Everyone knows that Colin Bridgerton is the most charming man in London. Penelope Featherington has secretly adored her best friend’s brother for…well, it feels like forever. After half a lifetime of watching Colin Bridgerton from afar, she thinks she knows everything about him, until she stumbles across his deepest secret…and fears she doesn’t know him at all.
Colin Bridgerton is tired of being thought nothing but an empty-headed charmer, tired of everyone’s preoccupation with the notorious gossip columnist Lady Whistledown, who can’t seem to publish an edition without mentioning him in the first paragraph. But when Colin returns to London from a trip abroad he discovers nothing in his life is quite the same—especially Penelope Featherington! The girl haunting his dreams. But when he discovers that Penelope has secrets of her own, this elusive bachelor must decide…is she his biggest threat—or his promise of a happy ending?
Writing Style: 4.5/5
Overall Rating: 3/5
I went into this book with sky-high expectations. Penelope and Colin were consistently some of my favorite side characters in both the Netflix series and the other Bridgerton books I’ve read, but they just fell flat when they took center stage. Maybe part of this was because the Neftlix series spoiled the identity of Wistledown, which was a major mystery in this book. But, in all honestly, I think it had more to do with Colin and Penelope themselves. Colin came off as childish and stupid, rather than witty and charming. I wanted more backbone, or at least more inner sass, from Penelope earlier on. And the friends-to-lovers transition of their relationship felt so very rushed. However, it wasn’t all disappointment. I did appreciate the relationship that developed between Penelope and Lady Danbury (another one of my favorites from the Netflix series), and Colin did eventually become swoonworthy (once he got his head out of his ass). I just felt like this book could’ve and should’ve been much better…
I still absolutely loved the writing style and setting of this book. Quinn really has the vocab for the time period down, and with all the descriptions of balls and chaperones and carriages, I definitely did feel transported to this classic romance novel time period. Plus, there was such a rye, almost droll, tone to the narration that I couldn’t help but enjoy. Nothing was taken too seriously, and Quinn almost poked fun at all the cliché plot points of the genre and semi-ridiculous romantic ideals of the time period.
But I did feel like my reading experience was greatly affected by the fact that I already knew Whistledown’s identity. There was much speculation in this book as to who could be behind the infamous column, which then culminated in a major reveal that definitely didn’t have as big of an impact on me as it should/could have if I hadn’t already been spoiled. It was still interesting to read all the speculation when I already knew the outcome—I could look for the early hints and appreciate the red herrings—and I did like all of the drama and intrigue with Lady Danbury’s reward purse and Cressida’s false accusations. But I just didn’t think this whole plotline was as satisfying or exciting as if I had gone into the book unspoiled.
And Penelope and Colin just let me down as main characters. Penelope was thankfully far less guilty of this than Colin. As someone who has a fair bit of social anxiety, I really appreciated her characterization as a wallflower. I connected with her struggle to find the right words in conversation and to hide her disappointment at not being asked to dance. But I also sort of wanted more of her internal quips early on. I knew that she had a strong/sassy side, even if she didn’t show it outwardly, but it was also largely absent in internal monolog. She did eventually, with some support from Lady Danbury, gain her voice and become the character I knew she was. It just took a little longer than I wanted it to.
But Colin’s characterization hurt my very heart. I was always excited when he showed up in The Viscount Who Loved Me and An Offer From a Gentleman. He always had the perfect teasing line to needle his brothers into realizing their love for their leading ladies. Some of his quotes in these prequels even had me laughing out loud. But I was hard pressed to find anything close to that in Romancing Mister Bridgerton. He was constantly described as being charming and knowing exactly what to say, but very rarely did we get a scene where he actually proved this to be true. He was moping and angsty and just dumb for the vast majority of his own book. And even when Penelope called him out on it and he actually realized what he felt for her, he was still just so whiney and jealous and not nice about it. I was often left feeling that Penelope just deserved better. I will say, though, that Colin did sort of make up for his behavior at the very, very end with his closing romantic speech. But it just felt far too little far too late for my liking.
And maybe this was part of the reason their romance fell so flat for me. I was looking forward to heart-wrenching unrequited pining from Penelope’s side and a slow realization of deep-seated feelings that had been sneakily building unbeknownst to Colin. But Colin’s realization was unsatisfyingly sudden. Even the moment Penelope realized she loved Colin was a little insta-lovey for my taste (although it was at least partially saved by the fact we did get to see her grapple with that love for years). Colin literally went from having no romantic feelings at all for Penelope, to realizing he wanted to kiss her, to realizing he loved her in the span of one conversation. And it took me by surprise in the worst possible way. Yet, I did still eventually like them as a couple. I appreciated how the written word was something that connected them and how Penelope pushed Colin to realize his dreams. But, ugh, it could have been so much better.
For me, this book was a study of missed opportunities and disappointment. Side characters I loved in other books just didn’t have the same magic when they became main characters. And it got to the point that side plots and separate side characters stole the show. I just hope this isn’t a trend that continues in the remaining books…