To Sir Phillip, With Love
To celebrate the arrival of Netflix’s Bridgerton, AAR is running, in reading order, our reviews of the original nine books in the series.
(originally published on July 5, 2003)
I’ll confess that this is my first Bridgerton novel. I know now I want more of them, I want all of them. As soon as I finish this review, I’m going to the bookstore. What an endearing family!!
Sir Phillip Crane never wanted to be a baronet. He was the younger son who was perfectly happy at University, where he took a first in botany. He’d have gladly spent his life experimenting in his greenhouse, but when his brother was killed at Waterloo, Phillip inherited the title, the estate, and his brother’s fiancée, Marina.
A melancholy sort of woman who became even more so after the birth of twins Amanda and Oliver, Marina and Phillip drifted apart, since despite all his efforts she would not, could not be happy. Finally she tried to drown herself. Phillip rescued her, but she caught a chill and died. A short time later, Phillip received a sympathy letter from Marina’s distant cousin, Miss Eloise Bridgerton. He replied, she replied, and an exchange of letters resulted in him asking her to be his wife.
Eloise Bridgerton is 28 and has turned down six proposals of marriage. She is intrigued by the letters, and the man who wrote them. So why not take him up on his offer? Her brothers and sisters are marrying and it doesn’t look like she is having any more offers. Sure, it would be nice to have a love match, but a marriage based on respect and compatibility is nice enough, isn’t it?
When Eloise shows up Phillip is surprised, since she arrived without notice and before he was able to ask his aunt to come to act as chaperone, but he’s not going to toss a lady out in the rain, especially not such an attractive lady. Eloise settles in nicely. She is even able to manage the twins (who are little hellions). Eloise sees how lonely Phillip is, and since she is from a large family, she understands that the children are not so bad – all they want is some attention. Phillip seems as though he only wants her as a mother to the children, and she did so want a love match. But when her brothers track her down, the choice about whether or not to marry Phillip is taken out of her hands.
Phillip is a classic wounded hero, but not a clichéd one. You all know the drill: mother dies and abandons him, then his first marriage is unhappy and he turns out to be a misogynist until the heroine sets him straight, but not before he puts her through hell. But Phillip isn’t like this – at all. Instead of turning his pain outward, he internalizes it. It’s not that he doesn’t want to express love, he simply doesn’t know how since he has never been loved. His father was cruel and beat him, his wife was depressed and Phillip blamed himself for her problems, and now he is afraid to reach out to his children for fear that he will lose his temper and beat them. So Phillip has withdrawn into himself. He does not socialize and lives only for his plant experiments. Phillip has not had sex in eight years.
Eloise had all the love and support of a big family that Phillip did not. She’s warm and has a good sense of humor. When the twins play a prank on her, she plays one back at them. Her longing for love makes her vulnerable, but she never comes across as weak or passive. The banter between her and Phillip is sometimes funny, sometimes serious, and sometimes a bit too modern, but not disconcertingly so. She is an endearing character and comes across as someone I would like to be friends with. As for her family, I love them! I come from a large family myself, and the scene where Eloise’s brothers come looking for her, and then they all get together to smirk about the buxom barmaid at the local tavern had me in stitches.
To Sir Phillip, With Love isn’t perfect – the story slows in the middle and the children aren’t thoroughly developed as characters. But that didn’t diminish my enjoyment. It’s historical romance lite, but such fun historical romance that only total cynics could complain.
I can see that I will have to go to my large TBR pile and perhaps take a trip to the bookstore. I love connected stories with characters from big families, and the Bridgertons are such a delightful family. I may have come into this series late, but I’m going to have a lot of fun catching up.
|Review Date:||December 19, 2020|
|Book Type:||Historical Romance|
|Review Tags:||Bridgerton | Bridgerton series | Julia Quinn|
It’s interesting to see how some people really like the novel whereas others don’t. I honestly didn’t like To Sir Philip, With Love once I finished reading it – I much prefer Romancing Mister Bridgerton.
Regardless, Eloise and the Bridgertons are endearing, lovely characters!
OK. I reread this. It’s still not one of top three but I liked it.
I am confused though–the idea that he is not the father of the twins doesn’t occur anywhere in the books, right?
No. I haven’t watched the show yet, but I gather from reading about it that Marina shows up and that she marries Philip because she’s pregnant (by someone else). But I don’t recall anything in THIS book that implied his children weren’t biologically his.
Yes. That is such a darker backstory than in the books. I wonder if the producers didn’t want to just make Marina depressed–perhaps they felt she needed a reason to want to end her life.
Perhaps – although she goes to the trouble of finding a husband to give the children his name and to sort of sweep the scandal under the carpet… so why would she commit suicide having done all that? PPD makes more sense (in as far as it can ever make sense) as a cause either way.
Does PPD last seven years? In the novel the kids are seven when Marina kills herself and it’s explained she’s basically been depressed since Philip knew her (although clearly not as badly).
The whole backstory of Marina having a romance with the dead brother is made up for the TV show so in the book they are definitely Sir Philips children.
The TV show can either have Marina have the twins and say they are the dead brother’s children or have her lose them, carry on with the marriage to Sir Philip, have kids by him and then end up dying at some point. If they go by the book timeline they have years to work it out.
I think PPD is not likely to last that long. But, depression does. In the book, it’s clear Marina has always been depressed.
Yes Eloise mentions that she never heard Marina laugh once even as children.
And there’s the really sad memory of Marina not playing outside so she could read a book but she never turns a page.
I really think that what the TV show does with Marina’s backstory is rather ingenious (if it goes the way I think it will, that is).
