So, The Bridgertons series came out on Netflix on Christmas Day 2020, and I binge-watched the entire series that day. Then I proceeded to binge-read the book series, which admittedly to longer than a day. (I did knock out five of them in one day, though!) Each of the main book reviews also features a “Shitty parent scale” for that book! So, here are my thoughts on the Bridgertons:
The Duke and I
This is the book the Netflix series is based on. That being said, I already knew the story, so this is the book I read last, (on Valentine’s Day, no less!) and this is more of a comparison to the show than a straight review. Also, spoilers!
(One of Simon’s middle names is Fitzranulph, lol)
One of the first big differences I picked out is that Simon’s nurse helps him with his speech impediment, not Lady Danbury. Simon’s father is still a complete shit. (Lady Danbury was still a part of his life, just not in the same role as the show.)
Also, the whole Bridgerton family is supposed to have the same hair color, while Daphne’s (and Gregory’s at the moment) are decidedly lighter in the show.
Daphne Bridgerton is in her second season, and while she has had some offers of marriage, none were acceptable to her. In the show, she is the “diamond of the season” but not so much in the books. She is liked, but not loved, and that is the problem. She gets friend-zoned a lot.
Simon and Daphne reveal their plan to Anthony.
The scene with Daphne and Anthony trying to warm milk is indeed in the book, and is still very cute, but it does make a bit more sense than in the show. In the book, they are staring at a new enclosed range rather than a fire, which would indeed be more daunting than the latter. But it’s easier to read as a regular fire in the show, I suppose.
In reading this, there are times when I’m none too fond of Daphne. She seems to force Simon into doing things he says he doesn’t want to do. For example, he doesn’t want to go into the hedge maze, because he knows he’ll be tempted to kiss her, something he promised Anthony he wouldn’t do. Daphne forces his hand anyway.
…when an author has their character say the word “naughty” seriously in a vanilla sex scene, I just can’t. Just, no. And when undressing a lady, there are more layers than her dress and a chemise. Like her stays or corset, which was not as easily removed!
Between what she hears from the housekeeper and what Simon actually tells her, Daphne learns exactly why Simon doesn’t want to have children before she forces him to finish inside her, including his stammer. That makes it all the worse. In the show, she finds out after, and I don’t recall her ever finding out about his stammer in the show at all.
Violet Bridgerton used a fantastic insult against her sons! She called them “a herd of mentally deficient sheep,” which is completely awesome.
Shitty parent scale – Simon’s father is a complete shit.
The Viscount Who Loved Me
I feel like this is kind of like The Taming of the Shrew.
It’s time for Anthony, the head of the Bridgerton family, to get married. He’s done dithering about, and decides that whoever is the best of the season will do just fine as his wife. His really only requirement (other than not being an embarrassment, because he has standards at least) is that he doesn’t want to fall in love with his wife. He wants a nice, friendly acquaintance of a wife who will do her duty and not expect too much of him. His reasoning, while flawed, is actually kind of sweet. He doesn’t want to leave her heartbroken when he dies. Which he believes will be fairly soon. His father died early, you see (from a bee sting), and Anthony feels like he’ll never do anything better than his father, which apparently includes living longer?
Enter the ladies. Anthony has set his sights on Edwina Sheffield. She appears to be all that is perfect, apart from her older step-sister, that is. Kate is determined to let Anthony nowhere near her sister, because she has heard of his rakish reputation and therefore is nowhere near good enough for her, fortune and family be damned. Anthony and Kate argue and bicker all of the time, and Kate just wants him to go away. But oops, romance novel, so of course they end up having to get married!
Shitty parent scale – this one is kind of different from the other ones in that no one has a shitty parental figure, they just have dead ones. Anthony has major daddy issues, but it’s not because he was a bad father. Kate also has issues from her mother, but again, it’s not her mother’s fault.
An Offer from a Gentleman
This is straight-up a Cinderella story, and it makes no excuses for it!
