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A Night Like This by Julia Quinn

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Night Like This
Smythe-Smith Quartet #2

Julia Quinn
Historical Romance
Pub date: 29 May, 2012 (ARC review)

H/h - Daniel Smythe-Smith, the Earl of Winstead/Anne Wynter
Setting: London, 1824.

Read in May, 2012.
My rating:

                                                     [spoiler alert]

“Ah!” and a happy sigh was what I did when I finished A Night Like This. This was the best JQ I’ve read in the last couple of years. Absolutely amazing; fun, witty and much much more! Even though I’m still a Bridgertons fan by heart, A Night Like This managed to steal my heart and make a place as well. Both Daniel and Anne were excellent as characters; Daniel, the sweet JQ hero with a penchant for humor and Anne, the smart, beautiful and adorable governess to the Pleinsworth girls. Their dialogues (with or without Harriet, Elizabeth and Frances) were superbly funny, with a healthy dose of good-natured sarcasm. Utterly delicious for words! I found myself chuckling, laughing out loud, snickering... and much more while reading the book. There was a darker undertone as well, with a madman bend on doing harm but that was something I thought a bit overblown.

I kinda guessed from Just Like Heaven that Daniel and Anne would be paired. Daniel wasn’t introduced until the very end and Anne had a very small part, so we didn’t know much about them. This book starts with a prologue of the past and how Daniel came to be exiled in the first place. He dueled (we knew it but I thought I read it was over some woman, apparently it was over a so-called cheating at cards) with one of his best friends, Hugh. The whole thing, including the debacle of a duel that leaves both Hugh and Daniel wounded, was all a big misunderstanding, and a bit of drunken delusion from both sides. Only Marcus was the voice of reason, as he has always been, though he couldn’t do much to avoid the damage. Hugh’s marquis of a father threatens Daniel with murder, and for that he flees the country. After 3 years, a few months ago, Hugh met up with Daniel to inform him that he has ‘resolved’ this whole madness from his father with another madness, a threat of suicide, if he doesn’t let Daniel off the hook. Ok, Hugh came off a bit creepy but I liked him a LOT. I liked his cool determination, as you’ll see him throughout the story. Hugh is lame now from the injury but doesn’t blame Daniel. And Daniel feels bad that how a simple nothing and a little impetuous action led to this disaster.

So Daniel returns to London, just the day when the infamous Smythe-Smith musicale was taking place, that was held at the end of Just Like Heaven. This book has a bit of an intertwined plot. Anne was on the piano, and when Daniel finally spies on her (taking note of the other performers, his cousins and sister, Honoria), he’s smacked dabbed with Anne and possibly, love. Her beauty just gets him tongue-tied. Later, he and Marcus fights over Honoria and you know what happened in the end of Just Like Heaven. What we didn’t know, afterwards Anne and Daniel meet. He was injured but you’re gonna love their banters even when they didn’t know each-other. Daniel HAD TO kiss this woman and he does. Anne, well, even though because of a past, she knew not to let men come close to her but she still couldn’t deny Daniel. Later, when sanity returns, Daniel learns of Anne’s profession, that she’s his Pleinsworth cousins’ governess (all the above names I’ve mentioned are Sarah’s sisters, I know the names can get you a bit confused). After that, Daniel is resolute to sought Anne out. It wasn’t a straight out lust, though it was a part of his intentions. Daniel didn’t know what has struck him but he just needs to see her again.

Anne knows her place in the world, and she learned it in the hardest of ways possible. We learn of her past soon after, which cast a gloomy shadow around the fun atmosphere that’s typical JQ. She lived far away from London, in a small town. She was aware that she was beautiful and maybe a vain in that regard. But she was only 16 and didn’t know better. Anne trusted the rakish son of a rich man and gave him her virginity, because the SOB professed his ‘love’ for her. Soon, the SOB, Chervill, straightened her any delusion about getting married, since Anne’s family, though a good one, didn’t possess enough money. After an altercation, to save herself from being raped, Anne strikes him with a letter opener, which cut the man’s face. Chervill was (still is) an utterly self-absorbed man, with good looks to go with it and this doesn’t sit well with him. Anne’s family casts her out with the pressure from Chervill’s father. Anne leaves her family forever, along with a threat from Chervill, who promises to come after her someday and have revenge for his disfigurement. Afterwards, Anne took a new name and spent her time being a companion and a governess. Now, 8 years later, she’s in a place she actually loves working. But this obsession from Lord Winstead (and her own obsession over him) might ruin everything for her.

