I know that many of us here have read Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series, with the loves and lives of all of the large family. Now she has returned to familiar territory with a prequel. This one is focused on Sybilla, better known as Billie, older sister to Edmund, who was the father of the clan and victim of early death due to bee sting.
The book starts off with Billie stranded on a roof after climbing a tree to save a cat. Her ankle is sprained, making it difficult to climb down, so she is extremely grateful to see someone approaching, only to discover the identity of her rescuer. It’s George Rokesby, eldest son of their neighbor, and heir to the Earl of Manston. George is a few years older than she is, and while she was friends with his younger brothers, the two of them have always rubbed each other the wrong way. It might have something to do with the fact that she is outspoken and mischievous, while he had been raised with the responsibility of the earldom in his future. As a result, she and his brothers always thought of him as dull and humorless.
George is the kind of hero who is aware of his station, and the reality of the life he is expected to lead, but he can’t help but chafe at the fact his brothers are able to serve in the Army and Navy. He’s dependable and intelligent, with a sense of honor. So when he sees Billie stranded on the roof, he does the right thing and rescues her, carrying her home.
Billie is used to being busy and is a woman who has taken on a lot of duties that her father isn’t able to do. With her brother away at school, she’s stepped up to deal with the tenants, planting crops and all of the rest of the duties that go along with running an estate. She had a brief time in London for a debut, but there was an unfortunate incident at court that ended things rather badly. Since then, she’s been happy to stay in the country.
Due to her injury, she’s forced to spend more time indoors, and needs cheering up. George’s brother Andrew is at home, recuperating from a broken arm he received on duty. He and Billie share witty banter, but George is also there to visit for reasons he can’t quite understand. He finds himself attracted to her in ways he didn’t expect. She’s always been more like an annoying sister, but he’s jealous of Andrew’s easy familiarity with her.
There’s not a lot of action in the story, it’s really a buildup of the romance between Billie and George, as they discover their feeling for each other. There’s humor and a wicked game of Pall Mall, along with the mallet of death so we see where the next generation got its fascination with the game! I enjoyed the book, despite a sub-plot about George’s brother Edward being MIA in America. George gets embroiled in some sort of spy movement that seems weirdly tacked on and not dealt with very well.
Overall, it’s not a hot romance, but compared to some of the bad books I’ve read recently, this was a nice, comfortable read.