First, they will not have to open that can of worms about a life long clinical depression… That, as was pointed out, would deserve a much more in depth treatment of the topic than this show can provide. Maybe she will not even commit suicide, but die of other causes (accident, illness, etc.) The mere fact that Phillip married her only for honor and she didn’t want him either, is already cause enough for much unhappiness and a miserable marriage without the depression thrown in!
Second, Sir Phillip’s aloofness towards the children can be attributed to something else than his fear of becoming like his father. The first season has shown, that internal conflict of the protagonists is difficult to translate to the screen… As Simon’s inner demons were waaaay simplified, I assume the same might be done with Sir Phillip’s screen character. So, his not being the biological father could provide some external conflict.
Whichever way it goes, I think I am most looking forward to that story/season, even if it is years away.
Yeah–that makes sense. I’m not down on rewriting the story. I’m just confused.
At the time of Marina’s death the twins had “just turned 7” and they had been married “8 years earlier” (pp. 17&18) Marina had been his brother George’s fiancee before his death (p.102). All the changes to a great book might be padding out the show’s storyline and adding drama but they’re making me a tad unhappy. I really liked this story – adored Phillip- and just re-read it because of all the comments. It was one of my top three Bridgertons with memorable scenes: the arrival of her brothers, the evil nanny, Benedict’s sick son and the willow bark tea. All of these stuck with me over the years. And I loved Phillip’s growth arc. With all the dry humor throughout (“Would now be a good time to stand?”) I didn’t and still don’t think this is as dark as others seem to.
I don’t think it’s as dark in terms of Philip’s backstory in that many heroes have abusive pasts or have suffered at the hands of parents etc.
For me it’s dark because it’s not that some long ago parent did something bad years ago- it’s because we see a glimpse of this woman who it seems suffered her entire life and wanted to (and eventually did) end it. We never really got to know her in the book so if the TV series makes the Marina character, who we do know and have already suffered with, take this path, it will seem really, really dark. They made her a main character this season and TV watchers really won’t see this coming.
In terms of the book, which I also really enjoyed, I think Quinn did a great job of infusing humor into a serious situation. The scenes with the brothers was really cute and Eloise is such a great character who brought so much joy and fun. I love to sit and read but it’s fun to have a female character who for once isn’t a great reader but a doer. Someone who loves to be around people and is kind and funny and has good self esteem. I think she’s really charming and likable.
I enjoyed Philip as well. I loved how he was no rake but an intelligent, but in other ways “simple” man, who wanted a happy marriage, children, and to work on his botanical experiments. He was no jaded man of the ton with too many past mistresses and money to burn. His absolute joy and wonder in Eloise was so pleasant to read and I appreciated how he wanted to do better with his wife and children but didn’t always have the tools and know-how to proceed.
I would give To Sir Philip With Love high marks as well.
This is so well said! Your description of Philip is excellent. His relationship with Eloise is one of the best of the books and I hope the TV series does it justice!
Thank you, I saw your previous comment after I posted. I think we feel the same way about Sir. Philip, that he’s a good man trying to figure things out. I just read this book recently and I really enjoyed it. I hope they pick a great Philip as well.
This Bridgerton book is one of my favorites because of the hero and the way he is trying so valiantly to rescue his life when he has no clue how to do it. It’s definitely heavier than some but it also has light moments – like the scene where the Bridgerton boys come to rescue their sister.
This book is one of my favorites, mainly because of Phillip. He’s trying so hard to do the right thing without the foggiest notion of what the right thing might be. He might be thick-headed, but he’s never selfish.On the spectrum of people who have rights vs. people who have responsibilities, he’s way over on the responsibilities end.
I have no memory of this book other than that the hero is not nice for too long. Is that the case?
I listened to this one a couple of years back and really liked it – it’s one of my favourites now, and I gave it an A-. In my review at AudioGals I said:
Here’s why it worked for me (also taken from that review):
I’d rate this MUCH more highly than An Offer From a Gentleman.
Here is my take on how the issue was handled. I admit my background with depression and family members with clinical depression affects how this hit me. I still gave the book a B/B- overall.
Again, the author doesn’t vilify Marina or her illness, yet the take-away “lesson” is that people with mental illness are a vast burden to those around them. The feeling for Philip is mostly relief that Marina died and it was all over. I found that whole mindset just hurtful and damaging, and re-enforces the notion that people with mental illness can (should?) be pushed aside so “normal” people can get on with their lives. That’s a stigma people with mental illness don’t need to be fighting. So while I enjoyed the book, I wish somehow Marina’s situation had been handled with more love and care.
Well that’s true, but it’s true in pretty much every book where the setup is similar no matter how the first spouse dies.
In Elizabeth Hoyt’s book Lord Of Darkness the hero Godric is shown in the aftermath of his wife’s long, debilitating illness. In the previous books he was shown suffering physically and mentally as his wife deteriorated. Hers was a physical illness that eventually left her unable to communicate, but it still had a horrible effect on him.
I don’t think the takeaway is that she should have been “pushed aside” just that it’s a tragedy when people are ill and medicine at the time has no way to help them. All relatives suffer when someone is ill, no matter what the illness.
I’ve known people who have suffered because their parents were physically or mentally ill when they were quite young. When a parent can’t respond or care for a child (and particularly when they are kept from a young child) it doesn’t matter to the child why it’s still damaging.
I’ve seen it from all manner of things including cancer to alcoholism and it is a burden on the spouse and kids. I think it’s important to realize that spouses need support too, and in the book Philip tries to do his best but is utterly confused by the situation (as most people were at the time) and has no support. I think if it were inferred Marina had slowly died of brain cancer and Philip was affected by it no one would think twice.
I think Quinn was trying to show the tragedy of a time before medicine and psychiatric help was available.