In general, books are always better than the movies made based on them. In the case of the recent limited series The Stand, this is most certainly true. In the case of the Netflix series Bridgerton, I’m not so sure. The book by Julia Quinn which is the basis for the first season of the series I think actually pales in comparison to what Shonda Rhimes has done with the series.
Daphne Bridgerton is the fourth child and oldest daughter among the Bridgerton children. She has many friends among the young, eligible men of Regency, England, but no marriage prospects despite it being her third season. Simon Basset, the new Duke of Hastings after his father’s death, is in London to settle his father’s estate. He has just returned from being overseas and every woman with a daughter of marriageable age has an eye on him. Daphne’s oldest brother, Anthony, and Simon attended school together and are great friends.
Daphne concocts a scheme whereby the Duke will accompany her throughout the season. The purpose is to gain more suitors of better quality for her and for the Duke to be left alone. The problem is, the Duke was quite attracted to Daphne upon meeting her, but knowing she was his best friend’s sister, she is taboo. This is especially true in the case of Simon, who has sworn to never marry or sire a child. His desire to possess her for a dalliance cannot be consumed.
However, spending time together in the pretense of a courting, their affection for each other grows. Could it be love? Can the Duke manage to overcome his past and open up enough to receive the love of a good woman?
The main difference between the book and the series is the single-minded attention to the story of Daphne and Simon. Oh yes, the tantalizing tale of the new gossip sheet helmed by the mysterious Lady Whistledown. Other than that, though, much of what was charming in the television show is missing. There’s no oldest brother who loves an Opera singer but can never marry her due to his position. There’s no pining for Colin by the youngest Featherington daughter, Penelope. Colin doesn’t almost run off and marry a girl who is manipulating him. Eloise Bridgerton is not charged by the Queen with uncovering who the notorious Lady Whistledown is.
Much of what made the series fun is missing here. The story is good, but it’s not something I would have looked to read without having seen the series, and I do believe the series was better.
I’ve read many other reviews that rate this with one star for one scene that happens. Once the Duke and Daphne are married (is that really a spoiler? All of those romances will lead to this) Daphne’s naivete about sex is exposed. She truly doesn’t know how children are created. Once she puts it all together and figures out that the Duke is unwilling to have children, not unable, she feels betrayed and their marriage is strained. There is one night when he comes home drunk and as she’s putting him in bed she decides to have relations with him. I think this scene was as much about exploring her own sexuality and her own power in the bedroom as it was about trying to conceive a child. I don’t see it as “rape” as others have stated. And yes, I am a survivor. I just think trying to apply societal values to events of 200 years ago will always lead to misinterpretations of the times as well as misconceptions about people. It’s not one of the reasons I was disappointed in the book after viewing the series.
If you’ve watched the series and you’re looking for the book to be the same, you’ll be disappointed as I was. I’m going to continue on in the series to see if some of the other storylines are picked up in later novels, but I much prefer the Netflix series to this book.
Next book in the series (link): Bridgerton – The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn