If you've been living under a rock this past year, Netflix's Bridgerton took the world by storm in 2020, and Season 2 may have just topped it!
The popular Netflix series, Bridgerton, was originally a series of romance books written by novelist Julia Quinn. According to the books, the Bridgertons are a well respected, and favoured family in upper-class British society.
Each book follows one of the eight Bridgerton children on their quest to find true love, with the ninth book tying the whole series together.
As the first novel was released more than 20 years ago in 2000, die-hard fans everywhere are trying to get their hands on each book to find out what may or may not take place down the line in the Netflix rendition.
Save your troubles! I have taken on the task of reading the first eight novels. While each book is ravishing in their own unique way, it's time for us to crown the real diamond of the series.
[SPOILER ALERT]: A brief synopsis of each book is given along with the ranking, and some details of the Netflix series will also be discussed
8. The Duke & I (Book #1, Daphne's Story)
Introducing the Bridgerton family, The Duke & I tells the tale of Daphne Bridgerton, the eldest daughter and fourth child of Edmund and Violet, on her journey to find a husband. While she is a beautiful and interesting girl, Daphne is not seen as a romantic prospect by the men she has come across thus far.
Enter stage left, Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings. The epitome of tall, dark, and handsome, Simon is eager to avoid marriage due to familial issues, and to end the Basset line once and for all. Over time, the two form a mutual agreement: Simon will pretend to court Daphne, raising her appeal to other men, while Simon, in return, avoids other women seeking his affection.
Ultimately, their plan does not work out, and the so called "made-up" relationship develops into a real one.
Let's start this off with controversy and shock: The first book pales in comparison to its seven sequels. In addition to some less than decent storylines, there was no intriguing factor to pull you back for the subsequent books.
Sure, it was a great love story between two individuals, but why the inclusion of seven other siblings, that weren't even discussed in detail? Why was racism romanticised? Why was there a love scene that basically spelt out how Daphne raped Simon when they were intimate? Yes, you read that correctly.
Between the only engaging factor being Simon and Daphne's budding romance, and underlying dark themes that kick off the entire series for the Bridgertons, you might want to speed read through this book before making your way down to the other seven.
7. Romancing Mister Bridgerton (Book #4, Colin's Story)
Wallflower Penelope Featherington has seemingly given up on love, as the man of her dreams, Colin Bridgerton, has only ever viewed her as a loyal friend.
It's not until the adventurous Colin finally returns to London after travelling for an entire season, do the two discover more about one another, even things that may destroy the entire foundation of their camaraderie thus far.
Among these secret discoveries include a four-book-long reveal of an unknown penman popular among the tonne. Without spoiling too much, I won't whistle the plot down. Through their trials and tribulations, Colin eventually realises that his perfect woman was right in front of him all along, Penelope.
If you've seen the first two seasons of Netflix's Bridgerton, you may often find yourself frustrated at the inconsistent yet tumultuous relationship between Colin Bridgerton and Penelope Featherington. Hold on to your hats, cause their story is just as frustrating in Romancing Mister Bridgerton.
The combination of Colin's anger issues and Penelope's inclination to drastically change her physical appearance for Colin's approval may not resonate with people the way the other six novels do. From certain nods towards physical abuse and an unrelenting Colin that tries to push Penelope away, many wonder if this story was truly one of love, or settling.
Albeit, this romance novel does have many sweet moments, as fans can finally close the chapter on the union of Colin and Penelope. With both characters present in the Netflix series, fans are highly anticipating Colin and Penelope to walk down the aisle together at some point in the future.
6. It's In His Kiss (Book #7, Hyacinth's Story)
It's quite hard to imagine little Hyacinth in the Netflix version of Bridgerton finding a suitor. However, by the time the 7th Bridgerton novel is released, she is at the ripe age of 22.
Starting off with another social season, Hyacinth Bridgerton faces trouble in finding a match, as she believes her outspoken demeanour and intimidating presence may be the reason for such failures in being courted.
