After gushing about how much I enjoyed reading Romancing Mr. Bridgerton, I mentioned that I would not likely be reading my way through the series anytime soon. I promised to elaborate a bit, but as usual, I was easily distracted by all things Outlander and my Bridgerton reviews fell by the wayside. Now that I’m firmly ensconced in Gabaldon’s latest, I thought I would take a moment to work out some Bridgerton-related feelings with y’all.
Although I have a long history of unapologetically starting romance series squarely in the middle, I decided to make amends for starting with Romancing by picking up book 1, The Duke and I.
The set up is all kinds of right:
- Simon: A Duke with Daddy Issues
Cast aside by his father thanks to a childhood stutter, Simon has vowed to punish his father by never to marrying and ending the Basset link. He agrees to a faux-courtship with Daphne Bridgerton to help fend off unwanted marriage-minded mamas from ensnaring him in matrimony, but of course, Daphne’s gorgeous, and he’s smitten.
- Daphne: Stuck in the Friend Zone
All the dudes love Daphne, but mostly because she’s just one of the guys (despite being beautiful, of course…this is a romance novel after all). Simon is her solution to getting her own marriage-minded mom off her case, but of course, he’s as handsome as we wish all Dukes to be, and love soon follows.
As expected, Quinn’s writing is witty and well-paced, intimate but just removed enough to lend humor and perspective to Daphne and Simon’s romance. In general I find Quinn to be an empathetic novelist; she seems so well-attuned to human emotion and her characters as people that reading her books feels like reading a story about old friends. This is perhaps why I was so surprised and really, really, disappointed by a major event and plot point in The Duke and I. After chapters of Simon explicitly stating that he does not want to have children and will not be a father, readers are thrown into a sexual encounter where a determined Daphne essentially forces Simon into not-pulling-out in hopes that it will result in the pregnancy he wants above all else to avoid.
Had the roles been reversed in this scene it would have immediately been all kinds of NO to most female readers, I think (I hope). The lack of consent from a drunken partner was totally irresponsible and the whole situation just reinforced the long out-dated stereotype of the woman with a womb for a brain who Must. Make. Babies.
In some respects The Duke and I is a supremely successful novel. It’s so well written than I suspended disbelief long enough to believe that Daphne and Simon were real people whose actions caused me some real disgust and anger. I just can’t seem to get over the disgust. Their relationship is not a meeting of supportive equals who help one another through the kind of childhood emotional trauma that’s more than enough to warrant the assistance of a good therapist. Instead it’s a coupling of a woman who–once again as a nod to a sexist stereotype–thinks a baby will solve everything and is willing to take advantage of her drunk husband to make it happen.
With a 4.12 average rating on Goodreads, The Duke and I is clearly a favorite for many, but a quick scan of the reviews reveals that I’m not alone in being troubled by this particular turn of events in the novel.
Those of you who have read The Duke and I, were you as troubled by this scene as I was? Or did you have a different take on it?
Despite my problems with The Duke and I, I stubbornly remained in Bridgerton-land and picked up a copy of An Offer from a Gentleman from my local public library’s booksale dime cart. Again, Quinn’s characteristic charm in this Cinderella tale couldn’t quite win me over. As far as tropes go, Cinderella stories are by no means my least favorite, but I find them so dreadfully dull. It’s a weird conflict: I love a good spinster story because I love to cheer for the underdog, and aren’t all Cinderellas the ultimate underdogs?
No. No, they’re not.
Cinderellas are too good. They’re so sweet, so beautiful, so wronged and so immediately loveable that I just want to shut the book closed already. The stepmother’s going to lose, the stepsisters will get their well-deserved comeuppance, and Cinderella and her shining prince (or in this case, one Benedict Bridgerton) will live happily ever after. Snooze. Where’s the drama? The complexity?
I’ll admit to quitting this one about a quarter of a way through. Sophie (our poor, downtrodden heroine) just wasn’t doing it for me, and not even Benedict could keep me into it. Although I’ll likely go back and finish this one up within the next few months, I can’t promise to love it, which leaves me wondering:
What the hell is wrong with me? Why don’t I love the Bridgertons?!?
I still have an ebook hold at my local public library for The Viscount Who Loved Me. Perhaps that one will bring me back into the Bridgerton fold once again?