Throwback Thursday: Splendid by Julia Quinn

Well, we can’t put Throwback Thursday in a corner with only books that are 100+ years old—we need some more recent “throwbacks” as well. Am I a little depressed that books from the ‘90s can be considered throwbacks? Oh yeah, but here we are in 2024 and I guess I’m getting old. So, here goes with Julia Quinn’s first novel, Splendid, published in 1995.

How many JQ novels have you read? Would you believe I’ve real them ALL (I think)? Now, Splendid probably isn’t the winner of her 30+ publications, but it’s a lot of fun and pretty amazing for a debut (did she publish before this? Not sure).

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Splendid Sparks Fly When a Feisty American Heiress Matches Wits With an Arrogant and Sexy Duke…

In Splendid, Emma Dunster’s in London to stay with her titled relatives and have some fun with the Season before returning to New York. Not one to sit around during debut ball preparations, she sneaks out of her family’s house dressed as a maid and promptly launches herself in front of an out-of-control carriage to save a little boy. But not just any little boy.

Alexander Ridgely, Duke of Ashbourne and confirmed bachelor (zero interest in money-and-title-grubbing debutantes), can hardly believe his eyes when a beautiful servant saves his nephew and takes a hard hit from the carriage. Her beauty, intelligence, and courage strike him instantly, but he knows what a spectacular scandal it would cause if he went after her. Until he finds out who she is…. Still, neither has any intention of marrying and it’s an uphill battle to be sure.

Loved Emma—smart, passionate, independent, fiery, loyal—so many incredible qualities. Also mix in headstrong and not always making great decisions. I liked Alex too—he’s never been in love and fights it hard, but once he’s in, he’s in all the way. Dashing, smart, maybe just a little arrogant and hotheaded, but a good guy. I was definitely swooning over him by the end.

Splendid’s plot was fun, though it wasn’t Julia Quinn’s strongest and it had more than enough clichés. Still, the banter and conversations between Alex and Emma sizzled, the attraction blazed from the start, the side characters were well-rounded and set up for future books, and the characters strayed from their normal for love, even in spite of themselves.

The third-act obstacle/breakup annoyed me, as the Julia Quinn breakups often do. I suppose it was somewhat consistent with the characters, but it was just another breakup where the characters act like 13-year-olds and maybe just two minutes of conversation would have resolved the issue. I did enjoy the actual resolution, though, so there’s that

I’ve read the Splendid print version and listened to the audio—I highly recommend the print. The audio narrator had a very high-pitched voice and strange inflections—she was fine but the voice just wasn’t for me.

P.S. The second in the series, Dancing at Midnight, was pretty good too. I wanted to love the third in the Splendid series, Minx, as the hero appears in other Julia Quinn books and I was so ready for his story (I did not read all the JQ books in publishing order). It had so much potential, but half the book was a ridiculous miscommunication that could have been resolved with one mature conversation. Oh well.

Rating: 3.5
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: American Heiress/English Duke, Disguise/Secret Identity, Opposed to Marriage
Pair With: Regency Wines