Saturday, January 28, 2012
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.
This was a "splendid" romance by my favorite romance author Julia Quinn. It's also her first book. I loved it!
Alex, the Duke of Ashbourne, a confirmed bachelor, falls head over heels in love with the irresistible and highly unorthodox Emma Dunster, a beautiful red-headed American heiress who takes London by storm. Their first meeting is a memorable one. Emma, dressed as a maid, dashes across a busy street to save the duke's young nephew from being struck by a carriage. Emma is knocked out herself and awakens in the duke's carriage several minutes later. He is "instantly" struck by something about her and kisses her. Ah, romance. Emma is somewhat bowled over by him too, but she makes him think she is a maid in her aunt's household where he drops her off.
The next evening is Emma's big grand debut. Alex has been invited, but ordinarily he'd never go to one of these kind of soirees. But, taken so with the young and courageous maid that got hurt saving his nephew the day before, he figures it's the least he can do, to follow up and see if he can find out how she is and thank her again for what she did. Well, you can guess the rest. As soon as he sees Emma for the first time in her beautiful finery making her debut - off come the kid gloves. He makes a bee line for her immediately, demanding an explanation. He dances with her, etc. and has the whole ton talking! The great Duke of Ashbourne is smitten! In fact over the next several weeks he makes it clear to every other bachelor in London that Emma Dunster is "his" and hands off!
Does Emma mind this? Yes and no. Everyone begins pushing these two together, expecting a marriage proposal any day. In fact, they're hoping she'll be compromised by Alex which will hurry the process. This didn't exactly sit well with me. Why did everyone have to be so pushy about it? What was the hurry? She's really not out to get married, for she expects to return to America and run her father's business. But the more she gets to know Alex, the more she's starting to re-think her plans regarding marriage. Added to that, is the fact Alex keeps saying he's not ready for marriage - which suited her fine before. But now..? Meanwhile, Alex is having similar thoughts. Is this confirmed bachelor dreaming of quiet evenings at home with a comely wife by his side - and making babies every night? Is he practicing marriage proposals? Hmmm...
As these two are trying to work out what they really want, the plot thickens when Emma's cousin, still a big wet behind the years and down from Oxford, gets himself into deep trouble and is in need of ten thousand pounds - 10,000 pounds - to pay off a gambling debt from a ruthless cheater who has designs on his sister. Emma is an heiress, but she'll also come in to additional money sooner - when she marries. She wants to help her cousin - so what does she do? I'll leave you in suspense, but it backfires and there is an angsty moment for a brief while, but love saves the day - as well as common sense and a bit of sincere grovelling. I must admit, Splendid has the most endearing marriage proposal scenes I've ever read - both of them!
I didn't know what to expect from this romance or whether I'd like it or not, it being her first. My opinion is that it was a stellar first effort. Why am I not surprised? Julia Quinn is the crème de la crème in the romance world. I did recognize some burgeoning tell-tale elements of her style which we see carried off so well in her later books. Siblings, wise mothers and ideal marriages abound in Julia Quinn's books. The characterizations are well done, plus there is the ever present sense of humor and screwball characteristics that make her books so funny and endearing. The angsty plot point was solved a bit too easily, which could have given the story more depth if expanded upon, but that's fine with me I'm not a fan of angst when it's drawn out too much.
All in all this was a delightful book and a satisfying piece of fluff. I recommend it!