A Night Like This
by Julia Quinn, historical (2012)
Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-207290-0


It all began three years ago when Daniel Smythe-Smith and his drunken buddy got into a duel over a card game. His buddy Hugh shot him in the shoulder, and, thinking that the whole thing was over, Daniel moved toward that man, only to slip and... oops. Don't worry, Hugh survives, since it is a waste to actually let a male character die when you could be writing a book about him, after all. Daniel, however, decided to enjoy the lovely climes of Europe until Hugh showed up and told him that Daniel could go back to England. The whole thing sounds like a lovely interlude before some hot homosexual love, but alas, this story is yet another tale of a nobleman and a governess with the usual secrets.

The governess in question is "Anne Wynter". Like all brilliant romance heroines, she is on the run, only, she changes merely her last name and calls it a brilliant new identity. That doesn't preclude her from saying aloud her real name - her full name, including her middle name - in her soliloquies, so it is a wonderful thing that there are no eavesdropping servants or nosy parkers hiding in the shadows as Anne babbles off to herself. Anne's secret is pretty predictable as it is a standard plot device used countless times before, so there's not much suspense in that department. Daniel and she start noodling each other, but because there has to be an excuse to preclude these two from checking each other's gonads until the time is right, Anne uses her baggage as an excuse to not put out.

I won't mention what her baggage is, but the author's handling of this matter makes Anne come off like a helmet-wearing imbecile. You can argue that her attitude about her baggage - or the lack of it, ahem - may be an accurate depiction of a woman of her time, but if this is the case, then this is one of the very, very few historically accurate elements in this story. Anne is easily accepted into polite society because the Smythe-Smith-Bridgerton-Wunderkind brigade rule the world and whoever disagrees get zapped by a thunderbolt sent down from the heavens by Julia Quinn herself. Daniel's "courtship" of Anne would have caused her employment to be terminated with extreme prejudice if this is a historically accurate story. So no, I don't think Anne's charming obsession with her baggage is a concession to make historical accuracy purists happy. Call me cynical, but I think the author just needed a better internal conflict to keep the shagging hanging until it's almost time to call it a day.

Daniel is a pretty boring hero, mostly because he is pretty much like every Jack, John, Mark, or whatever dude that carries the DNA of the Smythe-Smith-Bridgerton-Wunderkind brigade. See, this is a problem that crops up when an author keeps tying up every single book of hers into one big happy family series while keeping the formula of her success intact. Every guy starts to look like a clone of each other. The best case scenario is that I can overlook the doppelgängers and enjoy the story. But because the internal conflict is tedious and the heroine comes off like a whackjob as a result, this book falls into the worst case scenario: it's like reading yet another Cynster and Friends story by Stephanie Laurens that feels exactly like the hundred books that came before it. I don't feel that this story is anything special anymore. I'm bored. I want shiny new distractions, and I can't find them in this story.

A Night Like This really crashes and burns in the second half or so. The bad guy begins to make his big moves with all the subtlety of a nuclear barrage, and the story turns into a long and often unintentionally hilarious saga of Anne acting like a homing beacon for what seems like every conceivable distress that can ever befall a heroine.

Of course, Daniel and his Band of Brothers come to the rescue. Don't worry, Anne, the heroes are coming!

Safe and sound at last, Anne finally realizes that she can now put out to Daniel with impunity and abandon, thanks to the power of love. And the world rejoice! And everyone dances with joy!

What's on the other channel?

Rating: 55


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