An Offer from a Gentleman

The Duke and I

How to Marry a Marquis

To Catch an Heiress

The Viscount Who Loved Me

 
Romancing Mr. Bridgerton
by Julia Quinn
(Avon, 6.99, PG) ISBN 0-380-82084-6
****
Julia Quinn has written another delightful entry into her Bridgerton series. Romancing Mr. Bridgerton is Colin’s story. Since the entire plot revolves around the identity of Mrs. Whistledown, and the blossoming of a spinster, both from previous titles in the series, I suggest strongly that readers have read at least one of these in order to fully appreciate the tale.

Penelope Featherington is a twenty-eight year old spinster, who has always been a wallflower and in many ways, a laughingstock. She has always been slightly overweight, which is not an attribute the English ton appreciates. Add to that her innate shyness and a horrendous fashion sense, and you have Penelope’s life. This story is her triumph in an Ugly Duckling sort of way, but you would have to read the other stories in the series to see the full transformation.

Penelope has been in love with Colin Bridgerton since she was sixteen. Five years her senior, Colin has always seen Penelope as a nice girl, a little pathetic, and a friend to his sister. As her friend, Penelope was often hanging around the Bridgerton home. Colin never really noticed her before, but always found her pleasant and intelligent.

Colin is the third of four brothers. As the younger son, he has had a fortune settled on him, but has little to occupy his time. So he travels abroad often, whenever the boredom catches up to him. He is searching for his niche and struggles with his feelings of having had no major accomplishments while recognizing that with his birth and upbringing he really has nothing to complain about. Upon his return from Cyprus, he meets Penelope again, and sees her in a new light. He is drawn to her first in friendship, followed by a slow recognition that there is more to his feelings.

Colin and Penelope are well-drawn characters, both displaying intelligence, a penchant for caring, and vulnerabilities that they try to hide from the world. Yet both can see below the surface and it is this look at each other that causes them to fall into love. Their sense of understanding each other as their relationship develops energizes the story.

The entire “Mrs. Whistledown” plotline is at times funny, silly, poignant and a tiny bit tedious. I hesitate to say more if you have been following this, as one of the mysteries of series is the question of “Who in Mrs. Whistledown?” Suffice it to say that it is an enjoyable plot, but it is dragged out just a tad too long.

Most of Quinn’s previous heroes and heroines make an appearance and it is fun to reminisce. The Bridgertons, and to a lesser extent, the Featheringtons, add to the enjoyment of the story. However, I would caution those who have not read previous stories that you may feel lost.

My favorite character is Lady Danbury, a feisty matron who takes Penelope under her wing and helps her on many occasions. Although she is a fixture from the other books, her character is drawn out in this one and lends itself to an interesting look at how an older woman who is seen as being eccentric by many, has been molded to that by her experiences. The addition of this is a nice touch.

This Quinn novel is a tongue-in-cheek look at the Regency period and the actions of the ton. All of the characters are members and recognize the power and their need to conform. Yet there is an underlying note of sarcasm that hints at how silly and often ridiculous the mores and customs of this group of people can be.

Colin and Penelope are a charming and entertaining pair who have a satisfying romance, and we finally find out the identity of the mysterious Mrs. Whistledown. Fans of Quinn will be ecstatic and others will find the story engaging as Romancing Mr. Bridgerton appeals on many levels.

--Shirley Lyons


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