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REVIEW: The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever by Julia...

Dear Ms Quinn,

The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda CheeverI don’t think I’m alone in having wondered what you would do next after the last Bridgerton novel was released a year ago (and I don’t count the flimsy 2nd Epilogues as really doing anything). “The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever” doesn’t appear as though it will lead to the sequelitis of the Bridgerton novels but it does take us back to some familiar territory you covered in them with a Regency setting, featuring a less than beautiful heroine who writes (though she keeps a diary) and who secretly worships her hero from afar for years. The hero, I will admit, is more of a departure in that he’s darker than most of the Bridgerton heroes while at the same time being not as sympathetic to me.

Miss Miranda Cheever has been BFF with the daughter of a neighboring family, the Bevelstokes. It’s at the eleventh birthday party of Lady Olivia and her twin brother the Honorable Winston Bevelstoke that Miranda finally meets their older brother, Nigel, better known to all (and much preferred by him) as Turner, as in his title Viscount Turner. Twenty year old Turner finds himself amused by this gangly, dark haired friend of his sister and after settling some of her feathers which had been ruffled by another girl at the party, he encourages her to keep a diary so that when she’s older, she can look back on this day and laugh a bit. Miranda takes his advice to heart and her first entry paves the way for the rest of her life when she writes, “Today, I fell in love.”

Ten years later, Turner has fallen in love with and married another woman only to be bitterly and cruelly deceived by her. It is on the evening after her funeral that he first kisses Miranda and begins to break her heart. She still loves him and knows now that she probably always will but after his disastrous marriage, Turner has little desire to marry again. So, resigned, Miranda heads to London with Olivia as the Countess has offered to sponsor Miranda along with her own daughter. She occasionally runs into Turner as their mother ropes him into “doing the pretty” by his sister and continues to love him from afar. Another ghastly encounter ensues on an evening when Turner’s drunk too much and it’s then, after he almost ruins his sister’s BFF, that he decides to avoid her for the rest of the Season. But fate takes a hand and throws the two together at a weekend house party where real ruin occurs. Can Turner’s heart be softened and true love win out or is Miranda doomed to love well but not wisely?

I ended up liking Miranda much better than Turner. She reminds me a great deal of Penelope Featherington as she writes, sort of stays in the background and observes a lot, is best friends with his sister and loved by his family, and has loved Turner for years but never thought she had a chance with him. There are some touching scenes featuring her and she generally has her head on straight. I did wonder at why you had her balk at marrying Turner once he offers for her. Why have Miranda put up any resistance to marrying Turner after losing the baby since he so easily overturns any and all objections and steamrolls his way to what he wants? It just makes her a weaker character in my mind. But you did turn away from the usual claptrap about avoiding or postponing a wedding night until they got to know each other better.

As for Turner, there were times when I could have gladly watched him being tossed into the Thames right before it goes under London Bridge. Early in the book you say that he was raised to be a gentleman and knew how to be one yet he spends much of the book being a complete ass to almost everyone. I know his wife was a shrew from the depths of Hades who treated him horribly but, by God, Miranda wasn’t and he treats her as if she was. After the weekend houseparty he just disappears for 6 weeks. Sticks his head in the sand and grabs any opportunity to duck his responsibilities to her. Then heads off to find her and strong arm her into marriage. What a catch.

As I said earlier, there are some great moments (Miranda and Turner’s coach ride to weekend party), poignant moments (Miranda’s diary entries) but also a lot of wandering around in verbal circles (ton Season parties). Those often seem to be in your books and usually occur in these party scenes. I got very tired during last 100 pages of Miranda feeling sad that Turner won’t say he loves her and of Turner feeling guilty for not being able to say it. Endless rounds of same thing all over again. Blah. And how could nothing be said or hinted at or gossiped about after Turner and Miranda disappear for so long during the scavenger hunt at the weekend party. They’re the only ones missing (or only ones mentioned), would have come back at least slightly disheveled and no one says anything? At all? Not even Turner’s mother or Olivia who always seems to have a lot to say any other time?

Olivia skirts around my dislike fairly closely. More than once I wish Miranda had whacked her with a pillow and yelled at her to stop asking questions and leave me the hell alone! Are English gentlemen really as totally clueless as Miranda’s father is portrayed? I’m so tired of this stereotype I could scream. You never once mention him visiting Miranda after her marriage or making any kind of appearance after the birth of his first grandchild either.
At least Miranda’s childbirth experience is a departure from the usual nonsense you offer up (the epilogue from the last Bridgerton novel was particularly nauseating).

