Happy New Year friends! First book of 2021 is in the books, and I’m starting off the new year with The Duke & I. Curiosity got the better of me, as I don’t read many strictly romance novels, and I really wanted to read this book to compare it to the Netflix show (FOMO definitely hit me, not going to lie). Not only did I want to read it for comparison purposes, but I am also a fan of classical period pieces. The Duke & I read like a much easier, more flowy version of a Jane Austen book, with all of the melodrama and none of the tough phrasing of nineteenth century English writing. Personally, I prefer the classics… coming from the girl who stubbornly read Wuthering Heights at age 14, I say give me some nitty gritty literature. But if some hardcore lit isn’t your cup of tea, or if you are a big fan of romance novels, I’d say give Bridgerton a try to ease you in to the classics.
So, if you didn’t already know, the Bridgerton series is a period piece, taking place in London in the early 1800s. The first book follows Daphne Bridgerton, the fourth child out of eight, as she tries to overcome the societal woes of the time (a.k.a. getting married and having kids – bleh). To get her mother off her back, she concocts a devious scheme with the Duke of Hastings, Simon Basset, who has just returned to London after spending years abroad. The Duke has also fallen victim to the societal drama, and he wants nothing more than to disappear from Lady Whistldown’s gossip paper… so one night, he and Daphne come up with a plan: they will pretend to court each other, in turn bringing her hoards of jealous suitors to vie for her hand in marriage, and it will keep the vicious mothers and daughters of the ton away from Simon. Perfect, right?
A perfect plan indeed, until Daphne and Simon gradually develop feelings for each other while keeping up their ruse… which was strictly against the rules of their engagement. Simon, who also happens to be Daphne’s eldest brother’s best friend, knows that Anthony’s sister is off limits. And Daphne wants the one thing that Simon won’t give her: marriage and children… like 99% of women of the time (thank GOD we have progressed past that era… though sign me up for all the dresses and parties. I would sell my left kidney to wear one of those dazzling gowns).
The story continues as Simon and Daphne fall in love with each other, accidentally get married, and then struggle to get past Simon’s hang up on kids. This was where the “romance” genre really hit me in full force… I kept thinking where’s the antagonist? What do they have to overcome? Where’s the conflict? And it took me a second to realize, ohhhhhhhhh the conflict is internal; I’m so used to villains, bad guys, and monsters that it really took me a second to realize the “bad guy” in this book was Simon’s feelings. While I’m a huge fan of steamy reads (duh), there was one specific part of this book that turned me off immediately… iykyk. This part could definitely be a trigger for some, so take care if you want to read it. I’ve heard they handle it much better in the show than what was described in the book, so I will see.
I’m about halfway through the TV show right now, and I think the show is so-so at following the plot, but has added in so much more. I don’t mind this at all; in my opinion, the added details are making it much more interesting than the novel. The Duke & I is full of internal emotions, and I think it would be pretty hard to reflect those feelings on a screen… the characters could come across as boring. I won’t go into too much detail for those who haven’t watched it yet, but the only nitpick I have is that I don’t like how the show seems to focus more on Daphne’s love over Simon’s love… in the book, we got to see how much of a simp for Daphne this man was. In the show, he’s coming across as cold to me… tbh, he was probably more in love with Daphne from the start, yet we don’t see many of these initial feelings. I do have to say, the visuals are STUNNING… and the music? I could listen to those string quartet covers all day and never tire of it. Having freshly read the book right before I started the show, the differences between the two are stark… but like I said, I didn’t mind them too much.
Overall, this book was a light, easy read… surface level drama, and so-so characters. To be honest, it was obvious from the start that Simon and Daphne were endgame, so I instead gravitated towards the siblings. The whole Bridgerton family dynamic was my favorite part of this novel, and they just might be the only reason why I might continue on with the series. Since the first book reflects the first season of the show, I don’t think I will move on to the other books until the second season… this book just didn’t capture my attention like I had hoped. However, my mother in law has told me that the story gets better after the first book… maybe I’ll save them for a rainy day, when I need an easy read that won’t take up too much brain space.