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‘The Viscount Who Loved Me’ Scene by Scene Breakdown and the Importance of Symbolism

book cover of Julia Quinn's The Viscount Who Loved Me

Bridgerton has been renewed for a second season, which means the Sheffields are coming, and The Viscount Who Loved Me is about to be adapted on screen. And we’ve got thoughts. Naturally, in a TV adaptation, changes will take place, inner thoughts need to come out on-screen differently without the presence of the omniscient narrator—but that said, why not at least take apart some of our favorite moments in the book? In this case, at least if there are changes, we’ve thoroughly discussed some of the scenes that have shaped The Viscount Who Loved Me gorgeously.

Naturally, this will not cover every single scene—with a 200+ page book, we’d have a 500+ page analysis if that were the case; with this, we’ve decided to take apart our top moments, mostly between Kate Sheffield and Anthony Bridgerton, but some with their respective family members as this is the one book where we care just as deeply about the main characters as we do with everyone else involved. We teased out what this article would look like in our Scene Breakdown for Chapter 12: The Library, and that will also be included here as well to flow this analysis chronologically.

Whoever said that romance novels could not be analyzed with great length has not met this English Lit major who will absolutely take apart everything because these novels, and Quinn’s language primarily features an incredible balance that is bound to leave a lasting impression. One that it already has.

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First Meeting/First Dance

I hate that I’m like this, but I’ll admit to it—there’s truly nothing like two people getting off on the wrong foot, especially when one person purposely plots to ruin another’s boots. I said what I said.

“Kate stepped on his foot. Hard. Enough to make him let out a small, decidedly unrakish, unroguish squeak. When he glared at her, though, she just shrugged and said, “It was my only defense.”
His eyes darkened. “You, Miss Sheffield, are a menace.”
“And you, Lord Bridgerton, need thicker boots.”
(35)

It’s a good meeting… that’s what it is. It’s fun, and it’s easy to look at it and say ah, yes, these two—we want them together. And the continued pattern of calling her a menace while she ruins his boots is truly chef’s kiss. There is no going back after this moment. There’s also no going back in referring to both of them as menaces to society.

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Sense of Contentment 

“And while the woman on his arm was no the woman he planned to take to wife, nor, in fact, was she a woman he planned to take to anything, Anthony felt a rather easy sense of contentment wash over him” (45).

This can certainly be one of the most important moments in the series, and it’s something that we will easily see in Jonathan Bailey’s performance, even without the omniscient narrator. And something we’ve been saying in our Bridgerton reviews is that this very contentment is severely lacking in Anthony’s physicality.

Contentment and a sense of ease that comes naturally around someone are not always simple to describe. It does not always make sense at times—it just is. And for Anthony especially, when we know that this is a feeling that is rare for him, it is thus that much more beautiful to see that Kate is able to bring this to the surface. He is not planning to do anything with or to Kate (or so he thinks), but this feeling is unmatched to anything else because the TV canon of the character tells us that more than all else, even while he’s supposed to be basking in the glory of sexual intimacy, he is far from content—something is missing. Something is not right.

As the man who stayed with his deceased father all night, not knowing how to move forward, Anthony’s trauma and darkness are a constant presence in every version of the story. The inability to just be (even for a short while) has often been cobbled with the very thing inside of him that broke the day his father passed. It is hard to describe the death of a parent, and it is even harder to describe the death of a parent you are most alike. It does not matter how much time passes because the trauma always stays with you. If you are fortunate, you learn how to live with it in such a way that your parent would want, but Anthony Bridgerton has yet to learn that because he has yet to face his own heartaches, and he has yet to share his crosses.

This is such a small moment, a fragment that I did not think of until recently, but it fits because this sense of contentment, for a man like Anthony, is hard to come by. And in just a few moments, he will end up The Serpentine, but it does not change the fact that what this tells readers is that this woman is special—her presence does something no other human being could. To be in such a state where he is fully aware that he is at ease with this woman is why she is right for him—the very reason why he will dream of no one else after tonight.

As we have discussed in our character deep dive, Anthony Bridgerton has anxiety—and as someone who also suffers from anxiety, one of the very things I am often consciously aware of is the people with whomever my anxiety is not a staggering force. When I am at ease with them, I know they are my people, and in all my years of understanding this notion, this gut feeling has yet to be wrong.