Sigh. Despite the fact that your books are often held up as examples of Regency Lite, I usually adore them. Or at least like them a lot. Not this one, I’m afraid. I’m not sure if you were trying for something different? Darker? Whatever but it was, it didn’t work so well for me. C+

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

25 Comments

  1. Charlene Teglia
    Jun 27, 2007 @ 07:31:38

    I’m intrigued by this one. Must pick it up!

  2. Jayne
    Jun 27, 2007 @ 07:41:37

    I would truly like to see what other peope think of this book. Did I just “not get it?” True it’s darker than the typical Bridgerton book but mainly I thought the hero was not likeable. I could sympathize with him at first but after a while, he lost my vote and wasn’t ever really redeemed.

  3. Jane A.
    Jun 27, 2007 @ 08:42:55

    I think, based on your review, that this is a book that could go either way with me. There are times for me when such assessments are spot on, and other times when the problems that a reviewer has with a book simply don’t materialize for me. I do know that JQ is a good enough writer that it will be worth picking up the book to find out for myself. I’ll try to let you know what I think!

  4. bam
    Jun 27, 2007 @ 09:46:59

    I love Julia Quinn and was waiting for her to do something that wasn’t Bridgerton related. Do any of them pop up in cameo in this book?

    I think I’ll read it anyway.

  5. Jayne
    Jun 27, 2007 @ 10:11:58

    No, no Bridgertons were involved with the writing of this book. It’s a totally separate set of characters.

    BTW Bam, are you going to settle on one avatar or can you just not make up your mind? ;)

  6. Jayne
    Jun 27, 2007 @ 10:18:00

    Jane, I’m sure lots of people will love dark Turner and call me a silly wench for my grade. But que sera, sera.

  7. bam
    Jun 27, 2007 @ 11:17:30

    BTW Bam, are you going to settle on one avatar or can you just not make up your mind?

    No. :)

  8. Jennie
    Jun 27, 2007 @ 13:05:08

    Oh, I’ve just bought this. I love Quinn (in small doses), though I’m afraid this hero is going to piss me off.

  9. colleen gleason
    Jun 27, 2007 @ 13:36:07

    I’ve started reading it and am enjoying it so far–I usually do enjoy JQ books.

    But here’s a tidbit about the book: I attended a JQ signing last summer at an independent bookstore and she did a little talk, and answered some questions.

    When she was asked about her next project (this was, of course, a signing for On the Way to the Wedding), she said she was working on a duo of books to be released back to back about a Duke of Somewhere (which, you’ll note, is promo-ed at the back of Diaries), and that because she was only used to writing one book a year, she was anticipating that Avon would release a book she’d written awhile ago (she didn’t say when, or how long ago)…and I’m guessing that book is The Secret Diaries of Miranda Cheever.

    (And in light of the dedication at the beginning of the book, I’m even more convinced that’s the case.)

    Of course, I know Ms. Quinn sometimes comes around here, so maybe she can confirm or deny whether that’s the case. But I thought it might be interesting to know that this book, in all likelihood, was at least conceived and written in at least some form, before the Bridgerton books.

  10. Jayne
    Jun 27, 2007 @ 14:09:57

    Interesting info Colleen, thanks for sharing. So I guess this isn’t a retread of Bridgerton plots and characters but more a trial outing for what JQ expanded upon in those books. Looks like we have to wait until next year for that duo of Duke books.

  11. colleen gleason
    Jun 27, 2007 @ 14:13:13

    PS Jayne….I love your avatar. :-)

  12. bam
    Jun 27, 2007 @ 17:49:05

    Psst… Colleen, I love your avatar! ;)

  13. Jayne
    Jun 27, 2007 @ 18:42:18

    Coleen’s being a woman of mystery. And Jane A and Charlene…

  14. Colleen Gleason
    Jun 27, 2007 @ 20:20:52

    okay, bam, just because I don’t know how to put the hot guy on my cover as my avatar (or any hot guy) (or any guy at all) (let alone know how to CHANGE them all the time) doesn’t mean you have to make fun of me.

    Jayne’s right. I’m a woman of mystery. Bwah.

  15. Jane A.
    Jun 27, 2007 @ 22:48:56

    Umm, I thought my avatar was particularly clever. Actually, I’m with Colleen, it’d probably take me hours trying to figure out how to come up with something cute. Maybe someday if I’m bored.