Having a close relationship with Lady Danbury, Hyacinth eventually comes into contact with her mischievous grandson, Gareth St. Clair. The two team up after Gareth asks Hyacinth to translate his grandmother's Italian diary, discovering the big secrets hidden away in his family's past, and developing greater feelings for Hyacinth as the book goes along.
This playful and carefree duo eventually find themselves as a perfect match in the end, despite the numerous plot twists and the jewel-searching-journey that happens throughout the book.
Contemplating some serious issues, It's In His Kiss doesn't shy away from embellishing into serious topics: the results of a lack of parental love, broken courtships, and the consequences of breaking serious family rules.
Despite Hyacinth being a grown individual in the telling of this book, there are many aspects of her childlike behaviour that's captivating and endearing.
While this book was definitely cheeky and fun in many aspects, one aspect of the story tore the whole plot down: Gareth's use of physical intimacy to compromise Hyacinth into staying with him. This probably would not go down well in 2022. Nevertheless, there are many other instances to the tale that ensure there is a genuine love between the two.
As Hyacinth is still a young girl in the series, we might have to wait a little while before we see her and Gareth on screen together.
5. On The Way To The Wedding (Book #8, Gregory's Story)
Taking place a few years in the future, 26-year-old Gregory Bridgerton has no clear direction in life, or in finding a partner.
He eventually forms an infatuation with the lovely Hermione Watson, just before he is whisked away by her best friend, Lady Lucinda Abernathy, or Lucy for short. It is not long after, that he develops feelings for Lucy. There's just one problem: she is engaged to be married to another man, Lord Haselby.
We eventually find out that Lucy is betrothed to Haselby as his father holds a secret that could destroy Lucy's entire family. Through his determination and skilled manoeuvre, Gregory manages to break Lucy of these blackmail bonds, and marries her.
While this novel makes a great effort to tell Gregory's love-story with instances of extortion, a daring rescue, and a literal dash down the aisle, Gregory's tale of love ranks 5th for one reason, and one reason only: there were just four other stories more intriguing than his.
In On The Way To The Wedding, we see the youngest Bridgerton boy grow up and become a man before our very eyes. All in all, this book had a satisfactory closing to the entire series of the Bridgerton siblings.
As we won't see Gregory's story play out on the Netflix drama for a long, long, long time, I encourage viewers to read his story to see how the final Bridgerton meets his match.
4. When He Was Wicked (Book #6, Francesca's Story)
Though her absence was notable on screen for the Netflix series, Francesca Bridgerton's story is definitely one of the best books in the lineup.
Beginning with a tragedy, Francesca loses her husband, John Stirling, in a sudden and unpredictable death. His cousin, Michael Stirling, who has secretly been in love with Francesca since before her and John's marriage, now has to assume his late cousin's title as the Earl of Kilmartin.
After spending a few years apart, both grieving John, Francesca and Michael eventually reunite, fall in love, and continue the legacy of the Stirling line.
As one of the more solemn books of the bunch, When He Was Wicked details a story not seen again in the series: love from sorrow.
With heavy topics of discussion such as diseases in 18th century England, brain aneurisms, mourning the death of loved ones, and troubles in conceiving a child, you can't help but root for Francesca's happiness after the innumerable woes she faced since losing John.
No, this is not a book you'll spend moping and distressed over, but it is refreshing to know that not all the Bridgertons have a picture-perfect love story with amazing partners and uncomplicated lives.
With no hint as to which direction Francesca will take in the Netflix series, fans can only hope that her story (if told) in the television series, lives up to the brilliance of the novel.
3. To Sir Phillip, With Love (Book #5, Eloise's Story)
Many years have passed once we enter the 5th book. Eloise Bridgerton, now 28 and content with her spinsterhood, is in correspondence with Sir Phillip Crane, the widowed husband of her fourth cousin.
