So, it took me until now to get around to this romance classic, and I admit to experiencing joyful laughter a few times at what a thorough template this book is for so many of the tropes that I’ve experienced later, as they’re being lovingly upended some of the more satirical, referential romance authors. And I don’t mean any of that in a snarky way: there was such a delightful guilelessness to this book that made it so simple to enjoy.
Here’s the Goodreads summary: “By all accounts, Simon Basset is on the verge of proposing to his best friend’s sister, the lovely—and almost-on-the-shelf—Daphne Bridgerton. But the two of them know the truth—it’s all an elaborate plan to keep Simon free from marriage-minded society mothers. And as for Daphne, surely she will attract some worthy suitors now that it seems a duke has declared her desirable.
But as Daphne waltzes across ballroom after ballroom with Simon, it’s hard to remember that their courtship is a complete sham. Maybe it’s his devilish smile, certainly it’s the way his eyes seem to burn every time he looks at her… but somehow Daphne is falling for the dashing duke… for real! And now she must do the impossible and convince the handsome rogue that their clever little scheme deserves a slight alteration, and that nothing makes quite as much sense as falling in love…”
There is one thing I’m going to have to get out of the way — spoilers I guess? — because it was such a jarring record-scratch for me in an otherwise frothy book, but there is an actual spermjacking scene in the story.
So I am already mostly disdainful of the kind of drama that occurs in romances because the hero has some tortured backstory, 99% of the time because one of his parents was afflicted with a much too stiff upper lip, and so he deems himself unworthy of love or incapable of expressing love. That manifests here in Simon not wanting to have children. (It’s a bit more complicated, and has a bit to do with a condition he had as a child, but really, it all boils down to him having needed the approval of his father and conveniently forgetting that he can make his own choice as an adult to bestow said approval on any of his own offspring, regardless of the inheritance of said condition.) Julia Quinn’s solution to this problem was not, as one might suspect, the careful development of Simon’s self-esteem, flourishing under the love of his wife; no, it was Daphne trying out cowgirl and then Hoovering up his semen rather than letting him pull out as he usually does (she knows he does it to avoid getting her pregnant, and she knows he doesn’t want children, so there’s no excuse.)
I’m honestly wondering: is this kind of an artifact of old school romances? Is this a trope that actually appeared with any frequency? I’m asking because I’m thinking back to when the MRA movement started to gain steam and one of their big complaints was regarding the epidemic of women stealing men’s sperm so that they could get pregnant and hit the dudes up for money. At the time, it was particularly laughable because I had never heard of such a thing. It’s still laughable as a serious complaint, but if it comes up in a beloved romance novel, maybe the idea is in the collective unconscious more than I gave it credit for.
Anyway, I know I basically just used this review as a springboard to act befuddled around inappropriate management of body fluids, but, I promise, other than that, I really did like this book. It was a perfect palate cleanser and seemed to nicely set the stage for the remaining Bridgerton siblings, as well as hook me with the promise of uncovering the Regency’s own Gossip Girl.