Eloise’s ‘Bridgerton’ Book Is Bad. Here’s How the Show Should Pivot

[Editor’s note: This story contains spoilers for the end of Season 3 of Netflix’s “Bridgerton” as well as the Bridgerton book “To Sir Phillip, with Love.”]

At the end of Season 3 of Netflix’s “Bridgerton,” Eloise (Claudia Jessie) looks to be set for a great adventure. Eloise’s sister Francesca (Hannah Dodd) and her new husband John (Victor Alli) are to depart for the relative peace and quiet of Scotland, and Eloise — restless after the marriage of her best friend Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) to Eloise’s brother Colin (Luke Newton) — asks to go with them, ready for a major change of pace and location. (One only gets so many opportunities to broaden one’s social circle when one is a member of London’s ton, after all.)

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It’s a refreshing set up for the future, and while textual hints suggest Season 4 will be at least partially centered on Benedict Bridgerton’s (Luke Thompson) story, fans of course will expect to see more of Eloise. Let’s hope it’s a new adventure in Scotland the show writers entirely make up, because I’m here to tell you that if “Bridgerton” follows her book arc, fans are going to be very disappointed.

The Julia Quinn-written Bridgerton book centered on Eloise — “To Sir Phillip, with Love,” the fifth in the series — is a weird mess. Sir Phillip Crane is married to Eloise’s cousin, Marina. (They both briefly appear in the first season of the show, though on the show, Marina is a Featherington cousin.) Marina is MASSIVELY DEPRESSED and that bums Sir Phillip out. They have two children, and neither Phillip nor Marina are much interested in being around them. One day, Marina tries to kill herself by walking into the ocean, Phillip saves her, but she catches an illness and dies a few days later anyway.

Phillip is relieved, as it’s often repeated that they didn’t have sex in years because Marina was simply too sad. The one recent time they did, Phillip was too rough with her trying to get her to “respond” to anything happening. This makes Phillip sad!

Yikes! Can you imagine any of this playing on TV?! This man is suppose to be a dreamboat! This is all in the prologue. Historically accurate for the time or not, we’re going to need a refresh.

Bridgerton. (L to R) Claudia Jessie as Eloise Bridgerton, Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton in episode 303 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024
TFW you NEED an adventure badLIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX

Things don’t improve from there: Phillip needs a new wife to raise his children (this is mentioned several times), so he responds to a condolence letter from Marina’s cousin, Eloise. They write back and forth and soon Phillip invites her to visit him in Gloucestershire to see if they would suit for marriage. Eloise — a lonely spinster of 28 who is very bummed about losing her best friend to marriage — sneaks away in the dead of night to go on this little adventure. He’s gruff and emotionally constipated; Eloise is bossy and knows how to win a prank war with his children. The book is clearly going for a “Sound of Music”/Captain Von Trapp situation, but it doesn’t work.

Unlike some of the other “Bridgerton” books, Book Eloise feels wildly different than the goofier version of the character Claudia Jessie winningly plays on screen, and it would be a shame to lose that in the translation. In the book, she’s beholden to a series of events happening to her — from Anthony forcing her to marry Phillip to Phillip instructing her on everything from sex to plant life — which, while obviously based in Regency reality, isn’t much fun to watch.

Other things that happen, in no particular order: Benedict Bridgerton’s kid gets deathly ill, a nanny beats Phillip’s kids with books, Phillip has trauma flashbacks about his own abusive childhood, Phillip is sad about war and death, Eloise shoots a gun better than any of her brothers. (OK, this part ruled.)

Happily, there is a better way. Netflix already picks and chooses what stuff to refresh and change for the show (aka adding in a bunch of threesomes for The Artist Benedict). In this case, they shouldn’t be afraid to scrap large parts of this storyline, and either give Eloise a brand new Scottish adventure with a hunk, bring back fan-favorite newspaper man Theo, or — if committed to Sir Phillip — feel empowered to seriously rewrite the character into a more palatable romantic adventure.

It feels likely that if they do bring this storyline back they’ll recast, as they did with Francesca. But I encourage the show to go even further and really shake this plot up, as they seem poised to do with future Francesca love Michael — introduced as Michaela in the final moments of Season 3.

“Bridgerton” is at its best when it melds the fantasy of historical romance with something new, whether that be the anachronistic music, color-blind casting, or a more feminist bent of love. For a beloved character like Eloise, her “spinster love” storyline is an opportunity to play with that trope and show, in ways the book wasn’t quite capable of, something sexier than just settling.

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