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The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After, by Julia Quinn

Title: The Bridgertons: Happily Ever AfterBridgertonsEverAfter (Bridgertons #9)
Author: Julia Quinn
Year of Publication: 2013
Length: 374 pages
Genre: historical romance
New or Re-Read? New!
Rating: 4 stars

The Bridgertons are one of the best-loved families in historical romance, and for good reason. JQ did something extraordinary, creating a family that was close-knit and loving, but not cloying — always believable, full of rivalries and frustrations, rife with inside jokes, and ultimately, always there for each other. Even more incredible, she managed to sustain the charm across eight books — easily twice as long as most romance novel series. I always thought that the first half of the series was stronger than the second half (as you can see from my reviews), but they’re all solid and enjoyable.

Because this family is so cherished by her fans, JQ decided to do something special — a collection of Second Epilogues, showing just what happens in Happy Ever After. Some of these had been released before, but as I don’t have an e-reader, I hadn’t read any of them, so they were all new to me. And they’re pretty delightful. In so many ways, diving into this book was like revisiting old friends and discovering them, not unchanged, but just as dear and warm and lovely as ever they were.

I’m not going to review each one individually, because it’s really the collection as a whole that made the biggest impression on me. I just love the idea of it — of showing that the story doesn’t end at the altar. The stories in this collection span a wide range of time, some of them coming just weeks after the corresponding book ends, others stretching decades into the characters’ future. The ones I ended up liking the best were in that second category — showing our beloved heroes and heroines years and years on and still madly in love with each other. I appreciate the… I don’t know, the reassurance? So much conventional “wisdom” states that passion inevitably fades over time, that fires bank down to embers, and you’re lucky if you have warmth and comfort enough to sustain a relationship past that. But I have always wanted to believe that that doesn’t have to be true — not for everyone, anyway. And the Bridgertons show me that in fictional form — couples who still desire each other even after many children, even after their own children have children. Who still tease and laugh and flirt, decades into their relationships. Who continue to face challenges and continue to grow stronger from them. I love it.

The two Second Epilogues that stick out in my mind the most are Kate & Anthony’s and Francesca and Michael’s — unsurprising, since those are among my favourite books in the series, anyway. With Kate and Anthony, we get a glorious return to Pall Mall and the Mallet of Death. This Second Epilogue is as cheeky and tempestuous as I could’ve wished, really recapturing the spirit of the original. Francesca’s Second Epilogue, much like her own story, is told in a much different tone, slower and more introspective, but absolutely brimming with passionate emotion. Colin and Penelope’s was, sadly, one of the less sterling sections — sad because they vie for the top spot of my favourite Bridgerton novel. It’s a midquel, actually, for To Sir Philip, With Love, where we find out how Eloise learned Penelope’s great secret; unfortunately, the events aren’t that gripping, and the story sort of meanders.

I do sort of wish that at least one couple out of the eight had remained childless but content with that, even if it wouldn’t really be historically accurate, just because it’d be nice to see childfree families represented in the genre at all — but, I know that’s sort of an unreasonable request, given the market. I also wish that Violet’s novella had been longer — hell, I wish she’d get a whole book of her own, but JQ has always said that will never be the case. But I would’ve liked to have seen more of her and Edmund’s courtship — and of their marriage. The vignettes didn’t fully satisfy, as JQ moves on to the tragedy and its aftermath rather quickly. I see where she wanted to go with it, to show Violet’s entire arc, but I would’ve appreciated a little more

I very much can’t recommend this book to anyone who hasn’t previously read all of the Bridgerton novels — but, of course, I recommend those to all readers of romance, so this can just be the cherry on the sundae. And I do feel it fair to warn that there isn’t a lot of heat in any of these vignettes — JQ drops a few sizzling moments the readers’ way (in Anthony’s and Francesca’s stories, notably, which may also contribute to my favorable impression of those), but on the whole, these stories just aren’t long enough to sustain real sex scenes. By their very nature, they also don’t stand alone very well. Nostalgia definitely plays a large role in my enjoyment of them, but if you’ve missed the Bridgertons as I have, then I thoroughly recommend returning to their world with Happily Ever After.

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When He Was Wicked, by Julia Quinn

Title: When He Was Wicked (Bridgerton #6)WhenHeWasWicked
Author: Julia Quinn
Year of Publication: 2004
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Regency romance
New or Re-Read?: Re-Read
Rating: 4 stars

This book has probably my favourite opening of any romance novel ever.

