The Unabashed Francophile Post, Part 2: French films

I won’t make the attempt to list every French language film that I love, but here are three of my especial favourites…

La fille sur le pont (The Girl on the Bridge), with Daniel Auteuil and Vanessa Paradis.

Adele is a woman with nothing to lose, standing on a bridge over the Seine, willing herself to jump. Instead, she meets Gabor (Daniel Auteuil, one of my favourite actors), a knife-thrower needing a new assistant. Hardly a safe choice, but far better than cold river water. It’s a strange partnership, but one that compels. (Also, for those that are into it, Daniel Auteuil has some very nice guyliner. Perhaps that’s partly why I like this movie so much! Yum!) The film is shot in black and white and the theme track is by Angelo Badalamenti, sung by Marianne Faithfull.

And that connection leads me to the next film, actually a mini-series. Directed by Josée Dayan, with the soundtrack by the aforementioned Angelo Badalamenti, Les liaisons dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons) is based upon the novel, but brought forward into 1960s France. It features a diverse, all-star cast, including Catherine Deneuve, Rupert Everett, Nastassia Kinski and Leelee Sobieski. If you can, pick this one up in its 3-disc edition, as the 1-disc edition has been edited down (and I have yet to be convinced that the dialogue wasn’t overdubbed by other actors). This is by far my favourite adaptation of the novel. I’m not at all fond of the one starring John Malkovich. The film Valmont (with Colin Firth) is worth a look. But this version… it sizzles. Plus it has Catherine Deneuve, one of France’s premiere actresses.

And that brings me to the third film of this post, the very classic Belle de Jour. It’s probably Deneuve’s best known film, though it certainly wasn’t the first of hers I saw. (That honour goes to The Hunger, which also starred David Bowie and a young Susan Sarandon.) Severine is a young wife, bored and dissatisfied, and not physically intimate with her husband. She first satisfies herself with vivid, erotic fantasies, but takes those fantasies a step further when she becomes ‘Belle de jour’, a prostitute at a Parisian brothel.

Directed by surrealist master Luis Buñuel, Belle de Jour is a striking film, even if one is not very interested in slightly kinky sex and the BDSM tendencies of Severine’s erotic fantasies. Catherine Deneuve is a master of her art. I could watch her films for hours without complaint.

Next time you’re at the video store – oh, who are we kidding – you’re really looking on Netflix or something, since it is 2011 – check out one or all of these films. You won’t regret it.

Book Review: A Creed in Stone Creek

A Creed in Stone Creek, by Linda Lael Miller. (website)

When single attorney Steven Creed becomes guardian of an orphaned five-year-old boy, he trades his big-city law firm for a ranch near his McKettrick kin in the close-knit community of Stone Creek, Arizona. Taking care of little Matt and fixing up his run-down ranch house with its old barn loosens something tightly wound inside him. But when Steven takes on the pro bono defense of a local teen, he meets his match in the opposing counsel—beautiful, by-the-book county prosecutor Melissa O’Ballivan. It’ll take one grieving little boy, a sweet adopted dog and a woman who never expected to win any man’s heart to make this Creed in Stone Creek know he’s truly found home.

Okay, I’ll be honest. Up until a couple of months ago, when I won a copy of Marin Thomas’s book “Dexter: Honorable Cowboy” during a Harlequin contest, I’d never really delved into the cowboy romance genre. In fact, I was hardly even aware that it existed. And, I had even less idea that it was so popular.

After reading Marin Thomas’s book, I started to see the genre’s attractions. So I jumped at the chance to read Linda Lael Miller’s book. I’ve long been a fan, having read her vampire novels (‘Tonight and Always’, etc.) and her McQuade series (especially ‘Princess Annie’). Her books have always been some of my favourites.

This book starts off with a tender new father-son scene between Steven and Matt, on the road to Stone Creek. I don’t consider myself especially sentimental, but within the first few pages, I already was starting to feel gooey in that way that only happens when I watch movies with guaranteed happy endings (Love, Actually – to give an example).

Fortunately, wanting to learn more about Steven, and Matt, and somewhat stiff (perhaps I could dare say, hard-nosed?) Melissa kept me turning the pages. Steven and Melissa are well-matched; they’re both well-versed lawyers, ready to defend what they think is right. Each has a very definite moral compass and a strong sense of family and community (even though Melissa had to be roped into organizing the parade.)

There’s something inherently charming about the old-time chivalry and honesty of cowboys as portrayed in the cowboy romance genre. They can be modern, but there’s an underlying commitment to a cowboy code. Check out this page about Gene Autry’s song, and you could check off every one of his tenets and have your hero in a cowboy romance.

A Creed in Stone Creek was a fantastic book. It’s a perfect read for that cosy afternoon with a cup of tea while the snow falls outside (before you say that it’s spring, remember that I’m in western Canada, and this year, the snow is still falling at the end of March!), curled up on the sofa. Or, anytime you’d like.

The Unabashed Francophile Post, Part 1: Le Bilboquet

I’ve been posting mostly about writing, and books, but I haven’t really posted anything about France. Given the heading of this blog, I’ve been neglecting its subject matter.

Thus far I have only traveled to Paris, though I would eventually like to see as much of the country as possible. I went to Paris in June of 2003 (maybe better known as the year where the summer was so hot, people were dying.) Ten fantastic days wandering the city, seeing museums, cafes, cemeteries, and taking in the sights.

