Posted in I Choose "I Do"

I Choose “I Do” – Jane Austen

Jane Austen

Four major points within the larger history of the novel are significant to the evolution of the “romance novel.” The first is the career of Jane Austen. Born on the cusp of the movement towards affective individualism, Austen wrote during a time when women were faced with a paradox. Once a woman married, unless stated within a legal document, her husband gained complete control of her person and her proprietary assets., She maintained her independence if she remained unmarried or was widowed, but that was really only beneficial if she was wealthy. Without the money to support herself, a woman would need a job and those were few and far between.

Because of the limited social, political, and financial options available for women, the choice of a spouse was of the utmost importance. However, prior to the eighteenth century, women had little say in the matter. According to Regis,

The romance novel emerges as a dominant form of the English novel just as the expectations surrounding the choice of husband shifted. Affective individualism added to the choice a desire for liberty and the shift from older forms of union to companionate marriage added a requirement that the wife- and husband-to-be love each other (Regis 58).

Austen is one of the first authors to recognize this shift and transform it into a successful genre. Using different forms of the alpha hero and alpha heroine, Austen engages in a dialogue with the newly popular “companionate marriage” and offers an illustration of the pitfalls and successes available within this new form.

While all of Austen’s canonical novels engage with the ideas of agency and the companionate marriage, I want to primarily focus on the heroes and heroines of Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Persuasion as they show the most distinctive explorations of the agency available to both men and women of the middle class during Austen’s time. Moving chronologically, the first couple that must be examined is Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy. Pride and Prejudice is often held up as one of the premiere romance novels, and for good reason. Elizabeth Bennett is a representative of the problems facing women of the slightly impoverished gentry of the time. Practically speaking, she and all of her sisters must find suitable husbands in order to remain financially solvent because their father’s estate is entailed. However, being an educated, intelligent woman of the new nineteenth century, Elizabeth refuses to “settle” for the type of marriage that would benefit her family, but leave her miserable.

As this new “alpha heroine,” Austen works to establish Elizabeth as a different type of woman than any other female in the novel. She speaks her mind, both to other women and men, and does so in a rational, intelligent manner. Caroline Bingley makes a very pointed dig at Elizabeth, saying that she “‘is one of those young ladies who seek to recommend themselves to the other sex by undervaluing their own; and with many men, I dare say, it succeeds. But, in my opinion, it is a paltry device, a very mean art’”(Austen Pride 423). This comment, made during Elizabeth’s stay at Netherfield, serves as an illustration of how Elizabeth is perceived by women who are perfectly content with the social structure that was still dominant during this time period. Women who expressed opinions and chose unconventional paths provided by the new concept of affective individualism were viewed as “other” or “unattractive” or “paltry.” Rather than taking the traditional stance, Austen portrays women of the old order as petty, both through Caroline and through Lady Catherine, who almost seems to be Caroline’s much older double. Both take every opportunity to belittle Elizabeth and her unusual life choices, but each is left lacking her own personal goals while Elizabeth simultaneously achieves something above her own expectations. Above all else that challenges these two women, Elizabeth exerts agency. She chooses to refuse not one but two marriage proposals in spite of social expectations. By expressing her free will, Elizabeth places herself as a member of the new social order slowly taking form within the middle class, threatening to subsume the old Burkean ways.

Many critics argue that Darcy represents the Burkean ideals about hierarchy and class expectations. For most of the novel, they would be correct. Even his first proposal to Elizabeth is full of Burkean objections to his decision to step into the realm of affective individualism. Rather than providing detail through dialogue, Austen describes proposal from Elizabeth’s perspective;

he was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness than of pride. His sense of her inferiority–of its being a degradation–of the family obstacles which had always opposed to inclination, were dwelt on with a warmth which seemed due to the consequence he was wounding, but was very unlikely to recommend his suit (Austen Pride 2208).

Every negative aspect of his proposal stems from Burkean conceptions of what should recommend a match leading up to this point in history. Family, social station these are what Darcy chooses to highlight in his proposal, rather than any affection he might have for Elizabeth at this point in the narrative. In a way, this novel shows Darcy’s movement from a Burkean into the new “alpha” hero who will choose his heroine because of her differences, rather than in spite of them, and because he possesses a genuine affection for her.

