Thursday, 9 July 2020
#CBR12 Book 39: "First Comes Scandal" by Julia Quinn
Rating: 3.5 stars
This is the fourth and, I'm assuming, final book in the Rokesby series. All the books work fine on their own, you do not need to read any others for the story to make sense.
Nicholas Rokesby, the fourth son of the Earl of Manston, is studying to be a doctor in Edinburgh. When he receives an urgent summons from his parents while he's in the middle of taking important exams, he assumes someone may be dead or at least dying, so he travels back home as quickly as possible. There he is told that Georgiana "Georgie" Bridgerton, his father's goddaughter and Nicholas' lifelong friend, was abducted by a desperate suitor, and although nothing actually happened, she is now compromised in the eyes of society and will either be forced to remain a spinster forever or marry her abductor to save her reputation, unless Nicholas does the honourable thing and offers to marry her instead. All of Nicholas' siblings have married for love, and he is rather appalled that his parents are expecting such a sacrifice from him. On the other hand, it's not like it's Georgie's fault that some over-eager idiot decided to try to kidnap her and force her into marriage, and while he views her almost as a sister, they have always been fast friends. There are worse fates.
Georgiana "Georgie" Bridgerton never wanted a London season. She's pretty sure she'd be bored stiff and it always seemed to her to be a waste of time and money. Nevertheless, she was flattered when Freddie Oakes danced with her while she was in London with her mother, and offered to take her to a bookshop. She didn't suspect for a second that he'd literally kick her maid out of the carriage and drive off towards Gretna Green, intent on forcing Georgie into marriage, so her generous dowry could cover his gambling debts. Georgie incapacitated him and tied him to a chair and managed to escape once they got to a coaching inn, but having spent most of a day in a carriage with him, her reputation is ruined and the scandal is inevitable.
Georgie is certainly not expecting Nicholas Rokesby, her brother's best friend and someone she grew up with to suddenly show up, having taken time away from his medical studies in Scotland, to offer to marry her. Georgie doesn't want to be pitied by anyone. She doesn't want to feel indebted to the man who "saves" her reputation. She hates that through no fault of hers, she is suddenly considered damaged goods and only marriage to someone can "cleanse" her in the eyes of society. Initially, she refuses Nicholas' proposal and is angry, but after an eventful night seeing how capable he is in a crisis and having had time to think about their long friendship and how comfortable they are in each other's company, she decides that marriage to him is better than a life alone, or worse, married to the odious Freddie Oakes.
This is the fourth book in the Rokesby series, a prequel to Quinn's incredibly popular Bridgerton novels. For long-time fans of the series, there are cameo appearances from Edmund, Violet, Anthony, Benedict and baby Colin (who eats constantly, even as an infant). I have sadly found most of the earlier books in the series rather tame and forgettable and am hard-pressed to remember many details from any of them now (not the case with most of Quinn's more classic novels). This one was possibly my favourite of the four, probably because of the friendly banter between Georgie and Nicholas and some fun side characters. The fact that I read the whole book in less than twenty-four hours is in itself remarkable, in a time when my mind can barely concentrate on anything at all, thanks to the super depressing news cycle, the continued stress of lock-down and working from home (more than a month and a half and counting), the rising death tolls worldwide - you get my drift. It's a sweet and easy story to read, possibly almost too lacking in conflict throughout. The scandal has already happened to Georgie when the book opens, because she and Nicholas have known one another since childhood, they're very comfortable with one another.
If you're looking for a romance with a lot of hijinks and drama, this is not the book for you. If you're looking for a pleasant, relaxing read to while away a few hours during a time when everything around us seems to be depressing and horrible, you could do worse than this. Not by any means one of my favourite Julia Quinn novels, but much better than her last few novels.
Judging a book by its cover: I always prefer the UK covers for Quinn's books, with the cursive font, the little animated characters in their period-appropriate outfits and frequently other cute decoration as well.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.