The Bridgerton Effect: How Regency Romance Conquered Hearts Once Again

In late 2020, a Netflix original series emerged, enchanting viewers worldwide with its gorgeous settings, scandalous affairs, endearing characters, and swoon-tastic love stories. Bridgerton, based on Julia Quinn’s book series, waltzed onto our screens with the grace and popularity of a Diamond of the First Water, leaving a lasting mark on pop culture. Millions of people quickly fell in love with Simon, the brooding hero, and Daphne, the effervescent heroine, as well as the entire captivating Bridgerton family.

Season two followed Antony, the head of the Bridgerton family, as he searches for and finds love in the most unexpected, and complicated, of places. The series, which enters into its third season soon, also has a spin-off show that’s as epic, moving, and emotional as it is.

With Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Tale smashing Netflix viewership records, The Bridgerton Effect is as strong as ever. “The Bridgerton Effect” refers to the cultural impact that Bridgerton has had on society. The show, and the recent spinoff show Queen Charlotte, has swept us off our feet once again, finding its way into the hearts of viewers and readers. The shows, which are set in Regency-era England, are attracting massive audiences globally and generating a ton of buzz on social media.

Many publishing companies have reported a rise in historical romance sales and readership. Wattpad saw a huge surge in daily reading time of stories tagged #HistoricalRomance, and it increased by 60% in the weeks following “Queen Charlotte’s” Netflix premiere. In the last 90 days alone, Wattpad users have spent over 30 million minutes reading stories tagged #HistoricalRomance. But, how can we account for the popularity of these shows and the increased interest in historical romance?

Exposure and Accessibility:

Bridgerton has introduced historical romance to a mainstream audiences, and, as a popular Netflix show, has exposed the genre to viewers who may have never picked up a historical romance novel before. With over 82 million households tuning into the show in its first month, the series has gained a vast audience for the genre.

Viewers were inspired to pick up historical romance novels after becoming invested in the series’ love stories and immersive Regency-era setting. Bridgerton especially contributed to a rise in readers of Regency romance, as it prompted more people to seek out books set in the same time and place. So, in bridging the gap between television and books, Bridgerton encouraged more mainstream audiences to pick up historical romances and served as a launching pad for Regency authors to find new readers.

Reinventing the Genre:

Bridgerton has brought a fresh perspective to the historical romance genre by infusing it with modern, diverse, and inclusive elements. The show’s casting and incorporation of contemporary music have broadened the appeal of historical romance novels to a wider audience. It portrays historical romance in a modern, progressive way by featuring diverse characters, steamy sex scenes, and heroines who subvert traditional gender roles of the time period.

The show’s breathtaking costumes, beautiful backdrops, and compelling stories add to the appeal. And, though set in the 1800s, Bridgerton includes relatable characters, themes, and conflicts with a unique and original perspective. This fresh take has resonated with modern audiences and readers, making historical romance feel more contemporary and appealing.

Plus, the music is divine! The soundtrack for Bridgerton and Queen Charlotte puts a contemporary twist on classical music, further charming viewers. The show’s creators made a deliberate choice to fuse contemporary music into the soundtrack with classical arrangements. It’s such a unique and unexpected contrast, and it further bridges the gap between the past and the present. The soundtracks include some amazing songs, including:

  • “Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles
  • “Thank U, Next” by Arianna Grande
  • “Wildest Dreams” by Taylor Swift
  • “Girls Like You” by Maroon 5
  • “Material Girl” by Madonna
  • “What About Us” by P!nk
  • “Diamonds” by Rhianna
  • “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus

It’s no wonder the series is the most watched English-language show on Netflix. Bridgerton has already been renewed for seasons three and four at Netflix with plans to cover more storylines from Julia Quinn’s romance novel series.  Queen Charlotte has also broken many Netflix viewing records and gained over 22 million views in its first week and 150 million hours viewed in its first weekend!

“After four weeks atop the English TV list, Lady Whistledown is most pleased to reveal that ‘Bridgerton’ Season 2 has ascended to the spot on the Most Popular list with 627.11M hours viewed, ahead of ‘Bridgerton’ Season 1 in second place,” Netflix said. “This marks the first-ever series to hold both the first and second place on a Most Popular list. This week, Season 2 clocked 66.61M hours viewed and appeared in the Top 10 in 88 countries.”


Check out some of the Wattpad titles readers are indulging in: 

  • Before She Ruled by Amelie Rhys (962k Reads)
    • In hiding as a maid, Princess Adelaide must resist the charms of the devilishly handsome Duke of Kingfield. But could he help her if she told him her secret?
  • The Accidental Duchess by Laura (2.6M Reads)
    • When the arrogant stranger Bess is forced to marry unexpectedly becomes a duke, she’ll find herself at odds with her growing feelings as he hunts for a killer.
  • To Bewitch A Beast by J.D. Ruiz (4.4 M Reads)
    • When Agatha becomes the Everard’s governess, she’s grateful for a way to escape her dark past. That is until her growing feelings for the mysterious Lord of the house begin to present an even greater risk.
  • In Another Era by Kara Flynn (128k Reads)
    • Prince Kenric was known throughout all the kingdoms as the greatest warrior to have ever lived. No one dared to cross him, for he was feared even more so than the king. The people believed that he had sworn his life to the sword, and that was why he never took a lover. But only Kenric knew the truth. Only he knew both his biggest weakness and his greatest strength. His love for the stable boy.