As a couple, Elizabeth and Darcy present challenges to each other not only socially, but personally as well. Elizabeth as a person unsettles Darcy from his well-constructed life. Elizabeth forces him to redefine himself just as much as she must redefine herself. Feminist critics of the romance novel often state that their biggest problem is that it perpetuates the idea that a woman should lose herself in her husband. The difference between a romance novel and a great romance novel such as Pride and Prejudice is in the fact that there is a mutual alteration. In this novel in particular, we see evidence of what romance novelists identify as the “taming” of the hero. In his final proposal, Darcy says “ ‘You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you, I was properly humbled. I came to you without a doubt of my reception. You showed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased’”(Austen Pride 4356). The words Austen puts in Darcy’s mouth here are not what one would expect for the stereotypical romance hero. The “alpha hero” and “alpha heroine” have spent a good deal of the novel battling for their place within society and have now found a way for both personalities to capitulate into one shared space of the companionate marriage.

With Emma, published in 1815, two years after Pride and Prejudice, Austen took a different approach to affective individualism and the agency it allows women. Unlike any other Austen heroine, Emma is from a wealthy family with seemingly no worries in regards to entailment or financial problems. Indeed, the situation for the main couple in Emma is almost so idyllic that marriage seems wholly unnecessary. So why write the book? Emma is a novel based entirely on choices and the control or manipulation of these choices. Emma Woodhouse tries very hard to influence the agency available to others to suit her own whims, primarily because she has no need to exert her own matrimonial agency.

When questioned about whether or not she fears being an “old maid”, Emma brushes the idea aside.

“Never mind, Harriet, I shall not be a poor old maid; and it is poverty only which makes celibacy contemptible to a generous public! A single woman, with a very narrow income, must be a ridiculous, disagreeable old maid! the proper sport of boys and girls, but a single woman, of good fortune, is always respectable, and may be as sensible and pleasant as any body else” (Austen Emma 1103).

Here Austen addresses one of the main arguments supporting affective individualism. A woman of good fortune did not need to marry, unless it were for dynastic purposes. With the rise of affective individualism, the notion of dynastic marriage became less important. Men might want to marry Emma for her beauty or her money, but she didn’t have to marry. Given her father’s apathy towards her behavior in general, Emma could choose to do whatever she wanted. However, it is important to remember when looking at this speech is that Austen herself was a “poor old maid.” Unlike Miss Bates, she found a way to support herself and exert her own agency over the course of her life and that of her mother and sister.

With this in mind, we then must look at why this is a novel about companionate marriage. Knightley is firmly rooted, like Darcy, as an independent male. There is continual reference to him and his relationship with his property, Donwell Abbey, positioning Knightley as a Burkean character. Handler and Segal explain that during this time “The ideal of independence is epitomized by the gentleman of landed prominence. Lands materiality and naturalness are taken as signs of its permanence and by extension, of the permanence of the patriline associated with the land” (Handler/Segal 695). With Emma, Austen creates a very similar situation between her and Hartfield by essentially putting Emma in charge of the estate. She provides Emma with this economic independence that is usually associated with the male, but explains it in female situations as seen in the conversation with Harriet, thus creating an alternative to the purely Burkean for both Emma and Knightley. By making both of these characters financially and socially independent, Austen sets up a scenario that illustrates an ideal sort of companionate marriage, born out of the availability of female agency that was not readily accessible by most women of this time period, as her other heroines show. Emma doesn’t have any reason to marry Knightley except that she loves him and chooses to spend her life with him.

The agency for females expressed in Persuasion is very similar to that of Pride and Prejudice. Anne Elliot exerts her own free will in her refusal of marriage proposals, whether from being persuaded out of them, such as Captain Wentworth’s first proposal, or because she does not believe they are the best match for her, as is the case with Charles Musgrove and William Elliot. Her decision to marry Wentworth at the end of the novel is the ultimate act of agency for her, choosing to make a companionate match with the man she loves. As Regis explains, “The ending isolates them in their mutual choice, while it inserts the new union based on that choice back into society which includes the characters who embodied the barrier” (Regis 82). Both Anne and Wentworth are still the same people, from the same situations, after their engagement. The difference is that they are now united to face their challenges rather than struggling through them separately.

