(First of all, look at this beautiful work of art that bechedor79 on DeviantArt made. LOOK AT IT.)
If you haven’t heard of Julia Quinn, you’re probably new to romance or at least new to historical romance. Or you’re a dabbler. If either of those things apply to you, welcome and please get yourself to your local library, pull up your Kindle, run or fly to The Ripped Bodice, or wherever books are sold nearest you because these books are must reads.
For me, discovering Julia Quinn’s The Bridgerton Series was one of those fortuitous events that only happened because Overdrive exists, so thank God for public libraries. Seriously. Keep funding public libraries.
Anyway, Julia Quinn is a master romance novelist/storyteller and in her FAQs she says that she would most want to be Lady Danbury from this series, which is fabulous because she chose a SECONDARY character. Do you know why this excites me so? It’s because every character in her novels is fully formed. Characters don’t fall flat. She could sell me on reading a book about any of them (which is probably why The Smythe-Smith Quartet exists — major heart eyes emoji on that series too). Therefore, since I’m absolutely in love with all eight of the Bridgertons, I decided that for the sake of posterity, I needed a list definitively ranking them. If you have opinions, I definitely want to see them in the comments!
If you haven’t read them, I’m going to provide you with a quick overall summary here because the world building (not a phrase you frequently see used with a romance series that isn’t fantasy, but YOU SHOULD). Violet and Edmund Bridgerton married and had seven children before Edmund died suddenly of a bee sting while Violet was pregnant with their eighth child. The children are very helpfully named alphabetically, Anthony (now the Viscount), Benedict, Collin, Daphne, Eloise, Francesca, George, and Hyacinth. Other than my complete inability to say Hyacinth, I’m rather in love with this practice. The family is very close and the sibling dynamic throughout the series is truly excellent and one of my favorite parts. Now, TO THE LIST!
1. Romancing Mister Bridgerton (Book Four)
Hi, my name is Jenica and I’m madly in love with a fictional character named Collin Bridgerton.
Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let me explain to you why Collin is the single greatest person to have ever… well, not lived. Collin has man angst, but I wouldn’t describe him as broody. Collin is a fabulous older brother, younger brother, son, and just all around good guy. His appearance in Just Like Heaven was A++. I just adore him.
Now, Penelope. Penelope and Eloise are best friends and Penelope is pretty much a part of the Bridgerton family. She’s also rather inconveniently been in love with Collin for forever. Unfortunately for her, Collin once blurted out something along the lines of, “I’ll never marry Penelope” on the front steps of Bridgerton House so… That put a bit of a damper on things, you see. Also, Penelope has a secret.
Additionally, this book solves a mystery built upon over the first four books. It has my catnip of being in love with your best friend’s older brother. And Collin. Just… Collin. So yes, this book is my absolute favorite.
2. When He Was Wicked (Book 6)
Francesca and Michael. Oh, man, y’all. This book delivers. It is angsty and the HEA is hard fought and that makes it all the sweeter.
At the beginning of this book Francesca is married to John, Michael’s much beloved cousin. Not to spoil too much, but John dies tragically, leaving Michael as the heir. So Michael flees to India and Francesca tries to recover. Eventually, Michael returns and keeps trying to tell himself that he can’t have Francesca. He’s already taken over too much of John’s life. But y’all… He can have Francesca. And it is so sweet.
Also, reading the epilogue to this one should be mandatory. I have never been so happy as when I discovered the epilogue.
3. It’s in His Kiss (Book 7)
I may not be able to pronounce Hyacinth’s name, but she’s one of my favorite heroines in this series. I know that probably seems odd then that this book is third, but When He Was Wicked made me cry so it gets bonus points and Collin is well… Collin.
Hyacinth speaks her mind. Probably too much considering this is Regency England, but that’s what I (and Lady Danbury) love about her. It’s also part of what draws Gareth St. Clair to her. Now, Gareth (like Simon from The Duke and I) has an incredibly strained relationship with his father that creates quite a bit of internal conflict. Perhaps most importantly though, this book features a Smythe-Smith Quartet and y’all… Y’ALL. Very important. Very much adore.
If we’re being totally honest, one of the things I love most about this book is that there’s a mini-mystery sort of thing happening and Lady Danbury features heavily. There’s just something about Lady Danbury that you just can’t help but adore, so, yes. Love this book.
