In today’s book review post, I share my thoughts on a book that pushed me out of my comfort zone. The Duke and I isn’t the kind of book I pick up every week. I like my historical fiction, but I’m not usually inclined to pick up a romance.
I read The Duke and I as I enjoyed the Netflix series based on these books. By all accounts, I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. Romance isn’t a genre that I indulge in very often in any medium. In fact, if I like a book or TV show/film with a heavy emphasis on romance, it is an exception rather than the room. Given that the TV series proved to be an exception, I deliberately chose to take a leap of faith and pick up the first book that inspired the whole thing!
I’m going to be upfront here. Did I love the book? No. Saying that, I didn’t expect to love every single thing about it. For the most part, it lives up to expectations – albeit that those were lower for this book than they are for the majority of other reads, I pick up.
The Duke & I – Julia Quinn
The Duke and I is a romance set in the Regency era.
In the ballrooms and drawing rooms of Regency London, rules abound. From their earliest days, children of aristocrats learn how to address an earl and curtsey before a prince—while other dictates of the ton are unspoken yet universally understood. A proper duke should be imperious and aloof. A young, marriageable lady should be amiable… but not too amiable.
Daphne Bridgerton has always failed at the latter. The fourth of eight siblings in her close-knit family, she has formed friendships with the most eligible young men in London. Everyone likes Daphne for her kindness and wit. But no one truly desires her. She is simply too deuced honest for that, too unwilling to play the romantic games that captivate gentlemen.
Amiability is not a characteristic shared by Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings. Recently returned to England from abroad, he intends to shun both marriage and society—just as his callous father shunned Simon throughout his painful childhood. Yet an encounter with his best friend’s sister offers another option. If Daphne agrees to a fake courtship, Simon can deter the mamas who parade their daughters before him. Daphne, meanwhile, will see her prospects and her reputation soar.
The plan works like a charm—at first. But amid the glittering, gossipy, cut-throat world of London’s elite, there is only one certainty: love ignores every rule…
Daphne is out and looking for a husband. Whilst considered a friend to all elite gentlemen, she isn’t considered by any suitors as wife material. Simon Bassett is a very eligible duke, but cannot stand the attention his position garners from mothers and eligible daughters. They strike up a mutually beneficial pact – for all appearances, they court one another. Simon gets left alone and Daphne’s reputation and eligibility soars by association. What could possibly be a flaw in this plan?
As romance novels go, the plot is solid enough. The book is all about the relationship of these two individuals. Personally, it was a little shallow for my taste. As I’ve already established in this review, The Duke and I isn’t really my kind of book and so my enjoyment was going to be limited by that. I did enjoy how other characters create conflict outside of these pair in the novel. In particular, I like Lady Whistledown. She goes completely against the grain of society itself (being a vocal woman is a no-no), but manages to keep her identity secret.
Of all the characters in the book, I feel I am supposed to most like and relate to Daphne. However, I did neither. I don’t really like her character. Some of that is in part based on her upbringing and the environment she lives in. She is a very sheltered young woman who can be very ignorant most of the time, yet manipulative when she wants to be.
Simon has some small grace. I enjoyed his backstory and the conflict that manifests in the plot in terms of his attitude towards society and starting a family of his own. It’s the most depth this plot gets, which is fine. For an epic fantasy girl, though, it feels quite superficial compared to my general reading tastes. That’s not a criticism because what was done in the book with the space allowed worked, but I just prefer more.
Again, like Daphne, I’m not a fan of his character otherwise. If I had a pound for every time Simon was romanticised as a rake in this book… I’d certainly have enough money to buy the rest of the series if I was so interested, despite the rising costs of today! I’m sure this appeals to a lot of women, but I really don’t understand the attraction or romanticising of this regency era ‘bad boy’. Give me nice and dependable any day of the week!
The opening chapter commentary from Lady Whistledown makes for a fun break from rest of the narrative. Not only do they offer a more objective perspective to the very personal story going on otherwise, but it also gives a wider view of society.
As the narrative goes, it’s easy to read and follow what’s happening. Chapters are a good length and are approachable for all readers.
I appreciate that it is in keeping with the time period and setting, but the inequality and misogyny throughout the book really got my goat. I’m sure you’ve already gotten that impression by now, but just in case there was any room for doubt, you now know my feelings! I can appreciate a thing for its accuracy, but I don’t have to enjoy reading it! That definitely affected my enjoyment of the book.
The Duke and I had elements that I enjoyed, and others I loved less. Overall, it was an average read. If I had to describe it in one word, it was fine.
After reading this one I decided to explore listening to the audiobook of the sequel, The Viscount Who Loved Me, to see if that made for a better experience for me (as an in-between considering I liked the Netflix series). Spoiler alert – it didn’t and I ultimately decided to DNF that book and the series!
Have you read The Duke and I or any other books by Julia Quinn?