The uniqueness in Persuasion stems from the representation of male affective individualism. Class structures were extremely rigid during this time, especially regarding prejudices about people who earned money rather than inheriting it. Wentworth is an example of the type of merit-based hierarchy Wollstonecraft argued for. He “distinguished himself, and early gained the other step in rank, and must now, by successive captures, have made a handsome fortune” (Austen Persuasion 360). Part of the new middle class, forming because of ideology such as affective individualism, was based off of men — whether sailors, soldiers, or merchants — earning fortunes equal or greater to that of the gentry and the aristocracy. Over the first half of the century, money or blood slowly became a deciding factor to an advantageous match rather than money and blood. Hints of this can be seen in Pride and Prejudice, but Austen truly comes to terms with the reality of this shift in marital ideology by the time she writes Persuasion.

At the time of Austen’s writing, men who earned money were still seen as members of a lower order. When discussing a possible tenant for Kellynch with his solicitor, Sir Walter “observed sarcastically—‘There are few among the gentlemen of the navy, I imagine, who would not be surprised to find themselves in a house of this description’” (Austen Persuasion 212). Even though his refusal to give up any of the trappings of his class for the sake of financial solvency, Sir Walter looks down upon a man who has worked his way up through the ranks to earn a place of honor. Sir Walter and the rest of Anne’s family position themselves very much in a similar sphere as Caroline Bingley and Lady Catherine in their adherence to the old ways of thinking. Lady Russell’s acceptance of him at the end of the novel because of his companionate marriage with Anne acts as a representation of the grudging acceptance growing within the culture of the time for men who worked for a living rather than acting as idle dandies. In Sense and Sensibility, we see the damage done by men without employment. Willoughby seduces Marianne out of both attraction and idleness. Edward Ferrars, because he lacks employment, forms a superficial attachment to Lucy Steele that threatens to trap him in a marriage based off of duty rather than love. The relationship between Captain Wentworth and Anne shows that with work and time, love provides a superior alternative to a marriage of duty.

Wentworth is a hero who, rather than forcing the heroine to change, changes to fit with her to form a marriage that brings out the best in both of them. According to Walzer, “If Anne is mistakenly perceived as the epitome of womanly weakness—someone who doesn’t matter—Wentworth is presented as the avatar of masculine will, a naval officer who shapes life by the force of his decision and action” (Walzer 701). Wentworth is this new form of “alpha hero” that is developing within the culture and literature. Austen utilizes soldiers and naval men in nearly every one of her novels, but Captain Wentworth stands out as the first to be the primary hero and he does so in a powerful way. He knows what he wants and does his best to make it apparent to those around him. But, as a naval man, he has no concept of how to operate within the world that is “polite society.”  He approaches his search for a bride with the traditional mentality of the time. Walzer argues that,

Wentworth’s willful adherence to a masculine code of honor has, in a sense, emasculated him. Furthermore, in the courtship that follows, Anne leads and he can only react. In the domesticity of the parlor, which is his new place, Wentworth learns the value of watching others, listening to others, overhearing others, rather than preaching to others (Walzer 704).

While I don’t necessarily believe that his valuation of a “masculine code of honor” emasculates him, I do think Wentworth must shift his way of thinking from that of an all male culture into the realm of a shared space with females. I also agree that Wentworth adopts the practices of observing his surroundings “rather than preaching to others,” and I think that he does so primarily in order to form a successful companionate match with Anne. Their time at Lyme shows him what is required to win her and how he must adapt in order to achieve his goal. He compromises his way of thinking to fit Anne rather than requiring her to alter herself for him. In this way, Anne shows herself to be a subtle “alpha heroine;” she remains as she is, even if he thinks he wants something different, holding steadfast to her faith in him and the love that they shared.

