Book: Romancing Mr. Bridgerton
Series: Bridgertons, #4
Author: Julia Quinn
Reviewed by: Danielle
Rating: 4/5 stars
So I’ve come to really like the historical-romance genre. Is the writing up there with literature’s finest? No. But with the right author, the stories are engaging and swift and, well, romantic. For a girl like me, that goes a long way. I love love stories. It’s in my genes, my DNA, my whatever. I have tended to read a lot of “high brow” literature, but I’ve come to realize that the romance genre satisfies a different side of me. They’re easy reads but so enjoyable as well. There’s no need for expectations of great complexity or literary “richness”. The plot lines may be formulaic and predictable, but that doesn’t mean you can’t wrap yourself up in them. You can still invest yourself in the couple and in their romance. Plus, if there’s one thing I enjoy about the romance genre, it’s the men. It must not take a whole lot to make me swoon, because I’ve found most of them emotionally and physically satisfying to the umpteenth degree.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, on to Julia Quinn. I like Ms. Quinn. I especially like her characters. I don’t think she’s as talented a writer as Lisa Kleypas, but I know what to expect, and Quinn usually meets those expectations. Her Bridgertons series is sweet, charming, and often funny, and in almost all of her main characters I have found something to like and even adore. However, while she definitely deserves credit for creating endearing heroes and heroines and couples you truly root for, her writing is a bit too simplistic. Her characters frequently come to conclusions that should have been subtly done but instead feel forced and almost out of nowhere. So while I’m always wrapped up in the couple’s burgeoning love affair, I’m also left wishing the prose could have been better written.
Quinn’s regency romance series, eight books with several short “epilogues” in total, centers around the affluent Bridgerton family, each book dedicated to one of the Bridgerton children and his or her journey in finding a marriage partner. This overarching plot provides many laughs: Mrs. Bridgerton is like the second coming of Mrs. Bennet, hellbent on finding suitable spouses for her children. Immediately we know who each sibling will end up with, but most of Quinn’s couples are so well-matched and their dialogue especially colorful, that the imminent happy ending only drives us forward. We want the couple to find everlasting happiness. This is best done in Romancing Mr. Bridgerton, easily my favorite of the series.
While this fourth novel follows the familiar trope of the unpopular heroine winning the man of her (and everyone else’s) dreams, the two said characters make it totally worthwhile. Colin and Penelope have appeared in the previous books, and we get an inkling of the future heading their way from the beginning: In the first book there is a sentence or two informing the reader that Colin has asked Penelope to dance at his mother’s insistence, for she is plump and unpopular and her dance card is empty. One point for Penelope! Colin, of course, is a delicious character: he is charming, witty, and handsome and always knows what to say. He has been my favorite Bridgerton sibling from the beginning. The books come to life whenever he is on the page. Penelope has appeared less frequently, but she is immediately likeable, if only for being the only sensible member of her family. Always the wallflower, she has been in love with Colin for many years with little hope of ever marrying him. At the beginning of the fourth book, she is twenty-eight and a spinster, seemingly content with becoming a chauffeur for her younger sister.
Quinn has a knack for writing snappy dialogue between her lovers, and that’s no exception in Romancing Mr. Bridgerton. To his surprise, Colin and Penelope establish a witty repartee that proves them equals in intelligence and charm. And, it turns out, that they have a common ground in their fondness for writing and words. Much of the book’s strength rests on Colin’s growth as he realizes that Penelope is much more than his younger sister’s shy best friend. Penelope is smart, thoughtful, and funny, and she isn’t afraid to joke with and challenge him. I had been patiently waiting for Colin to get his own book so I could learn more about him, and it was a pleasure seeing him develop and change as his feelings for Penelope do likewise. Of course, Colin’s depth as a character goes beyond his cool exterior; he has deep-seated insecurities about his place in the world and a hot temper that can get the best of him. When Penelope witnesses this latter behavior in Colin for the first time, she questions whether she has truly known the man she has loved all of these years. However, this has proved to be my biggest complaint about the novel: while we see Colin gradually come to love Penelope for who she is, Quinn forces Penelope to do so for Colin in a much more choppy and rushed manner. She immediately forgives or forgets or misjudges Colin’s imperfections rather than appropriately grappling with them. Although Penelope eventually realizes that she much prefers the imperfect Colin to the perfect, this awareness could have developed more smoothly throughout.
Ultimately, however, Colin and Penelope are an easy couple to cheer for and appreciate. Their growth from casual acquaintances, to good friends, to lovers is believable and smoothly directs the narrative. And it honestly made me so damn happy to watch Colin fall in love, to find someone who could reach into his soul and understand. As a husband and lover, Colin has all the characteristics we want to see in a romantic hero: he is attentive, funny, charming, and protective, and of course excellent in bed. The love scene is tender and enticing, in large part because the more experienced Colin quite simply worships Penelope. In public, too, Colin makes her feel worthy and wanted, whether through words or a simple hand hold. He laments the fact that he has taken so long to actually notice Penelope and hates that she is still so ignored by her peers. He especially makes this known at the conclusion of the novel when he gets up on stage and declares to all of society just how truly special Penelope is (I won’t spoil the “why” here). Fortunately, the ending isn’t quite so melodramatic as Quinn’s others. While it still feels like she tries to pack a lot of plot in at the end, this at least feels more natural and less forced.
I recommend reading this series and especially this book if you are looking for something light and romantic with characters who immediately jump off the page. Quinn almost always provides us with couples who we can swoon and sigh over, despite her other limitations as a writer. Colin and Penelope are the very best she has to offer, and I quite simply adore them.