Bridgerton Reads

Books to read while you wait for Season 2 of Bridgerton

Of course Netflix has renewed Bridgerton for a second season. Julia Quinn wrote eight books (plus prequels) featuring the lives of each of the Bridgerton siblings. Who thought they would stop filming once the world got a taste of Quinn’s version of London society through the lens of Shonda Rhimes’ production company? According to reports they will turn to eldest son, Anthony, in the next season of the show which matches up with Quinn’s second book, The Viscount Who Loved Me, giving us more scandal, romance, fantastic costumes, and the best sibling banter at society balls, sedate promenades and tea rooms. The official news was accompanied by a Lady Whistledown missive which said “…patience, after all, is a virtue” but what are fans of the genre to do in the meantime? If you’ve already re-watched the television series, seen all of the extra content online, and finished Quinn’s novels I have a few recently published favourites that might help get you through this most difficult ‘season’.

Does a romance between a reluctant Duke and an exceptional woman appeal to you? Then Evie Dunmore’s Bringing Down the Duke has to be your next read. The time period for this novel is later than when the Bridgerton family is at court, but the same pressures of society play a significant role in this romance between a brilliant vicar’s daughter and an arrogant aristocrat. Annabelle Archer first meets the Duke of Montgomery when she is canvassing for support of the women’s suffrage movement. Their relationship develops further when she falls ill during a snowy weekend at his country home and has to stay for a week while she recovers (of course).

Bringing Down the Duke lacks the wisecracking of the Bridgerton clan but makes up for it in the friendship between Annabelle and her fellow suffragettes. Each is risking something in their fight for the cause, whether it be losing their place at court, damaging their relationship with family or seeing the traditional future as a wife and mother lost to them, but their sacrifices strengthen their friendship and really shape this exceptionally fun series.

In Dunmore’s A Rogue of One’s Own, Lady Lucie Tedbury faces off against ‘known rake’ Lord Tristan Ballentine when the women work to pass the Married Women’s Property Act by starting their own subversive journal. And, coming in September 2021, Portrait of a Scotsman will bring the story of Annabelle and Lucie’s friend, banking heiress Hattie Greenfield, into the spotlight. This is historical fiction with clever, competent women at the core, and knowing there is a fourth book on the way to complete their story is a true happy ending.

A revenge plan devised by the humiliated and entitled Julia Thistlewaite in Regency London is at the heart of the sparkling rom-com Mr. Malcom’s List. After their romance fizzles, Julia is livid when she learns that Jeremy Malcolm keeps a list of qualities he desires in a wife, so she invites a beautiful schoolmate to help her tempt him and show him what it feels like to be cast aside. Selina Dalton, the captivating vicar’s daughter (they are popular in these novels), reluctantly agrees to this plan.

As Selina’s guilt over deceiving the honourable Mr. Malcolm starts to grow, so does affection for him and she begins to doubt the wisdom of Julia’s scheme. The list becomes an issue for several characters, as lists like this often do, and Selina and Julia’s characters have their chance to shine. This novel was written by screenwriter Suzanne Allain and made into a short film by Refinery29 before the rights were sold to make it into a feature film that will hopefully be available in spring of 2022. You might find yourself watching the ten-minute film a few times but it won’t spoil the novel if you haven’t already read it, and there is just enough there to make the reader wonder what will happen next.

When Lady Violet Grey first meets Lord James Audley at a society ball, their unchaperoned balcony meeting has the potential to become a scandal and they marry to save their reputations. Although they ‘marry in haste’, it takes them over a year to regret the decision in To Have and To Hoax, a novel that has a very Julia Quinn flavour. At the start, Violet and James find that they are unexpectedly well matched and the first year of their marriage is a happy one until an argument pushes them apart. Stubbornly, with neither willing to forgive the other, four years pass with nothing more than the occasional forced polite conversation.

When Violet receives a message that James is gravely ill, she rushes to his side. She finds him perfectly well and apparently uninterested in her concern for him, while she realizes she still loves him. Embarrassed and furious Violet decides to teach him a lesson by pretending to have consumption and enlists the help of friends to create this illusion. It doesn’t take long for James to find someone in their ‘set’ who is weak enough to let him in on the scheme and find ways to make Violet horribly uncomfortable. As the two create elaborate pranks to prove that they are in the right, their relationship slowly returns to what it had been in the first year of their marriage.

The entire time Violet and James are hatching these convoluted plans, their friends are discouraging them from continuing, suggesting a simple conversation might be a better way to solve their problem, but they are too determined. In addition to acting as their sounding boards and occasional co-conspirators, their group of friends provide a little comic balance to the romantic tension between Violet and James. It was a relief to learn that the author will share the story of two of their most conniving friends, Lady Templeton and the Marquess of Willingham, in her next novel. This group of friends are simply too much fun to leave after just one novel.

Any one of these superb picks (and I’ve read a lot of them to be certain that these are the cream of the recent crop) is sure to satisfy a reader’s need for aristocratic charm, glamorous manor houses, elaborate gowns, chases on horseback, complicated rules about chaperones, and the possibility of swoonworthy romance. You could try reading it in your best Lady Whistledown voice if you like, I’m fairly certain she would approve.

— Penny M.