Many feminists, readers and critics, still find Austen’s novels problematic due to the fact that they always end with marriage. Something they forget to take into account is the fact that marriage is often the best option for women in the nineteenth century, especially women in the position of Anne and Elizabeth. There’s nothing Austen can do to change that; she wrote contemporary novels that dealt with the realities of the society in which she was writing. What Austen did was provide alternatives to the unhappy, forced matches and show women that it wasn’t necessary to settle for a husband. She gave her heroines the gift of freedom by sending them on a journey to overcome the social obstacles to their ability to exert their own agency. Regis remarks, “Nonetheless, the heroine’s freedom, however provisional, is a victory. She is freed from the immediate encumbrances that prevent her union with the hero. When the heroine achieves freedom, she chooses the hero” (Regis 16). She isn’t “giving up” her freedom. Anne, Elizabeth, and Emma all choose to join with the men that best complement them and vice versa. The formation of these companionate matches allows all involved to reach a higher level of happiness and fulfillment.

Posted in I Choose "I Do"

I Choose “I Do”: Affective Individualism and Agency in romance from Jane Austen to Nora Roberts

So a discussion on Twitter today, started by the lovely and disgustingly talented Sarah Maclean about the perceptions and myths surrounding romance novels prompted me to mention that my senior thesis was all about how romance novels have helped women. As requested I’m posting that paper here (in 4 parts because it’s 9,000 words  – Bibliography at the end).

A bit of background first. My senior Capstone class was entitled “Kinky Jane – The Oppositional Austen in Criticism and Culture.” In the class, we discussed many of the ways that Jane Austen was either subversive and critical during her own time (her own brothers were the ones who created the goody-two-shoes image of her in the forward of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey), as well as how literary critics and popular culture continue to use her works for social commentary. For an aspiring romance novelist (working on book 5, none published -yet), I had to look at how my idol started the genre that I love so much and how she used the idea of a woman choosing her marriage and created a gateway for the course of the marriage plot and romance novels to take.

Disclaimer: Please keep in mind this is horribly academic as I wrote it for a grade. Because I was limited to 30 double spaced pages, this only scratches the surface of the discussions that can be had on this subject. If you want much better (and wiser) discussions, check out the bibliography at the end of part 4.

Introduction

In 2009, Americans spent $1.34 billion dollars on romance novels (RWA). Romance novels have evolved and adapted over the past 200 years as women have embraced the power to exert their own agency provided by a concept of affective individualism that grew out of the late eighteenth century. The beginning of this trend can be seen through Jane Austen and the characters in her novels. I plan to trace the evolution of the relationship between romance novels and agency from Austen, through Georgette Heyer, the “grandmother” of Regency romance, into the period of “bodice rippers” started by Kathleen Woodiwiss. I will end up in the current romance market, looking at Nora Roberts and Susan Elizabeth Phillips, the masters of the genre. These particular women serve as representatives of movements within both the romance genre and literature as a whole to transform female stories into vehicles of empowerment for readers and authors. Along with this discussion, I plan to examine the ways that the character archetypes Austen chose to exemplify in her heroes and heroines remain in evidence throughout this evolution that make it a cogent narrative of the genre.

Before getting into the discussion about the evolutionary tract of what is now known as “Genre Romance,” it is necessary to examine what made it possible. One of the main ideas to come out of Enlightenment and the eighteenth century was the concept of the value of the individual, independent from nuclear kinship structures. Social historian Lawrence Stone provides two definitions of individualism in the eighteenth century. First, he describes it as “a growing introspection and interest in the individual personality” (Stone 151). The second definition is “a demand for personal autonomy and a corresponding respect for the individual’s right to privacy, to self-expression, and to the free exercise of his will within limits set by the need for social cohesion” (Stone 151). The latter definition is most applicable within the context of the term “affective individualism.” Within the discourse of sociology, “affective individualism” is used to refer to the shift in courtship practices that accompanied the industrial revolution, favoring love matches over dynastic ones (Stone 151). “Affective individualism” is one of the first pieces of evidence that indicate women were beginning to gain some agency over their lives. Prior to the eighteenth century, if a woman were to marry, it would likely be to a man of her parents’ choosing. When the decision of choosing a mate began to shift into the hands of a female, it started the process for women to eventually gain autonomy both in and out of marriage.

