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Of Magic, Winter Landscapes and Russian Revolution

26 Jan

By Elizabeth SaFleur

Who is sick of the news? Who is weary from rapid-fire action and violent conflict that permeates our entertainment these days? Gather around my tired and weary friends for I have a new obsession to share that will take you far, far away from the angry, shoot ‘em up movies and TV shows that fill our screens. Welcome to Turkish Romance.

A year ago, a friend of mine gushed about a show called Kurt Seyit ve Şura. Well, mostly about the lead actorKıvanç Tatlıtuğ. Can you blame her?

My friend warned me about its soap-opera qualities, the sweeping, over-the-top music, the almost-too-gorgeous people (Oh, Seyit!). Now, having seen half of the first season, I can’t believe it took me this long to watch this show.

Ten minutes into the first episode the hero’s strength and nobility were declared, the heroine’s vulnerability established, the nemesis identified, the war showcased, and the beauty of early 20th Century Russia showcased. Ten minutes, my friends! That’s stellar crafting, and that brilliance was all it took for me to be all in.

Kurt Seyit ve Şura is based on the true, love story of Seyit Eminof, a 1st Lieutenant of the elite Imperial Guard and Şura Verjenskaya a Russian noblewoman. Seyit and Şura meet in WWI Russia just as the Bolshevik revolution was taking hold. They fall in love and are forced to break from their “magnificent lives” (the official publicity statement) to flee to Istanbul. And, bonus! Their romance is based on a true story, which only made me swoon more while watching it. The granddaughter of the real Seyit wrote the book on which the series is based.

Along the lines of the Age of Innocence and Downton Abbey, Kurt Seyit ve Şura is a story of people experiencing their perfect, beautiful life crumble as society demands change, and set in a time when class divides were so severe revolution was inevitable. Much of the show shows off the excessive luxury the Russian noble class indulged in – the gorgeous palaces and architecture, the jeweled gowns sweeping across ballroom floors, love notes written on crisp, thick, monogrammed paper. It’s hard to feel sorry for their ultimate downfall, but oh, peeking into their lives is such a wonderful, guilty pleasure.

   

Even with the show’s brilliant opening, the pace is slow and honestly welcomed. Expect love-filled lingering looks between characters, kisses that last minutes, music that swells in the background. Sigh. In fact, the music is often so cheesy, my husband has literally left the room. As for me? I love it Even with its soap-opera drama moments (if they would only talk to one another, clear up that miscommunication all would be well!), the show sucked me in faster than a black hole.

Case in point? I hate winter, but somehow this show made me fall in love with that frigid season from its scenery alone. The gorgeous, wintery Russian and Turkey landscape is a character of its own, and one that is used well to depict their lives. Picture snowflakes and ice chips crusted into beards as the gorgeous Seyit and his men stomp through snowy forests and trails on horseback. Imagine men and women in their fur-lined coats being jostled in open-topped carriages through icy streets. Be warmed by the outdoor, iron-scroll gaslights throwing light over iced steps.

Double sigh.

The war is ever present in this series, but from afar like gunfire in the distance. So far, no real battle scenes have marred the beauty of the scenery. I expect the screen will eventually fill with a bloody battle scene. I mean, we’re talking the Bolshevik revolution that ended the Russian noble class for good. For now, I’m happy for war to be a bit player.

Back to Seyit, the hero. He is to die for. Noble, desperately trying to do the right thing, loyal, close to his family, and soon even closer to Şura, our heroine, he is everything one would want in a romance. He is beguiled by Şura’s innocence and purity, which I imagine is not unlike the life that they both lived, despite Seyit’s war-time occupation. I suppose you could liken Şura to Marie Antoinette, but without the cruelty and haughtiness. Şura certainly is as ignorant of the “real world.” You can’t help but love her, however, as she stares starry-eyed at Seyit. Who doesn’t want an all-encompassing, I-can’t-stop-staring at you love?

