The classic love stories that inspired Bridgerton

With the third series of Bridgerton arriving in May, Marissa Constantinou reveals the period love stories that inspired the hit Netflix show, and the books to read if you just can't get enough of Bridgerton and its spin-offs. 

Netflix’s hit series Bridgerton has taken the world by storm, and as we await the third season, we want to delve into the central subject that keeps us going back for more: the love stories. Whichever romance trope you fall hardest for, it's fair to say that the classics did it first. 

Whether it's forbidden love, enemies to friends, or just good old fashioned romantic tension, classics novels have it all. So if, like us, you've found yourself hooked by will-they-won't-they romances between the couples of Bridgerton, you’ll love the classic novels that paved the way for each of their love stories

Read on for our selection of the books to read if you love Bridgerton: the romance edit.

The ‘will they, won’t they’ love story

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen

Arguably the most famous couple in literature, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy’s ‘will they, won’t they’ love story has naturally made its way into countless period dramas and the similarities in Bridgerton’s leading couple are hard to ignore. Both couples follow the same trajectory of despising each other, hiding their true feelings, and overcoming their pride or their prejudice before they can truly fall in love. The tension of this ‘will they, won’t they’ love story is what makes it an enduring and magnetic trope that audiences can’t get enough of.

The class-conscious love story

The Age of Innocence

by Edith Wharton

Newland Archer from The Age of Innocence is an upper-class man, born into an illustrious family and restricted by his parents’ expectations. So when he falls in love with Ellen Olenska, a woman from a completely different background, he starts to question the path set out by his family. Sound familiar to Anthony Bridgerton and his love affair with Siena Rosso? In both stories, the men realise too late that they should marry for love rather than class whilst the women follow their chosen paths and strong mind, and it’s these feminist undertones we can’t get enough of in the class-conscious love story. 

The ‘friendzone’ love story

Little Women

by Louisa May Alcott

Jo and Laurie from Little Women are two of literature’s favourite friends and when Jo rejects Laurie’s marriage proposal it breaks almost every reader’s heart. Similarly, in Bridgerton, viewers long for Colin Bridgerton to fall in love with his closest friend Penelope Featherington. When he instead falls for Penelope’s cousin Marina, a huge drama erupts. Both Laurie and Penelope have their hearts broken but they also end up breaking their friend’s heart, and this unexpected reversal of fortune is what makes the ‘friend zone’ love story so addictive. 

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The radical love story

Jane Eyre

by Charlotte Brontë

Jane Eyre is a fiercely independent heroine and one of her big concerns about marriage is sacrificing her freedom. Jane believes in marrying for love and following your ambitions, and she only marries Edward Rochester once she has gained her own fortune and can be seen as his equal. These views were rather radical for a woman in the regency world, just like Eloise Bridgerton’s views are in Bridgerton. Eloise wants to follow her heart and become a writer rather than a wife, and her and Jane’s rebellious characters are what make them stand out in any love-filled Regency drama.

The match-made love story


by Jane Austen

Emma Woodhouse is classic literature’s biggest matchmaker and gossip is a huge part of Emma. Throughout the novel, Emma focuses on every love story besides her own and ends up missing what’s right in front of her, a loving man named Mr. Knightly. Arguably, Mrs. Whistledown is Bridgerton’s biggest matchmaker and the gossip she spreads plays an underhanded part in many of the show’s love stories. Now that her identity has been revealed, will we see a love story emerge for her too? Readers and viewers love seeing gossip at work, particularly when it backfires on the matchmaker spreading it. 

Looking for more books like Bridgerton? Discover more recommended reads you'll love in this episode of Book Break.