Romancing Mr. Bridgerton

by Julia Quinn

“It’s too hard to explain,” he said in a petulant mutter. “If you want a new direction for your life,” she said, “then for heaven’s sake, just pick something out and do it. The world is your oyster, Colin. You’re young, wealthy, and you’re a man.” Penelope’s voice turned bitter, resentful. “You can do anything you want….Next time you want to complain about the trials and tribulations of universal adoration, try being an on-the-shelf spinster for a day. See how that feels and then let me know what you want to complain about.”

I enjoyed this much much more than the previous 3 Julia Quinn books I have read or re-read recently. For one thing, I liked both Penelope and Colin. They seemed to have a little more complexity than the main characters in previous books. Colin was never a jerk to Penelope. They had one big fight but Penelope gave as good as she got. None of this “You’re despicable!” as if it were a rational argument.

I loved the development and portrayal of their relationship. There was no “big misunderstanding” that drove and kept them apart because of a lack of honest communication. There were, it is true, a few little misunderstandings and creating problems out of thin air, but such things were quickly resolved because they liked and respected each other above all petty considerations and misplaced priorities. Once they forthrightly declared their love for each other mid-book (which bypassed another bone-tired trope) they were an inseparable team and unfailingly had each other’s backs.

And throughout the book, there is the specter of Lady Whistledown. I have put a spoiler alert on this review for those maybe 2 people on this spaceship Earth who do not know the real identity of the mysterious Lady. In addition to the romance, Penelope and Colin’s “finding themselves”, and more family shenanigans, we have the mystery of who Lady W. is, the big reveal to the reader, to Colin, and the potential fall out of possible public exposure.

Although there were some genuinely amusing situations and conversations, the book does suffer somewhat from Laughtrack-itis. That is, for example, a writer will have the characters in the book laugh uproariously over a “quip” that is not witty or funny at all. I really think this trick does fool some readers into thinking that they must be reading a funny book. Or someone in the book will go into raptures over another’s clever strategy when it’s not clever at all. And, guess what? It doesn’t make the character bright or clever either. It’s a version of telling, not showing. I’ll get off my soapbox.

This was a happy, fluffy, light-hearted book. I was never frustrated by stupid, silly, or offensive behavior which is unusual. It is about two good-hearted people whose relationship has simmered for three books. It was just what I needed and did not disappoint.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

February 25, 2021

An Offer from a Gentleman

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.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

January 28, 2021

The Viscount Who Loved Me

by Julia Quinn

“Anthony Bridgerton leaned back in his leather chair,and then announced,
“I’m thinking about getting married.”
Benedict Bridgerton, who had been indulging in a habit his mother detested—tipping his chair drunkenly on the back two legs—fell over.
Colin Bridgerton started to choke.
Luckily for Colin, Benedict regained his seat with enough time to smack him soundly on the back, sending a green olive sailing across the table.
It narrowly missed Anthony’s ear.”

This was pretty good for a historical romance. If you love historical romance and romance for romance sake you would probably love it. It doesn’t bring too much more to the table other than the usual steps of working out their relationship from antagonism and misunderstanding until they get to their happy ending. One of my least favorite tropes is when a couple like and admire each other, have great sex and have a great relationship in every possible way, but somehow are miserable because “he/she doesn’t lo-o-o-o-v-e me.” This one has that for sure, but it doesn’t take it too far. They work out the few problems they have fairly quickly and don’t allow the “love” question to bust them up. They both know they have a good thing going with each other, and I really appreciated that.

I first read 4 or 5 in this series when they first came out. Like many, watching the mini-series inspired me to give them another try. I loved the family dynamic and will probably re-read a few more in the series. The writing was good. Not great. It was amusing in places. Not witty or funny. I liked the characters but was not invested emotionally. Frankly, I think the gorgeous but bookish sister’s romance with the scholar would have engaged me more. It was fun though.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

January 12, 2021

Because of Miss Bridgerton

By Julia Quinn

Blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda yak yak yak. I made it to the 48% mark and then had to skip through to the end. Lots of talk but no wit or humor in the conversation in my opinion. The heroine was the stock Tomboy getting herself into all kinds of trouble in pants plus she wasn’t very likable. She was thoughtless of her younger sister who actually was a pretty interesting character. For some reason she managed her father’s estates but why? Her father was perfectly competent as far as I could see. Her younger brother (Edmund Bridgerton the dead father of what will become the Bridgerton clan) would inherit and take over the estates. It does dawn on her that her future looks pretty bleak and she would just be a hanger-on without marriage and a home of her own. But it’s not a wake-up call. She doesn’t change a thing about her life or attitudes. There is no character arc except her change in her feelings towards the hero who was a sober, conservative, and responsible older son. Nothing more to see here, really, other than the very predictable hate to love romance between two opposites.

I was further annoyed by Julia Quinn injecting 21st-century speech into the dialogue of the 18th century. “I’ll take that as a yes;” “You need to get out more,” she deadpanned. “Oh, please,” she said impatiently. ” “Thank you, that’s very kind of you?” Andrew echoed. “Who are you?”, “gave her a lopsided grimace and a shrug—code universal for I-haven’t-a-clue. Plus everything was bloody this and bloody that. 40 times in the book. Despite the weaknesses in her Bridgerton stories, Julia can spin a pretty good tale. The family’s adventures make you want to read more about the subsequent members of the family and to check back on the ones you’ve already read about. I’ve already gone on to my re-reading of Book #3 because my name came up with the library and am enjoying it pretty well. But this was a lazy half-hearted effort, in my opinion. A failed attempt to recapture the magic of the original Bridgerton family saga.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

January 21, 2021