This agency to choose one’s spouse resulted in the “companionate marriage,” which Pamela Regis defines as “one in which the chief end of a union is mutual comfort and support, including love, between spouses” (Regis 57). The companionate marriage was still a relatively new concept at the beginning to the nineteenth century when the romance novel came into being, but the genre quickly became the strongest proponent for this new adaptation. The growing Industrial Revolution was shifting not only economic definitions within society, but also social structures, leaving room for the fluidity of choice provided by companionate marriage to take hold. The idea of “affective individualism” opened the door for the romance novel, but companionate marriage laid the necessary foundation for it to take flight.

The concept of “affective individualism” in Austen’s time rose to prominence amidst warring discourses surrounding how hierarchies should be defined within the new societal structures that were emerging from the Industrial Revolution. According to Handler and Segal, “Wollstonecraft and Burke commonly believe that their view alone captures the ‘natural’ basis for hierarchy: for Burke, nature sides with ancestral inheritance, for Wollstonecraft, with individual merit” (Handler/Segal 703). The Burkean ideals represented the social norm going into the time in which Jane Austen was writing. Wollstonecraft represented the counter-culture that was beginning to favor the ability to earn prominence rather than being born into it, as illustrated by the glorification of the Duke of Wellington, formerly General Sir Arthur Wellesley. Within the nuances debate rests the advent of what we now see as the “romance novel.”

The Romance Writers of America (RWA) trade organization specifies that a “romance novel” must contain two elements. The first is a “central love story,” meaning that “the main plot centers around two individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel” (RWA). Because this could be used to define many different novels, the RWA adds the contingent that the story must have “an emotionally-satisfying and optimistic ending” meaning “the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love” (RWA). Within these definitions, the RWA separates “romance novels” from “love stories.” Books like Gone With The Wind and Wuthering Heights meet the first criteria, but are lacking in the second; therefore they are “love stories” rather than “romance novels.” The novels written by nineteenth century authors such as Jane Austen meet both criteria and paved the way for the “romance novel” as we know it today.

Before delving into the discussion of the evolution of romance novels, it is important to understand the rhetoric surrounding the two major components of the novel: the hero and the heroine. For the purposes of this paper, I will be using the definitions of these characters set forth by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan. Wendell and Tan state that most romance novel heroes are “alpha” heroes. They explain that, “when we discuss ‘alpha hero,’ we’re talking about strong, dominating, confident men, often isolated, who hold a tortured, tender element within themselves that they rarely let anyone see” (Wendell/Tan 1281). Heroes who fit this description pepper the pages of novels from Austen to Roberts and their evolution and interactions with their heroines are key elements to the changes in romance novels.

To complement the alpha heroes, there must be an “alpha” heroine. “Beta” heroines are the “alphas’ ” more dependent counterparts from non-romance novels. According to Wendell and Tan, “the alpha heroine goes head-to-head with the hero, and in battle of one form or another, be it verbal, literal, or sexual, they come to a compromise that ultimately elevates them both. With the alpha heroine, love doesn’t just conquer all. Love kicks ass” (Wendell/Tan 1009). Granted, the alpha heroine has become decidedly more “alpha” in the past several decades, but she is still present in her most basic incarnation as early as Elizabeth Bennett.

The relationships between heroes and heroines are just as complicated as real life relationships. The dynamic growth of the central relationship of the novel allows both parties to reach their fullest potential. The romantic relationship of the romance novel differs from every other genre in that it is a mutually beneficial arrangement. Romance novelist Robyn Donald explains the appeal of the genre to women in particular, stating that, “This powerful man, confident in his standing and his masculinity, sure of himself, competent and trustworthy, discovers during the course of the romance that without the heroine he is no longer able to enjoy his life. He needs her” (Donald 83). From the very beginning, in Pride and Prejudice, the mutual compromise of the romantic relationship sets it apart. Elizabeth doesn’t just need Darcy and his money; he needs her to make him a better man. Theirs is a symbiotic relationship, dependent on the strength of both sides in order to be successful. They can survive separately, but are made better and more effective together. This key concept and the evolution of its depiction is what I want to focus on throughout the four major events in the literary history of the romance novel.

