That wounded duke

The Duke and I - Julia Quinn

I liked this nice regency romance, the first in the author’s long and sprawling Bridgerton series. It wasn’t as funny as some of her other books but it was charming and very well written.

The heroine Daphne is the eldest Bridgerton girl. She is twenty, has been in London for two seasons, and still unmarried. Pretty, with a sunny disposition and an aversion to flirting, she is an amiable companion in every drawing room. Everyone likes her but no one is enamored of her. With three older brothers, the formidable Bridgertons, every young man in town treats her as a friend. Not many dare approach her with the more intimate intentions, and her mother starts to despair. Daphne herself wants to get married. She wants to have children. She wants a big family. But she wants to like her husband too.

Simon, the hero, is a wounded soul. A wealthy, handsome duke, he seems the catch of the season, but his icy exterior conceals a man in torment. His hatred for his father, who is unfortunately dead, eats at him, dictating his every decision. He seems unable to love.

When these two meet, it takes all the warmth Daphne possesses to thaw Simon’s frozen heart and teach him that love is much more preferable to hatred.

Besides the joy of reading this quiet and very private story, following its hero and heroine through their turbulent relationship to the inevitable happy ending, I also learnt an unexpected lesson. Not about love or romance but (gulp) about the Greenwich Meridian. Simon likes astronomy, and in the fragment below, he explains to Daphne how this all-important meridian became the zero line on all the world maps of today. Frankly, it was a revelation to me. I knew the facts about Greenwich, of course, but I didn’t know how or when (18th century) it happened.

“Do you know much about navigation and longitude?” [Simon asked Daphne.]

She shook her head. “Very little I’m afraid. I must confess I’m not even certain what this meridian here at Greenwich is.”

“It’s the point from which all longitude is measured. It used to be that sailors and navigators measured longitudinal distance from their point of departure, but in the last century, the astronomer royal decided to make Greenwich the starting point.”

Daphne raised her brows. “That seems rather self-important of us, don’t you think, positioning ourselves at the center of the world?”

“Actually, it’s quite convenient to have a universal reference point when one is attempting to navigate the high seas.”

She still looked doubtful. “So everyone simply agreed on Greenwich? I find it difficult to believe that the French wouldn’t have insisted upon Paris, and the Pope, I’m sure, would have preferred Rome...”

“Well, it wasn’t an agreement, precisely,” he allowed with a laugh. “There was no official treaty, if that is what you mean. But the Royal Observatory publishes an excellent set of charts and tables each year—it’s called the Nautical Almanac. And a sailor would have to be insane to attempt to navigate the ocean without one on board. And since the Nautical Almanac measures longitude with Greenwich as zero... well, everyone else has adopted it as well.”

A nice bit of trivia that has nothing to do with the book, of course, but a de-facto zero point – how quaint. One for the British, surely. It’s the same as what happened with the computer languages – they are all de-facto English, with no treaty ever being signed. But this one goes to the Americans. I think...