By Julia Quinn
“You are despicable,” she spat. “And you sound like the heroine of a very poorly written novel,” he replied. “What did you say you were reading this morning?”
Up to about the 20% mark, this was a retelling of Cinderella. Sophie goes to the ball with the help of the housekeeper and the other servants in her wicked stepmother’s house. She experiences a mutual Coup de Foudre with Benedict Bridgerton: An instantaneous recognition of their mutual spiritual and physical attraction. She runs away at midnight and leaves a glove. She is discovered by her stepmother and is thrown out into the street. Jump ahead 2 years later. Benedict comes across her being on the verge of being raped on the grounds of the estate at which Sophie has been working as a maid. Not recognizing her, he rescues her and takes her to his cottage in the neighborhood. This is where the story and the writing broke down for me.
The repartee and portrayal of their relationship was so contrived and phony. They banter with each other and flirt with each other as equals and intimates with no basis in how things would have played out between an aristocrat and a servant who don’t know each other in these times or any times. It added up to zero suspense, tension, or anticipation caused by their unequal stations that is the whole basis of the story. I didn’t have a problem with him not recognizing her at first as Quinn spells out point by point how he wouldn’t have. But as the story goes on, with all of the clues making it obvious his blindness was just ludicrous. He had a merging of the souls, to borrow Julia’s overwrought type verbiage, with the masked Cinderella and fell almost instantly in like and love with Sophie the maid. He starts to have vivid dreams of Cinderella again. But there was no connecting of the dots throughout the book, even when Violet Bridgerton posits who Sophie probably is in a general way. There were quite a few more fantastical situations and strayings from authenticity both small and large which I won’t go into.
The other problem I had was with Benedict’s stalking and harassment of Sophie after she is installed as a ladies maid in his mother’s house until he finally is successful in seducing her into having sex. I recognize this book was written 20 years ago but it was cringeworthy and uncomfortable. I hoped to like this more or as much as The Viscount Who Loved Me. It started out well but the relationship between the MCs became too flawed and silly to overcome the few good scenes and the welcome meetings with the charming Bridgerton family.
January 28, 2021