Netflix’s popular ‘Bridgerton’ is written by local bestselling romance novelist Julia Quinn
Bridgerton, the steamy Regency Era historical romance, has smashed Netflix records. The show has been viewed by 82 million households and counting, making it the streaming platform’s most watched show of all time. And the series has local roots; it was adapted from the popular Bridgerton romance novels written by Seattle’s Julia Quinn.
Quinn is a New York Times bestselling author 19 times over and her books have been translated into 29 languages, so why do people still like to poke fun at the romance novel genre?
“Our society tends to devalue anything that is perceived as feminine,” Quinn said. “[Seattle celebrity librarian and literary critic] Nancy Pearl said something that has always stayed with me. She said that literary fiction is always judged by the best of its examples. Romance is always judged by the worst. And it’s true! They find the most over-the-top, crazy, bonkers romance novels that they can and make it sound like that’s what everything is. But it’s just absolutely not true, there’s fabulous writing out there.”
“And, you know, the old-time, cheesy book covers don’t particularly help,” she added. “The second most common question I get after, ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ is, ‘Have you met Fabio?'”
If you love romance novels, you are in good company: Romance is the top revenue generating literary category in the United States. Half of the paperback books sold in the United States are romance or erotica. No matter how poorly the publishing industry or the economy is doing, romance always sells.
But Quinn almost took another career route.
“I sold my first two books, in a two-book deal, the same month I got into medical school,” Quinn said. “I did go for about two or three months before I realized this is not the right thing. I withdrew and have been writing full time ever since. I am married to a doctor; I know exactly what I’m missing. I’m one hundred percent sure I made the correct decision. Especially now; he’s an infectious disease specialist, so it’s a big year for him.”
Quinn is from the East Coast, but she moved to Seattle about 20 years ago. When she had kids, her mother followed.
“My mother is the typical Jewish mom who thinks that chicken soup can cure everything. You have a rash? You should apply it topically. She lives very close by and if anyone has a sniffle she says, ‘I have soup in the freezer!,'” Quinn said. “I raised my kids in the Pacific Northwest and one of them had a cold and my mom says, again, ‘I have soup in the freezer, I’ll bring it over!’ My kids were like, ‘We don’t want Nana’s chicken soup, we want pho.’ It was like you had stabbed my mother through the heart. So I went out to my favorite pho place, Pho Bac.”
“Well, fast forward a couple years and my mom is sick,” she continued. “So I asked her, ‘Do you want me to make you chicken soup?’ And in this little, tiny voice she says, ‘Do you think you could get me some pho?'”
This is just an excerpt from the Julia Quinn episode of Your Last Meal podcast. Listen to the whole episode to learn why Seattle has so many pho restaurants, and how Washington state became home to the third largest Vietnamese population in the country.
“If you go around Seattle, every block has a pho shop,” said Yenvy Pham, co-owner of Seattle’s oldest pho shop, Pho Bac. “It’s like a Starbucks. Seattle is known for coffee? Seattle, we’re known for pho!”
And what would the Bridgerton family have eaten? I called Paul Couchman, a food historian known as “The Regency Chef” who offers Regency Era cooking classes and catering at The Regency Town House, a restored 1820s mansion in Brighton, England.
“One Christmas, I started making mince pies from an old recipe and I stood there in the old kitchen, making my mince pie, and I thought, ‘I’m standing in the same place a servant would have stood, making the same thing,'” Couchman said. “And you get this sort of rush, this feeling on your skin of going back in time. It was so beautiful I thought, I want to to share this with other people.”
Click here to listen to Your Last Meal, listen where ever you get podcasts, or text JULIA to 98973 and we’ll text you the episode.
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- Rachel Belle hosts the James Beard Award nominated podcast Your Last Meal and she's an Edward R Murrow award winning feature reporter. Follow Rachel on Instagram.