Sometimes the best historical romances read like historical fiction right up until the leads fall believably and irrefutably in love. Then it just gets better. This is very much one of those books and because of it I’ll be reading the rest of the Bridgerton books.
It was so nice to read about characters that were meant for each other, and not in the sickeningly sweet, star crossed lovers’ sort of way. Our two protagonists, Simon and Daphne, were simply well matched people in intellect and interest who had a deep and abiding connection and the hots for each other. In the real world these would be the friends you would look at and say “Yes! About time you two!” So let’s talk about them as the book’s Lady Whistledown’s Society Paper would say Ah, my gentle reader…
Simon Basset is the Duke of Hastings. My heart ached for him from the first pages of this book, a flash back to Simon’s childhood, much the same way my heart ached for Robert in The Duchess War. I wanted to see him overcome the obstacles that were set before him, to become the man he was capable of being. And he did become quite a man, although one with the hang-ups and baggage to be expected with his upbringing. Then there is Daphne, and happily enough, since at least half the story is told from her perspective I loved Daphne as well. She is dependable, down-to-earth, and funny. But what I loved about her most was her sometimes quiet and sometimes not so quiet strength. But more about that later.
The Duke and I is the first in a series of eight books, one for each of the Bridgerton siblings. This is good news for me, since I did like the family dynamics between the siblings and their mother and the humor they brought to any situation. I look forward to even more scenes of Violet Bridgerton putting her children in their places, something she does frequently. By having so much interaction with the Bridgerton family we are also given the chance to see Simon experience the natural ebb and flow of familial interactions, something he had not experienced himself.
The plot of the book is based around a fake relationship between Simon and Daphne. Daphne has been out for two seasons, but the handful of proposals she’s received have been less than stellar. Simon has returned from several years abroad and is intent on never marrying, and staying clear of the ton social season. However, he soon realizes that he is not going to be able to steer completely clear, but if he is seen to be pursuing Daphne, sister of his best friend from school, the various Mamas will leave him be, and Daphne’s social capital will improve. Much like Courtney Milan, in other hands that would be the end of the plotting and the two would fall in love. But with Quinn, we’ve got more to unpack.
Because this is a story about a truly well-suited pair, Quinn goes further and deeper into the emotions and expectations of her characters. Which brings us to the problem of *that* scene (spoilers from this point on). There is a scene in the book, after much back and forth and manipulations about getting married at all, and whether or not Simon can or won’t have children Daphne makes a choice. The choice she makes is to attempt to get pregnant against Simon’s wishes. I obviously didn’t have enough of a problem with that scene to drop the rating of the book, but it certainly had me stopping and saying out loud to the book “Oh, Daphne don’t be that character.” There has been a problem in Romance novels of rape, and loving the rapist, but The Duke and I was only published in 2000, after the heyday of these problems in the genre. Over the course of the rest of the book, and even in the scene leading up to the act, Quinn brings out the ambiguity from both sides of what has happened, and works through the issues, which kept me from being mad at the book.
As I said I was pleased with this book and looking forward to the rest of the series, even if older brother Anthony annoyed me to almost no end. (I found him to be bit of a hypocrite. Sure, he hadn’t seen Simon in 5 or 6 years, but he seemed to forget that Simon was a man he respected, and that he cared about his best friend the minute Simon and Daphne became an item and Simon became his enemy.) However, hopefully he’s calmed down some in The Viscount Who Loved Me.
The book was read, reviewed and suggested as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.