Thursday, October 8, 2015

Romance Re-Read | Romancing Mr. Bridgerton and One Good Earl...

This is perhaps a somewhat random post.  Last month I got a wild hair to re-read a couple of romance novels: one because I loved it so much and writing a review for it made me want to re-read and one that I read a couple years ago and for which I had high expectations which were dashed and disappointed. Both are beloved by readers in general.  Read on for more if you dare. It does get a little ranty at times and there may be some spoilers though can you really spoil a romance novel? In this case I think you really can  - there is a spoiler for the entire first part of the Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn.  You've been warned!


One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah Maclean

So I literally just posted a review of this book but I mentioned that just writing the review made me want to re-read.  I won't even make you wait in hushed suspense for the verdict. It was still super awesome.  The End.  Okay I have a little more to say about it but not too much more because it really did remain awesome on a second reading.  In fact, it may have improved a little bit.  One of my complaints originally was that reading it so soon after A Rogue by Any Other Name, made Cross seem a little generic and that we didn’t get to see much of his nerdtacularness.  With some distance his sameness to Bourne no longer stood out and there is a little bit more exhibition of the pair’s dorkiness then I remembered.  There is also just not a lot of room in the story to really spend too much time on sciencey goodness which is a crying shame but I have no choice but to forgive because this book owns me. 

I loved Pippa and Jasper a little more the second time around and I appreciated even more the journey they went on.  Pippa’s discomfort at marrying Castleton is so well done. It doesn’t even occur to her that her anxiety and panic are signs (among other signs) that the marriage is not right – for either of them.  Instead she is focused on those elements of marriage that she doesn’t feel she has control over.  As always she tries to bring order to her life by pursuing greater knowledge but when she finds that knowledge all she gets is a whole lot of disorder. Blissful, dreamy disorder.  I love the imagery of a broken heart and how she had always scoffed at this notion as being anatomically ridiculous until it happens to her.  Anyway, I love her.  Also I think the sexy times in this book are some of my all-time favorites. 

FINAL VERDICT: Stands up and remains awesome upon re-read. Yay! :0)

o - O - o

Romancing Mr. Bridgerton By Julia Quinn

I’ve been meaning to re-read this book for a while and was suddenly overwhelmed by the urge to do so.   My reasons for wanting to revisit this book were very different than for One Good Earl.... This book and I have a rocky past. It goes something like this.   I was swimming along in the marvelous Bridgerton series, happy as a sunfish when suddenly this book came along (Book 4).  In the first three books, Colin was by far my favorite Bridgerton (though on the re-read here I developed quite a crush on Hyacinth) and when I read the blurb that he was going to be matched up with Penelope Featherington, the awkward wallflower, I was SO EXCITED!!!  I ADORE the whole popular guy falls for geeky girl trope so hard (hhhmm…I wonder why…) – it’s so clichéd but so awesome.  Safe to say, my excitement for this book was extremely high and ………I ended the book completely disappointed.  It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t the magical confection I had anticipated. It was a three star read.  I have yet to read another Bridgerton series book since, that’s how deflated I was. 

As a few years have passed, I began to feel the need to re-read, to make sure it wasn’t just my super high expectations that had led to the disappointment.  I think it’s safe to say this book is considered a favorite in the series and a number of book bloggers I admire really liked it.  So in I dived. 

Interestingly (well at least to me), the things I remembered really bothering me, didn’t as much this time – specifically I remember being really annoyed early on at how whiny Colin was and woe is me about his lack of purpose in life.  I was still a little put off by this but was able to empathise a lot more this time and didn’t think it was too emo or out of character for him.  My whole remembered impression of him from this book was as broody and domineering, just like his brothers and not at all like he had been portrayed in the previous books.  The out-of-character issue was still a problem for me but it wasn't his dissatisfaction and questioning of life that was really the problem.  In fact I can pinpoint exactly when the book lost me and became a three star instead of a five star: the carriage ride and proposal.  Colin can be really damn sinister in this book and I really really hated that.  I’m going to write about two scenes in particular and there will be massive spoilers not only for this book but the series so beware! 

First of all just in general, I think Colin’s whole response to the Whistledown thing felt out of character for me.  Up to this point in the series he has been portrayed as witty, extremely good-natured and a bit of an irreverent prankster. He is not overly concerned with society’s rules or its snobbier citizens. Colin should think what Lady Whistledown has done, and the possibility that it is his sister, hilarious and great.  Yet when he suspects it’s his sister Eloise and then finds out it’s Penelope he becomes obsessed and seriously deranged and angry about it.  Even if it is just out of concern for these ladies’ reputations, we are told several times that Colin solves problems with charm and by always knowing the right thing to say - it doesn’t ring true that his response would be autocratic browbeating and saying cruel things aimed to hurt and shame.  Yet that is exactly what he does with both Eloise and Penelope.  Quinn introduces the idea that he feels jealousy at Lady Whistledown's accomplishment and that it is that which is driving his ill humor. However, she also tries to make the case that his losing his temper, which he apparently never does, is a sign that he cares about Penelope.  Okay, but I think Quinn takes him a little far.  The things he says to Penelope are quite cruel.  Then there is this odd switch from really scary anger to “I think you’re the beautifullest” followed by some heavy petting and making out and Penelope just melting like he hadn’t just been berating and belittling her.  THEN, his marriage proposal is just awful.  He doesn’t even really bother to ask Penelope, he just jumps out of the carriage and when Penelope is a little confused by what’s going on states rather irritably “are we getting married or what?” He then charges into her house without waiting for her answer and asks her mother for permission while Penelope just blinks stupidly with stars in her eyes.  While I do love how he sets down her mother, I really hate the rest of this “proposal”.  I wanted to see Penelope wooed and courted properly and Colin is supposed to be the most charming man in Regency England and yet he practically bullies her into marriage with an arrogance that I don’t think his character should have.

The other scene that really bugged me was the engagement ball.  Colin and Penelope are still at odds over the Whistledown papers so when the Whistledown column they were arguing about in the carriage, gets delivered in the midst of their ball, Colin is understandably upset. However again his response borders on abuse. He drags Penelope (bruising her arm) up in front of their crowd of guests for the official toast by his brother and then forces her in front of the crowd to drink a glass of champagne by holding it to her mouth and not taking it away until she has drunk it all.  It is hugely disturbing, cruel and controlling.  He then drags her off to a bedroom where there is some more berating and belittling before another abrupt change into loving, kind Colin after which he lays her down and makes sweet sweet love to her for the first time.  It’s completely wacko.  Again, we are supposed to see the anger as evidence that he truly cares for her, the problem is that the way he displays that anger is seriously inappropriate.  I think he is written too harshly and it does not jive with how he had been been described or written in the other books.  

So my conclusion is that it stays at 3 stars which means, I liked it.  Despite Colin morphing into the autocratic Alpha male character I despise and the two pretty atrocious scenes above, there was still a lot about the book I liked.  Lots of witty banter and as I mentioned above my previously unrealized love for Hyacinth which is pushing me towards finishing the Bridgerton series.  I was also able to appreciate Colin’s search for more purpose in his life much more this time around so there’s that I suppose.

FINAL VERDICT:  Still disappointed and perhaps even a little more so upon a re-read. Boo. :0( At least now I know it wasn't just my high expectations that scuppered the book for me.


So have you ever re-read a book hoping you were too hard on it the first time around?  If so how'd that go for you?  How about books by authors you like with premises that are to die for...that just fizzle and don't work?  Why do the books torture us so?

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