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by Julia Quinn & Shonda Rhimes
This week we’re dealing with a rarity - a novelization of a television series! If often goes the other way, but after adapting Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton novels for the screen, producer and Queen of Shondaland, Shonda Rhimes, wanted a book to accompany her Bridgerton prequel story, Queen Charlotte. Julia Quinn heartily agreed and the women joined forces to create Queen Charlotte, taking turns writing scripts and manuscripts, and passing the pages back and forth until they had both a fully formed novel and a television series.
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Let’s see how it went!
Book: Queen Charlotte by Julia Quinn & Shonda Rhimes
Genre: Historical Fiction, Regency Romance
Spice Level: 🔥(sweetly spicy but nothing compared to Quinn’s other work)
Content Warning: Difficult childbirth, death, racism, mental illness, and some awful, medieval “treatments” for such illness that, today, would be considered torture.
Tropes: Arranged marriage, fated mates, royal romance.
If you’ve read the Bridgerton series, you know that despite her larger-than-life presence in the Netflix series, Queen Charlotte is not actually a character in the novels. However, after watching the show, it’s hard to imagine the London season without her!
So when I heard they were making a show AND writing a book about her, I was intrigued. After doing the slightest bit of research (if you call reading Wikipedia research… which I don’t think you can,) I realized that Netflix’s interpretation of Queen Charlotte and “The Mad King” George was, in fact, based on truth. I was curious where they’d take the story, which bits of history they’d incorporate, what they’d fictionalize, and how they’d incorporate what we know from the previous Bridgerton series.
What’s It About?
Charlotte is plucked from her modest estate in Mecklenburg-Strelitz Germany to… well, marry the King. No big deal. Like all of Julia Quinn’s heroines, Charlotte is tough and smart and is pretty sure she can make an escape before the wedding. She just needs a boost in order to make her way over the castle wall. Luckily, the handsome man she enlists for such help is, unbeknownst to her, the King himself. His charms are enough to get her to the altar, so all is well and they live happily ever after! Right?
Not right. Yet. George suffers from a consuming mental illness, and in an effort to protect his new bride from his episodes, he sets her up to live in Buckingham House while he stays at his estate in Kew. Being the badass she is, Charlotte refuses to let her new marriage go down without a fight, and they (eventually) conquer his demons together.
Now, while all this is happening, Charlotte’s new position as Queen is a way to promote the blending of the “new and the old” Ton - in other words, desegregating the titled London elite. She doesn’t quite understand this responsibility at first, but thanks to one of her ladies-in-waiting, Lady Agatha Danbury for the OG Bridgerton fans, she accepts her duty heroically.
Mental illness is a big one here. While reading about George’s episodes can be difficult, they’re nothing compared to reading about the “treatment” he undergoes from a medieval doctor with medieval tactics. It’s difficult to read.
Charlotte (spoiler alert but one you can probably guess) gets pregnant and her birthing process is a TOUGH one. And back then, a difficult birth could often be a death sentence. Luckily for us, we know that she goes on to have 14 more children, so while it was hard to read, it does end well!
A delightful part of this book was learning more about Lady Danbury’s backstory. Why is she such a badass? Where did she come from? Why is she so respected (and feared) among the members of the Ton? Well, we learn it all, and unsurprisingly, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. I don’t want to spoil anything, but all I’ll tell you is that you’ll step away from this novel with even more respect for Lady Danbury than you already do.
Now, how to make your reading experience a bit more fun?
💭 Activity Pairing: Therapy! Yeah, I’m gonna get on my soap box for a second. Stay with me.
If you’ve watched the show (this part is omitted in the book,) you might have had the same moment of hope I did for Dr. Monro’s tactics. At first, it seems that he will help George through talk therapy. Spoiler alert: he does not. Fortunately, we live in 2023 and talk therapy is proven to be an effective treatment for all kinds of mental health issues, and doctors of psychiatry can prescribe medication to help all manner of ailments. Even if you don’t have any pressing issues, therapy is amazing and I highly recommend it.
Think of it like going to the dentist. You go regularly to maintain your dental health, rather than waiting until you have a mouth full of cavities. Therapy is the same way. Don’t wait until you’re in a crisis to seek it out!
The hardest part about starting therapy, though, is finding a therapist and booking the appointment. There are online options like BetterHelp and TalkSpace which work for some people. If you’re more of an in-person kind of person, here is a great article from NPR that has some helpful tips for finding a therapist.
🔭 Activity Suggestion: Okay back to the fun stuff. King George had an insatiable love of the sciences, especially astronomy - in real life, and in the book. In fact, he owns the biggest, best, fanciest, schmanciest telescope in the world, which from what I gather from the “research” I did, was most likely true at the time! So I highly recommend checking out some stargazing events if you can. NASA has a great resource here on how to find the best places to stargaze if you’re looking to see the stars, galaxies, and even the plane of the Milky Way with the naked eye. If you want to check out the heavens through telescopes that would have put King George’s to shame, here is a list of the best observatories in the US! Also, be sure to check out your local planetariums (which may be associated with a local school or college) because they often host free sky-viewing events!
🛍 Etsy Listing: Etsy is FULL of cute Queen Charlotte merch! My favorites are this art print of the Incomparable Queen Charlotte from the Incomparable Designed By Shea, this sweatshirt with one of Charlotte’s sweet quotes, and this sticker, that captures George’s wonder that Charlotte did not, in fact, go over the wall.
As always, I encourage you to see if Queen Charlotte is available from your local, indie bookstore. Don’t know where one is? Try this Indie Bookstore Finder! You can also purchase it directly from Julia Quinn’s website.
Your local library is also a great place to look for this and other books. And, of course, all the big-name booksellers will certainly have what you’re looking for.
This was a fun read, and if you’re a Bridgerton fan already, I know you’ll love it!
I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!