Book Review: Mr. Malcolm’s List by Suzanne Allain

Title: Mr. Malcolm’s List
Author: Suzanne Allain
Publisher: Berkley
Publication date: June 21, 2022 (reissue — originally published 2009)
Print length: 256 pages
Genre: Regency romance
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an arrogant bachelor insistent on a wife who meets the strictest of requirements–deserves his comeuppance.

The Honourable Mr. Jeremy Malcolm is searching for a wife, but not just any wife. As the target of matchmaking mothers and desperate debutantes, he’s determined to avoid the fortune hunters and find a near-perfect woman, one who will meet the qualifications on his well-crafted list. But after years of searching, he’s beginning to despair of ever finding this paragon. Until Selina Dalton arrives in town.

Selina, a vicar’s daughter of limited means and a stranger to high society, is thrilled when her friend Julia Thistlewaite invites her to London, until she learns it’s all part of a plot to exact revenge on Mr. Malcolm. Selina is reluctant to participate in Julia’s scheme, especially after meeting the irresistible Mr. Malcolm, who appears to be very different from the arrogant scoundrel of Julia’s description.

But when Mr. Malcolm begins judging Selina against his unattainable standards, Selina decides that she has some qualifications of her own. And if he is to meet them he must reveal the real man behind…Mr. Malcolm’s List.

I feel like I’ve been bombarded by promos for the movie Mr. Malcolm’s List — and before deciding if I wanted to see it, I decided to give the book a try.

In this Regency romance, Mr. Malcolm is a prime catch, but catching him seems unachievable. He has a list, you see, of what he wants in a wife, and one deficiency in a prospective bride is enough to have her dropped from consideration. When one young woman, Julia, takes offense at being jilted for seemingly inconsequential reasons, she decides to take revenge.

Her great plan? Invite a school friend to London, have her captivate Mr. Malcolm, make him fall madly in love with her, and then, when he finally proposes, have his beloved inform him that he does not meet the qualifications of her list. What could possibly go wrong?

Julia’s pawn in this scheme is Selena, a vicar’s daughter who has spent the past three years in service as a companion to an elderly woman. As this woman has recently died, Selena is at loose ends, and is delighted to receive Julia’s invitation to stay with her… until she arrives and learns about Julia’s scheme. Selena is horrified, but also has nowhere else to go. Reluctantly, she agrees to play along, at least for a little while.

When she meets Mr. Malcolm, things become infinitely more complicated, because he’s the most beautiful man she’s ever seen and they seem to connect instantaneously. As they begin to develop feelings, Selena yearns to be free of Julia’s plans, but more and more obstacles crop up to keep her from being honest with Mr. Malcolm. When he does finally learn the truth, it may be too late to salvage the romance that’s sparking between them.

Mr. Malcolm’s List is a quick, light read. I was entertained, but not enthralled. Perhaps I’ve just read too many Regency-set books, but there doesn’t feel that there’s much all that new or different here. Selena is the intelligent, lovely, good heroine; Mr. Malcolm is the dashing ladies’-man with a heart of gold, who just needs the right woman to reform him.

There are house parties and balls and horse-back riding, as well as scandalous moments and worries about reputations and vulgar relations. There’s talk of the season and matches and titles, and impending spinsterhood is always a concern. All pretty much staples of this type of romance, and all present and accounted for.

The story did hold my interest enough for me to want to see it through and find out how it all turns out. The pacing is a little odd at times — moments that seem like they’ll be big overaching secrets looming in the background get resolved or revealed within a paragraph. Julia’s schemes are all very obvious, and the secondary love story lacks any sort of believability or chemistry.

Still, I finished, and did find some scenes and characters amusing. As for the movie… well, it looks like the plot is fairly faithful to the book — but based on the trailer, it also appears that the movie is trying to jump on the Bridgerton bandwagon. Bridgerton‘s diverse casting was new and refreshing and innovative in so many ways. Based solely on the trailer, it would appear that the Mr. Malcolm’s List movie is trying to ride the waves of Bridgerton‘s success by copying their approach to shaking up a Regency setting through diverse casting — and while I’m absolutely in favor of diverse casting, it just seems a little… too duplicative?

Check out the movie trailer:

What do you think? Would you go see Mr. Malcolm’s List? Or does this seem too much like a Bridgerton wannabe?

Book Review: To Marry and To Meddle by Martha Waters

Title: To Marry and To Meddle (The Regency Vows, #3)
Author: Martha Waters
Publisher: Atria
Publication date: April 5, 2022
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Historical fiction/romance
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The “sweet, sexy, and utterly fun” (Emily Henry, author of The People We Meet on Vacation) Regency Vows series continues with a witty, charming, and joyful novel following a seasoned debutante and a rakish theater owner as they navigate a complicated marriage of convenience.

Lady Emily Turner has been a debutante for six seasons now and should have long settled into a suitable marriage. However, due to her father’s large debts, her only suitor is the persistent and odious owner of her father’s favorite gambling house. Meanwhile, Lord Julian Belfry, the second son of a marquess, has scandalized society as an actor and owner of a theater—the kind of establishment where men take their mistresses, but not their wives. When their lives intersect at a house party, Lord Julian hatches a plan to benefit them both.

With a marriage of convenience, Emily will use her society connections to promote the theater to a more respectable clientele and Julian will take her out from under the shadows of her father’s unsavory associates. But they soon realize they have very different plans for their marriage—Julian wants Emily to remain a society wife, while Emily discovers an interest in the theater. But when a fleeing actress, murderous kitten, and meddlesome friends enter the fray, Emily and Julian will have to confront the fact that their marriage of convenience comes with rather inconvenient feelings.

The Regency Vows series is a fun, fresh look at love and friendship in (obviously) the Regency era. The books focus on a trio of friends, Violet (lead character of the first book, To Have and To Hoax), Diana (starring in To Love and To Loathe), and Emily, the main character of this 3rd book, To Marry and To Meddle.

Lady Emily Turner is the perfectly mannered daughter of a respectable society family. At age 23, she is unmarried, largely because her parents have promised her to an awful man to whom the family is ruinously in debt. She’s desperately unhappy, but would never dream of disobeying her parents… until Julian comes along.

Lord Julian Belfry is the younger son of a titled family. No one expects much of a younger son, but they certainly don’t expect and can’t tolerate his ownership of a (gasp!) theater — especially a theater that has the reputation of being a place for gentleman to spend a night out with their mistresses.

