Thursday, 30 December 2010

The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever by Julia Quinn

GENRE: historical romance

At the age of ten, Miranda Cheever showed no signs of Great Beauty. And even at ten, Miranda learned to accept the expectations society held for her—until the afternoon when Nigel Bevelstoke, the handsome and dashing Viscount Turner, solemnly kissed her hand and promised her that one day she would grow into herself, that one day she would be as beautiful as she already was smart. And even at ten, Miranda knew she would love him forever. But the years that followed were as cruel to Turner as they were kind to Miranda. She is as intriguing as the viscount boldly predicted on that memorable day—while he is a lonely, bitter man, crushed by a devastating loss. But Miranda has never forgotten the truth she set down on paper all those years earlier—and she will not allow the love that is her destiny to slip lightly through her fingers.

When she was ten, Miranda Cheever fell in love with her best friend’s oldest brother Nigel, Viscount Turner. Now that she is nineteen, Turner has changed considerably. His wife turned him into a bitter, sarcastic man and at her funeral, he is a happy widower, surprising Miranda. Yet now, she can admire him without guilt, as he is once more a single man. Miranda is still very much in love with him. And so, Miranda’s love story begins.

This was a fun and sweet read, yet quite slow and boring at times. The whole focus of the story was on the romance developing between Miranda and Turner and nothing else happened, really. No surprising twists, no interesting revelations, no tension. Somehow, the novel lacked life.

Miranda is a lovely heroine. She is intelligent, warm and kind, yet also determined and proud. I became disappointed when she tossed her pride away for Turner. He behaved very badly towards her on several occasions and even disappeared after a passionate night, yet she allowed herself to be persuaded into forgiving him because he can touch her like no other man can. I do no respect a heroine who, although pretending to be strong, tough and stubborn, melts as soon as her lover so much as brushes his fingers against her skin. I don’t care much for spineless women. Turner, although charming and rightfully bitter, is not a hero I can admire, I’m afraid. He treats Miranda poorly, in a patronizing and even somewhat condescending way, yet he is forgiven his behaviour because he had a terrible experience with his first marriage. Which means, he doesn’t learn from his own experience – he hurts Miranda the same way his wife did.

A funny thing about Miranda that I have to point it is that, although she resembles a bluestocking (I like them), she was clueless as to who Mary Wollstonecraft was. Perhaps, that was why Turner could turn her so easily (pun not really intended).

I must also confess that I am not a fan of “childhood sweethearts”. Miranda fell in love with Turner when he was nineteen and she was ten. Ten years later, he is a completely different man, due to his unhappy experience. Technically speaking, she is in love with his version of ten years ago, which is why childhood romances don’t work for me. They are a form of nostalgia; we love something or someone that no longer exists. People change when growing into adults. Perhaps I am a nit-picker, but this is another aspect of the story I did not enjoy.

I have to point out that I love historical romances, but I need strong characters and a good story with some lovely twists tossed in. The characters of The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever were almost stock romance characters and although historical romances follow a certain pattern, it does not mean they cannot vary. The story is a bit mediocre and does not offer anything startling.

However, although I know I probably sounded quite negative in my review of this book, this was still a sweet and enjoyable read and there were certain parts that stood out and showed potential. A lover of historical romances should enjoy this novel.



Blodeuedd said...

I have it since I really enjoyed book 2...but will see, cos I did enjoy 3/4 of book 2 but the rest, not so much

Unknown said...

Considering how much you dislike certain elements of the heroine's characterisation, I think you are most kind offering three stars. I admire you for finishing it when it sounds like you really didn't enjoy the concept.

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

@Becky: I'm a stubborn reader.:) I did always give up on it, though, I admit that.

Jan von Harz said...

I would not have liked this book based on all the different aspects you criticized. Like you, I want my females strong and true to themselves, and I doubt the historical aspects of this book could have save this one for me. Great review!

Jo K said...

Reading the summary I thought this must be a great book, but is not so good obviously. It sounds as if it has a promising potential which is not developed in the right direction. Like you, I want some twists and some real, believable reasons for love. I also don't like weak female characters who are in love with their image of a person as I would say Miranda is.

Svea Love said...

I have had this one on my shelf for a while; maybe I will wait a bit longer to pick it up. I will pick up a Quinn book when I need a light read and, since her books are that way, I can usually finish one in a day... hehe that helps me think I am a fast reader! I hope the next book you read of hers is a bit more intriguing :)

The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

I agree with you-this book was so lacking. I loved most of the Bridgerton series and I was sorely disappointed in this one. However I did mostly like the second book What Happens in London although I hated the third book (Ten Things I Love About You)-the Bevelstoke series was uneven to say the least!