|It is always exciting to see a Julia Quinn tale in my bag of books to review. I have enjoyed all of her stories and often compare other authors who want to write like her – with a bit of whimsy, lightheartedness, a lot of dialogue and relationship building between characters and plots filled with the interplay between men and women. Ten Things I Love About You has many of those characteristics. But I found myself questioning situations and wondering if I hadn’t read something like this before. Including this one, the last three Quinn books I have read have not received more than three hearts, which makes me fear that while enjoyable, Quinn may be losing her magic for me.
Sebastian Grey is related to the characters from What Happens in London and Olivia and Harry play a role in his romance. Sebastian is the nephew to the Earl of Newbury and with the death of the Earl’s son, is the heir presumptive. But the Earl always hated Sebastian’s father and hence, hates Sebastian too. Despite being quite elderly, the Earl is determined to marry and have a son just to spite Sebastian. Sebastian really doesn’t care. He is carefree and quite the ladies man, especially those ladies who are already married and looking for affairs. He also has an income, even though no one knows quite how he makes his money or even realizes he has as much money as he does. In fact, he is the author of gothic romance novels, writing under the name of Sarah Gorely. All the ladies love his books, with the exception of Olivia, and he is delighted that he has a secret from the ton.
Annabel Winslow is a poor granddaughter to Lord and Lady Vickers, who are contemporaries of the Earl of Newby and are pushing his possible marriage to Annabel. Annabel has a nice-sized bosom and wide hips, perfect for childbearing, or so she is told by the less-than-romantic Earl. He has promised to provide funding for her widowed mother and seven siblings (three of whom are in school at Eton) if she will marry and provide him with an heir. Her grandmother is a bit crazy and often tells her to suck it up, deal with his advances, spit out the child and then move on to other men who are more appealing. Annabel is uncertain she can do any of that but is fearful that her family will be destitute unless she marries someone who can support all of them.
Sebastian meets Annabel under the moonlight at a ball when Annabel is hiding from the Earl after he groped her and Sebastian has just completed a quick coupling with a delightful widow. They share a witty and stimulating conversation and even a kiss. Sebastian has no clue who Annabel is, knowing only that she is an innocent, thus off limits and yet deeply intriguing. Annabel learns his identity just before they part and is appalled that she is attracted to the man she knows her probable husband-to-be hates.
Circumstances occur that allow them to get to know each other, and at times some highly convenient situations thrust them into interactions. Olivia befriends Annabel, thus helping them see each other. When they all three (Annabel, Sebastian and the Earl) end up at a house party, the reader knows that the fireworks are about to start and there will be a resolution.
Sebastian was a debonair and mainly carefree hero, who had some leftover war issues (which seems to be the trendy thing these days) but mostly he was charming and caring and able to bond with Annabel, even if he didn’t really try to understand her situation. Annabel was a bit of a martyr and quite naïve, but overall I enjoyed her and found her to be fun and willing to step out on a limb. Neither was the perfect hero or heroine, but both were appealing and acceptable.
Though I was drawn into the story with fun and laughter while reading it, in the background was a sense that I had read this before and that it was nothing new. It was standard Quinn and that is how she writes. Fans will find all they normally do and yet, may be just a tad disappointed. When a tale leaves me with that wishy-washy feeling, it can only get three hearts. Ten Things I Love About You left me with that feeling.