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How ‘Bridgerton’ Season 3 Compares to Julia Quinn’s ‘Romancing Mister Bridgerton’ Book

How Is Bridgerton Season 3 Different From Novel Inspiration
Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in ‘Bridgerton.’ Liam Daniel/Netflix

Colin Bridgerton and Penelope Featherington have a sweeping friends-to-lovers romance in Bridgerton season 3 — just like they do in the book.

This post has spoilers for Bridgerton season 3, part 1.

Colin and Penelope’s onscreen journey was adapted from Julia Quinn’s Romancing Mister Bridgerton, the fourth book in her Regency romance series about the eight Bridgerton siblings. (The duo have been affectionately nicknamed Polin by fans.)

“Penelope Featherington has secretly adored her best friend’s brother for … well, it feels like forever,” a book summary reads. “After half a lifetime of watching Colin Bridgerton from afar, she thinks she knows everything about him until she stumbles across his deepest secret … and fears she doesn’t know him at all.”

The summary adds, “Colin Bridgerton is tired of being thought nothing but an empty-headed charmer, tired of the neverending sameness of his life, and, most of all, tired of everyone’s preoccupation with the notorious gossip columnist Lady Whistledown, who can’t seem to publish an edition without mentioning him in the first paragraph. But when Colin returns to London from a trip abroad, he discovers nothing in his life is quite the same — especially Penelope Featherington! The girl who was always simply … there is suddenly the girl haunting his dreams.”

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Bridgerton season 3 premiered Thursday, May 16, on Netflix — with several similarities and differences to Quinn’s novel.

“I do believe there are a lot of really special moments for the hardcore fans. I hope they feel seen and happy,” Nicola Coughlan, who plays Penelope, told Town & Country earlier this month, noting it was a “tricky balancing act” to feature many of the book’s iconic moments with new additions befitting the characters.

Keep scrolling for a comprehensive breakdown of how Bridgerton season 3 compares to its literary inspiration:

The Time Frame

First off, Romancing Mister Bridgerton takes place 10 years after Benedict’s book, An Offer From a Gentleman. In book canon, Benedict falls in love with eventual wife Sophie Beckett shortly after siblings Daphne and Anthony’s respective marriages to Simon Basset and Kate Sheffield (Sharma on the show). When Romancing Mister Bridgerton picks up, both Colin and Penelope are a decade older. Penelope, still secretly authoring Lady Whistledown columns, has also come to terms with the idea of being a spinster.

The show takes place shortly after season 2, meaning Penelope isn’t quite at the age of spinsterhood after just three seasons on the marriage mart. Additionally, she is actively trying to find a husband in season 3, which proves that this Pen is not OK with being a lifelong bachelorette.

Meet the [Extended] Featheringtons

How Is Bridgerton Season 3 Different From Novel Inspiration
James Phoon as Harry Dankworth, Bessie Carter as Prudence Featherington, Harriet Cains as Philipa Featherington, Lorn Macdonald as Albion Finch in ‘Bridgerton.’ Liam Daniel/Netflix

With Penelope taking the lead this season, that means we get to see more of her family. Just like the book, the show has confirmed that her sisters Phillipa (Harriet Cains) and Prudence (Bessie Carter) are both married but still return home for frequent family meetings. One Featherington sister, however, is notably absent: Felicity. As mentioned in the book, Felicity is the youngest of the bunch and is supposed to be around the same age as Hyacinth Bridgerton. She has not, and still does not, appear in the show at all.

All Eyes Are on Cressida

How Is Bridgerton Season 3 Different From Novel Inspiration
Laurence Cendrowicz/Netflix

Cressida Cowper (Jessica Madsen) has a more central role in season 3 as she becomes buddy-buddy with Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie), also a new development. Amid her friendship with Eloise, Cressida takes issue with Penelope. The bullying is consistent across the book and show, but the backstory for it is new.

In Romancing Mister Bridgerton, the heightened rivalry is primarily over Lady Whistledown. On the show, it is over new suitor Lord Debling (Sam Phillips), as both Pen and Cressida are husband-hunting among the ton. In the book, Cressida is not single and is instead married to Lord Twombley.

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Penelope’s Glow-Up

How Is Bridgerton Season 3 Different From Novel Inspiration
Kathryn Drysdale as Genevieve Delacroix, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in ‘Bridgerton.’ Liam Daniel/Netflix

This is so accurate! Pen decided to shed the green and yellow frocks for fabrics of her own choosing, which is how Romancing Mister Bridgerton described her in the early chapters. Penelope specifically picking blue tones is also right on the money.

A Love Triangle

The concept of Penelope having a suitor (hello and welcome to the ton, Lord Debling) is entirely new to the show. In Romancing Mister Bridgerton, Colin didn’t have to compete for Pen’s attention, nor did she have to for Debling’s against the other single ladies in London. Plus, in the book, Colin (Luke Newton) did not tutor Penelope in charm to help her land a husband, primarily because she wasn’t looking for one.