I don’t have adequate words to tell you about the drama of the Pleinsworth girls, because it was just too adorably funny for words. Your head is bound to spin and hurt (much like Daniel’s) by all the talks of plays of Henry VIII or Lord Finstead (thanks to Harriet, who thinks herself a great playwright) back and forth. And there are , wherever Frances, the youngest is. She just loves them and... erm, likes to practice as one, so that Harriet gives her the part of a in her next play. Oh yes, those plays are practiced and umm... performed. *heehee* After Daniel’s sort of tenacious perusal of Anne (with a bit of help from Sarah, which Daniel acquired with a threat of blackmailing... you know, Sarah was sick and ‘missed’ the musicale... the threat was about letting Lady Pleinsworth know about her so-called ‘sickness’... God, you just have to read it to believe it all!). They are soon invited to Daniel’s estate, Whipple Hill (lol), though it exasperates Anne, it excites her too. There’s no way she can deny the budding attraction between her and Daniel. Daniel is also happy to have her here. They do many fun things, which includes discussions on Harriet’s play (some of the most hilarious scenes are with the Pleinsworth girls), (Did you think you’ll escape that? Think again and think hard *snorts*), Daniel’s injurious face, rainbows (don’t even ask!) and who looked the worse, Daniel or Marcus (according to Daniel, you’ve gotta make your opponent look worse lol) etc. So, as you can see, I had fun, plain and simple. They even practice one of Harriet’s plays. Romance, against Anne’s better judgment, was budding too. There were kisses and all that. Anne, ah, after all those lonely years, she just needs Daniel’s lovely smile and quirky humor. It just lights up her day, as much as her presence does for Daniel. I could feel the connection, it was SO there and JQ did such a splendid job of showing me that these two SO belonged together. They just communicated on such a level... as I said, you’re absolutely gonna love the dialogues between these two.

Now, someone was trying to harm Daniel too. He was already attacked once when in London. Hugh, in his crazy way, assured Daniel that his father has nothing to do with this. But Daniel doesn’t know who would want to harm him other than Ramsgate, Hugh’s father. On the other hand, on her off day, as Anne was about to post a secret correspondent (none of her employers knew of her past obviously) to her sister Charlotte, she thinks she saw Chervill in town. Daniel, kinda conveniently, was in the shop where she bursts in, scared and shaking, and saves the day for her. So, the readers were already being set up for the ‘madman’ part of the story. Anyway, in the town near Whipple Hill, Anne goes out again on a day off and Daniel, like the love sick puppy, follows her (though, to him, it was to ‘pay calls’ to his tenants, which was long overdue... lol). God, it was just too adorable for words! They spend a great day together, chatting and touring the town. But on the way back, a terrible accident happens. Someone did something with the landau, it was raining... Anne was injured, so was Daniel. Somehow he carries her to his estate, walking miles. After this, and all the attention Daniel pays to her (how could he hide his affection for Anne, even if she’s a governess and Earls shouldn’t have anything honorable to do with governesses...), everyone sort of guesses something is up. When Anne is conscious, Lady Pleinsworth, who’s always been kind to her, in so many words sets caution; that Anne had to have a clear head and ready sense where Daniel might not. Anne knows that she’s right. This forbidden attraction has already gone too far. She has some fun time with Frances and Harriet. But at dawn, Daniel just bursts into her room to have a look at her. He’s going to London and this time, He’ll kill Ramsgate for trying to harm Anne. They talk and kiss and then things go a little out of hand... when Anne puts a stop in it. Daniel isn’t happy but he offers marriage. Oh God, only if Anne could jump with glee and say ‘yes’ to him, which she wanted to do so much! Nothing is resolved though and Daniel leaves.

In London, Daniel finds no clue. He meets up with Ramsgate and now, pretty sure it wasn’t him. The interaction between the father and son (Hugh went with him) even creeped Daniel out! Anne comes back but her past keeps haunting her. She is soon aware that it was indeed Chervill whom she saw and that this crazy bastard is up for revenge. And he’d do anything, just about ANYTHING for it. Anne is scared for Daniel and the Pleinsworth girls, whom she already loves and cares for a lot. This is where the nail-biting part of the story starts. I read these last chapters in one sitting, since they totally absorbed my attentions. Soon, Anne leaves, without telling anyone anything. She is now without references and any prospect of work, unless it’s prostitution. Chervill finds her when she was out buying something to eat with her very meager funds. Daniel, who was already suspecting that these connected incidents have something to do with Anne’s past and ‘whoever’ she was trying to run away from, comes to have a word with her in the Pleinsworth townhouse and finds her gone. You can guess the terror that strikes him and he, as desperate as he was, tells everyone that he loves Anne and needs help. About a week passes by without any help and without Anne, the world has pretty much ‘titled from its axis’ for Daniel. But clever Anne, when Chervill attacks her, does something to free herself and escapes. No one but Daniel comes to her mind and to him, she runs finally. Oh, when he’s at home and finds her waiting near the entrance... I literally felt that, for Daniel, the world has righted itself on its axis and not just JQ’s words mind you!

