If book five in the Bridgerton series were a cake, it would be one tier of Mary Poppins, and one tier of Sound of Music with a thin layer of gothic Brontë jam holding the layers together. I may start to use these cake analogies for all of my reviews. I apologize in advance.
Mama Violet had been trying to marry off second eldest daughter Eloise for quite some time. However, having refused multiple proposals, Eloise preferred to settle into a comfortable spinsterhood with her best friend Penelope. A safe bet since no one ever pursued Penelope let alone offered a proposal of marriage.
Of course, in book four, Eloise’s brother Colin has to go and ruin everything by falling in love with Penelope and subsequently running off with Eloise’s would be whist partner 4life. This throws a curve ball that she did not prepare for. Eloise is a take charge kind of gal, but now in her late 20’s, she finds herself unprepared for this 11th inning surprise. (I have no idea where these baseball analogies are coming from. Apologies for using them and also, most likely, using them incorrectly.)
It is Eloise’s penchant for writing letters that may offer a surprise solution. After penning a note to offer her condolences to her recently deceased cousin’s husband, Sir Phillip, Eloise soon finds herself exchanging letters with him on the regular. Remember her ink stained hands and squirrelly behavior in book four? Quite a bit of this book is what Eloise was up to while Colin and Penelope were feeling each other up in carriages and unchaperoned front parlors.
A year into this epistolary hanky panky between Sir Phillip and Eloise, Sir P drops a super romantic “maybe-we-are-suited-and-should-just-get married-why-don’t-you-come-and-visit-and-let’s-see-what-we-think” bomb. Not sure how she feels about it and busy with Penelope and Colin’s betrothal/wedding situation, Eloise sits on Sir Phillip’s offer. When she does decide to take him up on the visit, she is embarrassed to mention it to her family and sneaks off unchaperoned (gasp!) to the English countryside before she can change her mind.
When she arrives unannounced, Sir Philip is caught off guard but pleasantly surprised that she isn’t a frumpy spinster. Eloise is surprised that he has two small and very feral children that somehow escaped mention in a year’s worth of correspondence. In addition, their personality differences become very apparent quickly. Eloise talks about everything. Sir Philip talks about nothing. He is a wet blanket of guilt and anger looking for someone to manage his neglected children while he hides in his greenhouse all day. Eloise is put off but determined to get to the gooey center that she thinks Sir Philip has based on a couple of passionate kissing sessions. All the while, the melancholy spirit of Sir Phillip’s dead wife (that aforementioned gothic Brontë jam) permeates everything. Yeah, not an auspicious start.
The waters get even muddier when the children set booby traps for Eloise and all four of the Bridgerton brothers show up on the doorstep looking to avenge their potentially ruined sister. (Those brothers busting in on Sir Philip was delightful and the best part of this book even though I had to endure Benedict who is in NO POSITION to cast aspersions on ANYONE at ANY time for ANY reason.)
Book five rests on the fence somewhere between the book that should not be named (ahem, three) and book four (current favorite.) Honestly, Eloise is what saves this one. She really is a lovely character. Sir Phillip? Meh. It’s hard to not have some sympathy for him because of his extremely traumatic childhood (seems to be a running theme in these books) but I didn’t find him all that compelling as a romantic interest. I’m sure that his outdoorsy manliness was supposed to appeal but when coupled with his often childlike obstinance? Not so much. More than once, I thought Eloise should have absconded with his children to her widowed sister Francesca’s Scottish castle and left Sir P. to tinker in sadness in his greenhouse. Just saying.