Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tuesday Review: The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After

The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After
By Julia Quinn
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: April 2, 2013

In June 2006, before the ubiquitous presence of ereaders, Julia Quinn released two novellas, “second epilogues” to two of her popular Bridgerton series: The Viscount Who Loved Me and It’s in His Kiss. The second epilogues were available only in digital format. Quinn’s publishers announced that a second epilogue for the other Bridgerton books would be forthcoming and that sometime after the eighth and final book in the series was published, the novellas would be available in print, all eight together. On the Way to the Wedding was released June 27, 2006; the full Bridgerton series became available in digital format in October 2009, and next Tuesday (April 2) all eight second epilogues plus the bonus story of the Bridgerton matriarch’s great love will be available in print, digital, and audio formats.

Quinn gives readers a prefatory note to set up each epilogue and then offers a look at a moment in the continuing, although sometimes complicated, happily ever afters of the Bridgerton clan. The second epilogues are presented in order of the publication of the Bridgerton novels, which means that they are not in chronological order.

The second epilogue to The Duke and I shows Daphne and Simon at mid-life with twenty-one years of marriage behind them, three daughters concerned with dresses and beaux, a sixteen-year-old heir, and a surprise. A visit from Colin and Penelope brings another complication.

The second epilogue to The Viscount Who Loved Me shows the Bridgertons and spouses in another fiercely competitive Pall Mall match with Kate and Anthony, who after fifteen years of marriage are each determined to win the match, no matter what dastardly trick is required. 

The second epilogue to An Offer from a Gentleman shows Sophie and Benedict, now married three years, delighting in their country life and their two young sons and avoiding London since Sophie’s birth still renders her unacceptable by the sticklers, despite the Bridgerton influence. The focus on this story is Posy Reiling, Sophie’s decidedly not-wicked step-sister. Posy is twenty-five and still unwed, and Sophie’s happiness would be complete if only Posy could find the kind of happiness Sophie has. Then Benedict has an idea.

The second epilogue to Romancing Mr. Bridgerton follows closely after the events of this novel and the one that immediately followed it, To Sir Phillip, With Love. Penelope and Colin are still in the honeymoon stage, the Bridgertons set off for Eloise’s wedding at Sir Phillip’s estate, and Penelope is faced with telling Eloise, her best friend forever, that Penelope has kept the secret of her Lady Whistledown identity from her. 

The second epilogue of To Sir Phillip, With Love is a first-person tale told from the perspective of Eloise’s stepdaughter, Amanda. Eloise is now forty with three children in addition to Phillips twins who think she’s the best mother ever. Amanda, having refused a season because she prefers the freedom of country life, must deal with Eloise’s efforts to bring eligible young men to Amanda’s attention. Amanda accepts her mother’s maneuverings with grace but little interest until Mr. Farraday.

In the second epilogue to When He Was Wicked, Francesca and Michael are still childless four and a half years into their marriage. Sadly, they have accepted the fact that their marriage may never be blessed with children and have determined to enjoy the astounding number of nieces and nephews that Francesca’s Bridgerton siblings have given them. Francesca arrives in Kent for the christening of Hyacinth’s baby daughter, already missing Michael who has been detained in Edinburgh but will join her soon. Francesca is surprised by how much she has missed her family, especially her mother, who shares Francesca’s sorrow even as they rejoice over baby Isabella and the pregnancies of Eloise and Lucy.

The second epilogue to It’s in His Kiss shows Hyacinth paying for her raising, as my mother would have said. Isabella, whose christening was the occasion of the family gathering in the preceding second epilogue is now nineteen and very much her mother’s daughter in looks and temperament. Gareth is securely wound around his daughter’s finger, but Isabella is giving Hyacinth a new appreciation of Violet. Then there’s the matter of those jewels that Hyacinth still hasn’t found and Isabella still hasn’t told her parents about her discovery.

The second epilogue to On the Way to the Wedding has Hyacinth visiting Gregory and Lucy for the birth of their eighth child, which turns out to be the birth of their ninth child as well when Lucy is delivered of twins. Gregory and Lucy are blissfully happy with each other and with their brood that now exceeds even the original Bridgertons in number. But life is never perfect, and in a moment, the very center of Gregory’s world is in danger.

The novella “Violet in Bloom” takes us on a journey through the life of Violet Bridgerton from the time she was a mischievous eight-year-old determined to get the best of that horrid Bridgerton boy to the ballroom where Violet and Edmund fell in love to their wedding to Edmund’s death after twenty years of marriage to the birth of her eighth child whom she names for Edmund’s favorite flower to her seventy-fifth birthday forty years after Edmund’s death.  

I’m sure the epilogue haters will have their usual snarky comments to make about the redundancy of epilogues, the price watchers will complain about the cost, and the cynics will sneer at the sentiment. But I don’t belong to any of those groups. I am an unabashed Julia Quinn fan who has happily read every book she’s published, beginning with Splendid, her debut novel, and I love having all the second epilogues in one book. Quinn has said that she wrote these for fans of her Bridgerton novels, often in response to specific questions they asked. Readers who have not read the Bridgerton novels may be frustrated by the second epilogues or they may view them as appetizers preceding the banquet of Bridgerton books, but they cannot approach these stories with the joy they afford the true Bridgerton aficionado. 

I suspect that I’m typical of the latter group in that I have my favorites among the eight novels. I expected to find my favorites among the second epilogues matched my favorites among the novels. That was not always the case. While I loved seeing Daphne and Simon again and delighted in Eloise’s wedding and Posy’s romance, I laughed hardest at Hyacinth coping with a daughter cut in her own pattern and sobbed over Gregory and Lucy’s near tragedy even though It’s in His Kiss and On the Way to the Wedding are the Bridgerton novels I like least. And the second epilogue to When He Was Wicked vaulted to the top of my favorite epilogue list when I first read it several years ago.

Each second epilogue added a moment I could appreciate to the overall Bridgerton story, and collectively they allowed me to return briefly to a fictional world where I spent some of my most cherished reading hours, a world where true love is forever and families banter, badger, and bear one another’s burdens through the years. As for Violet’s story, it was the perfect ending. Quinn says Violet became her favorite character over the course of the series and that writing “Violet in Bloom” was a “labor of love.” I think that shows as Quinn gives us a look at almost the full span of Violet’s life, a life well-lived with long joys and deep sorrows but overall a life that proved happily ever after, even if it denied Violet the conventional HEA. 

One quibble: I wish the second epilogues had been presented in chronological order, or, failing that, that the chronological order had been provided. I’ll figure it out since I want to reread the full series in order, but it would be easier if someone else had done the work. Nevertheless, I’m so thrilled to add this book to my Bridgerton collection that I’m buying the print version in addition to the digital copy I have. I want the pleasure of seeing the full Bridgerton story on my bookshelf.

What’s your favorite Bridgerton story? How do you feel about Violet never having a second chance at love story? What’s your opinion of epilogues generally?

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