In light of it being February, which means a bunch of articles about romance novels – and how they’re nothing but fluff – we decided to hash out our feelings about Bridgerton. We had a lot of them: excitement about watching a romance adaptation (especially with our spouses, none of whom read romance but all of whom were good sports and then got totally hooked), disappointment about some of the decisions the showrunners made, discomfort about the trajectory for Marina Thompson’s character…but most of all, a sense of grumpiness in the way people have been talking about the show. Not the thoughtful critiques of the show, because there are nuanced and necessary conversations to be had about race and gender and consent and class, but the ubiquitous takes that were like, “Wow, this show is fluffy, but it’s shockingly fun!”Continue reading “Bridgerton Discussion: It’s Not Fluff”
Looking for a new author? Here’s everything you need to know about Julia Quinn, whose books include the now-famous Bridgerton series, as well as Splendid, How to Marry a Marquis, and The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband.
What She Writes:
Regency romance (and a few Georgians) with lots of banter and not a ton of heat. For the most part, her books are set in one interconnected world, so secondary characters appear in multiple series, and everyone in her books is reading the same (utterly ridiculous) gothic romance.
What Makes Her Unique:
She leans into the romp without stepping too far outside generic expectations for regency romance, so it’s usually pretty fun to read her books, even when she’s working with an angstier narrative.
Did we mention the banter?
Her Books in gif Form:
Why We Love Her:
Even when she’s getting serious and angsty, her books are playful and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. Plus, the callbacks are so much fun, especially for dedicated readers. (The Smith-Smythe series may not be her best work, but that Smith-Smythe Musicale sure is something else.)
She Might Not Be For You If:
You like to mix it up with social, racial, or queer diversity. Or if an abundance of witty banter makes you want to throw books.
“May I be of assistance?” he murmured.
Grace shook her head frantically. She could not touch him. She did not know why, precisely, but she knew in her bones that it would be an utter disaster to put her hand in his.
“Very well,” he said with a small sigh. “Ladies today are so very capable. It breaks my heart, really.” He leaned in, almost as if sharing a secret. “No one likes to feel superfluous.”
Grace just stared at him.
“Rendered mute by my grace and charm,” he said, stepping back to allow them to exit. “It happens all the time. Really, I shouldn’t be allowed near the ladies. I have such a vexing effect on you.”
He was mad. That was the only explanation. Grace didn’t care how pretty his manners were, he had to be mad. And he had a gun.-The Lost Duke of Wyndham
Much of Quinn’s popular backlist is around 20 years old, so there’s definitely content that doesn’t jive with modern expectations. For example, it’s hard to argue that Simon consents to sex with Daphne in The Duke and I, which probably wouldn’t fly now.
The Bottom Line:
There is definitely a reason that Julia Quinn is a bestselling author – she tells a good story! She is remarkably consistent in style and tone, so you know pretty much exactly what to expect when you pick up one of her books. But she doesn’t push boundaries or play with tropes in unexpected ways, and is therefore probably best suited to readers who are looking for a pretty conventional historical romance narrative with relatively low heat.
How to Marry a Marquis (Lady Danbury 4-eva!)
Have you read Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton books? What do you think about them?
Erin: For a long time they were my favorite series. The last couple I remember going out to purchase on release day. I’ve reread them a couple of times here and there, but it’s been a while since the last time. When I reread The Duke and I last year, I came to the conclusion that much of what I loved about them fit me when I was in my early romance days 15+ years ago but doesn’t necessarily fit me now. So it’s a nostalgia thing, I guess, where I can recall the world Quinn created fondly.
Holly: I read them once, like, 15 years ago. Except for It’s In His Kiss (Book #7), which I have a hard copy of for some reason and therefore have reread a handful of times. I remember literally nothing about The Duke and I. What really sticks in my memory about Quinn’s books are the secondary characters and jokes that show up repeatedly, like the dreaded Smith-Smythe Musicale and Miss Buttersworth and the Mad Baron and that the poor Featherington sisters have to wear the worst clothes and that everyone is afraid of Lady Danbury (aka The Best Character).
Ingrid: Yes. But I had to recheck myself because it’s been quite a long time. I do remember really loving them when I first cracked them open.
What’s your impression of the trailer?
E: This show is going to be suuuuuuper drama.
H: It looks so delicious. Just, like, the visuals are so sumptuous. I love it.
I: I will require chocolate and many cups of tea.
Do you think Shonda Rhimes is a good fit for translating Quinn to television?
E: My experience with Shonda Rhimes is limited to dramas, like, 10 years ago, so at first I was…surprised. Then I realized that, even though I look back at the series with a lens of “funny JQ witty bantery stories,” it is pretty dramatic with some definite angst when all is said and done. So I’m optimistic. Plus, I like that they just threw out the “everybody’s white” convention and owned that they’re doing their own thing with this production, even while clearly playing on some fan favorite aspects of the series.
H: Am I still allowed in the club if I’ve never watched Grey’s Anatomy or Scandal? I did watch the first season of How to Get Away with Murder, though. So my impression of Rhimes is over the top drama and ridiculous plot and…that sounds like a Regency romance.
I: All I know is Grey’s Anatomy, and while I LOVED that show for a good long time it went on a bit too long for me… I hope they’ll let the books stand on their own and will let romance’s natural drama shine through. I imagine Shonda Rhimes is probably a good fit for that.
What are your expectations for the show?
E: I expect that it will be bananapants.
H: Extreme bananapants.
I: So many bananas.
How excited are you?
E: I’m tentatively excited. I think the series is a product of its time and hasn’t necessarily aged well (I don’t think Daphne’s scandalous sex scene with Simon would ever be written that way now, for example), so I do want to get a bit of that fun back without some of the “ehh” I get if I read some of the character dynamics now. But at the same time, there’s that place in your heart where you want to keep your own imaginings of a story you loved back when, and seeing it executed with someone else’s vision might ruin that, and it’s scary!
H: Soooo excited! I mean, I’m happy enough about the source material, and happy that Netflix is letting Shonda Rimes do her thing, but really, I just LOVE period costume pieces. I don’t care if they are terrible and historically inaccurate and that the costuming is nonsense! They are pretty to look at! And this will be ridiculous, soapy fun. I spent all of early December watching sci-fi TV with my husband as preemptive bribery for him watching this with me. He’s going to roll his eyes a lot but I don’t even care.
I: I’m definitely curious and excited. I think it’ll be a much-needed distraction after a dumpster fire of a year, and I want some angsty dark-corner brooding and sneaky smooching in fancy period clothes. I want ridiculous miscommunications and I want some tastefully-done make up gestures. I want what I want, and that’s all there is to it. Where’s my popcorn?
Splendid Trilogy, Book 1
Heat Factor: Hotter than most of JQ’s later books, but still just maybe Bunsen burner level
Character Chemistry: High drama but the overkill is fun
Plot: misunderstandings, compromises, kidnappings, OH MY!
Overall: If I were to write a first romance novel, I would hope it approaches this level of entertainment
Rokesby Series, Book 3
Heat Factor: A tiny bit of heat, right at the very end
Character Chemistry: Banter
Plot: Kidnapped by pirates! Twice
Overall: The dialogue was too sparkling and overshadowed a good story