These Romance Books Deserve the “Bridgerton” Treatment

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Chances are you’ve already watched Bridgerton on Netflix. A record 82 million households saw the first season of Julia Quinn’s romance novel adaptation in its first 28 days, making it Netflix’s most-watched show.

We understand if you’re feeling a little forlorn now. Season two of Bridgerton is still far away — production isn’t expected to start until Spring 2021! Fortunately, we have an excellent list of other movies and TV shows suitable for Lady Whistledown’s acolytes to keep you swooning.

We also have some reading recommendations. Bridgerton has proved we need more film and TV adaptations of the romantic genre. Here are some romance books we’d love to get the Bridgerton treatment.

Contemporary Romances

Romance is one of those literary genres that doesn’t necessarily receive a lot of respect. Yet, according to the Romance Writers of America (RWA), in 2016 “romance made up 23% of the overall U.S. fiction market.” The New York Times estimates there are about 10,000 romance novels published each year. That’s a lot of titles to choose from in a genre usually defined by its central love stories and Happily Ever After (HEA) or Happily For Now (HFN) endings.

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Let’s start with some options in the contemporary subgenre. The good news is some books in this category are already being adapted. That’s the case for Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient and Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game.

But we’d love to see adaptations of three titles that made the top positions of Goodreads’ Most Popular Romances of the Past Three Years list. I’m talking about Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue, which details the secret relationship between U.S. First Son Alex and the U.K.’s Prince Henry. I’m also talking about Emily Henry’s Beach Read, about a couple of professional writers and sort-of frenemies who end up sharing contiguous houses…and something else. There’s also The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory, which follows the lives of two high-achieving professionals who end up going to a wedding together.

I also need to talk about Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series here. The five books of the series have some of the classic genre tropes — princes, dukes, Scottish grumps, reluctant attractions — but also a contemporary setting and a very diverse set of central couples.

Cole is a prolific author specializing in inclusive romantic stories from different genres. Her Civil War-set romance An Extraordinary Union has espionage ingredients and would also make for a very enticing adaptation.

Talia Hibbert is another writer of a prolific nature. Her Brown Sisters series features three titles starring each one of the Brown sisters and their interracial relationships.

For a more young adult-friendly read, try Leah Johnson’s You Should See Me in a Crown, which won the YA Romance category of the readers-based 2020 Swoon Awards and tells the tale of Indiana teenager Liz and her plan to become prom queen to get a college scholarship.

Another Swoonie winner, this one in the contemporary category, is Alexis Hall’s Boyfriend Material. It follows the story of Luc, the son of a couple of rock stars, and his search for the perfect publicity-friendly boyfriend to clean up his public image.

Historical Romances

I’ve already pointed out Cole’s An Extraordinary Union, but there are many other options for those who prefer their romances with a helping of corsets and afternoon teas.

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Let’s add to this list Beverly Jenkins’ Indigo. This one comes as a recommendation of NPR’s Code Switch podcast and emphasizes the importance of having historical romances written from the perspective of Black writers and starring Black characters. Indigo is set before the Civil War in the world of the Underground Railroad and tells the love story between two of its conductors.

If you like your historical romances with a considerable side of mystery, try Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell series. The books follow the independent lepidopterist Veronica and the brooding taxidermist Stoker. They form the most unlikely pair of amateur detectives in 1887 London. This series would make for the perfect will they/won’t they TV adaptation.

Since we’re talking about series, let’s bring up Olivia Waite’s Feminine Pursuits. The series’ first book, The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics, is set in 1816 London and describes the adventures of the aspiring astronomer Lucy falling for the widowed countess who’s hired her to translate an astronomy book.

And allow me to add the excellently written indie The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller. Set in 1875 New York, it features a scandalous widow, a haunted mansion and a very unconventional scientist. It also adds a dose of paranormal to the whole period setting.

Fantasy Romances

Let’s talk about the fantastic side of romance, which in a way combines the best from historical and contemporary romance and makes its own rules.

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V.E. Schwab’s The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue would make for a perfect miniseries. It spans 300 years in the life of Addie, an extraordinary creature who doesn’t age but is cursed to be eternally forgotten by everyone — until she finds a man in a bookstore who remembers her name.

Prepare to decipher some mythology — this one involving maidens, wolvens and vamprys — with Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Blood and Ash series. In it, we learn the story of Poppy, who by age 18 has become an accomplished hand-to-hand fighter and archer living in an oppressive society. Like any good coming-of-age romance, Poppy is set on experiencing and choosing what to do with her life.

And let’s end with another series that would make for an irresistible TV show adaptation: Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses. It has faeries, a magical kingdom and an independent heroine. It’s also the kind of coming-of-age story that’s equally appealing to an older audience. Be warned, though; fantasy romance series can be highly addictive.

We left many, many titles out. If you’re looking for more romance novel inspirations to satiate your Bridgerton cravings, check out some of the compilations Goodreads put together for Romance Week 2021 or browse the winners of last year’s Swoon Awards.

Editor’s Note: We’ve updated the list to be more inclusive and respectful of our readership’s concerns.