Review: The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever by Julia Quinn

Posted June 29, 2009 by Holly in Reviews | 11 Comments

Review: The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever by Julia QuinnReviewer: Holly
The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever (Bevelstoke, #1) by Julia Quinn
Series: Bevelstoke #1
Also in this series: What Happens in London (Bevelstoke, #2), Ten Things I Love About You (Bevelstoke, #3)
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: June 26th 2007
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 373
Add It: Goodreads
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Series Rating: four-stars

2 March 1810... Today, I fell in love.

At the age of ten, Miranda Cheever showed no signs of Great Beauty. And even at ten, Miranda learned to accept the expectations society held for her—until the afternoon when Nigel Bevelstoke, the handsome and dashing Viscount Turner, solemnly kissed her hand and promised her that one day she would grow into herself, that one day she would be as beautiful as she already was smart. And even at ten, Miranda knew she would love him forever.

But the years that followed were as cruel to Turner as they were kind to Miranda. She is as intriguing as the viscount boldly predicted on that memorable day—while he is a lonely, bitter man, crushed by a devastating loss. But Miranda has never forgotten the truth she set down on paper all those years earlier—and she will not allow the love that is her destiny to slip lightly through her fingers...

The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever by Julia Quinn is the first book in the Bevelstoke series, and also the first book Quinn ever wrote.

It’s been years since I read anything by Julia Quinn. About a year ago I burned myself out on historicals and I’ve read very few since then. For those of you who aren’t aware, this book was written in 1994, but never published. In 2006 JQ pulled it out of the rejection pile, polished it up, and published it. Knowing that, I tried to give a little leeway with the story, because every writer evolves as time goes on and I feel JQ has definitely evolved.

Although 1994 is hardly considered ‘old school’ I do feel a lot of old school elements still existed in many of the novels published at that time. In the last 15 years the romance genre has made some major inroads in regards to what’s acceptable and what isn’t. I think this worked both for and against this novel. It’s obvious that parts of this book were heavily updated and revised, whereas other parts..weren’t.

The first half of the book was fun and interesting. Most of it is told from Miranda’s point of view as we watch her get ready for her first season. She’s been in love with her best friend Olivia’s older brother for as long as she can remember (since she was 10 and he was 19) and now that his wife has died and she’s having her come out, she’s convinced there may be a chance for them to be together. Or, ok, probably not. But she can dream, can’t she?

The problem is that the Turner of today is not the Turner she fell in love with almost 10 years ago. His late wife nearly destroyed everything good about him by cheating on him and throwing his love for her back in his face. Now he’s become a bitter, cynical man. Though she sees flashes of the Turner of old in him, he’s much changed from the young man he used to be. Only he wasn’t really all that changed.

That right there pretty much sums up all of my issues with this book. I don’t know if it’s because JQ revised this book, or if she intended for the characters to be written as they were, but both Miranda and Turner were very inconsistent. Early in the book Turner is jaded and cynical, and Miranda is calm and logical. Then Miranda is feisty and has a sharp tongue and fast temper while Turner is sweet and funny. Then the roles are once again reversed to what they were in the beginning. But then, in the second half of the book, each character changed completely. Turner became completely irresponsible and Miranda a complete dishrag.

Warning from here on out there will be SPOILERS Warning

The second half of the book was really kind of…OMGWTF-ish. Miranda and Turner end up at a house party together in the country. Up to this point he’s done a pretty credible job of ignoring his attraction to Miranda, but once they’re forced together in the country..well, things happen. Namely them getting trapped in a hunting cottage in the rain and him taking her innocence. Although it wasn’t completely unexpected (as the reader I knew it was inevitable), I didn’t feel the characters were quite ready for it to happen at that point in the story. In other words, JQ hadn’t really made me believe they were ready for that kind of intimacy.

Anyway, they do the deed then head back to the manor. At the door Turner basically says, “I’m going to marry you because that’s the thing to do, but I need some time to think first.” Which is understandable, I think, considering his past and the fact that he was determined to never marry again after the disaster that was his first marriage. What wasn’t understandable, however, was the length of time he took to “think about things”. I expected a few hours, maybe a day, even a week. Not only did Turner have to come to terms with marrying again when he thought never to do it, he was still technically in mourning and Miranda was his younger sister’s best friend. Overall a situation that takes some getting used to.

But Turner didn’t take a few hours, a few days, or even a few weeks. Oh no, not our darling hero. He took two full months. The day he deflowered Miranda, he left the country for London, found an invitation from a friend to visit on the other side of England (basically) and just..disappeared.

In the meantime, Miranda finds out she’s pregnant. Frightened by her condition and at a loss as to where Turner may be, Miranda flees London to return home to her father. Shortly thereafter her best friend Olivia arrives to make sure she’s doing well and discovers Miranda’s secret. At that point they agree Miranda should go stay with her grandparents in Scotland. Which is when Turner decides that maybe he should come home. Gosh, he just hadn’t realized so much time had passed.