In Emily, Julian sees a way to attain respectability for his theater. In Julian, Emily sees a path to freedom. At a country party (the setting of much of the previous book), Julian comes up with a plan that might solve both of their problems: He proposed marriage. With Emily’s good social standing, he hopes to repair the theater’s reputation and draw in the right crowd. And with Julian’s money, Emily’s family can be freed from their debts, saving Emily from being forced into a terrible marriage.

The arrangement would clearly be a win-win situation, and the fact that they enjoy one another’s company is an added bonus. Emily accepts, and the two are married right away. Emily soon learns that there’s one more unexpected benefit to the marriage — she and Julian are very compatible, and they enjoy a steamy start to their married life (interrupted only by the appearance of a homeless kitten, whom Julian christens Cecil Lucifer Beelzebub).

While quite enjoyable, I found TM&TM a little… flat. There just isn’t much dramatic conflict in the plot. The key tension is around whether Emily spends her time wooing society ladies by paying calls, when what she really wants is to spend more time with Julian and participate in running the theater. Julian’s conflict has to do with running the theater in a way that will prove it’s respectable, when what he really and truly wants is his own father’s approval. And, as expected, they each must reluctantly face the fact that they’ve fallen in love — how to admit to one’s spouse that a mutually beneficial arrangement now involves one’s feelings?

Because of course she loved him — how could she not? But, more importantly, how could she ensure that he did not know, did not ever discover her secret? Because, after all, in a marriage of convenience, love would the most inconvenient surprise of all.

It’s all very pleasant and often quite funny, but there just isn’t much there there when it comes to the plot. The stakes are fairly low, after all, when it comes to the plotlines related to the theater. The book is at its best when it focuses on relationships, and it was touching to see how both Emily and Julian stand up to their families and repair their damaged connections.

To Marry and To Meddle has the fun, light tone of the previous books, and as Emily continues her close friendship with Violet and Diana, we get to spend more time with these entertaining characters, which is lovely. One of the things I really appreciate about these books is how the women’s friendship is so central to the stories. Even though each book focuses on a different romantic relationship, the time spent with the trio of women is what connects them all, and their support and affection for one another feels very special.

The dialogue and overall writing can be a real hoot:

Predictably, she blushed. Perversely, he was delighted.

Julian clearly know the way to a woman’s heart:

[…] After Julian had rung for tea and crossed to the sideboard to busy himself with the decanter stored there, he said, almost casually, “You must buy any books you wish to add to our collection.”

Something within Emily warmed at these words. She’d always been faintly envious of Violet’s library at the house she shared with Lord James, and felt a small thrill run through her at the thought that she, too, could have a room full of books to call her own.

Amidst the funnier moments…

“You’re not…” Violet trailed off, a look of dawning horror on her face. “Sick of tea?” She uttered the words in a hushed whisper, as though afraid to speak them into truth.

… there are also scenes of coming into one’s own power and strength:

Here, a woman could take up space, speak loudly, draw the eyes of a crowd — or, alternatively, could slip into a role behind the scenes, quietly doing her work just as well as the men who surrounded her — and Emily found both prospects not shocking but… exhilarating.

I do recommend this book, but suggest starting at the beginning of the series, or you’ll miss the backstories of the characters and their social circle. I don’t know if there will be a 4th book, but I can guess which side character might get her own book next, and I hope my prediction comes true!

Book Review: Reputation by Lex Croucher

Title: Reputation
Author: Lex Croucher
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication date: April 5, 2022
Length: 338 pages
Genre: Historical romance
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The hilarious debut novel from Lex Croucher. A classic romcom with a Regency-era twist, for fans of Mean Girls and/or Jane Austen.

Abandoned by her parents, middle-class Georgiana Ellers has moved to a new town to live with her dreary aunt and uncle. At a particularly dull party, she meets the enigmatic Frances Campbell, a wealthy member of the in-crowd who lives a life Georgiana couldn’t have imagined in her wildest dreams.

Lonely and vulnerable, Georgiana falls in with Frances and her unfathomably rich, deeply improper friends. Georgiana is introduced to a new world: drunken debauchery, mysterious young men with strangely arresting hands, and the upper echelons of Regency society.

But the price of entry to high society might just be higher than Georgiana is willing to pay …

Sex, drugs, and… Regency?

It all began at a party, as almost everything of interest does.

In this historical romance, 20-year-old Georgiana longs for some excitement in her life, but gets more than she bargained for. Sent off to stay with her nice but boring aunt and uncle after her parents decide to basically ditch her for some seaside living, she’s just bursting for fun and interesting conversation. At a weird and disappointing party, she encounters rich girl Frances Campbell, who plies her with drinks and entices her to invade the hostess’s closet… and that’s mild for Frances.

She was certainly no swashbuckling adventurer or windswept nobleman, but Georgiana knew at once that she was in the presence of a Main Character.

Frances takes a shine to the new girl, and begins inviting Georgiana to her own crowd’s parties — filled with the young adults of the upper class, who seem to take every opportunity to drink to excess and engage in every sort of debauched behavior they can imagine. What’s in that pipe they’re passing around? Georgiana doesn’t know, but it does make her feel silly and floaty, and leads to a bizarre interaction with the man she’s crushing on.

As the novel progresses, the pressure to keep up with Frances’s behavior and to fit in with her friends leads Georgiana to lie to her aunt and uncle, repeatedly sneak out of the house for unchaperoned and inappropriate outings and parties, and to be rude to someone who actually might make a true and positive friend.

She seemed to have forgiven Georgiana for whatever wrongdoings she had previously attributed to her at the picnic; Georgiana wondered if she was very kind or if she simply had an extraordinarily short memory, like an octogenarian or a goldfish.

While mostly silly, there are some heavier plot points, including a man of Frances’s circle who in reality is a sexual predator, although no one seems willing to call him on it. Meanwhile, Frances seems to become more desperate and out of control as her love interest turns out to be much less than honorable, and Georgiana’s tenuous position with the in-crowd becomes harder and harder to hold on to.

Reputation is billed as a mix of Austen and Mean Girls, and I see the Mean Girls comparison much more so than the Austen! As in Mean Girls, an outsider is drawn to the popular crowd and does what she needs to do in order to fit in and be accepted, despite the fact that these people really are pretty awful.

While Reputation is set in the Regency era, the behavior of the characters bears very little relation to anything we might read in a Jane Austen novel. Yes, there are balls and parties, but the behavior! I don’t pretend to be an expert by any means, but I’ve never read another novel that depicts the behavior of the upper crust as so debauched — non-stop alcohol, outrageous pranks and games, the mysterious pipe contents mentioned above, drugs in people’s drinks (which I suppose must have been laudanum, although it’s not specified).

Georgiana was beginning to suspect that this game was designed solely to give everybody involved a socially acceptable excuse to feel one another up.

Sticking with this book was challenging for the first 25% or so. The Mean Girls behavior cannot be overemphasized, Georgiana makes some very poor choices, and the writing, while mostly on the clever and witty side, also includes some clunkier and/or modern phrasing that’s jarring in this setting.

In fact, ignore the shifts and waistcoats and reticules, and many of the party scenes could be plunked down into a frat house party with little to no difference. It was difficult to reconcile the supposed theme of reputations being all with the blatantly disreputable behavior that the characters seem to all indulge in. In fact, the reputation aspect aspect only seems to be addressed head-on on rare occasions, including a scene in which an upper class girl explains some basics to Georgiana:

“I don’t say this to do you harm. I am simply laying out the facts. You would not be unhappy, I think, with an ordinary life befitting your station. Here — now — you have truly stumbled into the lion’s den. The potential for unhappiness here is vast. Nobody here will be shamed or cast out for the many sins I’m sure they’ll commit before Monday. There is almost nothing we can do that will not be excused because of our wealth, our standing. Our parentage. Can you say the same?”

This being a romance, of course there’s a happy ending, but not without drama, fights, and scandal before getting there. As the end approached, I found myself cheering for Georgiana, especially as she starts making better choices, including showing appreciation for the people in her life who truly care for her and taking a stand when it’s most needed.

Reputation, all in all, is a fun book. As I said, I’m no expert and have no idea if the wealthy of the period really did indulge in such extremely decadent behavior behind closed doors, rather than sticking with the polite balls and card parties of Jane Austen novels. For me, since almost everything I know about the era comes from Austen and the Bridgerton books (not a well-rounded historical education!), the behavior of the characters in Reputation was downright shocking.

Still, I did find myself caught up in the story by the conclusion and quite entertained. So, take the historical representation with grains of salt as needed, don’t accept drinks that have passed through Frances’s hands, and enjoy Reputation for the sheer silly romp of it all.

Book Review: On the Way to the Wedding (Bridgertons, #8) by Julia Quinn

Title: On the Way to the Wedding (Bridgertons, #8)
Author: Julia Quinn
Publisher: Avon
Publication date: 2006
Length: 371 pages
Genre: Romance
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

A funny thing happened …

Unlike most men of his acquaintance, Gregory Bridgerton believes in true love. And he is convinced that when he finds the woman of his dreams, he will know in an instant that she is the one. And that is exactly what happened. Except …

She wasn’t the one. In fact, the ravishing Miss Hermione Watson is in love with another. But her best friend, the ever-practical Lady Lucinda Abernathy, wants to save Hermione from a disastrous alliance, so she offers to help Gregory win her over. But in the process, Lucy falls in love. With Gregory! Except …

Lucy is engaged. And her uncle is not inclined to let her back out of the betrothal, even once Gregory comes to his senses and realizes that it is Lucy, with her sharp wit and sunny smile, who makes his heart sing. And now, on the way to the wedding, Gregory must risk everything to ensure that when it comes time to kiss the bride, he is the only man standing at the altar …

Another plane trip, another Bridgertons book… and this time, I’m done! I’ve now read all 8 books in the series, each one devoted to one of the Bridgerton siblings. This time around, it’s Gregory’s turn. Gregory is the 2nd youngest, and the youngest of the male Bridgerton’s. It’s about time for him to get his happily ever after, even though, once again, it’s disconcerting to read a romance about a character who looks like this per the TV series:

Never fear; In On the Way to the Wedding, Gregory is all grown up at age 26, but lacks a firm direction in his life. What he does know for sure is that he believes in love, even though he has yet to experience it himself. His own parents married for love, and he’s seen each of his seven siblings blissfully married off to the person they love as well. With that kind of family history, how could he settle for anything else?

Unfortunately, Gregory doesn’t really understand the difference between love and infatuation, so when he catches a sight of the gorgeous Hermione Watson at his sister-in-law’s house party, he’s instantly smitten and feel certain that Hermione is his destiny. Hermione, though, is absolutely bored to tears by the nonstop parade of men falling all over her. Her best friend, Lady Lucinda Abernathy, is used to running interference, and she steps in to divert Gregory from making a complete arse of himself.

All sorts of hijinks ensue, and before long, Gregory comes to his senses and realizes that the pragmatic, smart, funny Lucy is really the woman of his dreams. But there are complications, of course, leading eventually to a mad dash across London to try to stop her from marrying another man.

I don’t feel that I got a really good grasp of Gregory and Lucy as individuals, but maybe I just have Bridgerton fatigue and they’re all starting to blur together in my mind. I enjoyed the story, especially the dramatics that explode with an interrupted wedding, a case of blackmail, and a daring rescue… but I don’t think this book will stick with me the way some of the earlier Bridgerton stories will.

Once again, the plot is brightened by appearances of other Bridgertons, but those are few and far between (although author Julia Quinn really is superb at making the most of their brief cameos).

And finally, I’ve finished all the Bridgerton books! Eight siblings, all happily married! It’s a satisfying ending for an engaging romance series. And now I need season 2 on Netflix!

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Book Review: It’s In His Kiss (Bridgertons, #7) by Julia Quinn

Title: It’s In His Kiss (Bridgertons, #7)
Author: Julia Quinn
Publisher: Avon
Publication date: 2005
Length: 407 pages
Genre: Romance
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

IF IT’S IN HIS HEART… IT’S IN HIS KISS

MEET OUR HERO…

Gareth St. Clair is in a bind. His father, who detests him, is determined to beggar the St. Clair estates and ruin his inheritance. Gareth’s sole bequest is an old family diary, which may or may not contain the secrets of his past… and the key to his future. The problem is—it’s written in Italian, of which Gareth speaks not a word.

MEET OUR HEROINE…

All the ton agreed: there was no one quite like Hyacinth Bridgerton. She’s fiendishly smart, devilishly outspoken, and according to Gareth, probably best in small doses. But there’s something about her—something charming and vexing—that grabs him and won’t quite let go…

MEET POOR MR. MOZART…

Or don’t. But rest assured, he’s spinning in his grave when Gareth and Hyacinth cross paths at the annual—and annually discordant—Smythe-Smith musicale. To Hyacinth, Gareth’s every word seems a dare, and she offers to translate his diary, even though her Italian is slightly less than perfect. But as they delve into the mysterious text, they discover that the answers they seek lie not in the diary, but in each other… and that there is nothing as simple—or as complicated—as a single, perfect kiss.

I had yet another airplane flight this week, and so I turned to yet another Bridgerton book for company. Book #7, It’s In His Kiss, jumps ahead to the 8th and youngest of the Bridgerton offspring, Hyacinth, who is 22 years old when the story opens. It’s her 4th season out in society, she’s had six unsuitable proposals in her previous three season, and while she’s not on the shelf yet, that moment isn’t quite as far away as it once was. Is is because Hyacinth is too picky, or is it because she’s too opinionated and outspoken, not willing to play the shy maiden? Whatever the reason, Hyacinth both really wants to find a husband and doesn’t want to relinquish her ability to think and make her own decisions — not a combination that typically leads to romantic bliss.

(Of course, it’s a little challenging for me to picture Hyacinth as old enough to be married, since we saw her on the Netflix series looking like this:)

Hyancinth – the early years

Hyacinth is devoted to Lady Danbury, the elderly woman who rules society with her imperiousness and the stomping of her cane, and the two have a weekly visit during which Hyacinth reads aloud from the latest melodramatic pulp novel.

Lady Danbury’s grandson is Gareth St. Clair, a notorious rake known for his irresponsible ways and a string of opera singer mistresses, as well as for never, ever courting a young lady from the ton. Gareth has been estranged from his harsh, domineering father for ten years, and his father seems determined to run the family wealth into the ground, especially now that Gareth’s older brother, the presumed heir, has died at a young age, leaving Gareth to inherit the family title and holdings.

When Gareth comes into possession of his paternal grandmother’s diary, written in her native Italian, he needs a translator, and fortunately, Hyacinth is proficient in the language. They agree that she’ll work on a translation, and as they check in on the progress, the two become increasingly attracted to one another. Through the translation, Hyacinth learns that the grandmother was very unhappy in her marriage and that she had a secret — a trove of jewels that she brought with her from Italy and hid somewhere in Clair House. As far as Gareth knows, no one else is even aware that the jewels exist, but they could be the answer to the debt Gareth seems destined to inherit.

As in the other Bridgerton books, there’s some delicious flirtation and chemistry between the two main characters, as they’re thrust together repeatedly. There are shenanigans and near-disasters, as Hyacinth refuses to sit home demurely when there’s adventure afoot, and she repeatedly drives Gareth to distraction by taking risks with her safety and her reputation in order to help him on his quest.

Between the more light-hearted escapades, there are also weightier moments, told through Gareth’s perspective, as he struggles with his social status, his father’s animosity, and a secret that could deprive him of everything he hopes for, including Hyacinth’s regard.

It’s In His Kiss is a fun outing in the world of the Bridgerton clan, although I do with we’d had more glimpses of the rest of the family. Daphne, Anthony, and Penelope make brief appearances, Lady Violet is a more active and present character, and the rest, while mentioned, are all offstage.

I did really enjoy this book, as I have the other books in the series, but of course, there are some elements that feel a bit cringe-inducing.

She might not have said yes, but she didn’t say no.

Granted, explicit verbal consent wasn’t a thing in the 19th century, but reading this through today’s lens make me uncomfortable.

Additionally, Gareth is so afraid that Hyacinth will call off their engagement if she hears certain things about him that he realizes his best option is to seduce her. She’s clearly interested and responsive to him physically, but again, the idea that he’s going to deliberately set out to “ruin” her so she’ll have no choice about marriage makes me very unhappy — even though the sex is definitely consensual when it finally happens.

Still, Gareth and Hyacinth share a knack for banter and humor that keeps this book on the lighter side:

Gareth thought his head might explode. “Good God, woman, have you been listening to anything I’ve said?”

“Of course I have. I have four older brothers. I can recognize a supercilious, pontificating male when I see one.”

Surprisingly, there seems to be more time spent on Gareth and his POV than Hyacinth, but still, the book works, and is a fun addition to the overarching Bridgerton storyline. And as I’ve learned, I can always count on a Bridgerton book for some good, engaging, but not too heavy travel reading.

Will I continue with the Bridgertons? Well, of course!

That’s seven Bridgerton children happily married, one more to go!

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Book Review: When He Was Wicked (Bridgertons, #6) by Julia Quinn

Title: When He Was Wicked (Bridgertons, #6)
Author: Julia Quinn
Publisher: Avon
Publication date: 2004
Length: 426 pages
Genre: Romance
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In every life there is a turning point . . .

A moment so tremendous, so sharp and breathtaking, that one knows one’s life will never be the same. For Michael Stirling, London’s most infamous rake, that moment came the first time he laid eyes on Francesca Bridgerton.

After a lifetime of chasing women, of smiling slyly as they chased him, of allowing himself to be caught but never permitting his heart to become engaged, he took one look at Francesca Bridgerton and fell so fast and hard into love it was a wonder he managed to remain standing. Unfortunately for Michael, however, Francesca’s surname was to remain Bridgerton for only a mere thirty-six hours longer—the occasion of their meeting was, lamentably, a supper celebrating her imminent wedding to his cousin.

But that was then . . . Now Michael is the earl and Francesca is free, but still she thinks of him as nothing other than her dear friend and confidant. Michael dares not speak to her of his love . . . until one dangerous night, when she steps innocently into his arms and passion proves stronger than even the most wicked of secrets . . . 

Another flight, another Bridgerton book! Book #6, When He Was Wicked, tells the story of the 6th Bridgerton child, Francesca — who spends much of the book series (as well as practically all of season 1 of the Netflix series) off-screen.

A rare glimpse of Francesca

We’ve heard about Francesca from afar during the previous couple of books. A year younger than her sister Eloise, Francesca is largely absent from the goings-on in the earlier books, at first being too young to be out in society, and later, already away from London.

We learn in book #4 (I believe) that Francesca is already a young widow at age 24. We hear of her through other family members, and know that she was married to an earl and lives at their estate in Scotland. That’s pretty much all we know, other than that she seems to never be around for family gatherings.

“It’s as if I don’t exist,” she said…

Finally, in When He Was Wicked, Frannie’s story takes center stage.

