Friday 25 March 2016

#CBR8 Book 29: "To Sir Phillip, with Love" by Julia Quinn

Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Eloise Bridgerton has reached the age of 28 and while she has received six different marriage proposals, she was quite happy with the idea of ending up a spinster. That was, of course, when she believed her best friend, Penelope Featherington, was going to be there, spinstering alongside her. Then Penelope ends up marrying the man of her dreams, Eloise's brother Colin, and suddenly spinsterhood isn't looking quite so rosy. On impulse, Eloise decides to run off to the countryside to visit Sir Phillip Crane, the widower of her distant cousin. Having been corresponding in the years since her cousin's death, Sir Phillip suddenly proposed in his most recent letter, and with the rest of her family distracted by Colin and Penelope's recent union, Eloise decides that she wants to meet Sir Phillip in person, to see if they suit.

Sir Phillip never really loved his first wife, who was severely depressed (although that diagnosis would not have been available at the time). She was originally his brother's fiancee, but after his older brother died during the Napoleonic wars, Sir Phillip inherited the title and ended up taking his intended bride as well. One sunny day, she attempted to drown herself in the nearby lake, rescued at the last minute by Phillip. Nonetheless, she died of a fever a few days later, and not entirely sure how to handle her passing, or what to do with his already lively twin children, Phillip made some bad choices and retreated into his greenhouses, taking care of his plants rather than deal with the harsh realities of widowhood.

Now, several years later, his twins are absolute monsters, running wild without any supervision and none of the local ladies are likely to want the job of being their mother. Having never seen Eloise, knowing only that she's a spinster with a lot of time to write letters on her hands, he suggests that they might suit and is absolutely baffled when a lovely, auburn-haired woman turns up on his doorstep one afternoon, sans chaperone. Phillip, never the most suave and eloquent of men, has no idea what to do with the enchanting creature who claims to be Eloise Bridgerton. His children, on the other hand, suspect that she's there to marry their father and use all their most nefarious tricks to try to drive her away for good.

To Sir Phillip, with Love is one of the lesser Bridgerton romances, but it's a good read, all in all. Eloise is a prominent supporting character is a lot of the earlier novels and her character is pretty well established as head-strong, inquisitive, intelligent and talkative. Sir Phillip, on the other hand, is shy and a bit awkward, a scientist who prefers to keep to himself. The couple know somewhat of each other, having corresponded for years, but there are still big surprises in store for both. Having never met, both Phillip and Eloise built images in their minds of the other person, and having to reconcile their ideals with reality isn't the easiest of things. Especially when there are two near-feral plot moppets running around trying their best to cause Eloise bodily harm. Add to the fact that Eloise leaves London without telling anyone of her whereabouts and you have quite a lot of hijinks that can ensue. One of my favourite thing about the various Bridgerton novels is the large supporting cast of siblings and in-laws, and the four belligerent Bridgerton brothers eventually show up, intent on protecting their sister's honour in a delightful scene.

I remembered this book as more gloomy and depressing than it actually is. I also recalled Oliver and Amanda, Phillip's neglected children as more angsty and melodramatic, but my memory must have been playing tricks on me. There is literally doom and gloom in that Phillip's first wife is driven to attempt suicide and the consequences of having a spouse or parent with debilitating depression is dealt with quite well, I thought. I'm not happy about the way Phillip allowed his children to run wild in the years after their mother's death, but in fairness, he knows that what he's done is bad and is trying his very best to finally make up for it by marrying someone who will make them a good mother.

To readers new to Julia Quinn, I would recommend they start with An Offer from a Gentleman or Romancing Mister Bridgerton, which are both absolutely excellent and delightful romances. This is more for those who wish to complete the series. Not bad at all, but certainly not one of the greats.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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