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The Study/The First Kiss

“There was something about her that suited him like no woman ever had before, as if his body had discovered something his mind utterly refused to consider. Something about her was…right. She felt right. She smelled right. She tasted right. And he knew that if he stripped off all of her clothes and took her there on the carpet on the floor of his study, she would fit underneath him, fit around him—just right. It occurred to Anthony that when she wasn’t arguing with him, Kate Sheffield might bloody well be the finest woman in England” (73).

There are so few moments as glorious and as delicious as this scene in the study where Kate unknowingly intercepts Anthony’s tryst with opera singer Maria Rosso—truly so few. (How will this work out with the way things ended between Siena and Anthony? We are not sure, but what we are sure of is that the desk in his study needs to be replaced because there is no way anyone could fit under there! And this is a scene we absolutely need adapted to screen. But also, if Siena does somehow return, it could firmly reiterate Anthony’s choice and this understanding that no one has suited him the way Kate has.) There is something so incredible about the banter here, from the moment he spots her crouched like a frog to when he realizes she is clawing (or biting) his knee. Kate Sheffield is the only woman who could rile this man up while simultaneously setting him on fire—physically and emotionally. And Kate Sheffield is the only woman who could match his vigor with her own.

It really is such an exquisitely fun scene, and we want to see all of it. And to think he sets off trying to threaten her for interrupting him, but ends up kissing her instead, only to realize that it is so much more than his dreams let on—so much more than he imagined. And it is this very kiss that makes it clear that there is something about Kate. There is something about her that no other woman possesses, and there is something in her that fits him. The simplicity in the word choice Quinn uses here says it all—everything about her is right. 

There is also something even more incredible about this scene, which is just how aware Anthony is of what he intends, what he wants, and who he wants—he does not set off to hurt Kate, and thankfully he admits to that. As childish as throwing the key is, his awareness of how vehemently he wishes to apologize is so fascinating to read. Jonathan Bailey is already so great at showcasing regret and expressiveness, so it will be interesting to see how he touches on Anthony’s emotions when he realizes he wants to say and do more but cannot. Maybe TV Anthony will get down on his knees to apologize, or maybe he will just show us that even though he does not do it, it is the very thing he wishes he could do. And even if it is none of this, this all preludes the scene in the library incredibly.

But perhaps, all that aside, everything about this moment is just further proof that you cannot escape the thing your heart truly wants, you cannot escape the person whose entire existence has dominated your world, and that is what Kate is doing, without trying to, without even wanting to.

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Aubrey Hall Gardens Part I | The Tulips

“You should have a tulip,” he said matter-of-factly. “It isn’t right that Edwina receives all the flowers” (87).

This is why every single book reader and their mother lost their mind when TV Violet brought up tulips and the possibility of Anthony’s bride liking them as well. It’s so much more than that; however, it is once again a showcase of the complete and utter kindness that runs through Anthony’s bones amidst his chaotic exterior. It is seeing that this woman is worthy—more than anyone else. And it is a woman being given a flower for the first time, which is a huge deal, and a beautiful one at that. 

The thing is, even if you are not fond of flowers, even if they might not be your cup of tea, there is something about the first time someone gives you a flower—someone who gives you something just because they believe you deserve it.

The first time for anything is always special, and for Kate’s (real) first flower to come from Anthony makes it that much lovelier. The idea that she is not the first choice is already so appalling to him, and the more he tries to deny it, the more his actions prove otherwise. Kate should be showered with all the flowers—she will be, but for her first to be tulips, which symbolize passion?! Excellent. Simply excellent. Because as the one thing she never thought she would have, the one thing she did not allow herself to dream of, knowing it is what she will get and more makes this moment exceptionally evocative.

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Aubrey Hall Part II | Pall Mall

This ridiculous game of Bridgerton Pall Mall is what starts it all—doesn’t it? It is the one thing I am fairly certain that every single reader wants kept right down to the overwhelming detail of both of them realizing that something is different now. It is where everything changes—really and truly what shakes things into motion, but it is also single-handedly what deems Kate Sheffield as the best of them all. What illuminates the fact that she was always meant to be part of this family.

“Any true aficionado of Bridgerton Pall Mall understands that sending Anthony into the lake is far more important than sending one’s own ball through the wickets” (104). And that is exactly what Kate does—she sends him off to the lake to fetch the pink ball she sent in with her black mallet of death. It is the moment where we all know, the moment we can be certain of, even Colin Bridgerton has declared Kate Sheffield the perfect Viscountess Bridgerton. It is plotting to ensure Anthony is left with the pink mallet while Kate wields the black, and it is plotting to ensure that his time is unbelievably insufferable during this game.

