Like the majority of romance readers, I was delighted when I heard about Shonda Rhimes adapting the Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn as her debut Netflix show. But I also felt surprised. Shows like Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy are edgy, action-packed, and very much set in a contemporary world. By contrast, the Bridgerton series includes eight regency romance novels that are sweet, funny, romantic, and full of traditional tropes. Two big questions entered my head: What made Shoda Rhimes want to adapt these books, among all the other regency romances out there? And what would she do with the source material? I will probably never know the answer to the first question. But December 25, when the series premiered on Netflix, answered the second. And if you feel similarly delighted by the historical details, charming siblings named in alphabetical order, an swoonworthy storylines, here are some books like Bridgerton to read next.
The Duke and I by Julia Quinn
Book 1 of the series is probably the most logical book to read if you want to hold onto that Bridgerton magic. It features Daphne Bridgerton and Duke Simon Basset’s fake dating storyline. Better yet, read your way through the whole series (if you don’t mind potential spoilers for future seasons). My personal favorites are Benedict’s story in An Offer from a Gentleman and Eloise’s book To Sir Phillip, With Love. But they are all good Regency fun!
The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite
Lucy is the daughter of a famous astronomer; in fact, she secretly did much of the work that he put his name on. Catherine, the Countess of Moth, is the widow of another scientist. They come together when Catherine decides to fund the translation of a radical French astronomy text and Lucy arrives to do the job. While working on this shared endeavor, Lucy and Catherine fall in love. But will this be enough to overcome their own fears and prejudices of the times? (This question is obviously rhetorical since I would never put a book on a romance list without an HEA)
A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby by Vanessa Riley
Bridgerton author Julia Quinn herself called this multicultural Regency romance “the perfect historical read.” Patience Jordan is a West Indian heiress who loses everything, including her son, when her husband dies under mysterious circumstances. She poses as a nanny to reunite with her son, but begins developing feelings for her son’s new guardian, a distant cousin of her dead husband and the Duke of Repington.
Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean
If you want to keep the sibling element of Bridgerton but see a darker, grittier side of Regency London, try the first in Sarah MacLean’s Bareknuckle Bastards series. Devil is a powerful crime lord and the bastard son of a duke. Felicity is an older wallflower getting tired of the ballroom scene. He needs her to enact revenge on the person he hates most. She needs him to help save her reputation from rumor she accidentally started. But the two characters discover they might need each other more than either of their initial goals. And if you keep reading the series, the sibling storyline develops in really exciting and unexpected ways.
The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan
This opposites attract, friends-to-lovers romance is such a warm, cozy read. Chloe Fong grew up looking forward to visits from the boy she knew as posh Jim. It’s been three years since she sent him away for not being serious enough for her goal-oriented, sensible self. But now he’s back and he has a secret: he’s a duke. His mission is to try and get her to forgive him for the secrecy and convince Chloe that they belong together.
The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer
Georgette Heyer practically invented the Regency romances as a genre. This story written in the 1950s isn’t as sexually explicit, but is still full of romance and chemistry. Sophy is an eccentric cousin who visits her mild-mannered relatives in London, with a spunky attitude and monkey in tow. She turns the family and the city’s fashionable society on its head, and even manages to fall in love in the process. This book does feel old-fashioned but is one of the most laugh out loud, hilarious stories I’ve ever read (and reread…and reread).
Mad and Bad: Real Heroines of the Regency by Bea Koch
If you want a (very fun!) nonfiction read that goes beyond the ballroom, this pop history book explores interesting women from the Regency period who’ve mostly been forgotten. These stories expose a more diverse picture of London and explore why we are so fascinated with this period of history. It is also written by one of the co-owners of The Ripped Bodice, a romance-only bookstore in California.
A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole
For a modern day royal romance, try a book from Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series. Naledi Smith is a grad student working multiple jobs. When she gets emails saying she is betrothed to an African prince, she puts them right where she thinks they belong: in the spam folder. But when Prince Thabiso shows up on her doorstep, she’ll be pulled into a royal romances that’s beyond her wildest imagination. The relationship also has the possibility to answer mysterious questions from an early childhood she doesn’t remember.
Mine Till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas
If you loved Bridgerton an want to explore Regency romances, there’s almost no better author to start with than Lisa Kleypas. This is the first in the Hathaway sibling series. An unexpected inheritance brings Amelia’s family into high society. She and her younger siblings must learn the unwritten social rules of the aristocracy. She goes to Cam Rohan, one of London’s wealthiest businessmen, for help. They’re attracted to each other, but Cam longs to leave polite society for the freedom of his childhood. A warning that this book uses an outdated and offensive term to refer to Cam’s Romany background.
Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare
Griffin York, the Duke of Halford, has a mother who won’t stop pestering him to wed. To teach her a lesson, he makes a deal with Pauline, a local barmaid with dreams of opening a bookstore. He will pay her enough to open her store if she’ll pretend to be his fiancée for a week and submit to his mother’s “duchess training.” But as she begins to delight London’s high society and Griffin himself, he longs to find a way to overcome her skepticism and turn their fake courtship into a real relationship.
If all else fails, you can always rewatch Bridgerton. Or you can peruse this list of 15 must-read Regency romances for other reading ideas!