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Bridgerton author on romance, female empowerment and the 'happily ever after'

The author of the novels behind hit Netflix series Bridgerton has spoken out in support of female empowerment and the 'happily ever after'.

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Julia Quinn discussed with Breakfast the hit Regency-era book series the television series is based on. Source: Breakfast

The Regency era drama has gathered a staggering following, being watched by 82 million households in its first month of airing.

Julia Quinn has more than three dozen novels after she began writing the series in the year 2000, including 18 consecutive New York Times bestsellers.

The series follows the aristocratic Bridgerton family as they navigate the trappings of 1813 London.

Despite being set in an era steeped in patriarchy – both in the home and through marriage – Quinn gives her female characters some brief but powerful agency against the odds. 

“It’s a very strange time period to write about,” Quinn explained to Breakfast. “It’s very easy to romanticise, to treat it a bit like a fairy tale and really get swept away with the manners, with the beautiful costumes, but at its heart, it’s not a time I would live in.

“I get asked by that by people all the time like, ‘Ooh, would you go back?’ and I think, ‘Are you kidding? No!’ Aside from everything you’re saying about just lack of agency and power for women, I frankly don’t want to live any time before antibiotics and vaccines either.”

Quinn said she “can’t imagine living in a time where so much of my life would be determined by a choice I make at the age of 18," adding that many women at the time "weren’t even granted that choice". 

“It was, ‘You need to get married, you’re going to marry this guy’ and there you go. Do with it what you will.”

The character of Daphne Bridgerton serves as a prime example of a woman without need of the patriarchy or male intervention, meeting Simon Bassett, the Duke of Hastings, after punching a man making unwanted advances towards her.

“She is handling things – at least in that moment – but even so, so much of what her life is going to come to, what it’s going to depend on, will be the choices she makes having to do with marriage,” she said.

“I just really like working in this framework of this incredibly restricted and restrictive time period for women and seeing, ‘What can they carve out for themselves?’ - showing women finding their power where they can.”

Quinn called out critics who label the series as unrealistic and her desire for the ‘happily ever after’.

“People … just call the books unrealistic in general and I’m thinking, ‘You’re over there reading Tom Clancy and murder mysteries or watch Murder She Wrote where somebody gets killed every week in this tiny town.

“I’d rather live in my version of reality where people fall in love and live happily ever after.

“One thing I’ve said for a long time is you always get more respect if you don’t have a happy ending and that goes across everything – it’s not just romance novels. Look at what gets nominated for film awards – it’s never the comedies.

"Nobody is giving awards for modelling happiness and I think that’s sad. I think we need more models of happiness in life."