The TV show has already accelerated much of Penelope’s story from the books. It took four novels for readers to discover that Pen was the writer behind Lady Whistledown (perhaps her name should have been a clue), while Netflix viewers learned her secret identity at the end of season one. Pen overheard Colin’s tactless declaration in book three, but on TV it was pulled forward to season two. Is all this readying Penelope and Colin to jump ahead as season three’s romantic leads?
‘We’re not necessarily going in order’
On the promotional circuit for season two, Bridgerton mega-producer Shonda Rhimes told Entertainment Tonight, “We’re not necessarily going in order but we are going to be seeing each of the siblings and their stories.” That points to a couple of possibilities for the already commissioned seasons three and four: either they’re going to tell an ensemble story with multiple romantic Bridgerton pairings from this point on, or they’ve decided to switch the book order, perhaps making Penelope and Colin the focus of season three instead of Benedict and new character Sophie Beckett.
If it’s the latter, it’s a smart move. Firstly, because the TV show has dug much more groundwork for Penelope and Colin’s characters than for Benedict’s at this point. Colin’s failed season one engagement to Marina Thompson led to season two scenes fleshing out both her character and that of Sir Philip Crane (who recurs later in the book series). Colin’s travels and deals with the new, scheming Lord Featherington (who was planning to abscond to America with the ton’s fraudulently obtained investments), position him as a considered character with sound morals – exactly who we want for Penelope.
Conversely, Benedict’s emotional character is currently less well developed, and more importantly, in book three An Offer From a Gentlemanhe makes a pretty unlikeable lead.
Book Three’s Problems
An issue with the third Bridgerton book is that the titular ‘offer from a gentleman’ is not so much an offer as straight up blackmail and coercion. In the book, when Benedict attempts to make a woman (whom he thinks is a servant) his mistress, she refuses, and so he more or less abducts her. Benedict tells the woman that he will falsely accuse her of stealing if she does not accompany him to London to be placed in his mother’s household staff. Of course, being Bridgerton, it’s all very steamy and romantic and she’s conflicted and hoarse aware that he’s not acting honorably, but all the same, it makes him hard to admire. Benedict would not be the first Bridgerton whose actions are more than questionable. Many were dismayed to see the book scene in which Daphne forces husband Simon into sex against his consent – yes, there’s a word for that – made it into season one unchanged.
That leads us to another problem with adapting book three for the frivolously beautified world of Bridgerton – a balm of froofy production design and sumptuous costumery – An Offer From a Gentleman goes to a very nasty place. It begins as a Cinderella story, complete with wicked step-mother, two ‘ugly’ sisters (one much uglier on the inside than the other) and a ball where a poor servant in a masked disguise meets her ‘Prince Charming’. So far, so fairy tale.