Book Review

A Night Like This by Julia Quinn:  A Guest Review by CarrieS


Title: A Night Like This
Author: Julia Quinn
Publication Info: Avon 2012
ISBN: 978-0-06-207290-0
Genre: Historical: European

A Night Like This - There's the back of a girl in a blue dress running away wearing pink shoes. A lot of Quinn's covers feature colorful shoes as the centerpiece of color in the art. Full disclosure:  This review is biased.  Julia Quinn was one of the first romance authors I discovered (thanks to Smart Bitches, in fact).

Unfortunately for future reviews, she wrote the perfect book, What Happens in London ( A | BN | K | S | ARe ), a couple years ago and now every Julia Quinn book I read suffers by comparison.  So if I had read A Night Like This earlier, I suspect it would have gotten an A, but now I hold everything against the standard of What Happens In London and if no one is pecked to death by pigeons then it's just not the same.  It's not fair, but it's a fact. 

Since I know SBSarah is also writing a review, I won't dwell on the plot, except to say that it makes more sense if you read, or re-read, Just Like Heaven before you pick it up.  NLT is part of a series regarding the Smythe-Smith family and the plot is very closely intertwined with that of the previous book.

Now that we've gotten all that out of the way, I very much enjoyed NLT.  It was funny, it was touching, it was horrific when it was supposed to be and comforting everywhere else, and it featured a smart female lead who kicks ass (and other body parts) in realistic ways and much to her own surprise.  The kids are hilarious (“Enough with the unicorns!”). 

The book is well worth the cover price for Chapter Ten alone.  Julia Quinn has a lovely writing style and the two main characters (David and Anne) get to develop in realistic and satisfying ways.  There is some danger built in to liven up the story, but the most enjoyable scenes involve everyday life and the details of human interaction, both funny and moving.

Having said that, I have two problems with the book.  On a personal level, I did not care for the hero, Daniel – in fact I took such a great dislike to him in the first chapter than I almost stopped reading the book.  The reason I specifically list this as a personal reason is that I do think Quinn takes great pains not to conceal his flaws (mostly immaturity and being very self-centered).  She takes the time to have him grow as a person gradually.  So he's well written enough, but you as a reader have to be willing to put up with him being a selfish clueless twerp for a while and that requires more patience than I possess even though it's not actually a writing flaw.

The other problem I have is that, although I trust Quinn to be historically accurate, a lot of this book didn't quite ring true.  Perhaps on the comments thread some people who are more knowledgeable about Regency than I can weigh in on this – would the young, unmarried Earl and the Governess really have spent so much time together unchaperoned?  Often they are alone by accident (they run into each other in town, the kids are with them but the kids run off to do something, etc) but at one point Daniel, speaking in front of his mother, offers to see Anne to her room – really? 

As far as his incessant flirting goes, he is supposed to be self-centered, but could he possibly be so clueless about the very real possibility of her losing her situation?  What can he be thinking with this parade of compromising situations (and activities) that he initiates?  I don't really believe in the HEA either, unless we accept the possibility that an Earl has money and power and therefore can tell society to stuff it.  Quinn has relied on this theory before to justify some of her match-ups but for some reason this one in particular seemed unlikely.  It would have helped to have seen some of the realities of David and Anne's marriage unfold.

I've been more successful at articulating what I didn't like than what I did like, but really the book was enjoyable, exciting, deeply touching, and roll on the ground funny.  The next book is about Sarah and Hugh, which is a relief as I am terribly worried about him.  I know he's fictional but I won't feel at ease until I can read about him becoming happy.  That book comes out in May so it will be a long winter for me, I'm afraid.  Meanwhile I can console myself by reading What Happens in London for the twentieth time and my newly beloved Chapter Ten from Night Like This.  It's pretty good even without the pigeons.

This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo | All Romance eBooks.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Marina says:

    I think your trust in Julia Quinn as “historically accurate” is somewhat misplaced. I have read enough of her books to accept that this is not soddy research: she does know enough about the era to write a plausible Regengy story, if she wants. The thing is that she seems to care about it less and less with each book.

    I also liked “What happens in London” very much, but it was also lacking in this respect. Where on earth was Olivia’s mother, while the entire plot was taking place in her drawing room?

  2. 2
    cleo says:

    What Happens in London is also my all time favorite Quinn book.  She’s actually pretty hit or miss for me, but WHiL is fantastic.

  3. 3
    snarkhunter says:

    If you use Jane Austen as a guide to accuracy, Quinn’s not actually that far off sometimes. (I’m thinking of the chaperonage, for instance. Elizabeth and Darcy spend a surprising amount of time alone together, as do Catherine and Henry and especially Marianne and Willoughby.) A lot of the “rules” that we associate with the Regency seem to come (if I had to guess) more from Georgette Heyer. The Regency was pretty wild, especially compared to the Victorian Era.

    That said, Daniel was being willfully ignorant or, more likely, just really didn’t understand about the consequences for Anna.

