The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband by Julia Quinn

July 31, 2017
Knock, Knock. Who's there? ah...Who's there?

I've always liked Julia Quinn. I usually can depend on her writing to make me smile or even sometimes make me laugh out loud. I usually go to her when I want to relax. But, for some reason I had a hard time staying with this book. I started it a number of times before I was actually able to make it all the way through. This was partly due to the fact that there was an amnesia theme, and I’m not terribly fond of forgetful heroes. I've read many romances where there is memory loss, and I find that timing plays an extremely important part when the romance centers on the amnesia theme. Memory loss in a romance novel always involves a certain amount of deceit on someone’s part, so the writing needs to be pretty special. If the writing is just a little off, I am left disillusioned with the trickster. So, when I am faced with a storyline which has amnesia as the main component I start my count-down. Enough about me, on to the book.

By the way, this story takes place in the United States during the Revolutionary War, so there is a little bit of a different feel about it. As the story begins we have a wounded Edward Rokesby waking up to the voices of his doctor and Edward's wife. The problem is that Edward doesn't remember his wife, Cecilia. And, there is a good reason for that - she's not really his wife. Now, Cecilia has a very good reason for claiming to be Edward's wife. You see, her brother Thomas served in the army with Edward, in fact Edward and Thomas were close friends and bunk mates. Cecilia received a letter stating that Thomas had been injured and she rushed across the ocean to be with him. However, she can't find him and there isn't anyone in the military who seems to be willing to help her. They are all rather contemptuous of her. When she learns her brother's friend is in the hospital she goes to help, but is turned away. But Cecilia has reached her boiling point and she blurts out that she is Edwards’ wife. They allow her in. So a confused Edward is even more confused because he doesn't remember having a wife. He does remember Cecilia. You see he and Cecilia were corresponding.

I liked the corresponding part of the story. It all begins gradually. Cecilia and Thomas write back and forth, eventually Thomas starts adding little lines about his friend Edward. As time progresses Edward and Cecilia start to write notes back and forth to each other. A friendship of sorts blossoms between the two characters. Even though they don't know it (because what romance couple does), they have fallen in love with each other through the letters. That was a problem for me. As much as I liked the growing affection in the letters, for most of the story they are in a different reality. That reality is based on Cecilia's lies - even though those lies were understandable in the beginning of the story. Yes, I can understand Cecilia's reason for claiming she is Edward's wife. But as the story progresses and she sees how important her telling the truth could be to Edward's recovery, she still maintains the lie. That is where timing comes into play.

There was an ample amount of time for Cecilia to fess up, but she doesn't. Even when she sees that her claims are detrimental to his health she doesn't speak. In fact, she is not the one who spills the beans - his memory comes back on its own. He is a tad bit upset. Then he starts playing games with her, which thankfully didn't go on for too long. In the end, I was not enchanted with either Edward or Cecilia. I could have been enchanted, because the letters were great.

Then we have a problem with dead Thomas. Ms. Quinn did a wonderful job writing about a character we only meet through letters and reminisces. The problem was we find out he's dead after we/I have become attached to him - well, that was a bummer. He was a funny, charming character and he doesn't make it through the book. Pffffffff.

I was disappointed in The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband. For me it lacks the charm and fun of some of Ms. Quinn’s other works. The title also indicates to me that it is a light-hearted romance, which it wasn’t. But the biggest problem I had was with Cecilia and her lies. She had a good reason for keeping her secrets in the beginning, but her continual lie upon lie made her into a weak heroine.  This was not one of Ms. Quinn’s better attempts.

Time/Place: Georgian/Revolutionary War - America
Sensuality: Warm


James Jumper said...

My friend said you wrote about Romans. I don't see any. Do you also talk about Vikings? I like them, too.

SidneyKay said...

James - What an interesting question. I'd have to say that the romance books I read I pick because of the author - mostly. Most of my authors write in the 1800 time period. I have read some viking romances by Sandra Hill and Maura Segar. Ms. Segar I liked a lot. There is also Kinley MacKregor aka Sherrilyn Kenyon who may have dabbled in viking romance stories. A lot of her books are connected and I found them hard to keep track of. She also has a very busy website. But mostly if I go back to what I call the "gritty" time it would have to be romances from the Medieval time period, and there just aren't that many romance authors who write in that period anymore. Now, If you are looking for fiction viking books I would have to say that Bernard Cornwell's Last Kingdom series is excellent. As far as Roman romance books, I can only recall one and that was by Virginia Henley (not very good). But if it's Roman fiction books there is Robert Graves' wonderful I Claudius and Claudius the God. More recently SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard.