A perfectly fine romance, but a) I'm a liiiiiittle sideye on how the Rom are portrayed in this story and 2) I *know* I have/am going to have an issueA perfectly fine romance, but a) I'm a liiiiiittle sideye on how the Rom are portrayed in this story and 2) I *know* I have/am going to have an issue with the way Kleypas semi-fetishizes male jealousy as inherent to Romani culture. I mean, I'm never the ideal audience for a jealousy storyline, as it is the opposite of alluring to me, but when you tie in the weird racial/ethnic component? Hoo boy. This book is a comparative offhand mention of, "you will never be alone with another man not your relative," etc etc etc, but I fear things in the next novel. ...more
While this is undeniably a romance novel, for me the actual romance and chemistry between the hero and heroine were the least interesting part of theWhile this is undeniably a romance novel, for me the actual romance and chemistry between the hero and heroine were the least interesting part of the novel. Not that it was bad! No, it's just that Milan has enmeshed her characters in quite a tangled pickle, and the familial relationships and just, I dunno, *daily logistics* of everyone were far more compelling to me than the push-pull between hero and heroine. We all knew Milan could write banter and charming characters, but here she's got even more plot going on than usual, and I ate it up with a spoon.
I really like how she doesn't pull punches: the hero *really* ruined the heroine's family, no mistaking, and they are *really* reduced circumstances, and it's not glossed over. The Worth family *is* odd (and, y'know, so is the hero), but everyone's quirks and personality tics are woven through their character, not the entirety of it. They're not just slapped-together bundles of character traits meant to serve as plot hindrances or furtherances for the romance. There are so many things here that could be irritating in the hands of a lesser writer, but Milan handles them with aplomb.
I can see how this book is not to some people's taste, as it was certainly not the book I was expecting based on the description, but I found it delightful. With each series, my interest in Milan's writing keeps growing. I couldn't finish the Carharts, tolerated the Turners, devoured the Sinisters, and I eagerly await the rest of the Worths. ...more
I get that part of the whole thing of the Bridgerton books is that everybody's got an ~idea~ that is preventing them from love, and the journey of theI get that part of the whole thing of the Bridgerton books is that everybody's got an ~idea~ that is preventing them from love, and the journey of the book is them overcoming that. I even liked how Quinn handled some of the more patently ludicrous ~ideas~ in the early books (hero being convinced he was going to die, getting all hung up in the Cinderella pastiche) and also the more down-to-earth (hey maybe it's in poor taste to lust after/marry my closest relative's widow), but, ugh, I just have no patience for the version of love at first sight that is presented here, i.e. the kind that disregards the objet d'amour's status as an independent thinking human being. And, yes, I get that the whole *point* of the book is showing how the hero moves past this to a fuller version of love, but it made me very, very short-tempered with the hero until he got to that point.
I mean, there's a cracking fun plot here with blackmail! and treason! and kidnapping! and arranged marriage! and a perfectly amiable (if very plot device-y) gay character! Don't bog me down with your stupid "I saw her neck and therefore whatever delusions she has of being in love with someone else will have to go away and stop bothering me" time wasting. ...more
Given how grating I found Hyacinth in earlier books (there's independent, and then there's "I know better than you and will tell you how to live yourGiven how grating I found Hyacinth in earlier books (there's independent, and then there's "I know better than you and will tell you how to live your life in the way that best amuses me," and I have very little patience for the latter"), this book went down easier than I thought it would. I thought the bits from Violet Bridgerton both in this book and On the Way to the Wedding talking about how she saw Hyacinth and Gregory grew up, the youngest of a very large family that lost their father before they could ever really remember him, were spot on and very kind constructive criticism. Quinn has a very nice touch on that maternal relationship, making the character foibles/flaws that drive the plot spring from very human, very real places, not just ridiculous notions (i.e. clearly I am going to die before the age my father did, no I'm still not over that one). ...more
An excellent palate cleanser after the distasteful-to-me To Sir Phillip, With Love. Look! It's real grownups with real grownup problems and a rake demAn excellent palate cleanser after the distasteful-to-me To Sir Phillip, With Love. Look! It's real grownups with real grownup problems and a rake demonstrating actual on-screen seduction skilz in bed! I was not particularly enraptured by either hero or heroine, but I solidly enjoyed them being grownups together, from the intimacy to the sex to the being responsible in running a business/estate/etc. It was such a refreshing change to have a romance where the titillation in the sex scenes is not even remotely tied to the heroine's inexperience (not that there's anything wrong with the "she had never felt this way before and daaaaaaamn it was nice" thing). Let's hear it for grownups finding love! ...more
I question the choices that position the tragedy of a woman's suicidal depression primarily as a burden to her husband, then later that husband throwiI question the choices that position the tragedy of a woman's suicidal depression primarily as a burden to her husband, then later that husband throwing his misery in his first marriage in the face of his second wife as evidence that she should never complain about how he treats her, because he's so much happier in the second marriage.
Too much "women are unknowable foreign creatures who are only good for banging and taking care of things I'm not interested in, like the house or children" to make this a frothy delight. Congratulations on not beating your kids, dude. That doesn't actually make you a good father or husband. ...more
Hands down my favorite of the Bridgertons. Not only does it feature some really outstanding secret pining, not only does it strongly revolve around wiHands down my favorite of the Bridgertons. Not only does it feature some really outstanding secret pining, not only does it strongly revolve around witty repartee, not only does it involve the hero and heroine bonding over a mutual passion for writing, but perhaps most thrillingly, every time it seemed like it was going to steer into irritating romance tropes (keeping secrets long past plausible and digging the hole deeper to keep that secret, the hero being high-handed and controlling "in the heroine's best interest," basically any situation that has the heroine put on the defensive by the hero because of the assumption of his superiority, which can often be exacerbated by the set-up of having the heroine secretly pine for the hero), Quinn swerved away definitively. Not only did this keep the plot moving at a good clip, not only did it allow for natural character development of both hero and heroine in which they grow together as people, not just people-who-want-to-bone-each-other, but oh, it led to really great conversations between the hero and heroine. Who *talked* to each other! Admitted real weaknesses to each other! Who respected each other's opinion! None of this "it could all be solved if they just had a conversation" nonsense. They *have* that conversation, and oftentimes making it right is more complicated than just that conversation, because these are pretty solidly fleshed out characters.
All that, and there are balls and wacky hijinx and ugly duckling discoveries and female friendships and more. A delight. ...more
A Cinderella pastiche that does a very nice job of moving the plot beyond the broad strokes of the fairy tale, allowing for the heroine to have enoughA Cinderella pastiche that does a very nice job of moving the plot beyond the broad strokes of the fairy tale, allowing for the heroine to have enough agency to *leave* when the stepmother situation becomes unbearably abusive. Sure, this means her reconnection with the hero becomes marginally less plausible, but this is a *frothy* *Cinderella* *pastiche.* I don't need gritty realism here, and I will take the implausible encounters that allow for an actual conversation/relationship between the protagonists to develop.
Minus points for more of the hero using his power over the heroine (both class and gender here) to manipulate her into doing what he wants her to do. This is at least briefly acknowledged as skeezy, but it's quickly dismissed, because of course the situation he's manipulating her into is wonderful for her. It's like she's still got her feet in the real(ish) world (I am a servant who will never be believed and is wildly subject to mistreatment) while he's running around in a fairytale, and he has to blackmail her into jumping storylines to a place where a servant is treated as one of the family.
Kind of hard for me to forget what a dick the hero was to his sister in the previous book, but I found his relationship with his heroine charming. SurKind of hard for me to forget what a dick the hero was to his sister in the previous book, but I found his relationship with his heroine charming. Sure, the terribly artificial conflict of "he's convinced he's going to die by the time he's 38" is a little ludicrous, but Quinn does a nice job of handling it, taking his emotions that are the basis of this conviction seriously while acknowledging that it's kind of a ludicrous plot impediment to the happily-ever-after.
However, this is once again a romance novel where I'm left going, "...but...that's...not...how a hymen works?" ...more
This frothy delight (complete with fake dating omg!) is knocked down a peg for the way all the men in the story treat the heroine like property at oneThis frothy delight (complete with fake dating omg!) is knocked down a peg for the way all the men in the story treat the heroine like property at one point or another. I mean, yes historical whatever, but you don't get to include that in your frothy delight and not have it clunk, and if you play it off as Moar Wacky Hijinx!!, then it's not just clunky but actively offputting.
All that being said, this is, like, 90% frothy delight. Points for having the hero and heroine interact both a) sufficiently to move this beyond an insta-bone situation and 2) with actual chemistry. ...more
I 100% mean this as a compliment: this book is what would happen if the Kushiel's Dart books were literary historical fiction. The structure is more cI 100% mean this as a compliment: this book is what would happen if the Kushiel's Dart books were literary historical fiction. The structure is more complicated, the writing more lyrical, the ending a little messier (but still pitch-perfect for the book), but it hits many of the same chords with me. This is an opera, in all its grandiosity, in book form. ...more
The hero and heroine themselves are quite nice, but good christ with the references to other books in Balogh's repertoire. There are portions that areThe hero and heroine themselves are quite nice, but good christ with the references to other books in Balogh's repertoire. There are portions that are nigh-unreadable if you are not intimately familiar with the entire Bedwyn saga, not only because their family tree is ludicrously convoluted with everyone having their own special backstory, but also because you have zero emotional attachment to all of these characters making cameo appearances in their happily ever afters. Apparently I had the same commentary on Simply Perfect five years ago, even as I totally didn't remember reading the book (or any of the characters) until goodreads reminded me. ...more
Put it down 10% in because of dickbag hero; picked it up again and enjoyed it in a procrastinatey manner. Then, about 65-70% in, I was committed enougPut it down 10% in because of dickbag hero; picked it up again and enjoyed it in a procrastinatey manner. Then, about 65-70% in, I was committed enough to keep reading but spent the rest of the book yelling at the heroine to tell the hero exactly how much of a giant dickbag he was being. To my surprise and moderate gratification, she did, as well as a couple of other well-executed put-downs. I just - ugh. This book is built around the conceit of the hero and heroine saying goodbye to each other (well, let's be honest - the heroine shutting the hero down) multiple times (for good reasons that even the hero acknowledges are good reasons) but both of them regretting the goodbye, and the way the author gets them back together repeatedly is to have the hero repeatedly say, occasionally even explicitly, "I don't believe in her no." Which no matter how much you know he's right, she doesn't actually want to not see him again, I just can't get on board with a hero who ignores the heroine's no (thankfully never sexually, and how low a standard is that to have?) and where the narrative actively supports him in that. Blergle. ...more
Delicious hurt/comfort, with a particular relish of the hero rescuing the heroine from a wretched situation and showering her with both material comfoDelicious hurt/comfort, with a particular relish of the hero rescuing the heroine from a wretched situation and showering her with both material comforts as well as the support and opportunity to reclaim her dignity - a particular weakness of mine....more