Splendid is a romance novel written by Julia Quinn. Not only is it the first book in her Regency-era Splendid/Blydon trilogy, but this is also Quinn’s first published book. I’ve had a paperback copy of this book for years, but I picked up the Audible edition because I was looking for something to listen to.
Emma Dunster is an American girl who travels to London to take part in the London Season alongside her cousins, the Blydons. She is not looking to snag a title for herself; her primary concern is going back to Boston to help her father run his shipping business.
Alex might be the Duke of Ashbourne, but he has no plans to marry. But as soon as he sees a beautiful redheaded American, he is intrigued. At first, Emma is not very impressed with this arrogant duke, but slowly, he begins to charm her.
This story does have some sweet moments, but it definitely has not aged well. This is an excellent case study in how the genre has evolved over the years. There was a moment, early in the story, that really struck me the wrong way. Alex first meets Emma when she is dressed as a servant (long story) and she saves his nephew from a runaway carriage. She is unconscious, and his first thought is that she is beautiful and even though she looks barely 16, he still wants to kiss her. For reference, he’s pushing 30. And then, even though he never attends Society functions, he decides to go to the Blydon ball because he is hoping to see this teenaged servant again.
Tropes like this were not uncommon in 1995 when this book was published, so it is a product of its time, and cannot be judged entirely through a modern lens. When we look beyond Alex’s hypermasculinity, this is a cute story of enemies to lovers. Throw in a thrilling rescue, and Splendid is a decent book. It is certainly interesting to see how Quinn’s style has evolved over the years.
I would recommend Splendid, but with reservations. There are some delightful secondary characters, and it is exciting to know that some of them are featured in future books. There are some more serious moments, but overall, this is a lighthearted book infused with Quinn’s trademark sense of humor. I am waiting for Quinn’s latest book to come out in a few months, so in the meantime, I am going to have to reread some of her earlier books to bide my time.