Sophia, or Sophie, is our Cinderella. She lives with her abusive step-mother Araminta, shitty step-sister something-or-other, and not shitty, kind of meek step-sister Posy. Sophie is the bastard daughter of an earl, or something. He provides for her, and lets her live with him on the estate, but doesn’t acknowledge that she is his daughter, only his ward. (Honestly, he does more for her than other fathers of bastard children would.) Enter the step-mother, who is a bitch. She hates Sophie immediately, and treats her like shit. Once Sophie’s father dies, the family moves to London, because the new earl (obviously not the step-mother’s son that she never managed to have) takes over. Even though she hates Sophie, Araminta is forced to keep Sophie in her household as per her late husband’s will – as long as Sophie lived with her until her 18th birthday, Araminta would get money. But she demotes Sophie from a gentlewoman into a servant, making her do the work of three people and working her hard.
On the night of the Bridgerton masquerade, the servants doll Sophie up and send her. Benedict, the second Bridgerton son, falls in love with the mysterious lady. But she peaces out before the end of the party without letting him know who she is. Araminta finds out that she went to the party and punishes her, but Sophie finally decides that she’s had enough and leaves her shitty life as a servant for a different shitty life as a servant.
A while later (months, years, I don’t remember) Benedict meets Sophie again, only she’s not dressed as a lady this time. He can swear he remembers her from somewhere, but doesn’t recognize her as his lost love from that magical night. Sophie is kind of upset about this, because she’s been dreaming of him ever since the party. (Hey, it’s kind of like when you see someone somewhere all the time, and then you see them somewhere else in an entirely different context, and your brain can’t handle it. Like little kids seeing their teachers out in the wild.) (Also, I am horrible with names and faces, so I would probably be in Benedict’s position.) (Also, she was wearing a mask! She was supposed to be unrecognizable!) Anyway, Benedict tries really hard to get Sophie to be his mistress. He thinks she’s of the servant class, so he can’t marry her, but he wants to be with her and take care of her. She keeps saying no, and he keeps pushing. And pushing. And pushing. Even when she tells him why she’s saying no, he keeps pushing! So, Benedict kind of sucks. (I kind of love this book anyway.)
I like Sophie. She’s the most self-reliant of the whole series due to her situation. Her life sucks, and even when she is offered a better situation, she knows it isn’t sustainable. She knows more of the world, and realizes that life isn’t fair. Also, the ending of this book is awesome.
Shitty parent scale – this book has the shittiest parental figure in Araminta. She is taking advantage of and actively abusing Sophie. She is the Dolores Umbridge of the series.
Romancing Mr. Bridgerton
I feel like this is the story that a lot of people will be looking for after the show, because it is all about Penelope and, in turn, Lady Whistledown.
This takes place about 10 years after the first book. Penelope Featherington is 28 years old now, and is firmly on the shelf. This gives her more freedom, in that her mother is no longer trying so hard to marry her off. She never fell out of love with Colin Bridgerton, though. We find out when she fell in love with him, which is cute. Speaking of Colin, he’s finally come home from his travels abroad, I believe for his mother’s birthday party. Colin likes Penelope just fine, but he sees her as his sister’s friend, and nothing more. Until something changes. Amidst all this, while all agree that the season is particularly dull that year, Lady Danbury creates the diversion of offering 1,000 pounds to the person who can “unmask” Lady Whistledown. That’s over $165,000! We know who Lady Whistedown is, of course, so it’s understandable why this would cause problems. (We also learn just how much money Penelope has made from her paper – over a million pounds in today’s money, which is also well over a million dollars! If each paper costs the consumer 5 pennies, that would be 6 pounds, or over $8. And it was a very popular paper!) (Wait, looking back, in the beginning of the book, Colin offers Penelope 20 pounds to not be left alone with Lady Danbury. That would be offering over $3,000 today!)
Also, we learn that Julia Quinn can write quite well when she puts her mind to it and isn’t trying to crank out novel after novel in quick succession. Colin’s journal passages are quite good, at least in my opinion.