In every life there is a turning point.  A moment so tremendous, so sharp and clear that one feels as if one’s been hit in the chest, all the breath knocked out, and one knows, absolutely knows that one’s life will never be the same.

Isn’t that gorgeous? And it makes for such an effective opening, because there’s something so seductive about that description. All of us want to experience that moment, we yearn for that earth-shaking realisation — and JQ socks us with it from the beginning. It sets the stage admirably — so much of the book has that half-dizzied, half-stricken feeling to it. It’s simultaneously such high drama but also so real. When He Was Wicked, start to finish, doesn’t flinch away from some of the darker and more difficult aspects of what it means to be in love.

What struck me most about When He Was Wicked on this re-read is how much more of a mature story it is than most romance novels. The heroine isn’t a debutante, not a virgin — she’s a widow. She’s known love, and she’s known loss. The hero is an unabashed rake, but not your usual variety — he’s been suffering for years, stifling his emotions, because he’s in love with his cousin’s wife. It’s a complex situation, with a lot more pre-existing entanglements than most romance novels spin together.

And that’s the crux of our conflict. There are some other points — Francesca’s first husband dies, leaving Michael to inherit an earldom he never expected to have. To escape it (and Francesca), he runs away to India for a few years (and contracts malaria while he’s here). But plot definitely isn’t what drives this book: it’s all the characters and their emotions, as Frannie and Michael struggle with their feelings for each other and the guilt that those feelings create. Because they both loved John (Frannie’s first husband, the former Earl) so much, they have to convince themselves that he would approve of them being together. When He Was Wicked is one of the slower-paced Bridgerton novels, but not in a bad way. The stakes aren’t dire, but the emotions are so strong. This isn’t a light-hearted romp; the currents run deep.

Honestly, in a lot of ways, this book is sort of the “one of these things is not like the other” of the Bridgerton series — which is appropriate, since Francesca admits that, though she loves her family, she doesn’t always feel like she fits in with them. She’s the sly one, the quiet one, and throughout the series, she’s always been more on the periphery. She also spends less time in her book with her family than any of the other Bridgertons do — much of the plot takes place with Frannie and Michael up in Scotland. It’s still a Bridgerton book, though — you couldn’t remove that element and have the same story. The focus on family is still very strong in a way that I associate more with the Bs than with any other romance novel family, and the scene where Violet and Frannie discuss what it’s like to lose a husband is one of the more tender and lovely moments that JQ’s ever written.

This book also has probably some of my favourite sex scenes in Regency romances. They’re so sensual and lush, really heady. You feel a little lust-drugged just reading them. Also, the advantage of your heroine not being a virgin is that you get a lot more, ah, creativity, right from the get-go. She takes charge, she knows what she wants and what she likes — Of course, since Michael is our hero, he does get to introduce her to some new things and please her in new ways. (And I love getting to skip over the absurdity of the hymen myth, since that never fails to bother me). I had forgotten how much I like Michael as a hero, too — You get so much of his viewpoint, spending a lot of time inside his head. The funny thing is I can’t even put a finger on why I like him so much — there’s just something very appealing about him.

Overall, I really enjoy this book. It’s not one of my fave Bridgertons, but I’m still very fond of it. Another hearty recommendation, particularly to anyone who likes her romance novels deeply emotional.

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To Sir Phillip, With Love, by Julia Quinn

Title: To Sir Phillip, With LoveTo Sir Phillip With Love (Bridgerton #5)
Author: Julia Quinn
Year of Publication: 2003
Length: 372 pages
Genre: Regency romance
New or Re-Read?: Re-Read
Rating: 3 hesitant stars

I’ve never liked this book as much as the other Bridgerton novels, but for the longest time, I wasn’t sure why.  But I think on this re-read I’ve nailed it, and the trouble is that I really just don’t care for the hero. I find Phillip selfish and cowardly. These are not admirable traits, and although he sort of reforms during the course of the book, I’ve never been able to get fully on-board with him in the way that I can end up getting on with the rest of JQ’s heroes.

We learn in the prologue that Phillip’s first wife suffered chronic depression and attempted to kill herself. Phillip rescued her from drowning, but she then died of pneumonia, leaving him with twin toddlers. That whole scenario is horrible (and, it bears noting, handled quite well by JQ), and of course, any man would be touched by it. But when he flat-out tells Eloise that, because his first marriage was so awful, she isn’t allowed to complain about theirs? Ever? No. That just doesn’t fly. His experience doesn’t get to define hers, and just because it’s not as bad as what he’s had before doesn’t mean it’s perfect, doesn’t mean there aren’t things that need to be worked on.

