Julia Quinn writes wonderfully witty, sexy books that work best when there isn’t a plot, or a traditional “villain.” That’s why Splendid is one of my all-time keepers. That’s why I liked Dancing at Midnight less than Splendid, and why I like Minx better than Dancing at Midnight.
Minx is the delightful love story of hoydenish “Henry” (Henrietta) Barrett and handsome, wealthy Dunford (sorry, he is known only as “Dunford” throughout much of Quinn’s trilogy, and that’s how I see him), who has inherited a landed title in Cornwall. Henry has overseen the estate since she was 14, and, six years later, is doing such a fine job she doesn’t want a foppish dandy taking her beloved Stannage Park away from her.
But Dunford is no fop. Readers of Quinn’s earlier books already know he is an unconventional man (a friend of women) of great humor, but he really comes into his own in this story. He is, in a word, a babe. And a rake. Although Henry tries to scare him off the land in some hilarious antics, her straight-forward nature wins him over. Then he wins her over and they become friends, albeit friends who are hot for one another.
Dunford and Henry share a few kisses and a good deal of friendship until he discovers he has been named her guardian. Then he turns into a fuss-pot overnight. He decides to take her to London for polishing and puts her in the marriage mart. But Henry doesn’t want to go. As a young woman who is more comfortable in breeches than dresses, she is not at all comfortable in her femininity. And Dunford? He’s angry because he’s now guardian to someone about whom he is having lewd and lascivious thoughts.
Thank goodness Henry ends up in the care of Belle, John, Alex, Emma, and Belle’s mother, Lady Caroline. They know these two kids belong together and have lots of fun at Dunford’s expense. Dunford turns into a jealous ogre as his Henry becomes a sensation during her season. Even though he’s so hot and bothered he can barely stand in front of the furniture, she is clueless as to his true feelings as her insecurity abuts his anger again and again.
Dunford finally realizes what a dunce he’s been and they are engaged to be married. They share some marvelous intimate moments while their friends continue the witty repartee that creates such a joyous ambiance for most of the book. Unfortunately, a rather bitchy young thing, who for no other reason than she can, decides to throw a wrench in the works. Because for Henry, being a woman, and a desirable one at that, is so new to her, she fails to trust in Dunford’s love for her and precipitates a crisis that almost destroys their chance at happiness.
I was a bit perturbed that this portion of the book is as long as it is. As I said, I enjoy Julia Quinn’s writing best when it is light, funny, and sexy. Although she does handle the darker moments much better in this book than in her last, I felt the tone of this section was out of kilter with the rest of the story.
Minx serves up some very clever dialogue and secondary characters you will come to love (if you haven’t already from her previous books). It is not necessary for you to have read either of the books that came before this one, but, if you like Minx, you are going to want to. This author writes strong women. She also writes strong men who know when they’ve been bested by love. She also writes about friendship, between women, between men, and between men and women, better than most authors in the genre.
Although at times Henry and Dunford shared moments that I didn’t quite get, they made a marvelous couple. I enjoyed the sexual tension that built up throughout the story, and enjoyed their growing friendship. I was reminded of Julie Garwood’s Castles when reading this author’s wittily crafted scenes of Dunford’s jealousy – readers will be gleeful knowing Dunford is doomed to fail in his role as guardian to marry off his “Incomparable.”
What prevents this book from being as splendid as Splendid is the length of the dark portion of the book, when Henry and Dunford turn ugly and hurtful toward each other. Perhaps the author was trying out some new muscles, or had to meet a word count. While she did evoke some tears, I wish she hadn’t because I felt a bit manipulated.
I appreciate this author’s trying to add an additional layer of depth to her writing. In my opinion, she could have achieved that depth without going to the extremes she went to. Still, I strongly recommend this book for those who love delightful dialogue, likable characters, friendship, and delicious romance.