Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series was one of my absolute favorites when I was in high school. But high school wasn’t just a few years ago anymore (it’s creeping up on 10!), and when people discuss their favorite Bridgerton books, I can’t remember them anymore; I just know I love the series!
I’ve been meaning to reread these books for a while, especially when Netflix announced that Shonda Rhimes would be adapting them as a Netflix series, so when I was in the middle of a historical romance binge recently, I decided to finally pick up The Duke and I. I really didn’t intend to reread the whole series right away, but I got sucked in and was halfway through before I knew it!
For those who aren’t familiar, the Bridgerton books are a historical romance series following eight siblings who are named in alphabetical order: Anthony, Benedict, Colin, Daphne, Eloise, Francesca, Gregory, and Hyacinth. They feature some of the best witty banter in the series and a great family dynamic, and are all around just fun, adorable reads.
Rereading my favorites has been…an interesting experience to say the least. I actually can’t remember the last time I read a romance novel published before, say, 2015, and boy has it been an education. I know romance has changed a ton since the days of the bodice rippers and even a lot within the last few years (consent has always been a thing, but it’s a lot more front-and-center now, for example). But dang, I didn’t realize how much it had changed since 2000.
For one thing, there seems to be a lot more attempted rape going on in these books. Also, the heroines are completely ignorant about sex, which I know was historically a staple of the genre and something I was fine with when I originally read these books, but as an adult reading these in 2019, I find it rather irritating. Also, all of the forced marriages! Seriously, they all seem to get caught in the middle of their first kiss (or not even a kiss in the case of Anthony and Kate) and then forced to get married. Again, a trope that I enjoyed when I was in high school, but one that I’m much less impressed with these days.
Setting those issues aside and accepting that these books can’t be perfect for me given their age, I still really enjoyed these. They’re classics for a reason. They’re not all at the same caliber, but the series as a whole is really well done. Seriously, Julia Quinn just writes some of the best banter, and her characters are all so nice. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve got a big range of backstories and issues, but I think they’re all really likable characters. And of course, how can you not get swept up and want to be a part of the Bridgerton family? They’re just so irritating and sarcastic and warm and loving, and it’s a wonderful family to be a part of when reading this series.
Of course, I enjoyed some of them more than others, so enjoy my ranking of the Bridgerton books below!
- Romancing Mister Bridgerton: By far my favorite in the series. It’s especially impressive that this tops my list given the fact that I generally hate unrequited love stories. But this one was just handled so well, and I loved Penelope’s growth, and it really did have the best banter you could ask for.
- The Duke and I: This one is a really close tie with The Viscount Who Loved Me, and should probably win out since Daphne’s attempt to force Simon to impregnate her really bothered me, but overall I just slightly prefer this story. It also has great banter and two characters who don’t even realize they’re falling in love until all of a sudden it just smacks them in the face. So cute.
- The Viscount Who Loved Me: As I said, a close second to The Duke and I. These books just have some of the best banter, and this particular book had a great hate-to-love element.
- It’s in His Kiss: Ok, this is where the books start to drop off a bit for me. I was so looking forward to Hyacinth’s story because she was one of my favorite characters throughout the series, and while I enjoyed it overall (especially Hyacinth’s conversation with her mother about scaring away people she could love), I just didn’t feel like Hyacinth was the same person I knew and loved from the other books. But still a really solid romance! And I loved that Lady Danbury played a bigger role.
- To Sir Phillip with Love: This was really sweet and a good addition to the series, but it just wasn’t to my preference. I prefer some of the funny, less angsty stories.
- When He Was Wicked: This one had way too much angst for me. I found it hard to enjoy how guilty Michael felt for so much of the book over falling in love with his cousin’s wife, and I didn’t feel like we got to enjoy their relationship without the guilt. It had potential even though it’s not my favorite trope, but it wasn’t as well executed as other, similar books I’ve read.
- On the Way to the Wedding: This was always going to be the hardest one for me to get into because we see Gregory so little in the other books. But the whole “just knowing your soulmate when you see them for the first time” thing made me seriously roll my eyes, and Hermione’s engagement to someone else went way too far. This was probably the most lackluster of the series for me.
- An Offer from a Gentleman: By far my least favorite book in the series. I just really disliked how Benedict continued to pressure Sophie to be his mistress even though he knew she was ostracized for being born out of wedlock herself. Someone needed to smack him.
After reading so many historical romances in a row, I really needed to give the genre a break and pick up something else, but I had so much fun while it lasted. This series just caught me off guard and sucked me right in, and it’s been so long since I first read them that it was basically like reading them for the first time again. It’s good to know that their place on my bookshelf is justified, though, and now I can officially join Team Romancing Mister Bridgerton!
Oh, and I want to talk briefly about all of the second epilogues that Quinn has written since these books first came out. I like the idea in theory of revisiting some of my favorites, but the handful of second epilogues that I read didn’t overly impress me. Give them a try for yourself if you’re really interested, but I would personally recommend skipping them. I didn’t particularly care for them, and in the case of On the Way to the Wedding, it was too sad for me and kind of ruined the HEA a bit.
Have you read the Bridgerton books yet? Which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!