I’m a huge romance fan, especially of historicals, so when I heard about Bridgerton, the Netflix show, I absolutely had to read the books first. If you want to know what might happen in future seasons and what’s different about the show than the books, then you’ve come to the right place. I read the Bridgertons series so you don’t have to – but if you love historical romance, you should!
BEWARE: Spoilers abound.
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What you should know before reading the books.
IMO, it’s most important to note that the books do not feature a diverse cast.
Bridgerton the show takes place in an alternate reality, a Regency fantasy world where the king married a Black woman, Queen Charlotte (a total badass – her hair and outfits are fabulous). Queen Charlotte elevated other POC to ranks in society. (This is based on reality. Though this Queen Charlotte feels very fictional – SHE seems to be the Regent – Queen Charlotte did exist, and did have Black ancestry.) I think the history here is a little flimsy and would love to see it fleshed out in further seasons. For example, Simon’s father hints at a long ducal line in their family, and there isn’t any racial tension at all, despite integration taking place fairly recently. (Though more than arguably, the way Lady Featherington treats Marina could involve the fact that Marina is not only beautiful, but Black and beautiful.)
I think this is important to note for a few reasons. 1) If that’s what you love about Bridgerton, there are historical romance novels you can read featuring a diverse cast. 2) Julia Quinn’s novels are great, but the books with the TV covers might sell to those looking for diversity in their romance. They’ll be sorely let down, and while I love Julia Quinn’s books, I don’t think she should profit off this selling point when she writes about white characters.
If you’re looking for diverse historical romance featuring interracial relationships, I highly recommend Vanessa Riley.
You can read my review of A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby here.
Marina does not have a storyline.
Marina is one of my favorite characters on Bridgerton. The actress is absolutely stunning, and I think her storyline is heartbreaking and interesting. While she is a character in the books, we never meet her. She exists in the background and has a tragic story. I think I liked her story so much because I had no idea what would happen next. (Though I’ve seen some great discourse about how her storyline portrays some seriously bad stereotypes regarding Black women, which is important to note. I’m in total agreement – and on a more trivial note, I thought the climax of her storyline was a disservice to the character of Penelope.)
The sexual assault/argument/outcome involving the main pairing is the same, but different.
Daphne, without a doubt, sexually assaults Simon in both the book and the show. As someone who read the books, I saw a lot more nuance in the show than in Daphne and Simon’s novel. Daphne still does something inexcusable and I’m mad that the show didn’t call it assault, but she’s even less sexually educated in the show than in the books, IMO, and I think there’s something to be said for how little she and Marina knew about sex and pregnancy. There’s a message here about sexual education for women in the 1800’s, and about sexual empowerment via education for women as a whole. While I hated this part in the show, I hated it less than I did in the books.
Also, as a result of the assault, Daphne conceives in the books. I think the outcome of her getting her period, and the two later deciding to try for a child, is more empowering for Simon than it was in the books.
We don’t see much of what the other siblings are experiencing if it’s not “their” book.
So in the first book, there’s no major storytline for Anthony, Benedict, Colin, or Eloise. The show incorporated some storytlines from the other books for the other Bridgertons and came up with some new storytlines. For example, we never see too much about any relationship Anthony has before he marries. Benedict doesn’t get involved with art until his book, and much less so. Colin doesn’t get involved in a marriage scandal. Eloise does hunt to find out Lady Whistledown’s identity, but there’s no Queen Charlotte to pressure her, and it’s more of a running background joke for a few books.
And the “below stairs” folks aren’t major contenders.
In the books, with the exception of Sophie’s storyline, we really don’t see the stories of any folks who are less than upper class.
Onto the books!
1. Daphne and Simon: The Duke and I
I read this one before I started actively book blogging.
Should you read it? If you enjoyed Season 1, then yes. However, the sexual assault scene is a pivotal part of the plot, and it really bothers me. With the lens of the year this was written, I was able to move on and read the rest of the series, especially considering I loved this couple outside of that moment. Buy it here!
