It’s February and that means it’s time to watch one of my favorite romantic comedies “Letters to Juliet”. This movie is about a young American woman who discovers a long-lost love letter in the wall in Juliet’s courtyard in Verona, Italy. This wall, where people over the last century have left letters to lost lovers, is cared for by a group of woman known as the Secretaries of Juliet.
When the heroine finds the heart-sick letter, she goes on a quest to reunite the lovers. In the process she learns what true love really means.
I’m not normally a fan of romcoms (I’m not a fan of silly movies in general), but I love this movie. Maybe it’s because I’ve been to Juliet’s courtyard in Verona, Italy and to the countryside where the movie was filmed. Or maybe it’s because I’m a huge fan of not just Shakespeare’s play “Romeo and Juliet” but also of one of the original source materials titled “Giulietta e Romeo” by Luigi da Porto in 1524. So much a fan that my debut novel EVERY DEEP DESIRE is a romantic suspense Romeo and Juliet retelling.
Or maybe I’m a fan because the movie is based around the enduring concept of love letters.
Love letters have existed, in different forms, since people first started expressing in words the human concept of raw, unadulterated passion. Love letters can be traced through history with examples appearing on ancient papyrus scrolls all the way to our current-day Hallmark cards and text emojis. The Song of Solomon (in the Bible) is an example of God’s love for the individual. The Roman statesmen, Cicero and Pliny, wrote love letters to their wives. In 269 AD a bishop named Valentinus, on the night before he was martyred, wrote a letter to a young woman whom he’d converted to Christianity and signed it “From Your Valentine.”
Years later, in the late medieval/early Renaissance periods, love letters appeared during the Age of Chivalry. This was also the advent of Irish and Welsh cycles of poetry which included mythical stories of The Fianna, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. All of these stories told tales of romantic missives sent from far-away soldiers to their lady-loves. As these stories spread and grew in popularity, those who could read and write began sending their own love letters. These letters were passionate-yet-chaste letters of courtly love. Filled with compliments and self-doubt, these letters drove both the sender and the receiver to the outer edges of romantic tension.
This concept of courtly-yet-unrequited love continued up through the Eighteenth Century. Love letters found during this time are more personal, yet still chaste and pure, including letters between President John Adams and his wife Abigail. In the early eighteen-hundreds, Ludwig van Beethoven wrote his Immortal Beloved letters to an unknown woman. To say they’re passionate would be a grow understatement.
It’s not until the later nineteenth-century that love letters became more . . . erotic. Some say it was in response to the proprieties enforced during the Victorian Era, others believe it was due to the desperation caused by industrialization and the growing number of violent conflicts around the world.
Regardless of why, as time progressed into the Twentieth Century, love letters became more personal and more interesting. In 1952, computer scientists at Manchester University built their Mark One computer not to crunch numbers but to write love letters including this gem, “My lust tempts your fond ardour. My liking ardently cares for your hunger.”
Now, in the Twenty-First Century, we have text emojis and screen swipes. Yet in spite of the technology, last year a record number of Valentine’s Day cards were bought and sent. And even the sales of personal stationary rose.
And that gives me hope. As I re-watch “Letters to Juliet” this year, I like to think that the art of writing letters, especially love letters, hasn’t died. Although technology adapts, people don’t change. We crave intimacy, not just through physical touch, but from the profound emotions found only in well-written words. May we all be Secretaries of Juliet, even if the words are crunched out by a love-sick computer in Manchester, England.
Every Deep Desire
He's taking back his honor, his freedom, and the woman he loves.
Rafe Montfort was a decorated Green Beret, the best of the best, until a disastrous mission and an unforgivable betrayal destroyed his life. Now, this deadly soldier has returned to the sultry Georgia swamps to reunite with his brothers, and take back all he lost. But Juliet must never know the truth behind what he's done...or the dangerous secret that threatens to take him from her forever.
It took Juliet Capel eight long years to put her life back together after her husband was taken from her. Now Rafe is back, determined to protect her at any cost, and it's not just her heart that's in danger. The swamps hold a secret long buried and far deadlier than either of them could have imagined...
Sharon Wray is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes about the men in her Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets meet their match in smart, sexy heroines who teach these alpha males that Grace always defeats Reckoning.
Her acclaimed debut book EVERY DEEP DESIRE, a sexy, action-packed retelling of Romeo and Juliet, is about an ex-Green Beret determined to regain his honor, his freedom, and his wife.
Years ago, when I started writing fiction again, I created YouTube videos, such as Historic Hotties: Rufus Sewell and Stephen Dillaine and Jane Austen Couples: You Got Me for fun. Of course, there are a lot of great video creators on YouTube (much better than I ever was), and their videos are great for a quick view of period drama men and couples. But, to get the full experience, I enjoy rewatching my favorite period dramas when I feel low, or when I want to celebrate something. I’m not going to rank these, because it all depends on my mood—sometimes I want brooding Rufus Sewell or Ciarán Hinds, sometimes adorable Rupert Penry-Jones or Jeremy Northam, sometimes delightful Colin Firth or Alan Rickman (to name just a few).
Love Comes Softly (2008) A touching Hallmark movie (Western) based on the Janette Oke novel. Dale Midkiff plays the widowed hero with strength and rugged calm.
