Title: The Duke and I (Bridgerton #1)
Author: Julia Quinn
Year of Publication: 2000
Length: 384 pages
Genre: Regency Romance
New or Re-Read?: Re-read, for perhaps the 4th time.
Rating: 4 stars
Thus begins my Great Bridgerton Re-Read, and The Duke and I is a solid first entry into this family. In this book, JQ is still shaking off some of her bad habits and beginner’s slip-ups, but there’s definitely an improvement in her writing from her earlier series. (Not that I don’t love those, too, but they do have some marks of a less-experienced author). Simon and Daphne are both interesting characters, though Simon, with his stutter, is the more complex of the two. They get themselves well and truly into a pickle and then have to sort it out and navigate the rocky emotional waters they stir up. I’m still somewhat uncomfortable with Daphne’s method of getting her way, as it’s something that I feel would be far less acceptable with the genders reversed, but, I can live with it. They both do wrong things, and they both have to make up for it. It’s nice to see that in a romance novel, to have both characters at fault, rather than more blame falling on one than the other. My only other character criticism is that I wish we’d seen more of Daphne being considered “a good sport,” a friend, a chum by all the men of the ton, rather than just hearing about it. I didn’t feel like her “one of the boys”-ness was as well-defined as it might’ve been — she certainly stops short of tomboy-hood. Overall, though, both characters are compelling, and you spend the book wanting to see them and their romance succeed.
But, let’s face it, overall the Bridgerton Family and Lady Whistledown steal the show. The Bridgertons are an absolute delight — Who wouldn’t want to be part of that family? I love the interaction between the brothers (and I lost my heart to Colin from the moment he entered the scene), I love seeing Hyacinth in all of her ten-year-old certainty about the world, I love the pea-flinging incident, and I love Violet, especially when she starts bullying her grown sons. They’re just magnificent. JQ knocked it out of the park by creating them as the basis for an extended series.
Then, Lady Whistledown’s cutting wit is brilliant from the start. So much of what she writes is laugh-out-loud funny. I swear, I would have her commentary on every romance novel I read, if I could. I never get tired of her. Re-reading this book is particularly interesting several years on from knowing who Lady Whistledown is (the great revelation happens a few books down the road), and it’s fun to see the connections that are there from the very beginning. For the sake of spoilers, I won’t reveal who Lady W is for anyone who hasn’t read the series — but those who have know what I mean, and it’s such a treat to see the sly dear juxtaposed with her alter ego this early on.
I cheerfully recommend this book — and the whole series — not just to readers of historical romance, but to those who may be leery of the genre as well. The Bridgertons have converted more than one reader that I know of with their charm and humour, so even if this isn’t your typical genre, I would encourage you to give them a try.