Many moons ago, I learned about the historical romance genre from Julia Quinn, Lisa Kleypas, Mary Balogh, and Stephanie Laurens. What a great education! Vintage Julia Quinn is filled with emotion, humor, and a totally satisfying level of sensuality. New Julia Quinn is a bunch of marshmallow fluff....lots of empty calories, and you can't remember the names of the characters the next day.
In spite of the fact that JQ has lost her writing mojo (in my not-at-all humble opinion), I adore re-reading the oldies but goodies. I especially love the Bridgertons...one of the greatest of historical romance families. Here is a run-down of my recent re-read extravaganza.
In order of favorites.....(not in chronological order).....
1. Romancing Mister Bridgerton (#4)
Without a doubt, RMB is my absolute favorite Bridgerton book, and on my all-time favorite historical list. In fact, Penelope Featherington was the inspiration for my pen-name. I love her! This story showcases all of Quinn's strong points...there is banter and sweetness and romance and emotional intensity and even a huge surprise thrown in for good measure. It is about a wallflower who is totally overlooked, but underneath is talented, determined, loving, loyal, and has a wicked sense of humor. Colin is a man searching for an identity. She has loved him forever. His love for her develops unexpectedly, and is so sweet and romantic, I could just swoon every time I read it. And the true identity of Lady Whistledown is brilliantly done in this book. You feel the love the Bridgerton siblings have for each other and their mother. You cheer for Penelope when the ugly duckling wallflower becomes a swan and marries the man of her dreams. You cheer for Colin who is a hero in the truest sense of the word. This book is pure gold. Grade: A+
2. To Sir Phillip With Love (#5)
In second place is Eloise's story. If a book has botanical Latin in it, it pretty much is going to get an A rating from Penelope, who has degrees in plant taxonomy and horticultural science and speaks botanical Latin fluently. (Plant Geek!). The hero in TSPWL is a botanist, and at the beginning of the book he and Eloise exchange letters. He encloses pressed flowers for her. *fanning myself* Oh, how I love Phillip....he has no clue how to be a good husband or how to be a good father....he is most comfortable with his plants in the greenhouse. Not only must Eloise win him over, but she also has to win over his horribly behaved children, who are desperate for affection. Well, Eloise is up to the challenge. She's a Bridgerton, for Christ's sake! This love story is lusty and romantic as hell and adorable and Phillip's final declaration of love....written in flower petals...is one of the sweetest gestures ever. Swoonilicious! Grade: A
3. The Viscount Who Loved Me (#2)
This was the first one I read of the series....I read #1 later (which is The Duke and I....not included in this list because it wasn't one of my favorites of the series). Anthony is the head of the Bridgerton family, saddled with responsibility, and traumatized by the death of his father. Kate is living in the shadow of her sister, who is a "diamond" being courted by all marriage-minded men. She is very protective of her younger sister, and is not at all happy when Anthony Bridgerton, rake extraordinaire, sets his sights on her. There are so many wonderful scenes in this book! I especially love the croquet game with all of the Bridgerton siblings exhibiting extremely poor sportsmanship! Kate slowly begins to realize that Anthony is actually a man of honor and kindness. She is crushed to find that she herself has fallen in love with the man who is courting her beloved sister. Oh, how I love this scenario! And Anthony of course finds himself much more fascinated with brash and clever Kate than the stunning younger sib. This book is a super satisfying, romantic read. Love it! Grade: A-
4. An Offer From A Gentleman (#3)
This is Quinn's answer to the Cinderella story. Sophie has an evil stepmother and stepsister. She is living as a maid in their home after the death of her father. Benedict meets her at a masquerade ball. They share one magical night, and Benedict becomes obsessed with finding her....but alas, years pass until they are reunited. This story is super romantic. However, I had forgotten how big a schmo Benedict is for a good chunk of the book, pressuring Sophie to become his mistress because he believes she is not "marriageable" in the eyes of the ton. He more than makes up for his asinine behavior by several heroic acts, including saving her from the clutches of her evil stepmother. The final scene in the book which takes place outside Sophie's prison cell is priceless. I love how Violet (the Bridgerton matriarch) unsheathes her claws with the hideous step-mama in order to protect her family. And of course, she considers Sophie family when she sees how deeply in love Benedict has fallen. What a satisfying ending! As always, true love prevails. Grade: B+
5. When He Was Wicked (#6)
Meh. I know a lot of folks who really dig this one, but it wasn't my fav. I never got a feel for why Michael had been in love with Francesca for so long. This book seemed to focus quite a bit about guilt, not enough about their love. I didn't think WHWW was as satisfying as the others. Grade: B-/C+
The rest of the series is marshmallow fluff. And I didn't love the first one that much either.
Anyway, those are some of my favorites. What's your favorite Bridgerton book? Are you still enjoying Quinn's books, or do you think they are losing the magic?
P.S. The giveaway contest for Sweet Magik is still open...please leave a comment on this post to enter! Thanks!