Tuesday, February 19, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Hero of My Heart -A Bad BM

 Hero of My Heart: A Loveswept Historical Romance"Hero of My Heart" Author Megan Frampton
A Bad BM by Nakeesha J. Seneb

I really liked the idea of these two characters. Vicar's daughter in need of rescuing plus opium addict Marquis in need of some saving himself. The recovering addict behavior was at times intriguing and page-turning, and at other times conveniently pushed aside for the love arc plotting.

This entire work happened in real time: first from the hero's perspective and then the heroine's. If they were apart for any reason, the author would go back and retell it from the other's POV. It was quite unexpected. And my fear came true -the ending was super rushed.

In revision, writers are often advised to employ a Seek and Destroy Word List. Frampton continually used certain words over and over and over again and I soon began anticipating their arrival. Ignoring this rule caused me to start skimming.

That aside, my biggest issue with this book was the "big misunderstanding." I hate BMs -get it: bowel movements! They so often seem unnecessary and stupid. But they are a staple of this genre that I love so much. Writing-World dot com's Anne Marble agrees with me that most big understanding's are silly or SBMP (Silly Big Misunderstanding Plots). According to Marble, the first signs of a SBMP is the absence of logic. If the characters appear forced in their actions; or you realize a simple 60-second conversation would clear matters up; or the case of mistaken identity goes on for pages too long, well then you might be in the middle of a BM!

Mary and Alasdaire's BM was believable -in the beginning. Alasdaire was aiming to commit suicide by opium overdose because everyone he ever loved died. Mary, who lately discovered she was illegitimate, feels unlovable and wants to slink away off the grid of society. They were two very damaged characters, but by working together they conquered so many of their literal and figurative demons by finding each other, learning to trust and depend on each other, and having each others backs against all enemies. By 50% of the eBook I thought the BM got cleared up. Frampton even started raising the stakes, which kept me turning the pages. But the main characters were still hanging on to their SBMPs. I was befuddled. And then, literally, in the last two lines of the work they finally "got it," reminding me that big misunderstandings are often messy and smelly!

ARC provided by Netgalley.

Monday, February 11, 2013

MOVIE: Clueless -A Breakdown of Faith

Emma, author Jane Austen & Clueless, screenwriter Amy Heckerling
"A Breakdown of Faith" by Nakeesha J. Seneb

My favorite rule about adaptations is that: you owe nothing to the original work. This is the first rule of adaptations as told by Richard Krevolin, author of "How to Adapt Anything Into a Screenplay." In his book, Krevolin presents a case study of the film Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Its a great case study! Some fans argued that the movie was too faithful; others that it left too much of the original work out. Krevolin does a brilliant job of breaking the book and film down, and I don't want to repeat his arguments here. Instead, I want to focus on one of my favorite adaptations, Clueless based on the book "Emma" by Jane Austen. 

The story of Emma is virtually unrecognizable in this telling. Screenwriter, Amy Heckerling, was nearly faithless in her rendition of this classic, oft told tale.
Jane Austen's story of a privileged 20 year old in Regency England is transplanted into the persona of a 16-year old, teenaged girl in modern day California. Along with the setting and time period, the title character's name is also updated. Cher is na├»ve and caught up in a superficial lifestyle revolving around expensive clothes and the social hierarchy  of her high school. Her father is no longer an aging hypochondriac, but a high-powered, ruthless lawyer. There's no knightly next door neighbor with an eye on our heroine. Instead its an ex-brother-in-law, who's a liberal college freshman with dreams of saving the world. His name's Josh.

Krevolin's next guideline is to "seek out the scenes that can be removed without having a domino effect on the rest of the story." If you've read the book Emma or you've seen the Gwyneth Paltrow redub, you might remember the whole subplot of Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill. In these versions, while taking a break from setting everyone up, Emma flirts with Frank who leads her on but he's actually madly in love with Jane. 

Was it 20th century brilliance or what that Amy Heckerling made Frank Churchill's character into a gay rendition of James Dean who just wanted to be BFF's with Cher!. Gone was the Jane Fairfax character and love triangle with Mr. Churchill. Cher's attempts at seduction while the meatloaf burns during Spartacus certainly has the opposite of a domino effect on the rest of the story. It ratcheted up the unpredictability of this updated tale of unrequited love.

