“The birth of Simon Arthur Henry Fitzranulph Basset, Earl Clyvedon, was met with great celebration. Church bells rang for hours, champagne flowed freely through the gargantuan castle that the newborn would call home…”
Forbidden romance in the midst of British high society.
Bridgerton: The Duke & I is Julia Quinn’s eighth novel and the first in the Bridgerton series. Published in 2000, it was the start of the Regency era that would make her famous. Most notably, it has since been adapted into the Netflix show, Bridgerton.
Following the lives of the Bridgerton family, consisting of four girls, four boys, and their overbearing but well-meaning mother, the series depicts their developing relationships. The Duke & I begins right in the centre of the siblings with 21-year-old Daphne.
The story follows Daphne Bridgerton as she navigates her way through societal balls, an interfering mother, and forbidden feelings. Despite being well-liked and respected, her suitors are few and far between. She needs to become desirable, and fast. Enter Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings, a young man sworn against marriage. Every mother in England is throwing their daughters at him, and the last thing he wants is more attention. The unlikely pair quickly strike a deal; a fake courtship. By Simon’s pledging himself to Daphne, the fanatic mothers are deterred, and by Daphne devoting herself to Simon, she suddenly becomes valuable. Young gentlemen always want what they can’t have, after all. How inconvenient that it seems to apply to Simon too…
Bridgerton: The Duke & I is a simple yet witty romance story.
- The persona of Lady Whistledown provides a light-hearted and often amusing break between chapters. The unknown gossip columnist remarks on high society and calls out various scandals and secrets. The nobles are hilariously involved in this Regency tabloid and many mishaps are caused as a result.
- The hero, Simon Basset, was a late starter when it comes to talking. He never spoke a word until well into his childhood, and even then, suffered from a terrible stutter. It’s rare to find main characters with disabilities, and for the main romantic character, it’s unheard of. This was a nice change.
- Despite the many clichés throughout the novel, it cannot be denied that Daphne is a feminist heroine. She’s witty and intelligent and far more outspoken than women of that time. She shows that you can still be independent and desire a family and that wanting a husband and children does not make you any less of a feminist.
- ‘Falling for my brother’s best friend’ is the oldest cliché in the book. It’s overused and quite frankly dull to see in the 21st century, especially since it’s so easy to avoid. It’s even addressed in the story itself as something that’s too obvious to happen. But then it does.
- ‘Tall, Dark and Handsome Badboy with a Sensitive Side’ and ‘Strong, Independent Woman who Can Handle Herself’ unfortunately make up the main protagonists. Overused. Dull. And incredibly avoidable.
- I can’t leave this review without mentioning the most controversial chapter in the entire series. There is a scene of majorly dubious consent between two characters while one of them is drunk. I won’t name which characters for fear of spoilers, but just be aware that no description is spared.
I’d recommend this novel to anyone who wants a light-hearted story or to lovers of romance. It doesn’t require a lot of attention to read but still holds your attention.
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