Unless you have been living under a rock the past few months — which, let’s face it, may be more of us than not thanks to this horrible pandemic — you have no doubt heard of the latest Netflix sensation Bridgerton, based off the series of novels by Julia Quinn. As of early January, over 63 million households had viewed the new series, making it the streaming service’s fifth largest release of its original content. With a current Rotten Tomatoes rating of 90%, the buzz and hype are well earned, as it bears the elements of the guilty pleasures of Gossip Girl, and the pomp and intrigue of Downton Abbey.
Framed by the witty and smart narration of the anonymous Lady Whistledown, a writer of high society gossip papers, Bridgerton centres on the widowed Viscountess Bridgerton and her eight children, all members of the aristocracy of Regency London. In case you are not an avid romance reader, as this author is, the Regency Era, a popular subgenre of romance novels, lasted from 1811 to 1820. It was named thusly for the years in which George IV acted as Regent for his father, George III. And as we all know, regal King George III was not playing with a full deck of cards…
The first season, now renewed for a second, tells the story of Daphne Bridgerton and her own debut season in London society. Filled with scandal and intrigue, Daphne navigates the ins and outs of the ton, named for le bon ton, after the French phrase. Attending luncheons and balls, Daphne feels she may be a bit over her head. Enter Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings, an infamous rake making his own return to society. The Duke, due to his own personal reasons which you will have to watch to learn, took a vow to never marry and to never sire children. This is not in keeping with Daphne’s own goals of marriage and a large family, like the one she grew up in. On the outset, it does not appear that they make a particularly good match. Because their stars do not align, they hatch a plan to work together to attract to Daphne a more suited mate and to keep scheming mothers and their daughters away from Simon. I do so love a delicious use of the “fake dating” trope, which is what Daphne and Simon decide. They dance together at balls, promenade at luncheons, and he even sends her expensive flowers. As you can imagine, dear reader, Daphne and Simon eventually learn that they have bitten off more than they can chew.
For fans of Jane Austen’s works, you might find a bit of solace in this series, though if you are not a fan of steamy scenes, you may want to fast forward through those. The chemistry between young Daphne, played by Phoebe Dynevor, and dashing Simon, played by Regé-Jean Page, is absolutely scorching, and it gave this author’s cold, indifferent heart a happy twinge of hope. There is not a one in this striking ensemble cast that does not hold your attention for even a moment. I particularly enjoyed Colin Bridgerton, a sweet soul, and the unrequited love their neighbour and family friend, Penelope Featherington, has for him. Perhaps the one character that stole the show for me was actress Golda Rosheuvel’s portrayal of Queen Charlotte. She is so fierce and funny, and I cannot wait to see more of her. Not only is the acting top notch, but the show’s creators also made sure to include amazing costumes, sweeping cinematography, and a few of your favorite contemporary bangers as arrangements from a ton ball string ensemble (can you say “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish). Perhaps the most significant aspect of this show, in my humble opinion, is the way in which the women got it done, and contrasting that, the stark reality of what was deemed appropriate for a woman to know and what was not. Regardless, I think we can all get behind Daphne’s powerful right hook!
There is much to praise to be had about this new series, and this author’s excitement for the impending second series knows no bounds. In keeping with the books upon which it is based, the second season will focus on Anthony Bridgerton, the eldest Bridgerton child and a stubborn bachelor himself. Assuming that each season will follow one of Ms. Quinn’s books, there could very well be eight seasons, so plenty of content ahead!
Yours in Romance Heaven,