An Offer From a Gentleman (#84 on AAR's Top 100 Romances)
An AAR Top 100 Romance
originally published on June 8, 2001
I’ve said it before: I’m a sucker for Cinderella stories. An Offer From a Gentleman definitely takes its inspiration from Cinderella.
Sophie Beckett is the bastard daughter of the Earl of Penwood. She knows it, and she lives in his home as his “ward.” He marries the wicked stepmother, Araminta, who comes with two daughters, Rosamunde and Posy. When the earl dies, his will stipulates that Araminta gets thrice the amount of money if she shelters Sophie than she would if she turns Sophie out. So Sophie becomes the slave of the house until a masquerade ball becomes the catalyst for her to be tossed out of the home. The ball provides the magic moment when Sophie meets Benedict Bridgerton, a mere mister but still a wealthy and eligible bachelor. Circumstances bring them back together two years later when he rescues her from being raped at a party. There’s a strong attraction, and Benedict feels responsible for her safety and finds her employment as a maid in his mother’s home.
Sophie’s my kind of girl, especially when she’s around Benedict. She’s sassy and smart, and their repartee reminds me of me and my husband. She stands by her principles, and she’s practical. She knows what is realistic between her and Benedict, but she also can’t control her heart. I like this girl.
Benedict starts off as quite the romantic. He falls totally in love with the mystery woman, and searches for her for two years. One of the things that attracted Benedict to the mystery woman was that she really didn’t know he was a Bridgerton when they met. In two years’ time, though, he becomes more experienced and a little more jaded. When he first met Sophie, he seemed to not have had much experience with women. When he meets her again as herself, he’s got enough experience to ask her to be his mistress, but he’s still not quite the traditional rake. Thank goodness.
When Sophie and Benedict first meet at the masquerade, they set off sparks. Julia Quinn convinced me that they had eyes only for each other, and that they did indeed fall in love at first sight. Their initial meeting seemed pretty magical for this reader. They still had chemistry when they met again two years hence. Benedict was captivated with Sophie-as-mystery-woman, and no other woman ever measured up as a potential wife. Benedict held out for Cinderella. When he doesn’t recognize Sophie, she doesn’t tell him who she really is thinking no good could ever come of it. This, of course, creates problems later.
The rest of the Bridgertons (from the two previous books in this series), Penelope Featherington, and, of course Lady Whistledown, all make appearances. Violet Bridgerton, the matriarch of the family, has quite a major role in the second half of the book, and the way she rescues Sophie and delivers justice to Araminta, the wicked stepmother, is priceless. The confrontation between Violet, Sophie, Araminta, Benedict and Posy, Araminta’s less-well-liked child, were quite possibly my favorite part of the book.
Benedict and Sophie’s romance ended quite satisfactorily. Julia Quinn delivers another winner in Benedict’s story. While the humor was less laugh-out-loud obvious than in other stories, it’s still here, as is the sweet love story and likable characters. Quinn also delivers a bit of a cliffhanger as Lady Whistledown decides to put down her pen and live life. I’m still not sure if I know who she is. I can’t wait for Colin’s story.