Wednesday, March 31, 2010

To Catch an Heiress by Julia Quinn

Book Description:
When Caroline Trent is kidnapped by Blake Ravenscroft, she doesn't even try to elude this dangerously handsome agent of the crown. After all, she's been running from unwanted marriage proposals. Yes, Blake believes she's a notorious spy named Carlotta De Leon, but for six weeks until her twenty-first birthday, when she'll gain control of her own fortune, hiding out in the titillating company of a mysterious captor is awfully convenient—and maybe just a little romantic, too.

Blake Ravenscroft's mission is to bring "Carlotta" to justice, not to fall in love. His heart has been hardened by years of intrigue, but this little temptress proves oddly disarming and thoroughly kissable. And suddenly the unthinkable becomes possible—that this mismatched couple might be destined for love.

As much as Julia Quinn is one of my favorite authors, this regency was not one of my favorites though it had a lot of good features in it and had me laughing out loud. I'm beginning to make my way through her backlist, beginning with this first of a duo involving spies for the Crown.

Blake and Caroline are the hero and heroine, destined for one another. They meet by chance while Caroline is running away from her nefarious guardian who is after her fortune. Blake mistakes the runaway Caroline for a spy he's been after and he kidnaps her, bringing her back to his estate for questioning. He gets no answers from Caroline, who has become mute from a sore throat. Plus, she's content to remain there with him until her 21st birthday - a perfect hideaway from her guardian! Several hilarious episodes later, they begin to fall for one another. Yet, Blake is carrying around the memory of his fiancee who was a fellow spy that was killed on the job. He cannot forget her or the guilt he carries about her death. Can the irrepressible Caroline cure his ills and allow him to find love again?

Blake Ravenscroft is swoonworthy in looks: tall, dark and handsome, every inch the masculine hero. Yet I found his inability to let go of his dead fiancee depressing and it dragged the story down. Yes, yes, I know this is supposed to be the heavy burden which he overcomes to make it all a better and happier ending, but it still bothered me to no end! I sympathized greatly with Caroline, who was rebuffed by him more than once (after he has nearly deflowered her, no less!) His claim that he cannot marry her because he has vowed to never marry due to the death of Marabelle, his fiancee got old real fast! How many times is Caroline going to take this from him? He feels responsible for her murder (which is nonsense) and uses this excuse to avoid admitting he can love someone else - namely Caroline. A cop out. He dropped a few notches because of it.

Now, that doesn't go to say I didn't like him - I did! I loved his jealous temper and wry sense of humor. He and Caroline had some great interplay, some parts were very amusing! But, I kept wishing he'd get over Marabelle and stop hurting Caroline's feelings! I loved Caroline, she was quick on her feet, full of witty repartees, kind and fearless when it was called for. A perfect mate for Blake. She wins everyone over instantly, from the "may I be so bold" butler, Perriwick, Mrs. Mickle, the cook who starves everyone in the household (except Caroline) to Blake's sister Penelope who instantly wants to match them up. James, a marquis and Blake's best friend and partner in crime is also taken with her, though he's giving Blake the chance to offer for Caroline first, if he'd just go ahead and do it! I must admit, when he finally does do it, I did appreciate Blake's proposal scene, it must have been quite the sight! *smirk*

I recognized in To Catch an Heiress some of Ms. Quinn's trademark characteristics that appear in her later - and better books. I get the feeling she was still working on her writing chops with this one. The telltale sibling squabbles between Blake and Penelope are lively as well as the hero who has some kind of anguish from his past to overcome. Both signature features of Quinn's Bridgerton novels. Here, Blake's mournful past was central to the plotline and the "fly in the ointment", but weak. I wasn't touched or affected by the fact that Blake had lost his fiancee, whereas often with Quinn's later heroes, I am greatly sympathetic towards them and their problems. In this case - nothing, nada. I just wanted him to forget her and get over it!

I look at To Catch an Heiress as a pre-cursor to my favorite all time series - The Bridgertons. I figure, Quinn had to get the kinks out and test the waters somewhere! This novel has the same humor, romance and lightheartedness that is unmistakable in all her romances, albeit the sex here is a bit rushed, but that too takes practice! ;)



Danielle87 said...

I am a Julia Quinn fan, but I prefer her most recent stuff. 'Bevelstoke' and 'Two Dukes of Wyndham'. I have read her earlier books, but I'm not as in love with them.
This one sounds good though, I might have to give this one a go.

Penelope said...

Hi Julie! This is one of my "old favorites" by Julia Quinn. There were some minor problems with it (I didn't buy the whole "I coughed all night until I couldn't talk" routine, etc etc) but I also loved the banter between H/h and it made me laugh out loud, too. It doesn't have the emotional intensity of some of her other novels, but it's fun and witty and sexy...I would probably give it a 4/5 stars!

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Danielle - I love JQ, but I haven't read her most recent books yet - haven't even heard of Bevelstoke! Bridgertons are my favorites, love her B - heroes!

Penelope - yes the whole coughing thing was a bit much, but funny, loved it with her writing with her left hand and living in the washroom - it really did have it's screwball elements that were very funny, but I found the racy parts rushed and abbreviated - thank goodness JQ got over that in her later books! LOL!

Muse in the Fog said...

I love Julia Quinn! "Mr. Cavendish I Presume" was the fist one I read and absolutely loved it. "Splendid" was really good too :)

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Muse - I haven't read Mr. Cavendish yet, I've heard mixed reviews on it (and the cover really bugs me), but I'm glad to hear you liked it, I've got it on my huge TBR list!

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