From the desk of Rachel McMillan:
Returning to The Viscount Who Loved Me I found myself in the pages of a romantic masterpiece. Here, the canvas of a London season showcases two hearts burdened by grief and anxiety only to find love amidst a cast of familiar characters beloved by readers the world over. Lord Anthony Bridgerton, eldest of the series’ eponymous family is, as ton gossip monger Lady Whistledown insists, a capital R rake.
The Rake Who Must Marry
Yet the patriarchal head of the Bridgerton family is not a position Anthony desires. More still, his philandering ways are very much an outplay of loss and uncertainty following the death of his father and his requirement to step into a role years ahead of his young self.
“Anthony Bridgerton had always known he would die young,” (1)
…reads the first line of the prologue: a break in tradition from a genre that usually sets up class or character, the need for marriage or the disappointment of pursuit. It’s quite a catapult into a rake’s story, perhaps even to redeem him in our eyes long before the pages turn back the curtain on his true nature.
Certain his years are ticking toward demise, he means to marry to serve his family well but harbours no disillusions of love or that matrimony will desist dalliances with several mistresses.
A Protector in the Shadow of a Beautiful Younger Sister
Kate Sheffield’s role in her own family is not dissimilar. The Sheffield’s many years of scrimp and sacrifice afforded a London season that find her younger sister Edwina heralded “diamond of the first water” and perfectly marriageable in Anthony Bridgerton’s eyes. In a slightly Taming of the Shrew twist, Edwina will not marry without Kate’s approval and as her protector, Kate refuses to relinquish Edwina to a cad. Her first impressions of Anthony leave a lot to be desired, no matter how their page-time sparks and crackles with undeniable chemistry.
Their Complicated Web of Attraction
Thus, through a season of casual run-ins, banter, sparring (recalling the aforementioned Shakespeare), and a delightful game of pall mall, wherein Kate pilfers Anthony’s beloved black death mallet, Kate and Anthony weave their own complicated web.
“He wouldn’t, in a million years, have allowed himself to choose her as a wife. She was far, far too dangerous to his peace of mind.” (221)
Finding Mutual Respect and Friendship
Yet, at heart, The Viscount Who Loved Me, is not merely an enemies-to-lovers stand-off leading to love, it is a careful study in grief and anxiety. At the intersection of debilitating fear (Kate of thunderstorms, Anthony of bees like the one who stung and killed his father), and the reticence toward love they level off enough to find a mutual respect and friendship that becomes foundational to their love story.
“All her life, she’d been the one who’d received the second glance, the second greeting, the second kiss on the hand. As the elder daughter, it should have been her due to be addressed before her younger sister, but Edwina’s beauty was so stunning, the pure and perfect blue of her eyes so startling, that people simply forgot themselves in her presence.” (258)
Facing Their Greatest Fears
As Anthony and Kate’s relationship veers from the public eye, the latter half of the story offers a slow realization of their shared fallacies, limitations, and familial expectations. Kate doesn’t believe she is beautiful, feeling she will never live up to the beauty of Edwina and that Anthony will look at her and see her sister instead. Anthony is certain that his father surpassed him in virtue and character, and he is doomed to always be lesser-than. The once capital R rake is revealed to wade through a life of grief and anxiety. The more they learn and hold onto each other coupled with instances where they encounter each other at the apex of their greatest fears, the more wonderful their connection is solidified.
A Nuanced and Deeply Moving Story
The Viscount Who Loved Me is a splendid exploration of the dichotomies of human characteristics: the need to be bold and assertive when confronted with a possible adversary but all-too-soon shedding layers to reveal the commonality of shared grief and anxiety. While espousing tropes that romance readers love—including enemies-to-lovers and a rather surprising marriage of convenience I will leave you to discover, Quinn places a nuanced and deeply moving stamp. As is hallmark of the Bridgerton series, Lady Whistledown, the Bridgerton and Featherington families and the myriad of characters who complicate the colourful waltz act as a type of theatrical chorus: nudging us toward the love play we are watching, and feeling we are part of the action.
In a read easily as arresting the second time around, Kate and Anthony’s story winnowed deep into my heart and won it, yet again, with as swift a swing as a Pall Mall death mallet.
5 out of 5 Stars
GUEST REVIEW BIO
Rachel McMillan is the author of The Herringford and Watts mysteries, The Van Buren and DeLuca mysteries, The Three-Quarter Time series, The London Restoration, and The Mozart Code. Her non-fiction works include Dream Plan Go: A Travel Guide for Independent Adventure, and A Very Merry Holiday Movie Guide. Rachel lives in Toronto, Canada and is always reading. Visit Rachel at her website.
READ OUR BRIDGERTON REVIEWS
ADDITIONAL BOOKS IN THE SERIES
- An Offer from a Gentleman: Bridgerton (Book 3)
- Romancing Mister Bridgerton: Bridgerton (Book 4)
- To Sir Philip, With Love: Bridgerton (Book 5)
- When He Was Wicked: Bridgerton (Book 6)
- It’s In His Kiss: Bridgerton (Book 7)
- On The Way to The Wedding: Bridgerton (Book 8)
- The Viscount Who Loved Me: Bridgerton (Book 2), by Julia Quinn
- Avon; First Edition (April 27, 2021)
- Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook (480) pages
- ISBN: 978-0063138629
- Genre: Regency Romance, Historical Romance
We purchased a copy of the book for our own enjoyment. Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Cover image courtesy of Avon © 2022; text Rachel McMillan © 2022, austenprose.com.
Hello Dear Readers,
Have you read any of the Bridgerton series novels, or other books by Julia Quinn?
If you enjoy historical romance with witty dialogue, engaging plots, and endearing characters, Austenprose highly recommends them.
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Laurel Ann Nattress, editor