Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-238673-1
Historical Romance, 2016
Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary is a homage to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, set in present day. So what do you call a so-called homage of Bridget Jones’s Diary set in 19th century England? “Hohomage”? Also, I’d leave the debate as to whether this is just lazy pandering or innovative hohomaging to the experts. I’d rather waste my superior analytical skills on something more worthy, because this one has all the maturity and sophistication of a drooling baby staring hungrily at a dog chewing on a bone.
Bridget Cavendish – not related to Julia Quinn‘s characters with the same family name, I’m sure, even if a part of me feels that this one is so trying so hard to be a Julia Quinn book that, if given a chance, it’d probably skewer a Julia Quinn book and wear its skin, so to speak – and her sisters are Americans. They live in that fabulous America, the land of pink ponies and glittering snowflakes – a place in which modern independent young ladies run free, live without inhibitions and social strictures, and spend their times dangling from trees like merry chimpanzees. Yes, it is that America where, apparently, there is no such thing as social hierarchy, everyone is, like, equally wealthy and democratic and all the maids and servants happily clean boots and empty chamber pots because they are big fans of the heroine and her family.
When Bridget’s brother inherits a dukedom, Bridget and her sisters come over to England while doing an excellent impersonation of a Mount Rushmore face staring down at the heathens. All English women are just desperate to get married, and Bridget can’t imagine why! And, like, rich people and poor people, eeuw, and… oh my, the snobby Lord Darcy is so annoying and so hot and watch out, world, you know what happens when a romance heroine gets hungry for man meat. Meanwhile, the woman everyone assumes Darcy will marry stares daggers at Bridget because America rules and Brits drool, and she’s representative of all those conniving, inferior women in this story who is competition to the heroine for the hero. Those women are shallow, frivolous hags who just want to claw their way into a man’s pants and account book, while the heroine sincerely, earnestly, virtuously wants only the pee-pee and true love thing, so Bridget is different.
There is a blackmail plot, but for the most part, this story is all about two supposed adults acting like children around one another, stopping short only at pulling hairs and crying for Mommy to intervene. The fact that these twits are kids is reinforced by her keeping a diary full of petulant entries – wait, is that diary gimmick still a thing in historical romances? – and “Things I Hate about This and That and This and That” lists, and him adding to the whole nonsense. Of course, she also won’t marry him, but she’s okay with everything else, blah blah blah. Reading this book is like forcing myself to finish a meal that I’ve eaten so often that I’m heartily sick of it.
Basically, Lady Bridget’s Diary is a gimmick. I’m almost tempted to call it a cynical marketing gimmick but it’s still early in the week, so let’s just be nice and assume the best in everything. Still, it’s a gimmick. Make a “homage” and rely on the reader’s rose-tinted adoration of that Jane Austen story to do most of the work, tack on tired plot devices like diaries, work very hard to sound like Julia Quinn, and then make everyone and everything stupid for maximum appeal. Bridget has her diary, while I feel like a diarrhea coming on after reading this story.