This is one of those moments where, as warned in my bio, you’re going to get some of my personal history thrown into the mix. I’ll freely admit that my own experiences are colouring my enjoyment of this book on this re-read, and another reader, coming at it from a different place, might not have these troubles. But, I do. I really, really do.

Because here’s the thing: I’ve had a man use “what came before,” with another woman, as an excuse for poor behaviour in the present, with me. As an excuse to avoid honest communication. As an excuse to guilt me if I ever did express discontentment. And I, poor fool, let him get away with it for far too long. It was disastrous, because it meant that if I was at all discontent with any aspect of our relationship, it was automatically my fault, for pushing too hard, or for asking too much, or for not appreciating how his past hurts meant that my expectations were unreasonable. It didn’t work in the opposite direction, of course; his past hurts also meant that I had to be emotionally available, compassionate, and supportive whenever he needed me, without the expectation of receiving the same in kind. My choices were to accept everything, however painful or exhausting or unfair, with contentment, or to shoulder the sole responsibility for discord. That kind of dynamic sets one partner up for failure. That, to me, is not love, and it won’t make for a successful relationship. As a result, I find this ploy thoroughly unimpressive in Phillip. I actually had to put the book down and step away from it for a bit, because I just can’t countenance it. It leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, and, honestly, it just makes me angry, which makes it hard to reconcile with him – especially since I’m not convinced he ever does really come around. Eloise accedes, and that’s pretty much the end of it. So, admittedly biased by my own experience, it’s harder for me to believe in Eloise’s happy ending.

I was also pretty unimpressed with his justification for being obsessed with sex and wanting to spend all his time with his wife in bed rather than ever having a real conversation with her or spending time with her in daylight hours – he claims this is perfectly valid because it had been 8 years since he’d had sex. Do I pity him for that? Sure. But on this re-read it struck me, as it somehow hasn’t before, that he’s saying this to Eloise, who was, at the time of their marriage, a 28-year-old virgin. So, no, I don’t think he gets to complain about being undersexed, really. He doesn’t get to use the double-standard in his favour. It’s another echo of his cowardice and selfishness, ignoring someone else’s needs in favour of his own preferences.

This is not to say the book is without merit. Eloise is generally charming enough to make up for a lot of flaws in the book. I love her chattering and her compulsion to fill silences (a trait which I share with her). The best scene in the book, to my mind, is when all four Bridgerton brothers crash into the house and beat the stuffing out of Phillip in order to defend Eloise’s honour (even though she doesn’t want them to). It’s fabulous and hilarious. You get to see Gregory for the first time as an adult, though it’s entertaining to see Eloise call him an infant even still. All four brothers demonstrate their distinct personalities, but it’s Anthony, with all his responsibilities and concerns as head of the Bridgerton family, and Colin, amiable as ever even though feeling considerable frustration at leaving his new wife to deal with the problem, who put in the best show. I also appreciate JQ’s willingness to delve into some not-often-explored territory in romance novels. Suicide, for one thing. Stepchildren, for another. Masturbation, for a third. JQ proves time and again that she’s willing to go to the places other romance authors often shy from, and I applaud her for that. (Lisa Kleypas is another who does this really well, and someday I’ll get some reviews of her books up on this blog).

I’m really trying not to let my personal viewpoint color my rating too much, which is why it’s getting 3 stars and not fewer. There’s certainly no want of technical merit. JQ is always an excellent writer — indeed, if she wasn’t, I wouldn’t have such an emotional response to her words — and there is much to enjoy about this book. I just can’t recommend it as highly as the other Bridgerton novels, because it was too difficult for me to enjoy it or to have faith in the happiness of the ending.

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Romancing Mister Bridgerton, by Julia Quinn

Title: Romancing Mister Bridgerton (Bridgerton #4)Romancing Mister Bridgerton
Author: Julia Quinn
Year of Publication: 2002
Length: 370 pages
Genre: Regency romance
New or Re-Read?: re-read, many times
Rating: 5 enthusiastic stars

This review carries a mild spoiler warning – I won’t say anything explicitly, but anyone who’s clever enough and hasn’t read the book might put things together, especially once she starts reading.

