2020 has been a roller coaster ride, that both physically and mentally, many of us didn’t expect to be so intense. For some romance readers, sometimes slipping into our favourite genre perhaps didn’t feel right. It didn’t give us the comfort that we expected.
Reading in 2020 got hard, well it definitely did for me. Pre-pandemic I would use my hour-long commute to gobble up books either on my e-tablet or headphones, allowing myself space away from the press of bodies on the London Underground. It gave me time to get ready, escape and be in that happy space with Romance. When the pandemic forced us to work from home, it was a revelation. I didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to undertake a draining commute across London to be at my desk for half-eight. Instead, it gave me back my mornings.
However, what it didn’t do with this extra time was carve out space for something I loved. Reading suddenly became something I had to factor in, the news cycle took over. My happy place no longer felt so happy. My concentration, when not needed for work, living and looking after my people,started to drift. Instead of full novels I sought out novellas and began to savour rereading books I had previously loved in the past.
Instead, I rediscovered and fell back in love, with Love, watching Romance series and films on the TV.
K-Dramas did a lot of heavy lifting for many of us this year, with genres, tropes and storylines that hit all the romance beats.The content coming out of eastern media is much more attuned to romance. I would also recommend some great Turkish dramas such as Erkenci Kuş (this series in particular inspired some recent Penny Reid’s heroes). BUT Crash Landing on you, was the perfect Fish-Out-Of-Water billionairess story. Both opposites attract and a Sunshine vs Stoic that delivered all the lovely beats. To be absolutely clear to us HEA fans, the ending is more HFN which tends to be the case with K-Dramas i've noticed.
I would also recommend joining OSRBC Asian Dramas which have a handy guide to popular Korean, Chinese and Japanese dramas in a reader/watcher friendly spreadsheet.
Books recs- As K-Dramas are so diverse in their tropes, you will be able to find whatever pairing takes your fancy. For a Sunshine Vs Grump I would recommend- Managed (VIP, #2)
Historical romance are one of my happy places. Period films and tv series ( North and South, Pride and Prejudice both the movie and television mini series alongside Persuasion etc) are multiple rewatches throughout the year.
My husband says they are my “period dramas” , something I gravitate towards when my womb decides to deliver samurai death once a month. So discovering, unwatched period drama films that have HEA can sometimes be like finding little gems.
The plot of Firelight (1997) “In 1838, lovely governess Elisabeth agrees to bear a child of an anonymous English landowner, and he will in return pay her father's debt. At birth she, as agreed, gives up the child. Seven years later she is hired as governess to a girl on a remote Sussex estate. The father of the girl, Charles Godwin, turns out to be that anonymous landowner. So Elisabeth has to be her own daughter's governess, and she can't reveal the secret of her tie with little Louisa.”
The plot is seeping with anguish, but what this film really delivers is some outstanding acting and cinematography. Stephen Dillane as the hero looks haunted and is haunting, telling so much with his eyes, that when casting my mind to other bits i've seen him in, I remembered he was in Game of thrones as the slimy Stannis Baratheon. A vast improvement here, the film never shies away from silence. It's the moments in between , the longing, the need to have a connection that really make this outstanding. Sophie Marceau’s beauty is ethereal here. Another crush to add to my ever growing list.
A note of warning for some CW- there is some bad treatment of a bed ridden wife to deliver our ending,which personally I had no issues with but after reading reviews it didn't always sit right with some viewers.
Written by and starring the Award-winning comedian, writer and actor Rose Matafeo, who happens to be a massive girl crush of mine ” ‘Starstruck' follows the life of Jessie, a millennial who lives in East London. She juggles between her two jobs in order to afford the overpriced apartment that she shares with her best friend, Kate. On New Year's eve, she hooks up with Tom, and she soon discovers that he is a famous film star. Their worlds could not be more different, yet fate keeps bringing them together under the most extraordinary circumstances.”
Currently on Iplayer, this BBC 3 programme is a delight. Somewhat a reverse Notting Hill, which was on repeat viewings when I was a teenager( Big warning here as after rewatching in the pandemic, I came to the realisation that Curtis although perfectly capturing the quintessential british rom-com , his writing is not without its dated references. There are definitely prejudiced takes, so be warned if you fancy diving into the backcateolgue. On that note, my own hot take- Love actually is not a Christmas movie.)
Starstruck feels fun, romantic and modern. It also is very funny, it passes the 6 laugh test pretty much every episode. I really hope it makes it across the pond, but most of all I'm delighted it's been given a series two.
Book recs- Celebrity romance--Spoiler Alert (Spoiler Alert, #1)
by J.D. Robb ( CW check goodreads).
- Fleabag- Pair with Sierra Simones Priest for a heroine that is messy and definitely more modern than Thorn birds, Richard Chamberlain is still a dish though.
- Its a sin - Dealing with the AIDS crisis in Britain, this is truly wonderful telly, heartbreaking but worth watching, from the creator of Queer as folk. Pair with Unbroken by Larry Page which has a large section dealing with the Aids crisis in America.I remember reading it and being moved to tears by his writing on a plane.
- I may destroy you- this is gut punching tv, Gut punching, Looking at modern sexual consent this is something that is hard viewing but heart wrenching for its skill and writing. Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams although not a romance, deals with blackness, Britishness and sex in a way that feels very modern, and needs to be read particularly after the Black lives matter movement.
- And lastly Brigerton, not without its flaws , mostly here but what I hope for in the future of Romance TV is that Bridgerton has opened the door . It's shown that Romance is a genre to be taken seriously and about bloody time.
What films and television have got you through the pandemic?
What films or television do you return to, for comfort, when you're sick, sad or heartbroken?
What was your new discovery that you need to shout from the rooftops about?
But mostly, if you loved a Movie/Tv series what book would you recommend to hit the same feels?