2. Anthony and Kate: The Viscount Who Loved Me
I read this one before I started actively book blogging.
Should you read it? If your show crush is Anthony, for sure. While this was not my favorite one in the series, it’s a lot of fun. I would love to see Anthony find a love like this in the show! At this point in the show, Kate is not a character, though I think she or a similar character would be easy to include in future seasons. Buy it here!
3. Benedict and Sophie: An Offer From a Gentleman
Should you read it? With the context of the show, this one has grown on me. Book Benedict doesn’t do much for me because we don’t see too much of him until this book, but I love how the show highlights his relationship with Eloise and his skill as an artist. Sophie is also not a character at this point in the show. Personally, I found the tropes within this book to be a little cheesy, and since TV Benedict is more fleshed out, I would like to see this plot done a little differently. Again, it’s not my favorite in the series, but it’s worth the read. Buy it here! Note: I so want Show Benedict to be confirmed bisexual.
4. Colin and Penelope: Romancing Mr. Bridgerton
Should you read it? Um, YES. I am loving Show Colin, who seems a little more shyly sweet than Book Colin, but Book Colin is a blast. And yes, spoiler alert, Penelope’s wildest dreams do come true in the book when Colin finally looks at her as more than his sister’s best friend. I am really rooting for this couple to get together in the show, too. Colin is a wonderful book boyfriend. Buy it here!
5. Eloise and Phillip: To Sir Phillip, With Love
Should you read it? If you are an Eloise fan like I am, most definitely. This is the book Marina is mentioned in, too, though her story seems very different than in the show. Eloise decides to marry her penpal. Personally, I would like to see this one adapted differently for the show version. This book takes Eloise out of London, and with the various storylines, I think it’s easiest to keep the characters in the same city. I think it is inevitable we see Eloise meet her romantic match in this series, so I imagine she will have a love story, though it may differ from the book. Buy it here! Note: Yes, this is Marina’s Phillip. I sort of want show Eloise to have a different storyline even though I liked this book, and perhaps even a romance with a woman. Also, I love Marina, so I want to see her happy.
6. Francesca and Michael: When He Was Wicked
Should you read it? This was my favorite book in the series, so yes! However, just like in Season 1, Francesca is a character we see next to nothing of. She’s little in the earlier books (and maybe went away to Bath too?? I don’t remember) and then gets married very young. Her husband dies, but she remains in Scotland, where they lived together. In this book, she falls for his rakish brother, Michael, some years after his death. This is a really nuanced and interesting love story. I’m not sure the show will ever touch on it, because this book takes us away from the other Bridgertons, but I liked it so much that I hope that it does. It also discusses some important things like grief, PTSD, and chronic illness, and I would love to see these topics on the show. Buy it here!
7. Hyacinth and Gareth: It’s In His Kiss
Should you read it? I greatly enjoyed this one, though I really do wonder if we’ll get to the youngest three Bridgerton’s romances since they’re so tiny and cute in the show, and this series spans quite a few years. Hyacinth is so intelligent, and I love the chemistry between these two. The plot of Hyacinth helping Gareth translate a diary would lend itself well to TV, I think. Buy it here!
8. Gregory and Lucy: On the Way to the Wedding
Should you read it? While this one doesn’t do much for me, you might as well finish out the series. Additionally, I think if the show makes it to Gregory’s love story, this one really would do well on TV. It features a lot of house parties and small events, meaning we could see the full cast together easily enough. Buy it here!
…and you might be wondering, who is Lady Whistledown?
Lady Whistledown is the same in the books as in the show, though it’s revealed differently. I wish we hadn’t found out until later in the series, as we don’t find out until halfway through the book series. However, with the reveal, I have some theories and hopes for how we’ll keep Julie Andrews on for many further seasons. (In the books, Whistledown retires when her identity is revealed.)
I hope this post helped you decide which books you might want to read in this series, or at least whet your spoiler-ific appetite! Comment and let me know, what else would you like to know about the Bridgertons series? Maybe I can help you out!