Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-380-81558-3
Historical Romance, 2001
An Offer From a Gentleman is a Cinderella story. The prologue feels as if it is heavily inspired by the 1998 Andy Tennant movie Ever After, what with a stepmother sounding uncannily like the Baroness Rodmilla, a evil elder prettier stepsister, and a chubby kind younger stepsister, our heroine as a girl waiting eagerly to meet her new stepmother and stepsisters only to be disappointed, et cetera, The second half reminds me somewhat of Heather Cullman’s For All Eternity.
Our heroine Sophie Beckett is an illegitimate daughter, whom, upon her beloved Papa’s death, is made to work as a scullery maid of Baroness Rodmilla, sorry, Lady Araminta. But one day, the Bridgertons, toasts of the London Regency scene, decide to hold a masquerade ball, and oh, Sophie so dearly wants to attend. And she does, when the kind household staff loyal to her cajols her into dressing into one of her sister’s dresses for the party. She also “borrows” her stepmother’s shoes.
Benedict Bridgerton, bored as usual with the same type of story he is stuck in, pardon me, I mean the same old boring party filled with same old inane ladies, sees this masked beauty, and decides that she is the most beautiful lady ever. They dance, they kiss, she runs, and leaves her stepmother’s shoe behind.
Araminta is not happy, and realizing that Sophie has to be that upstart at the ball (her daughters can’t fit into her shoe, only Sophie can), she has Sophie fleeing the house. Sophie now works as a maid – sad music, please – until she is rescued two years later from a gang rape by Benedict, who, not certain that she’s the one who haunted his dreams, nonetheless offers her a place and position in his household. So what now? A love duet, mayhaps?
If I haven’t watched Ever After, or read For All Eternity, and if I am a sucker for “noble” (read: stupidly passive and martyr-prone) heroines, I’ll have a winner in my hands. Benedict is charming and sweet, although Lady Whistledown is more accurate than she suspects when she says that “the Bridgertons are all alike”. The humor is low-key and relying more on banters than slapstick behavior, thus more effective. The first half is as dull as it is predictable, but the second half, the household maid hears, sparkles.
But Sophie, oh Sophie. She is “noble”, noble in that she will rather take the blame for every reason than to stand up for herself. “Noble” in that she will not do anything because she just won’t, she’s sweet that way. Heaven forbids she stands up for her own. No, let’s have Ben darling do that for her instead. Protect her, Ben, she’s your wee hapless Cinderella Barbie.
Oh, for a heroine with some spine…