After spending years as one of the most notorious rakes of the ton, Anthony Bridgerton has decided it's time to settle down and carry on the family line. He knows love exists, because his parents were a shining example of a loving, happy marriage. Still, he has no intentions of falling in love with his intended bride. Anthony's father died quite young, so Anthony believes, albeit irrationally, that he will die young too. Falling in love is a complication he doesn't need in his already too short life, so he sets out to court the beauty who is the latest toast of the ton. She is a woman who meets his requirements for a wife, but with whom he could never see himself falling in love. Anthony just didn't count on her older sister's meddling or the infuriating lady stirring his desires in a way no other woman ever has.
Kate Sheffield has no intention of allowing Anthony Bridgerton anywhere near her sister. She vows to do whatever it takes to interfere with the rakish viscount's courtship, but in the process manages to unintentionally get herself into some outlandish situations, which also place her into close proximity with the man himself. Her encounters with Anthony leave her hot and bothered and feeling confused. When Kate and her family are invited to a house party at the Bridgerton country estate, she discovers a whole new side to Anthony that completely changes her opinion of him. Before long, Kate finds herself falling for the handsome rogue, but an unexpected turn of events leaves Kate compromised and the pair rushing to the altar to avoid a scandal. Anthony may have stubbornly declared he will never love her, but Kate isn't willing to give up on her new husband so easily.
The Viscount Who Loved Me was a reasonably entertaining read that contained moments which were both amusing and touching. There was lots of Julia Quinn's trademark witty bantering, although I have to admit that in a few places the story seemed a bit dialog heavy. In my opinion, this gave it a rather frenetic feel, which was sometimes tiring to read. Some of the situations were quite amusing and good for a few laughs. Kate's overweight corgi leading them on a merry chase through the park and the Bridgerton siblings' ultra-competitive game of Pall Mall are two that come to mind. While the hero and heroine here aren't quite a tortured as other romance characters I've read, they do both have some demons to overcome, which led to some brief angsty moments. I also liked how Anthony and Kate supported each other through those difficulties, because it showed just how much they really cared for one another.
Anthony was only eighteen when he had to grow up far too quickly, take up his title, and become the man of the family upon his father's death at a young age. As a consequence, Anthony has an overinflated sense of his own mortality. However irrational it may seem, he fully believes that he too, without question, is going to die young. To some extent he lives his life in the moment, taking his pleasure where he can, and as a result has earned a reputation as an unrepentant rake. However, Anthony has decided that it's time to settle down with a wife and carry on the family legacy by producing an heir. He chooses to look for a woman who meets certain qualifications, but with whom he believes there is no chance of him falling in love. Since his parents had a happy marriage, he knows that love is real, but he thinks it will only complicate his impending demise. In his quest for a loveless union, he stubbornly pursues the current toast of the ton, while finding his heart inexplicably drawn to her Plain Jane sister. Anthony did have one scene where he acts like a bit of a jerk toward Kate, but at least he had the decency to feel guilty about it and apologize later. Otherwise, as Kate gradually learned, he was a pretty good guy who adores his family and tries to do the right thing. I especially enjoyed the scenes where he helps Kate through her panic during storms.
Kate has strong family ties of her own. Although her parents are gone, she still has her stepmother who has been a mother to her in every way that counts, and a half-sister who she loves very much. I enjoyed Kate and Edwina's sisterly bantering. When Kate discovers that the disreputable Anthony has designs on Edwina, she vows to do everything in her power to prevent him from getting anywhere near her, much less marrying her. This led to lots of arguments with Anthony for about the first half of the book. I thought this kind of negated their moments of attraction and passion, making it feel like they were constantly taking two steps forward and one step back. Even though Kate loves her sister dearly, she can't help harboring some insecurities when she's around. Kate is a shrinking violet next to Edwina's incomparable beauty, which has led to some self-esteem issues for her. As she begins to see Anthony for the man he really is, she wishes that he would take notice of her, of course, not realizing he already has. Then she has to deal with her paralyzing fear of thunderstorms, but I think having to face some issues herself made her more accepting of, and sympathetic toward, Anthony's fears when he finally fesses up.
You can't have a Bridgerton book without a bevy of Bridgerton siblings. I believe all seven of them put in an appearance in one way or another, even if they didn't have any dialog. I love Colin's (Romancing Mr. Bridgerton) devil-may-care attitude. He always seems to keep me smiling. Benedict, who becomes the hero of An Offer from a Gentleman, the next book in the series, put in a couples of appearances too, and Eloise (To Sir Phillip, With Love) gets to play the caring and mildly meddlesome younger sister. I enjoyed seeing Simon and Daphne (The Duke and I) again, and knowing that they will soon be having a baby. I particularly liked Kate's sister, Edwina. With her bookish nature and desire for a scholarly husband, I think she would have made an interesting heroine of her own story, but since she finds her special someone in this book, I doubt we'll ever see that happen.
I can't deny that Julia Quinn is a good writer from a technical perspective, but even though I've enjoyed certain aspects of her stories, I can't say that the two I've read so far have drawn me in and impressed me in quite the same way they have other romance readers. With The Viscount Who Loved Me, maybe it was because it started with a love/hate relationship (not my favorite) which left some distance between the hero and heroine in my mind. Maybe it was because the story was more on the lighter side, so that when the angst did come into play, it didn't have quite the same gravity as it would have were the book more serious in tone. Or maybe it was because Anthony and Kate seemed to overcome their problems that had plagued them for years a little too easily. This is one of those rare instances where I couldn't quite put my finger on exactly what was wrong, but whatever the reason, The Viscount Who Loved Me seemed to be missing that little extra something for me that would have pushed it into greatness. However, in spite of seeming a tad bland at times, it was, overall, an enjoyable enough read to make me want to continue with the series, and check out the second epilogue.
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