The Duke & I
by Julia Quinn
Summary: By all accounts, Simon Basset is on the verge of proposing to his best friend’s sister, the lovely—and almost-on-the-shelf—Daphne Bridgerton. But the two of them know the truth—it’s all an elaborate plan to keep Simon free from marriage-minded society mothers. And as for Daphne, surely she will attract some worthy sutiors now that it seems a duke has declared her desirable.
But as Daphne waltzes across ballroom after ballroom with Simon, it’s hard to remember that their courtship is a complete sham. Maybe it’s his devilish smile, certainly it’s the way his eyes seem to burn every time he looks at her… but somehow Daphne is falling for the dashing duke… for real! And now she must do the impossible and convince the handsome rogue that their clever little scheme deserves a slight alteration, and that nothing makes quite as much sense as falling in love…
Regency romance is my go to genre if I'm in a reading slump or if I'm upset and need a distraction or something...and this one, so many reviewers I trust rated it 5 stars that I expected it to be great. But, alas, it wasn't. I mean, I liked it -- but it wasn't a 5 star read for me.
It should be noted that my mood while reading might have impacted my overall opinion slightly, because the past few weeks have been kind of rough. Anyway...onto the actual review part.
The book started off great. It had me smiling a lot (like, my face hurt from smiling so much). It was fun, it was funny, it made Daphne's family have a big role in the story and I loved their dynamics. The romance, initially, was great but then it started to go downhill for me.
The writing remained consistently good, but I dunno -- it was like there was something missing. Maybe it was down to the fact that the thing keeping Daphne and Simon apart was so ridiculous that it made me start to really dislike Simon...and Daphne, she seemed to lose a bit of the spark she had initially after her and Simon got together. There wasn't nearly enough of the fun parts of regency romance novels, it wasn't one of those slow burn relationships or one with a lot of build up, it just felt abrupt and contrived.
And then there was a scene I hated and it just tainted the whole book. I know that books in this genre are set in a time where rape was viewed very differently than it is now -- but, I'm reading it from the perspective of someone now, so scenes that come across as really rape-y can wreck a romance for me.
The scene in question bothered me for two reasons. First, one person was asleep and intoxicated when the sober one initiated sex. I could overlook that (given he did consent when he woke up) if it wasn't for the fact that the guy had made a certain aspect of them having sex abundantly clear and the woman was deliberately taking advantage of the situation to ignore that (I can't give specifics because spoilers, but basically the consent was conditional and the condition was being ignored). Had the roles been reversed, there would be no doubt for the reader whether it was rape or not.
So yeah, that scene bugged me and hung like a shadow over the rest of the book for me.
Overall, I'd rate the book 3 stars out of 5, because I did genuinely love the first half of the book. I'll definitely be picking up more of Julia's books in future, but this one just wasn't for me.