The first book in the series, The Duke and I, holds the number one spot on The New York Times' bestsellers list

By Sam Gillette
January 22, 2021 04:20 PM
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Phoebe Dynevor and Regé-Jean Page in Bridgerton
| Credit: LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX

Almost one month after the hit period drama Bridgerton was released on Netflix, sales of the same-titled book series by Julia Quinn have exploded, with the first book securing the number one spot on The New York Times' bestsellers list. Other novels in the historical romance series aren't far behind.

What does the immense success of both the show and the books mean for fans of the romance genre? Readers can expect more "dazzling" adaptations to come.

"These books have been beloved since their original publication, and we expected there would be renewed interest in them, but I don't think anyone anticipated this level of response," Quinn's editor Lyssa Keusch, executive editor at Avon Books, tells PEOPLE. "We're all absolutely thrilled to reacquaint loyal fans with the Bridgerton family and to introduce a whole new audience to this unforgettable world!"

Credit: Avon

The novels follow the eight Bridgerton siblings as they find love in Regency England. The first season of the Netflix show explores the burgeoning connection between Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) and Simon Basset (Regé-Jean Page), whose inheritance of a dukedom can't protect him from his dark past. Add in some meddlesome mothers and a narrator, Lady Whistledown (Julie Andrews), who is an expert in sniffing out scandal, and you've got a period drama unlike any other.

Since the premiere of the show on Christmas Day, booksellers have scrambled to meet the demand fueled by the Bridgerton mania. (Some longtime fans of the books, however, have had their copies for almost two decades — The Duke and I was first published in 2000.)

"Sales of all eight books in the series have increased exponentially since the premiere of the show," a spokeswoman from the publisher Avon tells PEOPLE, "propelling the first book, The Duke and I, to number one on the NYT bestsellers list and The Viscount Who Loved Me and Romancing Mr. Bridgerton onto the list as well — the first time any of the original series books have hit the list at the same time."

RELATED VIDEO: Bridgerton's Regé-Jean Page Addresses Rumors He's Dating Costar Phoebe Dynevor

While many readers of the series were drawn to the Netflix adaptation, other viewers decided to binge the show because they're fans of Shonda Rhimes' work. Already beloved for her creation of TV series like Grey's Anatomy and Scandal, it was big news in the entertainment industry when the 51-year-old producer signed an eight-show deal with the streaming service in 2017.

Rhimes is known for her propulsive plots and inclusive casting. The same formula was applied to Bridgerton, with Chris Van Dusen serving as show creator. His decision to cast people of color was a distinct change from the book series, which, like many historical romance novels, features all-white characters.

"Period shows tend to be a little conservative and a little traditional," Van Dusen, who ensured Bridgerton features strong heroines and addresses issues of race and class, told The Hollywood Reporter last October. "We're not making your grandmother's period show."

In December, Quinn spoke to PEOPLE about how excited she was to see show creators commit to "color-conscious casting" and include a new character, Queen Charlotte, whom historians believe was the first-ever biracial royal.

Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte in Bridgerton
| Credit: LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX

"The idea was, 'What if [Queen Charlotte] had used her position to elevate people of color to positions of power? What would society look like then?" Quinn said at the time. "It was a reimagining. You see it and you think, boy, that's how society should be."

While the show doesn't adapt the books "word for word," Quinn said it has captured the essence of the characters and storyline.

"I think [fans are] going to be really amazed at how you can take something and not adapt it word for word — because it's absolutely not — and yet still stay so incredibly true to the characters and story," said Quinn, who was also impressed by the fashion and photography involved in making Netflix's Bridgerton.

"The fashions of the Regency era were not as bold and colorful and sparkly as we're getting in Bridgerton," the author explained. "They are making everything just a little bit more exciting and lush and colorful and vibrant. They've created a very, very vibrant world."

Adds Keusch, Quinn's editor: "I think the teams at Netflix and Shondaland have created a series that captures all of the wit, charm, emotion, tension, chemistry and romance at the heart of Julia Quinn's Bridgerton novels; infused it with a modern sensibility in terms of inclusivity, sensuality, feminism; and wrapped it in a rich, dazzling, opulent visual package. It's brilliant."

Both Keusch and Quinn are also thrilled by the larger implications of such a successful reimagining of the Bridgerton novels. The show is part of an emerging — and long-awaited — trend of romance novels being adapted for the screen. In the past couple of years, Netflix released Virgin River and Sweet Magnolias, shows that are based on two romance series by Robyn Carr and Sherryl Woods, respectively, with great success.

"I'm thrilled to see the way these adaptations have introduced viewers to the universal storytelling might of romance writers, who have long been overlooked," Keusch says. "The stories they tell are for everyone; at the core, they reveal what it means to be connected, to be human."