The two continue exchanging letters until Phillip suggests they meet. Sneaking off during a family soiree, Eloise shows up to Phillip's doorstep unexpectedly, and the worst possible thing happens: they don't seem to get along.
Phillip's hard exterior is met by the fact that he is merely looking for a mother to raise his children, whom, he conveniently left out of his letters.
Such circumstances force the cooky and outspoken Eloise to take on a persona we've never seen before, with her and Phillip finding their way to each other in the end.
While more complicated than the other books in the series, To Sir Phillip, With Love takes Eloise on a journey that brings out character development we've been longing to see. Beyond her usual outspoken mannerisms and sarcastic one-liners, Eloise takes on a more maternal and understanding personality when it comes to Phillip and the children.
Trigger warning for readers that discussions of depression, withdrawal, and anxiety do take place. Despite that, there's no denouncing the framing of these topics which Julia Quinn took. While challenging and tough, this story is an eye-opener to many of the care and effort it takes when aiding those living with mental illness.
With her rambunctious and fervent spirit present in the Netflix series, it will be interesting to see how Eloise's determined and empathetic characteristics play out in her book.
2. An Offer From A Gentleman (Book #3, Benedict's Story)
With no title and an esteemed surname, Benedict Bridgerton is on his conquest to find his future wife. Meanwhile, Sophie Beckett, is reduced to the level of a maid by her step-mother after the passing of her father, Lord Richard Gunningworth.
One night, Sophie manages to sneak away and attend the Bridgerton masquerade ball. After catching Benedict's attention and spending hours with him, she leaves the ball at midnight, never to see him again. Very Cinderella like, indeed.
It is not until years pass, that Benedict discovers her identity, and that she is in fact a maid. Trouble ensues from that point on. How can a Bridgerton marry a maid? Can Sophie be his mistress instead? Will his family accept Sophie as his wife? Does Benedict marry Sophie in the end? Alas, he does!
Ranking second best, this book is the only book of the lot that describes a love between two individuals of different social classes.
Receiving a peek into the life of staff and maids working for the wealthy, Sophie's charisma and overall endearing demeanour pulls the reader into a world within a world. Refreshing and charming, Sophie is undeniably the highlight of An Offer From A Gentleman.
While the Bridgerton men have struggled in the face of strong and secure women, Sophie closely snags the top spot as best heroine of the series. Had it not been for the next woman on our list, second-in-line Benedict Bridgerton would have almost had a chance to be the first.
1. The Viscount Who Loved Me (Book #2, Anthony's Story)
Alas, the top spot goes to the most recent season of the Netflix series.
Anthony Bridgerton is a playboy, and a rascal. Yet, at 29 years old, he believes it's time for him to do the practical thing: get married and breed an heir.
While he thinks that he has found his chance with Edwina Sheffield, the diamond of the season and the most sought after girl in the tonne (town), Anthony has a bigger fish to fry: Edwina's older sister, Kate Sheffield.
Knowing of his reputation, Kate rules Anthony off immediately as a choice for Edwina, especially after overhearing his opinion on men having mistresses being valid and acceptable.
The two constantly argue and get into heated exchanges, but that leads to a spark that eventually foils all of Anthony's plans with Edwina, and moves him to propose to Kate instead.
Be warned, you probably won't be able to put this book down once you pick it up.
Anthony's transformation from prick to devoted husband is almost as amazing as Kate's movement from pompous protector to relaxed beauty. The trope of enemies-to-lovers is endearing when it comes to Anthony and Kate due to their undeniable chemistry, even when they often vex one another.
Bonding through their traumatic experiences of sacrificing their entire futures for their family, dealing with the deaths of their beloved fathers, and placing their siblings' needs before theirs, we finally see this powerful duo put themselves first. Rest assured that the next couple in line to assume the Bridgerton dynasty, keeps love at the centre of their worlds.
Not in the reading mood? Here's a British-styled cafe that'll transport you to the Bridgerton world: