The Chick: Sophie Beckett, the "ward" of an Earl who dies and leaves her in the care of his shrewish new wife and her two daughters, who promptly turn her into an unpaid servant in return for room and board.
Shady Past: Uh, by "ward," I mean illegitimate by-blow -- which makes the Countess her Wicked Stepmother, natch.
The Dude: Benedict Bridgerton, second son of the fabulously wealthy, liberal, and all-round respected Bridgerton family. Yet, despite being wealthy, liberal, and all-round respected, he is mysteriously unfulfilled.
Shady Past: Enterprising ladies and their marriage-hunting mamas are so focused on his money and family name that they don't bother learning his given name, which results in him being relegated to nicknames like "Number Two."
Benedict: Marry me!
Benedict: Be my mistress!
Sophie-years-later-as-servant: HELL no!
Benedict: NOW marry me!
Romantic Convention Checklist:
1 Interclass Romance
1 Vicious Romantic Rival
1 Very Bad (Step-)Parent
9 (!) Anachronistically Wonderful and Accepting Relatives
1 False Accusation
1 Previously Undiscovered Inheritence
1 Obvious Sequel Setup (look out, Colin Bridgerton)
This was my first foray into the Bridgerton series. I didn't read it under very pleasant circumstances - I was in the hospital over two days just before holidays, which was why I'd had my exams deffered. Anyway, I'd heard a lot of good things about the Bridgerton series, and I'm a sucker for Regencies, so I thought I'd give it a try.
First of all, while the Cinderella setup of the first chunk of the novel was cute, the actual Fairy Godmother part was too abrupt for me. The author did a great job setting up the situation with the stepmother and the stepsisters and Sophie's rotten situation, but the helpful housekeeper and the servants who all drop what they're doing to suddenly drape Sophie in glamour came right out of the blue. The fairy godmother character was never explained nor really given a proper motive for her actions which really weakened the opening act for me. Honestly, I felt it could have had a bit more lead-in.
That said, Sophie's character is tough and practical without being totally anachronistic. She has a realistic knowledge of her place and an understandable reluctance to leave it and risk everything. Benedict is interesting in much the same way - when he meets Sophie again when she's a servant (instead of disguised as a noble at the start of the novel), he's fully aware of the social implications of his desire for her, which is why he asks her to be his mistress and not his wife. It's also equally well-written why Sophie refuses. I thought Benedict's social malaise ("boo hoo, true love doesn't exist, women are only out for my money") was a bit whiny, but thankfully he gets over it soon enough. As well, his family members are all loving and affectionate, and don't totally take over the story, although their total acceptance of Sophie is either incredibly naive and anachronistic or else they must be REALLY rich not to care, in which case, way to go Sophie!
In any case, It was an enjoyable read and it kept the fairy-tale ending without completely doing away with actual Regency social norms. B.