So much of Pall Mall is a joy ride—Quinn’s established banter between her characters is always entertaining, but more than that, it is where we have gotten so used to jabs here and there and innuendos that are deliciously chaotic and provocative. “What are you going to do to me?” she asked. He leaned forward devilishly. “What am I not going to do to you might be a more appropriate question” (101). Part of the reason the enemies to lovers trope is as fun is because when it is done right, it sounds a lot like this. Just checking to make sure we are still talking about the game here, Lord Bridgerton … or do you have other things in mind? (Spoiler alert, he does.)

Pall Mall on-screen could and should be an entire episode. I do not think anyone would be opposed to this and much like other TV series have reoccurring holiday episodes, Bridgerton should give its viewers reoccurring episodes of yearly Pall Mall matches.

All that occurs at Aubrey Hall is, without question, the best part of the book, and it is largely due to the vulnerability it brings out of the Bridgerton family as they are back in their ancestral home where Edmund’s spirit lives on in. There is a particular detail in chapter eight that speaks of Hyacinth and how Anthony has tried to fill the gap (that not knowing Edmund must have left her with) as best he could (81). It is that very detail that now has us absolutely needing to see Hyacinth partake in all the fun at Aubrey Hall. (It is alluded to in the first season’s eighth episode, and we know that is a huge nudge to Pall Mall), so while it would change the details of the book and its players, there is no part of us that would mind if Hyacinth was part of the game. It could also be yet another exhibition to Kate of just how devoted he is to his family and, much like herself, that there is nothing he would not do for his sister. It does not have to be an official game of Pall Mall, but something of the sort—something that shows him involving Hyacinth would be everything and more while honoring this detail wonderfully.

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Aubrey Hall Part III | The Library

(If you have already read the teaser for this article, then this part remains unaltered, and you may skip to the next part if you would like.)

If I loved this scene less, I might be able to talk about it more—first, how hard is it to actually choose a first with these two? If we had to choose one scene that’s adapted on screen as close to the books, this is it. I’ll be fine with changes here and there, but this, I’m holding on to for dear life. 

This is a crucial scene for both characters in a moment of shared vulnerability that changes everything, and there’s a tremendous amount to love about it. For Kate, things change not only after Pall Mall, but when he swoops in to escort Penelope Featherington to her seat after 19th-century mean girl, Cressida Cowper has had her way with one too many words. But this scene in the library tells us, more than anything, that these are two characters for whom compassion runs deep. This is the moment where without even realizing it, they’re completely transparent with one another–as close to baring their souls as they have ever been while not quite there yet.

Prior to this, there is no going back for Anthony Bridgerton; she has captivated him entirely—” the bane of his existence and the object of his desires”—all at once. She’s the woman he admires effortlessly, despite not wanting to, because much like him, she holds on to her beliefs with unwavering fervency and colossal compassion. He knows she cares for her sister in the same way he cares for his siblings. He knows she would lay down her life for Edwina at any given moment. He knows she would go above and beyond, and he knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Kate Sheffield is a woman who deserves his respect, which makes this moment of vulnerability that much more incredible as a reader.

For Kate, no one has seen this side of her, and she had hoped that no one would. But when Anthony finds her in the library, crouched under the desk—his respect for her only intensifies, and the determination to care for her increases in tenfold. We have been saying all throughout our Bridgerton reviews that conversation matters—transparency matters, and despite the fact that this isn’t a moment led by choice, it’s a moment that beautifully leads to the one that will change both their lives. Anthony’s choice to lower himself to her level, to contrast the previous scene in his study, to contrast not getting to his knees to apologize about throwing the key is so telling of his character. “Eventually he managed to scoot himself under the table so that he was sitting beside her on the floor, with his arm around her trembling shoulders. She seemed to relax slightly at his touch, which left him with the oddest feelings—almost a sense of pride that he had been the one to be able to help her. That, and a bone-deep feeling of relief, because it was killing him to see her in such torment” (121). As the man who has had to take care of his family since he was 18-years-old, this is the very detail that tells us he is just as good as Edmund in spite of his belief that he isn’t.

Cracks knuckles, let’s dive in, shall we? In our character deep dive for Anthony Bridgerton, we take notice of his compassion instantly, but so much of that is different with Kate—it’s bone-deep. It’s not fully comprehending just how profoundly this woman’s wellbeing means to him. It’s understanding, but not entirely knowing how or why he cannot bear the thought of her in a state of darkness. And it’s the same thing for Kate. Once he begins speaking of his childhood, however, briefly, it strikes a chord in her.

