Because of Miss Bridgerton
There can’t be many people in Romancelandia who haven’t at the very least heard of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series. Through eight books (not including the subsequently published set of Second Epilogues), we followed the eight Bridgerton siblings as they found love, romance and their happily ever afters, and they’ve become some of the most beloved and iconic creations in the historical romance genre.
The problem for any author who has achieved such a feat must be how on earth to follow such a resounding success? Ms Quinn has written a number of enjoyable historical romances since she finished with the Bridgertons, but it seems that none of those has quite managed to work its way into the hearts and minds of readers as that family has. It’s been almost ten years since the last full-length novel in the series, but finally, there’s a new Bridgerton book on the scene and of course what people want to know is – is it any good? And – is it as good as the earlier series?
Honestly? Yes and no. Yes, it’s a good read and I enjoyed it. But no, it’s notThe Viscount Who Loved Me or When He Was Wicked. But there is a truly evil game of Pall Mall and the Mallet of Death makes an appearance, if that’s any consolation!
If you’re looking for a story with lots of action and derring- do, Because of Miss Bridgerton isn’t it. It’s one of those books where the romance IS the story, and I liked that about it because it’s a delicious slow build and I was content to just watch things unfold and enjoy the way the protagonists gradually began to see each other in a different light. Snarky-not-quite-friends-to-lovers is a plot device I usually enjoy, so the basic storyline appealed to me straight away; and while the book doesn’t pack the emotional punch found in some of the original Bridgerton tales, the two central characters are very well drawn and fleshed out and it’s easy to believe in their emotional connection.
When we first meet Billie – Sybilla – Bridgerton, she is stranded on a roof because she climbed up an adjacent tree in order to rescue a kitten that quite obviously didn’t want to be rescued. Stuck on a roof with a badly sprained ankle and not much daylight left, Billie is at first delighted to see a distant figure heading in her direction – and then dismayed as she realises it’s the one person she really doesn’t want to find her in such a situation, her neighbor, George Rokesby, Viscount Kennard. Son and heir of the Earl of Manston, George is around five years older than Billie, who used to run wild with his younger brothers, Andrew and Edward, while George was receiving the education befitting the heir to an earldom. For some reason they can’t quite fathom, George and Billie have never really seen eye to eye; she’s vibrant and impulsive whereas George has responsibilities to live up to and is the frequent target of his brothers’ and Billie’s teasing, all of them viewing him as a bit of a stuffed shirt.
He isn’t, of course. But he’s a man who takes his responsibilities as an earl’s heir seriously, even though he does chafe at the fact that his station in life precludes his doing anything other than waiting to inherit his father’s title. He can’t help the frustration he feels over the fact that Andrew and Edward are serving their country in the Navy and Army respectively, and the author does a good job in conveying that and the restlessness that dogs him beneath his usually stoic demeanour.
With the normally active Billie forced into a short period of inactivity, Andrew, home on leave because of a broken arm, is the one who would usually be the designated cheerer-upper. But even though he is his normal madcap self and he and Billie fall easily into their established pattern of a couple of fast-talking hellions, Billie is rather surprised to discover that it’s George she looks for each day, and even more so at the disappointment she feels on the occasions Andrew visits her without his brother.
George is equally bewildered at the strength of the attraction he feels for Billie, having spent so long regarding her almost as an annoying younger sister. But she thinks he’s a boring stick-in-the-mud, doesn’t she? – so he has to hope that this ridiculous infatuation will pass before he betrays himself and ends up as the butt of even more of his brothers’ jokes.
I have to say that the book synopsis is a little misleading when it states that George and Billie can’t stand the sight of each other because that isn’t the case. It’s pretty clear from the start that dislike isn’t what keeps them at a distance from each other and the tension that crackles between them whenever they meet has another cause. Their story isn’t so much about hatred turning to love as it is about their coming to understand the reason they have never felt quite comfortable around one another and finally admitting the truth to themselves and each other.
Because of Miss Bridgerton takes place in 1779, and Billie is the elder sister of Edmund, who, as fans will know, is the father of Anthony, Benedict, Colin and the rest of the crew. Billie’s a tomboy who does far more around her father’s estate than anybody realises; she’s the de Facto manager to whom all go with their problems and she’s the one who makes all the decisions since her father has become increasingly less active in the running of their estate. Edmund is still at school and with nobody else to lean on, her father turned to forthright, quick-witted Billie, who prefers to be outdoors riding around the tenant farms or inspecting fencing and drainage than being cooped up inside and has no skill whatsoever in the usual feminine accomplishments like needlework or dancing. I’m not normally a big fan of this type of heroine, but Ms Quinn adds layers to her character by having her be so obviously insecure when it comes to having to venture beyond the estate and local community where everybody knows her and doesn’t question what society at large would undoubtedly term her eccentricities. But because she’s Billie, who manages basically everything, nobody gives much thought to her as a person, even her own family; and there’s something about that aspect of her character that really resonated with me, the idea that she has been fulfilling other peoples’ expectations of her for so long that they can’t see that isn’t who she really is.
The one person who really does see her is George.
And he kissed her tenderly, because this was Billie, and somehow he knew that no one ever thought to be tender with her.
As a couple, they complement each other; he lends her some much needed steadiness and she brings him out of his shell a little. Most importantly, she enables him to see that he is doing something just as valuable as his brothers by staying at home and maintaining their parcel of English soil as a place fit for fighting men to return to.
Although it’s fairly slow-moving, I enjoyed the developing love story and would certainly recommend the book on the strength of it. What doesn’t work so well however, is an odd sub-plot that concerns Edward, the second Rokesby brother, who is away fighting in America. Without giving too much away, events transpire that see George becoming unwittingly embroiled in a potentially dangerous situation, but it doesn’t make much sense and the ending is rushed and somewhat confused.
Ultimately though, readers will be invested in the love story between George and Billie, who are a likeable, well-matched couple with great chemistry and about whose mutual affection and understanding there is no doubt. Because of Miss Bridgerton is an entertaining story that has plenty of warmth and humour and I’m sure it will delight the author’s many fans.