But the story doesn’t end there, even though they exchange ILU and Anne this time accepts Daniel’s proposal. She also confides in him about her past. There was just nothing else to do. I’m going to let go here but have to say this ‘madman’ part of the story was kind of... let’s just say, the whole Chervill business seemed hazy to me. I mean, not what he did to Anne, which was atrocious but somehow, I wanted to know his side of the story too. We met his wife when Daniel goes to pay a call to him. She was quite a nice woman and it was very much apparent, totally besotted with her husband. I felt the whole thing a bit unfair on her part. The last resolve from Daniel, which was to send Chervill out of England, possibly to Australia, didn’t make me happy. I don’t know why I felt this way but I did and it bugged me even as the story ended. Anyway, apart from that, I think I’ve used up all the adjectives to express how much I loved this book! I’m feeling restless thinking I have to wait another year for the next installment and I’m hoping, this time, it’s Sarah. I also had a notion that Hugh might have his own book (fingers crossed because I dig him big time! *wink*). Could he be Sarah’s match? Who knows. Can’t wait to find that out!

4.5 happy stars. Yah, I have a big grin even as I write this review, all thanks to JQ.

OK, HAVE to add this update from JQ’s website: The next book is Sarah’s and yes, her match is Hugh.... OMG YAYYAYAY!!! And yes, I have to wait till May, 13 for that one unfortunately. *sigh*

On a side note: My short review is now a featured review (from Avon/HarperCollins) in Edelweiss. Thanks Avon, I appreciate it much.

This ARC was provided to me by Avon/HarperCollins via edelweiss which didn’t influence my review and rating in any way.

Favorite Quote(s):
Daniel chuckled. Whoever that poor girl was, he hoped his family was paying her well.
And then, finally, she lifted her fingers from the keys as Daisy began her painful violin solo. He watched her exhale, stretching her fingers, and then . . .
She looked up.
Time stopped. It simply stopped. It was the most maudlin and clichéd way of describing it, but those few seconds when her face was lifted toward his . . . they stretched and pulled, melting into eternity.
She was beautiful. But that didn’t explain it. He’d seen beautiful women before. He’d slept with plenty of them, even. But this . . . Her . . . She . . .
Even his thoughts were tongue-tied.
“What about me?” Frances asked.
“The butler,” Harriet replied without even a second of hesitation.
Frances’s mouth immediately opened to protest.
“No, no,” Harriet said. “It’s the best role, I promise. You get to do everything.”
“Except be a unicorn,” Daniel murmured.
Frances tilted her head to the side with a resigned expression.
“The next play,” Harriet finally gave in. “I shall find a way to include a unicorn in the one I’m working on right now.”
Frances pumped both fists in the air. “Huzzah!” 
“Have you seen Frances?”
He tilted his head to the right. “I believe she’s off rooting about in the bushes.”
A nne followed his gaze uneasily. “Rooting?”
“She told me she was practicing for the next play.”
A nne blinked at him, not following.
“For when she gets to be a unicorn.”
“Oh, of course.” She chuckled. “She is rather tenacious, that one.”
With an admittedly goofy spring in his step, he made his way across the main hall to the breakfast room, pausing only to peek through the sitting room at the large window, which some enterprising footman had pulled open to let in the warm, spring air. What a day, what a day. Birds were chirping, the sky was blue, the grass was green (as always, but it was still an excellent thing), and he had kissed Miss Wynter.
He nearly bounced right off his feet, just thinking about it.
It had been splendid. Marvelous. A kiss to deny all previous kisses. Really, he didn’t know what he’d been doing with all those other women, because whatever had happened when his lips had touched theirs, those had not been kisses.
Not like last night.
His brows rose. “And how is it that you have come to be such an expert on scrapes and bruises?”
“I’m a governess,” she said. Because really, that ought to be explanation enough.
 “Tea?” Daniel asked, signaling to the innkeeper.
“Please. Or anything that is hot.” She pulled off her gloves, pausing to frown at a little hole that was growing at the tip of her right forefinger. That wouldn’t do. She needed all the dignity she could muster in that finger.
Heaven knew she shook it at the girls often enough.
Finally, he reached his street. It was quiet, blessedly so, and the only sound was his own groan as he lifted his foot to the first stone step at the entrance to Winstead House. The only sound, that was, until someone whispered his name.
He froze. “Anne?”
A figure stepped out of the shadows, trembling in the night. “Daniel,” she said again, and if she said anything more, he did not hear it. He was down the stairs in an instant, and she was in his arms, and for the first time in nearly a week, the world felt steady on its axis.
“He said he loved me,” she whispered.
Daniel swallowed, and he had the strangest sensation, almost a premonition of what it must like to be a parent.
Someday, God willing, he’d have a daughter, and that daughter would look like the woman standing in front of him, and if ever she looked at him with that bewildered expression, whispering, “He said he loved me . . .”
Nothing short of murder would be an acceptable response.


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