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Review: The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever, Julia Quinn

Warning: This book made me a little angry, so I’m going to have spoilers in this review.  Other than this, all of Julia Quinn’s books that I’ve read have been fantastic. See The Duke and I, The Viscount Who Loved Me, or An Offer from a Gentleman for examples.

When she was 10 years old, Miss Miranda Cheever was not a beautiful girl.  She was not ugly, but her face was too long, her eyes were too big, and worse, only the same brown as her hair, plus she was gangly.  At her best friend Olivia’s 10th birthday party, she was teased by another little girl because she was not pretty.  Since she was so upset, Miranda was escorted home by Olivia’s older brother, Turner, a handsome viscount who assured Miranda that she would grow into her beauty, and advised her to start a diary so that when she was older and happy, she could remember this party.  On that day, Miranda fell in love.  Years later, Turner is hardened by marriage to woman who cared nothing for him, lying to gain his hand in marriage while pregnant with another man’s child.  Miranda is about to embark on her first Season.  When she is overshadowed by Olivia, Turner begins to spend time with Miranda, and as she realizes that her feelings have not changed, he realizes that she’s grown into all her potential.

Okay.  I did not like this book.  As you will know if you’ve been reading this blog, I normally love Julia Quinn.  She writes believable, engaging, witty romance that is often a little different and more intelligent than you’d suspect.  It’s never all about the physical aspects of the relationship, more about the characters.  This book, however, had me more or less infuriated by the end.

For one thing, I didn’t really care for the characters.  Miranda would have been a lovely girl.  She’s set up well as the quiet, unassuming, clever, literary friend of a gorgeous heiress.  She’s even funny.  But she persists in loving Turner, and in my opinion, she has no real basis for loving him.  I don’t really think that a single encounter at the age of 10 is enough, remembering how I felt about boys at that age and a little older.  It was always love, and obviously, was also never love.  When she grows up and really gets to know him, he’s turned into a cynical, bitter man who is convinced women are out to get him and at one point even wants to punish Miranda just because she attracts him.  Is that kind of a man worthy of love?  I certainly don’t think so.  He wavers between wanting him, liking her, and wanting nothing to do with her, even after he’s told her that he will marry her.  They do it, he says they’ll marry, and then he absconds from London for more than a month!  Okay, obviously, this is meant to take place in a different time period, so she’d really have to marry him once she came back and proposed, but it’s almost instant forgiveness.  Worse, she wants to change him after the marriage, when he’s turned into a perfectly wonderful husband already.  Bad idea.  I hate, hate, hate when romances do this.  People don’t change on a dime because you want them to.  It’s one thing to persuade him to love again, it’s another to pitch fits because he’s scared to say he does, and then say you don’t care if he says it or not.  Wait, why are you fighting again? They got along so well until she decided words were more important than actions.

Also, I will be honest, sometimes these endings make me cry.  This one just annoyed me.  I’ll even tell you what happens, because I don’t think you’re going to want to read this after my review.  He realizes that he loves her when their first child is born.  Then she nearly dies in childbirth.  Everyone assumes it’s a lost cause, but she magically recovers because he tells her that he loves her.  She gets him to bring out her diary, with her declaration of love from age 10, and that somehow causes him to realize how much she loves him.  Shouldn’t her actions over the past, oh, year indicate a little more of her love?  I get that it’s supposed to be romantic and touching, but it’s not, and that’s the problem.

There are undoubtedly good moments in this book.  The characters have sweet interactions.  I laughed out loud at some point in the beginning of the book.  The supporting characters had a little more to them (although not Miranda’s scholarly father, who conveniently doesn’t really care where she is or what she’s doing but loves her!) than usual.  I wouldn’t mind reading a book about Olivia or Winston.  In fact, Olivia’s book is coming out soon and I can almost guarantee I’m going to buy and read it.  So it’s not all bad.  It’s just that I have set the bar for Quinn romances higher than this.  I read somewhere that it was primarily written in 1994, which may explain why it conforms to so many infuriating stereotypes and why it’s missing so much of the classic Quinn charm.  By another author, the book probably wouldn’t have made me unhappy, although the problems would remain.  I was just so disappointed.

I’d genuinely still recommend Quinn as a fantastic romance novelist and a great entry point for non-romance readers.  I’d recommend going with The Duke and I.  I’ll even link to that one on Amazon instead of this one.  Now I know why there are always three copies of this in the library and all the rest of her books have holds lists.  There is a reason!

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