So, I know I’m super late to reading all of the Bridgerton books but, in my defense, I have been very busy. I did watch the show’s first season last year, and for me it was a solid B effort. I decided to read all of them before the new season comes out, because have been seeing a lot of anticipation for Anthony and Kate, and so that I can get all of the jokes on Twitter. While the reading experience of each books was enjoyable, in my opinion the quality varies wildly from book to book, so I decided to rank them. The first ranking will be by how good I thought it was, and there will be a secondary rating for utter ridiculousness, a phrase which here means, “anything that strains the credulity of even the most generous reader.” That being said, I did very much like reading these books, they’re fun, if different than my usual, and if you’re a big fan, I do not begrudge you. I am not trying to yuck anyone’s yum!
1. When He Was Wicked (Book 6, Francesca)
There are a lot of reasons this one is my favorite, but I love Francesca and her independence possibly the most. She really lives life as she wishes, and she doesn’t take shit from anyone. I also get a bit sick of “virginal debutante” books, so it was a nice change of pace. I am always skeptical of insta-love, but it works here really well, and I love Michael’s pining. I also just adore Colin in this book, good show to him. My only big hang up is the infertility storyline, which I didn’t love. If she was going to be infertile, then let her be, and find peace with it, or adopt children. I kind of hate when a couple is despairing over childlessness and it’s magically solved- this is a real-life problem that many people never get past. Also, producing a child every year is not normal, which is what the other Bridgerton couples do. Just my one thing with this book, but it’s still my favorite. This book is only a one out of ten on the silliness scale.
2. The Viscount Who Loved Me (Book 2, Anthony)
There is a lot of what I like to call “Bridgerton Male Nonsense” in the books with leading Bridgerton men, because it seems to me that very few of them have any sense at all. Anthony is far from my favorite, but I loved this book. I love enemies to lovers, and Kate is an excellent foil to Anthony. I love their verbal sparring, and the pall mall game lives up to expectations. I feel like the sense of comradery and sibling rivalry really comes across in this one, while in the first book it was still developing. Plus, I love a good backstory, and we get a lot more about early life in the Bridgerton household from Anthony. Obviously, this book scores and ten out of ten on the silliness scale. BEES, for the love of god.
3. Romancing Mister Bridgerton (Book 4, Colin)
I simply adore this couple, partially because I think the Featheringtons are so fun in the books! I think there’s a real missed opportunity to have them be pesky but well-meaning people in the show. I dislike villainizing people for the sake of conflict, it suits the tone better for the family to just be vapid and a little overbearing. Penelope has a similar role in her family in this book, she’s ignored at best and treated as a homely spinster at worst, and her mother frequently delegates tasks to her. However, in the books, Penelope loves her mother and sisters, despite not having much in common, and there is a fourth Featherington, Felicity, whom Penelope is close to. I just loved Colin angrily telling her family that they undervalue Penelope, we love a man who demands respect for his lady. I did not like the conflict about her writing as Lady Whistledown, Colin was heavy-handed and made his own bed on that one. I also liked the revelation of her identity, though I think it could have remained a secret and I wouldn’t have minded. I just wasn’t a fan of their communication breaking down over Colin’s jealousy- it seemed childish and doesn’t really fit their relationship, in my opinion. This is only a three out of ten on the silliness scale.
4. On the Way to the Wedding (Book 8, Gregory)
Gregory may be the only sensible Bridgerton man- possibly because he is closer in age to his sisters, who are as a whole more sane than the men. I love Gregory, he’s a sweetheart and I find all of his actions understandable and within reason. I feel like the book is pretty dark, as compared with the others in the series. Lucy’s uncle is an outright villain, and I liked the twist toward the end. I guess the main issue I had with this book is the complete shift mid-plot from light farce to something much heavier. The premise starts out with your standard love quadrangle, but the tonal shift is abrupt. I loved Lucy, but I just hated, hated both Richard, her brother, and Hermione, her supposed best friend. Neither person appeared to have a single lick of sense between them, and if they really cared about Lucy, they would have been more aware of the situation she was in before it got really bad. Richard also could have tried to help Lucy earlier, given that he has reached his majority, and he’s a shitty brother for letting their uncle just walk all over her. In terms of silliness, I would rate this book a strong five.
5. It’s in His Kiss (Book 7, Hyacinth)
So, I have found Hyacinth very annoying in past books, but I love her in this one. She and Gareth have great chemistry, and I love their flirting and banter. I didn’t like the lying on Gareth’s part, once again, trauma doesn’t excuse bad behavior! He compromises her in order to trap her into marriage, and his motives don’t really matter, that’s just a shitty thing to do. I do enjoy their love story, and I like both protagonists, but I think Gareth should have had to do more to earn forgiveness and prove he could be trusted again. I also love the mystery of the diary, a treasure hunt is always fun, and family issues are at the heart of most Bridgerton books. All in all, this one was middling for me, but I would say Hyacinth is vying for my favorite Bridgerton sibling. I would say this rates a two on silliness.
6. To Sir Philip, With Love (Book 5, Eloise)
I enjoyed their chemistry, and I love a good falling in love by correspondence, but this book barely breaks top five for me. Eloise is rather enjoyable, but Sir Philip is fairly dense despite being a man of science, and I don’t love that his emotional damage becomes Eloise’s problem. I also don’t really like Marina just existing as a plot device, even her children seem to hate her for existing. Not exactly banner representation of depression, and she wasn’t allowed a single redeeming quality either. Also, we once again have Bridgerton men bulldozing anyone in their path, which while charming at times, is annoying as well. Eloise could have easily avoided the problems she faced in this story by enlisting her mother’s help- Violet would have happily engaged in subterfuge against her sons if it would lead Eloise to the aisle. This book rates a five out of ten for silliness, given that both of the main characters make idiots out of themselves.
7. The Duke and I (Book 1, Daphne)
This one is just kind of okay? It’s definitely better in some ways than the show’s adaptation, though I could have done without marital rape, just as a personal choice. Daphne does kind of come across as “not like other girls” which is the worst, but she’s a lot better than in the show, and does appear to have a personality. I liked Simon well enough. This is only a two out of ten on the silliness scale, because this one is fairly straightforward all things considered.
8. An Offer From a Gentleman (Book 3, Benedict)
I don’t really care for this one for the most part- I like Sophie well enough, but Benedict makes an ass out of himself for almost four hundred consecutive pages, and he absolutely doesn’t deserve Sophie. I don’t think their instant love for each other really works, and there are way too many coincidences in this book. Sophie’s step-mother is also far too cartoonishly villainous, and it really is too melodramatic of a story. By far the worst parts are when Benedict coerces Sophie into making decisions and takes advantage of her, with no intention of doing right by her. Benedict is a second son, and while the Bridgertons are scrutinized, they are well-liked, and there is literally nothing to stop him from living a quiet, country existence with her as his wife. His family is loving and supportive, and Benedict is just a little shit for the entire story until his mother gives him a kick in the right direction. I would also rate it an eight out of ten on the silliness scale, if only for the goddamn jail scene.
I enjoyed reading the series, though I doubt I’ll ever reread any of them, with the possible exception of my top three. As historical romance go, they are fairly ridiculous, but fun nonetheless. I don’t think I’m going to bother with any further books by Julia Quinn, though, I think I’ve hit my limit!