Romancing Mister Bridgerton, by Julia Quinn
I have to say that as someone who has read a substantial amount of books by the author , that this book was a rare break from the author’s monotonous tendency to for couples together through compromising situations. I am happy to say that this is not the way that this relationship comes to develop. That is not to say that this book lacks problems, as the author is simply unable (or unwilling) to present her characters in a happy relationship. If one compares, say, the novels of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series to the novels of Jane Austen, we can see that Jane Austen’s novels end rather abruptly at courtship and marriage, with mission accomplished, while Quinn tends to have the customers engaged at about the halfway point or so of the novel, married at about the two-thirds mark, and then resolving some sort of early-marriage crisis that threatens their happiness for finding happily ever after in the first and second epilogues. And that structure is exactly what we find here as well as the other novels by this author I have read. Yet although the author’s approach is more than a little bit formulaic, the fact that she varies her formula in one of its more offensive ways does make this book easier to enjoy than is the case with the author’s body of work as a whole.
In reading the books of the author, one of the aspects that is most important in determining how one appreciates the novel is how one relates to the characters. My enjoyment of this novel, at least on a relative level, is certainly helped by the fact that I can relate to both of the characters. Colin is in his early thirties and has been harassed about not being married and has resorted to travel as a means of helping him cope with feeling like he does not have a purpose. Meanwhile, Penelope is a woman who has been living a secret life for about a decade or so, namely that she is the ferociously witty Lady Whistledown. Naturally, when the two of them start to think of each other mutually as more than friends, there are going to be a lot of complications, and a lot of frustrations, not all of which make the characters appear good. Colin in particular shows problematic levels of anger in his frustration about his lack of purpose as well as his approach to his wife’s secret.
One of the quirks of this book is that the characters have a long backstory but the book itself only covers the very end of that story before their courtship. There are certainly plenty of cliches and tropes that this book is a part of. We have the friends to lovers tropes, the ugly duckling trope, the dueling secret lives, where it turns out that both of the members of the main romantic couple end up being successful writers (spoiler alert). These cliches are not necessarily bad–after all, the author could do a lot worse, but this is likely the peak that the author is capable of doing based on her limitations as a writer as well as her moral limitations and her inability to write convincing courtships, which is still in effect here. If you are a reader of this book and don’t find it to be at least a moderately successful romance there is probably no point in reading anything else this author has to offer. It only gets worse from here. For this reader, at least, this book offered modest pleasure, and that is enough.
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