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Looks like I’m “It”

The diabolical Tiffany Reisz (http://tiffanyreisz.com/storytime/tag-im-it-please-enjoy-an-excerpt-from-the-prince-coming-november-2012/) tagged me in a game of LUCKY SEVEN. A writer tagged in this game goes to page 77 of their WIP (work-in-progress), finds line number seven, and copies the next seven lines.  My current WIP was just started yesterday, so (since I’m not superwoman) I’m posting an excerpt from the as-yet-to-be-named sequel to the book I’m working on.

Cady accepted the thanks of the women, directing a few of them to books that their kids might like to read at home. When she finally extracted herself from the story time crowd, Micah sat in the armchair closest to the front counter, the box casually resting on one leg.  “You certainly look better than the last time I saw you.”

 “I hope so. I certainly feel better.” Micah stood, a sheepish grin lighting his face. He held the box out to her. “These are for you. A thank you present for staying up with me all night.”

 I’m retagging the brilliant Allie Sanders because she’s the only person I can think of who’s working on something right now 😛
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Future Husband of the Week: Special Agent Seeley Booth

A lot of the romance authors I know who blog have a “boyfriend of the week” feature. They post many drool-worthy pictures of gorgeous men and I love it. But I want to put a little twist on it. Most of these authors are happily married. Since I am not, I’m going to post a “future husband of the week.” The requirements for a future husband are different than those for a boyfriend. As all romance readers know, the hero can’t just be attractive. He has to have other qualities, such as charm, intelligence, a good sense of humor, compassion. The list goes on and on. So each week I will post a guy (real or fictional) who qualifies as a “future husband” aka a romance novel hero.

For my second Future Husband, I’m going to the realm of fiction. One of my favorite TV shows is BONES. Special Agent Seeley Booth is everything that a romance hero should be. Handsome, strong, brave and loyal. But there are also a lot of fun, quirky elements that make Booth (never Seeley) stand out from the crowd. 

Over the years, Hart Hanson and his wonderful team of writers have added some great layers to Booth. He served as an Army Ranger and he is very true to his conviction in the good in the American government. He’s a devout Catholic, even in the face of everything he sees in his rather gruesome job. Booth has helped Brennan become more connected with the realities of life rather than the facts. I love his patience and understanding.

Booth also has a fun, childish side to him that keeps things interesting and forces Bones to lighten up a bit. A sense of humor is a must for a Future Husband.

My favorite aspect of Booth’s character is his deep love for his son, Parker. I’m a sucker for a guy who is good with kids and genuinely likes them.

Parker (and Brennan) bring out the “Alpha male” protective side of Booth which is also pretty darn sexy. He’ll do anything to keep those he loves safe. I can’t wait for the new season to start so we can see more of Booth’s protective side with the new baby 😉

What do you think? Would Booth make your list?

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Doing Justice – to Books and Movies.

With so many book-to-movie adaptations these days, we always hear the question: was the movie as good as the book? With very few exceptions, the answer is usually “no.” To my way of thinking, the job of a movie based on a book is to make viewers want to read the book. It’s to draw non-readers over to the side of being readers. I think we (readers) need to adjust our way of thinking. The real question should be: does the movie do the book justice?

In order for a book to be made into a movie, it generally has to have a built in audience. This audience knows the story, they love the characters, but they want to see the familiar elements come to life. The burden of the filmmakers is to do justice to the story elements while still making a coherent movie. Unfortunately, many interpretations fall short of meeting this burden. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a HUGE fan of the Narnia books. I’ve read all of them at least twice and many of them more than that. The first of the most recent adaptations, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe met its burden. It remained loyal to the story and the spirit of the book. A few changes were made for the sake of cinematic value, but for the most part it satisfied the most ardent fans.