One of my favourite spots was the jazz club Le Bilboquet, which at the time was located on the rue Saint-Benoît, just off of the Blvd St-Germain. (From what I understand, the club is no longer there, but I’m not sure whether it has moved or has closed permanently.) I can’t recall what music we heard that evening, but the look of the club made an impression. Small, dark, with a lot of red walls and dark wood. Smoking hadn’t yet been forbidden (that happened a few years later) and the air was hazy. We sat on the sidewalk outside and the windows had been thrown open, so we could see in and hear the music clearly. The staff were fantastic and friendly and the food was excellent.

As you can see from Google Earth, the sidewalk could hardly even hold a table, yet we sat at a four-top and felt quite comfortable. (The boarded up club is to the right.) I regret not taking more photos of the area when we were there.

I based the club ‘Le Chat Rouge’ in my novel WHEN THE CHIPS ARE DOWN on Le Bilboquet. It seemed the sort of place where gangsters might consort with prostitutes and thieves. (Not that I saw any… that I know of.) Tourists could rub elbows with locals, enjoying the music and the atmosphere. A perfect place for an unexpected encounter.

Book Review: Of Dukes and Deceptions

Of Dukes and DeceptionsOf Dukes and Deceptions, by Wendy Soliman. (website, twitter)

When Nicholas Buchanan, the Duke of Dorchester, accepts an invitation to visit a country stud farm, he counters his boredom by striking a wager with his henchman that he’ll bed the poor relation, Alicia Woodley, before the end of his stay. But he reckons without Alicia’s disdain. She’s disgusted by Nick’s cavalier attitude, unimpressed by his grandeur and wants as little as possible to do with him.

Between her newfound role as family charity case and fending off the attentions of both her clueless cousin and the arrogant Nicholas, Alicia Woodley has quite enough to contend with…but when her life is endangered, quite possibly from those closest to her, surprisingly it is Nicholas who seems determined to ensure her safety. As they conspire to uncover secrets that the family wants hidden at all costs, they discover a passion that surpasses all obstacles.

It’s been awhile since I’ve read much historical romance, though it was my first entrée into romantic fiction back when I was about 11 or 12 years old. This book was thoroughly enjoyable from the first page right through to the last. Both Nicholas and Alicia are full and believable characters, quickly becoming people I wanted to root for. Alicia had the feistyness typical of a romantic heroine, but it was tempered with a calm acceptance of her situation – her uncle inheriting her home, running her father’s stud farm that she had a hand in, and leaving her only her mother’s small bequest. Many romantic heroines are dead set against their current situations, and Alicia was a refreshing change.

Of course, her acceptance became less so once she and Nicholas became confidantes. Yet she has no plan to jump into marriage with him. And it takes a significant portion of the book for her resolve to start to even waver. The tension from the wait would have kept me turning pages even if the plot itself hadn’t kept my interest. And yes, the plot did keep my interest. Fully. It kept me off the internet and glued to my e-reader until I could finish. I’m a voracious reader, but I often end up taking a quick break every once in a while to check my email. Not this time.

After I finished her novel, I visited Wendy Soliman’s website and I think I may have to pick up some of her previous works. (She’s been published on Samhain, as well as in paperback.) She also has an upcoming release from Carina Press that sounds quite promising, entitled ‘Scandalous Propositions’. I can’t wait to read it.

Available at Carina Press (DRM-free ePub) and on Amazon Kindle.

Blog Post Round-up: Some of my favourite links

I’ve been working on a new short story, as well as catching up on all the reading I neglected while writing my first draft. I don’t have much for a blog post today, but I wanted to post links to a few of my favourite writing-related blogs.

  • Fiction Groupie, by Roni Loren. She writes great posts on query letters, conferences she’s been to, and all sorts of great information for writers.
  • Nathan Bransford’s blog. I especially like his posts regarding ebooks and the reasons behind their pricing. The geek in me is fascinated.
  • PubRants by Kristin Nelson, of the Nelson Agency. A great place to find out information on the publishing world from an agent’s point of view. (Plus she has a great sense of humour – check out her post on the best query they ever received.)
  • Danish Accent, the blog of Danish author Peter H. Fogtdal, a witty and funny author whose posts never fail to make me giggle. Plus, his book ‘The Tsar’s Dwarf’ is excellent.

I visit most of these blogs several times weekly and I never fail to be impressed and informed. Check them out!

Book Review: The Goddess Test

The Goddess Test, by Aimée Carter. (website, twitter)

I couldn’t put this book down. I started reading it during my lunch break at work, and I read until I had to start working again. Then, I read it on the train to an appointment, and waiting in the reception area, and on the train back home from my appointment. Then, I read it while making dinner, while eating dinner, and finished it off just before bed.

So, to put it simply: You Must Read This Book.

Kate would be your typical teenager, except that she’s having to care for her dying mother and that leaves little time for much else. They return to her mother’s hometown of Eden for her last days, and from there, things take a very strange turn. A girl she meets at school dies unexpectedly and Kate meets Henry, who claims to be a god. He brings the girl back to life upon Kate’s promise to read the story of Persephone and agree to his bargain. She doesn’t believe him at first, but sees the possibility of keeping her mother alive. The catch? She has to stay with Henry for six months and take seven tests.

The drama and twists in this novel were what kept me reading. Will Kate manage the tests? What is Eden manor? Who is trying to kill Kate? Will her mother live? You’ll be thoroughly satisfied by this fantastic book. This is Aimée Carter’s debut novel, but from reading it, I can hardly believe that it’s only her first. I’m already looking forward to her next!

The Goddess Test will be released by Harlequin TEEN on April 19, 2011 (or April 26, according to NetGalley). I know, it’s going to be a tough wait. (You can pre-order it on Amazon too.)