Rating : ★ ★ ★
Simon Basset, the newly ascended Duke of Hastings isn’t looking for a bride and Daphne Bridgerton is being friendzoned by all eligible suitors. Naturally, Simon looking out for the young sister of his friend strikes a bargain, they fake their attachment to keep him from being the target of every advantageous match of the season and Daphne’s stock goes up for being that forbidden fruit. Who could possible guess that the fake attachment would grow more real with the easy comfort that they find in each other?
This book nearly broke me. I need to preface this with the fact that I knew about the problematic elements of the story before going into it from a number of different sources and I was reluctant to even give it a chance because of these elements, but I saw it available at the library after having a hold on it for the first few months of 2020 and decided to give it a go.
First off, the chemistry and banter between Daphne and Simon is delicious to the point that I was being lulled into this false sense of security that “oh, the bad might not be THAT bad, right?”
Daphne, as a heroine, is bright, witty and very relatable, being a middle of the road beauty that isn’t noticed, but always admired for her kindness and affability. Simon, as a hero, is deeply troubled due to his childhood, but still just as good natured with the same rapier sharp wit that Daphne possesses, it’s amazing to see the two spar in the first part of the book.
I was immediately drawn in, but as the story progressed it was clear of how it was going to go. Daphne wanting to have children so much and Simon being dead set against the idea due to his own up bringing is something that can topple even the strongest connection and the way that this conflict was framed in a way that Simon was inherently “wrong” because he held these beliefs was a bit disturbing to me.
The misunderstanding and major conflict of the last half of the book could have easily been avoided if the two characters actually communicated, something that they were more than capable of doing. There were a number of times that Simon was vulnerable with Daphne and she was in kind, but this was instead addressed in a problematic manner ultimately having Simon change his mind about a long held belief to appease Daphne.
I get that this is a historical so social norms are wildly different and the whole idea of an heir is very important in this time especially for men who held titles, but I really think it all could have been played differently which is why, as much as I liked the chemistry and the characters for most of the book, it’s going to come in at a 3 star read for me.
That said I am a fan of Julia Quinn’s writing and as long as the other books in this series and her other series aren’t as rough in this manner I’m very interested in checking out more from her. Writing chemistry is difficult, I’ve read a number of historicals where sex and lust is a replacement for actual attraction and compatibility. It was refreshing to find another author where this wasn’t the case.