Iris Smythe-Smith doesn’t usually stand out in a crowd. She’s happiest on the edges, observing people and figuring out what makes the tick. Which is why she loathes performing in her family’s annual musicale. She knows exactly how horrible they are, and she’d rather hide than face an audience. So it’s strange when Sir Richard Kenworthy spends one such musicale starring at her. She can’t imagine why he finds her so fascinating. Because he does – Sir Richard thinks Iris is intriguing and perfect. Perfect because he needs to marry and quickly. He’s hiding many things from Iris and she’s intelligent enough to know it, even when she also knows she’s in danger of falling in love.
At last! The final book in Julia Quinn’s Smythe-Smith Quartet brings readers Iris’ story, and it’s a wonderful conclusion to the series. With her trademark humor and simultaneously sweet and sexy romances, Quinn once again proves why she’s such a beloved author. The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy includes plenty of hilarious escapes with the Smythe-Smith cousins – if, like me, you’re a fan of Sarah’s sisters, you’ll be happy to know that Harriet’s disastrous play involving Henry VIII and unicorns (yes, unicorns) makes an appearance. There are also new characters to get to know, a hastily arranged marriage to salvage and, as the title implies, secrets to unravel.
As a longtime fan of Quinn, I’ve generally adored all of her heroines, but I especially felt an immediate kinship to Iris. While certainly not ugly nor untalented, she is somewhat overlooked in a family filled with so many other outgoing personalities. Iris is a bit of a wallflower and happy that way. She’s quite at home showing off her sarcastic quips and humor among family, but feels a bit out of place in large crowds or with strangers. I completely empathized with her as she struggled to make sense of Sir Richard’s sudden attention – while also wondering what he was keeping from her. I loved Iris’ dry wit and her keen mind; all that time observing on the edges of ballrooms clearly served her well because she’s perceptive as well. Most of all, I loved how Iris was determined to be loved for herself – even if that meant walking away from a man she wasn’t sure could love her.
I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of Sir Richard. While I’ve almost universally loved Quinn’s heroines, Sir Richard is one of the first of her heroes that I truly had a difficult time liking. I was endlessly frustrated by his determination to hide his secrets from Iris, and with the way he seemed to confuse and hurt her by his actions. He certainly believed he had a good reason, but like Iris, I felt he insulted her intelligence by keeping his secrets as long as he did.
The thing about secrets is this: they have a way of coming out, no matter how hard someone might try otherwise. Quinn did an excellent job of keeping Sir Richard’s secrets vague enough that it wasn’t easy to immediately guess what they were, while also making them somewhat plausible (though desperate). The slow build to the reveal towards the end of the novel felt natural and while I didn’t necessarily agree with Sir Richard’s actions, I do think Quinn did a good job of exploring why he thought he had been right.
As always, Quinn manages to sneak in little nods to her previous books in small bits and pieces. I particularly love this habit of hers and it’s become a fun game to read her novels and try to find all the little bread crumbs left for Julia Quinn fans. The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy features blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearances by some members of the Bridgerton family, as well as a more substantial appearance from Winston Bevelstoke, brother to one of Quinn’s previous heroines. I love when authors make conscious efforts to subtly link their novels together and Quinn especially excels at this.
I’m sad to see the Smythe-Smith family collection of novels come to and end. With all those cousins, I’d certainly love to see more stories (certainly Harriet needs someone who can keep up with her imagination and will Daisy ever recognize the truth of her non-existent musical talents?!), so I hope Quinn does revisit this family from time to time. The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy is a thoroughly enjoyable conclusion to this series and a must-read for any Julia Quinn fan.
Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
[Photo Credit: Goodreads]