I went into this book somewhat forewarned about the consent issues, but I was curious enough to give it a try given the amount of Bridgerton allll over my Twitter feed, Litsy, etc. People who are normally pretty on the ball have reviewed it as a “nice Regency romance”, so hey, how bad can it be?
Reader, it can be pretty bad.
I enjoyed it a lot, initially. The connection formed between Simon and Daphne is funny and sweet, and the love between Daphne and her family is really nice — especially the differing ways it expresses itself between different members of the clan, each according to their own character.
However, then it gets toward That Scene, and things fall apart. First Simon totally fails at any kind of communication. Then, once she’s figured things out, Daphne decides that Simon owes her a child, and retreats to her own bedroom to stay away from him to punish him in turn. He responds to this with violent rage, telling her that he literally owns her. (Such a nice Regency romance!) Finally, when he gets drunk, she realises she can take advantage of this and force him to come inside her, because she knows better than him and knows that the real way to cure his childhood trauma is to have a baby he doesn’t want. So she does that, with lots of self-justification, and is shocked and appalled that he’s then furious about being raped for his own good (though Daphne admittedly has the self-awareness to realise that it’s mostly all about herself and her desire for a child).
After that, it becomes a paean to corrective rape for childhood trauma. Simon is, of course, miraculously healed by having kids with her, and neither his violent anger directed at her nor her rape of him are ever really addressed. Sure, they kiss and make up, but it’s pretty much that — no acknowledgement on either side that they did something destructive and awful.
It’s all very sweet at the end, providing of course that you don’t mind that one of the main characters raped the other, or that your oh-so-romantic male lead shouted at his wife that he owns her. And yes, I get that a robust discussion of consent might not feel period appropriate to you, or you might feel it’s unsexy, or whatever, but on that subject K.J. Charles would like to have a word. Her novels Any Old Diamonds or Band Sinister serve as a riposte in and of themselves, but you can also read her explicit rebuttal.
In conclusion: The Duke & I? 🤮🤮🤮