April 2, 2015

Poldark: The *Other* Outlander

by Madeline Iva

God, I love lavish historical dramas.  This week at LadySmut we’re celebrating the last week of Droughtlander, and Kiersten will probably have much to say next Monday about the first episode of Outlander, Season Two, Episode 1.

It was a harsh barren land for historical drama when I was growing up.  My mom told me about something called The Thornbirds–both the book and the made-for-TV show.  She told me the entire plot one time during a long car ride and it sounded awesome, but I never got to see it myself.

Yet I will get to see this awesome new series revived from that Thornbirds-ish time — it’s called Poledark. Yes — another amazing production from the other side of the pond. It’s being updated. Remember that hot dwarf Kili in The Hobbit? That’s him! That’s Poldark. Meanwhile, feast your eyes on this preview:

Poldark comes back from losing the war in America, only to find things are rotten at home and the lady he loves is now with his cousin.  Boo! He rallies, it’s complicated, and we root for him.  They had me at the horse running across the green cliff tops.  The sucky part is that it doesn’t land on the U.S. shores until June on PBS. 🙁

Austenland. Best. Darcy. Ever!

Why are we so swept away with historicals? Why? Things are so much better now for women, for everybody–so why do we love them so obsessively? Maybe because of the emphasis on beauty–both of women, men and of nature. There’s also an emphasis on goodness and firm character, as well as on plain ole heroism. Bonus points for the overt attention to the dangers of evil seducers.  Historical romances are where I first learned that beauty can draw rakes and cads out of the woods and to beware.  I think I learned more about how to avoid date rapists, douche bags and other toxic forms of man through historical romances than I ever did from my mom. (A woman who, alas, was drawn to cads.)

I liked OUTLANDER–what am I saying? I loved Outlander. Talk about a visual feast!  The TV show was just an excuse to go back and re-read the first two books.  They are so whack.  Whoever could have guessed that a time-travel Scottish historical adventure romance would be this whompishly successful? Gabaldon threw everything in there but the kitchen sink.  In book two, when the romance is pretty well settled, it’s fascinating to note how Gabaldon keeps us romance readers going.  She does it by having the hero and heroine drawn apart, and then back together.  Then apart again, then back together.  Over and over, it’s like the soothing cycles of waves washing on the beach.

Belle -- j'dore.
Belle — j’dore.

I realized that one standard I have for historicals like Outlander which I don’t have for everything else is that I want to enjoy them over and over again. So here’s my go-to list for lush costume historical movies, classic books, and historical romances that I’ll read or watch over and over:

For movies it’s LAST OF THE MOHICANS, A ROOM WITH A VIEW, and SENSE & SENSIBILITY.  Also check out BELLE if you haven’t before.  There’s an awesome satire about people who love love love Jane Austen’s period and historical romances (C’est moi) which is the movie AUSTENLAND. It’s so good it hurts–I SWEAR!

Want some heartbreak? Try CAMILLE by Alexander Dumas.  The movie is very different, but also excellent in a dreamy way, and it stars Greta Garbo.  Also try VILLETTE by Charlotte Bronte–so overlooked, yet really brilliant.  It’s almost an anti-romance for it’s time–heck, for this time too–and quite, quite radical.

I am all sensibility when it comes to Historicals.
I am all sensibility when it comes to Historicals.

If you insist on genre romances, try some Georgette Heyer.  No sex, but really good slang, and if you’re surrounded by crass vulgarians you’ll love the emphasis on manners and civility.  Here are my two all time favorites to reread: THE GRAND SOPHY (maybe the most perfect light historical romance ever written?) and FREDERICA.  Also good are: The Quiet Gentleman, Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle, Arabella, The None Such, Cotillion, The Convenient Marriage, These Old Shades, and Devil’s Cub.

Pushing aside my worship of all things Georgette Heyer, my other two all time favorite go to’s for historical romance are Joanna Bourne’s THE SPYMASTER’S LADY, and Loretta Chase’s LORD OF SCOUNDRELS.  These are books I can reread a thousand times over and still find delightful.

So enjoy! And follow us at LadySmut.com.


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