The Duke and I (Bridgerton #1) by Julia Quinn

Book Review Mar 25, 2021

My review

4/5 stars

Like many people, I've recently become aware of Bridgerton thanks to Netflix. I devoured all 10 episodes in one weekend and loved every second. I don't know about other readers out there but when I find out that something like that is based on a book, I feel compelled to read the book so that I can compare the two experiences (spoiler alert: I'm also doing with A Discovery Of Witches, so expect that review soon); I also like to read ahead as I'm rubbish at not knowing how things end (hello anxiety!). My lovely family obliged and bought me all 9 books for my birthday a couple of weeks ago so I could go ahead and make my comparisons.

I was impressed by the comparison on this occasion. I read the entirety of The Duke and I in one three-and-a-half-hour sitting - oddly I didn't want to put it down even though I was familiar with the story. I found that, while the Netflix show has added some characters, enhanced others and embellished some plot points, it has essentially been very loyal to Julia Quinn's original story.

Simon was my favourite character in the book pretty much from the moment his first words in life were to stand up to his cruel, self-absorbed father. From that point on, he displayed a strength of mind that can only come from having a tough, traumatic life. This was mixed with a vulnerability that he clearly felt uncomfortable with when he was around Daphne, and a stubbornness that he had only ever seen as a strength but came to understand as more multi-faceted than that. It was charming, and made him the perfect "tortured soul" male lead.

Daphne was a nice mix of sassiness and wit that she learned from having three older brothers, and an innocence that is only to be expected given that the story was set in Regency England, when women were subservient and poorly educated in most aspects of life. It was interesting to see her as the driving force behind most of the relationship, in spite of Simon's reputation as the rake and her apparent innocence in all things romantic.

The chemistry between the two was palpable from the minute they met and seeped off the pages throughout the book. It was really enjoyable to see the two start off in a fake relationship of mutual benefit and watch things develop naturally between them against both of their best efforts. Oftentimes in books like this, the marriage of the two main characters is a happy conclusion, but here it is an additional source of conflict in the middle of the book. There is a controversial scene near the end of the book which I know has ruined the reading experience of many. I'm not going to talk about it in any detail because whatever I say on it is bound to annoy someone and I'm here to review books, not start arguments. What I will say is that I was prepared for it, having seen the show on Netflix first, so I was able to skim-read the few involved pages and still enjoy the other 99% of the book. If not for this scene (which I have seen many understandable interpretations of in other reviews) I would have given this book a 5 star review, but this scene to one side, the rest of the book deserves nothing less than 4 stars in my opinion.

The secondary characters in the book were almost as enjoyable as Simon and Daphne themselves. The book gave a fantastic introduction to the wider Bridgerton family and the abnormally close bond they share within their conventional, stiff upper-lipped society, so much so that I can't wait to read more about Daphne's charmingly protective older brothers and endearingly cheeky younger siblings. Mother Bridgerton was perfectly portrayed as an all-knowing, all-seeing matriarch (something I imagine you'd have no choice but to be when raising 8 children) who genuinely loved all of her kids and looked out for their happiness more than their social standing. Lady Danbury served as a wonderful ally of Simon's with her dry, cutting, blunt remarks scattered through key scenes, adding brilliant touches of humour.

And finally, the elusive Lady Whistledown. While she was ever-present throughout the story, we only get little snippets of her actual writing at the start of each chapter. These snippets do a wonderful job of setting Lady Whistledown's character up for future books as a no-nonsense, blunt, humorous voice of upper society, and also of setting the tone for each chapter; a fantastic plot device and enigmatic character in one - genius writing Ms Quinn!

As is probably evident from the length of this review, I enjoyed reading The Duke and I immensely and have already made a start on the second book in the series - Anthony's story. If anyone has yet to explore the Bridgertons' world, I encourage you to do so either by book or by screen (or like myself and many others, indulge in both!)

Keep an eye out for more reviews in this series in the near future.

Book blurb

Can there be any greater challenge to London's Ambitious Mamas than an unmarried duke?—Lady Whistledown's Society Papers, April 1813

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 ruse to keep Simon free from marriage-minded society mothers. And as for Daphne, surely she will attract some worthy suitors 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 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.


You can buy the book here now. It was published by Piatkus.

For more on the author, you can check out her website, follow her on Instagram, or head over to her Goodreads page.