The Other Miss Bridgerton
The Other Miss Bridgerton is the third instalment in Julia Quinn’s series of novels featuring members of the previous generation of Bridgertons and their neighbours and long-standing family friends the Rokesbys. In the first book, Because of Miss Bridgerton, Sybilla (Billie) Bridgerton married George Rokseby; in the second, the story focused on the next Rokesby brother, Edward, an officer serving in North America. Andrew is the third brother and, when we met him in the first book, he was on leave from the Navy while he recovered from a broken arm. Handsome, good-humoured, and well-liked by all, he’s a convivial chap with a sharp mind, a quick wit, and a reputation as the family jokester.
He’s also – unbeknownst to his family – a spy.
Poppy Bridgerton – cousin to Billie and niece of Viscount and Lady Bridgerton – has had two London seasons and has not, so far, found a man she wants to marry. She’s starting to think she never will; perhaps it’s too much to hope that she will find a man who is interesting to talk to and who can make her laugh. With the season winding down, Poppy has gone to stay in Dorset with a friend who is expecting her first child, and is enjoying the small freedoms afforded to her away from the eyes of society. On a ramble along the beach, Poppy stumbles across a cave she’s never seen before and decides to investigate – only to find herself captured by members of the crew of the Infinity and forcibly taken aboard and into the presence of its captain, the devastatingly handsome, charming, witty and completely infuriating Andrew James. (aka Andrew James Edwin Rokesby. Of course).
When Andrew learns Poppy’s last name he’s surprised, to say the least, and also thankful that her being from a different branch of the Bridgerton family means they’ve never met. Time is of the essence if he is to deliver the packet of important documents which he has been tasked to deliver to the British envoy in Portugal, so he has no alternative but to take her along on the two-week return journey to Lisbon.
Neither Andrew nor Poppy is pleased about the change to their respective plans, and Poppy is certainly dismayed at the fact of having to spend the entire voyage below decks, cooped up in the captain’s quarters. (“Here you are on what will probably be the biggest adventure of your life, and you are bored.”). Sailors are generally superstitious, and it’s known to be bad luck to have a woman aboard ship, and for Poppy’s personal safety she must remain out of sight. Fortunately, Poppy is not one of those TSTL feisty types who spits and claws and tries to escape at every opportunity; she’s not stupid and although not happy, realises that the captain’s reasons are sound and that she will just have to wait it out. She can’t – and doesn’t – deny that she’s bored, though, and Andrew, recognising in her something of a kindred spirit in terms of her lively mind and natural curiosity, tries to find ways to help alleviate that boredom, even as he’s berating himself for his concern over her. As the days pass, Andrew and Poppy start to realise that the hours they spend together over dinner are ones they look forward to more than they should, and that their conversations and quick-fire exchanges are stimulating and entertaining. Pretty much the entire first half of the book consists of such scenes between Poppy and Andrew, and they’re both clever and charming. The pair are clearly very evenly matched in their battle of wits, even though Andrew has sailed the world and Poppy has never ventured outside England; Andrew is charmed and impressed by Poppy’s intelligence and curiosity, while she comes to realise that he’s a kind, decent and fair man, in spite of his profession as a privateer and the fact that he’s (basically) kidnapped her.
So we’ve got two likeable individuals who are smitten from pretty much the get-go, are forced into proximity by unusual circumstances and thus allowed time to get to know each other through their various interactions. Their verbal sparring is well-written, sharp and often funny, and there’s no question these two people are made for each other. But some time before I reached the half-way mark, I realised that I was reading more or less the same thing over and over again and I was ready to move on from the flirting and banter and for something to happen. But it didn’t, until considerably later, and when it did, it was pretty weak. I can’t go into detail without spoilers, but it’s pretty much crushed into the last quarter of the novel, which also has to include the resolution of that plotline, reunite Andrew and Poppy, include a proposal, a sex scene and an epilogue. After the leisurely pace of the first three quarters of the book, this final section feels truncated and the ending is sadly rushed.
I liked Poppy; she’s clever, has a mind of her own and is bright as a button. But she doesn’t really do anything other than get kidnapped; and the same can be said of Andrew. Sure, he captains a ship and, as we learn early on, undertakes covert missions for the government which are, presumably, quite dangerous, but for most of the book he’s fairly passive, too.
I admit that I had a hard time grading this one. On the one hand, it’s tightly written and the dialogue is excellent. On the other, Andrew and Poppy are not particularly memorable, not much happens in the story and it’s unbalanced due to the large amount of time dedicated to the outward voyage. I could say this is one for die-hard Bridgerton fans only – but I’m a die-hard Bridgerton fan, and it didn’t work all that well for me. So I’ll say this. If you’re in the mood for something light-hearted with hardly an ounce of plot or depth but plenty of snappy banter, then The Other Miss Bridgerton should while away the hours pleasantly enough. If, however, you’re looking for a romance with complex characters who exhibit growth, and an engaging plot, then I’m afraid you’ll have to look elsewhere.