We start the book, however, not with Francesca, but with her husband’s cousin. Michael Stirling is first cousin to John Stirling, Earl of Kilmartin. Michael has a reputation as a terribly wicked rake (of course! don’t all the attractive men?), but he’s also loyal and devoted to John, who is more brother to him than cousin. Michael also has the bad luck and bad timing to fall head over heels in love with Francesca at first sight — which happens to be only a day and a half before John marries her.

Michael hides his feelings, and becomes a true friend to Francesca. The three — Michael, John, and Francesca — are inseparable, and best of friends. But two years later, when the unthinkable happens and John dies suddenly, Michael and Francesca are torn apart as well. Michael, as John’s heir, will step into his role as Earl. He feels horrible guilt over living what should have been John’s life, and cannot bear the idea of being close to Frannie and being her main support while knowing the guilty truth of his secret love for her. Michael flees to India as soon after John’s death as he can, and Francesca is left widowed, in mourning, suffering, and feeling abandoned by the person she most counted on.

Years pass, and Francesca realizes that she wants a baby. And of course, the only way to get a baby is to marry — so she leaves the estate in Scotland to spend the season in London and look for a suitable husband. Michael shows up as well, ready to fully assume his duties as Earl, which also means finding a wife.

As the widowed Countess of Kilmartin, Francesca takes up residence in the Kilmartin home in London, and so does Michael, where the two soon find themselves too close for comfort. After a series of misunderstandings and confrontations, there’s finally a kiss, and Francesca is shocked and embarrassed to realize that she feels attracted to Michael. And, as such things go in romance novels, she assumes it’s one-sided and flees back to the Scottish estate, only to be pursued by Michael, where things quickly become hot and heavy… and as the title lets us know, very, very wicked.

I enjoyed the storytelling very much in this book, and felt quite sorry for poor Frannie, widowed too young, facing a lifetime on her own, and longing so much for a family that she’s even willing to consider marriage without love if it’ll allow her to have babies. There are some very sweet moments between her and her mother Violet, in which they share thoughts on widowhood, losing the love of one’s life, and how to move on. Violet is open to Francesca in a way which we haven’t seen with her daughters in other books, probably because none have been as vulnerable as Francesca, and it’s lovely.

Michael is given equal time with Francesca as a point-of-view character, and I found his outlook refreshing and insightful. As is typical in romances set in this period, his sexual conquests aren’t seen as shameful (only women can be ruined by inappropriate conduct, not men), but at least we get to hear his perspective on all the women he’s been with and how they were all really just stand-ins for Francesca. Michael’s sorrow and guilt regarding his cousin seem genuine and heartfelt, so that as he and Francesca start to explore their attraction and growing feelings, it makes sense that Michael would be held back by his inner doubts even while yearning to be with the woman of his dreams.

I’m not sure that I loved Michael’s ultimate gambit for tying Francesca to him. He can’t make progress by words or wooing, so he sets out to seduce her, figuring he’ll make her want him even if she doesn’t love him. (Spoiler alert — she does love him!) The sexual advances and hot-and-heavy scenes are all entirely consensual — he asks her every step of the way — but I still felt a little uncomfortable with the idea of his using her arousal to push her into a relationship she might not otherwise be ready for.

He’d awakened the wanton within her, and she wanted her revenge.

It’s not a surprise that true love and a wedding and babies are the end game here — in that sense, When He Was Wicked is no different from the other books in the series. Still, the plot here is quite good, and I liked getting to know Francesca, and seeing a very different view of the social pressures of Regency society. Francesca is no virginal debutante — she’s a widow of means who has the social and economic power to remain unmarried and independent for the rest of her life, if she so chooses. In When He Was Wicked, we see marriage and courtship through a practical lens — if a young widow wants a baby, then how else is she to get what she wants but to find a suitable husband and make it happen?

I also found the chronology of When He Was Wicked interesting, as it overlaps with events from the previous two books, and I thought author Julia Quinn pulled off the interwoven events and details very well! Overall, this is another delightful addition to a series that becomes more and more addictive as it goes along. This many books into the series, it’s hard to stop.

That’s six Bridgerton children happily married, two more to go!

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Book Review: To Sir Phillip, With Love (Bridgertons, #5) by Julia Quinn

Title: To Sir Phillip, With Love (Bridgertons, #5)
Author: Julia Quinn
Publisher: Avon
Publication date: 2003
Length: 383 pages
Genre: Romance
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Sir Phillip knew from his correspondence with his dead wife’s distant cousin that Eloise Bridgerton was a spinster, and so he’d proposed, figuring that she’d be homely and unassuming, and more than a little desperate for an offer of marriage. Except . . . she wasn’t. The beautiful woman on his doorstep was anything but quiet, and when she stopped talking long enough to close her mouth, all he wanted to do was kiss her…

Eloise Bridgerton couldn’t marry a man she had never met! But then she started thinking… and wondering… and before she knew it, she was in a hired carriage in the middle of the night, on her way to meet the man she hoped might be her perfect match. Except… he wasn’t. Her perfect husband wouldn’t be so moody and ill-mannered. And he certainly should have mentioned that he had two young – and decidedly unruly – children, as much in need of a mother as Phillip is in need of a wife.

Bridgerton books have become my go-to comfort reads, and an absolute must for long plane trips. They’re sweet, light, and easy, but never fail to entertain. Let’s dive in.

Since watching Bridgerton on Netflix, I’ve had a soft spot for Eloise — that’s the letter E, which makes Eloise the 5th Bridgerton child and the 2nd girl in this large family. TV Eloise is awesome — independent, outspoken, intelligent, and not too wound up in societal niceties.

In book #5, many years have passed since we first met Eloise. Here, she’s 28 years old and a spinster. She hadn’t minded her spinster status so long as she had her best friend Penelope to keep her company, but now that Penelope has gotten married, Eloise suddenly isn’t so content any more.

As the story opens, we learn that Eloise has been in correspondence for a year with a man named Sir Phillip Crane, the widower of her deceased 4th cousin Marina. After sending Sir Phillip a note of condolence after Marina’s death, the two have continued to write and to get to know one another via letters. Finally, Phillip suggests that she come to his country estate for a visit to see if they might suit one another for marriage.

Eloise being Eloise, rather than accepting the invitation and traveling with her mother’s permission and a suitable chaperone, decides to just go, and sneaks off while her family is busy at a soiree so she won’t be missed right away. She shows up unexpected on Phillip’s doorstep, and the two do not suit at all at first glance. He’s gruff and unwelcoming and taken aback by her arrival, and she’s tired, talkative, and unimpressed by his lack of hospitality. She’s even less impressed to learn that he has 8-year-old twins who are out-of-control hellions — whom he completely failed to mention in his letters.

