the Regency romp is back, but why have they dialled down the sex?

The first series of Bridgerton (Netflix) launched at a point when we had lost our collective mind. Over that gloomy Covid Christmas of 2020, we fell on this period romp with weeping relief. After almost a year trapped in the house with only ourselves for company, of course we went Bridgerton-mad. Heaving bosoms! Naked bottoms! Grand balls soundtracked by Taylor Swift songs!

Never mind that (whisper it) some of the acting was a bit ropey and there was only a trace element of sexual chemistry between the leads. It offered lightness and joy. Casting black actors in major roles, including the swoonsome Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page) and the Queen herself (Golda Rosheuvel), may have seemed to some, before the show aired, like a gimmick. But it made perfect sense when we were immersed in Bridgerton’s fantasy universe. This was not po-faced history but a Regency theme park, and it made other period dramas seem moribund by comparison.

Now that we’re all a bit less delirious, we can judge the arrival of series two on its dramatic merits. And it is still silly fun, though the novelty has worn off.

The bad news for fans of the dishy duke is that he’s no longer in it. Page exited after series one, pursued by James Bond casting rumours. He hasn’t been killed off in the script, but is just referred to by his wife, Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor, the star of series one, now a relatively minor figure in plot terms), as simply being “at home”.

Instead, Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey), eldest son of the aristocratic top dogs, has been promoted to lead heart-throb. He finds himself in a love triangle involving two sisters, Edwina and Kate Sharma (Charithra Chandran and Simone Ashley), recently arrived from India. Everyone would like him to marry Edwina, who is sweet-natured, but he has the hots for Kate – a feisty “spinster” at the ancient age of 26. Anthony and Kate verbally spar through the episodes, essentially recreating the dynamic between Daphne and the Duke in series one.