Other publishers, including Forever, Avon, Harlequin, St. Martin’s Press, and more also have historical romance reads I highly recommend:

  • A Rogue to Remember by Emily Sullivan

Goodreads    |       Amazon    |    Review

SynopsisIn this irresistible historical romance debut, a seasoned spy sets out to rescue the childhood friend he once loved from a reputation-destroying rumor—only to discover that she is actually the source.

After enduring five interminable seasons, Lottie Carlisle has had enough of shallow London society, her boring little life, and her uncle Alfred’s meddling. When he demands she accept a proposal by the end of next season or else he will choose a husband for her, she devises a plan: create a scandal shocking enough to make her unmarriageable and spend her spinsterhood far enough away in the countryside where no one will ever recognize her.

Alec Gresham hasn’t seen Lottie since he left his childhood friend without a word five years ago. So he’s not surprised to find her furious when he appears on her doorstep. Especially bearing the news he brings: her uncle is dying, her blasted reputation is still intact, and Lottie must return home. As they make the journey back to her family estate, it becomes increasingly clear that the last five years hasn’t erased their history, nor their explosive chemistry. Can Lottie look past her old heartache and trust Alec, or will his secrets doom their relationship once again?

  • The Good Girl’s Guide to Rakes by Eva Leigh

 Goodreads    |      Amazon    |    Review

Synopsis: When Kieran Ransome’s latest antics result in a massive scandal, his father issues an ultimatum: find a respectable wife or inherit nothing. But as one of London’s most inveterate scoundrels, Kieran doesn’t know any ladies who fit the bill. Or does he?

Celeste Kilburn is a society darling, beloved by influential members of the ton. But keeping a spotless reputation leaves little room for adventure and she longs to escape her gilded cage, especially with her impending engagement to a stuffy earl. When Kieran—her older brother’s best friend and an irresistibly attractive rogue—begs for her help, Celeste makes a deal: she’ll introduce him to the right social circles if he’ll show her the scandalous side of London.

In between proper teas and garden parties, Kieran escorts Celeste—disguised as “Salome”—to rowdy gaming hells, wild fêtes, and sensual art salons. As they spend more time together, their initial attraction builds to a desperate desire that neither can ignore. But when someone discovers their midnight exploits, Celeste’s freedom and reputation are endangered, and Kieran must save the woman he loves… respectable or not.

  • A Duke Worth Fighting For by Christina Britton

Goodreads    |      Amazon    |  Review

Synopsis: To protect the dukedom from an incompetent and greedy cousin, Daniel Hayle, Duke of Carlisle, has promised to find a bride in London this season. But the idea of facing ballrooms and card parties is as intimidating as any battlefield in France, including the fight at Waterloo that left him terribly scarred. Perhaps a month on the Isle of Synne can provide him with the practice necessary to find a wife who can tolerate him enough to give him an heir.

Margery Kitteridge has been mourning her husband for four years, and while she’s not ready to consider marriage again, she does miss intimacy with a partner. When Daniel asks for help navigating Synne’s social scene, and they accidentally kiss, she realizes he’s the perfect person with whom to have an affair. As they begin to confide in one another, Daniel discovers that he’s unexpectedly connected to Margery’s late husband, and she will have to decide if she can let her old love go for the promise of a new one.

  • A Wicked Game by Kate Bateman

Goodreads   |    Amazon |  Review

SynopsisA teasing bet. Shipwrecked and imprisoned thanks to an incorrect map, Captain Morgan Davies has returned to London to exact sweet revenge on the cartographer responsible for his suffering. He’s also vowed to claim the winner’s prize―three kisses―in the bet he made with his long-time nemesis, the prickly, smart-mouthed Harriet Montgomery. His incarceration has clarified his feelings for her, but convincing the infuriating woman he wants to marry her is going to be his greatest challenge yet. When Harriet’s revealed to be the very mapmaker he seeks, Morgan decides to combine revenge and seduction into one delightful package. . .

A dangerous enemy. Harriet’s always wanted witty scoundrel Morgan, and now he’s back; as handsome and as taunting as ever. She has enough on her plate dealing with her father’s failing eyesight and a rival mapmaker copying her work to play wicked games with a dastardly Davies―however tempting he might be. But when a threat from Morgan’s past puts them both in danger, Harry discovers that she and Morgan might not be enemies at all . . .

Overall, Bridgerton’s powerful cultural impact has extended far beyond its initial release and has contributed significantly to the rise in popularity of historical romance novels and increased book sales in the genre.

Looking for more recommendations? Check out these lists of some of my favorite historical romances:

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