Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Julia Quinn: To Sir Phillip, With Love and Mr Cavendish, I Presume


Title: To Sir Phillip, With Love
Series: Bridgerton Book 5
Author: Julia Quinn
Release Date: June 24, 2003
List Price: $7.99

Read: June 21-21, 2009
My Rating:

Author Homepage | Book Page | The Bridgertons | Excerpt |

Setting: May 1824, Gloucestershire

To Sir Phillip, With Love is Julia Quinn's fifth Bridgerton book and one of the only ones (besides for When He Was Wicked) in the series that I had not yet read. It was a complete delight and after being disappointed (sometimes *severely*) in all of the post-Bridgerton books I have read by Quinn, it was great to once again read something by her that was utterly enjoyable and left me with a silly, cheerful smile on my face. All of the Bridgerton brothers show up and make enough of an appearance to inspire several laugh-out-loud moments - it reminded me why I've always loved this family so much and makes me want to reread the entire series starting at the beginning with The Duke and I.

Instead of a mystery or villain subplot, Quinn usually tries to have some serious overtone or issue that one of the characters has to deal with and although in some of her books this has felt forced to me, I think that she does a very good job of that here. Phillip's sadness and loneliness is almost palpable; he's a very complex and three-dimensional character and is written in such a way that the reader truly understands and sympathizes with his problems and almost feels his emotions along with him - his sense of being lost while not even really realizing it, not knowing what to do or how to find his way, whether it's to feeling happiness again or to bridge the gap in his relationship with his children - we feel all of this and just long for him to finally be at peace and have joy in his and the twins' life.

OUR HERO, Sir Phillip Crane:
Phillip (30) was a different hero than we usually see in this genre - not the womanizing rake bad-boy who needs to be reformed, yet also not the imperious autocratic high-ranking nobleman who rules over a huge domain with an iron fist. He's a quiet man, interested in botany, can have quite a temper, is extremely passionate though he has a strong hold on those feelings (result of his unhappy marriage - see below), very lonely, big and rugged and handsome, honorable and responsible, and although he's a confident man and very secure in who he is, there is also a degree of shyness and a great vulnerability to him that is absolutely 100% endearing.

He had an extremely difficult childhood, with a mother who died at birth and a father who beat him and basically made him feel inadequate in almost every way. This was followed by an extremely difficult marriage: Marina, his wife, suffered from what we would now call depression and in the book they call "melancholy." She existed in a state of perpetual sadness and despair and after giving birth to the twins, Amand and Oliver, at the beginning of the marriage, she spent the rest of their eight years of wedded non-bliss hardly existing. The story takes place a little over a year after her death - she tried to kill herself in their lake and though Phillip was in time to save her from drowning, she caught a fever as a result and ended up dying three days later.

Phillip's relationship with his children was really difficult to read and at first you're just cringing at every interaction between them, wanting to jump in and shake some sense into him. He is so scared of being like his father, especially since he knows he has a temper and is a big man easily capable of hurting someone, that he basically avoids them as much as possible, figuring a laissez-faire attitude is better than involving himself and failing them in some way. Since their mother's death, Amanda and Oliver have been increasingly misbehaving - though from what is written Marina never really paid them that much attention while alive - because all they really want is Phillip's attention. However, he feels completely inadequate as a father, doesn't know how to raise them or treat them, and is frustrated by their constant acting out and his inability to control them ... and so continues to avoid them, telling himself that he's doing them a favor.

I read in one Amazon review that the person felt his change in behavior towards them was too quickly done and had no noticeable trigger, however I heartily disagree with this. I think that the change in Phillip's attitude towards his children is completely believable and actually very sensitively written; we know from the beginning that he deeply loves them and that his avoidance and seeming ineptitude stems more from feelings of uncertainty and inadequacy than any neglect or disinterest. Also, it's not like there's a complete 180-degree turn by the end of the book: things start to change in their relationship when Phillip realizes that his lack of involvement is only hurting them, not helping. By the end of the book we know that things are going to turn out absolutely fine and are left with the glimpse of a completely new chapter in Phillip's relationship with Amanda and Oliver and the certain promise of the total 180.

OUR HEROINE, Miss Eloise Bridgerton:
Eloise is a priceless heroine - she's straight-forward, honest, extremely talkative, caring, friendly, loving, and generous. Her impulsiveness is very endearing, but it is tempered by her maturity and a strong sense of self. She's 28, so older than most heroines we encounter, but I think that her age is perfect for this story because her character is still very youthful, while she is mature and old enough to reasonably be the step-mother of eight-year-old twins and it's believable that they are able to see her and respond to her as a mother figure (it annoys me when we have the heroine whose hero has kids that are only 10 or 15 years younger than her).

