Everything and the Moon and Brighter than the Sun – Two novels of the Lyndon sisters by Julia Quinn reflecting different types of romance
Everything and the Moon and Brighter Than the Sun – The Lyndon Sisters by Julia Quinn
This pair of novels in Julia Quinn’s usual genre of “Regency” books are very enjoyable- and between the two tales of the Lyndon sisters there is an impressive range of adventure, humour and much more. It would appear that vicar’s daughters at this point live interesting and unexpected lives, far more than their contemporaries doing the official season anyway! Apparently encountering aristocracy in the area is an occupational hazard, with very different outcomes. Engaging, entertaining and exciting, these are the perfect distraction novels for our time, though both young women face unexpected challenges.
Everything and the Moon
In this novel Quinn tackles the possibility of love at first sight – which is quite unusual in her novels. There is also a marked inequality in the relationship – Robert Kemble is the young Earl of Macclesfield when he first encounters a mysterious girl in June 1809. She is also young, and highly amused when she speaks to the young man, as they begin a conversation which will come to typify their relationship, as Robert is more than eager to prolong their time together. Victoria is not so convinced, given that she is quickly aware that this good-looking man is far wealthier and socially aware than she is. Nevertheless, they pursue a series of meetings when their chaperone, Victoria’s younger sister Eleanor, is happy to accept bribes to amuse herself elsewhere. Despite Robert’s fierce attraction to Victoria, they do not consummate their relationship in the idyllic summer days or night time meetings when Robert promises her everything. He approaches his father to inform him that he has found his true love and wishes to marry her, and predictably the older man objects violently. Robert is an excellent planner and arranges an elopement, but as is often the case it does not actually happen. As a result, he storms off to London, and the heartbroken Victoria is left no choice but to flee her father’s house and obtain employment as a governess.
Seven years later Victoria is working as a governess to a small boy called Neville who delights in making her life miserable, as her employer Lady Hollingwood is a social climber who believes her son is entitled to torment any servant. Much to their mutual surprise Robert is a guest at a house party, and he is taken aback at the appearance of a woman who he has never been able to forget. He too teases her, convinced that she was no more than a fortune hunter and that she will now agree to be his mistress.
This book does tackle more than romantic themes, as the role of a governess and her precarious employment is explored. Several writers have shown that the often well educated if penniless women were very vulnerable to the approaches of male members of the household and guests. Quinn does not hold back on showing how they could be the victim of unwanted attentions, and even be attacked. While Robert is obsessed with Victoria even though he has hopelessly misjudged her, he emerges as a more complex hero than often appears in Quinn’s novels.
Brighter than the Sun
The second novel in this set is far more amusing, despite the financial and social differences between Eleanor and another Earl, Charles Wycombe. Their relationship begins by accident, as he falls from a tree almost on top of the rather preoccupied young woman. During their first meeting Charles is “unsober” and Eleanor is unimpressed with the drunken aristocrat who she is forced to assist. Their dialogue is from the first funny and the situations they find themselves in though unusual are often comic. Charles decides quickly that Eleanor could be a potential bride, not because he is deeply in love but because he needs to marry within days to preserve his fortune. While she initially denies any attraction, a combination of desperate circumstances leads to her agreement, and it is after their hasty marriage that their real relationship and adventures begin. Charles’ country house is full of interesting relatives, and it soon seems that someone is causing Ellie problems, which he looks on as potentially dangerous choices on her part.
I really enjoyed the humour in this book, as the characters collide and begin to develop real feelings for each other, against a background of challenges big and small. It is melodramatic, but there are many jokes and genuinely funny encounters between the main characters which are realistic conversations and situations involving chimneys and kitchens. In a way this is a more enjoyable book than its partner, but I would recommend both to anyone who enjoys books which take a less than reverent look at romance in the early nineteenth century.