Warning: Spoilers! Stop reading if you still haven’t watched Bridgerton (which you definitely should by the way).
Having spent most of my lockdown getting lost in Hell’s Kitchen videos on YouTube, I was initially confused when Bridgerton began flooding my timeline. After a rather speedy Google search, I discovered that Netflix had released yet another historical drama. By that point I was ready to tap out, history isn’t my thing after all, but when my friend said it was an ‘olden day Gossip Girl’, that got my attention. I am an entertainment blogger after all, so the idea of anonymous rumours and relationship drama reeled me back in. However, my inner bookworm knew that there was work to be done before indulging myself in the TV series – I had to read the book.
If you didn’t already know, ‘Bridgerton’ is Netflix’s adaptation of Julia Quinn’s novel The Duke & I (2000). I’m sure you’ll be glad to know that my patience was not in vain and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book before watching the show, and not just for bragging rights.
The Duke & I revolves around Daphne Bridgerton, a young lady in 19 th century London who has already been on the ‘marriage market’ for two years and rejected four proposals! Under the Regency Era (1811-1820), Britain was very much entrenched in patriarchal customs, which meant most families were desperate to marry off their girls before the age of 22. Daphne is the eldest daughter amongst the eight Bridgerton siblings, who are all comically named in alphabetic order from A-H. Despite being adored by all, Daphne is always stuck in the dreaded friendzone and lacks the romantic interest from men (well, “the reasonably good” ones) that’s needed to secure a proposal. Although the book is set all the way back in 1813, Quinn uses Daphne’s love-life to channel the nerves and naivety people still face today when first entering the dating world.
their witty banter and undeniable chemistry will keep you entertained throughout
But alas, in swoops the knight in shining armour, or rather the Duke in a woollen tailcoat. I have to admit that Simon Bassett’s character was more three-dimensional than one might have expected, which is always a good thing. We learn that his strained relationship with his father and inability to express his emotions are a consequence of ‘the stiff-upper lip syndrome’, perhaps more commonly known today as toxic masculinity.
Although I won’t reveal the compromising circumstances in which Daphne and the Duke of Hastings meet, I can assure you that their witty banter and undeniable chemistry will keep you entertained throughout. Things get more complicated when its revealed that the Duke is also best friends with Anthony Bridgerton – yep, Daphne’s older brother. However, this doesn’t stop Simon and Daphne from devising a plan to fake a courtship, so that soon, men are lining up to discover what’s so special about the young Miss Bridgerton.
If you’re thinking this couldn’t get anymore twisted, then you’re wrong. The Duke & I has its own iconic 19th century gossip pamphlet written by the mysterious Lady Whistledown. Unlike your average column, it lists members of society by name, instead of using their initials — so us readers and the residents of London are desperate to discover who is revealing the ‘ton’s’ secrets.
For anyone who loves history, but also misses the type of drama reminiscent of Wattpad teen fictions, then The Duke & I is the book for you. Not only does Julia Quinn show readers that we are not so different from people of the past, but she also allows you to escape into a world of extravagance and Regency balls — which is desperately needed whilst in lockdown. If you’re a speedy reader or just can’t stand the heartbreak of finishing an outstanding book then don’t worry, The Duke & I is only the first of the eight-part ‘Bridgerton’ series, with each novel following the self-discovery of another Bridgerton sibling. I promise you that you’re in for drama, heartbreak, laughter and of course, a happy fairy-tale
By Omo Ifabua
Image: Love Trill via Flickr