3.5 out of 5 stars
Cut to the Chase:
This is another solid example of Quinn’s work — the dialogue is witty, the characters seem to have an infectious bubbly energy, and the journey is believable. However, while Colin and Penelope are, like all Quinn characters, engaging and entertaining, this book seems to rely a little too much on the assumptions we start with. Despite the internal growth and development Quinn would like us to witness, too often we’re left feeling as though Penelope is still the shy, stuttering wallflower we were introduced to a decade ago, and Colin, despite trying desperately to get out of her elder brothers’ shadows, doesn’t seem to mature much beyond the charming, fun-loving caricature of himself he starts as. Still, even a weaker entry from Quinn is very readable; this one just isn’t quite as entertaining and repeatable as you’d like it to be…
Penelope Featherington is a shy, clumsy spinster. At 28 years of age, she’s that girl who’s everyone’s friend and no one’s girlfriend. She’s intelligent, and is presented as being far more attractive than in previous novels (where she’s described as a plump nonentity), and like most Quinn heroines, has a sharp wit and a keen sense of humor. She’s been friends with the famous Bridgerton family her whole life, and has always had an intense crush on Colin, the third eldest in the clan (since the Bridgertons are named in alphabetical order, you’ll always know which sibling you’re dealing with).
Colin, for his part, is the footloose and fancy free son in the family — he travels, he woos women, and he’s all about being charming and entertaining, and not settling down, not getting too serious too quickly.
Their story has been well set-up from previous books (at one point, Colin declares via a series of machinations obviously designed to get such a declaration that he was “certainly not going to marry Penelope Featherington” — as seasoned romance readers, we know he’s tempting fate there, that of course Penelope hears) and it was with great anticipation that I awaited this particular installment within the Bridgerton series.
And maybe that’s the problem with heightened expectations — Penelope is an extremely relatable, slightly older than normal, heroine (something I love to see): she’s a romantic, she’s intelligent, she’s been in love with the same man for, oh, forever. Yet despite the wonderful set up and the always likable characters, the novel doesn’t seem to know where to go with their story. They each seem slightly trapped in other’s preconceptions of themselves, and we’re not really sure why they fall in love now. Why is Penelope suddenly more interesting to Colin? Why does he notice her now? Why does he fall in love with her now?
Internal growth is spoken of, but never really shown. And though it’s still an enjoyable read, it doesn’t have the staying power or repeatability that many other Quinn novels have.
Other Things to Know:
This is technically the fourth book in the Bridgertons series, though the third with a male Bridgerton as a protagonist. The children were named alphabetically, but the series started with the eldest sister’s love story, so the order they were published was: Daisy (The Duke and I), Anthony (The Viscount Who Loved Me), Benedict (An Offer from a Gentleman), Colin (Romancing Mister Bridgerton), Eloise (To Sir Phillip with Love), Francesca (When He was Wicked) and Gregory (On the Way to the Wedding). As with any successful series, there have been a variety of spin-offs.
Though you don’t technically need to read the other books in the series, I would actually recommend doing so, first, because this series (and I feel awful saying this since I’m a fan of Quinn in general) seemed to get worse with each successive installment, and second, because Colin and Penelope in particular (more so than any of the other Bridgertons or their assorted friends) are well set up in the over novels, as is the general style (where there is a mini-opening gossip column at the beginning of each chapter).
There are also amusing side characters from Stephanie Laurens’s and Lisa Kleypas’s books that make brief cameo appearances. They don’t really contribute to the plot, but it’s a fun nod to those of us who read a lot of historical romances set in the regency period.
Comparisons to Other Authors:
Quinn is all about fun. She’s got a razor sharp wit, and her characters are all masters of verbal gymnastics. Characters progress seamlessly from one scene to another, and it all feels very light and entertaining. Julie Ann Long is the only author I can think of who has a similar sensibility with this type of verbal sparring and sense of humor. There are also times when some of Quinn’s characters remind me of more verbal, modern (though they’re set in the same regency era) versions of Georgette Heyer’s characters.
Otherwise, she’s similar to Lisa Kleypas in character development (though I would pick Kleypas in terms of being the overall better writer), a bit less sensual than Stephanie Laurens, and either similar to or perhaps a tad less sensual than Kleypas.