Dearest gentle reader, it’s March which means the social season is upon us, or rather more accurately put: the season we stop being social is upon us because Bridgerton Season 2 (sans the rakiest rake that ever was) has finally made haste and is back on our screens this very month. How we burn for it. Anyone else hoping Madame Delacroix can fix us up with a gown for the occasion?
Before it was the best thing Netflix ever did, the Bridgerton world was first brought to life in Julia Quinn’s eight-book historical romance series, with each novel dedicated to a different Bridgerton child’s love story. With a canon as rich as that, we wager we’ll be in for at least eight drops of steamy Netflix seasons, if not more.
The first series debuted in 2020 and was loosely based on the events of the first novel The Duke and I, which centres on the eldest Bridgerton daughter Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) and her debut onto Regency London’s competitive marriage market. To keep her marriage-minded loved ones at bay, she forms a fake courtship with Simon Basset the Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page) and it works… until they fall head over spoons and ladders in real love.
Daphne and the Duke will be passing the Bonkerton baton to Lord Anthony Bridgerton for Season 2, which follows the second book in the series The Viscount Who Loved Me, and let’s just say a scandalous love triangle is afoot in the Ton.
We suspect a certain scribbling author and gossipmonger will have plenty to say about that. Bring on the Pall Mall scene and the Mallet of Death… (IYKYK).
For those who *still* haven’t seduced their own retinas with Netflix’s most-watched tv show of all time (can’t relate), here’s your chance to redeem your virtue once and for all ahead of National Bridgerton day on March 25 – aka the day Season 2 premieres. Please endeavour to complete all eight episodes of the first series in a timely fashion or prepare to fall foul of Lady Whistledown’s pen.
Until that fine day graces us with its presence, we’ve rounded up the best Bridgerton-esque books to fill the Shondaland-shaped hole in our lives.
The Regency vibes are positively immaculate if we do say so ourselves. Psst bring your own snuff.
1. Reputation – Lex Croucher
If Bridgerton and Sex Education had a book baby, it would be Reputation. A classic rom-com with a feminist Regency twist, the debut novel from Lex Croucher is this season’s incomparable diamond.
It follows a lonely and vulnerable Georgina Ellers as she finds herself mixing with the upper echelons of society, who introduce her to a whole new world of unfathomable wealth, drunken debauchery, and mysterious young men.
2. The Bridgerton Series – Julia Quinn
They say patience is a virtue but if you can’t wait to find out what’s next for the Bridgerton family and the rest of the Ton then why not make your way through Julia Quinn’s eight-book series with page-turning haste. The reading session shall be flawless, my dear.
3. A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem – Manda Collins
Both romance and mystery fans will find their bookish match with Manda Collins’ quippy Victorian tale with a whodunit twist.
England, 1865: Notorious newspaper columnist Lady Katherine Bascomb is determined to educate the ladies of London on the nefarious criminals who are praying on the fairer sex. But when her reporting leads to the arrest of an infamous killer, Katherine flees to a country house party to escape her doubts about the case – only to become witness to a murder herself. When the lead detective accuses Katherine of inflaming – rather than informing – the public with her column, she vows to prove him wrong.
Detective Inspector Andrew Eversham’s refusal to compromise his investigations nearly cost him his career, and he blames Katherine. When he discovers she’s the key witness in a new crime, he’s determined to prevent the beautiful widow from once again wreaking havoc on his case. Yet as Katherine proves surprisingly insightful and Andrew impresses Katherine with his lethal competency, both are forced to admit the fire between them is more flirtatious than furious. But to explore the passion between them, they’ll need to catch a killer . . .
4. Bringing Down the Duke – Evie Dunmore
A brilliant and plucky bluestocking named Annabelle Archer must recruit influential men to champion the women’s suffrage movement and the cold and calculating aristocrat Sebastian Devereux, the most powerful duke in England, is top of her list. A historical romp with plenty of swoonworthy moments, longing glances and brooding dialogue to boot. For anyone looking for a 10/10 enemies to lovers plot, you’ll be flipping pages all through the night with this one.
