The Duke and I

How to Marry a Marquis

Romancing Mr. Bridgerton

To Catch an Heiress

The Viscount Who Loved Me

To Sir Phillip with Love
by Julia Quinn
(Avon, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-380-82085-4
Julia Quinn has once again delivered with another Bridgerton story. One would think she would eventually struggle, but this one is fresh, humorous and delightful. And not once did she mention Lady Whistledown.

Eloise Bridgerton always assumed she would be a spinster. She and her best friend Penelope had agreed to be old maids together. Then Penelope married Eloise’s brother, Colin. Eloise is happy for them, yet she is lonely and feeling a bit sorry for herself. This leads her to a rash act. She decides to go visit Sir Phillip Crane, a man she has been in correspondence with for a year, and who has just asked her to consider marriage - even though they have never met.

The letters started off innocently enough. Eloise’s cousin Marina died. She was married to a botanist, Sir Phillip. Eloise wrote a letter of condolence, which was followed by a reply of thanks which was followed by…soon they were writing regularly.

Sir Phillip is a man who much prefers his quiet. He is haunted by childhood beatings from his father and his life with Marina, who was deeply depressed for most of their marriage. He has two children, Oliver and Amanda, who were forced to be morbidly quiet while Marina was alive for fear of setting her off into melancholia. In the last year, they have run wild. Phillip feels inadequate and chooses to try to ignore them as much as he can.

He sees Eloise as a twenty-eight year old spinster who might be desperate enough to marry him and help him manage his estate and his children - not necessarily in that order. Eloise hopes to find the perfect man of her dreams. What they each find in the other is a friend and a person that they respect. Unfortunately Eloise leaves London quickly and without notifying Phillip that she is coming to visit him. He cannot arrange a chaperone. They are forced to marry and then determine if they suit.

Eloise is a good heroine - she knows her own mind, has been allowed to make some decisions for herself and is ready to confront life. She is a chatterbox, yet says some funny and delightful things. She is the eternal optimist. When forced to marry, she accepts the inevitable, only lamenting the fact that she may not have her love match. Phillip is a confused hero. He is a little unsure of himself, much preferring to disappear than to confront life. He is confounded by Eloise but is drawn to her for the same reason. However, when the chips are down, he comes through with flying colors and stays there.

Quinn brings back many of the Bridgertons. The brothers are a fun group and the camaraderie in the family is a delight to read. The book can stand alone, but it does bring back the enjoyment of the previous books for those who know the history.

There is adult humor thrown in the mix and that is refreshing to see in a historical. When five men sit around and talk about a buxom barmaid, I laughed out loud, especially when Eliose and her sister-in-law join in for a few laughs. Sexual innuendo is prevalent, and the sex is hot. It is nice that it all occurs once they are married.

The story lags just a bit, as it takes Phillip and Eloise much longer to decide they suit than it does the reader. This is a small quibble, as just as I had determined the scenarios of “do I love him/her” were getting old, Quinn switched gears and emphasized the children.

The children in the beginning were horrible and complete caricatures. Once the story developed, the children were more thoroughly developed. As Eloise helps Phillip confront the past, she helps the children and it ends in a most satisfying way.

If you are a Quinn fan, you won’t be disappointed. If not, this is a fun place to start on your tour of the Bridgerton family. To Sir Phillip with Love will delight.

--Shirley Lyons

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