On my recent vacation, I made my first foray into the Romance genre. And what setting could be more perfect to read a Romance novel than a beach in Mexico?
Around the holidays, one of my coworkers decided to be the “Romance Fairy” and gift another coworker and I with new romance novels. Both of my coworkers have been into the romance genre for quite some time and had been gradually convincing me that I should take a dip into Romance.
Not that I was opposed: I long have enjoyed other families of genre fiction. Why wouldn’t I enjoy Romance as well? Especially when my gift from the Romance Fairy was described as “Jane Austen with sex.” Win-win.
When my jaunt to Mexico approached, The Duke and I seemed to be a natural choice for my reading material. Fresh off the beast (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle), The Duke and I was light, fast, and easy. And pretty enjoyable.
The Duke and I unsurprisingly follows the I, Daphne, and the Duke, Simon, as they progress from strangers to friends to something more, with a host of complications along the way. It’s not so much about what happens as how it happens.
I’ll start with the parts of the book I was less than pleased with. Admittedly, part of it is the product of the limiting time in which Julia Quinn set the Bridgertons.
The Ugh/Ew Moments
Aside from my general disdain of traditional marriage and the pursuit thereof, there were few moments of “ugh” and “ew.” And since my bitching about traditional marriage has been done repeatedly throughout this blog’s life, I’ll hone in on one other thing that caused me to go “ugh” while reading The Duke and I–and that would be Daphne’s belittling her own self-worth.
Through much of the book, Daphne is spot-on, sassy, and super feminist ahead of her time. However, when she meets Simon, she almost instantly sighs that nothing would happen,
“Maybe it was because she knew a man like him would never be interested in a woman like her.” (47)
Daphne, with her wit and understanding, is so much better than Simon, who is the occasional mix of brat and dick. Speaking of…
Much of the time, Daphne is not only smart and kind, but she is insistent and decisive in her choice of suitors. She isn’t afraid to object to a suitor (rejecting at least four) even though her mother, Violet, desperately wants her to get married.
Daphne also isn’t afraid to hint at her own feelings on the lack of gender equality. For instance, when Violet laments her sons’ performances in school, Daphne is quick to offer:
“I’m sure I would take a first if Oxford would only see fit to admit women.” (20)
And she probably would, but the best part of this inclusion is that it shows she, unlike some other women depicted in that time (looking at you, Charles Dickens), has developed brains enough to realize that she could grow even more if she had a chance at education. Alas, it was not to be. Fingers crossed her (spoiler alert) daughters get a shot at university.
Smart as she is, Daphne is also quick to realize stereotypes of women–and quick to lament when she finds herself playing that role:
“She hated that men thought that women were fickle, changeable creatures, and she hated even more that she was living up to that image right then.” (64)
I know Daphne is the productive of the time she is placed in, so I’ll refrain from lamenting how much more kickass she could have been in a later century. Instead, in the context of the time Quinn set her characters, Daphne is pretty far ahead of her time, and I can be satisfied with that.
Lady Whistledown’s Society Papers
Lady Whistledown is a snarky lady, which is why I oh-so enjoyed her Society Papers. Also, starting each chapter with an excerpt from them? Well done, Julia Quinn.
Most of the time, the reader learns what is going on with the Bridgertons, or the Featheringtons or another local family, but sometimes Lady Whistledown offers up some all-around, spot-on insight:
“To say that men can be bullheaded would be insulting to the bull.” (291)
I NEED TO KNOW WHO LADY WHISTLEDOWN IS and how she knows so much about the Bridgertons. I’m really hoping for a sassy spinster. *fingers crossed*
So, Barnes & Noble, watch out. I’ll probably be hitting you up for the rest of the Bridgertons. In the summer. When my TBR shelf has shrunk. And when it’s warm and sunny and I can once again enjoy some #beachreads.
Quinn, Julia. The Duke and I. New York, NY: Avon, 2000.