How ‘Bridgerton’ Changed Francesca’s Story From the Books for That Shocking Twist

Note: The following contains spoilers for “Bridgerton” Season 3, as well as “Bridgerton” novel “When He Was Wicked.”

While “Bridgerton” fans have long speculated there might be a queer storyline in the works for Eloise or Benedict, the Season 3 finale threw a twist by introducing a potential female love interest for Francesca.

In the final episode, Francesca and her husband John Stirling (Victor Alli) are preparing to move to Scotland when John introduces his cousin, Michaela Stirling (Masali Baduza), to Francesca, who is quickly speechless when Michaela asks for her name.

Michaela is the gender-swapped version of Michael Stirling, Francesca’s love interest in Julia Quinn’s “When He Was Wicked” novel, which centers on Francesca and Michael’s love story following John’s early death.

Season 3 of the Netflix romance series followed Quinn’s novels by introducing John as Francesca’s first husband, though Michael’s introduction comes a bit early in the book as Micheal instantly falls for Francesca just days before her wedding to John. In the book, it isn’t until four years after John’s death that Francesca and Michael reunite and fall in love.

Showrunner Jess Brownell told TheWrap that it felt “natural” to adapt Francesca’s story to include a queer romance and hopes the storyline not only gives queer fans a character to see themselves in, but also to “tell a story about the queer experience.”

“As a queer woman, I really identified with her book. Her book talks a lot about how she feels different and doesn’t know why,” Brownell said. “I think Julia Quinn intended that to be more about the fact that she’s more introverted than the rest of her family, but I think for many queer people, that sense of feeling different and like an outsider is something we carry with us from the time we’re young.”

Though Francesca has always been in the Netflix series, her re-introduction through new actress Hannah Dodd — who replaced Ruby Stokes — gave “Bridgerton” more of a clean slate to craft the character. Brownell said the team was “thoughtful to set up the storyline with her being a queer character from the beginning,” pointing to a scene in Season 3, Episode 1 when Francesca doesn’t relate to dreaming about having a husband from the time she was young.

Looking ahead, it’s unclear if Francesca and Michaela could be the center of Season 4, or if their romance will take place further down the line. With Michaela’s introduction taking place in the Season 3 finale, it appears as though Francesca’s book, which is sixth in Quinn’s lineup, could be scooted up like Colin’s book was for Season 3.

Should the Netflix series follow the books’ timeline, a considerable time jump would need to take place, especially with John alive and well where we currently stand. But according to Brownell, Francesca’s story won’t need too much adapting.

“Book fans know where we’re heading with that story,” she said. “We do plan to stick pretty closely to Francesca’s book other than the gender-swap, there are certain elements of the book that will have to be altered. But actually, we found that we’re able to adapt the book fairly accurately, so people can expect it to play out in a similar way.”

“Bridgerton” Seasons 1-3 are now streaming on Netflix.

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