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Anthony said in a halting voice, “sometimes there are reasons for our fears that we can’t quite explain. Sometimes it’s just something we feel in our bones, something we know to be true, but would sound foolish to anyone else.” Kate stared at him intently, watching his dark eyes in the flickering candlelight, and catching her breath at the flash of pain she saw in the brief second before he looked away. And she knew—with every fiber of her being—that he wasn’t speaking of intangibles. He was talking about his own fears, something very specific that haunted him every minute of every day. Something that she knew she did not have the right to ask him about. But she wished—oh, how she wished—that when he was ready to face his fears, she could be the one to help him. […] Suddenly it was too hard to be in his presence, too painful to know that he would belong to someone else (126).

Is it any wonder we’ve been continuously saying that conversation matters? Seeing people as they truly are and knowing fully that they deserve the world comes from moments of transparency like this. That’s part of what makes this moment, in this writer’s opinion, the strongest. In this very scene, Kate Sheffield is living through her greatest fear—a fear we later learn that results in her believing that she won’t live to see the next day–but in her darkness, she is noticing someone else’s pain and putting his above her own. She sees the flash of pain in the brief second before he turns away equates to she sees something in him no human has seen before—especially when he’s so good at masking it. And it’s necessary to note that he isn’t asked about his father on the TV show even when he makes it clear that he misses tremendously.

Is it any wonder why fans of this novel are itching to see all this brought to life on their TV screens? It’s moments like this that are so telling of just how riveting this couple truly is, but more than that, just how right they are for each other. At this point, they’re both too far gone in how deeply they care for each other—they’ll deny it still, but at least for Kate, this is the moment where it becomes evident that her very fears aren’t as heartbreaking as the pain in him.

She grasps her emotions instantly, understanding that she wants to guide him through his fears, love him through his imperfections, and be the light in his darkness, as he has been hers. It starts as a moment of deep vulnerability for Kate but ends with her wanting to be his strength. It takes selflessness to be as aware as Kate is—an altruism Anthony also possesses as the older sibling. It’s their innate need to be strong for others. They both possess it, and at this moment, they both put the other above themselves. It’s a moment where their hearts speak louder than their words ever could—a moment where their souls are on the same frequency, a moment where all is bare—a moment where there’s no going back from.

And it leads us to fervently stand by the belief that with this canon, with this characterization, Kate Sheffield will absolutely notice the repetition in how often Anthony looks at his father’s pocket watch—the moments of vulnerability and heartache the act occurs during. She’ll understand that there’s something bigger there than a curiosity for time. She’ll understand there’s something more than it being a family heirloom, and one day she’ll know the truth behind it. One day, in the same way, that he’d be her strength in a moment of harrowing fear, she’ll be his.

Finally, it is moments like this, which also tell us that it’s okay to be vulnerable, and it’s especially okay for the people who often feel as though they have to keep it together for those around them. It is a moment that tells us that fears and heartaches aren’t a weakness, but rather facing them and having someone by your side to guide you are very much a strength. It’s okay to depend on people. No one can go through anything on their own, and no one should. This is the very moment that tells Anthony Bridgerton that Kate Sheffield is in fact, the strongest woman of his acquaintance. This is the moment that tells the audience that she is relatable, real, and extraordinary. In the same way that it tells us just how compassionate and gentle Anthony is in spite of his menacing behavior at times. (Which they both possess, and we love them for.) It’s the moment that tells us Kate and Anthony are more alike than they lot on, but that above all, it’s easy to be vulnerable around each other. It’s easy because they care and because there’s something deep within that’s more compelling than they can fathom.

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Aubrey Hall Part IV | The Knowledge, The Bee, and The Engagement

Her brown eyes, wise and warm and undeniably perceptive, focused on his. For one split moment, he had the bizarre thought that she somehow knew everything about him, every last detail from the moment of his birth to his certainty of his own death. It seemed, in that second, with her face tipped up toward his and her lips slightly parted, that she, more than anyone else who would ever walk this earth, truly knew him.
It was thrilling.
But more than that, it was terrifying
” (131).

What makes this moment so fundamental to their relationship is that the time spent in the library profoundly changed everything. As readers, we understood just how perceptive Kate is and how much of Anthony’s pain she saw. She did not know of it entirely, but she understood that whatever darkness he harbors, whatever crosses he carries, they are enough to leave him battling through something crippling on his own. But in this very moment, what we see is a man realizing that the woman next to him not only leaves him with a sense of contentment but that something within her sees all of him. And that is something no one else has ever been close to understanding.

