SERIES: “Bridgerton” series, #2
AVAILABILITY: still available
The back blurb:
“1814 promises to be another eventful season, but not, this Author believes, for Anthony Bridgerton. London’s most elusive bachelor, who has shown no indication that he plans to marry.
And in all truth, why should he? When it comes to playing the consummate rake, nobody does it better…
–Lady Whistledown’s Society Papers, April 1814
But this time the gossip columnists have it wrong. Anthony Bridgerton hasn’t just decided to marry–he’s even chosen a wife! The only obstacle is his intended’s older sister, Kate Sheffield–the most meddlesome woman ever to grace a London ballroom. The spirited schemer is driving Anthony mad with her determination to stop the betrothal, but when he closes his eyes at night, Kate’s the woman haunting his increasingly erotic dreams…
Contrary to popular belief, Kate is quite sure that reformed rakes do not make the best husbands–and Anthony Bridgerton is the most wicked rogue of them all. Kate’s determined to protect her sister–but she fears her own heart is vulnerable. And when Anthony’s lips touch hers, she’s suddenly afraid she might not be able to resist the reprehensible rake herself…”
The Viscount Who Loved Me was my first novel by Julia Quinn (Feb. 2001). I know I thought the way it was written refreshing: it was fun and humorous and I didn’t mind its “modern” tone. I loved this novel. That is, the first part. I lost some of my interest during the second part (last third of the novel) though I still liked it. The story got darker and I think I hadn’t a lot of patience for why the two didn’t just admit their love already. And yet, I still call The Viscount Who Loved Me one of my favorite Bridgerton novels.
What better way than this challenge to find out if that is still true?
Now (somewhat spoilerish maybe)
The Viscount Who Loved Me follows well-known story paths. Or perhaps it’s better to say: the story paths in this novel are well-known because many stories after this novel used them?
Anyway, we have Kate Sheffield, aging spinster sister to the belle of the season, Edwina Sheffield; Kate Sheffield who nevertheless still loves her sister; Kate Sheffield who says this about Anthony Bridgerton, well-known rake, on the lookout for a wife and settling on Edwina Sheffield because she’s regarded as the belle of the season:
Don’t be silly. I don’t even know the man. And if I did, I would probably run in the opposite direction. He is exactly the sort of man the two of us should avoid at all costs. He could probably seduce an iceberg.” (12)
“You are not to have anything to do with Viscount Bridgerton. Everyone knows he is the worst sort of rake. In fact, he’s the worst rake, period. In all London. In the entire country!” (19)
We all know how that is going to turn out.
And we have Anthony who has a handy list of requirements for what his wife should be like:
First, she ought to be reasonable attractive.
Second, she couldn’t be stupid
Third–and this was the most important–she couldn’t be anyone with whom he might actually fall in love.
We all know how that–especially #3– is going to turn out. (#3 is also the stumbling block on the road to HEA and turns the last third of the novel into something more serious than what came before.)
Kate and Anthony meet for the first time:
Anthony belatedly realized that Miss Sheffield had held her hand to him, as was only polite. He took it and brushed a light kiss across her gloved knuckles. “Miss Sheffield,” he murmured unthinkingly, “you are as lovely as your sister.”
If she had seemed uncomfortable before, her bearing now turned downright hostile. And Anthony realized with a mental slap that he’d said exactly the wrong thing. Of course he should not have compared her to her sister. It was the one compliment she could never have believed.
“And you, Lord Bridgerton,” she replied in a tone that could have frozen champagne, “are almost as handsome as your brother.” (39/40)
Kate and Anthony seem to be at odds every time they are in close company. Early in their acquaintance Anthony admits to Kate the he can’t seem to help himself where she is concerned: he just has to bait her.
And so, from their first meeting, the baiting and fun just goes on: the walk with Kate’s dog Newton that has Anthony running in a park and ending with him wet, Kate hiding in Anthony’s study to avoid him only to be discovered by him, the Pall Mall game and the mallet of Death, the bee sting,… There are lots of scenes and funny lines worth quoting in this novel.
But amidst all the hilarity – The Viscount Who Loved Me is often laugh-out-loud fun – there is room for unsettling and poignant realizations:
Anthony felt as if he’d been punched in the gut. He fought the most ridiculous impulse to leap forward and grab the key from the carpet, to get down on one knee and hand it to her, to apologize for his conduct and beg her forgiveness.
But he would do none of those things. He did not want to mend this breach; he did not want her favorable opinion.
Because that elusive spark–the one so noticeably absent wit her sister, whom he intended to marry–crackled and burned so strongly it seemed the room ought to be as light as day. (116)
He might have been a rake and a rogue–he might still be a rake and a rouge–but clearly his behavior to those ends did not define the man. And the only objection Kate had to his marrying Edwina was…
She swallowed painfully. There was a lump the size of a cannonball in her throat.
Because deep in her heart, she wanted him for herself. (202)
and quite and connecting moments, like when Anthony finds Kate terrified and paralyzed by fear because of a thunderstorm.
And then, in a twist of fate, Kate finds herself married to Anthony, and it’s time for the last third of the novel, the part I so far thought less enjoyable.
The story now concentrates on Anthony’s reason why he doesn’t want to fall in love with his wife (rule #3). This fact of their married life – that there never will be love between them – is something Anthony tells Kate in no uncertain terms in a conversation before the wedding. Only, against her better judgement and fear of always being second in her life to someone else, Kate finds herself falling more and more in love with her husband. The novel, while keeping up the fun turn of phrases, turns rather dark and serious underneath while Anthony battles his demons and learns about the nature of love.
This time around, I really appreciated what was done in the last third of the novel though I still find it different. What begins as a light, fun, and hilarious story of two people finding themselves attracted to each other against their will and battling against it for all they are worth, is now a story of two people trying to find their way in a marriage that is supposed to be based on friendship, only to learn that love can’t be governed by the mind. Love will find a way and knows no rules. And for that other look at love and romance, I now love the second part of this novel as well.
Verdict: Reading The Viscount Who Loved Me for this challenge made this novel “whole” for me. (5/5)