Breaking Up with the Bridgertons?

The Duke and IAfter 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.

Uh, yeah.

Not OK.

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?

An Offer From a GentlemanDespite 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?

Pickin’ Up the Pieces of My Heart (thank you very much Carolyn Jewel)

One Starlit Night by Carolyn JewelTitle: One Starlit Night (novella)
Author: Carolyn Jewel
Found InSeven Wicked Nights limited edition novella box-set and Midnight Scandals historical romance anthology
Purchase: Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Kobo | Google Play

I’ve been tearing through Seven Wicked Nights, as promised, so expect plenty of reviews from that boxed-set in the next few days. I decided to start off with a new-to-me author, Carolyn Jewel, who writes both historical and paranormal romance.

One Starlit Night is ROMANTIC ANGST at its absolute best. First loves Portia Temple and Crispin Hope, Viscount Northwood, are reunited after 10 years when Crispin shows up for a visit. Spurred into action at the news that Portia is about to marry, Crispin is back to…well…he really isn’t sure why he’s back, but upon seeing Portia it’s clear that there is still some BUSINESS between them. The shaky friendship they’ve built via correspondence for the past decade has done nothing to quell his want for this woman, or her want for him. What follows is a deeply emotional and fantastically sexy reunion that will rip your heart out of your chest, dance around on it for a while, then slam in back in for a sudden finish.

Clearly, I am a fan.

Grand reconciliations only work if there’s something pretty damn big to overcome and love is still hanging on, however misguided and painful. Jewel does a masterful job bringing erstwhile lovers back together and letting their love, lust, and heartache simmer just below the surface until you just can’t take it anymore. Thankfully, it’s a novella, so you don’t have to wait too long.  What Crispin and Portia have been through together is real, folks (no misunderstandings or petty jealousies) and it makes this abbreviated romance that much more amazing.

Read it. Love it. Read it again.

Rating: A+
If you like your romances powerful, full of angst, and with heroes/heroines on the more mature side (for regency romance), One Starlit Night will make you stay up reading long past the point when you swore you’d put it down. It’s a wonderfully moving second-chance romance.