Trashy Read 2011 #1: The Duke and I, by Julia Quinn
It's been quite awhile since I indulged in some historical romance. The last few historicals I picked up did nothing for me, and I threw each one to the side after only fifty pages or so. The heroes kept coming off as too macho, the heroines too weak, or the writing too insufferable. So I was a little wary when I picked up Julia Quinn's beloved The Duke and I at a used book sale for a quarter.
Luckily, this particular historical rocked. Daphne Bridgerton is one of four siblings, and the first daughter to hit the London social scene in search of a husband. Her mother is adamant she find someone, but Daphne hasn't had much luck. She's very likeable, with her open face and open personality. Unfortunately for her, that likability makes men want to be friends with her rather than lovers.
So when one of Daphne's brother's friends - the hot Duke of Hastings, Simon Basset - offers her a clever way to trick men into falling for her, she takes it. They pretend to be attached. This works for both of them. Once men realize that a duke is after Daphne, they begin to take notice of her. Meanwhile, society mothers back off on constantly throwing their daughters into Simon's path, freeing him from social annoyance. Things take a turn, though, when both Simon and Daphne realize they are actually in love with each other.
Here's the plot kink: When Simon was a child, he had a very bad stutter. His asshole father basically disowned him, and he spent his life never really feeling loved. He overcame the stutter, but the whole situation turned him completely off the idea of having a family. Like so very many romance heroes before him, Simon thinks having children will turn him into his father, and he refuses to let that happen. So when he and Daphne end up getting married in tense circumstances, he tells her he can't give her kids.
You can guess what happens in the end, with happy endings and whatnot. So why was this basic-plot romance so enjoyable? Because Simon and Daphne are strong characters, and they make a fantastic couple. Through the whole book, they genuinely like spending time together. Despite his lingering bitterness over his childhood, Simon is surprisingly witty and charming. He has a big heart, even if he doesn't realize it. Daphne, meanwhile, is funny and sweet without coming off as too perfect. They both have faults, but they are also fundamentally good people. I like these kind of characters in romances, particularly historical romances, which have a tendency to get too wrapped up in brooding to make me want to be friends with the hero and heroine. I loved just hanging out with Daphne and Simon, and I wanted things to work out well between them. I will definitely be reading more Julia Quinn in the future.
Next in Trashy Reads: Erin McCarthy's Hard and Fast. Yes, I realize that title is ridiculous.