Bridgerton is the new Netflix series currently transporting people out of lockdown and into the social season of 1813 regency London (although most of it was filmed in Bath). It’s based on the first of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton books, The Duke and I and focuses on young debutant Daphne Bridgerton as she aims to marry for love. The series has beautiful sets and costumes, and the story will keep you hooked – I’m not alone in hoping that it won’t take too long for series two to be released. However, it’s not new. I actually read The Duke and I several years ago, and there are plenty of other books to indulge in if you are looking for more of the same. Here are just a few of my recommendations to keep you going after you’ve finished watching Bridgerton.
For more of the same
Read more of the novels by Julia Quinn. There are eight Bridgerton novels in total, starting with The Duke and I, with each one focusing on a different member of the Bridgerton family. Quinn has also written other series, focusing on slightly different timeframes and with different leading characters. You can read them as a series or as stand-alone books (when I started reading Quinn’s novels I didn’t realise they were in a series so just read whichever ones happened to be in the local library). I’d describe her novels as being set in the world of Jane Austen, but with more sass. I’ll admit, the Netflix series is probably more gripping, but the books will still transport you away to another world.
Read a classic
If you like the period in which Bridgerton is set, then try your hand at a Jane Austen novel. Pride and Prejudice was written the year that Bridgerton is set and there are certainly parallels between Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett’s love story, and that of Daphne Bridgerton and the Duke of Hastings. Jane Austen wrote six novels alongside a selection of shorter works and her books have been captivating people for years. The heroines may not be quite as outspoken but the depiction of Regency England will be more authentic.
If you’re looking for a longer read to get stuck into, then look no further than William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair. I read this book as part of my degree and it’s probably the book that felt least like work to read – it was more like reading a soap set in Regency England. You will love and hate the main character of Becky Sharp, an attractive, witty and resourceful social climber who uses her charms to seduce and make her way up in society. Whilst the book is quite long, there are multiple twists and turns in the plot which will keep you interested throughout.
If it was the scandal and story you loved…
…there’s plenty that fits the bill, particularly if you are willing to move away from the regency setting. The Luxe novels by Anna Godbersen are more aimed at a young adult audience (I read them as a teenager but haven’t re-read them recently) and are set in the glamourous world of society’s elite, but this time in New York 1899. Full of beautiful characters, extravagant parties, forbidden love and a good dose of scandal. There are four books in the series which largely focus on sisters Elizabeth and Diana Holland. Godbersen has also written a series called Bright Young Things which is similar but set in the 1920s.
If you’re looking for something a little more modern, then I can’t recommend Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan enough. This time you’ll be transported to present day Singapore and what happens when you try and fit into society’s elite. The characters are sharp-tongued and the book is quite funny, whilst also showing that life hasn’t changed that much since the setting of Bridgerton. If you like the first book there are two more to follow and all three will give you a good dose of scandal in lavish settings.
If you like strong female characters in a historic setting…
…then there are plenty of options out there. Recently I’ve been working my way through the Six Tudor Queens series written by historian Alison Weir. Each book focuses on a different one of Henry VIII’s six wives. It’s much more of a historical series than the Bridgerton series is, but there’s plenty of gossip and court drama and it’s interesting to see the role of those women at the time.
Also set in the Tudor period, Philippa Gregory’s Plantagenet and Tudor novels are great to get stuck into and luckily there are quite a few to keep you going! Again these stories are told from the women’s perspective and focus on some of the less well-known characters of the period in which they are set (for example Anne Boleyn’s sister rather than Anne Boleyn). Perhaps not as much glamour as in Bridgerton, but plenty of love and scandal.
As soon as I saw Bridgerton being advertised on Netflix I knew it was something I wanted to watch, but I hadn’t quite expected James to get as drawn into it as I was. When I finished watching it I felt content, but also eager for more and just writing out these recommendations has reminded me of several books I want to re-read so I can stay in the setting of regency society for a bit longer. I’ll definitely be planning a trip to Bath for when lockdown is over…
Have you watched Bridgerton? What would you recommend next?