The Viscount Who Loved Me
by Julia Quinn, historical (2000)
Avon, $6.50, ISBN 0-380-81557-5


Let me put on my best Cruella de Vil impersonation and say, "Look-ee here, who's been shopping at Cliché Street again?" I know, I know, I'm a contrary reader, a member of a minority weird species. The Viscount Who Loved Me, Julia Quinn's latest book, is already hailed by many as probably the best way to end 2000 with a bang (not counting Mel Gibson, I guess). Me, I wonder what the fuss ia all about, because all I read is a pleasant, poppy patchwork of all the tried-and-tested clichés I could think of in the historical Regency genre.

It's a nice patchwork, very nicely done and pretty cohesive too. But like everything that's just fun and with very little else, the saying Out of sight, out of mind definitely applies to this book where I'm concerned.

Let's start with the plot. Rake courts heroine's sister, and heroine is determined to stop him. Guess what happens.

Let's start now with the hero, whom I don't get at all. Anthony Bridgerton believes that he will die soon and decides to get a wife and heir. Fair enough. But he wants a wife he doesn't love. Why is this? His parents are happily married. Is it because of the effect of his father's death on his mother? If that is so, I can understand, but the author tells me that his adamance is due to him not wanting any complications in his life.

Seems he believes in true love, but he doesn't want it.

Robot alert, I think to myself (I don't want to think plot contrivance - Christmas is near, after all), and keep reading nonetheless. After all, the initial interaction between Anthony and heroine Kate Sheffield is very good. The dialogues induce chuckles from me.

But then I realize the heroine may as well paste a large label marked in large bright red letters REGENCY HEROINE BY THE BOOK. The sort that readers of Regency adore to bits and declare the only type of realistic heroine ever (Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer say so, that's why!) - the spinster who (a) has a prettier, rather immature younger sister, (b) has no clue of her sexuality or even the fact that she has, you know, between her legs until the hero shows her ("Lookee here...", okay he didn't exactly say that), and (c) who refuses to get married, no, no, no.

It is so hard to root for the hero and heroine when they are so darned familiar and worse, their thought train and whatever lil' baggages they have are so, so, so, SO SO I've read this before. When the hero tries to forget the heroine by cozying up with a singer while the heroine watches with her mouth wide, wide open, I really roll up my eyes and wonder, "How much more clichés will get thrown my way?"

So what's left? Humor? Plenty, although more often than not they do veer into slightly slapstick territory or the concept that a gaping, flabbergasted Kate is funny. Kate and her sister have a pretty nice relationship, although both are poster girls for Familiarity (Kate = sensible one, Edwina = happily slightly ditzy one). Likewise, the Bridgertons make a nice Regency Cosby family with their huggy-wuggy coochie-poochie warmth, although this only makes Anthony's reluctance to love only more inexplicable.

Maybe, maybe if I'm looking for a comfort read, this book will hit all my right spots and earn a better review. But really, if I want comfort read, it'll be so much easier to reread an old favorite than to buy a new book for the same story and same characters all over again.

Rating: 74


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