Season 3 and book spoilers: How does Francesca’s story play out in the Bridgerton books?

Francesca's love story is told in the sixth novel by Julia Quinn, When He Was Wicked.
Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024
Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024 /

* Bridgerton season 3 and When He Was Wicked book spoilers below *

Bridgerton season 3 decided to put a twist to Francesca and John Stirling's seemingly easy and quiet love story. All season, Francesca maintained to her mother that she wanted something simple and that not all love stories needed to be dramatic like her parents', Daphne's, Anthony's, and now Colin and Penelope as well. What she found with Lord Kilmartin is a ture relationship, an easy one where she found someone who can relate to her. But now, there might be a twist coming.

In the final moments of Bridgerton season 3 episode 8, aka the finale, John introduces Francesca and Eloise to his cousin, Michaela Stirling, who will be traveling with them to Scotland where the newly married couple will be residing at the Kilmartin family estate. Earlier in the episode when Francesca and John sealed their marriage vows with a kiss, you can tell for a moment something is off with her. It's like she didn't feel the spark she was supposed to. And we find out why when she meets Michaela.

When the young woman comes up and asks who she is, Francesca is visibly nervous, flustered, and trips over her words a bit. You can tell she's instantly taken by Michaela, and that explains what happened after she kissed John. Francesca is actually attracted to women. Though perhaps she didn't know it until this moment. This is an interesting storyline, and might bring up some drama that Francesca wasn't looking for, and for the newly married couple. So how did all of this play out in the sixth Bridgerton book, When He Was Wicked, which is Francesca's story.

Victor Alli as John Stirling, James Duke as Minister Hughes, Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton in episode 308 of Bridgerton
Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024 /

In the novel by author Julia Quinn, Michaela is actually Michael Stirling who is John's cousin. So the show decied to do a gender swap to tell a different kind of story. However in the book, it's not Francesca who is immediately taken by Michael. It's the other way around. But because Michael is like a brother to John, he stays quiet about his feelings towards his cousin's wife. And Francesca is none the wiser. In fact, she tries to help him get married which he doesn't want to do. Francesca lives happily, and in love, with John for two years before he has a brain aneurysm and passes away. She was pregnant with their child, but miscarries due to her grief.

It's only after John passes that feelings start to arise within Francesca, and of course Michael has been already yearning for her for years. Because of this and due to his grief, Michael goes to live in India for four years before returning. When he does, Francesca is ready to get married only because she really wants a baby. She knows, or at least thinks she knows, that she won't find a love like she had with John again. But life has other plans for her.

Eventually, Francesca and Michael do end up falling in love and getting married, Francesca being the only Bridgerton sibling to marry twice, and live a happy life together just like all happy endings that happen for the Bridgertons. However now the Netflix series has kind of turned this story on its head. The first is that actually in the book, John Stirling isn't featured in it much as the main focus of the story is Francesca losing him, and her journey in falling in love with Michael. But in the series, we actually got a lot of screen time with the character.

Showrunner Jess Brownwell said that when they do get to Francesca's season - whether that's going to be season 4 or a future one is still unclear - the writing team will be using many of the same plots and themes from When He Was Wicked. But of course now that they've already changed two major elements of the story - Francesca is already drawn to Michaela, and the gender swap - it's safe to say there's going to be some major changes from the book too. I'm curious to see how this adaptation is going to go in terms of what can still work from the original material, and what gets changed completely. Will Francesca and Michaela get a happy ending since their relationship wouldn't be acceptable in this time? There's lots of questions!

Bridgerton season 3 is now streaming on Netflix.

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