REVIEW: An Offer From a Gentleman by Julia Quinn

In brief: Here’s Benedict’s story – and it’s not what you imagined it would be! It involves a masked Cinderella, the rescuing of a maid in disguise and a bit of blackmail…

The good: Completely different to the previous two Bridgerton books.

The not-so-good: Benedict, don’t insult the lady.

Why I chose it: Bridgerton, of course!

Year: 2001

Pages: 358

Publisher: Avon (Harper Collins)

Setting: England

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

An Offer From a Gentleman is the third book in the Bridgerton series, telling the story of Benedict and his path to true love. It’s very different to the preceding two books, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t any less fun. In the first series of Bridgerton, we didn’t learn too much about Benedict other than he enjoyed art and wasn’t quite as worldly as he thought. So I went into this not really knowing what to expect of Benedict.

The story of Sophie Beckett is somewhat of a Cinderella tale. The illegitimate daughter of an earl, she lives with him as his ward and is schooled alongside her stepsisters, much to her stepmother’s dismay. When the earl dies, Sophie is relegated to their maid and is treated very cruelly. But one night, the servants conspire to send Sophie to the Bridgerton’s masquerade ball where she meets Benedict. It’s love at first sight, but Sophie has to be home before the rest of her family. She leaves Benedict with a glove, which doesn’t really give him any further cues to her identity. Unfortunately Sophie’s stepmother finds out and kicks her out. Fast forward a few years and Sophie is now a maid, who Benedict rescues from being attacked by several drunken men. Benedict, who has been nursing a candle for his mysterious woman in silver from the ball, likes Sophie and they even share a few kisses at his country home. But then it gets messy as he asks her to be his mistress, not seeing any kind of permanent future with a maid. This is where is gets messy through a modern lens (especially in relation to the recent March 4 Women protests in Australia). Benedict doesn’t see Sophie as an equal due to her work and she refuses to reveal her true identity which might have helped a bit. He’s adamant that he can’t marry her because of his love for his mystery woman/her social status. But it’s quite OK to use her for sex. These scenes show Sophie for the strong woman she is, not wanting to have children that end up ostracised like her and choosing relative poverty over comfort.

In fact, it’s the women who shine in this book. Violet Bridgerton, mother of the Bridgertons, is portrayed as a caring employer and woman who is not afraid to speak her mind. She also gets involved in a little blackmail in the showdown scene between Sophie and her family which happens to take place in gaol. This Mrs Bridgerton is closer to the wise woman that’s portrayed in the TV series and even manages to bring Benedict down a peg or two when he decides he wants to marry Sophie, servant or otherwise. Sophie is a champion, who trudges on with living her best life but being realistic in that she often wishes things could be different. She’s not afraid to stand up for her beliefs, and she won’t be swayed by anyone. She’s strong, independent and not swayed by those who hold more power. Is she too good for Benedict? The answer is possibly, but she helps redeem him somewhat (as an Australian, being transported there isn’t such a bad thing y’know…). I loved the Cinderella aspect, and Sophie’s character. Benedict was an idiot at times, but it’s nice to know that the Bridgertons aren’t perfect. And of course, Lady Whistledown is always catty fun!

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