Ah, yes! Thankfully book four helped to sweep book three under the rug. Benedict, I am happy to report, is nowhere to be found and I hope that he stays in the country painting his watercolors, or whatever, for the remainder of the books.
For those of you reading prior to watching, this is the book where the whistle is blown on Whistledown. I’m glad that I have put off watching the Netflix series until reading at least this book as I hear that Lady Whistledown is revealed earlier on the show. I’ll try not to divulge too much, but it may be easy to infer from this review so skip it if you don’t want too many hints at the identity of Lady W.
Violet Bridgerton is halfway through seeing each of her children settled. Four down (somehow Francesca has been married off before we even really meet her) and four to go. Colin, the next eldest single son has managed to evade his mother’s attempts to check him off her list. Often setting off on long periods abroad, he reappears, does the ball circuit a bit and then rushes off.
Penelope Featherington, a long time friend of Colin’s sister Eloise, is a staple in their social circle as well as their home. After a decade of being out in society without a single suitor, Penelope has settled into her spinsterhood. Her more introverted personality and her mother’s unfortunate penchant for consistently dressing her in the most unflattering ball-wear, rendered her a perpetual wallflower at social events. When she was the subject of discussion it was mostly something derogatory about her weight or poor fashion choices. Her dance card was only punched by the Bridgerton sons who, at the bequest of their mother, always asked Penelope to dance. While they did not see her as marriage material, they each found Penelope to be a perfectly pleasant dance partner.
As the story goes, first impressions of someone tend to stick. While Penelope grows older, loses most of her baby fat and begins selecting her own more flattering frocks, everyone still thinks of her as the best friend. Penelope Featherington is basically the unwarranted DUFF of Regency society.
When Colin returns from one of his various trips abroad, he is dumbfounded to discover that Penelope is funnier, smarter and maybe even cuter than he remembered. Funny how that happens when you actually take a moment to pay attention to somebody. After spending so much time flitting from place to place, Colin finds himself on shaky ground. Is he actually falling for….Penelope Featherington? After years of searching for his place in every corner of the world, he may finally find it through a woman who challenges him to just be himself.
On, the surface, it’s very much a story about the guy who eventually falls in love with his sister’s best friend when he finally sees her as something other than an annoying presence attached to his sibling. It could have easily been the fixer upper plot of the 80’s and 90’s where the nerdy girl or boy has a makeover and becomes suddenly popular. Quinn’s take is more satisfying. Penelope didn’t really undergo any big changes. She was there the whole time, albeit wearing unsuitable colors, doing her own thing and quietly discovering who she was.