Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Smythe-Smith story so far

To say that the Bridgerton series is one that is loved by a lot historical romance fans is possibly a bit of an understatement. Like many other readers I made my way through the series thoroughly enjoying the romance and the humour of Julia Quinn's writing and spending time with all eight of the Bridgerton siblings and their romantic partners.

There were lots of regular characters in the series, and there have been a couple of different spin-offs as a result. One was Lady Whistledown who was a society gossip writer who regularly reported on the budding romances and scandals of the ton. Not only did we get to read her insights in the Bridgerton book but she also inspired two anthologies - The Further Observations of Lady Whistledown and Lady Whistledown Strikes Back.

The other spin off is the current series by Julia Quinn - the Smythe-Smith quartet. The first book, Just Like Heaven, was released last year with the second book, A Night Like This, going on sale this week. I thought I would take a few minutes to talk about the series before focusing on the two individual books.

The members of the ton know exactly what to expect when they attend the annual Smythe-Smith musical gala - lots of gala but not much in the way of music. Despite having hosted the gala for many years, none of the musicians are at all proficient and it just seems like each year it gets worse and worse. The event is always very well attended though.

It is quite clever of Julia Quinn to take this one joke and spin it through not only the Bridgerton books, but then to build a new series out of it, and to do so without the concept feeling very tired.

So let's look at the two books individually:


A) a really bad violinist
B) still miffed at being nicknamed "Bug" as a child
C) NOT in love with her older brother's best friend
D) All of the above


A) the Earl of Chatteris
B) regrettably prone to sprained ankles
C) NOT in love with his best friend's younger sister
D) All of the above

A) eat quite a bit of chocolate cake
B) survive a deadly fever AND world's worst musical performance
C) fall quite desperately in love.

It's Julia Quinn at her best, so you KNOW the answer is...

D) All of the above
Marcus Holroyd grew up as an only child, heir to an earldom, growing up lacking nothing, except for familial affection. Luckily when he was 12 years old where he met Daniel Smythe-Smith, who also has grown up in a comfortable home but with a surplus of familial affection, particularly of the female variety. There are sisters galore and too many cousins to count. Marcus spent every family holiday with the Smythe-Smiths and that includes having to spend time with Honoria (known as Bug because she followed the boys everywhere). His bond to the family was strong, but it was tested when Daniel had to flee the country after being involved in a duel that left another friend badly injured. His last request to Marcus was look after his youngest sister, Honoria, and particularly make sure that she did not fall prey to the marriage machinations of any inappropriate beaus.

Marcus has been doing a good job of running off the men that looked as though they may be becoming interested in Honoria, and doing it so subtly that she has no idea why she can't find a husband and she is, quite frankly, getting a bit desperate. Marcus is not quite your standard aristocratic hero. He may have a reputation for being quite stand offish and a bit humourless, but the reality is that he is a quiet, shy man. Only those who know him really well can see the warm, loyal and funny man who lies beneath the solid exterior.

A trip to the country leads to our main two characters meeting up again, but it is only after an unfortunate incident with a man-made molehill leads to a life and death infection that the two of them see each other as something other than pseudo brother and sister. Even then, the build up between the two is slow, mainly thanks to Honoria finding out what he has been up to and then misinterpreting his interest in her. I loved that Marcus felt compelled to defend her, and that meant that he had to step into the spotlight in order to make his declaration, but I did find the whole bedroom scene that proceeded it a little bit awkward. In some ways, it was almost as though the author had realised that she had forgotten to put one in and therefore had to shoehorn it in there somewhere.

I liked Honoria, especially the parts where she was either by herself or with only a couple of characters. The scenes with all the cousins, and the rehearsals for the musical evening were less enticing because there sounded like there was supposed to be lots of funny dialogue between them all but it just became a bit of white noise in the end.

I liked the way that we got to see why the girls put up with being put on stage year after year even though everyone knows how bad they are as musicians from Honoria's perspective. It's not about music. It's about family, bonding and tradition and you just know that in time her own daughters will be taking the stage and she will be proud as punch for that to happen.

One of the reasons why I love reading series of linked books is because of the recurring characters, and there are quite a few who appear in these pages and to see little moments that we have seen in previous books but from a different perspective! The one recurring character who did steal the show each time she showed up in the book was Lady Danbury! She is one scary older lady, but she would be lots of fun to sit next to and gossip with!

When I read this book last year, I had gone into the city to meet up with some other romance readers. We had visited the local romance specialty shop and I picked this up on a whim. I started it on the train home and had finished it later that day. I also credited this book with starting a romance reading craving that saw me reading a lot of romance in a very short period of time last year.  Here's the thing though. Normally I have memories of the books that I read even after quite some time but not with this one. Couldn't remember a thing. I found myself having to skim through read the book again today to refresh my memory. There are worse ways to spend a couple of hours I guess.

