Just like in the “Bridgerton” TV series, the friendship between Eloise and Penelope is one of the most enduring and important relationships in the book series by Julia Quinn. Throughout the first several books, their friendship is as close as sisters. In fact, Penelope and Eloise are probably closer to each other than they are to their actual sisters. Both women are a little bit unusual in the society they’re in, with Eloise’s independent spirit and Penelope’s status as a “wallflower” (and, secretly, the powerful and mysterious Lady Whistledown). Curious to find out how their friendship pans out in the books after everything that goes down between them in season two? There are definitely a few twists ahead! (Fair warning: spoilers for the Bridgerton book series ahead, so if you’d rather watch the TV show totally unspoiled, this is where to turn back!)
The biggest difference between the TV series and the books is probably the role that Lady Whistledown plays in the earlier years of the series. In the first few Bridgerton books, Eloise isn’t especially concerned with unmasking Lady Whistledown. She’s curious, of course, but she doesn’t have quite the same single-minded determination that her TV counterpart has. Unbeknownst to her, of course, her BFF Penelope is the woman behind the pen, making things much more complicated for the two of them.
In the book series, Eloise’s story, “To Sir Phillip, With Love,” is set around the same time as Penelope’s “Romancing Mr. Bridgerton.” It’s in “Romancing Mr. Bridgerton” (the fourth book in the series) that Penelope’s identity as Lady Whistledown is finally revealed, both to readers and to several of the characters. However, since her story and Eloise’s overlap, Eloise is actually away on her own adventure when Penelope’s identity is revealed, meaning that we don’t really get to see much of Eloise’s reaction to the news.
Years later, however, Quinn wrote an additional epilogue to “Romancing Mr. Bridgerton” that finally gives us a peek at how Eloise takes the news. The bonus chapter is set on Eloise’s wedding day, and Penelope is determined to not spoil her BFF’s wedding day with her own revelation. She feels increasingly guilty as Eloise apologizes to her for keeping her secret romance hidden even from Penelope. Finally, she pulls Eloise aside to confess, only to find out that Hyacinth has already spilled the beans.
Instead of reacting with anger, however, Eloise tells Penelope how proud she is of her (and commends her for realizing that no one, not even Eloise, could have kept a secret of that magnitude for long!). It all ends with the two women confiding in each other again — and teasing each other about whose secret was bigger. Given how much more dramatic Whistledown’s revelations have been in the TV version, such as revealing Marina’s pregnancy, it seems likely that Eloise and Penelope might have a tougher time when the truth comes out. Still, we have every faith in the strength of their friendship, and we can’t wait to see them come into their own side by side!