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....