Desert Isle Keeper
I’m not a person who rereads books very often. With a TBR pile the size of Texas, who has the time? But I’ve read Amanda Quick’s Rendezvous at least four times. Each time I read it, I like it more. I’ve read all of her other books as well, and I’ve liked them all to varying degrees. But for me, Rendezvous is the stand-out. It’s Amanda Quick at her best.
The plot is classic. The hero, a stuffy scholar of antiquities, is looking for a wife. He supposedly has a list of candidates, and only the most virtuous, perfectly behaved women are on it. Augusta Ballinger assumes she is not on it, because she’s definitely an Original. She cares little for propriety, and is somewhat notorious because she founded Pompeia’s, a club exclusively for women which mimics the atmosphere of gentleman’s clubs like Whites.
What Augusta doesn’t know is that Harry is a close friend of Sally Arbuthnot, the proprietress of Pompeia’s. Sally encouraged Harry to put Augusta at the top of his list of prospective brides, and he intends to make her his wife. Augusta also doesn’t know that Harry’s life is a little more exciting than most people think – during the Napoleonic Wars he was a master spy.
Harry and Augusta appear to be complete opposites, but their attraction to each other – and a love scene in a carriage – drives Harry to get a special license. Once they are married they begin to work out their differences, and there are plenty of fireworks. Augusta thinks Harry is too autocratic and set in his ways. He thinks she is too reckless. Then Harry finds out about the mysterious death of Augusta’s brother Richard, which had happened two years previously. He believes that Richard may have been a spy for the French. At first Augusta is offended that Harry would even think her brother might have been a traitor, and Harry that she is more loyal to Richard than she is to him. But soon they work out their differences and decide to work together to discover the identity of her brother’s killer. In the process, they discover the identity of a spy, and come to appreciate their love for each other.
Several factors combine to make this a fantastic read. One of the most important is the language. When I reread Rendezvous this time around, one of the first things I noticed was the way the characters spoke. Any time you pick up an Amanda Quick book, you can be sure you’ll hear the heroine gasp, “How dare you, sir!” at least once. She’s also likely to say “I vow!” when she’s surprised. The quaint way in which the characters communicate adds to the romance, and makes for some excellent banter. When we first see Harry and Augusta together, they are in the host’s library at a house party, where Augusta has come to retrieve a journal for a friend. When Harry enters the library, he surprises Augusta by saying: “Good evening, Miss Ballinger. I trust you have found something edifying to read down there behind Enfield’s desk? But surely the light is rather poor in that location.”
Hardly missing a beat, Augusta replies that she came to the library looking for a book, then dropped her hat pin, which landed in the keyhole in Enfield’s desk! This scene sets the tone for all of the enjoyable banter which is to follow.
And all of the characters are just plain fun. Augusta is brimming with life. She repeatedly reminds Harry that she is a Northumberland Ballinger, which is the dashing but reckless side of the family. And while she is fiercely loyal to Harry, she teases him all the time. She’s always funny. Harry is no slouch either. He’s an intellectual and a spy – an irresistible combination. The secondary characters are just as good. Harry’s friend Peter Sheldrake pursues Augusta’s virtuous cousin Claudia, and their side-romance is so interesting that you can’t help wishing they had a book of their own.
I’ll be the first to admit that Amanda Quick’s books share certain similarities. The first one you read is often your favorite, and that’s certainly true in my case. But her books are big comfort reads for me; there is something to be said for knowing exactly what you will get. If you are one of the few who has never tried her books, I urge you to start with Rendezvous. With its intelligent, witty wonderful characters, it is romance at it’s finest.