Prince Caspian, the next film in the series, strayed further from the story. I thought it did justice to the book, for the most part, although some of my hardcore friends at NarniaWeb might disagree with me. Much of this disagreement hinges on one or two additions, such as a certain kiss, that many deem unnecessary.

Then came Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Oh, VDT, we had such hope for you. Sadly, in the hands of a different distribution company with different expectations, the filmmakers decided to worry more about cinematic appeal than doing justice to the book. The result? Even if you forget the fact that it is based on a book, it is still a mediocre movie. If filmmakers are going to take such a route, they need to make sure the movie is at least enjoyable. The movie version of Ella Enchanted bore very little similarity to the book, but most people were ok with that because it was still a fun movie.

There are very few adaptation movies that I go into with high hopes these days. The Help was one. And it didn’t disappoint. Did it follow the book scene for scene? Of course not. The audiobook was 18 hours. They managed to condense the story down to 2.5 hours. But it did the book justice. The casting was perfect. You believed Emma Stone was Skeeter Phelan. Octavia Spencer embodied Minnie. Bryce Dallas Howard seemed born to play Hilly Holbrook. While there were parts I wished could have been included, no extravagant changes were made to the story. Every character did what they were supposed to and reacted in the same way they did in the book.

More filmmakers need to take note of how the adaptation of The Help was done. Tate Taylor recognized what needed to be in the film to do justice to the book and what had to be left out to do justice to the movie. It’s a balancing act. They managed it (for the most part) with the Harry Potter films. And totally failed with the Twilight movies (Kristen Stewart *shudder*). I’m in the middle of reading the Hunger Games trilogy, praying that they realize this formula as they make the films. Like the Twilight books, they have cinematic books to work with. It’s simply a question of remembering the balance of justice.

What books do you think the movies have done justice to? Which ones have been criminally unjust?

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Future Husband of the Week

A lot of the romance authors I know who blog have a “boyfriend of the week” feature. They post many drool-worthy pictures of gorgeous men and I love it. But I want to put a little twist on it. Most of these authors are happily married. Since I am not, I’m going to post a “future husband of the week.” The requirements for a future husband are different than those for a boyfriend. As all romance readers know, the hero can’t just be attractive. He has to have other qualities, such as charm, intelligence, a good sense of humor, compassion. The list goes on and on. So each week I will post a guy (real or fictional) who qualifies as a “future husband” aka a romance novel hero.

To start this off, I’m going to go with a man who has had a little bit of my heart since my best friend gave me his CD when I was 16-

FUTURE HUSBAND OF THE WEEK – JOSH GROBAN

Vital Statistics –

Full name: Joshua Winslow Groban

Age: 30

Occupation: Singer/Songwriter/Genius

For those of you who don’t know, Josh Groban is a wonderful singer with a voice that absolutely makes me melt. Seriously, if I’m stressed or on a rampage, one of his songs has to come on for like 5 seconds and I instantly mellow. But he’s more than just a pretty face (and even prettier voice). Josh also write beautiful music with hauntingly romantic lyrics. Seriously, go look up the words for “So She Dances.” Absolutely gorgeous.

If you haven’t bought his latest album “Illuminations,” you have to. And if you are one of the lucky ducks who could afford to go to his concert, I am forever jealous of you 😛

Besides being a genius with music, Josh is also really funny. I love his sense of humor. His video blogs are always very charming and self-deprecating. My favorite thing Josh has done has to be his TV theme medley . HILARIOUS

He’s also a huge promoter of the arts in schools. If you read some of my previous posts https://tmlunsford.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/time-warp-just-a-bit-of-silliness/, I think kids need all the encouragement they can get to foster creativity and imagination. In a world of A, B, C, or D, music and art and writing allow kids to think beyond the little scantron bubble and learn to solve real world problems. Josh’s foundation works with the kids that wouldn’t normally be encouraged to pursue the arts and helps them get that extra edge that creativity brings. (Read more about Find Your Light foundation here http://findyourlightfoundation.org/

And the cherry on top: he loves his dog. If you follow Josh on Twitter or Facebook, you know that he tries to take his dog Sweeney with him wherever he goes (can we get a collective “Awww”).