The Viscount Who Loved Me, by Julia Quinn
As a reader, it is simply baffling why it is that Quinn is considered to be a novelist of any great accomplishment when it comes to Regency romance. Having read a considerable number of her books , one sees the same patterns repeating over and over and over again in the author’s work and they can all be found here. If the author professes a desire to create compelling heroes in which the (assumed) female reader can fall in love with, she has some fatal flaws as a novelist that prevent her works from rising to the first level of romance novels. Quinn is no Jane Austen, not even close. Over and over again her novels fail to reach the heights that their author aspires because of two fundamental flaws that appear to result from some sort of essential deficit of moral sensibility within the author. One of those flaws is that she cannot conceive of a marriage by any means other than a compromising position that forces two people together, and which reflects badly on the character and morals of the men and women involved. The other flaw is the ready and quick focus on coercion as the essential element of tying people together, and frequently involves men coercing women (though sometimes the reverse) for their sexual enjoyment, or the coercion of men by other men so that they marry womenfolk and save them from scandal and disgrace. Here, as is the case in every single other novel I have read by the author, both of those flaws are present, and I have no expectation of seeing a novel by the author that is skillfully written enough to avoid them.
This book is a somewhat sizable one at between 350 and 400 pages, and it consists of the somewhat odd courtship of the Viscount Bridgerton, the oldest of the children, Anthony, with his bride, the oldest daughter of a somewhat impoverished rural family. This particular couple has a somewhat straightforward meet cute in that they initially both strongly dislike each other–Kate thinks that Anthony is out to marry her younger half-sister and is determined to protect her from a rake, reformed or otherwise, and Anthony finds that Kate lacks the sort of good manners that he most appreciates, but naturally they have strong physical chemistry together that leads them to kiss and puts them in a compromising position when Anthony freaks out over a bee sting. This forces the two to marry, and then it is some time later before both of them are able to confront their fears and to have a healthy marriage that always involves a certain amount of competition between the two of them over Pall Mall, one of the sports that helped to bring them together.
A comparison of the author’s lack of achievement with that of Jane Austen’s achievement is worthy of reflection. Austen’s novels do include examples of coercion, as when Colonel Brandon duels Willoughby or where Lydia and Wickham are forced into marriage, but these acts of coercion tend to concentrate outside of the main couples, whose relationships are often gradually developed through writing, through wit, and through the development of genuine love and affection and a strong sense of mutual respect and admiration. One of the reasons that Quinn’s novels tend to linger after the marriage in a way that Austen’s do not is because by the time that two main Austen characters marry, the reader can see the love and respect that they have for each other and may figure that this usually bodes well for happiness afterwards. In Quinn’s novels, characters are forced to marry to save their reputations and must find out they love each other after having committed to each other in marriage, which it itself contracted after having explored sexual intimacy with each other, which is something that tends to make the morally sensitive reader view the people of these novels and their creator as beings lacking in strong virtue and character.
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