Content warnings: reproductive coercion
I did not like this book, but maybe would have given it three stars if I wasn’t so irate by what I honestly already knew was coming, which is some shady business around one of my “favorite” pet peeves. I also know that general consensus has the latter books are better than this book, and maybe I will get around to reading them. But for now, I am just going to get grumpy and rage-y about this book.
First off, a tweet by @sternbergh:
people reflexively disdaining a KNIVES OUT “franchise” as if celebrity-studded ensemble murder mysteries isn’t the single most series-friendly genre in existence
there’s a reason agatha christie wrote like 350 books
A) funny and b) the second most series-friendly genre in existence is the romance novel series, wherein every character is introduced with x friends/siblings/cousins/fellow townspeople who will one day spawn their own series. Quinn was smart to pick a large number of children from day 1 and secure herself a steady stream of future Bridgertons. The pre-Gossip Girl Gossip Girl framing narrative adds a certain layer of novelty as well, although at the end of the day Lady Whistledown fails to reach the heights of OMG that Gossip Girl (in her TV incarnation, I never read the books) reached. There’s only so much you can do in a pre-virality age.
The casual list of things that rubbed me the wrong way were the “Daphne is Not Like Other Girls” and “Love After Two Weeks Of Semi-Regular Evening Jaunts.” I can’t fault a historical romance too much for these, of course, because that is just par for the course. We start off with The Mamas Want To Get Their Kids Married, and then said kids Daphne and Simon have a bit of Sparkling Repartee, a very quick pivot to the Fake Relationship trope, and then a very dramatic fall from grace that necessitates a Forced Marriage and I Love You, You Don’t Need to Say It Back. Trying for both Fake Relationship and Forced Marriage in one book creates an odd sort of bifurcation, with the second part of the book feeling sort of divorced from the main conflicts that we’re introduced to at the start. Austen was able to write an entire book about just that first point, largely because she is a genius but also because there’s plenty to mine in each arc. We’ve got them all there and so none really land.
So far, the three star romance novel (maybe two, if two star reviews weren’t this weird no person’s land). But then. BUT THEN. THAT (third) CONFLICT ARC. I was lost and fuming and only finished because it wasn’t too too much more. Spoiler: [Of all the terrible terribly plot devices, reproductive coercion is probably the only thing I loathe more than accidental pregnancy. I’d already heard about this from the Netflix series, in the light of how TV!Daphne actively disregards TV!Simon’s stated requests and forcibly makes him come inside her. And someone had noted that the book version was worse.
And how so!
Book!Daphne knowingly takes advantage of Simon’s inebriation to forcibly inseminate herself, against his stated, EXPLICIT wishes. She justifies it by saying that he lied to her (he did not, he said he couldn’t have children and she assumed he was impotent, and when she asked him if he was he said no). She justifies it by saying that she wanted a child very very badly. She justifies it by saying he’d make a wonderful father. It’s all sickening, and if the genders were flipped this would never have made it out of draft mode, and this was the novel series that Rhimes wanted to reward with millions of dollars and attention??]
UGH I assume the other novels are better everyone says so but I should have just skipped this one.