Friday, February 12, 2010

Spreading the Love Day #1


It's my official countdown to Valentine's Day and Day #1 of "Spreading the Love" here at Cozy. For romance readers, there's no better way to celebrate Valentine's than with an HEA love story. I'll be spreading the Valentine's Day cheer with a book-a-day giveaway today, tomorrow, and Sunday (+ an additional prize drawing for those who comment all three days).

Today we're talking about the classics. One of my favorite classic romances is Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind. Before it was a movie, it was a sought-after, Pulizer Prize-winning piece of southern literature. The leap the story made from book to Technocolor screen was not an easy one. When filmmakers first considered the screenplay, Civil War movies weren't popular at the box office. It was clear up front that the only actor who could portray hero Rhett Butler was Clark Gable who was more than reluctant to take the role. The search for the right Scarlet O'Hara was a near disaster. After months of searching, luck brought Vivien Leigh to the night-time set of the Atlanta burning. The movie opened in 1939 in Altanta and was celebrated by parades, fanfare, and droves of screaming fans. For twenty long years, it held Academy Award-winning records with ten wins and is ranked number four American Film Institute's Top 100 American Films of All Time - beaten only by The Godfather (3), Casablanca (2), and Citizen Kane (1). Gone with the Wind was oddly the only book Margaret Mitchell completed before her untimely death. At a whopping 1037 pages (first edition), some might say it's no wonder she never sought to publish another manuscript.

When I picked up Gone with the Wind, I was already a fan of the movie. And though Clark Gable brought Rhett Butler to life onscreen, he was just as alive on the page. From the first paragraph, Mitchell painted plantation in full color. The journey through the Civil War, the death of the Old South, and the political intrigues of post-war Reconstruction in Atlanta swept me away. Though it was the longest book I'd ever read at the time, I couldn't put it down. And so Gone with the Wind remains one of my favorite romantic novels of all time.

Unfortunately, this story doesn't come with a HEA most of today's romances do. One that does though and is as richly vibrant as Margaret Mitchell's classic is another Civil War tale by the late Kathleen E. Woodiwiss: Ashes in the Wind. Romance readers never forget their first Woodiwiss romance. This was mine. It starts in New Orleans with the hero, Yankee surgeon Cole Latimer, convinced that heroine Alaina MacGaren, a wanted southern woman, is a boy. While Gone with the Wind's focus centers around the events of the Civil War, Ashes in the Wind follows the events of runaway Alaina's life and the delightful events of her relationship with the dashing Yankee. Published in the early days of the reigning romance industry (1979), it remains my favorite story of this classic author's backlist (and a recommended comfort read for snowy weather).

Last we come to the queen of romance herself. In an industry that pressures authors to be "hotter", we too often forget what romance really means. Whenever I need this reminder, I turn to Jane Austen. For me, Austen's books are the epitome of romance. Rhett Butler may be the first rogue hero, but Darcy was the first romance hero. His character and that of heroine of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet, and some of the most celebrated characters in all of literature. And at its core, Pride and Prejudice as well as Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion are all love stories with HEAs. Austen opened the doors to not only women's fiction but the romance world as well and tops my list of classic favorites.

Today we'll close with out first book-a-day giveaway. I have a hardback edition of The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler. To enter the win the drawing for it, just comment and tell me what classic romance novels (prior to the 1980's) top your favorites list! The winner will be chosen randomly and announced on Monday, February 15th so check back in to see if you have won. (Chances of winning depend on the number of entires. You must be 18 years or older to enter.)

And spt! There's only a couple more days to vote historical romance Forever Amore Best Book of the 2009 at LASR! Polls close on Valentine's....

11 comments:

Leni said...

I have not read any romance novels prior to the 1980's that I can remember. I've only seen film versions. I'm drawing a blank trying to remember what I read in all of my English courses.

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Leni, my senior year in high school was my favorite because of British Lit. I fell in love with poetry here too: Keats, Byron, shelley, the Brownings, Blake... But the Austen part of the course was my favorite. Mostly because we got to watch SENSE AND SENSIBILITY and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE :)

vvb32 reads said...

loved the movie version of gone with the wind. while i haven't actually read it, i did read the sequel to it scarlett by Alexandra Ripley which was alright. i'll have to go with the classic, Pride and Prejudice, mostly because most romances I've read are after 1980 ;-D

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Hi VVB32 - The sequel wasn't near as good. I read it even after skimming over the unenthusiastic reviews just because I was curious where Scarlett and Rhett ended up. It was sanction by the Margaret Mitchell foundation, however. I still haven't read Donald McCaig's recent tie-in RHETT BUTLER'S PEOPLE but some say it's much better!

Thanks for visiting :)

Amber

Linda Henderson said...

Kathleen Woodiwiss' The Flame And The Flower published in 1972 was the first romance book that I can remember reading that had serious sex scenes in it. It has always been one of my favorite books. I also enjoyed her book The Wolf And The Dove.

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Linda - Hi, thanks for visiting! THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER seems to be THE romance novel of the '70's. I think it and SHANA makes the biggest impression, out of all Woodiwiss titles.

Amber

Julie said...

Pride and Prejudice made me sigh, but Jane Eyre had my rapt attention (no need to enter me for this book, as I own it already!). :)

Margay said...

I love anything by Jane Austen. And I'm kind of partial to a few by Shakespeare, and Gone With The Wind was good, too.
Margay

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Julie - I loved Jane Eyre, too, just not quite as much as I love Austen's novels.

Margay - Shakespeare's "As You Like It" was most entertaining for me. And I loved all the swashbuckling scenes in "Hamlet" :)

robynl said...

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer where Tom and Becky fall in love.

I haven't read any of Kathleen Woodiwiss' books.

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Robyn - Oh, wow, I used to love the movie TOM AND HUCK, based on TOM SAWYER. Loved the part where he's watching his own funeral from the church attic and Huck pushes him through the loose floorboards. He falls on the altar and Becky hauls back and punches him for scaring everyone. Made me cackle every time!