Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Secret Diary of Miss Miranda Cheever; Julia Quinn

Image found on Harper Collins

TSDoMMC was published in 2007 by Avon and written by Julia Quinn. The setting is Regency England, and the plot is the classic childhood friends turn lovers. It has been a long while since I’ve read anything by Ms. Quinn. I stopped somewhere in the middle of the Bridgerton series, Romancing Mr. Bridgerton, I think, and I haven’t picked her up since then. I remember I was put off by RMB but that’s all. Overall, though, I remember Ms. Quinn as a light touch with a wonderful sense of humor that rings true to her characters. In this, TSDoMMC also rings true. In other ways things didn’t work out so well, unfortunately.

Miranda Cheever has grown up with Olivia Bevelstoke and her family, the Earl and Countess of Rudland. Miranda’s dad is distant and uninvolved with his daughter which behavior worsens when his wife dies. The Bevelstokes easily and happily step in. Miranda develops a huge, huge crush on Olivia’s older brother, called Turner after his courtesy title (as opposed to his actual name, which is Nigel). Turner’s wife has just died while carrying another man’s child. Their marriage has made Turner fiercely unhappy and disillusioned about relationships and women and he can’t bring himself to mourn his wife at all.

Things progress quite rapidly, I must say. Miranda, while always around during her childhood, isn’t actually related to the Bevelstokes. Turner seems to like his brandy of an evening, and well- the situation moves almost immediately into “OMG What am I going to do now?” Olivia and Miranda plot Miranda’s escape to Scotland, aided by Miranda’s father’s habitual obliviousness to his daughter. Olivia figures out that Turner is responsible and tells him where Miranda went. Turner goes up to Scotland and eventually they marry. They adjourn to his estate where her pregnancy proceeds apace and they settle into a reasonably happy routine. Then fate intervenes in the form of a near death childbirth experience. Only when faced with the possiblity of Miranda’s death does Turner accept that he loves her. It reminded me forcefully of Catherine Marshall’s book Christy, wherein Christy must nearly die before the doctor admits his love and tells her.

My biggest problem is that I never felt the author explained why Turner and Miranda loved each other. On her part it seems the reader must accept that the childhood crush explains it all. For Turner it seems that proximity and close relationships among his family and Miranda are to serve as reason enough for him to love her. That and the fact that Miranda and his dead wife are as different as night and day, which Turner realizes. Second problem- Turner’s affection for several nightly brandies goes totally unremarked by Miranda but raised red flags for me. Third problem. The magical ‘virgin’s only time and now I’m pregnant’ fairy comes by. Ms Quinn has been a writer for a long time, I was more than a little surprised to see that particular plotline show up.

Ms. Quinn’s signature sense of humor does shine through in several episodes. I liked the affection between Miranda and Olivia, and Olivia’s loyalty to her even in what could possibly have been a giant scandal for both families. I was glad that Turner wasn’t the kind of man who paints all women with the same brush as that of his dead wife.

Maybe these things aren’t enough to bother you. I finished TSDoMMC and enjoyed it quite a lot. I found I’ve missed Ms. Quinn’s voice and work. Yes, there were parts that didn’t sit quite right with me, but overall TSDoMMCwas worth the time.

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