Monday, April 21, 2008

An Offer From a Gentleman - Julia Quinn

Continuing with my Bridgerton rerads, this time it was Benedict's story!

The Bridgerton family is wealthy, well born, and universally admired. And with six of the eight Bridgerton children already mingling with society, it's no wonder they're mentioned so frequently in the most popular (and accurate) source of social news, Lady Whistledown's Society Papers. But not even the mysterious Lady Whistledown can identify the masked maiden who completely captivated the Bridgerton second son, Benedict, at his mother's masquerade ball -- a silver-clad beauty who vanished on the stroke of midnight. It was a magical night for Sophie Beckett, orphaned, illegitimate daughter of the Earl of Penwood. Attending the ball was a beautiful dream, sharing the evening with Benedict Bridgerton was the stuff of fantasy -- and returning home to her role as unpaid servant to her father's cruel widow and stepdaughters was a nightmare. Then she lost even the small security of that position, and things went from bad to worse. By the time Sophie met Benedict again, she was in truly desperate straits. He made her feel precious, even in rags, but Sophie had grave reservations about accepting.

More on the level of TDAI than TVWLM. An Offer From a Gentleman tells the story of Benedict yes but especially the story of Sophie Beckett. Slightly different in tone from the previous books - there's less attempts at humour - because this pretends to be a Cinderella story.

I actually enjoyed the beginning with Sophie going to the party in disguise and Benedict falling for her (even if a bit too suddenly) but I had trouble with the rest of it. Sophie going away, then meeting Benedict again and he never recognising her but them starting a relationship again. There are a number of problems as Benedict believes Sophie is a servant and that he can only make her is mistress not marry her and Sophie's evil stepmother and stepsisters (absolutely awful in the first chapters) come back to torment her but eventually the happy ending arrived.

I felt Sophie should have told him the truth of who she was much sooner and I was a bit annoyed at Benedict who kept asking her to be his mistress even after he took her to work in his mother's house.

On the whole it seemed to me that Quinn didn't succeed in making this one as light and funny as is usually her style but it also didn't live up to the darker feelings that the situation evoked. The last scene with Mrs Bridgerton in jail trying to save Sophie seemed more like a farce being played on stage. One wonders if it wasn't for Mrs B wether Benedict and Sophie would have had their happy ending.

The book ends with a huge cliffhanger - Lady Whistledown decides to stop her column writing and actually live her life. I'll be reading Colin's story soon just so I can relive all that.

Grade: C

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