He’s clearly looking for someone to take control of his children, and assumed a spinster would be grateful for marriage to a man with wealth and an estate. Eloise, meanwhile, having turned down six previous offers of marriage, has always hoped for a love match (after seeing her parents’ loving marriage, as well as the romances of her four older siblings). She’s not willing to settle, and is already contemplating her escape back to London — but as she and Phillip slowly start to become acquainted, there’s something holding her there, making her want to at least give him a chance.

Clearly, we all know where this is going to end up, and that Eloise and Phillip will end up falling madly in love after all. The fun is in getting there.

Eloise speaks her mind and thinks for herself, and makes it clear that Phillip needs to step up and be a better father as well as a better companion if he’s going to be worthy of her. She’s a delight.

The best scene in the book, in my humble opinion, is when Eloise’s brothers descend en masse to make sure that this oaf hasn’t ruined their sister. Seeing four big Bridgerton brothers ganging up on Sir Phillip is awesome. But hey, at least they don’t actually strangle him, so he comes out of it okay. They’re there to make sure a marriage takes place, no two ways about it, and really, the couple is left with no choice.

I did really enjoy To Sir Phillip, With Love, but didn’t find it quite as entertaining as some of the other books in the series. For as much as I love TV Eloise, I felt that her book personality here was a little more generic than I’d expected, making her just a little bit less quirky and unusual. Still, she’s a lot of fun, and I enjoyed seeing the growing connection between her and Phillip, as well as her developing relationship with his children — who, it turns out, are less awful and more suffering from lack of attention than Phillip realizes. (And of course, Eloise is the guardian angel who heals the rift between father and children.)

Will I keep going with the Bridgertons? Of course!

That’s five Bridgerton children happily married, three more to go!

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Book Review: To Love and To Loathe by Martha Waters

Title: To Love and To Loathe (The Regency Vows, #2)
Author: Martha Waters
Publisher: Atria
Publication date: April 6, 2021
Length: 384 pages
Genre: Historical fiction/romance
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The widowed Diana, Lady Templeton and Jeremy, Marquess of Willingham are infamous among English high society as much for their sharp-tongued bickering as their flirtation. One evening, an argument at a ball turns into a serious wager: Jeremy will marry within the year or Diana will forfeit one hundred pounds. So shortly after, just before a fortnight-long house party at Elderwild, Jeremy’s country estate, Diana is shocked when Jeremy appears at her home with a very different kind of proposition.

After his latest mistress unfavorably criticized his skills in the bedroom, Jeremy is looking for reassurance, so he has gone to the only woman he trusts to be totally truthful. He suggests that they embark on a brief affair while at the house party—Jeremy can receive an honest critique of his bedroom skills and widowed Diana can use the gossip to signal to other gentlemen that she is interested in taking a lover.

Diana thinks taking him up on his counter-proposal can only help her win her wager. With her in the bedroom and Jeremy’s marriage-minded grandmother, the formidable Dowager Marchioness of Willingham, helping to find suitable matches among the eligible ladies at Elderwild, Diana is confident her victory is assured. But while they’re focused on winning wagers, they stand to lose their own hearts.

To Love and To Loathe is author Martha Waters’s follow up to last year’s To Have and To Hoax, and I’m happy to report that the fun is back!

In TH&TH (sorry, I just can’t handle typing the titles over and over again), the story focused on a married couple Violet and James, and their love-match-turned-hate-match… and what came next. As part of the story, we also met the closest friends of the estranged couple, and here in TL&TL, two of their friends take center stage.

Lady Diana, in her mid-twenties, is a wealthy widow who has no need for a husband in order to live well. Six years earlier, in her first social season, she was desperate to marry, having been raised on the charity of an aunt and uncle. Diana was forced to be decidedly mercenary in her approach to the marriage market, much to the amusement of Jeremy, Lord Willingham, who couldn’t see beyond the surface to understand Diana’s true circumstances.

Years later, Jeremy has a confirmed reputation as a rake, seducing a steady stream of willing married women, enjoying sexual flings and remaining completely unavailable emotionally. But now that Jeremy, a second son, has inherited the family title that should have gone to his late brother, the family expects him to settle down and live up to his responsibilities. Jeremy is one of Diana’s brother’s closest friends, and Jeremy and Diana have bantered and bickered their entire lives.

But now, as adults with more at stake, there’s the potential that they could help each other out. Jeremy’s darling masculine ego has been dealt a blow by his most recent mistress, and Diana is thinking of expanding her social engagements to possibly include a lover. They agree to liaise at Jeremy’s upcoming country house party, where there will be time and opportunity for late-night dalliances.

I don’t think it’s at all a spoiler to say that Jeremy and Diana quickly discover that there’s more to their connection than friendship and banter. Their sexual spark is connected to emotions that bubble up as they spend time together, and they each must face the fact that there’s more on the line than just their bedroom connection.

Of course, there are complications, including another single young woman introduced as a possible future bride for Jeremy, but who harbors her own set of surprises. Violet and James are in attendance at the party, as is Emily, the 3rd member of Violet and Diana’s close friendship circle. I’d guess that if there’s a book #3 (and I hope there will be!), we’ll finally focus on Emily’s sad romantic situation and see her find true love too.

To Love and To Loathe is a fun, clever historical romance, and while some of the complications seemed a little more drawn-out than strictly needed, it’s quite an entertaining read. I really enjoyed the characters’ banter, as well as the witty/snarky/innuendo-laden moments.

With Willingham, at the moment, it seemed that little effort would have to be expended in the seduction. He was directing his charm at her so forcefully that she was surprised her legs hadn’t fallen open of their own accord.

“Do remove yourself from my settee, Willingham,” she said briskly, proceeding to rearrange her skirts with such gusto that the man had no choice but to retreat to an armchair to avoid the risk of suffocation by muslin.

And a favorite:

For heaven’s sake, it was breakfast time. She hadn’t known that thoughts this inappropriate were possible this early in the day.

If you’re looking for a light, romantic escape with charming characters, definitely check out To Have and To Hoax AND To Love and To Loathe. (TL&TL works just fine on its own, but might as well read them both!)