It's not the best Julia Quinn novel, but I think most fans will be happy to read the first of the Smythe-Smith books.

Anne Wynter might not be who she says she is…

But she's managing quite well as a governess to three highborn young ladies. Her job can be a challenge — in a single week she finds herself hiding in a closet full of tubas, playing an evil queen in a play that might be a tragedy (or might be a comedy—no one is sure), and tending to the wounds of the oh-so-dashing Earl of Winstead. After years of dodging unwanted advances, he's the first man who has truly tempted her, and it's getting harder and harder to remind herself that a governess has no business flirting with a nobleman.

Daniel Smythe-Smith might be in mortal danger…

But that's not going to stop the young earl from falling in love. And when he spies a mysterious woman at his family's annual musicale, he vows to pursue her, even if that means spending his days with a ten-year-old who thinks she's a unicorn. But Daniel has an enemy, one who has vowed to see him dead. And when Anne is thrown into peril, he will stop at nothing to ensure their happy ending…

The opening of this book overlaps the closing of the last book. Daniel Smythe-Smith returns home unexpected after three years in exile abroad on the night of the annual Smythe-Smith musical evening. He sneaks into the room and is surprised to find that the woman playing the piano is not a sister or cousin at all but rather a beautiful stranger.

Anne sees an unknown man lurking behind the quartet and freezes in fear, not knowing if this is her past catching up with her or something less sinister. When the stranger tracks her down soon after she finds that it is Daniel Smythe-Smith, prodigal son, and that there is a very intense attraction between them. She is however glad that their interlude is interrupted when Daniel suddenly launches an attack on one of the other guests who is also one of his best friends, Marcus.

Daniel was exiled three years previously after a night of drinking and cards led to an allegation of cheating and then a duel at dawn which left another of his friends, Hugh Prentice, clinging to life and Hugh's father promising to track Daniel down and ensure that he would pay for the damage he had done. Ramsgate was true to his word and had tracked him Daniel down through France, Spain and Italy and so Daniel was used to living constantly looking over his shoulder. He had however been convinced by Hugh  that the danger was over and that he could now return safely.

He begins a flirtation with Anne. The whole time she knows that it is inappropriate and that she could lose her position as governess to Daniel's cousins if she is caught so she tries to resist but finds it increasingly difficult to do so. Daniel constantly manipulates events to try and get time with Anne, whether that means by acting in some of his young cousin Harriet's terrible plays or by inviting the cousins to his country house.

Anne has her own history. She was bought up in a good family but she was disowned when she is seduced by the son of the most important local landowner. Sent off in disgrace, she has moved from one job to another, constantly aware that the son has promised that he will make her pay for the wrong that she did him in self defence.

When Daniel is attacked as he walks home later the night of the musicale he is convinced that Ramsgate was still after him. When both Anne and Daniel are put in danger whilst in country he still thinks that it is him that is putting her into danger but he still can't stay away.

Whilst we are giving Daniel's history up front and that is how it is dealt with by the characters, Anne's story is fed to the reader in a much more measured way, gradually unfolding more and more for the reader until we can more readily understand her skittishness.

I am not really sure where to put this book in terms of my preferred Julia Quinn books. The last few have been up and down quality wise, but when I am in the mood for something light and easy and fun, she is an author who I would instantly think of. They are perfect in the moment books. This book was fun, it was light but I suspect I might need to reread when the next book in the series comes out to refresh my memory, or at the very least reread this post!

Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for a copy of this book.


  1. I have been curious about these books. I'll have to see if I find them...

    1. They are fun. You have read the Bridgertons, right?

  2. It sounds like there is a lot to like here, and except for the awkward bedroom scene in the first book, it seems like this would be a perfect historical romance for me to sink my teeth into. I've got to hand it to you Marg, I don't normally read this genre at all, but now you've got me thinking that I need to pick these books up right away! Great review

    1. If you want to start with Julia Quinn I would start with The Duke and I. If you are wanting other historical romance recommendations, I am pretty sure I could come up with some for you.

  3. Thanks for a very detailed post-I might need to reread it to brush up before the 3rd book too. Quinn is by far my favorite romance writer-I am always in the mood for light comedy and her books always fit the bill. At the moment I think I liked Anne and Daniel's story more than Honoria and Marcus's. I like love at first sight and across class boundaries. Excited for the third (which will involve Sarah? and hopefully more Lady Danbury).


    1. I am thinking that all those "where is Sarah?" comments at the end of the book will mean that she was off somewhere with someone!

      I am hoping that Hugh will get his HEA, not sure who with though

    2. Great review!!:)
      I´m so happy it´ll be Hugh and Sarah:):)!