Y’know, I always say that The Viscount Who Loved Me is my favourite Bridgerton book… and then I get to Romancing Mister Bridgerton, and I think maybe I’m wrong. I love Kate and Anthony, but I love Colin and Penelope, too, and they have a particularly special place in my heart, because they’re writers. You can feel JQ’s love for words coming through here, and while I, unpublished, have to empathize more with Colin’s hesitation and insecurity, everything that both characters say about writing rings so true. It’s an unusual vocation for either hero or heroine in a romance novel, and so I’m glad JQ went there and gave me this opportunity for vicarious delight.

Penelope, too, is an attractive character for any girl who was ever a social outcast — ever convinced she wasn’t pretty enough, ever a wallflower, ever picked-on and belittled and made to feel less than what she truly is. And, yeah, I was one of those girls. I never took it quite as quietly as Penelope did, but I know the feeling all too well. I love the early part of the book, when Lady Danbury takes an interest in her – I love so much of what Lady Danbury has to say whenever she appears, really, but this about takes the cake on a sentimental level:

“Isn’t it nice,” the older lady said, leaning in so that only Penelope could hear her words, “to discover that we’re not exactly what we thought we were?”

Wise words, Lady D. And it is nice. So, with such an underdog heroine, who we’ve seen the butt of jokes and the odd one out for so many books now, it’s a glorious vicarious thrill to see her get everything she deserves from life — fame, wealth, recognition for her talents, and, of course and best of all, the love of her life. It’s a delicious fantasy. I remember loving it when I was an awkward-and-unfortunate sixteen-year-old, and I love it now as an only-slightly-less-awkward-though-thankfully-less-unfortunate nearly-twenty-six year old — with the added comfort now that Penelope finds true love and satisfaction at the age of twenty-eight. Does anyone else find that the older heroines are more attractive than the ingénues the older you get? Nowadays, when I read books where the heroines are 18-20 year old debutantes… well, they just seem so young. Which means I must be getting old, because I know that wasn’t the case when I was 15 and 16 and reading these books for the first time. /digression

I think what I really love in Romancing Mister Bridgerton is Colin’s devotion to Penelope, his protection of her, his pride in her. It’s heart-warming. And he’s a hero for it. Colin’s quest throughout the book is to prove that he isn’t just an empty-headed charmer, and for my money, he succeeds so admirably.

As I said at the top of the review, this book vies strongly with The Viscount Who Loved Me for my favourite Bridgerton novel, and I think part of the reason I can never choose is because they’re such different books and such different couples. I’m attracted to Colin and Penelope for completely different reasons than I’m attracted to Kate and Anthony. With the latter, it’s all fire and spice and combat and pride covering vulnerabilities, with butting heads and cutting wit – and I find all of that very appealing. With Colin and Penelope, it’s a quieter, more sly sort of wit, and a different kind of story. They don’t collide into each other like Kate and Anthony do; they more drift into each other, almost on accident. Colin learns to look at the girl who has, in his own words, always just been “there” in a completely new way, and Penelope has to learn how to de-pedestal the man she’s been in love with for a dozen years and see him for who he truly is. And then, just when the think they’ve gotten their feet under them, everything changes again.

It goes without saying that I would love to read everything Penelope ever wrote, but I bet I’d love Colin’s travel journals, too. JQ put a lot of effort into what little we see of them. I also like to imagine that Colin and Penelope travel a lot in the course of their life together. Paris, Munich, Antwerp, Luxor, Istanbul? They should see the world together.

Overall – I love this book. I’d recommend it to any reader of romance novels, although mostly I don’t have to, because most romance readers I know are already solidly in love with JQ, the Bridgertons, Colin in particular, and this book. But in the event that any of you haven’t read these yet and haven’t been convinced by my first three reviews – read the Bridgerton novels. Seriously. You’ll be glad you did. And technically any of them could stand alone, but I almost think this one less than the others, because it hinges so much on what you learn about Penelope in the earlier novels. You don’t even realise you’re picking it up at the time, but you get to Romancing Mister Bridgerton and… wow. You definitely wouldn’t get the full experience of revelation, I don’t think, if you haven’t read the earlier books.

This is another digression, but re-reading this book also gave me a splendid idea: JQ’s said she won’t write Violet’s love story with Edmund, because we know how it ends and it’s too sad. But y’know who ought to get an absolutely ripping story? Lady Danbury. JQ should totally swing back in time to the rather more raucous 1760s or so and give Lady D some time in the spotlight.

