The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After, by Julia Quinn
At least as it stands now, this book completes my self-assigned project to read and critique the entire Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn. While overall the series was highly disappointing for me, this book was generally enjoyable and ranks high among the list of books in the series, and not only does it provide an interesting read by including the second epilogues for all eight of the Bridgerton novels as well as a novella about the dowager Viscountess whose children are the protagonists of their novels, but it also reveals something of the thought process of the writer herself. Some of these novels allow the author to explore further questions of interest to her, some of them provide fan service by dealing with matters of interest to the novels readers, and still others offer a necessary conclusion to loose ends that the novel itself left unresolved once the titular couple fell in love with each other. If you are fond of this series, this is likely going to be a book that you appreciate, and even as someone who was decidedly lukewarm on the series as a whole this was a book that I enjoyed for the most part, as the problematic elements of the novels thankfully do not appear here.
This book is a bit more than 350 pages, and contains 9 different fragments of writing relating to the Bridgerton series as a whole. Included are the second epilogues of: The Duke And I, The Viscount Who Loved Me, An Offer From A Gentleman, Romancing Mister Bridgerton, To Sir Philip, With Love, When He Was Wicked, It’s In His Kiss, And On The Way To The Wedding, as well as a new novella, Violet In Bloom, about the mother to the Bridgerton children. Included are not only the second epilogues themselves as well as the novella, but also brief introductions to each where the author answers the sorts of questions that led her to tackle these matters, sometimes basing it on the action of the novel itself and dealing with questions that she herself had, and sometimes writing these second epilogues because of the appeal of fans of the series for specific issues. Seeing the author’s thought process helps make these second epilogues appealing, and the author’s recognition of the limitations of her genre when it comes to sequels helps to frame these works in a good way too.
What does one gain from reading a book like this? For this reader at least, the epilogues themselves were demonstrations of an author who had built a profitable and popular world and was reluctant to let it go, and had found a way to keep providing her readers with more information and more stories of interest within this universe. Admittedly, not all of these second epilogues were unfamiliar to me, as some versions of the novels themselves contain them, but in general I have to say that I gained a certain degree of respect for the author in how she went about addressing the matters covered in her second epilogue. They provide a bit more emotional range than some of her novels do, which is both a compliment and a critique, I suppose. We get to see the Duke of Hastings, for example, give parents of a child who is showing some developmental difficulties in learning to talk with the advice to love them in the way that his father never loved him, which provides a good emotional core. The author provides a near-death experience for a woman who had given birth many times before, providing a sense of peril for a dangerous and very realistic scenario. Had the author thought more about questions of plot and not merely including certain elements for convenience, then some of tehse second epilogues would have been part of the novels proper, but it is better to revise a novel into improvement through addition rather than not to, I suppose.