The Duke and I

The Further Observations
of Lady Whistledown

How to Marry a Marquis

It's In His Kiss

An Offer From a Gentleman

Romancing Mr. Bridgerton

To Catch an Heiress

To Sir Phillip With Love

The Viscount Who Loved Me

When He Was Wicked

On The Way to the Wedding
by Julia Quinn
(Avon, $7.99, PG) ISBN 0-06-053125-8
Julia Quinn writes highly entertaining and readable books. This one is made even more interesting by the fact that, in a genre where characters frequently fall into true love at first glance, it looks at what happens when people fall into infatuation and have to deal with the consequences.

Gregory Bridgerton has fallen in love with Hermione. One glance at the breathtakingly perfect curve of her neck, and Gregory knows that, at last, he has found The One.

Unfortunately, Gregory discovers he has two problems. The first is that half the gentlemen in the ton believe that the lovely Hermione is The One. Competition for her attention is fierce, although Hermione barely seems to notice. That’s because (problem number two) Hermione is in love with her father’s secretary.

Fortunately, Gregory has a secret weapon. Hermione’s dearest (and perhaps only) female friend, Lady Lucinda Abernathy, is a realist. Lucy knows perfectly well that Hermione, the daughter of a viscount, will never be permitted to marry a mere secretary. She takes one look at Gregory, however, and decides that he is a far superior specimen to most of the men dangling after Hermione. She will help him to win her friend.

Lucy is not jealous of the fact that she’s invisible to the male population thanks to the proximity of Hermione, partly because she genuinely likes her beautiful friend, and partly because her own future is set. She is “practically engaged” to Viscount Haselby, heir to the Earl of Davenport, an arrangement settled on by Lucy’s guardian and Haselby’s father when Lucy was ten and Haselby was twenty. He has simply been waiting for Lucy to grow up and, although she has only met him three times, her first impression was that he is a perfectly pleasant fellow who will make an acceptable husband.

While all of these characters will be at least passingly familiar to romance readers, I admit I am a sucker for a story in which the hero and heroine are friends before they fall in love, and Ms. Quinn handles this one beautifully. While Lucy is cognizant of Gregory’s excellent qualities, she is at first only looking at him as a suitable partner for her friend. Gregory, in spending time with a woman he might not have noticed otherwise, gradually learns to appreciate a woman who is much more than a pretty face.

Both are nicely drawn, multi-dimensional characters. Gregory, in particular, is made very human by his infatuation with Hermione – who is lovely, but not the deepest well in the oilfield. What’s the old adage? That men can see better than they can think? Of course, because he is our hero, his eyes are eventually opened wide enough to see what’s really important.

There isn’t a lot of sex, but there is a lot of delightful sexual tension, which enhances (as it always does) the pure pleasure of the romance.

Although it’s a good book, there are, in my opinion, some weaknesses that prevent it from being one of Ms. Quinn’s best. Although much is made of Hermione’s romance early on, her story trails off and changes direction unconvincingly, ceasing to play an important role in the dénouement. If Lucy’s guardian’s motivations were to be so crucial to putting obstacles in the path of true love late in the story, I’d have believed her actions more if that element had been given more prominence earlier in the story. And, frankly, I thought it undermined the story that Gregory learned an essential lesson suddenly and late – too late to prevent Lucy from making an unfortunate mistake. Although I’m not a fan of pat, predictability, I found this unsatisfying somehow – but perhaps you will not feel the same way.

If Ms. Quinn has not ended the Bridgerton saga with a bang, however, she has certainly not ended it with a whimper. This is a delightful, light read, and I will look forward with pleasure to finding out where this author is headed next.

-- Judi McKee

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