Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn
published by Avon (Harpercollins Publishers) in May 2011
Honoria Smythe-Smith is:Genre: Historical romance
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
Marcus Holroyd is:
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 the 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
Series: Smith-Smythe Quartet, Book #1
The Story: Marcus Holroyd is the Earl of Chatteris. As an only child with an indifferent father, his childhood was lonely... until he met Daniel Smythe-Smith at Eton and became best of friends. As a result, he spent more time with the boisterous Smythe-Smiths, including Honoria - Daniel's youngest sister, than his own family. Being the youngest, Honoria tried to tag along with the boys whenever they would let her, earning her the nickname of "Bug."
Unfortunately, Marcus and Honoria have not seen each other much in the past three years, ever since Daniel had to flee the country after a scandalous duel gone wrong. With their older sisters all married, Honoria finds herself alone with their mother who's not been herself since Daniel's departure... Despite the circumstances, Honoria is determined to find herself a husband this season - at 21 years old, she wants to start her own family as soon as possible.
What Honoria does not realize is Marcus has been keeping an eye on her and her suitors...
My Opinion: Initially, I was going to wait till RWA to get Just Like Heaven, but after reading the back blurb, I couldn't wait! It sounded so cute and I really liked the idea of the Smythe-Smith ladies getting their own books, since they've been the running joke in the Bridgerton series LOL. All in all, I'm glad I didn't wait as the book was indeed very cute and enjoyable, although not exactly what I expected.
My favorite part of Just Like Heaven was the characters. I think Ms Quinn did a fantastic job at creating and developing Marcus and Honoria :) I liked their personalities - gentle and caring. I like that while being from nobility, they were "normal" people. For example, Marcus preferring to stay in the country and taking care of his estate. And I love the fact that Honoria knew she was a bad musician, knew that the quartet was horrible, but still went ahead to perform because it was a tradition and by following tradition, she was part of something :) To me, Ms Quinn definitively came up with appealing characters and were perfect for the friends to lovers storyline.
The book's storyline actually surprised me. From the blurb, I was expecting our H/H to be aware of their feelings, but they weren't. At the beginning of Just Like Heaven, Honoria is looking for a husband and Marcus was never on her radar, as she considered him as a brother. However, through the events, she realizes her feelings for him and him, for her. In that aspect, Ms Quinn did a great job :) I enjoyed the familiarity between the two characters and their falling in love was well-written and realistic. The storyline is quite passive - not a lot happened actually - and I think some readers will find Just Like Heaven a bit boring. However, for me, it worked. It's light, fluffy, fun and focuses on the characters. It gets tiring to read about tortured heroes and intrigue/mystery in historicals sometimes. For me, Just Like Heaven was a nice change of pace and hit the right spot :)
I was a bit disappointed that the story didn't revolve more about the Smythe-Smith musicale. I thought we'd see more of the "behind-the-scenes" LOL. It was fun to see Marcus cringed every time it was mentioned though :) And like I mentioned, I liked that Honoria was aware at how bad a violinist she was and how cringe-worthy the musicale actually is. Unfortunately, while Honoria and Marcus were very appealing characters, I cannot say the same about the other ladies of the quartet: Sarah, Iris and Daisy ^_^; Honoria was great because while she knew they were bad, she still embark on the adventure with gutso. I understand that for Sarah and Iris who might be good musicians that putting such a bad performance is disappointing... but still. They were a bit too negative in my opinion, too whiny and the quarrels at the end got on my nerves. As for Daisy, she was way too oblivious, but then, she's young. It'll be interesting to see how Ms Quinn will develop these characters in the future. As it is, I was more interested in Daniel and Ramsgate's son (can't remember his name at the moment).
My other issue with Just Like Heaven was the sex scene. Yes, we romance readers expect sex in our romance novels, even in historicals. However, don't just tack a sex scene at the end of the novel just to please readers ^_^; I felt the sex scene in Just Like Heaven was totally superfluous - it occurred in the last chapter! Seriously, I would have been happier without any sex in the story, since it wasn't necessary and didn't really fit in ^_^; There are authors out there that defy this trend and does it well - either there's no sex or it's almost closed doors and it works :)
My Grade: B. In my opinion, the enjoyment of Just Like Heaven is going to depend on the reader's mood. There is nothing ground-breaking about the story or characters in Just Like Heaven; it's simply a book meant to be enjoyed for its characters and simplicity :) It's a book to make you feel better by its fluffiness and fun :)