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.
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…
What is The Duke and I about?
The Duke and I is a regency era romance that centers on Daphne Bridgerton and Simon Basset. Daphne is the eldest daughter in the Bridgerton family and has been struggling for two seasons to attract a reasonable husband. Between her protective older brothers and her mother’s desire she find a love match, Daphne is frustrated with the lack of suitable young gentlemen willing to see her as a romantic prospect. Simon has the opposite problem, determined to never marry or carry on his family’s title, and desperate to escape the spotlight of the season. The two meet in unusual circumstances and strike a bargain to help one another: Daphne will appear more desirable, and Simon will be shielded from some of the more persistent mothers and daughters.
Genre: Historical Romance
I feel like this one is pretty self explanatory, although the series is also set up with the characters introduced here, as well as Lady Whistledown–whose mysterious presence is a thorn in societies’ side.
Tropes: Fake relationship!
Many of us bookworms love this trope, and for good reason! It has so much drama tied to it, from the agony of lying to your family and knowing they’re too attached, to the belief the feelings that have started rearing up are unrequited.
Plot: Why you shouldn’t fake date your best friend’s sister
Everything that can go wrong does for Simon. He goes into the fake relationship with two rules: don’t actually fall in love with or seduce your best friend’s little sister, and don’t end up compromising your promise to never marry or have heirs. Shouldn’t have started this whole fake relationship with an attractive young woman, should you have Simon?
There is a delicious amount of drama in this book. Whistledown’s scathing reviews are mostly mentioned rather than inserted–though each chapter does start with an excerpt from her gossip column. Despite the fact that much of the society drama is just discussed and never seen, the Bridgertons and Simon create enough drama on page to make up for it. Daphne is a wonderful character, as well, with a big heart and a quick laugh. She’s down to earth, level headed, and open about her feelings when she can be.
Perhaps this comes from having watched the show before reading this book, but sometimes the pacing of the story felt off. There were times where enough dramatic irony or hints had been laid out that I already knew what was happening, but a few chapters later the whole thing was explained again. Many of the male characters have volatile tempers that seem to be a beat behind the actual plot, meaning that drama that’s already happened gets rehashed a few chapters later. I felt as though sometimes the drama was really just being caused by the characters for drama’s sake–but that if this were a characterization it was never made clear.
Simon is….not a great person. He begins the book by both being up front about what he does and doesn’t want–selfish and retributive all at once–but also by downplaying his reputation as largely false. This goes a long way for making his character seem better, as it’s more a situation of his reputation getting away from him and his not dong anything to correct it. However, as his relationship with Daphne grows, he makes many big mistakes that are not fully redeemed in the long run. He tells lies, manipulates her, and blows up in terrifying anger (she literally searches for exits out of fear of his temper, and he does in fact grab her in a way that is described as hurting) when faced with his wrong doing. Simon doesn’t really repent or apologize, instead taking refuge in bad habits and coping mechanisms. He does eventually assert himself over some of his trauma, but agreeing to start a family with Daphne isn’t enough of an apology for his behavior in the last half of the novel.
I’m actually pretty happy to have picked up this book after the Netflix series aired. I didn’t know about this series at all, and though I have to draw lines in my head between the show’s adaptation and the books for the remainder of the series I am looking forward to reading more of Quinn’s writing. I found her style to both adapt to the tropes and hallmarks of a regency romance without dipping too far in, leaving a feeling of a breath of fresh air. My issues with Simon’s character aside, I enjoyed the relationship when things were working. I enjoyed Daphne’s growth as a character, and I enjoyed her family’s dynamics (even if the brothers are a bit too quick to violence). Also, I love Daphne’s punches. Each is more iconic than the last.