Shitty parent scale – this one ranks just above Anthony and Kate’s story in terms of shitty parents. Penelope’s mother tries, but doesn’t listen to her daughter’s thoughts and wishes, and makes her life more difficult. She’s not malicious, but she’s not the best mother either.
To Sir Phillip, With Love
Eloise gets her turn.
Eloise makes a foolish decision. She’s been exchanging letters with her cousin’s widow, Sir Phillip, after he informs her of his wife’s death. (In the show, Marina was a cousin of the Featherington’s, but she’s a Bridgerton cousin now. We met Sir Phillip briefly in the show!) Eloise and Phillip enjoy a long correspondence, and Phillip offers to have her come visit him, chaperoned by his elderly aunt, to see if they would suit for marriage. Now, Eloise wouldn’t normally do such a thing, but her dearest friend Penelope just married her brother, and now she has no one to be a spinster with. That was their plan, to be spinsters together, and while Eloise doesn’t blame her friend at all for taking the opportunity to be happy, it leaves Eloise a bit adrift. So, she decides to take Phillip up on his offer. Without sending a letter first. And leaving just a note at home.
Sir Phillip is at his wits end. His twins, aged 8, desperately need a mother, and Phillip is wanting for companionship after the death of his wife. Well, he was really wanting for companionship after the birth of his children, as Marina fell into a deep depression that she never emerged from. (The book never touches on the idea that the children might not be Phillip’s.) He’s not very good with people, preferring his plants, and Eloise seems like a nice enough companion from her letters. He figures that, although she may not be the most attractive woman (why else would she be unmarried at 28) they could be companions. He is not at all prepared for the lovely Eloise to arrive at his door unexpectedly.
We get the addition of Phillip’s twin children, Oliver and Amanda. The two have never really had a mother figure, as their mother wasn’t really a part of their lives. They are desperate for their father’s attention, but he doesn’t really know how to be a good father, because he had a shitty father too. The twins are none too pleased that Eloise has come to take more of their father’s attention away from them. And so they act out.
I’m curious to see how the series will handle this story, if they get this far. Eloise and Phillip meet through letters because Marina was her cousin, but now she’s Penelope’s cousin, so why would Eloise and Phillip be exchanging letters?
Shitty parent scale – Phillip had a shitty father who hit him, which in turn makes him afraid to discipline his own children, thinking it will turn him into his father.
When He Was Wicked
The one who’s never around
And we get to Francesca, the forgotten daughter! Not forgotten by her family, rather forgotten by the series, because we never really hear about her. (She felt like an afterthought in the Netflix series, showing up just once!) Francesca married fairly early to John Stirling, the Earl of Kilmartin, and they were deliriously happy. But then John died unexpectedly, and Francesca was devastated.
Also devastated was Michael Stirling, John’s cousin and best friend. Michael loved John like a brother, and was therefore ashamed to be in love with his wife. John and Francesca didn’t know this of course, no one did. And it comes as a blow when John dies and Michael basically inherits his life. To grief and remove himself from temptation, Michael leaves and goes off to India for a few years, leaving Francesca to run the estate. But Michael has to come home eventually.
Francesca decides that she wants a child, so she therefore has to get married again. Michael is not pleased, but she obviously can’t marry him, because that would be weird, as he would be taking over way too much of his cousin’s life. But then he basically gets permission from Colin, I think? Anyway, Francesca runs home to her estate, and Michael follows her, and things get spicy.
The first three books happen in around the same time-frame, within a few years of each other at least. But the books of the second trio of Penelope, Eloise, and Francesca all happen simultaneously. Events that happen in Eloise’s story are mentioned here, and it’s kind of funny.
Shitty parent scale – I don’t think there are any shitty parents here, but I could be wrong. Michael’s father could have been shitty, which is why he and his mother moved in with John and his family when they were young. But Michael’s father could have also just been dead and left nothing behind to support his family.
