‘The Duke and I’ – Julia Quinn

It’s always a strange experience to read a book after watching an adaptation, but once I’d accustomed myself to hearing the Lady Whistledown sections in Julie Andrews’ voice I didn’t find it too distracting.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock since Christmas 2020 it’s highly unlikely that you won’t have heard of/seen the Netflix adaptation of The Duke and I. You’ll probably have an idea about the story, some of the more controversial elements of the book and maybe even watched it (and perhaps have developed a rather unhealthy fascination with a certain actor). I shan’t spend too long recounting the plot.
From the outset we were plunged into life with the Bridgerton family, and it was clear that they were rather progressive for their time in some ways. Yet in others, they were very much of their time and this causes more than one or two problems.
Though her relationship with Simon is at the front of the Netflix adaptation, the book allows more opportunity to get into the mindset of Daphne and to gain some understanding of her as a character. Astute at times, yet painfully naive, but it seems Quinn wants us to favour this character so even when she is committing an act of betrayal that’s hard to read we’re given to understand she’s acting out of love for Simon. Sounds like an attempt to justify abusive behaviour to me, which doesn’t sit well, but Simon is more than capable of dishing out equally painful things. Again, he does this from a position that we are given to understand is due to his damaged persona. I found myself going round in circles rather as regards how to view these two and their relationship, and I don’t think Quinn makes it easy for readers.
I certainly found myself missing the ideas and attitudes of some of the characters who are clearly introduced to liven up the screen version – though Lady Danbury is mentioned here, she is reduced to a minor role that doesn’t seem fitting, and I was desperate to learn more about Eloise. It was certainly enough to have me keen to read the rest of the series to see how elements have been integrated.