Whatever Kate sees in this very moment, it is everything, and it is all that he has ever wanted but never dreamed of allowing himself the choice to have because time, in and of itself, has hindered every sense of encompassing joy he could have found in life. And for TV Anthony, this very knowledge, this understanding is validated by what the audience knows—that he has tried, time and time again, but no one has seen these sides of him, and perhaps, even if he wore them on his chest like a scarlet letter, no one would see them the way Kate could anyway.

His tenacity thus to keep fighting against this, as ridiculous as it sounds, makes all the more sense when you realize that he is a titled man, fighting something larger than himself and cannot speak up about it because society does not allow for such things. And sometimes, even more than that, there is so much of the darkness that he himself cannot even grasp, which inadvertently makes the idea of this woman understanding him that much more terrifying.

So when Kate finally gives her blessing to allow him to marry Edwina, even though she is falling for him, we get to a place that further authenticates just how alike the two of them are in the sense that there is nothing they would not do for their siblings, even if it is at the expense of their own happiness.

It was that spark. That damnable spark that never seemed to dim between them. That awful prickle of awareness that burned every time she entered a room, or took a breath, or pointed a toe. That sinking feeling that he could, if he let himself, love her.
Which was the one thing he feared most.
Perhaps the only thing he feared at all.
(133)

You know, any other two people in the world would have already gotten together by now because how do you ignore said damned spark so fiercely? Oh, right, you need someone as stubborn as Viscount Bridgerton to do the trick. Noted. Bold of him to assume he does not already love her, but that is beyond this, the point is, I believe we can be fairly certain of the fact that one way or another, they would have found their way to each other. And part of what is going to make this scene, or any variation of it extraordinary in the TV series, is going to be the performances that tell us these very words with the absence of their thought process.

The remarkable balance here between heart and humor is where Julia Quinn excels—it is comical, it really is, Viscount Bridgerton brought down by a bee, but it is also symbolic and beautiful. 

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So much of Anthony’s issues are rooted in his fear of time—all the denial, all the pain, all the shit he pulls; it is all a result of the profound loss he experienced after losing their father. If we look at the symbolism through this, a bee took everything from Anthony and crippled him with this harrowing mortality awareness. But then, one day, a bee gave him everything as well. That is the whole essence of bees and their importance in the community, they give and take, and we need them. A bee took Anthony’s father, and a bee gave him Kate. Now, I am not saying that there is no way they would have gotten together without the bee, but fate is an especially central theme in The Viscount Who Loved Me, and I think this notion is one I am giving Quinn much credit for because it’s heartbreaking and beautiful, all at once.

And with Kate, while her fear of storms is not directly in line with the trauma that she experienced, that fear connected her to Anthony in a way no other human being could have. The events at the library changed everything as the shared vulnerability between the two altered their relationship entirely, but fate intervening the way that it did is pretty damn incredible. Because fate had to intervene for both of them, Anthony especially, to act on his feelings. He is absolutely enamored with Kate before all this, but his trauma and fears of falling for her would have kept him from acting on those feelings.  

Anthony and Kate were meant to be together, come hell or high water. While they will choose each other through everything after this, they needed fate’s nudge to push everything in motion. Storms and bees—representations of their trauma and their healing. The light in all their darkness came to them in the form of the other.

The entirety of this chapter is aces—Anthony’s rage in learning she had planned to be a spinster all her life, realizing he hates everyone who has made her feel less than, who has compared, who has looked down. It is realizing that he would not let himself choose her because of his fear and because of how much power she has over him. She is his choice deep down, and she will always be.

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The Wedding Night

One of my least favorite things about this is Anthony’s use of the word “rights,” and as we keep trying to remind ourselves that this is of the times, what makes up for this moment, is that where Anthony did not get down on his knees to apologize to her for throwing the key, here he does. And there is something that will always tug on our heartstrings about a man humbling himself as so to apologize—to make the woman before him feel safe enough to be around him.

And along with the scene at the library, this is another we would love to be unaltered or potentially even made better because where period pieces are concerned, so few actually have scenes where the first time is enjoyable for the woman. So few respect virginity, especially when they come from men who are titled somehow. But Anthony Bridgerton is not that man—he might not admit he is in love with her yet, but there is no denying that he adores her, and there is nothing he would not do to ensure that she feels safe with him. Anthony lowering himself to his knees is yet another remarkable showcase of vulnerability where he validates the notion that to him, she is more than—to him, she is an equal. The very thought of someone having ever harmed her breaks him more than anything he has ever faced, and it is this moment of intimacy that tells readers of how just how much he is willing to do to prove he is worthy of every part of her.