It’s In His Kiss
The youngest Bridgerton tries to solve a mystery
Lady Danbury makes another appearance in this book! It’s been quite a few years since the events of the first book, and Lady Danbury is that much older. Hyacinth, the youngest Bridgerton sibling, has taken to reading to the formidable woman once a week. (And also to chill, because Lady Danbury is awesome.) Well, Lady Danbury’s favorite (and rakish) nephew, Gareth St. Clair is in town, and Lady Danbury immediately sees potential to match up her two favorite people.
Gareth acquires his late mother’s diary, which is written in Italian, a language which he does not speak. But Hyacinth knows a little, and offers to translate it for him. And they discover a mystery. They try to solve the mystery, but fall in love instead, because of course they do! Gareth’s shit of a father tries to make problems, because he can’t seem to stop himself from trying to ruin Gareth’s life.
Shitty parent scale – Gareth’s father is a complete shit.
On the Way to the Wedding
The last one gets married.
(There’s both a Neville and a Hermione in here, and that amuses me.)
Anyway, Gregory goes to a house party hosted by Anthony and Kate, and falls instantly in love. (But not with our heroine.) No, he falls instantly in love with the perfect Hermione Watson, who almost every other man also falls in love with. But she’s in love with someone else (someone completely unsuitable, of course). Hermione’s best friend is Lucy. Lucy is used to being passed over in favor of Hermione. And because Gregory is a much better match for her friend than her current paramour, Lucy decides to help Gregory stand out from the pack and win Hermione over. But things don’t quite work out. For one, Hermione doesn’t really seem to notice Gregory at first. And then Lucy also falls in love with Gregory, and he with her. But that’s a problem, because Lucy is engaged to be married to someone else. It’s all a big mess, nevermind bringing Lucy’s brother into it!
So Gregory knows Lucy for a week, and then doesn’t see her for a while, and then meets her again a week before her wedding. He schemes to have her invited to a ball Daphne is throwing, and then confesses his undying love for Lucy (in secret.) He convinces her to call off the wedding and marry him instead, but then there are *circumstances* so Lucy goes back to agreeing to marry the first guy. And then the end is very exciting.
(At this point, I’m still not convinced that Lucy wouldn’t be happy with the first guy, issues aside. Yes, she thinks she loves Gregory, but how long has she really known him? And the first guy really isn’t all that bad, aside from his shit father. Gregory seems to fall in love fairly easily, which is suspect to me at least. At least his siblings got more time to get to know their future spouses before declaring themselves.)
Shitty parent scale – Lucy’s uncle is also a complete shit. And the guy she marries (I can never remember his name) has a creepy father too, who is also a shit (and a coward!)
The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After
A bunch of epilogues.
Daphne – They talk about the letters that Simon’s father eventually wrote to him, and Simon tries to decide if he wants to read them or not.
Anthony – There is another Pall Mall game.
Benedict – We get to hear more about Posy, and it’s delightful!
Colin – We get to find out how and when Penelope told Eloise about her secret identity.
Eloise – We hear more about a grown-up Amanda (as well as the neighbors).
Francesca – We find out if Francesca ever had the child she so desperately wanted.
Hyacinth – We find out what happened to those diamonds.
Gregory – We learn about the birth(s) of the newest Bridgertons.
Violet – We get to hear about the love story that was Violet and Edmund.
Of the nine stories in here, I was really only looking for about half of them after I had finished the books. Benedict’s epilogue about Posy was a delightful surprise, and Hyacinth’s was a nice continuation of the original ending. Francesca’s epilogue is the one I feel should have been included in the original story. Violet’s story could have been included in Anthony’s original book, or Daphne’s for that matter, or I suppose Gregory’s even. But it’s good that it’s finally somewhere. And Colin’s epilogue could have taken place during or after Eloise’s book. I could have gone without the second epilogues for Daphne, Anthony, Eloise, and Gregory though. I mean, they were nice enough, but I wasn’t looking for the information they provided. (Edit: after reading The Duke and I, this epilogue was fine, I guess, and mildly interesting.) And the second epilogue to Gregory’s story doesn’t appear to agree with the first one, but maybe that’s just me.