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.    

The Lost Duke of Wyndham and Mr Cavendish, I Presume by Julia Quinn – A pair of books which examine a tricky situation for The Two Dukes of Wyndham

The Lost Duke of Wyndham and Mr Cavendish I Presume – The Two Dukes of Wyndham by Julia Quinn

While most people with a passing interest in historical romance will have heard of Bridgerton series of books on which the famous television series is based, Julia Quinn has also produced other series of books set in the early 1800s, sometimes called Regency romances. This series of two novels compliment each other that they represent different views and perspectives of the same events, reflecting the personalities of the four main characters. It works so well because while each book can be read alone, it also reflects a genuinely funny and fascinating picture of how the characters feel about the events, the twists of the plot, and how, most significantly, they feel about each other – and a daunting Dowager Duchess of Wyndham.

The Lost Duke of Wyndham

The novel begins with an introduction to Grace. She has been the companion of the dowager for five long years, and reflects that while her employer is not actually evil, she is always full of the facts that she was “born the daughter of a duke, she had married a duke, and then given birth to another”. This, and the fact that she has ruled one of the ancestral homes of the Wyndhams for many years, being the grandmother of the present unmarried Duke, she is a demanding and exacting person to spend time with, let alone work for every day. Yet, Grace reasons, she did save her when both her parents died unexpectedly and gave her a home and living. How hard she works for it, and how she is the subject of the ceaseless and sometimes ridiculous demands of the older woman, not only Grace knows. Thomas, the present Duke, and a sort of friend has observed it, as well as Elizabeth and Amelia, local friends who have known Grace for many years. The normal run of things is interrupted when Grace and the dowager encounter a highwayman who holds up their coach. While Grace is suddenly aware of the young man’s humour and good looks, the dowager is transfixed by the man’s appearance, and later makes unrealistic demands to move a huge painting to confirm her suspicions, which becomes a farce in its own right.

The mysterious highwayman is in fact Jack Audley, late of the army, and with something of a past. He is irresistibly charming, and knows it, which for Grace is a revelation. When he is virtually kidnapped by the dowager and thrown into Grace’s company the two realise that there is a definite attraction, which Jack is certainly keen to act on. The dowager has other plans however, as she suddenly announces that Jack is in fact her grandson who was previously unknown, and the family timeline means that if his legitimacy is proved, he will immediately take Thomas’ place as the Duke. Jack is desperately keen that this will not come to pass for his own reasons, while Grace realises that if he is the Duke, there is no possibility of her ever marrying him, and escaping from the frustrating life of companion.

There is certainly a lot of humour in this book, as Jack covers any insecurity he may feel with jokes and comments that are genuinely funny. The dowager is also the subject of many funny comments, even when her behaviour is unrealistically demanding and possibly slightly sinister. Grace is falling in love, Jack feels a whole new attraction to her, but there is so much against them.

Mr Cavendish, I Presume

Amelia, second daughter of the Willoughby family, knows that she was promised to marry the Thomas, Duke of Wyndham from her first months. Not that he seems to be in any hurry; he treats her with the distant respect due to a future bride but with little interest and no sense of attraction. Frustrated by his probable formulaic public response to her at the Lincolnshire Dance and Assembly when he will spend a mere dance with her before departing for more enticing amusements, she decides to rebel a little, to challenge his expectations of meekness and manners. Both are surprised that when the usual progress of the evening is disturbed, they begin to see each other in a new light, one in which there may actually be a genuine attraction.

The focus then shifts to Thomas and his well-schooled behaviour. Used to being the most important person in nearly any room by virtue of his title, he has always felt he must maintain his position by steady hard work on organising his estates and considerable wealth for everyone’s good. His only disturbance is his extremely annoying grandmother who always seeks to dominate his main home and bully Grace. Thomas knows that he should eventually marry Amelia, who is pleasant and charming enough, but until the night of the Assembly has never evoked his real interest. When the appearance of Jack and his grandmother’s machinations disturb his consciousness, he is forced to reassess everything, including his very life as the Duke. He experiences quite an overwhelming reaction, and his somewhat drunken state brings him into surprising contact with Amelia, who shows great resource. As he considers that she is very desirable after all, it appears that she will have to marry a Duke – and that may no longer be him.

I found that both of these books revel in unexpected humour and sometimes near farce. Not that they avoid some deep feelings and past disasters, but they also look positively on the characters that each focus on. I enjoyed the characters, their attitudes to each other, and the dialogue which transforms the some rather serious conversations and situations into really funny exchanges, especially when Jack is involved. I sense that Quinn really enjoyed creating the character of the dowager, whose progress is more closely tracked in the first book. All of the four main characters are given room to develop in these two books to great effect, and I genuinely enjoyed seeing what they really felt about their unique situations. An enjoyable pair of books, fans of Bridgerton will find much to revel in here, as will those who enjoy Regency novels more generally.