Why revisit Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton: The Duke and I (Avon)? The answers are simple. Since its initial release in 2000, the novel has skyrocketed to number one on the New York Times bestseller list courtesy of its adaptation into the television series, Bridgerton, an overnight hit on Netflix.
Bridgerton is the first production from Shondaland, as part of Shonda Rhimes’ (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder) lucrative deal with the streaming service, and her saga of multi-cultural Regency scandals has racked up 63 million streams since its debut on Christmas. The Duke and I begins as a chaste romance between an innocent young debutante and a traumatized handsome aristocrat, a common trope dressed in morning jackets, riding habits and ball gowns in 1813 London. It is Gossip Girl-meets-Jane Austen-meets-Fifty Shades of Grey.
DAPHNE THE JEWEL AND SIMON THE RAKE
At the center of the narrative is the anonymous society gossip Lady Whistledown, who seems to know every intimate detail about the aristocratic social scene in London. According to Whistledown’s daily gossip sheet, the “jewel” of the season is Daphne Bridgerton, the oldest daughter of the wealthy Viscountess Violet Bridgerton and the fourth of her eight children.
The courting season is when matches are made and love is in the air, but Daphne is very particular. She’s dismissed four suitors who haven’t met her standards, namely being a love match, and she’s bored with the prospect of fending off another round of stuffy partners. Her smart, pleasant personality makes her a friend to all the eligible men but desired by none. At the prime age of twenty, she’s terrified of becoming an old maid.
London is also abuzz over the return of handsome, brooding Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings. He’s just returned from years abroad to settle his late father’s estate, and Simon bears a secret so deep that he shuns society and the prospect of marriage. He’s so consumed with hatred for his distant, dead father that he’s vowed never to marry. Simon’s reputation as a rake and scoundrel has rendered him an unlikely match for Daphne, and he promises his good friend Anthony Bridgerton, Daphne’s oldest brother, that he will stay clear of Daphne.
Fate, apparently, has something else in mind.
FAKE FIANCÉS TO LOVERS
When Simon and Daphne meet at a ball, they discover their common disdain for the dating game and foster a plot. They will pretend to be engaged. The scheme will enhance Daphne’s desirability in the eyes of prospective suitors and will deem Simon to be off the market. It’s the perfect solution to their problems … until they fall in love.
When Anthony discovers Simon and Daphne in a dark garden entwined in each other’s arms, all hell breaks loose. Anthony challenges Simon to duel, Daphne foils the duel, and Simon agrees to marry Daphne, and vice versa, with one stipulation. Simon cannot father children. Daphne has always dreamed of having a large family like her own but agrees because she’s desperately in love with Simon. There will be no spoilers here, “dear reader,” so you must devour the novel to discover the exhilarating details.
NETFLIX VS. THE NOVEL
Fans of Netflix’s Bridgerton might be disappointed at the absence of the sassy supporting players like the meteoric Queen Charlotte, or the gaudy Featheringtons, or the fierce Lady Danbury. And the identity of Lady Whistledown remains a secret. But never mind. Readers do become intimately acquainted with Simon and Daphne, and the mystery behind Simon’s inability to have a family. In this spicy romance, readers can turn down the thermostats as Simon and Daphne turn up the heat in the bedchamber. Julia Quinn cleverly turns a voyeuristic eye on the couple’s sizzling romantic exploits, which are torrid enough to keep every reader red-hot in the dead of winter.
The Duke and I is a fun, twisted romp of manners in the drawing rooms, ballrooms and castles of the rich and famous of Regency London. The novel’s resolution and its two epilogues leave the reader sated, yet longing for more. And more there is! The Duke and I is the first of Quinn’s nine Bridgerton novels featuring Daphne’s kin. And Lady Whistedown has officially announced that the Netflix series will continue the saga with Season Two — The Viscount Who Loved Me, featuring Anthony’s pursuit of a bride. So, until then, “dear reader” there’s plenty to titillate in Julia Quinn’s steamy, fantastic Bridgerton series.
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