Addie Woolridge’s romance novels, “The Checklist” and “The Bounce Back,” have the hallmarks of her childhood — including the setting — the beautiful, rainy Pacific Northwest.

Addie Woolridge’s romance novels, “The Checklist” and “The Bounce Back,” have the hallmarks of her childhood — including the setting — the beautiful, rainy Pacific Northwest.

Romance authors draw inspiration from Snohomish County roots

What do we talk about when we talk about love in the Pacific Northwest? Three local writers find it to be an ideal setting.

MILL CREEK — There’s the mischievous family dog, based on her naughty German shepherd, who shredded feather pillows and stole ice cubes from the fridge.

The bohemian mother and father, like her own parents, who provoked her free spirit and let pajamas be worn outside the house.

The multicultural cast of characters, reminiscent of the diversity that surrounded her, growing up as a Black girl in Snohomish County.

Addie Woolridge’s romance novels, “The Checklist” and “The Bounce Back,” have the hallmarks of her childhood — including the same setting: the beautiful, rainy Pacific Northwest.

“There are so many things in the books that readers will recognize,” said Woolridge, who’s from Mill Creek and now lives in northern California. “Both of them are like my love letters to the region that raised me, in a lot of ways.”

In her latest book, “The Bounce Back,” artist Neale Delacroix’s fledgling career takes a nose dive and her romantic relationship crumbles, so the protagonist puts her dreams on hold and takes a nine-to-five job. Then Delacroix meets Anthony, a co-worker who’s kind and — it just so happens — really, really hot.

Addie Woolridge (Natasha Azad Beale)

Addie Woolridge (Natasha Azad Beale)

On Thursday, Woolridge and two other romance authors with Western Washington roots, Jennifer Bardsley and Brooke Burroughs, will talk about why the Pacific Northwest is an ideal setting for stories about love. The discussion, to be held virtually, is part of the Everett Public Library’s Writers Live series.

There’s bound to be talk of cozy coffee shops, drizzly winter days and dreamy summer nights on the water.

The three authors said they draw on their experience here to not only set the mood, but also make their writing believable.

“When I read romances, I like a good dose of reality in them as well. So I really try to write characters and scenarios that are representative of how life is, to some degree,” said Bardsley, whose books include “Sweet Bliss” and “Good Catch.”

One of the main characters of “Good Catch” is Ben Wexler-Lowrey, a fictional Seattle Times journalist in a realistic dilemma: He’s struggling to afford housing in his hometown, 30 minutes north of the city, with a modest salary in an expensive real estate market.

The stories are set in Harper Landing, a fictional town inspired by Edmonds, Bardsley’s home. There are some familiar features, she said, including a beach, a ferry and an array of quirky shops.

“The town is a character in itself in the books,” Bardsley said. She writes a weekly column for The Daily Herald that runs each Sunday in the Life section.

Burroughs’ first book, “The Marriage Code,” also takes place in the state. The novel is an “enemies-to-lovers” romantic comedy, said the author, who described the main character, Emma Delaney, as “a typical Seattle gal working for a tech company.” After Delaney is chosen for a promotion over her co-worker, they both relocate to Bangalore, India, where a romance sparks as they begin working on a project together.

Brooke Burroughs

Brooke Burroughs

Burroughs met her husband in Bangalore during a new-hire orientation on the first day of a new job in the IT industry. The couple lived together in the Seattle area before moving to Austin, Texas, she said.

“One of the great things about Seattle is there is a lot of diversity. … There’s so many different cultures coming together, whether it’s festivals or food or your friends,” Burroughs said. “It makes for a really ideal setting to have a cross-cultural romance.”

Woolridge, whose real name is Alex Massengale, said her experience as a minority has shaped her writing.

She was one of a handful of Black kids in her class at Henry M. Jackson High School in Mill Creek, she said. After years on a children’s choir, she initially trained as an opera singer and studied music at the University of Southern California before getting a master’s degree in public administration from Indiana University.

All her life, she has been surrounded by people from diverse backgrounds, including children of immigrants and people who identify as LGBTQ. Accordingly, her books include non-white protagonists and queer people — characters who are still somewhat new in mainstream fiction.

“I don’t know that a publisher would have published a book like mine even, let’s say, seven years ago,” Woolridge said. “I think that the face of romance, and the stories that we tell, are changing.”

She first tried creative writing in her late 20s, when some friends peer-pressured her into presenting her own work at a casual workshop in Los Angeles.

Woolridge wants her readers to know that there’s more to the Pacific Northwest than what they’ve seen in “Sleepless in Seattle.”

Her fiction reflects the realities of life in the city, as seen by an insider: Seattleites seldom carry umbrellas or wear galoshes, she said, and “everyone’s nice but no one wants to be your friend.”

“It’s not a common setting,” she said. “It allows for people to be transported, but also engage in a setting that they’re not used to.”

And, of course, anyone who picks up her books can count on an ending that’s happy somehow, she said, whether a character becomes a better person or learns to feel worthy of love.

“People look to romance in hard times for encouragement,” Woolridge said.

“Yes, it’s a fantasy,” she said. “But it’s a fantasy based in hope.”

Rachel Riley: 425-339-3465; rriley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @rachel_m_riley.

Meet them

“Writers Live: Romance in the Pacific Northwest,” with Brooke Burroughs, Jennifer Bardsley and Addie Woolridge.

Time: 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4.

Register for the virtual discussion at crowdcast.io/e/romance/register.

Talk to us

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