  4. 4
    Jeana Dawn says:

    “What Happens in London” ranks among my top Julia Quinn picks as well, but I enjoyed watching the evolution of Sebastian more in “Ten Things I Love about You”, and I have a couple of Bridgertons that I absolutely love.  That said, I had my moments with this book as well.  I occasionally wanted to knock Daniel upside the head (Think Gibbs, NCIS) several times.  Clearly he’s breaking the rules some where Anne’s concerned, but she’s the one that sees the consequences, not him.  I thought Quinn did a good job explaining that, but it’s been a while since I’ve read it.

  5. 5
    MissB2U says:

    Book List refers to Julia Quinn as “…the Busby Berkeley of romance fiction…” which I just love.  She weaves a great story with lots of humor, and I’m somehow able to avoid a case of Potato Rage because her writing is just so darn entertaining!

  6. 6
    cleo says:

    Exactly.  I really enjoy the anachronistic pop culture references Julia Quinn throws in (frex – in the Further Observations of Lady Whistledown, one of the characters says “who are you and what have you done with the Duke?” is one of my faves).  Somehow she makes it work, at least for me.

    I did really have a problem with the h/h this time – I thought Anne bordered on TSTL, at least at the end when she’s mindlessly fleeing and I did’t care about Daniel.

  7. 7
    CarrieS says:

    I’m wondering if anyone out there did like Daniel?  He was the linkest link of the book as far as I was concerned – I didn’t not care what happened to him at any point.

  8. 8
    Marina says:

    “A lot of the “rules” that we associate with the Regency seem to come (if I had to guess) more from Georgette Heyer”

    Heyer pretty much defines “historically acurate”; I think the misconception lies more with her imitators, who sometimes repeated what she wrote out of context. For example, in “Sprig Muslim” the hero spends weeks staying at a country inn with two unmarried women without a chaperon; their relatives claim that he has compromised them, but he treats the suggestion as loudicrous and the author makes it obvious that the relatives are stretching a point to force him to marry. Also, in many cases she makes it clear that what she is describing is not the norm, but the notions of an old-fashioned, over-strict person.

  9. 9
    snarkhunter says:

    You’re probably right re: Heyer vs. her imitators. I’ve only ever read two of her books, and it’s been a while. (Though I did enjoy them immensely!) I was probably blaming Heyer for something that was done by those who followed her.

  10. 10
    RJ says:

    “if no one is pecked to death by pigeons then it’s just not the same.  It’s not fair, but it’s a fact. ”
    So True!  I am waiting for Quinn to write/publish Miss Butterworth and the Mad Barron.


  11. 11
    Maya M. says:

    I loved ‘What Happens in London’ best of all, too!  Great title, great banter, great feeling of reader satisfaction at the end! 

    And it’s because of that happy reader bubble that I’ve struggled with reactions so other books since then.  Most recently, ‘Just Like Heaven’ became a DNF for me when I just couldn’t buy into the pivotal plot point of the heroine feeling obliged to stay with the ill hero all night, regardless of the consequences to her reputation, because he could not be left alone.  Erm – doesn’t he have a bazillion servants in his employ who could have done that?  And sadly, the story/banter/characters up to that point weren’t enough to make me want to overlook this silliness and continue. 

    Made me hesitant to pick up this most recent title as soon as it came out, but I will, in the hope of finding another scene that delights me as much as the pigeon pecking and courtship-through-windows.


  12. 12
    JaniceG says:

    I generally like Quinn’s stuff because the humor for me outweighs the historical inaccuracies but I had to force myself not to skim this one: I didn’t buy into the plot of both lead characters being pursued because of incidents in their past (what are the odds?), I thought Daniel was a really weak hero and, perhaps more importantly, it had a really weak villain, plus the problems mentioned in the review (frequent non-chaperoned visits, the difference-in-station problem, etc.) It started getting really unbelievable for me when Daniel’s mother indicated approval of the match. Not a keeper.

  13. 13
    Betty Fokker says:

    Julia Quinn made a coded reference to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy with the number 42, and earned my unending geeky loyalty. I forgive her historical inaccuracies and a lack of pigeon pecking in any book :0)

  14. 14
    Julieinduvall says:

    The reviewer has my undying regard for mentioning the outstanding What Happens In London. My favorite Quinn book until that point was The Viscount Who Loved Me, but it’s now neck-and-neck.

    I’m currently making my way through A Night Like This as well. I love the dueling reviews.

  15. 15
    jliedl says:

    I’ve just ordered “What Happens In London” from my local library: I roared through the Bridgerton books in the spring and then took a break from Quinn so as not to grow tired of her writing by too much exposure to her quirks.

    Yes, her historical accuracy isn’t 100% but it’s pretty good. I wouldn’t think that there would be problems with an earl and governess being together in terms of early nineteenth century upper-crust society’s interest simply because a governess is beyond the pale as far as elite society. He’s not at risk and, if she is?, who’d care? Sad but true history.

  16. 16
    Isha says:

    I know exactly how you feel because it’s the same with me. Quinn is the first historical fiction I ever read and that too Romancing Mr. Bridgerton; and, as you said, every other one of her books suffers by comparison. Also, Betty Fokker, if you see this, I completely agree with you, the geek in me was thrilled by that one!!

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