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.