This post contains spoilers for Bridgerton Season 2.
Given that the first season of Netflix’s Bridgerton was based on the first book in Julia Quinn’s series of romance novels, it should come as no surprise that the second season—which was released on Friday—is based on the second book in the series, The Viscount Who Loved Me. Where Season 1 followed the fourth Bridgerton child, Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor), Season 2 stars the eldest, Anthony (Jonathan Bailey), who has decided to fulfill his duty as viscount by finding a wife.
While The Viscount Who Loved Me is the basis for the new season, the Netflix show is also padded with events from the other Bridgerton books as well as plenty of brand-new subplots. In addition to making significant changes to Anthony, his love interest Kate, and the book’s iconic bee scene, the season features the conspicuous absence of a favorite Bridgerton character—even though he does appear in the book. We break down the most significant differences below.
[Read: The Biggest Changes Between Bridgerton’s First Season and the Book That Inspired It]
Anthony’s sideburns have (thankfully) been reined in from the first season, and that’s not all that’s changed about the character. Season 1 already made a significant alteration to Book Anthony by having him fall in love with an opera singer, Siena Rosso (Sabrina Bartlett), who ultimately rejects him. Season 2 sees Anthony dismiss the idea of love altogether, instead determined to marry a woman who will be a suitable viscountess and a good mother to his children. His motivation for hardening himself, as we learn through flashbacks and conversations, is witnessing the sudden death of his father—more on that in a bit—and his mother’s resulting grief. He tells his mother that he does not want to be the cause of that kind of heartbreak for anyone else.
In the books, Anthony, while happy to sleep with women, refuses to fall in love with anyone; his relationship with the opera singer, called Maria Rosso in the book, is merely a fling. While his father’s death is at the heart of Anthony’s motivations on both page and screen, the Netflix show does not capture just how obsessed Anthony is with his own mortality in the books, irrationally convinced that he will die young, because he can’t imagine ever growing older than his father, who died at 38.
Kate and Edwina
The Netflix series has made a conscious effort to diversify the world of Bridgerton by creating an alternate version of Regency England in which, as explained in Season 1, Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) has racially integrated the upper classes. In Season 2, the Sheffield family from the book becomes the Sharma-Sheffields, who have come to London from India to join in the marriage market. As in the book, there is Kate, the heroine of The Viscount Who Loved Me, and her younger, beautiful half-sister Edwina (though in the book Edwina is described repeatedly as blonde and blue-eyed). They are joined by their mother Mary (Shelley Conn), who married Kate’s father when Kate was very young.
From there, there are significant differences in the adaptation: Whereas in the book Kate is already considered a spinster at 21, in the series she is a whopping 26 and has set herself on never marrying and instead being a governess. (In the book she isn’t so outright opposed to marriage, but she doubts she’ll find a husband in London, instead preferring the country.) The Netflix series creates stronger ties between the Sharma-Sheffields and the existing Bridgerton characters, making the family guests of Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh) and creating animosity between the queen and Mary because Mary fled the country to marry a man of a lower rank.
As in the book, Kate is more interested in finding Edwina (Charithra Chandran) a husband than finding one for herself, but the series introduces an additional wrinkle: Edwina’s grandparents have promised her a dowry only if she marries an English nobleman.
Despite his reluctant attraction to Kate, who disapproves of him, Anthony settles on Edwina as his future bride, but in the series, he gets much further along in courting her than he does on the page—all the way to the altar, in fact. Edwina is a much more active character on the show; whereas in the book she is more mild-mannered and encourages Kate to be with Anthony, the adaptation creates a love triangle between the three, with Edwina eager to marry Anthony and thus furious at being kept in the dark about both his and Kate’s attraction.
The series also omits one of Kate’s key character traits from the book: her debilitating fear of thunderstorms and its tragic backstory.
Season 1 left off with a buzzing bee on a windowsill, foreshadowing one of The Viscount Who Loved Me’s most memorable scenes—but it plays out very differently in the TV show than it does in the book. In the book, Anthony’s father dies after being stung by a bee, something Anthony hears about after the fact. On the show, Anthony actually watches his father get stung and die. (It’s very sad and makes Netfilx’s cheeky, bee-centric ad campaign a little bizarre. A man is dead, Netflix!)
But that’s not the bee scene I’m talking about. A climactic moment in the book involves Kate being stung on the chest by a bee, and Anthony, traumatized over his father’s death, tries to expel the bee’s venom by—you know what? You just have to read it for yourself:
He shook his head. “It’s not good enough,” he said hoarsely. I have to get it all out.”
“Anthony, I—What are you doing?”
He’d tipped her chin back and his head was closing the distance between them, almost as if he meant to kiss her.
“I’m going to have to suck the venom out,” he said grimly. “Just hold still.”
“Anthony!” she shrieked. “You can’t—” she gasped, completely unable to finish her sentence once she felt his lips settling on her skin, applying a gentle, yet inexorable pressure, pulling her into his mouth.
The two of them are then caught—by their mothers!—in a compromising position and forced to marry to preserve Kate’s honor. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s more or less what happens to Simon and Daphne in Season 1 (minus the bee), which is probably why the Bridgerton writers decided to make a drastic change to avoid repeating themselves: In the show, Kate does get stung by a bee, and Anthony does freak out and touch her chest, but there is no venom-sucking, and no one catches them, so they aren’t forced to marry. It’s a major difference that happens relatively early on and completely alters the season’s plot.
That change to the book’s most memorable (and ridiculous) scene may sound underwhelming for Julia Quinn fans, but the show is more than happy to amp up the drama elsewhere. On the show, Kate has an accident while riding horseback that knocks her unconscious and causes Anthony to realize just how important she is to him. In the book, her accident is a carriage accident while out with Edwina and Edwina’s suitor—but at that point she and Anthony are already married, and she only hurts her leg.
The Other Bridgertons
The other, alphabetically named Bridgerton siblings must be kept busy while they await their turns to fall in love and get married in the upcoming seasons, so the show invents some new subplots for them. Benedict goes to art school to draw nude ladies and gets stoned out of his mind with his brother. Colin, who feels aimless after returning from his travels around the world, checks in on Season 1’s Marina Thompson, whose marriage to her lover’s brother after she got pregnant is not going great. And Eloise dabbles in political radicalism by attending a rally and flirting with a lower-class assistant at a printer’s shop—and is ultimately suspected of being gossip columnist Lady Whistledown as a result.
Season 2 picks up where Featherington subplot left off in Season 1, involving the death of Mr. Featherington and the women of the family left in debt and awaiting the new male heir. That subplot was created for the adaptation, and its continuation—involving the new heir and his schemes with Mrs. Featherington—is also new.
Another thread from Season 1 involved Penelope Featherington being revealed as Lady Whistledown in the very last episode—a seemingly premature revelation, since readers and other characters don’t find out her identity until Book 4, Romancing Mr. Bridgerton. In Season 2, because the queen suspects Eloise of being Lady Whistledown, Penelope writes a column damaging Eloise’s reputation to prove it’s not her, leading to a rift between the two characters when Eloise discovers her identity.
[Read: The Real Bridgerton Mystery I Couldn’t Stop Thinking About.]
Fans of the first season may be disappointed that Regé-Jean Page’s Simon does not make an appearance at all in the second. Though he doesn’t get much to do in the book, he does at least attend the Pall Mall game with his wife Daphne. In the series, Daphne occasionally refers to Simon, but the duke remains offscreen and she attends the Pall Mall game alone—Page only had a one-season deal and seemed content with leaving it at that.