Book Review: Romancing Mr. Bridgerton (Bridgertons, #4) by Julia Quinn

Title: Romancing Mr. Bridgerton (Bridgertons, #3)
Author: Julia Quinn
Publisher: Avon
Publication date: 2002
Length: 384 pages
Genre: Historical romance
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Everyone knows that Colin Bridgerton is the most charming man in London. Penelope Featherington has secretly adored her best friend’s brother for…well, it feels like forever. After half a lifetime of watching Colin Bridgerton from afar, she thinks she knows everything about him, until she stumbles across his deepest secret…and fears she doesn’t know him at all.

Colin Bridgerton is tired of being thought nothing but an empty-headed charmer, tired of everyone’s preoccupation with the notorious gossip columnist Lady Whistledown, who can’t seem to publish an edition without mentioning him in the first paragraph. But when Colin returns to London from a trip abroad he discovers nothing in his life is quite the same – especially Penelope Featherington! The girl haunting his dreams. But when he discovers that Penelope has secrets of her own, this elusive bachelor must decide…is she his biggest threat – or his promise of a happy ending? 

Bridgerton books have become my go-to for those times (like long flights) when I want to be entertained, without having to make too much effort. Romancing Mister Bridgerton, the 4th in the series, was a perfect choice for a travel companion for me this week.

This time around, it’s Penelope’s turn to find romance!

While the Bridgertons series revolves around the eight children of the Bridgerton family, each getting a book in which to find true love and marriage, the love interests in each book are just as important as the Bridgerton family member at the center of the action.

In the 4th book, it’s 3rd son Colin Bridgerton who takes center stage. At age 33, everyone agrees that it’s about time for Colin to settle down with a wife and start a family. He’s restless and unfulfilled, though, lacking a greater purpose beyond being a member of the ton and attending social functions. When his restlessness hits, he takes off, and has traveled extensively around the world, returning to England for brief periods before he’s driven to set out again.

Meanwhile, Penelope Featherington, at age 28, is now considered firmly “on the shelf”, having navigated many social seasons without a single proposal to show for it. Best friends with Colin’s younger sister Eloise, Penelope has been a fixture in the Bridgerton household for years. Unbeknownst to Colin, Penelope has also been secretly in love with him for over a decade, but being an overlooked wallflower, she has no hope that Colin will never notice her in any but a brotherly fashion.

Anyone who’s watched the Bridgerton TV series on Netflix will already know what Penelope’s huge secret is… but for those who don’t already know, I’m not spilling the beans! Trust me — it’s huge, and could have a permanent impact on Penelope’s social standing if it ever got out. In book #4, the truth is about to be revealed, and Penelope may not be able to stop it.

Meanwhile, she and Colin are thrown together more frequently, and each begins to learn more about the other and see their previously unnoticed depths, as well as the chemistry that begins to spark between them. Naturally, they fall in love, but (as is the case in all of these books) complications pop up and threaten to derail their blossoming romance.

Romancing Mister Bridgerton is such fun! It’s especially rewarding to get to see Penelope taking center stage — the overlooked girl growing into a confident woman who just needs to learn to use her voice. She’s a terrific romantic heroine, not the classic beauty, but a vibrant, intelligent woman who doesn’t need to be a cookie-cutter replicant of society’s ideal.

Colin has always been a favorite for me, and his sense of humor and playfulness make him funny and relatable to read about. Colin and Penelope make a charming couple, and it made me so happy to see them together!

This book sets up the events of #5 with a sort-of cliffhanger about Bridgerton sister Eloise, so I have a feeling I won’t be waiting too long to continue with the series.

My usual random thoughts:

  • Years have gone by, and all of a sudden, Hyacinth is out in society! And Gregory is in university! Kids grow up so fast these days.
  • We learn that Francesca (that’s Bridgerton child #6, for those keeping score) has not only married off-screen but is already widowed. I don’t believe we’ve really seen her much in the books so far, so she feels like a non-entity to me, but I guess she’ll get her turn in a couple more books.
  • The Bridgerton family dynamics make these books so much fun. It’s delightful to see all the sibling bickering and Violet (Mama Bridgerton) rolling her eyes at her children’s outrageous behavior.
  • I love that Julia Quinn has created a whole little world among the ton. Even though some people are only mentioned in passing, I feel like a lot of these characters are well enough known by now that I’m exclaiming over who’s gotten married, as if they were actually part of my social circle.

This wouldn’t be a Bridgertons review if I didn’t include at least a few juicy and/or fun selections:

Sex…

When he felt her relax slightly beneath him, he pushed forward a bit more, until he reached the undeniable proof of her innocence.

… and true love…

He smiled, and suddenly she knew that his words were true. Everything would be all right. Maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow, but soon. Tragedy couldn’t coexist in a world with one of Colin’s smiles.

… and some family silliness…

Penelope tried to signal discreetly at her husband, but all her attempts at circumspection were drowned out by Hyacinth’s vigorous wave and holler of, “Colin!”

Violet groaned.

“I know, I know,” Hyacinth said unrepentantly, “I must be more ladylike.”

“If you know it,” Violet said, sounding every inch the mother she was, “then why don’t you do it?”

“What would be the fun in that?”

Ah, these books go down like candy! They’re sweet and fluffy, and I’m enjoying every moment. Even while chuckling over some ridiculous societal affectation or silly romance wording, I’m still having a great time. At this point, I’m all in, and won’t stop reading until every one of those eight Bridgertons is happily married.

Four down, four to go!

Book Review: An Offer From A Gentleman (Bridgertons, #3) by Julia Quinn

Title: An Offer From A Gentleman (Bridgertons, #3)
Author: Julia Quinn
Publisher: Avon
Publication date: 2001
Length: 390 pages
Genre: Historical romance
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Will she accept his offer before the clock strikes midnight?

Sophie Beckett never dreamed she’d be able to sneak into Lady Bridgerton’s famed masquerade ball—or that “Prince Charming” would be waiting there for her! Though the daughter of an earl, Sophie has been relegated to the role of servant by her disdainful stepmother. But now, spinning in the strong arms of the debonair and devastatingly handsome Benedict Bridgerton, she feels like royalty. Alas, she knows all enchantments must end when the clock strikes midnight.

Who was that extraordinary woman? Ever since that magical night, a radiant vision in silver has blinded Benedict to the attractions of any other—except, perhaps this alluring and oddly familiar beauty dressed in housemaid’s garb whom he feels compelled to rescue from a most disagreeable situation. He has sworn to find and wed his mystery miss, but this breathtaking maid makes him weak with wanting her. Yet, if he offers his heart, will Benedict sacrifice his only chance for a fairy tale love?

