I was surprised by how into Bridgerton that I got. Okay, so it’s essentially just a sexy soap opera set in Regency-era London. I knew it would be a pretty casual watching experience but I didn’t think it would be my thing. I’ve never been a lover of romance novels, so didn’t think I’d care about all of those same tropes being dusted off again. I won’t pretend that I’m a huge fan but I binged watched both series 1 and 2 pretty quickly recently. An act that made me curious about the novels the show was adapted from. I had no illusions that I’d ever undertake reading the whole series but I did at least want to give one a try. Why start with book 3? Well, it made sense after finishing season 2 of the show, even if the next season is based on book 4. I also think that Benedict is the most interesting of the siblings, so was interested to see how he came across in the books. Also, I had to see if the Cinderella elements were as awful as they sounded. So, without having any belief that I’d enjoy this book, I set about reading it. How bad could it be?
You might say I was asking for trouble when I decided to read book 3 before the other books in Julia Quinn’s series. Having been inspired by watching the show, I wanted to see how Benedict came across in the books. Turns out, it’s not very well. It’s worth saying that romance is not my preferred genre, so I’m certainly not the audience for this book. However, I find it difficult to see how someone could read this and see him as a romantic hero. It’s not just him either. Sophie is as much of a nightmare. Why is she written in such a childlike way? It’s awful. I get that the character was meant to have been brought up in a slightly better manner than most maids. However, she’s been working as a servant for most of her life. She’d definitely have grown out of her innocent and naive ways by that time, right? Instead, she’s just a wet blanket that has no agency. And, yes, it’s a period thing so how much agency can a woman have? But she could have more than this.
This romantic relationship in this book is problematic for so many reasons. The awful Cinderella moment in the beginning is only included to make the very unhealthy master/servant thing seem okay. Because who cares about the balance of power when they’re meant to be together? Although, that’s another thing. They met each other for less than two hours and we’re supposed to go along with the idea that they’re in love? You don’t have to be a cynic to see how unlikely that is. Even if we do accept that they fell in love at first sight, how do you accept that Benedict is the kind of man who would try to blackmail a maid into being his mistress? I’m a firm believer that you don’t have to like a protagonist to enjoy a book but it’s a bit different for a romance. What do you do when the two halves of a love story are both so awful? When you believe that they’d be truly better off without each other? You just end up reading the prequel to an absolute car crash.
It really doesn’t help that the supposedly romantic moments are just so cliched and trite. All of these big statements of love are more cringy than they are heartwarming. Although, that’s probably just me. It just feels like overkill. Like when Sophie ends the story saying that Benedict is the reason she was born? Maybe some people will find that romantic but it isn’t very good. And more evidence of how little personality Sophie has. Is that the point with this genre? The leading lady is supposed to be so bland that the reader places themselves in that position? Even if it is, I’m all about character development and there’s barely anything here. Yes, she gets a bit more confident but I don’t think punching someone is enough to count a real character growth.
On the plus side, this is an easy read and didn’t take too long. I might not have been enjoying but it didn’t stop me from racing through it. I guess it probably helped that I wasn’t enjoying it. I did like the fact that it didn’t take too long to do anything. There weren’t a lot of stumbling blocks in the way. It was dragged out, obviously, but not excessively. Saying that, it was probably also a little too brief. At least in terms of the romance. Benedict and Sophie barely spend any time together but they talk about this huge connection they have. The most time they get on their own is when he’s in bed with a fever. Not only do these two lack charm. They barely have any chemistry. How are we supposed to champion this pairing?
I always knew that this was going to be a bit of a stretch for me but I was hoping it would at least be entertaining. What I’ve learnt is that the Netflix adaptation really did wonders for Benedict’s character. Hopefully, they’ll also make plenty of improvements to Sophie as well. Otherwise, their season is going to be incredibly dull and frustrating.
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