Rokesby Series, Book 3
Heat Factor: A tiny bit of heat, right at the very end
Character Chemistry: Banter
Plot: Kidnapped by pirates! Twice
Overall: The dialogue was too sparkling and overshadowed a good story
The Other Miss Bridgerton has a great premise, especially if we’re going to deconstruct some Romance Novel Tropes. Poppy Bridgerton, a gently bred young lady, is in the wrong place at the wrong time and is picked up by pirates, who unceremoniously dump her in their captain’s cabin. If this were a bodice ripper, there would be some ravishing with either questionable or non-existent consent (I’ve definitely read that book), but that is not how Julia Quinn rolls. Instead, the captain, one Andrew Rokesby, alias Andrew James, is a gentleman. Whose brother happens to be married to Poppy’s first cousin. So, at least in this case, Andrew will act like a gentleman in all things.
However, because of Reasons, Andrew must bring Poppy along on their next voyage, much to everyone’s chagrin and inconvenience. Hopefully her two week disappearance can be covered up, but if not, well, he’ll be honorable and marry her, after he tells her who he really is.
The first two thirds of the book therefore consist almost entirely of Andrew and Poppy hanging out on the boat. They snipe at each other, and they think about each other, and they have conversations where they are honest about things like emotions and family, and they slowly come to like each other.
Described in general terms, this arc is pretty standard. Speaking more specifically, however: in this particular case, it’s all about the **witty** repartee. Poppy and Andrew have some snappy dialogue, but both characters are both so aware of how **witty** they are and how **witty** they’re being that it feels very unreal.
Here’s an example from early in the book, so you can see what I mean:
He pulled a chair out from his surprisingly elegant dining table, then sat, resting one ankle on the opposite knee with a lazy grace. “All good at games?”
She leveled her gaze onto his. She could be every bit as nonchalant as he. And if she couldn’t, she’d die trying. “Some better than others,” she said, then finished up the first roll.
He laughed. “Meaning you’re the best?”
She lifted a brow. “I didn’t say that.”
“You didn’t have to.”
“I like to win.”
“Most people do.”
She fully intended to respond with a cuttingly witty rejoinder, but he beat her to the punch with “You, I imagine, however, like to win more than most.”
She pursed her lips. “Compliment?”
He shook his head, his lips still curved into a vexing little smile. “Not this time.”
Poppy and Andrew are playing a game, matching their wits like swords, or whatever hackneyed metaphor you prefer here. And they both know it, and they both know that they both know it – the vexing smiles, the lifted brows.
And look, the dialogue is sometimes quite funny, but it feels like a schtick and gets wearisome quite quickly. The characters lost me early on, so I didn’t much care when they stopped being snarky and started being sincere.
In the last third of the book, things go a bit sideways for Andrew and Poppy, when they are both kidnapped by some local toughs while ashore in Lisbon. Things get interesting here. A bit of external plot helps push their relationship forward and also gives them something to do besides snipe at each other.
There were a couple of things about the very end that I really loved. For one, their reunion back in England is just lovely. (Note: Poppy never learns Andrew’s real name, so she has no way of tracking him down once they are separated in Portugal and has therefore been pining for a few pages.) They meet unexpectedly, and have a whole fraught reunion by talking about soup at a family dinner.
More significantly, Quinn deconstructs several Romance Novel Tropes in the way she handles kidnapping #2. This may get a bit spoilery.
Ok, so Andrew and Poppy are taken in by some ruffians who know that Andrew is a ship captain and therefore can probably afford to have people pay a nice ransom. Once this occurs, a few significant things happen:
- Andrew suddenly has a lot more respect and empathy for Poppy bucking up and making the best of things when he kidnapped her. Frankly, it really sucks when someone takes your power away, which didn’t even occur to him as an issue when he did the same thing to Poppy, because he treated her well. I’m not sure this counts as a trope deconstruction, but it is a nice, significant learning experience for Andrew. And it’s nice to see it acknowledged in a romance novel that getting kidnapped stinks, and it not actually romantic at all.
- “We might die so we better get it on!” A legitimate reason for a well-bred young lady to give it up to a dude she’s known for a week!
- The best part is that Andrew cannot save them. Usually, in your standard Smut, when the hero and heroine find themselves in a sticky situation, the hero swoops in to make it all better with his mad skills. In this case… well, he doesn’t speak Portuguese very well, so he can’t talk them out of it. He can’t untie the rope binding them. He can’t magically figure out where they are. He can’t break out of the window or fight his way through the guards. The best he can do is negotiate a release for Poppy, and then hope for the best. This is not stellar Romance Novel Hero behavior, but it makes the ending so much more satisfying.
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