From the desk of Pamela Mingle:
Reading a Julia Quinn novel is like spending time with an old friend. The relationship is comfortable, contented, not too demanding. Her latest, First Comes Scandal: A Bridgerton Sequel, is the story of Georgiana Bridgerton (sister of the doomed Edmund) and Nicholas Rokesbury. Their families are neighbors and longtime friends.
The book opens with Nicholas, who has received an urgent message from his father to come home immediately. This is inconvenient, since he’s a medical student in Edinburgh, and his family lives in Kent. His father didn’t give an explanation, and Nicholas is missing lectures and examinations to make the journey. Once there, his parents ask him—although it’s more like an order—to offer for Georgiana Bridgerton. It seems she was kidnapped by a suitor, who attempted to take her to Gretna Green to elope. She kicked him in a most sensitive place, tied him up, and with the help of a young Lady Dansbury (a fixture in the Bridgerton novels), made her escape. But alas, the damage is done. In the eyes of Society, she’s ruined.
Though sorry for Georgie, Nicholas is angry that his parents expect him to make this sacrifice. How can he finish medical school with a wife? And “It would be like marrying my sister,” he argues. He excels at his studies and “is his own man in Edinburgh.” He doesn’t refuse outright, however, and after sitting next to Georgiana at a dinner party, he begins to appreciate her wit and cleverness, not to speak of her enticing womanly qualities. Nicholas makes up his mind to propose. After all, he can’t leave a dear friend in such dire straits.
Georgiana is angry about what happened to her. She’s not a rule breaker; despite that, her good reputation is lost. Allowing her imagination to run wild, she speculates about the humiliating gossip circulating about her conduct. And she did nothing wrong! But the man who brought this upon her is suffering no consequences whatsoever. Sadly, Georgie says to her mother, “Do you think somewhere there is a society where men can’t do things like this to women?”
The next morning Nicholas visits Georgie to offer for her. He finds her picnicking by a pond with her two young nephews, Anthony and Benedict Bridgerton, which makes proposing somewhat of a challenge due to the antics of the boys. Eventually, he simply blurts it out. To his shock, Georgie refuses him. She believes he’s offering for her hand because he pities her. Nicholas tries to convince her that she’s not thinking clearly, but she is adamant. Georgie is right about Nicholas’s motivations. At this point, he sees the marriage as “accepting his fate.” He doesn’t love Georgiana. However—like Mr. Darcy when he first proposes to Elizabeth Bennet—it never occurs to him that she might say no.
After the man who tried to elope with her makes a second, bungled attempt to kidnap her, Georgiana reaches a decision. She’ll marry Nicholas if he’ll still have her. And, to no one’s surprise, he will.
The subtitle of this novel, A Bridgerton Sequel, connects it directly to Quinn’s Bridgerton series. The parents of the eight siblings made famous by Quinn make an appearance here, along with their first three children, Anthony, Benedict, and Colin. It’s fun for the reader to see the boys as young children and recognize the personality traits we’ve come to know and love. Anthony, bossy and dominating; Benedict, a budding artist; and Colin, even as a baby, hungry all the time. The author shines a light on the inequalities between men and women during the Georgian period, especially in Society’s eyes. This inequality also surfaces later in professional and academic circles, when Georgiana becomes interested in medicine. Unlike other men of the period, Nicholas takes Georgiana’s questions about medical practice seriously and answers them patiently. He’s never condescending with her.
You’ll find Quinn’s trademark “nice” hero and heroine in this book, and I liked them both. But if you’re looking for a story in which the characters face insurmountable obstacles, this is not it. The author missed many opportunities to develop the internal conflict in both of the main characters. The romance lacked tension, and, sadly, the characters lacked chemistry. The pacing was too slow, with many lengthy scenes meant to be funny falling flat. One involved a discussion of exploding babies; another, a yowling cat. These scenes went on too long, and in the end, weren’t funny but merely tedious.
Still, if you love the Bridgertons, you’ll find plenty to enjoy here. The warm family connections, featuring familiar and beloved characters. A hero and heroine who genuinely like each other. And the very sweet friendship-to-love romance.
3 out of 5 Regency Stars
First Comes Scandal: A Bridgerton Prequel, by Julia Quinn
Avon (April 21, 2020)
Hardcover, mass market paperback, eBook, & audiobook (288) pages
Cover image courtesy of Avon © 2020; text Pamela Mingle © 2020, Austenprose.com