Romancing Mister Bridgerton
by Julia Quinn, historical (2002)
Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-380-82084-6

I don't know how to do this review thing without giving away stuff, so I've written the spoilers in white font. To read them, place your mouse at the start of the phrase [spoiler start], press on your left-click button, and without letting go of the button, move your mouse down to where the [spoiler end] tag is. That way, no one gets accidentally spoiled and you have no excuse to write to me to complain.

Who's Lady Whistledown?

[spoiler start] Penelope Featherington is Lady Whistledown. Did you get that right? I didn't. Dang. [spoiler end]

Now that that's out and done with, let's move on with the story. Penelope Featherington, two stones overweight on bad days, has been in love with Colin since she was sixteen. It was his laugh. It was so manly, so filled with life, and she has been besotted every since. Not even he publicly declaring that he will never marry her dampens her ardour much - it just causes her to sink into a mire of self-effacing wit and some self-pity.

Now she's 28. She's a spinster resigned to caring for her overbearing mother. Her stereotypical male counterpart is Colin, who has seen the world far and wide and is now back in London. He is welcomed by his mother's matchmaking arms, and as he tries to disentangle himself from the mess by enlisting Penny as his ally, things get worse. Lady Danbury announces that she will give a thousand pounds to anyone who unmasks Lady Whistledown, the society gossip that has everyone here scandalized. And yes, Ms Quinn is banking on you wanting to know who that Whistledown woman is to help her books fly off the shelf faster than free donuts at the store across the police station.

Well, I have to admit the plot sounds pretty meagre, so here are more spoiler tags to pad this review up. [spoiler start] Penny begins to panic as her cover comes close to being blown, but things really heat up when an impostor claims to be Lady Whistledown and tries to blackmail her in the process. What will she do now? Oh dear, oh dear.

Now I like Penny at the start, because hey, any gal who falls in love with a man's good nature is okay with me. At least she has a reason for her infatuation that runs deeper than physical looks alone. You go, Penny. And her Daria-very-lite self-effacing wit in the start is cute. Colin is pretty much a stock Julia Quinn hero, but he is cute too. There are some fine moments that have me chuckling out loud, although some of the one-liners here are very modern in nature.

But the trouble is, Penny's spine melts and her wits scatter as adversity looms. She becomes a doormat, whining and moaning while apparently unable to make a decision without descending into hysteria. It is Colin who has to step in to perform a rescue fantasy on her. I do think that this book is one of the author's better moments, but unlike, say, Daphne Bridgerton who has a spine at least, Penny is a mess. But Julia Quinn fans who laughed through How To Marry A Marquis won't mind Penny much - Penny and that nervous wreck in Marquis could be clone sisters.

Oh, and I'm amused. Penny who made a career mocking her acquaintances' fashion sense and sticking her fork into their personalities and antics tells me that she has accomplished something. Damn it, she is proud of what she did! So what if she does an anonymous bitch thing on everyone?

Julia Quinn has spoken people. From now on, all of you who love this book and flame me for being evil are plain hypocrites. I'll hold all of you accountable, trust me on that. I deserve love too. Now who's gonna write my story? I want first dips on casting my hero. [spoiler end]

Yeah, I do find this book cute, charming, and fun in a light, frothy way. There's little emotional impact here, but that's alright. I need the sunshine and laughter, thanks. But with a really weak heroine and a rather typical hero, Romancing Mister Bridgerton fails to make the final cut to greatness.

Rating: 84

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