The Duke & I by Julia Quinn

The Duke & I by Julia Quinn
The Duke & I by Julia Quinn

Everyone is talking about one new Netflix show: Bridgerton. People are devouring it in a single day, and then turning to the book series to get their fix (at the time of writing this, there are three Brigderton books on the NYT Bestsellers List, over 20 years after their first publication). I’m basically describing myself here: after watching all 8 episodes, I managed to snag a copy of The Duke & I and jumped right in.

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…

The question on everyone’s mind is how different is the book from the TV show? It’s very different. The book is much simpler than the show – and honestly, the show is better. Some examples of differences include: this book does not reveal the identity of Lady Whistledown (while the show does in the season 1 finale), Marina Thompson is not in the first book, the show has a diverse cast while the book doesn’t specifically call out most characters’ race, the Queen is not in the book, and Nigel Berbrooke is much more of a non-issue in the book. 

This book was a fun take on fake dating in a historical romance. There was plenty of tension and chemistry between Daphne and Simon, despite their very different wishes for their lives. Even during their fights, they had unreal tension. However, there is one particularly problematic scene: the scene where Daphne takes advantage of Simon during sex in order to force him to have children. This scene is plainly rape, and really throws a shadow on an otherwise good book.

Are there some problematic scenes? Yes, absolutely. The rape scene is worse in the book than it was in the show, and it should not be overlooked. The Duke & I is one of the few books that I believe is inferior to its adaptation. Shonda Rhimes seriously worked her magic on the TV show. I’m still planning to dig into the rest of the series, but I’m definitely more excited to see the next season of the show. If you’re looking for a great historical romance, check out Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore. 4/5

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