Well, dearest gentle readers, another social season is behind us, and with it the release of Bridgerton Season 2 on Netflix. The romance that blossomed between Anthony, Viscount Bridgerton and eldest son of the titular family (Jonathan Bailey), and newcomer Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley) was a noted change of pace from the love story that played out over the course of Season 1, but there was still a bevy of tropey delights to satisfy even the most seasoned of romance fans. From the forbidden element of falling for a sibling’s betrothed to a delightful dose of tension-filled repartee to the Viscount himself going for an unexpected swim and hoisting his soaking wet frame out of the water… sorry, where was I?
Whether you’re well-versed in the romance genre or thinking that you might want to pick up a book for the first time (in which case, welcome!), I’ve assembled a small list of historically-based picks that share a lot of commonalities with some of the best tropes found in Bridgerton’s second season, though they might not all be as slow-burn as Anthony and Kate’s love story. Happy reading!
If you’re looking for a pairing dynamic that mimics the ways in which Kate and Anthony seem to constantly be vexing one another (while also trying to resist their burgeoning attraction), Jordan’s second installment in her Debutante Files series revolves around a couple who practically resort to bickering as foreplay. Aurelia and Max haven’t always loathed each other, but we learn early on that a formative moment in their young lives changed the trajectory of their adult relationship — not for the better, either.
When the story jumps forward to the present-day, Aurelia thinks of Max only as an irredeemable rogue and nothing more, while Max only considers Aurelia to be his friend’s annoying little sister whom he would gladly avoid if there were any strong possibility of actually doing so.
There are no two ways around it, though: these two are definitely not one another’s biggest fans and make every point of reminding one another of that fact, and the escalation of their antics and pranks on each other steer into strong enemy territory, but there are serious bonus points for a scene involving Max falling into a lake.
Although Bridgerton Season 2 didn’t actually end with Anthony getting hitched to Edwina, there are very strong marriage-of-convenience vibes in the early episodes, as the eldest Bridgerton son considers whether or not it is better to marry for duty in order to ensure his family’s success and the longevity of his lineage. Of course, we know that the engagement is ultimately broken off between them, but it’s this notion of responsibility and a marriage solely for the sake of a business proposition that permeates through the romance found in Thomas’ second book of her Fitzhugh Trilogy.
Millicent (or Millie) is seemingly content with her arranged marriage at the start; her wealth will be a great boon to her new husband, the Earl Fitzhugh’s, financial situation as his own estate teeters on the edge of bankruptcy. They’ve also agreed on a waiting period to consummate the marriage — eight years, in fact! But there’s just one small snag in this situation: Millie has fallen in love with her husband, who has every intention of reuniting with his childhood sweetheart as soon as he has fulfilled his side of the marriage bargain. As time passes, however, it becomes more and more clear that Millie may not be the only one harboring feelings that are deeper than friendship, even if those feelings have emerged when Fitzhugh is least expecting to have them for his platonic bride.
What would a Bridgerton Season 2 recommendations list be without the trope of falling for the sibling of your betrothed? It’s definitely a complicated situation for Kate and Anthony, given that she has to initially sit and watch her sister go through the motions of wedding planning to the man she believes she is only severely annoyed by. For the female lead of Tessa Dare’s Say Yes to the Marquess, the second book in the author’s Castles Ever After series, the biggest question surrounding her future nuptials is where her betrothed has disappeared to in the first place.
Clio Whitmore is fed up with waiting for her intended, Piers Brandon, to set a date for their upcoming wedding, so she hatches a plan to break off her engagement altogether. That idea won’t go off without a hitch, though, if Brandon’s brother Rafe has anything to say about it. He decides to task himself with ensuring that Clio will go through with marrying his brother, but then a new wrinkle emerges: the one where Rafe might actually be falling for Clio himself, and those who enjoyed Anthony Bridgerton’s tendency for growling will also appreciate this gruff hero’s commitment to pining.
There’s nothing quite like familial dedication, and if this latest season of Bridgerton demonstrates anything it’s that the love between two sisters can often be just as strong and powerful as that of a blossoming romance. While Kate and Edwina do find themselves at odds, especially in the aftermath of Edwina discovering that her sister is in love with her fiance, it’s also evident that they’re at their best than when they have each other’s backs. A similar loyalty is what drives the lead of Linden’s first installment in her Desperately Seeking Duke series, which starts with a devoted and passionate woman taking her sister’s place at the altar.
