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Review: The Duke And I by Julia Quinn

on November 20, 2020

The Duke And I (Bridgertons #1)
Julia Quinn
2019 (originally 2000), 464p
Freebie via iBooks

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

In the ballrooms and drawing rooms of Regency London, rules abound. From their earliest days, children of aristocrats learn how to address an earl and curtsey before a prince—while other dictates of the ton are unspoken yet universally understood. A proper duke should be imperious and aloof. A young, marriageable lady should be amiable…but not too amiable.

Daphne Bridgerton has always failed at the latter. The fourth of eight siblings in her close-knit family, she has formed friendships with the most eligible young men in London. Everyone likes Daphne for her kindness and wit. But no one truly desires her. She is simply too deuced honest for that, too unwilling to play the romantic games that captivate gentlemen.

Amiability is not a characteristic shared by Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings. Recently returned to England from abroad, he intends to shun both marriage and society—just as his callous father shunned Simon throughout his painful childhood. Yet an encounter with his best friend’s sister offers another option. If Daphne agrees to a fake courtship, Simon can deter the mamas who parade their daughters before him. Daphne, meanwhile, will see her prospects and her reputation soar.

The plan works like a charm—at first. But amid the glittering, gossipy, cut-throat world of London’s elite, there is only one certainty: love ignores every rule…

This novel includes the 2nd epilogue, a peek at the story after the story.

Well. This is awkward.

Apparently I read this five years ago but I had zero memory of it until I reached a scene quite close to the end, that I will talk about in more detail later. But given this is a big deal about to drop on Netflix later this month, I thought I’d read the first book and get brushed up on who is who because I do enjoy a period adaptation and I’m really loving a lot of the Netflix takes on books. I’ve watched a few of their ones on YA books and I’m hoping this one is enjoyable.

So the first book introduces us to the Bridgerton family – eight siblings, named in alphabetical order. So Anthony, Benedict, Colin, Daphne, Eloise, Francesca, Gregory and Hyacinth. Their father has passed, which makes Anthony the head of the household and he’s also a Viscount. Daphne, the oldest daughter has been ‘out’ for several years and has received some offers but has rejected every one as being unsuitable. Anthony supports his younger sister in wanting to be happy in her marriage but not to the extent of drawing the attention of his close friend Simon, Duke of Hasting, whom Anthony was at Eton with. Simon has recently returned from some years abroad and has created a stir among the mothers of ladies of marriageable age. When he and Daphne meet quite by chance, they end up coming up with a scheme where they will “pretend” to court: this will keep the mothers away from Simon (or so he thinks) and a Duke showing interest in Daphne might make some of the more eligible young men see her in a different light, rather than just a friend. But of course, things get carried away, they are caught in a rather compromising position and must marry. Simon makes it clear to Daphne he cannot have children which causes the conflict after their marriage.

Okay, so this was mostly fine – Simon’s background is not unusual for a Duke in such a novel: his mother knew her duty so well to provide an heir that she gave her life for it. His father was a cold, unfeeling man who only wanted someone he could mould in his very image. But it differs a bit as Simon didn’t speak until he was four and then had a significant stutter which led to his father denouncing him as an “idiot”. Simon worked really hard to master his stutter (it will still appear in times of emotional stress) but never pleased his father so he left for abroad and only returned once he inherited the Dukedom. To spite his father he plans to get no heir, allowing the name to die out. It’s all bit stupid but probably makes sense for the time period I guess. Simon’s made out as a notorious rake but he’s literally the least rake-like character I think I’ve ever come across. There’s no debauchery described, not even a whisper. He’s actually rather bland.

But the book turned for me after they were married. Firstly, it relies an awful lot on Daphne, who has seven siblings including three older “rakish” brothers, not knowing a single thing about sex. Which yes, I know well-bred young ladies were kept rather sheltered but her youngest sibling is about 10, she’s in her 20s. Her mother, who had eight kids, stutters and stammers her way through the worst “preparation” speech about marital duty ever. This was a woman determined to see her daughters married. When one marries a Duke, one is expected to provide an heir. You’d think her mother would’ve prepared her how to provide that, even if it was in euphemistic terms. But Daphne has to go into this marriage ridiculously clueless so that it takes her a long time to figure out what Simon is doing when he never “finishes” inside of her.

The following paragraph contains ***SPOILERS***

And then this book took an even worse turn for me. At best this scene is blatant self-serving disgraceful manipulation and betrayal, at worst it’s marital rape. If it were the other way around and a man used his position to hold down his wife and finish inside of her to impregnate her against her will when she had specifically asked he not, tried to stop it, tried to basically beg in a position of vulnerability…..the fact that it’s Daphne who uses her position to hold Simon down and continue, even after he realises where it’s going and asks her to stop, tries to get her to move etc, shouldn’t make a difference. And the worst thing I think is, after the fact, she realises what she’s done, how it was against his will (he was drunk, so vulnerable, not quite with all his faculties, he was agreeable to the sex, but not the way it ended and he did ask she stop) and what it means, she’s not even sorry. She got what she wanted to achieve, no matter the consequences and the fact that this is used as a catalyst to address the issues between them without her ever acknowledging what she did was wrong, meant that my opinion of this story was severely compromised. I honestly hope the Netflix adaptation leaves this out and thinks of another way to resolve the conflict between the two. Because this is a shitty one.

End ***SPOILERS***

I’m not sure how I feel about continuing with the series now. Anthony was my least favourite character in this anyway (so much blustery older brother) and his book is next. Hopefully the other books give me less….rapey vibes.


Book #228 of 2020



2 responses to “Review: The Duke And I by Julia Quinn

  1. thebrowneyedbookworm says:

    I’ve read this books probably more than 10 years ago when I was in a historical romance phase and I’ve noticed that at the time these romance novels were written it was ok to write about questionable behavior in and out of marriage bed which would not be ok nowadays. I’m looking forward to the show, but I could not read this series again. My tastes have definitely changed.

    ~ Corina |

    • I’ve read quite a few questionable scenes before as well – and I know a lot of people actually complain now that hist rom isn’t realistic because all the Dukes are caring and woke but I’d rather that over forcing their wives (and in this case, their husbands).

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