Krevolin's next rule is that you don't remove the key thing that made the book amazing. In my opinion, its the love mishaps and love connections that happen because of Emma/Cher's busybody-ness that makes the book and all network and theatrical releases a winner. In Austen's book, it begins with the wedding of Emma's governess with a gentleman Emma matched her with. With this one success under her belt, Emma begins an assault on the poor hearts of her village to disastrous and hilarious effect. In California, Cher starts her matchmaking in response to a bad grade. Although her heart wasn't in the right place at the time, the match works out for everyone involved. With this one success under her belt, Cher begins her assault on the new girl, Tai, to disastrous and hilarious effect.

Krevolin's last edict is that no matter how a story is changed during the course of adaptation, the arc of the characters almost always remains the same.

Both Emma and Cher are know-it-alls at the beginning of their stories. Cher thinks can get her way without really trying hard. She believes she can talk her way into or out of anything.

Cher’s proud of her machinations in the love lives' of others. She's irked when her ex-step-brother, Josh, thinks all her work is for selfish ends. In truth, they are. It takes everything blowing up in her face for Cher to realize that Josh was right. Its all gone wrong because its what she wanted and not what everyone else wanted for themselves. Christian doesn't want to be her boyfriend. Tai doesn't want to date anyone Cher sets her up with. Even Josh, who Cher continually pushes away, only wants to be close to her. Once Cher's stripped bare of everything she realizes she's behaved badly and more importantly that she’s in love with Josh. Once Cher starts selflessly working towards everyone's, including her own, hearts' desire, things turn out as they should.

Faith is a tricky subject when it comes to taking someone else's work and making it your own. Following Krevolin's rules of originality, seeking without destroying, keeping the key things, while maintaining the character arc can get you through adapting a work as short as a newspaper headline or as long as a 500-plus page novel.

Monday, February 4, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: A Most Scandalous Proposal" -an Orgy of Perspectives

A Most Scandalous Proposal. Authored by Ashlyn MacNamara
"An Orgy of Perspectives" by Nakeesha J. Seneb

I really, REALLY enjoyed this story. It had everything that I look for in a romance. A moderately predictable plot with just enough unexpected twists to snap the reader back to attention. Likeable characters who I cared enough about to think about when I had to put down the book and returned to my own life. A satisfying HEA that made me daydream what happened after The End. I just had one problem: there were way too many perspectives going on this book. It suffered from an orgy of perspectives!

From the book "On Writing Romance: How to Craft a Novel That Sells" by Leigh Michaels tells that most romance novels are told with alternating perspectives by the hero and heroine in third person; first person is usually chick lit.

The book blurb of "A Most Sandalous Proposal" told me I was about to read the story of Julia, a young miss gunshy of love after witnessing the ill-affairs of her governess, and Benedict, her bestie bachelor who's reluctant to be amongst the marriage-minded of the ton. Benedict rescues Julia from the clutches of a rake who's all but purchased her from her debt-ridden father. During the "rescue" the two shed their prejudices of love and an HEA blossoms. That was wonderful! But-

As we're reading along inside Julia and Benedict's heads we jump into her sister, Sophia's, head. That threw me because there's no mention of Sophia on the back blurb whatsoever. Sophia is in love with the rake who has his eyes set on Julia. Sophia's stalking the rake at a ball and comes across him in a compromising situation with another woman. What does she do? Swoon, ofcourse. To her rescue comes Rufus, an older gentlemen with a bit of dark scandal in his past. When Rufus is found caring for Sophia alone the two are pushed into an engagement to avoid another scandal. That's when we jump into Rufus' head!

Now, I have to repeat that I really, thoroughly enjoyed this story. But four perspectives overwhelmed me. Macnamara handles the head-juggling well, but it still jarred me each time we'd leave Julia and Benedict's love story for Sophia and Rufus'. And if I'm honest, Sophia and Rufus' story out shined Julia and Benedict's, who were billed via the back blurb as the stars of the show.

ARC courtesy of NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group