Colin’s Time to Shine

Much of Colin’s journey in Romancing Mister Bridgerton — from his rakish behavior to his writing ambitions and first kiss with Penelope — is spot-on in season 3.

Let’s Talk About Benedict

How Is Bridgerton Season 3 Different From Novel Inspiration
Luke Thompson as Benedict Bridgerton in ‘Bridgerton.’ Liam Daniel/Netflix

For all the Benophie stans out there, no, there’s no sweeping love story just yet onscreen. In fact, Benedict (Luke Thompson) point-blank says that he’s not ready to court a lady in the new episodes. Of course, by Romancing Mister Bridgerton, Benedict is already a successful artist and lives in the countryside with wife Sophie to raise their sons. None of that has come to pass in season 3.

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We Have an Earl

With season 3 serving as the society debut for Francesca (Hannah Dodd), that means we get to meet her eventual first husband, John Stirling (Victor Alli). John is still the Earl of Kilmartin as he is in her book, When He Was Wicked. However, he doesn’t have a Scottish accent, which is perplexing to Us since Kilmartin is in Scotland. After the wedding, per When He Was Wicked, Francesca will live with him in his ancestral home.

It’s Getting Steamy in the Ton

How Is Bridgerton Season 3 Different From Novel Inspiration
Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in ‘Bridgerton.’ Liam Daniel/Netflix

Most of Colin and Penelope’s intimate scenes are ripped from the page, but their carriage makeout comes amidst a slightly different circumstance. In the book, they are in Colin’s vehicle after he finds out that she is Lady Whistledown. Onscreen, it is in the Featheringtons’ carriage on the way home from a ball when he’s still in the dark about her writing pursuits. The integrity (and specific actions) of the scene remains, so don’t fret, gentle readers.

After the carriage scene, Colin still proposes. In the book, their engagement comes after the Whistledown reveal — not before it.

A Happy Polin Engagement

In the fifth episode, Colin and Penelope immediately go from the carriage into Bridgerton House. In Romancing Mister Bridgerton, the vehicle dropped them off at the Featherington estate leading to a hilarious exchange where Colin tells Penelope’s mother of his betrothel. Colin only refers Pen as “your daughter,” leading Lady Portia Featherington to mistakenly think he wants to marry Felicity in front of the entire family. As mentioned above, there is no Felicity in the show.

For a touch of similarity, Colin does proclaim his intentions in front of Portia but at a later date.

Bring on the Romance

For devoted book readers, Colin and Penelope’s mirror scene is nearly identical on the screen. Then, by the time they reach the chaise lounge to take things further, Pen’s “tell me what to do” dialogue is also quite accurate.

Taking Down Whistledown

Yes, the book also features characters trying to take down the gossip maven. While it’s the queen in season 3, the crusade is led by Lady Danbury in Romancing Mister Bridgerton. Cressida’s part in it all (pretending to take credit) is the same.

While the Bridgertons (Colin in the book, Eloise on the show) still try to convince Pen to retire her nom de plume, she’s not ready. It is also the same when Penelope proclaims it would break her heart for Cressida to take the credit for her life’s work.

Colin also finds out about Whistledown when he follows Penelope to the printer in both the book and the show.

A Change in Timing

While Colin discovers Pen’s secret outside the printing shop, it takes place before they get engaged in the book. The surprise reveal on the page actually occurs before Colin and Penelope hop into the carriage. Thus, Penelope worrying whether Colin will call off the wedding is obsolete since he proposed after he already knew the truth.

A New Arrival

The season 3 finale introduces Michaela Stirling (Masali Baduza), who is the cousin of John. While there is no Michaela in Quinn’s sixth book, When He Was Wicked, John does have a cousin named Michael. The second Earl of Kilmartin is Francesca’s book love interest. (John died two years after marrying Francesca from an aneurysm.)

“I caution you. Every sordid detail John has spoken about me is a lie. The truth is far worse,” Michaela told Francesca, who subsequently appeared flustered.

Bringing in ‘An Offer From a Gentleman’

At the end of season 3, Eloise revealed her plans to leave London for the Scottish Highlands, joining Francesca and John. As Eloise told Benedict of her travel intentions, she mentioned she wouldn’t be gone for good.

“Do you think Mama would ever let me miss her masquerade ball?” Eloise told Benedict.

In An Offer From a Gentleman, Julia Quinn’s third novel in her Bridgerton series, Benedict first meets his eventual wife, Sophie Beckett, at the masquerade party. While Benedict doesn’t get Sophie’s name or see what she looks like under the mask, he spends most of the book trying to find her again.

Bridgerton season 3 is currently streaming on Netflix.

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