7 biggest differences between 'Bridgerton' season 3 and the book

Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton and Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in Bridgerton season 3
(Image credit: Liam Daniel/Netflix)

Dear gentle readers: After two years' worth of anticipation, "Bridgerton" season 3 finally arrived with even more heart-pounding, carriage-shaking romantic drama. During the wait between seasons, however, superfans could "visit" the Ton by rereading the Julia Quinn novel series on which the Netflix series is based, with the latest edition of the show adapting the story from the fourth "Bridgerton" book, "Romancing Mister Bridgerton." (And yes, per Shonda Rhimes, the powers that be are "committed" to adapting all eight novels.)

That’s a change from previous installments of the show, which have heretofore hewed closely to their corresponding novel. However, the third season skipped over Benedict Bridgerton and his story from book three, "An Offer from a Gentleman," to instead focus on younger bro Colin (Luke Newton) and his friends-to-lovers relationship with Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan). And that's not the only page-to-screen change that occurred this season — here are seven key differences between "Bridgerton" season 3 and book three. 

Naturally, spoilers are very much ahead!

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7 differences between 'Bridgerton' season 3 and the book

1. The book is set a decade later than the TV show

The novel "Romancing Mister Bridgerton" takes place in 1824, a full decade after Anthony Bridgerton and Kate Sharma tied the knot. Season 3, however, picks up just a few months after that couple's nuptials. That means that book Penelope and Colin are much older than their TV counterparts: she is a 28-year-old "spinster" and he is a 33-year-old world traveler. (In the Netflix show, the youngest Featherington daughter is around 19 and the Bridgerton son is 24.) 

It also means that Pen has been pining for her BFF Colin for way longer on page than on screen — in the book, she details how she first fell in love with Colin in 1812, two days shy of her 16th birthday — though for TV fans, the wait for these two to finally get together after three seasons has likely felt just as long. 

2. Colin doesn’t give Penelope flirting lessons

In season 3, a mini-scandal breaks out when it's revealed to the rest of the Ton that Colin Bridgerton has been giving Penelope Featherington charm lessons to help her secure a love match. (You see, now in her third season out on the marriage mart, young Pen is getting a bit desperate to move out of her mom's house and have a husband and household of her own.) 

However, on page, those charm lessons never happen — in fact, Penelope's other main suitor of season 3, Lord Debling (played by Sam Phillips), doesn't even exist in the books. Instead, that new "Bridgerton" character was seemingly created as a device to induce some feelings of jealousy in Colin and keep our two romantic heroes apart for a few episodes. 

Nicola Coughlan and Sam Phillips in Bridgerton season 3

(Image credit: Netflix)

3. Nobody knows who Lady Whistledown is

One of the main sources of tension in the third season is the friendship breakup between former BFFs Penelope Featherington and Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie), after the latter discovered that her friend was actually the mysterious gossipmonger known as Lady Whistledown. And per the previews for the season's second half — which hits Netflix on June 13 — the reveal of Whistledown's real identity will cause some drama between our newly-betrothed Pen and Colin. 

However, in the novel, Eloise doesn't yet know that Penelope is the scribe behind the Ton's salacious newsletter. In fact, not even the reader knows that Pen is Lady Whistledown until halfway through book four, a bombshell that the show dropped back in that shocking season one finale. In the book, Colin actually believes his sister Eloise is the tattler until he catches Penelope himself — however, he couldn't have been too mad about the reveal, because he proposes to her shortly thereafter. 

4. Eloise and Cressida Cowper aren't friends 

Speaking of that fall-out between Eloise and Penelope, the Bridgerton daughter moves on from that friendship split by buddying up to a surprising subject in season three: Cressida Cowper (played by Jessica Madsen). Up until now in the show, Cressida has been a competitive and often cruel debutante who seemingly goes out of her way to put down Pen, which makes her sudden companionship with Eloise that much more surprising. 

However, this odd-couple pairing doesn't actually happen in "Romancing Mr. Bridgerton" and instead seems drummed up by the "Bridgerton" producers to add even more tension to the Lady Whistledown subplot. In contrast, Eloise and Penelope don't even have a falling out in the books. 

Harriet Cains as Philipa Featherington, Bessie Carter as Prudence Featherington, and Polly Walker as Lady Portia Featherington in Bridgerton season 3

(Image credit: Liam Daniel/Netflix)

5. The Featheringtons don't have money problems

One side plot of the third season is the latest financial scheme from Lady Portia Featherington (Polly Walker). After accumulating a good deal of money due to her and Cousin Jack's mined-jewels grift last season, Portia hides the source of the family's new wealth by saying that it came via an inheritance from a dying aunt. To further secure that the Featherington estate remains within the immediate family, Portia spends much of season 3 trying to get her daughters Prudence (Bessie Carter) and Philippa (Harriet Cains) to produce heirs. 

However, while Portia is definitely involved with her daughters and their marriages, the Featherington women don't have money troubles or major debts in the books. The on-page Featherington family actually has several more members than their televised counterparts: Lord Featherington is still very much alive in the book and there's even a fourth sibling, a younger sister named Felicity.

6. Francesca is already married — and widowed

Francesca Bridgerton (Hannah Dodd) makes her debut in society in season 3, with Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) dazzled by the young, shy Bridgerton girl and sending her suitors like Marquis Samadani (David Mumeni). However, Francesca is more taken with the similarly reserved John Stirling, Earl of Kilmartin (Victor Alli).

TV fans will be excited to learn that Francesca Bridgerton does eventually become Francesca Stirling. However, by the time of the fourth "Bridgerton" book, the character is already a widow, having lost her husband two years into their marriage. In the novel, there certainly isn't any courtship detailed between Francesca and John, and there isn't even a Queen Charlotte character to meddle in the Bridgerton daughter's love life. (For those keeping track of the "Bridgerton" novels, we won't get to Francesca's story until book 6, "When He Was Wicked," which actually chronicles her finding her second true love.)

Hannah Dodd and Victor Alli in Bridgerton season 3


7. That whole steamy carriage ride situation

Given that star Nicola Coughlan teased that she and Luke Newton actually broke furniture while filming one of season 3's love scenes, "Bridgerton" fans knew that a lot of steaminess was ahead in the new episodes. Case in point: that internet-breaking carriage scene at the end of episode four, which features the first official hook-up between Colin and Pen. It's after that heated smoochfest that the Bridgerton lad decides once and for all to make Penelope Featherington his wife. 

And while the carriage scene definitely happens in "Romancing Mister Bridgerton," there are some notable alterations. For one, it's actually the Bridgertons' coach; they're in town and not parked outside a ball. And at this point in the book, Colin knows about Lady Whistledown's real identity. That means there are no secrets left between the friends-turned-lovers and they can go into their marriage with a clean slate. However, it seems like their onscreen engagement will be a bit more drama-filled when part two hits Netflix. 

You'll be able to see how Colin and Penelope's relationship plays out when the final four episodes of "Bridgerton" season 3 premiere on Netflix on June 13. 

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Christina Izzo

Christina Izzo is a writer-editor covering culture, food and drink, travel and general lifestyle in New York City. She was previously the Deputy Editor at My Imperfect Life, the Features Editor at Rachael Ray In Season and Reveal, as well as the Food & Drink Editor and chief restaurant critic at Time Out New York.