He returns home expecting to find Miranda waiting for him (and why wouldn’t she be?) and completely flips when he realizes she isn’t. Upon realizing where she is, he takes off after her. Only Miranda has miscarried and no longer wants to marry Turner (and why would she?). But in a surprisingly swift change, Turner isn’t willing to accept that. He will marry Miranda. And what do you know? Three days later, with absolutely no groveling on Turner’s part, she gives in and agrees.

Let’s just go ahead and bullet my grievances up to this point:

  • Turner is an ass, then super sweet, then completely irredeemable
  • Miranda is a sweet, logical girl, then a wild woman, then a doormat
  • Miranda shows basically no reaction to having had a miscarriage
  • Turner shows no reaction to Miranda having had a miscarriage
  • Turner does zero groveling over his disappearing act
  • Miranda doesn’t seem to give a flying fig that he disappeared and did no groveling

There are other things, but I guess you get the idea. From there they embark on a blissfully happy marriage – oh, except Turner hasn’t admitted his love for Miranda. Er..I guess because he didn’t feel love for Miranda. Insert much whining on Miranda’s behalf and much avoiding on Turner’s and we’re left with a lot of blah blah blah.

Basically, I wasn’t impressed. At all.

And I’m not even mentioning the other issues I had with the story – such as the way Miranda’s father treated her and how it was completely glossed over in the book. Or the way Olivia seemed manipulative and cold toward the opposite sex (talking about “managing” all the men swarming around her and etc). But I’m not going to get into all of those things because I feel I’ve ranted enough.

Having said that, there were parts I truly enjoyed. I liked Miranda in the beginning (until she turned into a complete dishrag). I especially liked her relationship with Olivia. They really were good girlfriends and it was refreshing to see strong female friendships in a historical novel (that just doesn’t happen often enough). There was also quite a bit of humor laced throughout, which really is pretty much what saved this book from being a DNF. There were also surprisingly tender moments, though I did feel they came “too little, too late”.

Despite the humor, the witty banter and the great girl friendships, the second half of the book was enough to ruin my reading experience.

2.5 out of 5

Book CoverBook Cover

This book is available from Avon. You can buy it here or here in e-format.


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11 responses to “Review: The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever by Julia Quinn

  1. So…what your saying is you liked it, right? lol

    While the book certainly wasn’t perfect for me I thought JQ wrote some extremely emotional scenes that really grabbed me. There were definitely times I wanted to beat both h & h to a pulp but I still loved it.

    Liked your review. 🙂

  2. Tabitha

    All the grievances you listed on the review came up for me as well but I enjoyed the book despite them. I read TSDOMMC awhile ago so correct me if I’m wrong but I thought Miranda said that she wasn’t ever pregnant, that her body showed the symptoms of pregnancy but they proved false?

  3. M.

    ‘Cheever’ was my first (hopefully only) Quinn DNF. I quit reading the moment he chucked something at her through a window (and hit) in a sulky fit. Making me think twice about ‘London’, even though I love me a clever title.

  4. Tracy, I’m saying I adored it. 😛

    Booklover, It seems the book has gotten equal reviews – good and bad. I honestly didn’t realize I’d disliked it so much until I started writing my review. Then I couldn’t remember much but the negative parts. I seem to recall thinking, after I finished it, that I’d probably give it a 3.5.

    Tabitha, I took it to mean that her mother explained to her about miscarriages, and therefore she didn’t freak out over having had one. I could be mistaken though. If you’re correct, I would feel quite a bit better about that part of the book.

    Pam P and M., I really enjoyed What Happens in London. I thought it was so much better than this book. I think you’ll both enjoy it.

  5. Anonymous

    I remember it as very definitely a miscarriage (and how would they even be able to tell it wasn’t actually a pregnancy in those days?) and I had the same negative reaction to their lack of reactions. — willaful

  6. This was definitely a roller-coaster book for me as well. Liked parts of it, disliked parts of it.

    An inconsistent read with lots of potential that were never realized. That’s what I seem to remember.

    I’m reading What Happens In London. It’s been a while since I read one of her books. 🙂

  7. Ana

    Holly, I feel exactly the same way about this book and to me it comes from how much it feels and reads like an old school novel.

    I am glad that JQ departed from this – all of her other books are so different from this one, INLCUDING, thank God, the “sequel”, What Happens in London

  8. I too found the elements of “old skool” romance mixed in the book to be out place, although I couldn’t put my finger on what was off until I started rereading my old “keeper” box of Woodiwiss, early Coulter and Quick, etc. Holly’s review captured the incongruities. I started writing my first book in 1994 and finished last year, so now I wonder if I have the same problems!

  9. I’m writing up my review now. I think I liked it a bit better than you because I didn’t find the second half so surprising. I thought there were clues earlier that Turner would freak out and avoid Miranda after they have sex, and she does make things hard for him by refusing to marry him and letting her butler kick his ass (she also punched his face, didn’t she)? Anyway I didn’t find him irredemable/her a dishrag. What I wasn’t a fan of was the last quarter though when it was like: when will this book end? The whole “he hasn’t said he loves me” and his doing so only after the baby was born was just annoying/cliche. So in the end I’d say 3.75 out of 5.

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