Review | Bridgerton: The Duke & I by Julia Quinn

In the ballrooms and drawing rooms of Regency London, rules abound. From their earliest days, children of aristocrats learn how to address an earl and curtsey before a prince—while other dictates of the ton are unspoken yet universally understood. A proper duke should be imperious and aloof. A young, marriageable lady should be amiable…but not too amiable.

Daphne Bridgerton has always failed at the latter. The fourth of eight siblings in her close-knit family, she has formed friendships with the most eligible young men in London. Everyone likes Daphne for her kindness and wit. But no one truly desires her. She is simply too deuced honestfor that, too unwilling to play the romantic games that captivate gentlemen.

Amiability is not a characteristic shared by Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings. Recently returned to England from abroad, he intends to shun both marriage and society—just as his callous father shunned Simon throughout his painful childhood. Yet an encounter with his best friend’s sister offers another option. If Daphne agrees to a fake courtship, Simon can deter the mamas who parade their daughters before him. Daphne, meanwhile, will see her prospects and her reputation soar.

The plan works like a charm—at first. But amid the glittering, gossipy, cut-throat world of London’s elite, there is only one certainty: Love ignores every rule…

After binging the first season of the Netflix adaptation, I needed more historical romances in my life. And what better place to start than the source material? While I was tempted to skip the first book, I’m glad that I read it – there were several scenes that weren’t present in the show, and I found them to be absolutely charming.

Lady Whistledown was one of the most intriguing parts of the show, and her presence in the books hit all the same notes. It gave the author an opportunity to introduce important information about the Bridgerton clan without info-dumping, and also offered cheeky commentary on how limited womens’ agency truly was during this time period.

The first 2/3 of this were so much fun that I was ready to give put this down as a 4-4.5 star read… and then I hit That Scene and it completely derailed my enjoyment. It was a clear violation of Simon’s consent, and he and Daphne never discuss it or deal with its implications. As a result, the inevitable resolution and reunion fell flat for me; I couldn’t view it as the cute and sweet relationship that the author intended, even with the forward-looking second epilogue.

Overall, I enjoyed most of The Duke & I. I am looking forward to reading about the rest of the Bridgertons, and hopefully will around to it before the next season is available to binge!

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