Since the end of Season 2, there have been rumors that Bridgerton would start pulling away in earnest from the book's source material in the next two installments. This was probably inevitable, considering how much the show changed up from the second book in Julia Quinn's series of Bridgerton novels, shifting Anthony and Kate's romance into a psuedo-love triangle to make it feel less like the first season's tale of Simon and Daphne. But it seemed the rumors were correct; actor Nicola Coughlan, who plays Penelope Featherington, a.k.a. Lady Whistledown, revealed that the series would foreground the romance in book four instead of continuing in order with book three.
Speaking at Bridgerton's FYSEE panel ahead of the Emmy nominations cut off, Coughlan admitted, “Like Lady Whistledown, I have been keeping a secret for quite some time. I can confirm to you all that Season 3 is Colin and Penelope’s love story." Considering the sheer number of rumors, she said, "I have kept that secret since two weeks into Season 2. This is the first time I am saying it here.” So whoever it was that leaked the news Colin and Penelope were next up instead of Benedict, it was not the actor who plays the show's favorite scribe.
Many fans know by now that the third book in Quinn's series, An Offer From A Gentleman, is Benedict Bridgerton's (Luke Thompson) love story. (Though book one starts in the middle of the family with Daphne, from the second book onward, the stories go in age and alphabetical order until the last two installments.) It is essentially Quinn's retelling of Cinderella, except Prince Charming is Bridgerton's second son. On the one hand, that makes its story quite different from the last two seasons, but on the other, it also makes it a super simple narrative to try to stretch out over eight episodes.
Worse, the story is actually in two parts: the first half takes place one year after Anthony's marriage, and the other is set three years later in 1818, which happens to be the same year Queen Charlotte passes away. Considering what a significant figure Queen Charlotte has turned into in the world of the show, that clearly will never do, nor will pushing the story forward to 1825, when Colin, Eloise, and Francesca's love stories all take place. The show was going to have to restructure no matter what, and it might as well start here, now that the series is well established as a hit.
Romancing Mr. Bridgerton, the fourth book in the series, features Colin (Luke Newton) and Penelope's love story as well as the denouement of the Lady Whistledown arc. The series has already played up the Whistledown mystery far more than the books do and revealed the secret to many more people. (Book four is the only one where it gets anywhere near the hype, only because Penelope is the author.) Trying to draw it out longer over two more seasons will only make things worse. So it makes a lot of sense to both up in terms of the series' timeline, because the show has eight episodes worth of story there.
That doesn't mean Benedict will necessarily get skipped. His story plays out in two parts, and the second half takes place almost totally outside of London and away from his family. Turning Benedict's thin Cinderella romance into a Season 3 subplot while making Penelope and Colin the primary focus is a pretty sensible option.
Bridgerton Season 3 is slated to start filming in London later in the summer of 2022 and is expected to arrive in late 2023 or early 2024. Seasons 1 and 2 are streaming now on Netflix.