She's really the perfect heroine for Phillip, because where he's reserved, moody, and taciturn, she is just a lively, cheerful ball of optimism - though not in an annoyingly Pollyanna way that makes you want to yank her out Neverland and douse her in ice cold water (... or would that just be me? LOL). Eloise is so different from Marina and we feel like Phillip finally gets a chance at the happiness and joy that he so deserves and needs in his life, after having been so miserable in his first marriage - not only because of the situation, but because he tried so hard to change it and to make his wife happy when obviously nothing could be done and the situation never improved, but in fact only got worse.

I do have to say that I think their relationship's obstacle-climax-resolution happened a little too late in the book to be fully developed and so I felt like the problem came up (what are their feelings for each other? what will they make of their marriage - was one of necessity / being compromised? what does each need from the other to be satisfied - i.e. more than just passion?) and the settling and hashing it out felt rushed and left me dazed a little. I completely believed what they say when they talk about / realize their love for each other, why, and what parts of each of them compliments and is needed by the other, however I felt like a little chunk of the story was missing between the declaration of the problem / fight over it and the discussion in which they resolve it all.

Definitely read; great book and another wonderful story about one of the Bridgerton family members! Whether you're working your way through the whole series or just want to pick up a great historical romance, To Sir Phillip, With Love does not disappoint.


Title: Mr. Cavendish, I Presume
Series: Two Dukes of Wyndham, Book 2
Author: Julia Quinn
Release Date: September 30, 2008
List Price: $7.99

Read: Couldn't even finish it ...
My Rating:

Author Homepage | Book Page | Excerpt |

I don't know what happened to Julia Quinn after her Bridgerton series ended ... but it wasn't anything good. Her first book following that series, The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever, was one of the worst historical romance books I've read - the first half was very promising, but the second half wasn't just disappointing or a letdown after what preceded, it was just in-your-face straight-out bad with horrible actions on behalf of the hero and really horrible plot twists by the author (see my review of that book for more details).

Mr. Cavendish, I Presume is the sequel to The Lost Duke of Wyndham and before buying or reading either of these books, I combed through many, many reviews. Readers were very disappointed by the fact that the two books take place simultaneously and not only at the same time, but in the same place with the same characters in the same situations. Both books seemed to be a resounding failure, but the second book seemed to be criticized more for the fact that people hadn't realized Quinn was going to do this and so instead of getting the whole new story they expected, they had 300+ pages of deja vu.

I therefore decided that I would only read one of the books and decided to go with Mr. Cavendish, I Presume since the plot appealed to me more than the first book's ... Well let me just say this: I haven't finished the book and don't really plan on doing so anytime soon. It was just so ... not good! The idea for the story is an interesting one - though write one book for it, not two - and being a HR aficionado I can say that I don't think I've ever read one with a similar plot. Discovering that someone who was a commoner is actually a nobleman? Happens all the time. But the other way around ... not so much. However, even Julia Quinn's writing skill cannot make up for the fact that she completely botches this story, taking an interesting and original plot and completely failing to deliver an interesting and original book.

MAIN CHARACTERS, Amelia and Thomas:
Although Amelia, the heroine, seemed like she could have been interesting (she was somewhat immature at times - or at least, from what I read of the first quarter/third of the book), the hero, Thomas, was ... ugh, I don't even know! He's just so NOT appealing in the beginning of the book and I am almost never, ever, ever turned off by the hero - I'm always much more critical of the female lead than the male one. He's detached and pretty uninteresting and although there are some promising aspects of his personality, they don't make up for the blandness that Quinn writes him with. Thomas' complete inattention to Amelia and focus his grandmother's companion, Grace, is a huge turnoff (there's not supposed to be any attraction between them or anything going on, so why have it then?). He seems a very lonely and sad man, but instead of exploring this and really defining his character, Quinn kind of just lets Thomas languish in front of the reader, hinting at his complexity but not enough to draw us in.

I did skim to the end of the book to see how the HEA turned out and I have to say that the last 2-3 chapters and epilogue were enjoyable ... but there is no way I am plodding through the rest of the book to get to that, sorry. So ending my glowing review on that note ... does anyone want to buy my copy of Mr. Cavendish, I Presume?

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