Size Doesn’t Matter (85): Splendid; A Local Habitation

Size Doesn’t Matter (85): Splendid; A Local HabitationSplendid by Julia Quinn
Series: Blydon #1
Published by Avon on May 17, 2009
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 396
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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four-stars

There are two things everyone knows about Alexander Ridgely. One, he's the Duke of Ashbourne. And two, he has no plans to marry anytime soon...

That is until a redheaded American throws herself in front of a carriage to save his young nephew's life. She's everything Alex never thought a woman could be—smart and funny, principled and brave. But she's a servant, completely unsuitable for a highborn duke—unless, perhaps, she's not quite what she seems...

American heiress Emma Dunster might be surrounded by Englishmen, but that doesn't mean she intends to marry one—even if she has agreed to participate in one London Season. When she slipped out of her cousins' home, dressed as a kitchen maid, all she wanted was one last taste of anonymity before her debut. She never dreamed she'd find herself in the arms of a dangerously handsome duke... or that he'd be quite so upset when he discovered her true identity. But true love tends to blossom just when one least expects it, and passion can melt even the most stubborn of hearts.

In the last year, I’ve not only been making an effort to read more books that aren’t for review but also to compulsively read the backlists of authors who write books that receive a 4.5 or 5 star rating from me. After reading the Bridgerton books earlier this year, Julia Quinn’s backlist went onto my to-read list. Honestly, though, I wasn’t expecting anything good from Splendid, but I get a bit obsessive so I was obviously going to try to read all her stuff anyway. My expectations were super low because Meg Cabot’s first novels were terrible, and Tessa Dare’s mostly were too. Apparently, though, Julia Quinn decided not to write a horrid trope fest for her first romance novel.

Don’t get me wrong: there are definitely tropes here, and it’s not like this romance novel totally defies convention. However, where classic romance novels tend to be heavy and melodramatic, Splendid is fluffy and bantery, with the occasional melodramatic scene thrown in to please convention. Splendid takes banter to new heights, and, if you were into the banteriest Bridgerton books, you’re going to be here for this one too. Quinn’s novels stand out from the romance novel pack, not just for her banter and humor, but because it’s not just the hero and heroine who engage in it. There’s a surprisingly large cast of bantery folks in Splendid: Emma, her whole family, Alex, his whole family, and Dunford all get in on the snarking. It’s seriously amazing. I kept highlighting particularly humorous lines as I read (online, I do not highlight in print copies).

“I wouldn’t marry you if you were the last man on earth!” She paused for a second as she pondered what was clearly an overused cliché. “Well, maybe if you were the last man on earth, but only then.

Alex decided he loved her obvious common sense.

“But seeing as how you’re not the last man on earth,” Emma continued, “which is more obvious considering the fact that I’ve got a whole ballroom full of eligible bachelors just downstairs—”

The only reason I had to downgrade Splendid from being a complete favorite was that the occasional bits of melodrama and traditional romance stuff did throw things off a bit. The ending drama really wasn’t needed at all. And, though I do ship Alex and Emma, I didn’t get to that really emotional I-can’t-control-what-my-heart-and-stomach-are-doing place. I blame that on the fact that there first two scenes are all instant attraction and odd compulsion and why do I care about this female so much and uncomfortable kisses. After that, though, they become friends and start bantering with each other. It’s truly amazing they get along so well I could overcome my initial distaste from those scenes. IGNORE THOSE SCENES. It’s also cute because, aside from those first scenes (which again IGNORE) Alex always makes sure to get consent for sexual activities, and both of them are afraid of marriage. They both adorably come to realize their feelings in parallel scenes. And they have an enormous blow up, say things they don’t mean fight, but then actually learn from it. So all of that is totally great.

I’m really excited for the rest of Quinn’s backlist now. Although I did hope the next book would be about Belle and Dunford, who are just friends but whom I totally ship, but apparently she’s getting a different love interest. 🙁 That’s cool, though, I guess, because that means the beautiful bluestocking really is in besties with a rake.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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Size Doesn’t Matter (85): Splendid; A Local HabitationA Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire
Series: October Daye #2
Published by DAW on March 2, 2010
Genres: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery
Pages: 377
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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three-half-stars

October "Toby" Daye is a changeling, the daughter of Amandine of the fae and a mortal man. Like her mother, she is gifted in blood magic, able to read what has happened to a person through a mere taste of blood. Toby is the only changeling who has earned knighthood, and she re-earns that position every day, undertaking assignments for her liege, Sylvester, the Duke of the Shadowed Hills.

Now Sylvester has asked her to go to the County of Tamed Lightning—otherwise known as Fremont, CA—to make sure that all is well with his niece, Countess January O'Leary, whom he has not been able to contact. It seems like a simple enough assignment—but when dealing with the realm of Faerie nothing is ever as simple as it seems. Toby soon discovers that someone has begun murdering people close to January, whose domain is a buffer between Sylvester's realm and a scheming rival duchy. If Toby can't find the killer soon, she may well become the next victim.

The first October Daye book, Rosemary and Rue was heavy on the world building and a bit slow on the pacing. A Local Visitation picks up the pace and reads like a classic horror.

This mystery is sort of like Seanan McGuire does And Then There Were None, as a small group of fae trapped in a small knowe are being picked off one by one. Toby’s been sent in by Sylvester to see if his niece, January, is okay. Obviously, once a murder is committed, Toby’s not leaving until she solves the case, partially because Sylvester would want her to help his niece and partially because that’s what Toby does.

The tension’s high basically constantly, and I got through most of this book in one day. Once the murders get going, the pace remains consistently fast. I can’t say the resolution felt particularly satisfying, but there is something cruelly McGuire about it. I’m very invested in Toby, Quentin, and Tybalt, but I can’t say that I felt particularly concerned or sad for the people of Tamed Lightning.

I’m starting to see the promise of this series, as there’s less world building to accomplish and characters arcs really start to take off. I like seeing how clearly those involved in the events of Rosemary and Rue were actually affected by them, and it will be interesting to see how A Local Visitation stays with them.

Still hoping to get real feelings from this series, perhaps when the ship takes off, but it’s definitely picking up.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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8 responses to “Size Doesn’t Matter (85): Splendid; A Local Habitation”

  1. Joanne Levy says:

    Oooohhhh. I haven’t read Splendid, but need to now. 🙂
    Joanne Levy recently posted…How to Show Love to an AuthorMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Yessssss. The start’s a bit clunky, like she’s forcing in a couple standard tropes before allowing the cast to go all bantertastic.

  2. Gillian says:

    Actually in EMMA Mr. Knightley’s name is George, not Alex, as tragic as that is. But um yeah I’m gonna need to get on this Julia Quinn train for sure.
    Gillian recently posted…Top Ten Literary Names I’d Rename My DogMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Riiiiight. His name is Alex on Emma Approved. Which basically means that maybe those writers love Julia Quinn! And Julia Quinn loves Austen. There was a butler or some other servant named Bingley. It’s a thing, I swear.

  3. I think JQ’s first novel was pretty solid, too. My favorite of JQ’s older novels is actually How to Marry a Marquis.

    • Christina Franke says:

      I’m so impressed! Tessa Dare’s first books were…not good. Go Julia! I’m planning to hit up all the old Quinn books eventually. Excited to get to that one. 🙂

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