Wednesday, 6 June 2012

63. "A Night Like This" by Julia Quinn

Page count: 400 pages
Date begun: May 30th, 2012
Date finished: May 31st, 2012

Shortly after becoming the Earl of Winstead, Daniel Smythe-Smith rather foolishly engaged in a drunken bout of cards, where one of his close friends accused him of cheating, and challenged him to a duel. Drunk and foolish, Daniel slipped when attempting to fire his weapon away from his friend Hugh, but instead shot him in the leg, nearly killing him. Hugh's powerful father threatens to kill Daniel over what he did to his son, and Daniel has to spend years dodging assassins on the Continent.

When his friend finally promises that it's safe to return, Daniel arrives back just in time for his family's infamous annual musicale (barely any of the Smythe-Smith women who take part every year can play the instruments they perform on, and most are completely unaware of the dreadful racket they make). This year, however, one of the more astute ladies has pulled out at the last minute, feigning illness, forcing Miss Anne Wynter, the family's governess to step in and play the piano. Daniel notices her from back stage, and is instantly smitten with her, to the point that he tracks her down after the concert and kisses her before he even knows who she is.

Anne Wynter is an excellent governess, and knows that she is incredibly lucky to be employed by a kind lady, with clever, if spirited daughters. She knows that not all women would be happy employing a beautiful woman of unknown origins in their household, so while she's equally attracted to Daniel, and flattered by his attention, she knows that nothing can come of his advances, and hopes he will keep his distance. To complicate matters further, Anne is not who she pretends to be, and knows that if her true identity and past were revealed, at best, she would find herself unemployed and friendless, with no references to her name, at worst, involved in a full-blown scandal.

Hence, while she sees that Daniel is a good man, who will loyally stand by his family, is good to his servants and quite happy to play with his young female cousins, she tries to dissuade him from spending time with her. Daniel has other plans, however, and keeps finding ways to spend time with Miss Wynter and the young ladies who are her charges.

As well as the story of how Daniel and Anne fall in love (which is told with Quinn's trademark lightness and wit), there's a subplot where someone is clearly trying to cause harm to one or both of the couple. Is it Hugh's crazy nobleman father who's reneged on his promise to leave Daniel alone? Is it someone from Anne's past, finally having discovered her new identity and location, bent on revenge? This part of the story was supposed to infuse the story with added complications and a sense of danger, but just seemed a bit far fetched to me. I did like the few appearances we got from Daniel's friend Hugh, though, and hope he gets to be the hero of his own romance in the future. Like Just Like Heaven (the previous book in the Smythe-Smith series, about Daniel's sister, Lady Honoria and his best friend, Marcus), this is fluffy and light hearted, but can't compare to the best of Quinn's novels.

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