This book is trickier to conjure an analogous baked good for, but, of course, I’m gonna try. I do think this is more pie than cake, so…if book 7 in the Bridgerton series were a pie, it would be a Little Women filling with a Nancy Drew crust. Odd, yes, but so is our heroine here.
The youngest Bridgerton child and last remaining single daughter, Hyacinth, poses a bit of a challenge to marry off for the exhausted Lady Violet. (Poor thing is sooooo close! Six down, two to go, Vi!) While the Bridgerton clan all have their idiosyncrasies, Hyacinth is the one who truly bucks societal expectations. Whip smart, somewhat filter-less and unapologetically her own person, Hyacinth reminded me a lot of both Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables) and Jo March (Little Women). Not exactly the characteristics that make her a compliant and easily manageable marriage partner for a Regency man of means.
While Hyacinth waits for a worthy opponent/suitor, she has kindred spirit, the delightfully cantankerous Lady Danbury, to keep her on her toes. Hyacinth often finds herself seated next to Lady Danbury at gatherings and, every Tuesday, travels to Lady Danbury’s home to read aloud a succession of poorly written romance novels. When the famously terrible Smythe-Smith musicale pops up again on the social calendar, Hyacinth settles in with her sister-in-law Penelope and Lady Danbury, both of whom yearly brave the front row in order to support the one poor Smythe-Smith girl who is painfully aware of her tone deafness. This year, however, Lady Danbury has insisted that her grandson, Gareth, attend. Publicly known as a rake, Gareth is a handsome charmer. Hyacinth, generally not easily swayed by public opinion or smoldering looks, finds herself a wee bit challenged by Gareth, who is a quick wit in his own right. Never one to back down or to leave the last word to anyone else, Hyacinth finds herself equally irritated and intrigued by Lady Danbury’s notorious grandson.
As with many of Quinn’s characters in the series, Gareth has a complicated familial situation that doesn’t lend itself to the endorsement of marriage. When Gareth turns 19, his historically abusive “father,” St. Clair, announces to him that he is illegitimate, the product of his late mother’s infidelity. When Gareth’s older brother George, the apple of St. Clair’s eye, dies unexpectedly at a young age, it is Gareth that is set to inherit. As one can image, this only serves to throw more kindling on St. Clair’s Gareth-hating fire and so he determines to dump a debt ridden estate in Gareth’s lap when he dies.
Shouldering his mother’s death, his beloved brother’s death, and his father’s active dislike, Gareth generally tries to avoid all things St. Clair related. But, when his late brother bequeaths their Italian grandmother’s diary to him, Gareth dares to hope that it may reveal the identity of his biological father. Thinking that his grandmother, Lady Danbury, might know where he can find a discrete Italian translator, Gareth shows up on romance-reading-Tuesday-with-Hyacinth. As luck would have it, Hyacinth had an Italian governess who taught her the language. How convenient!
More than up to the task, Hyacinth throws herself into translating the diary for Gareth. While the secret that she initially uncovers may not be the answer that Gareth is looking for, it could offer him the means to pay off his father’s legacy of debt. It’s going to take a little unchaperoned midnight sleuthing with a wee bit of breaking and entering to get to the bottom of the mystery, but what better way for two unconventional socialites to court?
I prefer my hero and heroine to engage in copious amounts of witty banter. These two lovebirds did not disappoint. Much like Colin and Penelope in Romancing Mr. Bridgerton, Gareth and Hyacinth weren’t willing to marry for the sake of marriage. They wanted a love match, but beyond that, an intellectual match. After glimpses here and there of Hyacinth’s hijinks and sassiness as she grew up over the course of the books, it was great to formally meet her.