Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-238820-9
Historical Romance, 2018
The Other Miss Bridgerton is the story of Poppy Bridgerton. Don’t ask me whom this is – if I am supposed to remember her, sorry, all of these characters have started to blend together after the two hundredth book. In fact, I’m not convinced that she is a Bridgerton, as this story reminds me so, so much of every animated movie Disney has ever done in these twenty years. We have a feisty heroine, a manly hero who lets her do her thing, and a crew of “privateers” that behave more like seven dwarves and a lobster thrown in for the musical interludes.
Has the author always been like this, or is she trying to prove to Disney that, if a movie studio can give JK Rowling free rein to do her own movie franchise, Disney can give her the same privilege?
Poppy Bridgerton is bored. This is her second Season, and the men she meets in London are so boring. Of course, being that she is from the mighty, mighty Bridgerton family, she can probably command the King to marry her off to some royalty if she so chooses, so it’s not like Poppy is desperate to get shackled. Instead, she accepts the invitation of her friend to stay with that pregnant friend in Dorset. There, she spends her time talking out to herself, walking along the cliffs because in a town, in this quiet village, every day is just like the one before.
And then, she spots a cave, wanders into it, and oops, it’s a hideout for smugglers to keep their stash! Worse, she is caught by two of them. As a feisty, independent lady, she immediately mouths off to them, and the two men, immediately recognizing a strong modern lady, indulges her in some oh-so-precious banter before deciding that they’d best chloroform her and then… what did you say? Oh please, as if that will ever happen to a Disney heroine. They truss her up and bring her to their captain, Andrew James Rokesby. No, he’s not an unsavory criminal; he’s instead the son of an earl who is moonlighting as a spy playing a privateer…. sigh. RIP William Goldman.
In an ideal world, The Other Miss Bridgerton could have been a fun, seafaring romp that could have been a bittersweet read in light of Mr Goldman’s recent passing, but the problem here is that nothing suspenseful or interesting really happens on this ship. It’s all banter and flirtation and internal monologues, which may be fine if this had been a shorter story, but as a full length one, this one sees me mentally checking out by the halfway point. There are some amusing, self-aware kind of humor here, as Poppy and Andrew can make some wry observations about their predicaments – especially Poppy, whose sense of humor can come close to breaking the fourth wall at places. Thus, a part me of wonders whether this one is meant to be Julia Quinn’s own The Princess Bride – a self-aware, reverential satire of a genre. However, the author opts to play it safe, so nothing of note happens here.
Sure, there are times when Poppy claims to be afraid or uncertain, but she is never in any genuine kind of danger. She is too well protected for someone in her predicament, and it doesn’t help that this crew of successful privateers is comprised of folks who are more Disney cartoon sidekicks than anything else. Poppy is an amalgamation of every spunky, sassy Disney heroine out there, while Andrew is suitably bland as a sexually non-threatening “privateer” who exudes as much sense of danger or machismo as a broken toaster. Thus, there is a sense of disconnect here. The set-up and the cast require audacious outright farce and camp to pull off all the inconsistencies present here, but instead the story is written like any other effort by this author. The execution is too “polite”, for the want of a better word, and hence the head-scratching elements such as “capable privateers” acting like Tweedledum and Tweedledum stand out more as authorial mistakes than intent.
At any rate, The Other Miss Bridgerton never reaches the height of camp, swashbuckling fun, or more down-to-earth maritime escapades that its premise initially hinted at being. It’s merely another filler entry in a never-ending series, stuck awkwardly onto a ship. I suspect folks who just want Bridgertons, more Bridgertons, will like this one more, but folks seeking a more substantial story may wish to sail on to another port.