Title: An Offer from a Gentleman (Bridgerton #3)
Author: Julia Quinn
Year of Publication: 2001
Length: 358 pages
Genre: Regency romance
New or Re-Read?: Re-read
Rating: 3.5 stars
This isn’t one of my favourite JQs, but it’s still charming in its own way. It also has a special place in my heart for being the first romance novel I ever read. I picked it up at the beach when I was fifteen, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
JQ gives the old Cinderella story a spin (as it seems every romance novel author must, at some point or another), but she does it in a very grounded, realistic way. Sophie isn’t a stepdaughter; she’s a bastard, permanently on the outskirts of society because of that position. Her father owns up to his responsibility, but his death leaves her in a lurch, and at the mercy of his surviving wife. When some of the other servants decide to sneak Sophie into the Bridgertons’ masked ball, deciding that she ought to at least get one night befitting the daughter of the house, she Benedict and Sophie suffer love at first sight — but Sophie’s secret keeps them from realizing it for years. This is, in many ways, a quieter story than Daphne’s or Anthony’s, and I think that suits Benedict. It’s also a slower-paced book, without the rapid-fire wit or chaotic circumstances that afflict so many of the Bridgerton siblings.
I usually have a bit of trouble with heroines who lie — a trope that is, for whatever reason, somewhat prevalent in romance novels. It’s mitigated in this book because Sophie doesn’t really outright lie much, she just lets the truth stay hidden, and her circumstances make that more believable than some other heroines I’ve seen. The real hero here is, for me, Violet, who puts in a beautifully good showing, especially at the end. She’s rather magnificent, really, demonstrating that she cares for her children’s happiness above all else. The rest of the family continues to develop well, and we get to see Hyacinth more fully developed here than in earlier novels. This book is also noticeable for being the first time we hear about Francesca’s first, unfortunate marriage — but more on that when I get to When He Was Wicked.
Overall, this book is thoroughly enjoyable if also, for me, a little forgettable. I enjoy it, returning to it, but it’s not a book my mind readily jumps to when I want to recommend a romance novel to someone. That said, it’s an indispensable part of the Bridgerton series, so if you want to read the set, don’t skip this one — Sophie and Benedict come back later on and figure into later novels. So, not as much to my taste, but for readers who prefer a gentler, slower pace and a softer kind of romance, this book would be an excellent choice.