Movie: The Woman in the Fifth

The Woman in the Fifth stars Ethan Hawke (Before Sunset) and Kristin Scott Thomas (Ne le dis à personne, The English Patient). Tom is a writer and university lecturer in Paris to see his estranged wife and daughter. He is robbed and is stuck at a rundown hotel in a Paris suburb, scraping by with an under-the-table job of questionable legality. He meets Margit at a literary evening and soon they are having a torrid affair. When not with Margit (who will only see him after 4pm), he spends his time writing a lengthy letter to his six-year-old daughter and getting to know the waitress/barmaid at the hotel.

The film starts off normally. That is, totally comprehensible and almost ordinary, but once Tom meets Margit, things become strange. It’s that turning point (as in the film The Last Minute when Billy Byrne takes drugs and everything in the film becomes slightly surreal) where you’re not sure what is real and what is not. It’s a dark film, tension-filled, yet also mostly quiet. There are some dramatic and gory points but a lot is not explained.

I often prefer films where things aren’t so cut and dry at the end; closure is not always the best ending. Most films with definitive endings are ones that I cease to think about the moment the credits roll. Far better to have a film be strange and provoke thought and speculation, or leave some puzzlement. In this case, the film was an excellent advertisement for the novel (by Douglas Kennedy), as I’m inclined to pick it up to see what the screenwriter cut out.

Book Review: Unclaimed, by Courtney Milan

I read my first Courtney Milan novel after I had followed her on Twitter, winning a copy of Trial By Desire. That was probably one of the best investments ever made, as I’ve since purchased her other historical romances (Proof By Seduction, Unveiled, and her novella Unlocked, which was self-published recently).

Unclaimed is the latest book, and I enjoyed it very much. I was delighted to finally read about Mark Turner, the chaste brother of Ash Turner (whom we met in Unveiled). Here’s the blurb:

Handsome, wealthy and respected, Sir Mark Turner is the most sought-after bachelor in all of London—and he’s known far and wide for his irreproachable character. But behind his virtuous reputation lies a passionate nature he keeps carefully in check…until he meets the beautiful Jessica Farleigh, the woman he’s waited for all his life.

But Jessica is a courtesan, not the genteel lady Sir Mark believes. Desperate to be free of a life she despises, she seizes her chance when Mark’s enemies make her an offer she can’t refuse: seduce Mark and tarnish his good name, and a princely sum will be hers. Yet as she comes to know the man she’s sworn to destroy, Jessica will be forced to choose between the future she needs…and the love she knows is impossible.

I originally wasn’t sure how interesting a character could be if they were the sort to have held to a vow of chastity – after all, romances tend to be about sex, and what would happen if one of the main characters was chaste? … Sir Mark Turner is chaste, and the book he’s written has turned him into the literary equivalent of Mick Jagger. (It’s hard to make a rock star comparison here, since the biggest ones are often known for their sexual adventures, but I had to try. I was going to say Byron, but that wouldn’t have worked either.)

Courtney Milan turns the traditional seduction on its head in this book – the virgin being seduced is most definitely not a nubile young woman, and the seducer is not a blackguard with a hidden heart of gold. Jessica’s character was well-written and I found myself quite fond of her early on, and rooting for her despite the situation.

This book is one of those I can’t put down, resulting in my being over-tired and sleepy at work. However, it was worth it. I highly recommend picking up Unclaimed when it hits the real and virtual shelves.

Check out Courtney Milan’s website too (and her alternate book covers). Her blog is a great read, and she’s active on Twitter.

Unclaimed will be released on September 27th.

Article: Don’t Write What You Know

From The Atlantic, by Bret Johnston. (read the full article here) He writes:

Instead of thinking of my experiences as structures I wanted to erect in fiction, I started conceiving of them as the scaffolding that would be torn down once the work was complete. I took small details from my life to evoke a place and the people who inhabit it, but those details served to illuminate my imagination. Before, I’d forced my fiction to conform to the contours of my life; now I sought out any and every point where a plot could be rerouted away from what I’d known. The shift was seismic. My confidence waned, but my curiosity sprawled. I was writing fiction, to paraphrase William Trevor, not to express myself, but to escape myself. When I recall those stories now, the flashes of autobiography remind me of stars staking a constellation. Individually, the stars are unimportant; only when they map shapes in the darkness, shapes born of imagination, do we understand their light.

I highly recommend going to read the entire article. It made me think about how I should be using my own knowledge and experiences (or not) within my writing.

Welcome to Bandit Creek!

In the spring of 2011, a group of authors got together and created the town of Bandit Creek, Montana, nestled in the Rocky Mountains. Everything happens in Bandit Creek: we have paranormal romances, mysteries, historical, you name it. We cover all genres and the books range from 1867 to the present. You’ll meet strange residents, search out lost treasure, hang out with flappers and bootleggers, see ghosts, experience love stories, and have a frolicking good time.

The inaugural release is ‘Lost’, by Vivi Anna.

Kirsten Morgan can hear the dead. And now they are calling to her, to come home to Bandit Creek.

A girl has gone missing, and the law don’t have any leads. But the last thing Sheriff Samuel Morgan wants to see is his famous psychic daughter in his office telling him how to do his job. At odds for years, Kirsten doesn’t know how to talk to her father but she knows she has to push him to a place he doesn’t want to go. Because the dead are talking, and she has to answer, or lose her mind forever.

It’s a fantastic tale and will keep you reading right to the end. Vivi Anna is the author of more than a dozen books, including the Nina Decker books ‘Glimmer’ and ‘Dawning’, the YA novel ‘Static’ and the Valorian Chronicles from Harlequin.

New books will be released twice a month and you can find them at the Bandit Creek Books website, and for purchase on Amazon and Smashwords.

Shakespeare & Company: La Meilleure Librairie

From: (creative commons)

Oh how I love this bookshop. I sometimes wish I could own a bookshop like this, or have my apartment be filled with books so that it resembles the shop’s interior. There’s just something so cosy about the shop, with its velvet chairs nestled amongst shelves filled to bursting. It’s the kind of place I could (and did) spend hours in. My next trip to Paris (whenever that will be) will include a lot of time.

From: (creative commons)

Jeremy Mercer wrote a book called ‘Time Was Soft There’ about Shakespeare & Co. It’s a bit of a memoir, but I love the details of his time spent there in the shop, sleeping on one of the beds tucked away, the people he met there, and his time in Paris. The film ‘Before Sunset’ also begins in the shop, where Ethan Hawke’s character is autographing his book and doing a reading.

If you’re ever in Paris – you must go. Check out their website too. Curl up in that green velvet chair and flip through Jean Genet’s ‘Our Lady of the Flowers’, or poetry by Baudelaire…