Reviewed by Kati Dancy
4 stars out of 5
* This book’s plot intertwines closely with Ms. Quinn’s May release, The Lost Duke of Wyndham, and some plot points are discussed in the following review.
I don’t think you can discuss Julia Quinn’s newest book, Mr. Cavendish, I Presume without discussing her previous book, The Lost Duke of Wyndham. You see, Ms. Quinn wrote both books together, as one story spread over four characters and two books. The stories are wound around the lives of two men, Jack Audley and Thomas Cavendish, Duke of Wyndham. It seems that Jack Audley is the long lost elder cousin of the Duke of Wyndham, and despite growing up as a scoundrel highwayman, he is in fact, the rightful heir to the title, Duke of Wyndham. Jack’s story and that of his happily ever after with Grace Eversleigh, the Duchess of Wyndham’s companion, is told in The Lost Duke of Wyndham and it unfolds within a few short weeks. Mr. Cavendish, I Presume tells the same story from the perspective of Thomas Cavendish over the same few weeks.
Thomas Cavendish was raised as the Duke of Wyndham. He’s carried the heavy mantle of responsibility for the people who live on his lands, the family fortune, and the care of his aunt, the Duchess of Wyndham for most of his life. He’s also been engaged to Lady Amelia Willoughby since her childhood. But given all of Thomas’s responsibilities, he’s always somewhat neglected their relationship. Of course, he’s cordial and solicitous of Amelia, but he doesn’t know her. He just assumes that one day they will marry and she will become his Duchess. Amelia, for her part, is in no rush to hurry the process along, despite much gnashing of teeth on her mother’s part. When Jack Audley enters into their universe, it tilts swiftly on its axis. All of a sudden, Thomas might not actually be the Duke of Wyndham, and Jack is busy wooing Grace, and Amelia’s entire world is changing. She’s not quite sure how to feel about it, as she’s never felt particularly passionately about Thomas, but at the same time, she doesn’t dislike him, she just – resents that he’s never bothered to get to know her. As they circle around each other trying to solve the mystery of who actually is the Duke of Wyndham, and as Amelia’s father insists on traveling with the Cavendish party to determine who is the Duke, we see Thomas and Amelia thrown together. Thomas realizes that Amelia is a smart, lovely woman who has a tender heart and a very sly wit and he becomes drawn to her. But, as he begins to realize that he is most likely not the Duke of Wyndham, his honor dictates that he not seduce Amelia, and she cannot be his.
The story features all of the hallmarks of a Julia Quinn book: smart heroine, sparkling dialogue, and an honorable, kind hero. If I were to rate the book on its own, not having read The Lost Duke of Wyndham, I might have graded it higher. But the fact is, the stories dovetail on each other and having read the first book (which I would have given 4.75 stars), it is impossible for me not to evaluate them as a set. I realize that the stories were meant to be one overarching story, but the second didn’t work for me. I think it’s because the stories were released too far apart, so I didn’t remember all of the details of the first book, but remembered enough that there was this faint sense of déjà vu. Having really enjoyed the first book, this one just didn’t seem to sparkle quite as brightly, and it felt like a “re-do.” I had an overwhelming sense of “been there, done that” while reading it. So, while Mr. Cavendish, I Presume is a well written book that epitomizes what I usually expect from a Julia Quinn book, I felt like the overall experiment was not a success. If you have read neither books, I’d highly recommend reading them in quick succession, I think that might improve the experience as various scenes are told from multiple perspective in the books. Julia Quinn is one of my favorite authors, but overall this second book wasn’t as successful for me because of the distance in release dates and a sense of having done it all before.
*REVIEW ORIGINALLY POSTED ON ROMANCE NOVEL TV