5. To Have and to Hoax – Martha Waters
With a cast of intriguing characters, a respectable amount of steam and grade A banter and bickering, Waters’ debut is a feel-good Regency adventure, perfect for those looking for a slice of literary escapism.
The course of true love – or irritation – never did run smooth.
Five years ago, Lady Violet Grey and Lord James Audley met, fell in love, and married.
Four years ago, they had a fight to end all fights, and have barely spoken since. Their once-passionate love may have dissolved into cold, detached politeness, but when Violet receives a letter that James has been thrown from his horse, she races to be by his side – only to discover him alive, well, and baffled by her concern.
Outraged, Violet decides to feign an illness of her own to teach her estranged husband a lesson. And so begins an ever-escalating game of manipulation – and a great deal of flirtation between a husband and wife who might not hate each other as much as they thought.
6. My Fake Rake – Eva Leigh
“There’s no should when it comes to what we feel. There aren’t scientific laws when it comes to the human heart.”
In the first book of Eva Leigh’s Union of the Rakes series, a bluestocking hires a faux suitor to help her land an ideal husband, only to be blindsided by real desire. That slow burn manufactured attachment trope has had us in a permanent chokehold since Dec 2020.
Lady Grace Wyatt is content as a wallflower, focusing on scientific pursuits rather than the complications of society matches. But when a handsome, celebrated naturalist returns from abroad, Grace wishes, for once, to be noticed. Her solution: to create the perfect man, to act as her suitor, and help her catch his eye. Grace’s colleague, anthropologist Sebastian Holloway, is just the blank slate she requires.
To further his own research on English society, Sebastian agrees to let Grace transform him from a bespectacled, bookish academic into a dashing-albeit fake-rake. Between secret lessons on how to be a rogue and exaggerated public flirtations, Grace’s feelings for Sebastian grow from friendship into undeniable, inconvenient, real attraction. If only she hadn’t asked him to help her marry someone else.
Sebastian is in love with brilliant, beautiful Grace, but their bargain is complete, and she desires another. Yet when he’s faced with losing her forever, Sebastian will do whatever it takes to tell her the truth, even if it means risking his own future-and his heart.
7. The Little Book of Bridgerton – Charlotte Browne
Want to become an expert in the art of the swoon or brush up on your Regency etiquette? The Little Book of Bridgerton is the perfect pocket-sized gift for any superfans looking to add a feather to their cap. Combining bitesize Regency-era history with trivia and fun quizzes such as ‘which Bridgerton character are you?’ consider this your social guide to the topsy turvy world of the scandal-filled Ton. Dear gentle reader, you shall go to the debutante ball!
8. Something Fabulous – Alexis J. Hall
If your only gripe with the Bridgerton tv series was the lack of queer storytelling and LGBTQ+ characters (the season 1 trailer teased a gay sex scene which suggested we could expect some queer plotlines) then leave it up to Alexis J. Hall to deliver the fabulously gay Regency romp noticeably absent in the land of the Ton.
Valentine Layton, the Duke of Malvern, has twin problems: literally.
It was always his father’s hope that Valentine would marry Miss Arabella Tarleton. But, unfortunately, too many novels at an impressionable age have caused her to grow up…romantic. So romantic that a marriage of convenience will not do and after Valentine’s proposal she flees into the night determined never to set eyes on him again.
Arabella’s twin brother, Mr. Bonaventure “Bonny” Tarleton, has also grown up…romantic. And fully expects Valentine to ride out after Arabella and prove to her that he’s not the cold-hearted cad he seems to be.
Despite copious misgivings, Valentine finds himself on a pell-mell chase to Dover with Bonny by his side. Bonny is unreasonable, overdramatic, annoying, and…beautiful? And being with him makes Valentine question everything he thought he knew. About himself. About love. Even about which Tarleton he should be pursuing.