Jane Eyre (2003): Though I’ve seen and liked most of the versions of the Charlotte Brontë novel, I especially like Toby Stephens (sigh—he plays a tortured hero so well) and Ruth Wilson in this adaptation.
Anne of Green Gables (1985 and 1987) Megan Follows is a treat as Anne. I also love Road to Avonlea, particularly Gus and Felicity’s romance.
Little Women (1994) So far, this is still my favorite version of the Louisa May Alcott book. And I love Jo and Prof. Bhaer (especially as played by Gabriel Byrne).
Emma (1996, 1996 TV, or 2009 TV) I know I’m an outlier among Jane Austen fans—I love Emma. And Knightly. I enjoyed each of these productions for various reasons, though I admit my favorite is the 2009 version with Romala Garai and Jonny Lee Miller.
Persuasion (1995 or 2007) Neither of these quite captures Persuasion (the novel) for me, but I like them both. Especially because of Ciarán Hinds and Rupert Penry-Jones, respectively.
Sense and Sensibility (1995 or 2008) Can you tell I’m a Jane Austen fan? I like both of these versions. I love Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson, but I also loved the 2008 version, both the way it was adapted and the cast.
The Young Victoria (2009) Starring Emily Blunt (pre-Mary Poppins) and Rupert Friend (who also played Mr. Wickham in the 2005 Pride and Prejudice), and written by Julian Fellowes (Downtown Abbey), this is a touching, sweet romance.
Victoria (2016--) I love this ongoing show! Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes are wonderful as Victoria and Albert, and in Seasons One and Two, the fantastic Rufus Sewell plays Lord Melbourne with devastating charm and pathos.
North & South (2004) Richard Armitage as John Thornton. (Okay, I enjoy the whole production and cast, but, really: Richard Armitage as John Thornton.) Swoon.
Pride and Prejudice (1995) One of my all-time favorites, and probably the one I’ve seen the most times, even though it’s around six hours long. Starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle as Darcy and Lizzy, this is a near-faultless production.
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Did I miss any of your favorites?
December 15, 2013
Historical ~ Sweet Romance ~ Regency
From the author of the Amazon Regency Romance bestseller A Gentleman’s Daughter: Her Choice, comes Most Truly, a light, sweet jaunt into the world of Pride and Prejudice.
Colonel James Fitzwilliam is home. The war has left him weary, battle-scarred—and a free man of fortune ready to find a wife. He travels to Pemberley, his second home. There he meets Kitty Bennet. Her unexpected charms soon have him questioning his familial duty and his expectations. A fight looms on the horizon when his aunt—Lady Catherine de Bourgh—and his parents arrive with their own plans for his future.
Kitty Bennet has found happiness. At Pemberley, she has improved herself and formed true friendships with her sister Lizzy and Georgiana Darcy. Kitty is captivated by the gentlemanly Colonel Fitzwilliam. But she will not be silly over a redcoat again, and she will not risk her happiness—or his family’s displeasure—for his attentions. Colonel Fitzwilliam, Darcy, Lizzy, and Georgiana have their say, and Kitty learns a new lesson—love will find you at Pemberley.
Reina M. Williams writes sweet Austen-inspired and fairy tale romances. She loves period dramas, cooking, baking, and reading. She has a B.A. in History and did graduate study in English Literature. A California native, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her two sons, who hope to someday take a research trip to England with their mom.
I’ve had a great life.
I met my life-partner (now husband) Mark when I was twenty-three, and was finally able to marry him in 2008. We lived in Hawaii for a year, started our own business, and work most days in our sweats, making the commute from bedroom to office in about ten seconds.
I am a lucky bastard.
When I started writing at the tender age of ten, I had no idea where this whole author thing would go. I also had no idea I was gay, though looking back, there were signs. I hated sports, loved stuffed animals and had no problem mixing Barbies in with my Star Wars action figures. :P
As I have often mentioned, my writing career, which I thought would take off in my mid twenties with my first novel submission, quickly crashed back to earth when all ten publishers rejected me. I often wonder how things would have gone if I had stuck with it back then - if I had picked myself up and kept going. I was at WorldCon last year and went to a panel with an author who started about the same time - and now she has legions of fans (and in a possibly related role, sits on panels at World Con).
Is it possible to be immensely thrilled for someone and insanely jealous of them too?
Now back to the lucky bastard part.
In 2013, I decided to get back into writing after my husband kicked me in my writer's ass. I was griping about having lost momentum once again, and he turned to me and deadpanned “The only thing stopping you from writing is you.”
Holy bat signal, Robin!
He was absolutely right, and he was also telling that he was okay with me spending the time I needed to write, and to finally get myself published.
Now here we are, six years on, and I have almost thirty published works to my credit, including six novels. “Ithani,” which came out today, caps my first trilogy, and my second one wraps in October.
I’m writing what I always wanted to - diverse, exciting sci fi and fantasy - and although I’m not making bank (yet), I have a bunch of loyal readers who love what I do.
Did I mention that Mark and I will celebrate our twenty seventh anniversary in April?
I’m breathing. I’m writing. And I’m living with the man of my dreams.
I really am a lucky bastard.