It is no longer about his ridiculous rights as a man but the chance of a lifetime to become one with the woman who has captivated him in a way that’s beyond understanding. It is putting aside his needs; however, colossal they may be at this moment and giving her a choice to say yes to him. He does not get to his knees in a formal proposal, but he gets to his knees before their marriage bed, and that is perhaps even greater.

Nudity is not a problem for Anthony, or men with his reputation rather, but we have actually mentioned in our reviews of Bridgerton that unlike people wearing certain pieces of clothing in fiction as a form of armor, Anthony’s nudity is his. He is someone who is comfortable with it, but more than that, sex is the only time where his demons are not playing a more significant role in his life than they generally do. Sex is the only time he does not have to worry about his mortality, which contributes to his rakish reputation in a rather interesting way when you think of what armor represents.

And naturally, for Kate, it is the opposite. While her demons are stemmed from a childhood trauma she is not consciously aware of, her insecurities are stemmed from always being second best. Thus, while she is more aware of going into the marriage bed than some women of the time, and she is aware that Anthony does seem to desire her to some degree, the very demons and fears of not being his choice understandably weigh on Kate. This is one of those scenes that could be analyzed through so many various different literary forms. If I had the time, I would do so (especially as a woman with her own insecurities so a feminist study of this would be riveting). Still, more than anything, it is Kate realizing that both through Anthony’s actions and his words, along with her own climax, whatever has gone on between them, she has enchanted him in the same way that he has her. And though they will not fall in love because he has made it stupidly clear that is the case, she understands after this moment that with him, she will be cherished.

When he states that “it’s never been this good,” she believes him, and when he tells her she is the most beautiful woman in the world, and he will prove it to her, she believes him—because he does so. The words are not just said to be nice or to have his way with her body, but because he firmly believes it, and thus, it is easy to believe when it comes from a place of sincerity.

We cannot wait to see how this scene will turn out with everything the series has done thus far, and we do not doubt for a moment that it will be worthy of ample praise.

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Whistledown June 10, 1814 Article

We all have that one thing we think about at least twice a day, right? This is mine. I want this framed. I have it on a sweater, for Christ’s sake. It’s like Penelope Featherington, as Lady Whistledown sat there and said: I have so many feelings I need to get out, and she wrote this article. (It’s essentially what the entirety of this article is, me getting all my Kate and Anthony feelings out.) No, but in truth, she is right—this is a love match.

And it’s confirmation of the fact that what others do not do with their wives, Anthony Bridgerton will. In this society, when we know that men with titles viewed their wives as property, it is beautiful to know that Anthony Bridgerton views his wife as his equal—his best friend, his better half.

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Chapter 18 | Afternoon Tea and Further Contentment

One of the things I adore most about The Viscount Who Loved Me is the clownery—truly, Anthony’s belief that he could not fall in love is simply aces.

“But when he’d reached White’s that afternoon, there was no one there with whom he felt particular urge to converse. He’d skimmed through the paper, but there was very little of interest in the most recent edition. And as he sat by the window, trying to enjoy his own company (but finding it pathetically lacking), he’d been struck by the most ridiculous urge to return home and see what Kate was up to” (180).

A handful of passages throughout The Viscount Who Loved Me provide the necessary humor and proof of Anthony’s clownery—never has a man tried and failed as miserably as he has in his quest not to fall in love. The amount of times he mentions it when he is already so far gone is part of what makes this book so grand because where it could have been annoying, instead it is ridiculously entertaining.

But more than anything, it is the notion that while men did not really spend time with their wives, Anthony cannot help but want to. While there was not much to do back then, how fortunate are they that there are so many things they can talk of and it will always be fulfilling for both of them to know that not only is the conversation enriching, but whatever they say, they will not be judged. He will listen to her play the flute even while she is terrible at it. He will tell her of his day knowing she genuinely cares, and she will tell him of hers with the same beliefs. And whatever it may be, it is a wonder to them—it is time well spent they cherish. It’s a joy because the person they are sharing this valuable time with is the person who can satisfy their souls in a way nothing and no one else could.

Quiet intimacy with one’s own spouse is even lacking today, it lacked especially back then, but with Kate and Anthony, it is effortless. It is effortless to just be together. The simple act of merely holding her on his lap is everything and more to heal the darkness within him, and being held by him, treasured by him, is her very undoing, too. It is this idea that when two people are best friends, really and truly, when they are each other’s armor and strength, when they are both perfect embodiments of chaos, they could laugh at fallen tea sets and find themselves tangled in each other as opposed to at balls.