4. On the Way to the Wedding (Book 8)
Listen, Gregory is an idiot. Or perhaps people who don’t believe in love at first sight should steer clear of romance novels, but mostly Gregory is an idiot. And you know what makes this book so great? Lucy Abernathy neatly shows Gregory that he’s an idiot who didn’t know what love was and she does it without even trying.
This book also conveniently features appearances from most of our favorite characters (hi, Kate!) and that’s always an exciting time. Plus, there’s some drama and it’s wonderful.
5. The Viscount and I (Book 2)
Speaking of Kate, in this book, she and Anthony fall in love and it helpfully features a game of Pall Mall with a special appearance by Daphne, Simon, and Collin! You may not be able to tell, but special appearances by Collin are my favorite.
I love Kate. And I love Anthony. I mean, he drives me a little crazy at the beginning of the book because like… Dude. Your parents were madly in love with one another and I feel like your takeaway should not be avoid love at all costs because PAIN. But I get it. And actually, it’s really fabulous because mental health representation and all that. Unfortunately, when you’re like, hey, dude, stop wanting to marry your future wife’s sister, it can be annoying.
But Kate suffers from debilitating panic attacks when it storms and watching Anthony crawl under a desk to hold her and whisper that it was okay and that he was there? Yeah, there’s nothing better than that. The first time I had a panic attack, my dad kept telling me to stop crying and I was pretty sure I was dying because I couldn’t breathe. Panic attacks are not fun. Having a sexy man hold you while it’s happening sounds like a pleasant way to come back to your senses though.
I might also love Anthony and Kate because of all that they become. I love that you get to watch them throughout the rest of the series.
6. An Offer From a Gentleman (Book 3)
I was really torn about whether to put Benedict or Daphne sixth because I think I like them about equally, but the portrayal of Violet Bridgerton in each swayed me.
Violet Bridgerton annoyed me so immensely in The Duke and I, which was baffling to me because she’s such a three dimensional character in later books and wasn’t just a pushy, match-making mama. But Violet shines in An Offer From a Gentleman and so that is why this book is sixth on my list rather than seventh.
This book, which you can probably tell from the cover, is very loosely a Cinderella retelling. I say very loosely because there’s no slipper left when Sophie sneaks off to the ball and meets Benedict, but the shoes she wore do lead to her evil step-monster realizing Sophie snuck out of the ball.
The story really begins though with Sophie being rescued from some rather terrible men by the extremely dashing Benedict, who does not recognize Sophie. Sophie, obviously, recognizes him though. Anyway, Benedict wants Sophie to be his mistress and Sophie is SUPER not having that. It was partially because of this that I really adored Sophie.
Ultimately, a very good book, but I struggled a bit with the whole demanding she be his mistress thing because, frankly, no man is worth a loss of dignity and I think the offer might be unforgivable to me. That said, he realizes that he’s an idiot so all is well that ends well.
7. The Duke and I (Book 1)
As I said above, Violet Bridgerton comes across as a little one-dimensional in this book, which bothered me immensely, but likely wouldn’t have if I’d read the series in the proper order. In fact, if I’d read the series in the proper order, it’s quite possible this would be my favorite one (okay, jk, Collin) because I adore Simon and also FAKE DATING FOR THE WIN.
There is no better trope to me than fake dating. There just isn’t. I’m 100% all for fake dating. Man angst can be annoying, but on Simon felt… Real, somehow, in a way that it often doesn’t. I understand not being over events from your childhood, especially if the trauma came from your parent.
Ultimately though, this book couldn’t overcome my love of the above to move up this list. Sorry, Daph.
8. To Sir Philip, With Love (Book 5)
Funnily enough, I think this is actually the first Bridgerton book I read. I really ought to re-read it because it features a shooting scene with Anthony, Benedict, Collin, and Eloise, which sounds like something I would appreciate much more now than I did then.
Unfortunately, something about this book didn’t quite ring true for me. I’m still not sure what and I still enjoyed it, but it just wasn’t my favorite of the lot.
And we’re done! Woo! This is a looong entry. Let me know in the comments if you’ve read these and what your order would be.