn't bother me. The heroines in all of these books are usually misfits in the ton and stronger then in more "realistic" books. Since I hate a simpering or weak heroine, I like these ladies. I prefer the fish-out-of-water heroine and if they are a little klutzy, so much the better. These heroines are usually a little older too. I find it hard to identify with a 16 or 17-year-old heroine. Garwood and Quick's books also usually have sparkling dialogue. The best of Quick's are character driven as well. In fact, I notice that most of the books on my "comfort reread" shelf are character driven - the people in these books are friends that I enjoy revisiting. I could see TVWLM ending up on the reread shelf.
Blythe: It looks like we are in agreement on this one. I think it's great that TVWLM managed to please the old fan and maybe even win over a new one.
What's up for next month, Linda?
Linda: Madeline Hunter's next book, By Design. She is getting a lot of WOM praise on-line and my friend who only reads historicals is calling her "the Julie Garwood find for this year" - very high praise.
Blythe: I really enjoyed her last one, By Possession, and I have her first one tbr. Usually medievals aren't my thing, but I plan to make a permanent exception for Hunter. I'm hoping By Design lives up to the promise of her last book.
Linda: I have the previous two in my tbr and I've been urged to read them now, so I will try to get them read before we do By Design.
Blythe: I plan to read By Arrangement by then too, so I guess we better get cracking. I'll see you next month.
Blythe Barnhill and Linda Hurst, with assistance from Sandi Morris, for