The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy
By: Julia Quinn
Published date: January 27, 2015
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
How hot is it: Steamy, but sparse on the love, if you know what I mean.
Hero: Sir Richard Kenworthy
Heroine: Iris Smythe-Smith
It’s no secret that I think Julia Quinn is just it for Regency, and really all, historical romance. She manages to be witty, insightful, and emotionally complex while writing engaging plots and characters. Besides the quick banter, what I adore about her novels is that nothing super dramatic happens. I mean, there’s certainly drama, but the most interesting parts are when Julia goes super deep with her character motivations; their arcs are always realistic and cathartic. Her heroines, especially, are drawn as women who are self-aware, smart, and not a darn one of them is in need of saving.
Iris is no different. She’s a study in the little things that actually make people interesting. So many romance novels describe their heroines with such broad strokes as to, I guess, appeal to a bigger audience, but I relate so much more to the small, yet very significant personality traits that Julia gives her characters. Iris is one of my favorite characters of late mostly because she can be kind of mean sometimes. Call me crazy, but that just made her more human. I like that she’s sarcastic, has a huge sense of fairness, and just more or less handles her shit. And she doesn’t just handle her shit sometimes, this chick even handles it when her husband tells her that she has to pretend to be pregnant and a whole bunch of other totally messed up stuff that would send most romance heroines into one of those perennially inconvenient, yet somehow also convenient, apoplexies.
Anyway, onto what happens in this book and stuff. Sir Richard needs a wife. Quickly, apparently. Like within a fortnight. And then kind of somehow that two weeks is shortened to a week. The whole why of him needing this wife is cloaked in mystery, but regardless, he’s immediately infatuated with Iris because he believes she’s sensible and understands making sacrifices for family, i.e. playing in the infamously torturous Smythe-Smith musicale. So he totally flirts with her, and then of course, ends up genuinely enjoying her. Then he compromises her! Not like bending her over the settee in a study compromise, just a kiss in front of family members kind of compromise. So it’s marriage for these two, and it happens within a week as well, and then they’re off to Sir Richard’s lands.
Iris mostly takes this compromising in stride. There’s not a whole lot of whining about how she got a bum deal, which she totally did, even though she likes Richard, and I agree that he seems like a fun guy. She knows she can’t change the situation, so she makes the best of it. I overall enjoyed the interplay between Iris and Richard. It seemed sincere and honest, and they respected each other. Once they get to Richard’s house, Iris meets Sir Richard’s sisters, and then stuff just goes downhill from there. The family is in the middle of a huge drama. I mean, big, so interactions are tense and it’s painful to see Iris and Richard’s relationship deteriorate so quickly from something so lovely to watch and read.
I hate to say anything remotely negative about this book, because really, I loved it, but an argument could be made that the ending was somewhat unsatisfying. Not the HEA part, but the whole last fourth of it just felt kind of rushed and incomplete. I kept waiting for Iris to truly get mad and be emotional, but she didn’t. So it’s kind of this conundrum where I was glad that she kept her shit together, but I also totally did not want her to forgive Richard as easily as she did. Even though what needed to be resolved in the end was resolved, it still didn’t feel like enough time for Iris to honestly forgive Richard. It didn’t even happen to me, and obviously, it didn’t actually happen to anyone, I promise I’m not totally crazy, but even I haven’t completely forgiven him. This mostly stems that everything was kind of figured out with a conversation or two, and I guess I just needed a bit more closure. Who knows, I might be nitpicking.
Anyway, even if you don’t like historical romance, even if you don’t think you like romance novels at all, Julia Quinn will change your mind. Reading her first book when I was in college literally introduced me not only to a world outside bland and predictable Harlequin romance novels, but to a smart voice I recognized and appreciated. She writes women I’d like to be friends with, and that’s a gift, indeed!