I’m done with Bridgerton

I am a romantic. I love romance. I’m rooting for the heroine to find the love of her life. I’m a sucker for a happy ending. But a great love story doesn’t have to end in marriage. For me it’s all about the moment the lovers discover their feelings, trust them and risk everything to get what they want. Love.

Consider Marguerite Duras’s novel The Lover, set in 1929 French Indochina. The movie adaptation (1992) has the most exquisite erotic scenes I can think of. The physical attraction, tenderness and passion between these lovers breaks all societal taboos. That’s part of the thrill of their secret encounters. I know the relationship won’t last, but can’t help but hope love will win.

The other day in my trusted group of writers, I complained about the climactic scene in Bridgerton titled Old Friends (S3.E4). If you are watching the show and haven’t seen this episode yet, don’t read any further. I haven’t read the novels, yet. But I delight in the liberties the creators of the TV show take, shaping the past to their liking. What frustrated me was a sex scene between our heroine and her love interest. My issue wasn’t with the sex itself but its timing. It ruined the romance for me.

The story is set in the 19th century when women had to marry for financial security. Lucky was the woman who found a wealthy man, not the woman who found love. For two seasons I watched two childhood friends grow up and then grow apart. The way the story is told, its structure, tells me that their relationship will be built on friendship and lasting love.

Timing is crucial in any story, especially romance. It’s about two people building a relationship. What do they learn about each other and themselves? They have to navigate doubt and difficulties to find what matters most and then confess their love to each other.

In a previous episode titled Forces of Nature the love interest explains to our heroine how he feels about her. While he thinks of her as a friend, our young heroine yearns for more. I watch her squirm and suffer and can’t wait for the young man’s feelings to blossom into courtship. I’m a romantic. I want them to end up together. That’s how their story has been set up anyway. 

The following episode I expected for our hero to wake up to his true feelings. The timing was right for that long-awaited moment. Indeed, he declared his love for our heroine. And this would have been a great ending for the episode.

But I was disappointed and sad. The man who moments ago was unsure how the woman he loves will respond to his confession, not only kisses her. He goes one step further. Sure, she gets what she wants. Finally, he sees her as a grown woman and not just a childhood friend. Why wasn’t I happy for the heroine who enjoys this moment very much? After all she had claimed for herself, what men take for themselves all the time.

And then I realized. This was the moment I began to worry about their relationship. And it wasn’t her behavior that felt wrong. I was alarmed by his inconsiderate actions that made him untrustworthy in my eyes.

For one: How was her skirt any different from all the other skirts he had lifted before? But then this happened: He opened the door to go public with his feelings. Our heroine hesitated. Too much at stake for her reputation. Remember, it’s the 19th century where chaperones watch out for a woman’s chastity. And what was his reaction? He raises his voice: “Do you want to marry me or not?”

He ruined it. Romance flew out the door and disappeared. This man didn’t ask, he didn’t get on his knee, he didn’t offer a ring, he didn’t promise anything. He took it for granted that she wanted to marry him. In his male conviction of his importance, he saw her as his possession and lured her away from the safety of her privacy. Our heroine’s love interest turned from a loving friend into a chauvinist prick. I don’t want her to end up with him. I want to shout to her, don’t trust him. It’s a trap.

I wonder where the story goes. For me there are only a few possibilities to salvage the situation. She has to keep their affair secret until this immature man changed and proved his love to her. Or our heroine wakes up to her desire for freedom and claims her independence. The more I think about the latter, the more I like it. And if this is where the story is going, the scene worked just fine.

*19th century portrait painting – public domain

One Comment

  • Nancy

    I think the main point is to get you talking, which it looks like this episode did just that. For this character, she has only one choice at this point. If she accepts him, she’ll lose her own self respect. She has to reject him. Plus it was 19th Century – they were all chauvinists. It’s amazing (and not in a good way) to think there are still some. Like what happens in the brain to think that anyone is less than another?

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