JUST LIKE HEAVEN by Julia Quinn
Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn
Smythe-Smith Quartet, Book 1
Reviewed by Shayna
Marcus Holroyd spent much of his childhood in isolation. His somewhat bleak existence was irrevocably altered for the better when he began school at Eton and made the acquaintance of Daniel Smythe-Smith. Becoming friends with Daniel opened Marcus’s world, and introduced him to the large, boisterous Smythe-Smith family. The Smythe-Smiths, renowned for their famously awful musicales, were Marcus’s first glimpse into a loving family. One he very much wanted to be a part of.
Years later, Marcus, now the Earl of Chatteris, discovers there’s one problem with being so close to the Smythe-Smiths. Daniel has been forced to leave the country and his last request was that Marcus watch out for Daniel’s youngest sister, Honoria. Honoria Smythe-Smith is no longer the talkative, somewhat pesky little girl Daniel and Marcus called “Bug.” In fact, Marcus finds her rather attractive, wonderful to talk to, and – quite possibly (when she’s not holding a violin) – irresistible. Is it possible that Marcus has fallen in love with his best friend’s sister?
Just Like Heaven is one of the most delightful, entertaining books I’ve read this year. Julia Quinn starts off her Smythe-Smith quartet with a bang. I can’t remember when I last read a book that made me laugh out loud so many times. Ms. Quinn’s prose snaps and sparkles in Just Like Heaven, reminding me (in the unlikely event I had forgotten) why she is one of my favorite authors.
In Just Like Heaven, Marcus and Honoria slide into love in a way that may be unexpected to them, but makes perfect sense to the reader. The banter between them will make you laugh and the sweetness of their romance will make you sigh. Honoria and Marcus fit one another like lock and key, which is part of the charm of their story. Honoria is a warm, bright, funny heroine who will charm the pants off of any reader. She’s someone you absolutely wish were real just so you could be friends with her. Marcus, in turn, is a hero who will tug at your heartstrings. He is so very alone and has such a great capacity for love that you want to see him become a part of a family. And what a family Honoria comes with. The Smythe-Smiths are an enormous extended family and, as I previously mentioned, are famous among the ton for their musicales. Each year a quartet of unmarried Smythe-Smith girls performs at the musicale and they are notoriously wretched musicians. Ms. Quinn turns these musicales into pure comic gold without ever making them cartoonish.
If you’ve never read a book by Ms. Quinn, Just Like Heaven is a great place to start. However, readers of Ms. Quinn’s work already know that the Smythe-Smith musicale has almost been a running joke in some of Ms. Quinn’s books. Fans will surely be thrilled to discover that a couple of Ms. Quinn’s most beloved characters make cameos in Just Like Heaven. Normally I’m wary of book-hopping characters, but in the case of the Smythe-Smith quartet, it makes sense to see, for example, a few members of the Bridgerton family, as we have witnessed them attending the musicales in their own books. The much-loved (and truly frightening) Lady Danbury also plays a small part, and even everyone’s favorite horrid novel (which I desperately wish Ms. Quinn would write), Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron, shows up.
The Smythe-Smith quartet has been one of the new series I’ve been looking forward to the most. Happily, Just Like Heaven exceeded my expectations; not an easy task, considering how high my expectations are when it comes to Ms. Quinn’s books. Just Like Heaven is lively, witty, charming, and unforgettable – a winning combination in my book. Joyfully Recommended!