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Kate Sheffield Confronts Her Fears

There are a myriad of moments throughout The Viscount Who Loved Me that are not only beautiful in how the love story pans out, but how special the platonic bonds are as well. Kate and Mary’s relationship along with Edwina’s, is one of those things. (We will all collectively riot if this is somehow changed, right?) There is nothing I would change about Kate’s relationship with Mary and Edwina and there is nothing I would change about how much Mary cares for Kate’s late mother, too. That is why this scene is so crucial and so fascinating because neither Kate nor Anthony ever thought of the fact that they would share their biggest fears with each other.

Kate’s choice to hide hers from her family and Anthony’s choice to hide from his was the one thing they both had—but when you share a bed with someone, it becomes impossible to hide your paralyzing nightmares. And that is ultimately how Anthony learns that there is something bigger to Kate’s fear of storms, but more than that, it is the decision to accompany her to Mary’s in order to be there—to make it easier for her.

Thus, when Mary finally tells Kate everything and learns that she purposely hid it from all of them, it is the stunning showcase of vulnerability, which more than anything tells us of its importance. It always takes much more strength to be vulnerable than it does to hide the truth.

Anthony is not about to bare his soul here in spite of the fact that he was moved to tears by the transparency and adoration between the two women. This also makes this moment a testament to the fact that oftentimes, it is easier for women to be more vulnerable than men. When we cry, it is deemed natural—we are always too overemotional, even in the 21st century,  but a man crying is not something that is welcomed, and it is not something that is expected. Unfortunately, this makes it that much harder, his will and decision, as well make it that much more difficult to confess to the fact that he has his very own fears, too. And though he knows where his came from, this display of vulnerability for the life his wife lived is thus that much more endearing.

When they are finally home that night and Anthony finds himself jealous of his wife, it serves as further proof of the fact that there is still so much armor he wears as both the viscount and a man. We have to wonder how this moment would be if he were a woman—if vulnerability was welcomed and open to him. He knows Kate would never judge him which is far from the issue, but if he tells Kate the truth, then along with that comes the truth behind why he believed he never wanted to fall in love. If he did not have to believe in the fact that he needs to act a certain way and carry himself a certain way in order to be the man that he is, perhaps it would have been a little easier too. And where TV Anthony is concerned, perhaps if heartache had not broken him, losing real, true love would not be that difficult.

That is also something we cannot wait to explore, which is how he handles his mortality issue and the fact that he has never known real love. And in this case, if he believes that love is the most difficult thing in an equation, then it adds on to the idea that if he does find great, unceasing love, it would make it even harder to leave it behind and not cherish it for years to come.

The man thus running away because he heard the words always and forever will never not crack me up—I get it, I do, but good lord, see this is it, this is the humor we cannot stop paying attention to because otherwise, this would just be that much darker. There is nothing Anthony would rather do than stay by his wife’s side, but there is nothing Anthony can do without exploding from the very voices in his head.

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Anthony Bridgerton Confronts His Fears

I will be perfectly honest and admit to the fact that I am not a fan of the “something really terrible and life threatening happens to make someone realize they love someone else” trope. I am complete and utter garbage for the hurt/comfort trope and will take it anytime, but there is something about the above example that does not always sit right with me. That said, as mentioned above, much like Kate, fear is so vastly enveloping for both of them that it is not something they would quickly share with the other had Anthony not accidentally blurted out that it should have been him. In the same way, if Anthony never saw Kate as she was living through her fears, she might not have admitted it either. That is how stubborn they are both are. (At least for a few more years.)

The thing is, at this point, he loves her more than anything in the world—more than himself, and he fears her mortality more than his own. And again, I love the detail that at this moment, it isn’t that Anthony feels Kate is somehow going to think less of him if he tells her of his fears, but rather now, on top of everything else, there is a sense of not wanting to burden her, the idea that he should still be strong, and perhaps even that if he says it out loud, it will thus become even more real. (And well, his stubbornness, that is still largely something that affects him down to his bones.)

So when he finally confesses, when they are home, and he has yelled at doctors, and he has revealed that more than anything, he is afraid of losing her than he is of losing time with her, it all becomes that much more real.

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“Could you come here so I can hold your hand?” 

There are a number of great moments between Kate and Anthony, but this one right here—there is something about it I can’t quite put into words.

