Author: Julia Quinn
Genre: romance, historical fiction
Published: 2000 - 2006, 2013
Source: borrowed library, purchased
Average Rating: 4 out of 5
Set between 1813 and 1825, the Bridgerton Series is a collection of eight novels, each featuring one of the eight children of the late Viscount Bridgerton: Anthony, Benedict, Colin, Daphne, Eloise, Francesca, Gregory, and Hyacinth. I didn't originally set out to write an eight-book series; at first it was just going to be a trilogy! But readers really took to the Bridgertons (and to the mysterious Lady Whistledown, whose gossip columns "narrated" the first four books), and I found myself rather enamored with the family, too.
Today we're trying something a little new, as Ageless Pages bring you our first series review. While each book is technically a standalone, the series is so huge and sweeping, that I feel it bears looking at together. I've reviewed the collected "second" epilogues from Happily Ever After after their original novels, because that made sense to me.
Second Epilogue: Taking place 20 years after the end of The Duke and I, a very sweet little story about Simon finally confronting part of his tortured past to help one of his nephews, (not a spoiler because he has about twenty-eight of them,) and making peace so he and Daphne can move forward with an exciting surprise. I liked seeing so far into their future to see how some of the most immature characters in the series became such great people.
Second Epilogue: Knowing where her bread was buttered, we pick up several years later with another pall-mall game. Since the death mallet brought Anthony and Kate together, they've launched an elaborate prank war in order to steal the black mallet and then sabotage each other's game. As instrumental parts of the original wooing, Daphne, Simon, Colin and Kate's sister all join them for this yearly treat, which is actually really cute. It's not an important part of Bridgerton history, but it's fun to read.
In this loose retelling of Cinderella, Sophie Beckett is an earl's well cared for by-blow. After his death, her evil stepmother and stepsister force her into servitude, as you do, (though she has a second, good stepsister who does try to make things easier.) Sophie sneaks into Violet Bridgerton's masquerade ball and it's love at first sight between her and Benedict Bridgerton. That's just the start of their story, which spans the years as Benedict searches for his mysterious lady in silver, while trying to save a poor, abused serving maid who looks awfully familiar. It's magical.
Second Epilogue: Posy, the not-evil stepsister, gets her own brief HEA with a vicar, resulting in a HILARIOUS line, as Sophie and Benedict see the new couple kissing, '"Normally I'd say to call the priest," he remarked, "except that seems to be what got us into this mess in the first place."' Of all the books, this is the one I bought in paperback so I can reread it annually.
It's still sweet, and if you've been following the Lady Whistledown column from the previous books, a nice wrap up to that plot. (Though I wish it wasn't, it gave the books a connection that I feel the other four are missing.) It's one of the less memorable books, though, and I think it shows here and in the second epilogue that it was really setting up book 5.
Second Epilogue: Penelope and Colin go to Eloise's wedding and tell her the events of this book. An absolute miss for me.
Their romance felt like a rehash of the first four books, the kids didn't bring out anything good in Eloise, (though they did cause some funny scenes,) and Phillip's demanding speech in the portrait hall was gross to the nth degree. I definitely feel this one's skippable.
Second Epilogue: Ms. Quinn's first first person POV as a grown up Amanda, (one of Phillip's twins with his first wife,) narrates her own journey to matrimony. She talks a lot about Eloise being the best mother ever, but again, that character never shows herself. It was a perfectly charming short story, until the time skip in the last few pages that got waaaay too sexual with no build up .
Well the spice is turned way up, firstly. Secondly, it deals with some pretty heavy issues of miscarriages, death, infertility, grief and guilt. Quinn does a great job of distinguishing Francesca as her own character, (something she struggled with in some other books,) and Michael is a great match for her. It's not easy to do hot and tender in the same book, in the same scene even, but it's well managed. Second best in the series.
Second Epilogue: This wasn't for me. After years of suffering infertility and seeing her stupidly fertile family give birth to scores of babies, Francesca breaks down over the fact that she'll never have a child of her own. She realizes she's blessed with a big family and starts to feel content with her place in it. And then, boom, baby. Anyone who reads my romance reviews KNOWS HOW MUCH I HATE THAT TROPE.
If you want to know
If he loves you so
Its in his kiss
(Thats where it is)
stuck in my head for TWO MONTHS.
Second Epilogue: The end of It's in His Kiss was really disappointing, apparently not just for me, but for a lot of readers. The second epilogue tells the story of Hy's daughter who is just. like. her, (mothers of difficult daughters everywhere start cackling and aren't quite sure why,) as she embarks on her own Season and tortures her poor mum. It also resolves the mystery that the previous epilogue left hanging. Cute but nothing truly special.
And I loved it.
It's pure wish fulfillment fantasy with a run-in objection to a wedding, blackmail, kidnapping, love at first sight, practically every character from the last seven books, fourth wall breaking, and silliness. I haven't had so much fun with a book in ages.
Again, there are some writing issues as Gregory feels identical to Colin at the same age. Hermione, the heroine's best friend and a major, major player in the beginning of the book's characterization was spotty and I didn't believe she would get into that situation. Lucy is perfect. It's obvious why she's best friends with Kate, because they're the best spouses. I can't believe it's over, but there's no better way for the family to go out.
Second Epilogue: TEARS!
At the end of the novel, Lucy gives birth to her eighth and ninth babies. This story picks up immediately after as she fights for her life following complications with the birth. Gregory must face the idea of losing his beloved wife and raising nine children alone, (which is the exact situation of poor Violet, whose husband died just a few weeks before Hy was born.) Romance novels are not supposed to make me cry. Rude.
But a great short story.
Violet in Bloom: The Happily Ever After collection ends with a novella about Violet. It takes place at a few important points in her life: as a child feuding with the horrid Bridgerton boy, as a teen re-meeting Edward and falling in love, as a young mother, as a widow finally allowing herself to move on, and as a great-grandmother, surrounded by family. I wish we'd seen and spent more time with Edward, and the dancing scene at the ball with the kids having a fit because she was dancing with someone other than dad was weird and I'm not sure it fit the rest, but I liked the story a lot. After the first novel, she never factored in as much as I would have liked, so seeing her childhood and some of the big events from her POV was wonderful. It's one of three new stories in the collected anthology, and I'm not sure I'd buy the whole book just for the novella, if you've already read most of the second epilogues, but if you haven't, there's enough good to make it worth a borrow at least.
I hope it's obvious that I love the Bridgerton series. A few of the older books are starting to show their age with plots that are no longer en vogue, (*cough*Daphne*cough*,) and the similarities are pretty obvious, especially if you marathon them, but there's a lot of fun to be had. As an introduction to one of the biggest HR writers, I think this would be a phenomenal starting point. If the whole series is too much of a commitment for you, I do recommend starting with An Offer from a Gentleman as the best book and the best standalone, but I think you'll find that you want to be a Bridgerton as much as I do.