Francesca’s ‘Bridgerton’ Book Is Sexiest of All — and the TV Show’s Big Changes Provide a Massive Opportunity for More

[Editor’s note: The following article contains spoilers for the end of Season 3 of “Bridgerton,” as well as for the Francesca Bridgerton book “When He Was Wicked.”]

In the final moments of “Bridgerton” Season 3, Francesca Bridgerton (Hannah Dodd) is set to depart for Scotland with new husband John (Victor Alli) after enjoying a quiet romance during the “Polin” season. Francesca was reintroduced to the Bridgerton clan this past season, and a big plot point was how different she is from her siblings — much more reserved and shy. It makes sense then that the character would relish a quiet estate in the country, rather than continue in the hustle and bustle of London.

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Just before Francesca and John are set to depart to their new home, however, John introduces Francesca and Eloise (Claudia Jessie) to his cousin Michaela (Masali Baduza), whom viewers see Francesca has an instant spark with.

Book readers’ ears likely perked up, because in Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton book about Francesca, “When He Was Wicked,” John has a cousin, Michael, who has secretly been in love with Francesca since he first met her. In the novel, after arriving in Scotland, Francesca, John, and Michael often all hang out together. (Unfortunately, it’s a not a “Challengers” situation.) Then, after being married two years, John dies suddenly one night — sad, but this all happens quickly in the book.

Francesca soon learns she is pregnant, though she subsequently miscarries. Michael becomes the new earl, and runs away from Scotland to India because he can’t bear to be around Francesca when he can’t openly love her. Smash cut to four years later, Francesca has grieved and now desperately wants a baby, which means entering the London season and finding husband No. 2. Michael is also back, and also on the marriage mart.

Would you believe these two continue to circle each other for half the book, both pining for each other but both not wanting to betray John’s memory? It’s all very tragic and weepy and repressed, which honestly makes it one of the better “Bridgerton” novels. Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton) is especially charming in this installment, as a delighted keen observer who instantly sees where all this mutual lust is heading. The other crucial thing to note, and I’m just spreading information here, is that because Francesca is a widow as opposed to a maiden, propriety rules are relaxed a bit. Suffice it to say, lots of sex ultimately happens before they get to their very happily ever after together. It is a bodice-ripper, after all (this time with plenty of literal bodice-ripping).

Bridgerton. (L to R) Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton, Victor Alli as John Stirling, Masali Baduza as Michaela in episode 308 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024
Meet Michaela on ‘Bridgerton’LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX

Obviously the introduction of Michaela on the show suggests that they will be tweaking this plot for Francesca’s still-to-come season (Benedict’s story is likely Season 4), and it will become a tale of second chances and also queer awakening. On June 25, author Quinn weighed in on the growing brouhaha about the potential new plot, a change she says she fully supports.

“The first time I read ‘When He Was Wicked’ I really related to it as a queer woman,” current showrunner Jess Brownell told Vanity Fair. “Her story is in some ways about feeling different. In Julia Quinn’s book, it really has more to do with her being introverted. But for many of us in the queer community, that sense of feeling different from a young age is part of our stories. So I felt like there was already thematic richness in her book to mine for her story.”

The show already picks and chooses what plots and character details to bring to the foreground, so while this is a more clear-cut example of a change, it’s far from the only one in the Netflix smash’s quest to be a more inclusive love story and improve upon the books.

With an existing blueprint of a steamy novel that focuses on stepping outside of your shell, taking risks, and the joys of oral sex(!), Netflix has an exciting opportunity to tell a tale of forbidden love, as well as put a new spin on what fans can imagine when it comes to historical romance.

It’ll likely be worth the wait.

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