Bridgerton newcomer Kate Sharma is adamant that she isn’t interested in finding love when she arrives to Regency society – but in a powerful conversation with Lady Danbury, the headstrong sister is forced to confront an uncomfortable truth.
“Any suitor wishing to gain an audience with Miss Edwina Sharma must first tame the rather prickly spinster of a beast otherwise known as her sister.”
So goes the opening lines of the second episode of Bridgerton, penned none other than the Ton’s chief gossip, Lady Whistledown. Said ‘prickly spinster’ is Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley), a smart, headstrong young woman who has travelled from India alongside her younger sister, Edwina Sharma (Charithra Chandran), and her mother, Mary Sharma (Shelley Conn), to participate in the social season.
The voyage hasn’t been in the name of merriment, of course. This season, the Sharma family intend to find Edwina a charming, handsome and, most importantly, monied husband who can provide for the family financially. As the eldest, Kate takes it upon herself to channel all her energies into finding Edwina her desired love match by researching eligible bachelors, screening visitors and doing her utmost to keep unsuitable characters at bay – Anthony Bridgerton included.
But although many in Bridgerton society judge Kate as rigid and overbearing, her actions come from a place of deep love. In the first episode of the second season, she confides in a rare moment of vulnerability to Lady Danbury that she helped raise her younger sister alongside her mother after their father died. Though the family endured great hardship, Kate successfully schooled her younger sister into becoming the diamond of the season – who we also learn, incidentally, is Mary Sharma’s only child by birth. Fiercely loyal and self-sacrificing, Kate’s determination to ensure the happiness of her family also means that she resigns herself to living out her days as a spinster.
It’s clear, though, that Kate’s argument for resisting love is actually a defence mechanism. While she is undoubtedly competitive and guarded by nature, she presents a hard exterior to prevent anyone from getting close to her and discovering her fears and insecurities; one being that she is undesirable as an older woman on the marriage market.
The narratives we tell ourselves are often a world away from reality, though. So when Lady Danbury holds a soirée so that Edwina can get to know her suitors better, the opportunity presents itself to course-correct Kate’s unfortunate perception of herself.
It all starts when Anthony Bridgerton, who Kate has diligently ensured hasn’t received an invite, gatecrashes the party. Even worse, he enraptures the audience by declaring to Edwina that while he hasn’t prepared a special performance of pretty words, as a man of action and duty he can more than make up for it.
So enraged is Kate that Anthony has weaselled his way into Edwina’s company that she has to leave the room to calm down. When Lady Danbury pursues her and observes how exasperated she seems by Anthony’s company, Kate declares that she finds him “incorrigible” and will ensure that her sister eventually sees it too.
Lady Danbury then bestows some sage words of advice.
“When one is frustrated, it is often much wiser to focus upon satisfying one’s own needs,” she begins. “Attempting to influence others as to the correct course of action, well, it is often a trying and irritating endeavour that only brings out the worst in us before we discover it has been fruitless all along.”
Kate then tells Lady Danbury that while she is aware that she has made a fool of herself by getting frustrated, she doesn’t care a bit what people think of her. In fact, she continues, when her sister is happily married, she will return home to India alone, “only too glad to never set foot in this city again”.
Lady Danbury is mightily disheartened by Kate’s cynicism but makes it known that she can see straight through her bluster. “I, for one, find it not only terribly disheartening but also an offence against truth to hear you say you wish to be alone at a mere six and twenty?”
Kate then attempts to defend her position with the response that she intends to become a governess and will be content being alone, just like Lady Danbury. Lady Danbury does not take kindly to the comparison, however, and brings Kate sharply back down to earth by telling her that she is content precisely because she has “lived a life”.
“I am a widow. I have loved. I have lost. I have earned the right to do whatever I please, whenever I please and however I please to do it. Child, you are not me. And if you continue down this road, you most certainly never will be.”
After Lady Danbury departs the room, we see Kate standing alone looking stunned as she reconsiders this unsettling truth. For while she has been comfortable adhering to the storyline that she is happy being alone, it is evident that Kate knows, deep down, that she has been shortchanging herself of the opportunity to find love and happiness because she is afraid to be vulnerable. And while it’s never pleasant when someone holds a mirror up and reflects back the parts of ourselves that we’d rather not confront, it is often in those moments that we find opportunities for growth. The question is, what are the stories we tell ourselves every day that we’ve outgrown?
Christobel Hastings is Stylist's Entertainment Editor whose specialist interests include pop culture, LGBTQ+ identity and lore.