Now this is the kind of reading material I should have had for my read-a-thon stash last weekend!! I developed a tentative theory during last week that I just wasn't allowing enough F-U-N into my reading material so took a trip over to The Book Smugglers and had a look at their highest scoring reviews. I'd read about Julia Quinn on their blog and could not resist borrowing a couple from the library when I came upon a stash.
As "reforming rake" is my very favourite type of historical hero, first from the library pile was When He Was Wicked. This turned out to be book six in the Bridgerton family series - which is something I could have easily established if I'd glanced at the family tree helpfully provided at the front! I don't think that it mattered in the slightest that I read the book out of order as I suspect when reading in this genre it's pretty obvious what the ending will be and the fun part is getting there.
At the start of the book our heroine, Francesca Bridgerton, is already in love (and married to) the man of her dreams - John Stirling, the Earl of Kilmartin. She is also very good friends with John's cousin, Michael Stirling, who is a delightfully wicked and infamous rake who spends his life chasing women but never losing his heart to any of them. The first time he met Francesca he fell deeply in love with her but has never been able to do anything but watch her marriage to his cousin bloom.
Without wanting to ruin the story, I found this book a very amusing romance yet also a surprisingly emotional tale of dealing with loss, grief and guilt. There is a current of gentle humour running through the book that was great fun and also some very saucy seduction scenes that I was not expecting - this is not Georgette Heyer! All in all it was very enjoyable and absolutely the escapist fiction I'd hoped it would be.
The second book I read by Julia Quinn this weekend was Mr Cavendish, I Presume. This book is a companion on to The Lost Duke of Wyndham and together they tell the same story but from different points of view.
"Engaged to the future Duke of Wyndham since she was just six months old, Amelia Willoughby is beginning to get tired of waiting for Thomas Cavendish, the oh-so-lofty duke, to decide it's finally time to get married. But as she watches him from afar, sharing the occasional dance and making polite conversation, she has a sneaking suspicion that he never thinks about her at all...
Thomas rather likes having a fiancée - all the better to keep the husband-hunters at bay - and he does intend to marry her eventually. But just when he begins to realise that his bride might be something more than convenient, Thomas's world is rocked by the arrival of his long-lost cousin, who may or may not be the true Duke of Wyndham..."
Amelia is a likeable, strong heroine and you certainly can't help but feel empathy for her situation as a woman in an age where you can be legally contracted to marry someone at the age of six months. I was not entirely sold on the premise that Thomas and Amelia had known each other for 20-odd years, knowing that they were going to end up married, and yet never bothered to learn anything about each other or to discuss anything more in depth than the weather. That said, their steps towards gaining a better understanding of one another was quite sweet if a little studious at times.
Overall, this is a charming simple love story without much depth but then that's not what I was looking for - I was after a charming historical romance and that's certainly what I got. At some point, I would like to read the companion book as I'm pretty sure that I'll like Jack who is the titular Lost Duke of Wyndham...