Bianca Tate is determined to spare her sister from a loveless arranged marriage, and helps Cathy elope with her true beloved before assuming her place in swearing ‘til death to us part to none other than the notorious rakehell Maximilian St. James. Max, on the other hand, is less discerning when it comes to which Tate sister he will marry, and so this arrangement between them takes a while to develop fully into love, slowly building into something more — but in the meantime, the tension between them is deliciously off-the-charts.
Kate Sharma is a romance lover’s heroine—opinionated, strong-willed, unafraid to speak her mind, more than comfortable on horseback, and certainly the kind of woman that would shoot first and ask questions later. That same kind of independent nature is what utterly defines the lead of Jenkins’ Tempest, which concludes her Old West series (and, if you couldn’t tell by that title alone, is set in a very different landscape than Regency-era England).
Regan Carmichael is definitely not your average mail-order bride (if such a thing even exists), especially since her first instinct upon meeting her prospective husband Colton was to draw down on him instead of offering any real greeting of affection. Of course, shooting him was an honest mistake, but it’s also the catalyst that alerts Colton to the fact that his new bride is much more than what he initially believed her to be. His more cynical approach to the possibility of romance, especially after the loss of his first wife, as well as his consideration of his new marriage more like a business transaction, bears the same throughline as Anthony Bridgerton’s intent to simply find a viscountess by checking off his personal list — but when Colton starts to see Regan’s fire, he realizes he’s actually drawn to those more passionate parts of her nature over anything that might just look good on paper.
Mistaken identity is another trope that defines Bridgerton Season 2, at least in its earliest episodes. When Kate and Anthony first cross paths while riding separately in the park one morning, neither of them has any idea who the other is, especially since they don’t actually get each other’s names in the midst of all that flirting. Quincy’s Her Night with the Duke takes that conceit and kicks it up a serious notch, posing the question: What would happen if you had an intimate one-night-stand with a stranger, only to realize that he’s betrothed to someone in your family?
Therein lies the problem faced by Lady Delilah Chambers, a widow who’s just discovered that the handsome man she met in her travels is actually engaged to be married to her stepdaughter. Elliot Townsend, Duke of Huntington, was under every impression that his bride-to-be’s mother-in-law was some stuffy old dowager, not the woman he spent one unforgettable night with. Their attempts to afford one another a wide berth continually fail, though, and they’re ultimately forced to admit to each other that that one night will never be enough.
One of the elements of Bridgerton’s follow-up season that ends up going rather differently than it begins is Edwina’s insistence that Kate and Anthony spend more time together; it’s clear that the youngest Miss Sharma wants her sister to get along with her intended, but all those long hours in shared company often only leads to two people becoming closer than expected. In Cat Sebastian’s The Ruin of a Rake, the third of her Turner series, it’s also a sister’s bidding that prompts Julian Medlock, known for living a life of utmost propriety, to take the notorious rake Lord Courtenay under his wing.
Initially, Julian is only complying with his sister’s request in an attempt to help correct his fellow man’s poor reputation, one that is not being helped by the circulation of a rather damning novel that seems to revolve around Courtenay’s most scandalous exploits. While these two very different men believe they couldn’t have anything in common, it’s the ways in which they’re unique from one another that allow them to have the most significant and best impact on each other. Beyond that, the chemistry and banter that results on the page is searing and engaging.
Over the course of Bridgerton Season 2, Anthony attempts to convince himself that Kate Sharma is the last woman he wants—not necessarily because she would be a poor match for him, but because he shouldn’t let himself want her. Granted, we all know that once a romance hero meets a woman who utterly knocks his socks off and leaves him reeling, his life will never be the same again. Such is the case for the Duke of Trent, who believes he needs an English bride of good family standing—and in walks American heiress Merry Pelford, herself with a scandalous reputation after jilting several men and breaking off said engagements.
However, the other element that makes this situation even stickier is that Merry has just said yes for a third time: to Trent’s twin brother, Cedric. Merry doesn’t have the highest opinion of Trent either when they first speak face-to-face, unimpressed by a man who acts as though he gets everything he wants. Granted, what she doesn’t know after their initial meet-cute is that what he wants in this particular instance… is her.
Carly Lane is an Atlanta-based writer who considers herself a lifelong Star Wars fan, newbie Trekker, diehard romance reader, nascent horror lover, and occasional live-tweeter. She is the senior TV editor at Collider, a former contributing editor for SYFY FANGRRLS, and has also written for Vulture, the Boston Globe, Nerdist, Teen Vogue, Den of Geek, The Toast, and elsewhere around the Internet.