Instead of Lady Whistledown quotes, each chapter is headed by an extract from one of Eloise Bridgerton's letters: to her mother protesting childhood punishments, to her brothers protesting odious governesses, to her sisters and best friend about men - upon the rejection of each of her first six marriage proposals, nagging her married sisters about their experiences, and letters to Penelope complaining about what poor losers men are.
TO SIR PHILLIP is set immediately after ROMANCING MR. BRIDGERTON, and coincident with WHEN HE WAS WICKED. In broad outline, it has some similarities to Daphne's story in THE DUKE AND I, but with a still more extreme emotional situation for the male lead, in some ways.
Sir Phillip's mother, like Simon's, died in childbirth, leaving him to be brought up by a demanding father, though here prone to physical rather than emotional abuse. Like Simon, Philip found himself in scholarship, taking a first at university (though in botany rather than mathematics). Unlike Simon, Philip wasn't firstborn, and planned to remain at Cambridge as an academic. Philip's no rake, either; he wasn't the sort of "first-tier" bachelor whose status offset his lack of relationship skills much.
After his brother's death at Waterloo, however, Phillip (unlike Simon) opted to do his duty: making the family estate's agricultural aspects turn a profit (with botanical experiments on the side), and marrying his late brother's fiancee. Unfortunately Marina suffered from clinical depression, which only deepened after the birth of twins. Phillip's marriage became an endless strain upon him, effectively a single parent with *no* knowledge of householding or child-rearing, other than an iron determination not to follow his father's lead. Then the final blow fell: Marina's death after a botched suicide attempt.
Phillip receives a letter of condolence from cheerful chatterbox Eloise Bridgerton, a cousin of Marina's whom he's never met. Appreciating the gesture, he encloses a pressed flower with his response, thus beginning a long correspondence with Eloise (who loves writing letters, and had never before received such an enclosure). The story skims over this, as Phillip realizes that the right kind of wife would solve most of his problems: someone who can deal with his out-of-control seven-year-olds, and *not* be suicidal. Heck, a take-charge person who'd run *his* life is welcome to it, if she can straighten out the mess...
So the main story *really* begins when Eloise, in the wake of her best friend's marriage, opts to take Sir Philip up on his tentative invitation to visit with a view toward seeing if they'd suit. Unfortunately, she neglects to give *anyone* - from Sir Phillip with his rowdy children (whom he, in turn, neglected to mention) to her own matchmaking mother to her overprotective quartet of brothers - any warning of her plans.
Yes, Gregory is now old enough to join in one of the Bridgerton brothers' little chats with their sisters' suitors. (Reminiscent of the Pall Mall scene in THE VISCOUNT WHO LOVED ME, the Bridgertons at one point have a marksmanship contest.) On the plus side, although Eloise didn't learn much from Daphne's problems with their brothers, she and Francesca *did* have sense enough to pool their money years ago to bribe a maid into a frank discussion of the facts of life. :) (That doesn't explain, though, why Eloise never passed any information along to Penelope.)
In fact, despite her long-term frendship with Eloise, Penelope doesn't appear. (If she or Kate tagged along, the brothers might behave more sensibly in the presence of a grown-up.) Violet has only one scene. Benedict lives near Sir Phillip, though, so Eloise has Sophie to commiserate with. :)