I’ve resisted reading Julia Quinn’s novels for quite a while now. Part of my reluctance comes from the sheer number of linear feet her books take up on the library shelf. Her back catalog is extensive, and given my propensity to binge read ALL THE BOOKS when I find an author I like, I knew that if I was fond of her writing, I’d be buried in a Quinn avalanche for months.
Despite my misgivings, I borrowed a copy of Romancing Mister Bridgerton from my local library and dove in. The result? Although the fourth installment in the Bridgerton series has found its way onto my “read it again” shelf, I won’t be buried under the Bridgertons (isn’t that a pretty picture?) anytime soon. Much of that has to do with two other books in the series, which I’ll be reviewing a little later this week. For now, I’ll focus on book 4, Romancing Mister Bridgerton, and the awesomeness that is the romance between Colin Bridgerton and Penelope Featherington.
Romancing is the perfect collection of all of my favorite romance novel tropes:
- Unrequited love? CHECK.
- Spinster with dreams of more? YUP.
- Spinster with a secret? OH YEAH.
- Hot aristocrat with hidden depths? LE SIGH. YES.
- Unexpected pairing? THANK GOODNESS.
It’s a fairly basic, straightforward story: Girl meets Boy when she’s little more than a girl and falls in love. Hard. Girl spends years pining after Boy, who, of course, never notices. Girl learns to live with her unrequited love through an awkward debut, uninspiring suitors, and looming spinsterhood, only to have Boy return from a trip abroad and finally SEE her. Boy realizes that Girl is the one he’s been waiting his whole life to love and proceeds to kick himself in the arse for not realizing it sooner.
Man, I love spinster stories. I am one of those people who root for the underdog in all things, and there is no one more in need of cheering than the regency-era unmarried woman over twenty-five. There’s just something special about shining the spotlight on a woman who’s been overlooked for most of her life. She’s too pudgy, too awkward, too smart, too quiet–in short, judged not good enough for all the wrong reasons. As a reader you’re privy to all the wonderful qualities of this character that everyone else dismisses. When the hero finally comes to his senses and starts seeing the spinster the way you do, the way she should be seen, it’s a spectacular vindication. And it’s just so damn romantic.
Penelope is a perfect spinster heroine, right up there with the likes of Callie in Sarah MacLean’s 9 Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake or the other Penelope in A Rogue By Any Other Name. After a run-in with one of my favorite grande dames of regency romance, the irrepressible Lady Danbury, Penelope embraces the possibility that there might be more to her than just an awkward unmarried woman. That’s all it really takes to unlock overlooked potential–someone truly seeing it for the first time. Colin noticing Penelope is all a result of her new-found sense of self. Colin’s not a perfect hero: he’s a bit petulant and a little dim for my liking, but he’s good-natured and charming enough. Most importantly he eventually gets Penelope–really gets her–which is his saving grace and most redeeming quality. Their romance isn’t torrid and passionate–it’s real. It’s a meeting of true partners as much as lovers, two people who can be each other’s champions when needed.
As you can tell, this story is my jam.
Quinn’s a fantastic writer. Imagine Tessa Dare’s wit and flair for dialogue combined with Courtney Milan’s emotional tugs (the lighter ones, not the angsty ones). She’s not as racy as MacLean but there’s still an aspect of sensuality and physicality to her romance. Aside from an abrupt ending, I thought the pacing was excellent. It felt like reading a great letter from an old friend.
The Bridgerton family themselves are obviously endless fodder for comic relief and future romance, but I’ll save my thoughts on the other books in the series for another post.
What was your introduction to the Bridgertons? Did you start at the beginning with The Duke and I? Or start at the end/middle?