Review: On the Way To The Wedding, by Julia Quinn

On The Way to the Wedding is the eighth and final book in Quinn’s hugely popular Bridegerton series, about a popular and respected Regency England family of eight close knit siblings and their loving mother. On the Way to the Wedding was named Best Long Historical Romance of 2006 in the Romance Writers of America‘s annual RITA Awards.

This is the sixth book I have read by this author. I listened to this on on audio, read by Simon Prebble, who also narrates Jo Beverly and Stephanie Laurens audiobooks. He is very good.

On The Way to The Wedding begins when our hero Gregory, the lone unmarried Bridgerton, is running to stop a wedding. He bursts into the chapel, and declares his love to the bride. She turns to him and asks him beseechingly why he is doing this … and then the story begins. It was a thrilling, gripping opening, and nicely conveys Gregory’s exuberant, emotional and impulsive personality.

We next move to a country house party hosted by eldest brother Anthony and his wife Kate, the hero and heroine of my favorite Bridgerton book, The Viscount Who Loved Me. Simon Gregory, the rather aimless youngest son, believes in true love after witnessing so much of it in his own family, and is sure that love will one day strike him like a thunderbolt. And it does:

Gregory looked around, both for the refreshments and for someone he knew, most preferably his sister-in-law Kate, who propriety dictated he greet first. But as his eyes swept across the scene, instead he saw…

Her.

Her.

And he knew it. He knew that she was the one. He stood frozen, transfixed. The air didn’t rush from his body; rather, it seemed to slowly escape until there was nothing left, and he just stood there, hollow, and aching for more.

He couldn’t see her face, not even her profile. There was just her back, just the breathtakingly perfect curve of her neck, one lock of blonde hair swirling against her shoulder.

And all he could think was– I am wrecked.

For all other women, he was wrecked. This intensity, this fire, this overwhelming sense of rightness–he had never felt anything like it.

The woman is the beautiful Hermione Watson, one of those women who has men falling all over her at every turn. Standing next to Hermione, unnoticed, is her best friend Lucinda — Lucy — Abernathy. Lucy is practical, fastidious, and likes to solve other people’s problems. Gregory and Lucy develop a friendship, as they conspire to get Hermione to return Gregory’s affections, a state of affairs far preferable, Lucy thinks, to the present one, in which Hermione is infatuated with her father’s secretary.

Lucy is engaged to Mr. Haselby, an arrangement made years ago by her uncle. Haselby is nice enough, and Lucy accepts the engagement without complaint. Her practical nature is not much for true love, anyway.

I was delighted with this part of the novel, the developing bond between Gregory and Lucy, and Gregory’s ego bruisings at the hands of a women who doesn’t know he exists, even when he turns on every ounce of Bridgerton charm at his disposal. The growing friendship between Gregory and Lucy was compelling, and the declaration and consummation of their love (later) was very romantic.

Eventually, the action moves to London as Lucy prepares for her wedding, and the book gets darker as the motives behind her uncle’s arrangement with Haselby’s father become clearer. Gregory has a reputation for having things handed to him on a silver platter, and for deciding he doesn’t want things that don’t come easy. It is clear Quinn is going to make him work hard for his HEA so he can grow as a man worthy of true love. I think some readers dislike Lucy for her weakness, and it is true she is a classic passive Regency heroine, but I did appreciate the realistic fear she had of breaking society’s rules. The events at the end include bribery, kidnapping, and a gun fight. I wasn’t convinced by how the problems were resolved, but rest assured, Gregory and Hermione get their HEA.

At a few points, things happened in a way that was unbelievably convenient. For example, Hermione’s romantic resolution, and the ending of the engagement of Lucy to Mr. Haselby. As to the latter, Cheryl Sneed, in her C+ AAR review, noted disapprovingly that it is “dependent upon a huge historical inaccuracy.” I think I can guess what that is, but if anyone wants to enlighten me in the comments, I would be very grateful.

I really like this kind of set up — with the hero believing he has found love with one woman and belatedly realizing his true love is someone else — but I was disappointed in the way Gregory realized he was in love with Lucy. He spied the back of her neck from across the room. Yes, the exact same way he fell for Hermione. But Gregory’s love for Lucy is supposed to be the real thing, not the mere infatuation he felt for her friend. Maybe Quinn wanted to replace the image in the reader’s mind of the impact of Hermione’s neck on Gregory, but I felt it was unnecessary.

Audio helps highlight Quinn’s strengths — the dialogue, often witty, and the overall light, fun feel. I also think some of Quinn’s signature elements — the very. short. sentences.  — are less noticeable on audio. Although not completely gone. Once Gregory figures out he is in love with Lucy, he gets a weird kind of speech disorder where he has to say “I love you” over and over, often at inappropriate moments. As I listened, I kept having a mental image of an exasperated Lucy trying to have a conversation with him about something more mundane, like hiring a governess, and having Gregory reply with “but. I. love. you.” to her every question.

There is also the epilogue, in which Lucy has 9 healthy children. Via a mere 8 pregnancies (the last are twins). Ok, this is Julia Quinn romance, and you have to expect this sort of thing. But does Lucy have to smile and knit through them all?

So, as is typical with me and this author, the reading experience was a mix of the enjoyable and the exasperating. Overall though, thanks in large part to the likeability of the hero, this one was enjoyable.

*********SPOILER COMMENT BELOW********

My next and final comment is spoilery:

It turns out that Lucy’s intended is gay. In the end, Haselby actually helps Lucy and Gregory get together, and his motives for this were not clear to me, since he had to have a wife and heir regardless of his sexual orientation. I would have loved more from this character’s point of view. Can anyone recommend a Regency era gay romance?

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