“Anthony responded instantly; the warmth of her touch flooded him, seeping through his body until it caressed his very soul. And in that moment he realized that this was about more than love. This woman made him a better person. He’d been good and strong and kind before, but with her at his side, he was something more” (216).

There is something so achingly vulnerable about this moment—the intimacy is unparalleled and it is entirely due to the simplicity of it all. Sometimes, all it takes is the one person who loves you most, holding your hand to make everything better. Anthony was set on dealing with this moment alone—even as he is telling her the truth behind his beliefs, he stands by the window, careful not to burden her. And through this simple plea, Kate reminds him that not only is she not going to let him carry any of his burdens alone but that she will hold him through it. In her moment of darkness, he held her hand through it, physically and emotionally, making sure she knew and understood that she was not alone.

And at this moment, it is her turn to carry him. It is her way of reminding him that as the person who has borne the weight of everyone’s burdens on his shoulders, she is carrying all that belongs to him. She always will.

With a single touch, even the way this is phrased—it is everything he needs to know to understand that this woman can, indeed, make everything easier. She can make his darkness bearable, and she can heal his soul. It is Kate, wordlessly reminding him of the fact that she is not going anywhere. Kate is physically and emotionally, showing him that he can be at ease and confident in the detail that she will hold his hand through everything in life.

She will hold his hand through everything, and he will hold hers. So much of the reason why this couple is as captivating as they are is because they are two people who would give the world for each other and yet. Anthony Bridgerton and Kate Sheffield are both quietly damaged individuals who mask their pain through with the kind of armor that only one specific person can break through.

The Viscount Who Loved Me is the book that takes Anthony from the utter roguish viscount to the man who will move every mountain and stop the rain for the one woman who has challenged him in life-altering ways. This is the story of two people who will walk through the darkness holding hands and fully understanding each other in ways no other soul ever has. Ultimately, it is a stunning showcase of fears and complexities, directly in line with romance, making the relationship richer with empathy.

The TV series has much more room to explore how they navigate through their trauma—how they become one, body, and soul. There is much more room to explore how Anthony goes from admiring Edmund to learning that he is, in fact, very much like him because the woman by his side has made him better. As we said in our deep dive, Kate Sheffield heals his soul, but she doesn’t change his character; she helps remedy his flaws and magnifies what was already good. In the same way, he takes her fear and uplifts her at every chance he gets, reminding everyone in the world that there is no one comparable to his wife.

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Where love is true, it is unparalleled; it is beautifully encompassing—nothing, and no one can stand in between it. Anthony and Kate bring out the best in each other, and they do so by challenging one another. They match the other’s vigor with their own, and they love without ceasing, without judgment—completely stripped of their fears and insecurities, which exhibits that true love is vulnerable and sincere. And we can’t wait to see how the TV show brings this to life.

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Gissane Sophia View All

Gissane (pronounced Geese-enny) or, as people often call her, "Goose," is a Christ fan above all and a romance enthusiast who's taken her Master's degree in English and love for essays into writing lengthy analyses about pop culture.

She is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Marvelous Geeks Media and the co-host of Lady Geeks' Society Podcast. She drinks too much coffee, wants to live in a forest, and cries a lot because of her favorite characters. She's a member of The Cherry Picks and can also be found writing features for Looper.

3 thoughts on “‘The Viscount Who Loved Me’ Scene by Scene Breakdown and the Importance of Symbolism Leave a comment

  1. A beautifully written piece and character profile. BRAVA!
    Jonathon Bailey is such a profoundly moving actor. I’m already in love with how much he cares about this character and wants to see him taken care of.

  2. I wrote up a comment that was almost as long as your article, and my mother raised me better than that. 🙂 The Viscount Who Loved Me is the book I came back to most in my “comfort reads” sessions throughout the years, and given that it’s 20 years old, while there are some parts that do feel dated, the fact that it’s remained on my shelves all this time means the feels continue to get to me. I just wanted to add about the wedding night–every historical romance novel would have something like this as a kind of genre convention, but The Viscount Who Loved Me is right up there among my favorites if not my ultimate one. I like that (1) JQ makes it a point that we know that it’s Anthony’s first time to take a woman to his home; and (2) I don’t know, it really just got to me that part of that entire encounter was the tickling and the banter. It is really going to be a long wait for this story to get onscreen. *sigh*

    • Never opposed to comments as long as my articles. Lol! Feel free. Go crazy. Of course, the wedding night is a convention, I’ve read loads of historical romance at this point, but I’ll say, it’s still my favorite of all the ones I’ve read. It’s just so beautifully done and Julia Quinn is exceptional at writing it.

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