i had read all the bridgerton novels. when he was wicked is on my yearly re-read list after all. and i also love to sir phillip, with love. and this makes sense because i adore francesca and eloise bridgerton. and i could tell you i love the bridgerton books, but the truth is i love those two books and i don't really love the rest as much i think i do. so for years i was convinced that of course i had read the duke and i because it kicks off the whole series, and why would i have not read it. but then recently i read the description and had to admit to myself that this book sounded unfamiliar. and to my delight it was unfamiliar.
the hook with daphne and simon is that she is a normal girl of her time period. she wants to get married and have children. but she wants to find someone who means something to her, the way her mother and father meant something to each other. and simon is a duke, her older brother's best friend, who doesn't want to be married or have children because of the massive childhood trauma caused by his mother's death and his father's rejection. and daphne and simon make a deal with each other because his pursuit makes her more interesting, and courting her keeps him off the market.
but like most fake relationships, things start to feel all too real. and then marriage and complications and love follows and eventually the two lovebirds discover that they are meant to be together. the big complication here does follow a scene with some consent issues. and it's definitely problematic, but in the end i don't think it taints the relationship as a whole. partly because daphne realizes she was wrong. though that doesn't make it better either, because she also doesn't really regret her actions. so it's weird, but because you like simon and daphne you still root for them to figure their shit out.
after 8 books quinn took a break from the bridgertons, but eventually came back to them and moved outside of her usual regency period setting by going up to an earlier generation. because of miss bridgerton follows the story of sybilla "billie" bridgerton and george rokesby. billie is the polar opposite of daphne, because she is a woman ahead of her time. she chafes at the constraints of georgian society and longs for freedom and independence from a woman's usual pursuits of marriage and children. george is her neighbor. her judgmental, condescending, annoying neighbor. and when they are thrown together in the most awkward of scenarios, they are shocked to discover that there are sparks that fly between them and that they have more in common than they might think.
george is everything that is conventional, everything that billie chafes at, and somehow she finds herself unable to stop thinking about him. and after years of being annoyed by everything that billie chooses to do, george can't stop himself from noticing her. and the more they find themselves together, the less they are able to resist the attraction that blooms between them. like most quinn novels there is humor and wittiness aplenty, but the love that develops between george and billie is really sweet. for the first time, after a lifetime of knowing each other, they both really see each other. and that kind of discovery carries some emotional heft that grounds the lightness of the story.
george's brothers are both serving the british army, and one of them goes missing during a skirmish in the colonies. a plot point that helps george and billie come together. honestly, there isn't much in the way of obstacles for these two. once they both come to terms that they are feeling something for their previously impossible neighbor, there isn't much to keep them apart. and that's okay. i mean, sometimes it's nice to see two people fall in love and get on with their happily ever after.
what intrigues me about the rokesby brothers is that it may be that in the next novel we get to see america for the first time in quinn's literature. she's never strayed far from british shores before, even though her characters have on occasion been extremely well-traveled. so if she does set part of one of the rokesby novels in the colonies, it will definitely be interesting. at least, i think the change of scene might do quinn's writing some good. because it's possible that she's found herself in a rut. and as much as i love her writing, if i'm honest, i haven't loved one of her books in a long time. i enjoyed because of miss bridgerton. to some degree it felt like a return to form, but at the same time i can't help but wonder if her novels need something more because the more i think about it, not a whole lot happened in this novel. and like i said, that's okay. but maybe also we readers deserve something more too.