Netflix’s romantic drama Bridgerton returned for a second season this month, much to the delight of viewers worldwide. Based on the bestselling series by Julia Quinn, the Shondaland production proved to be a surprise hit over the holiday season of 2020, introducing legions of newbies to the delicious realm of Regency romances. The eponymous Bridgerton clan, a family of eight siblings navigating the cutthroat world of eligible bachelors and society scandal, proved to be exactly what audiences needed during the height of the COVID-19 lockdown. Season two offers up a whole lot more drama, with eldest sibling Anthony, the head of the clan, finding his match in the form of strong-headed newcomer Kate Sharma. While this season proved to be a slower burn than the red-hot passions offered by Daphne and the Duke of Hastings in the first season, Bridgerton continues to prove that it’s a show in it for the long haul.
Of course, we still have to wait quite a while between seasons to get our fix of Bridgerton goodness. If you’re in the need for something else to watch to stave off the cravings, there are many excellent options available for the romantic in waiting.
Jane Austen never finished writing Sanditon, a novel that was published incomplete after her death. Since then, many writers have taken up the task of offering the story a conclusion but no continuation has been as addictive as the ITV/PBS adaptation. Adapted by Andrew Davies, who wrote the iconic Pride and Prejudice adaptation starring a wet Colin Firth, this take on Sanditon used the unfinished book for the first episode then went on its own route. Our heroine Charlotte Heywood finds herself in the seaside resort of the title and must navigate the tight-knit community populated by scheming suitors, ambitious social climbers, and ever-so-romantic men. Some critics decried Sanditon for not being very Austen-esque in its more explicit depictions of sex, but the show’s unique approach to a well-worn genre is undoubtedly enticing.
If you appreciated how Bridgerton balanced deft social commentary with shameless shots of our romantic hero with his shirt off, then Poldark is right up your alley. Based on the novels by Winston Graham, the BBC’s 2015 adaptation (broadcast on PBS in America) follows Captain Ross Vennor Poldark (played by Aidan Turner) as he returns to his Cornwall home after fighting in the American War of Independence. His dreams of a peaceful life are shattered when he discovers that his father has died, the family estate is in smothering debt, and his childhood sweetheart Elizabeth is engaged to his cousin Francis. A romance blossoms between him and his scullery maid Demelza and the show offers a sweeping epic of love, family, and war that is equal parts romantic and heart-wrenching.
Of course we can’t talk about Bridgerton without discussing Outlander, the beloved Starz series that laid the groundwork for Quinn’s books to receive a lavish adaptation. Diana Gabaldon’s sprawling saga of time travel and the unbreakable love between Highland warrior Jamie Fraser and 1940s nurse Claire Randall has gripped audiences for six seasons and it’s not hard to see why. The combination of unflinching (and frequently disturbing) historical realism, all-consuming romance, and immersive visuals make for endlessly addictive viewing. For many romance fans, it was Outlander that proved the genre’s worth for the small screen. Seeing source material oft-dismissed as “trashy” receive such a detailed, well-written, and wholeheartedly earnest treatment from a major network pushed open the doors for future romance novels to be optioned, including Bridgerton!
For more on Outlander, check out the cast discussing the addiction and seduction of Season 6, and Sam Heughan, Caitríona Balfe, Sophie Skelton and Richard Rankin’s breakdown of the Season 6 premiere!
A Discovery of Witches
Perhaps you’d like your thrilling romance to have a paranormal edge. Enter Diana and Matthew. Billed by publishers as Twilight for adults, Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy was adapted into the Sky series A Discovery of Witches. Diana Bishop, an American scholar studying at the University of Oxford, is forced to deal with her witch powers after discovering a bewitched manuscript. She is offered help by a mysterious geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont, despite a centuries’ long battle between witches and vampires, and soon their romance brings about greater threats from the world unseen by humans. Buoyed by dense mythology and the leads’ chemistry, A Discovery of Witches is feels simultaneously lived-in and fantastical.
Bridgerton isn’t the only romance adaptation series on Netflix. Virgin River started life as a long-running contemporary saga by Robyn Carr (there are currently 22 books in the series and counting.) While it didn’t receive as splashy a release as Bridgerton, Virgin River was reportedly a major ratings hit for the streaming service. Soapy, slow-burn, and appealingly cozy, the series follows Melinda “Mel” Monroe, who answers an ad to work as a midwife and nurse practitioner in the remote Northern California town of Virgin River. For her, it’s an escape from the pain of her past, but her hopes of peace and an easy time are thwarted by unexpected small-town drama and Jack Sheridan, a handsome local bar owner and former U.S. Marine who has his own share of troubles. Virgin River isn’t exactly high drama but it’s proudly comforting in the way this particular romanced subgenre is.
Miss Scarlet and the Duke
Would you prefer it if your historical romance came with a hefty dose of crime solving? PBS’s Miss Scarlet and The Duke has you covered. Eliza Scarlet is a penniless young woman whose only option for security is marriage. Her dream, however, is to continue her father’s detective agency, working under his name to avoid societal misogyny. Often coaxed into helping her is William “Duke” Wellington, a gruff Detective Inspector of Scotland Yard and former childhood friend. The pair shared one kiss as teenagers but have since distanced themselves from romance in favor of duty, but of course, the course of true love has never run smoothly.
The Gilded Age
Julian Fellowes had legions of viewers addicted to his last series, Downton Abbey, and now he’s got a whole new fanbase thanks to the current HBO hit The Gilded Age. The drama is moved from England to 1880s New York City during an era of immense industrial growth and wealth increases. The Russell family try to navigate society and the staid old money clans like their neighbors the van Rhijn-Brooks. A young penniless woman named Marian Brook finds herself thrown headfirst into this chaos as she goes to live with her estranged aunts in the hopes of making a better life for herself. The Gilded Age has everything one could want from a historical drama: luscious costumes, scathing one-liner, grand ballrooms, and enough squabbling to fill multiple novels.
Maybe you want something to satisfy your Bridgerton cravings and your new love of The Gilded Age. Julian Fellowes is way ahead of you. The six-part miniseries Belgravia reunited the Downton Abbey for a historical drama that might be even more lavish than his previous work (as well as way darker.) Set in one of the most affluent parts of London, the series opens on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo before moving 25 years into the future to reveal how the war and generations of familial strife have hurt those involved. Death, secrets, and trauma haunt the families of the upper class and Belgravia dives into some seriously bleak territory, far more high stakes than anything one would have seen in Downton Abbey.
Author: Amelia Emberwing. [Source Link (*), IGN All]