And as a final, I swear, additional note — does anyone know what the story is with the new cover? I mean, what is that? This entire book takes place in London, not at some woodland estate. I so wish we could get the British covers in the U.S. — those are so darling and generally a lot more true to the book than any of the U.S. covers, old or new.

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An Offer from a Gentleman, by Julia Quinn

Title: An Offer from a GentlemanAn Offer from a Gentleman, Julia Quinn (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.

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The Viscount Who Loved Me, by Julia Quinn

Title: The Viscount Who Loved Me (Bridgerton #2)The Viscount Who Loved Me, Julia Quinn
Author: Julia Quinn
Year of Publication: 2000
Length: 384 pages
Genre: Regency Romance
New or Re-Read?: re-read oh, so many times
Rating: 5 extra-shiny stars

I love, love, love, love, love this book. It’s one of my favourite romances of all time. So, be forewarned — This is a gushing review.

This book is really where JQ hits her stride as a writer — it’s entirely without the flaws of some of her earlier books. Anthony and Kate are delightful in every way. Stubborn, proud people, who absolutely do not intend to fall in love with each other — which  makes watching them do so is such a thrill. Their banter is magnificent — I’m a sucker for quick wits and snappy repartee, and Anthony and Kate do not disappoint. They’re just magnificent in their bull-headed opposition, and then they way they have to come to trust each other is beautiful. They go from hate to milder antagonism to friendship to love. I adore them.

Not without cause is JQ called our modern Jane Austen — she has the talent for it, and this book in particular owes a debt to Pride and Prejudice, as its hero and heroine fall victim to those sins. But, they overcome them. I don’t think it’s any accident that the heroine is called Kate, either — the book contains a fair few subtle allusions to The Taming of the Shrew as well (my particular favourite being a reference to Kate wearing an unbecoming cap — it’s sly, but I can’t think it’s a coincidence). JQ makes the tropes quite her own, though, through the quick, witty language and the overwhelming passion that Anthony and Kate feel for each other. She also gives both hero and heroine touching points of vulnerability. Kate and Anthony both want, so much, to be so strong, all the time, for everyone around them. This is probably among the reasons I feel such strong affinity for them both, as it’s an imperative I feel quite often myself. In order to find love and happiness, they both have to learn to put their shields aside and let the other in, learning that, yes, letting yourself love someone, and letting that person love and trust you in return, can be horribly painful and deeply frightening — but, ultimately, it’s worth it.

Here again, of course, you get a good dose of the Bridgerton family as well. Brothers Benedict and Colin put in a good showing, and then Daphne and Simon (of The Duke and I) show up for a game of Pall Mall — that scene is one of my favourites, not just in this book but in all of romance novels, and was the cause of several long-standing jokes when I was younger between myself and other friends who had read the book. (Fear the Mallet of Death, Gentle Readers). Other memorable scenes include Anthony rescuing dear Penelope Featherington, the wedding, the thunderstorm, and the infamous Bee Incident. In so many places, this book is laugh-out-loud funny, but it also has some gorgeous, tender moments, too. It’s a perfect balance.

And, too, this book has Lady Whistledown giving her incisive commentary on events. I think she’s at her best in this book, too — Certainly more of my favourite quotes of hers come from Viscount rather than the other novels. One of the best:

“Men are contrary creatures.  Their heads and their hearts are never in agreement, and as women know all too well, their actions are usually governed by a different aspect altogether.”

—Lady Whistledown’s Society Papers, 29 April 1814

And, once again, it’s fascinating to read this in retrospect, knowing her identity now. You can really see the interweaving of the real person and the persona, how events influence her writing. It’s an excellent bit of cleverness from JQ, and one that can really only be appreciated in retrospect.

Overall — I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I honestly can’t find anything negative to say about it, which is often far from the case even with books I thoroughly enjoy. But this one is just spot-on in my opinion. I’ll leave you with another of my favourite quotes from the book, which quite sums up my own opinions as well:

“Contrary to popular opinion, This Author is aware that she is viewed as something of a cynic.
But that, Dear Reader, could not be further from the truth.  This Author likes nothing better than a happy ending.  And if that makes her a romantic fool, then so be it.”
– Lady Whistledown’s Society Papers, 15 June 1814

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The Duke and I, by Julia Quinn

Title: The Duke and I (Bridgerton #1)The Duke and I, by Julia Quinn
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.

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