Brighter than the Sun, by Julia Quinn

This is one of Ms. Quinn’s earlier works; it was published quite a long time before Mr. Cavendish, I Presume? and The Lost Duke of Wyndham I reviewed a few weeks ago. It’s actually a sequel to Everything and the Moon, featuring a Miss Victoria Lyndon and the Earl of Macclesfield. Ms. Quinn is an Ivy League graduate; her husband seems to find her career as a best-selling romance novelist both cool and highly amusing, evidenced by his random suggestions for titles. Her main series of books was the eight-volume Bridgerton series; I strongly suspect I can not only name the titles for each volume but the main Bridgerton involved, but I don’t think I’ll try.*

This is, as the introductory note says, Julia Quinn’s marriage-of-convenience story. Two weeks before his time runs out, Charles, Earl of Billingsley, falls out of a tree onto Miss Ellie Lyndon, the sister of Miss Victoria Lyndon and a vicar’s daughter. Due to some vague attraction and the determination that she might not be so bad to be married to, he explains the situation — if he doesn’t marry in the next two weeks, he loses all of the monetary portion of his inheritance. Ellie understands this, being that she’s in her own monetary difficulties — she’s been investing her pocket money and cannot get to it. (Also, there’s an Evil Stepmother involved.) So they have a go of it. Will it work?

Jane at Dear Author did a pretty good job of explaining why this plot is absolute bunk, which I can’t find, but I’ll send her an email and update this if I do. She’s a lawyer, and should know. However, the whole must-marry-to-save-inheritance, generally due to some weird clause in a father’s will, is a pretty common one — and for good reason. It’s one of the few ways to force a marriage of convenience in this particular society. (Although it can be said that most marriages during the time were marriages of convenience, I’m not going to make that argument today.) And, of course, marriage-of-convenience plots are really a lot of fun and quite compelling, despite the essential disconnect between what can happen and what did happen, and this one is no exception.

Charles isn’t quite as attractive a hero as his friend the Earl of Macclesfield (Robert); however, that may be my own personal biases showing. Charles is a bit of a playboy; as a matter of fact, that precise piece of information causes one of the misunderstandings in the course of their story. The Earl of Macclesfield is (while undoubtedly also a rake; this is Regency England, after all) a bit of a nerd, as well, and seems more genuine to me. Charles, though, has more of a sense of humor, and the fact that he loves Ellie does sneak up on him in quite a bewildering and appealing fashion.

Ellie is stubborn and really spends a lot of the book having people not believe in her. I found frustrating, a bit, but pretty realistic, given the circumstances. Ellie’s lack of power frustrates her to no end, and I liked seeing her struggle, even though I wanted the best for her and wanted her to find her happy ending. All in all, it’s really quite a delightful little tale. It’s not particularly possessed of any sort of deep insights, or particularly deep currents of emotion, but I wouldn’t say that detracts from its eminent readability or a reader’s enjoyment. The characters are sweet; the tale is pleasant, and I believe it’s exactly what it purports to be. 4/5 stars.

*I tried. I forgot Colin Bridgerton and Penelope’s volume’s title (which turns out to be Romancing Mr. Bridgerton). Also, I can’t remember Daphne Bridgeron’s husband’s name. Other than those, though, I was spot-on. *sigh* Other than that, I got ’em all. Sad, huh?

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