In a world filled with serious books, it’s nice to have fluffy fun like the Bridgertons books to turn to for a bit of escapism every now and then.

In the 3rd book in the series, it’s Benedict Bridgerton’s turn to find love. The Bridgerton family is famous for its eight astonishingly attractive children, conveniently named in alphabetical order. And while the book series started out of order by focusing on Daphne, oldest daughter yet fourth child, the rest of the series remains true to the alphabet. Which brings us to Benedict.

Benedict is the second son — no title, but from an esteemed family and with a very agreeable fortune nonetheless, so now that his elder brother the Viscount is happily married, Benedict is considered prime pickings for the society season.

Meanwhile, we meet poor Sophie Beckett, the unacknowledged illegitimate daughter of an earl. Taken in and raised by her natural father, she’s introduced to the world as his ward, but when the earl remarries, his new wife is shrewd enough to know the truth. Once Sophie’s father dies when she is fourteen, her stepmother Araminta is persuaded to provide a home for Sophie thanks to a strings-attached bequest, but rather than treating her with kindness, Araminta forces Sophie into the role of an overworked servant. Araminta’s daughters aren’t any better, although the younger of the two shows hints of friendliness, despite being too frightened of her mother to actually be nice to Sophie or defend her in any way.

Sophie’s luck finally changes when she gets the opportunity to attend the most anticipated party of the season, a masquerade chez Bridgerton. With help of the family servants, Sophie is dressed up in borrowed finery, dons a mask, and swoops into the ball, immediately catching Benedict’s eye. The two feel an instant spark and spend glorious hours together, only to be separated when Sophie must rush off at midnight, her only chance of making sure that she’ll be home and back in her servant’s clothing before Araminta and the girls arrive home.

Yes, it’s a Cinderella story! I had no idea when I picked up the book, but it became obvious right from the start. And while I might have moaned a bit, it actually became a really fun theme for the book. Author Julia Quinn is skillful enough to play with the underlying fairy tale and keep it fresh while weaving its traditional patterns into the story.

In fact, once we move past the ball and the couple’s inevitable separation, the story becomes even more interesting. The Cinderella-like aspects become quieter background elements, and instead we get to focus on Sophie’s struggles, as she’s treated horribly by Araminta and then thrown out, penniless, to fend for herself. Although she’s the daughter of a noble, she’s forced to seek work as a servant in order to survive, and she shows great strength and courage in dealing with her unfair lot in life.

Naturally, Sophie and Benedict do reconnect, as he rescues her from a threatened rape (what the synopsis above refers to, maddeningly, as “a most disagreeable situation” — argh!). There’s a lot of will-they, won’t-they shenanigans, flirtation, chemistry, desire… but also, an interesting dilemma for both characters due to their very different social stations. Sophie is a housemaid, so the most she could realistically hope for from Benedict would be to be established as his mistress. It’s expected that Benedict marry and produce children, and someone of his status could never marry a servant.

Despite her longing for Benedict, Sophie can’t allow herself to even consider becoming his mistress. She knows the pain of being an unwanted bastard child, and swears that she’ll never have a child under those circumstances. So is there any hope for these two crazy lovebirds? Well, of course there is! This is a romance, after all! Naturally, they’re going to find a way to make it all work out… and have some steamy, decidedly not-society-approved sexytimes too.

An Offer From A Gentleman is a fast, fun read, but doesn’t skimp on sentiment along the way. Beyond the core love story, we get to spend more time with Bridgerton family members, especially the big brood’s mother, Violet, who is wonderful in so many ways. She’s fabulous in how she treats Sophie and stands up for injustice, and I just loved her to pieces in this book.

Sure, I have quibbles… like wouldn’t it have been nice for love to be enough to get Benedict and Sophie to choose each other, without needing the big reveal about being an earl’s daughter to help smooth the way? Granted, not everyone is willing to accept a Bridgerton marrying an illegitimate daughter, but for most, Sophie’s blood connection to nobility raises her high enough to be tolerable — whereas if she were “just” a servant, they could never be admitted into society as a couple.

A few random thoughts on things that stuck out to me while reading this book:

  • It’s funny seeing the previous books’ main characters (Daphne and Anthony) show up as background characters in this book. They’re married, they’re happy, they have oodles of children — and there’s just nothing else to say about them. So, according to these romances, you stop being interesting once you get married?
  • The younger Bridgertons are growing up! Gregory and Hyacinth aren’t little children any more, but it will still be weird to see them as romantic leads in books 7 and 8.
  • It’s really hard not to be mad at how badly poor Sophie was treated all her life, especially by her father. He made sure she had a home once her mother died, but never showed her any affection.
  • Lady Whistledown continues to be funny and sharp. Here, her updates include news on the “maid wars’, in which Araminta and Lady Featherington steal each others’ servants back and forth.
  • By including Sophie, we get more of a view into the life of a servant at the time. I was glad to break away from only focusing on the upper class, with servants only appearing when needed to serve.
  • Is it realistic that Violet and her daughters would invite Sophie to join them for tea every day? Why Sophie and not other servants? Sure, Violet is discerning enough to realize that there’s something going on between Benedict and Sophie, but would a society mama really tacitly encourage this connection?

As always, as a visitor to the world of romance reading, I got all sorts of amusement from the romance-y writing:

There was a fire burning within her that had been simmering quietly for years. The sight of him had ignited it anew, and his touch was like kerosene, sending her into a conflagration.

Spoiler! Sophie ends up arrested (until the Bridgertons ride to the rescue). And in one shocking moment:

Sophie just managed to snap her mouth closed, but even so, she had to clutch tightly on to the bars of her cell, because her legs had turned to instant water.

What’s “instant water”? Is that like instant coffee?

When Sophie just happens to stumble across a pond where Benedict is skinny-dipping:

He heard a gasp, followed by a huge flurry of activity.

“Sophie Beckett,” he yelled, “if you run from me right now, I swear I will follow you, and I will not take the time to don my clothing.”

The noises coming form the shore slowed.

“I will catch up with you,” he continued, “because I’m stronger and faster. And I might very well feel compelled to tackle you to the ground, just to be certain you do not escape.”

The sounds of her movement ceased.

All in all, An Offer From A Gentleman is a light, engaging read, and just so much fun. And even though poor Sophie suffers, we know it’s all going to work out perfectly for her — because these books always have happy endings!

Will I continue with the Bridgertons series? Absolutely! After all, the score is now three Bridgerton siblings happily married — five more to go!