Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-123083-7
Historical Romance, 2007
Avon has always been, er, famous for its reputation of churning out historical romances that follow the same formula very closely. Sure, there are some notable exceptions, but for the most part, a veteran of such romances can usually predict how the entire story would go after reading just the first three chapters. Julia Quinn’s The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever is not going to dispel this notion. It is, in fact, one of the most complete collection of historical romance clichés around.
Ever since she was ten, Miranda Cheever is in love with Nigel Bevelstoke. Now, at 19, she is ready to make her debut in London, although like a proper Regency-era heroine, she’s more about books, caring for her father, and mooning after Nigel, who is never far from her thoughts. Her father is a scholar who criminally neglects his daughter, although he is never made to account for his neglect because such behavior is the standard acceptable contrivance to allow the heroine to run around without parental supervision.
Our hero, now the Viscount Turner, married some woman he thought he loved, only to discover that the child she was carrying (the reason they got shackled in the first place) wasn’t even his. She miscarried the child, a surprising show of restraint on Ms Quinn’s part as the silent traumatized little girl plot device is never out of fashion when it comes to showcasing the heroine’s innate maternal instincts. Turner spends almost the whole book brooding about how his wife, now dead, betrayed him and hurt his feelings, so he would never love again – ever – although he wants to examine Miranda’s bloomers up close but when he does, there’s a funny feeling in his heart so oh god, is this love? But he’s sure love doesn’t exist so he must behave like a self-absorbed ass now and then until he decides that he loves Miranda, no wait, now he’s haunted by memories of betrayal so love is dead, no, no, love is dead but he really wants Miranda so zzzzzzz…
Miranda is innocent and chaste and pure, although she doesn’t mind kissing and making out with Turner until she realizes that he doesn’t love her like she thinks he does so oh god, he’s so mean but he’s so hot and maybe her love will change him, but oh, she’s hurt by his actions even as she keeps hanging on because he’s so hot and his kisses are hotter oh where is her father, there he is, anyway, look, Turner now wants to marry her but she’s sure that he’s not really in love with her so, even when she’s better off marrying him now that her ship has sailed and hit the iceberg, she will never marry him until, oh wait, everyone keeps telling her that Turner really loves her, which is why he’s an ass, and it’s all the fault of that evil dead cartoon wife from hell anyway, besides, she really loves him so much and he is so, so hot and zzzzzz…
The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever is that story, with that hero and that heroine going through the motions when it comes to that conflict. It’s that book, and, frankly, I’m that bored. Still, let’s look at the bright side: this one is great reference material for anyone who wants to write like an Avon historical romance author.