Impossibly colourful costumes, huge wigs and furtive glances across crowded ballrooms can mean just one thing – Bridgerton is back.
The entire second series will go live on Netflix this Friday, and with series one the most viewed show in Netflix history – with 82 million viewers – it has a lot to live up to.
One woman who knows more about the Regency-era romp than anyone else is novelist Julia Quinn, 52, who wrote the Bridgerton novels and is now a consultant on the show.
Here, she spills all the secrets from the set of series two.
Forget Daphne and her Duke, it's all about Anthony and Kate
Last time around it was all about Phoebe Dynevor’s shy Daphne and Rege-Jean Page’s dashing Duke of Hastings.
But in the second series the focus shifts to Daphne’s brother Anthony Bridgerton, played by Jonathan Bailey, 33.
He is thrust into a love triangle with two half sisters – feisty and independent Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley), who at 26 is considered an “old maid”, and her younger, accomplished but demure sister Edwina.
Anthony has more than a touch of Mr Darcy about him –especially when he emerges from a lake in a wet white shirt.
But is it enough to make us forget the dishy Duke?
Julia says: “People will love them in a different way.
“I predict everybody’s going to want a Kate Sharma action figure. She’s amazing. She’s fierce.
“And I think all the people who were sad that the Duke was not going to be back will always be sad but they will get it.
“If we had followed Daphne and Simon (Rege-Jean) as the main characters in season two that would imply that somebody messed up their happily ever after.
“We’re not going to kill one of them off, they’re not going to cheat on each other.”
Johnathan Bailey is the new Rhett Butler
Fans might have got hot under the collar for Rege-Jean, but Julia predicts Jonathan and the naughty twinkle in his eye will get just as many admirers, especially with his sizzling scenes with co-star Simone, 26.
There's echoes of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara's fiery relationship in Gone With The Wind - in the way they seem to dislike each other.... and yet have sizzling chemistry.
As curmudgeonly Anthony also shares a few attributes of a certain Mr Darcy, it's fair to expect actor Jonathan Bailey is about to be the next big period drama pin-up.
Julia says of Jonathan, who’s previously had roles in Broadchurch and W1A: “He’s adorable, he’s fabulous. I think people will love him. Johnny Bailey is very mischievous. I was talking to one woman who said, ‘I know he’s gay, I’m still in love with him’.
“And I said, ‘Well, how is that different to being in love with Rege?’
“They’re both equally unattainable!”
Jonathan reckons he’s most like the youngest Bridgerton boy, cheeky Gregory, in real life, rather than former rake Anthony.
But Julia’s bad boys aren’t that bad either.
“I have never been able to write the true bad boy hero,” she says.
“Maybe that’s because I married the quintessential Mr Nice guy.”
Time for men to flash flesh
Bridgerton has been described as Netflix’s raunchiest show but, for Julia, it’s about different kind of intimacy – and it’s the men, not the women, who flash the most flesh.
Julia says: “Usually, we are seeing women’s bodies objectified.”But, she says in Bridgerton viewers see some “male behinds” and women “drooling” over bare-chested blokes rather than women “being paraded out as some sort of sex symbol”.
Julia explains: “The sex that is portrayed is not transactional for the most part.
“It has to do with love and feelings and emotions. It’s to do with the pursuit of a happy life.”
Penelope WILL be lucky in love
Penelope Featherington, played by Derry Girls’ Nicola Coughlan, is one of the most popular characters, thanks to her secret identity as Lady Whistledown.
“She absolutely knows who she is, but she doesn’t know how to be that person on the outside and I think people really relate to that,” says Julia. “Plus Nicola is the most delightful human being on the planet.
“She’s just so incredibly kind and funny and lovely. And everybody wants to be her friend.”
Julia lets slip Penelope will also get her own happy ever after – eventually.
“Penelope and Colin Bridgerton… I don’t think that’s a big spoiler. I think we all know that’s gonna happen,” she says.
Queen Charlotte's wig is the show's MVP
Queen Charlotte’s proved so popular that she’s getting her own spin-off prequel. But the prospect of more scenes may weigh on star Golda Rosheuvel – literally.
“The wigs were so heavy poor Golda was getting neck strain,” says Julia.
“They built her a special chair so she could set her head back and rest it. She couldn’t take it off all day.”
The wigs mean Golda also gets a vehicle with a high roof so she and all her hair fit in
Suffice to say, the wardrobe department is incredibly busy creating the costumes.
“I went in [the costume warehouse] and six people were Team Daphne,” says Julia. "They had swatches for 104 costumes".
Rege-Jean for Bond
Rege-Jean Page’s name has been in the mix to be the next James Bond.
“I will be very upset if he’s not” Julia says. “He is incredibly warm, kind and intelligent, but he is also ridiculously good looking – he smiles and you kind of melt.
“Some people just have that kind of charisma that makes you think ‘How do you get through life like that?’”
Rege-Jean keeps in touch with Julia by text message. She says: “We met on set and I may have a photo with him that I may have saved into my favourites folder.”
It's down to fate
Bridgerton nearly didn’t happen.
Shonda Rhimes, the US producer behind Grey’s Anatomy, was on holiday in 2017 when she ran out of books and picked up Bridgerton.
“I cannot overstate how much my life changed as she ran out of books,” says Julia, adding: “The scripts are awesome. Easiest consulting job ever.”
Author's year of loss and success
It should have been the best year of Bridgerton authorJulia Quinn’s life.
But last June, her beloved father Stephen, 77, and sister Ariana,37, were killed in a car crash in Utah, US, after bein hit by a pick-up truck driven by a man allegedly three times the drink drive limit.
Julia says: “My sister and father were both killed so the year was a year of loss and abundance for me.”
Before the crash, Julia and cartoonist Ariana had been working on a graphic novel which Julia finished alone. It is due out in the summer, dedicated to her father.
Julia says: “I’ve just really been wanting to make sure this book was published as beautifully as Ariana deserves. It’s kind of my last love letter to her.”
Seattle-based mum-of-two Julia says: “I can tell that I’m moving on and healing though because now it’s a source of joy to talk about whereas for a while it was too painful.”
Julia is married to doctor Paul Pottinger, who specialises in infectious diseases and worked through the pandemic.
She says: “He has been in the most miserable situations, while for me the most glorious things are happening daily.
“I will never get used to it.”
Julia was a guest of Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai. Go to elfdubai.org