The Duke and I by Julia Quinn – a review and mini comparison to the Netflix series!
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.
I liked it but…. Can’t believe I’m saying this… the Netflix series was way better! Eek!
Regardless of anything else, the core of The Duke and I is the relationship between Daphne and Simon. One thing both the book and series have in common is that the chemistry between the two main characters is entrancing. Perhaps, more so in the book as their friendship is possibly showcased better there. The dialogue and inner thoughts that readers are privy to in the novel really set out the beginning and development of their friendship. That friendship is the key to building their romance and is ultimately what helps them through their more difficult times.
Although the story is mainly told through the alternating perspectives of Daphne and Simon, there are a few instances where the perspectives of other characters are revealed. Those tiny peeks allow readers to understand even better how well-suited the couple is to each other. The points of view switch from Daphne to Simon within chapters, sometimes without a break on the page. This actually is not distracting. It’s easy to follow whose view the reader is in. Additionally, I found that seamless transition makes the tale slightly more immersive and provides an even better grasp of the scene playing out.
While I understand artistic license, there were parts of dialogue or even narration where I felt the author’s language did not suit the times in which the book is set. Of course, I’m not looking for Austenesque literary prose but, as a reader of many historical romances, I can definitely say the narrative sometimes slips into a more contemporary cadence. It’s not a huge issue as I was far too preoccupied by the romance, but I did notice it.
Lady Whistledown is a most useful plot device to explain certain societal norms and to give the reader a sense of who’s who without risking a potential info dump. I think her role is played up much more in the series though her, at times, profound impact is alluded to in the novel as well. She certainly is a clever businesswoman and her presence offers a more public and influential role for a woman than was allowed at the times.
The Bridgerton family unit a whole offers some of the most humorous scenes of the novel. The interaction between the older children and the younger ones make for a very endearing read. I think the novel also does a better job of exploring the family dynamic and thus makes Daphne’s desire for a family of her own more potent. Of course, the series is able to take us away from the central characters and we have the opportunity to understand several other siblings even better.
Overall, I enjoyed The Duke and I from the entertaining characters to the charming family and the gorgeous chemistry between the two main characters. I’ve already started the next book in the series and look forward to continuing.
I give The Duke and I 4/5 espresso shots.