The Duke and I
I always look forward to a new book by Julia Quinn, because I’ve enjoyed all of her books to varying degrees. They aren’t all keepers for me, but I find that even the ones that aren’t favorites generally have plenty of humor and likable characters. The Duke and I fits this mold. It has some flaws, but the characters are endearing and the occasional laugh out loud moment makes it worth reading.
Daphne Bridgerton and Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings, come from very different backgrounds. Daphne grew up as one of eight children in a loving family. Simon’s mother died at his birth, and his unfeeling father rejected him because he had a stutter. A the book begins, Simon is just returning to England after a six-year journey around the world, which he undertook to avoid his father, who is now dead. Although he hadn’t spoken to his father in years, he is still bitter and scarred from his childhood. For reasons involving his father which eventually become clear, Simon is determined to never marry. Consequently, he has no desire to participate in the activities of the London season.
Then he sees his former schoolmate Anthony Bridgerton (the heroine’s older brother) and gets invited to a ball by an old friend. Before he knows it, he is drawn into the social whirl. He meets Daphne at the ball. One thing leads to another, and they agree to pretend to be courting. Simon figures this will keep the match-making mamas at bay, and Daphne figures Simon’s attentions will make her more attractive to other suitors. The only problem is that soon they only have eyes for each other. For Simon, being with Daphne is almost torture, because he is still determined never to marry. Daphne doesn’t really understand the demons that plague Simon, but she feels herself falling in love with him all the same. In order for them to have their happily ever after, Simon must come to terms with his feelings about his father and take control of his own life. Fortunately, Daphne is just the woman to help him do it.
The Duke and I is apparently the first in a trilogy about the Bridgerton siblings; stories about two of Daphne’s brothers will follow. There is a lot of background on the Bridgerton family and plenty of sibling interaction. This proves to be both a strength and a weakness. The Bridgertons really act like siblings, and the protective older brothers (there are three) are especially likable. Author Quinn also shows how a large family can be a little overwhelming to outsiders, and as someone with several siblings, I found this very realistic. But though I liked the Bridgertons, the book spends a lot of time introducing them, and the first half of the book is really too much Bridgerton and not enough Simon and Daphne. Their romance doesn’t really heat up until the second half of the book when they begin spending more time alone together.
Once Simon and Daphne truly pair off, the passion escalates. They are certainly not without their problems; Simon is very troubled by his past, and some readers may find him a little too tortured. After a while you do want to tell him to just get over himself. What saves him from being unbearable is that Daphne is no wimp – she stands up to him when she needs to, and eventually he is redeemed by her love. Daphne also provides much of the book’s humor. If you are tired of heroines who know all the facts of life because they grew up on a farm, you’ll really appreciate her innocence. On the eve of her wedding she has a priceless conversation with her mother that had me in stitches.
While this isn’t my favorite Quinn novel (I preferred How to Marry a Marquis and Dancing at Midnight) I think most of her fans will enjoy it. The set-up for the next book also looks promising. Each chapter of The Duke and I begins with a segment from a scandal sheet called “Lady Whistledown’s Society Papers,” and it looks like Lady Whistledown will be back in the next installment. I’ll be looking forward to it.