  16. anadaslu
    Jun 28, 2007 @ 03:15:30

    I read the excerpt, and sorry to say, it sounded a bit weird. I get that the hero’s much darker than usual JQ, but he just sounded like someone I’d slap silly. I love JQ but I hate the excerpt so much – so should I buy?

  17. Jayne
    Jun 28, 2007 @ 04:18:17

    Anadaslu, I went to JQ’s site and read the first chapter excerpt there. I assume that’s the excerpt to which you’re referring? Anyway, that will give you a good sense of Lady Olivia (and why I didn’t really care for her) and how level headed Miranda usually is. As for Turner, this is about the only time in the book that I feel he has a right to act like an ass. It’s later, when he’s still acting the same way for no reason, that I start to dislike him.

    Colleen, you’re correct about when JQ intially wrote this book: 1994 with extensive rewrites in 2006.

  18. Stephanie
    Jun 28, 2007 @ 08:50:31

    Colleen, you're correct about when JQ intially wrote this book: 1994 with extensive rewrites in 2006

    And that makes so much sense. I’m a new fan of JQ. I basically inhaled the Bridgerton books. When I read this I thought either she had to write this much faster or…. it read like some of her older books where she was still finding her sea legs.

    Turner’s a problem. She sets him up wonderfully at the funeral but then there’s something missing and I don’t think we’re given a good reason for Miranda’s feelings to persist. Although there is the saying… you can’t help who you love.

    My only gripe… I wish I would have known that this was an older book going in. I still would have bought it. As a reader I LOVE to grow with an author. See how their voice evolves, their skill as storytellers grow, etc.

  19. Jayne
    Jun 28, 2007 @ 08:58:13

    Turner's a problem. She sets him up wonderfully at the funeral but then there's something missing and I don't think we're given a good reason for Miranda's feelings to persist. Although there is the saying… you can't help who you love.

    Well, there’s that brief moment when Winston might be making a move to catch Miranda’s heart and, for a nanosecond, it looks like she might let him try. But of course we know that Turner is supposed to be the hero so in reality, I knew that romance was going nowhere fast. By books end the only reason I could think of for Miranda to still be in love with Turner is what you say….a heroine can’t help what her author’s plot tells her to do.

  20. Stephanie
    Jun 28, 2007 @ 09:44:31

    And that scene when Turner is standing between the two. I SOOOO get where she was going with it. I understand why it was supposed to be funny. But I didn’t buy that he had a reason to be jealous that quickly into the story.

    Not when he had already indicated that it wasn’t “desire” that had led him to kiss her.

    But I’m totally nitpicking. JQ is an AMAZING talent and I won’t hesitate to pick her up again. I guess like you I was just a little disappointed. And would have been less so if I knew it was an older book.

  21. anadaslu
    Jun 28, 2007 @ 18:07:22

    Jayne,

    Yes that is the excerpt I read, and now that you have confirmed Turner is one of those heroes who’re just being difficult for the sake of being difficult, I think I’ll borrow this book. I hate that dead ex-spouse is pure evil thing, I can walk on books from here to China for every one that has this sort of villain. Authors, we need new plots!

  22. Phyl
    Jun 30, 2007 @ 16:20:40

    I just finished this and for the first 2/3 of the book I really enjoyed it. There’s a ton of witty dialogue that is trademark JQ. She has a way of making you feel a part of her protagonists’ lives. I loved the diary entries.

    I got very tired during last 100 pages of Miranda feeling sad that Turner won't say he loves her and of Turner feeling guilty for not being able to say it. Endless rounds of same thing all over again. Blah.

    This particular plot device that we run into from time to time never fails to irritate me. It may just be me, but I simply cannot relate to the idea that life is ruined because someone won’t say the 3 Magic Words. If I tell someone I love them, it should be a simple gift, not said in expectation of hearing the words said to me in return. Of course it’s wonderful if the words are returned, but there are lots of ways to express love. Turner was not a to-die-for hero, but he wasn’t awful either. Once he finally married Miranda, he was pretty darn wonderful to her except for saying those 3 words. So suddenly Miranda morphs into this total stranger because he won’t say the words. Everything else he says and does is rendered irrelevant. When I see this in a book it’s as if conflict has been created because it’s time to have conflict.

    I’m glad to know that this was written some time ago. I think JQ’s plots have become much more sophisticated, and so I’m keeping her on my auto-buy list. And because I really, really did enjoy the bulk of the book, I’d be more likely to give it a B-.

    Terrific review, Jayne, and except for the final verdict I quite agree with you.

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