One could argue that these two are delusional and simply in lust with one another, but that would spoil the magic. And, right now, I believe we all could use some magic. I’m not done with the series yet, but I’ll return to let you know how it all ends up. It’s romance so I’m expecting an HEA, but the producers cleverly only say Seyit’s granddaughter wrote the story, not Seyit and Şura’s granddaughter. Do they end up together? Does the war eventually tear them apart? (We all know how the revolution ends.) Do their long, lingering looks grow old? Do they grow old? Does someone throw themselves on a train track? I can only tell you this: I’m going to find out, despite the fact hubby can’t be in the room during the orchestral swells.

~~~~~

Elizabeth SaFleur writes contemporary romance that dares to “go there.” Expect alpha males (and females), seductive encounters, and love. Learn more about her steamy and sexy stories by following her on Amazon and Bookbub.

Sexy Sunday Snippet

7 May

Morning ladies—We reallllly like Afton Locke, and she’s got a new serial romance for us to savor. DRUNK ON MEN is an interracial romance set in the roaring 20’s.  After reading the excerpt below, go to her website for the first THREE INSTALLMENTS and get addicted!

When three African-American women meet at a resort on the Jersey Shore in the 1920s, they say goodbye to their old lives. Finding men as intoxicating as bootleg liquor, they pin their futures on happily ever after. But love can be worse than a hangover when the men’s flaws threaten to destroy them.

Hannah knows it’s time to replace her fiancé who died in the war, but the abrupt white man who rescues her from rough surf hardly fits the bill. Belle longs to ditch her latest meal ticket, but is the rich African-European owner of an upscale hotel out of her league? And while Edie struggles to face her upcoming arranged marriage, a rugged Hispanic-white fisherman decides to stake his own claim on her.

This 8-volume serial is a heady romance cocktail stirred with addiction, abuse, betrayal, and scandal. These women aren’t perfect and neither are their men. If you think you can handle it, read on and watch three steamy interracial relationships explode across the pages.

You may think it’s sloe fizz gin

But honey we’re sober, just drunk on men

“You’re a bootlegger,” she stated.

He sighed and made a rude gesture with his hand and chin. “What did you think, Belle? The booze simply drops out of the sky into my bar? I am performing a necessary service for the town of Ocean Promenade.”

Excitement rippled down Belle’s arms and legs. Tonight’s joyride was the most thrilling thing she’d ever done.

“How much booze does this town drink, anyway? The Sands is the only place I see that’s even wet. I have a hard time believing you could buy a car like this on that speck of business.”

“I see you are shrewd businesswoman.” He leaned between the front seats and shot her an admiring glance. “I am much impressed. Since you ask, the product also gets shipped to Washington, Philadelphia, and New York City.”

“So, what happens next?” she asked. “Where’s the booze?”

He slid his jacket sleeve upward with two fingers and glanced at his watch. “It’s coming. Please join me in the front seat where I can see you.”

“Not with the gun lying there. A girl could get her cha chas blown off with a thing like that. Besides, how do I know you’re not planning to bump me off for knowing too much?”

“You are too beautiful to kill,” he crooned as he moved the monstrous weapon to rest against his door. “However, you have become heavily involved. I wanted to protect you from this.”

“It’s okay,” she said, shrugging as she scrambled to the front passenger seat. “I’m a big girl. I’ll survive.”

He reached over and grabbed her chin, forcing her to face him. Adrenaline flooded her body. Without thinking, she smacked him across the face.

He reared back in his seat. “What was that for?”

“Don’t manhandle me,” she said coldly. “I don’t care for it.”

She hadn’t pegged him as abusive, but she wasn’t about to take any chances. Especially in this abandoned place. She’d do a lot for money, but she refused to tolerate violence.

Please tell me you’re not one of them, Raoul. I don’t want to have to give you up.

“Bella, please. You shocked me, and I think you broke my jaw.” He stuck out his bottom lip like a little boy and dazzled her with another smile.

She couldn’t help laughing. “Oh, you’re all wet. I did not.”

“I’m only trying to make you understand something.” He leaned closer but without touching her this time. “You will see things and people who don’t want to be recognized. If you do not keep your pretty kisser shut, you could endanger your life and mine.”

Belle took a shaky breath. “Understood.”

“And it means you are my lady. You cannot walk away from me. Not after tonight.”

As if she wanted to. They sat in silence for a moment. He caressed her hand and then the thigh it lay on through the thin hem of her dress, making her breath draw in with a hiss.

“I want to show you my hotel room soon,” he said, lazily stroking. “I have a circular tub with flowing water. It is like the ocean, yes?”

“Sounds divine,” she whispered.

“We don’t have much time, and I need you to show me your loyalty.” 

Loyalty?

Belle watched, fascinated, as he reclined his seat until it lay almost horizontal.

His voice dropped very low. Very soft. “Come here, Bella.”

25954402 – art deco vintage frames and design elements

Afton Locke is a USA Today Bestselling Author who prefers romantic fantasies to everyday reality. Fantasies take her to different times, races, places, and beyond. She lives with her husband, several unnamed dust bunnies, and a black cat that can be scary or cuddly, depending on the current book. When she’s not writing, Afton enjoys hiking, cooking, reading, and watching retro T.V.

Find Afton here:

Web site: http://www.aftonlocke.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AftonLockeAuthor

Twitter: http://twitter.com/aftonlocke

Newsletter: http://www.aftonlocke.com/mailing-list.html

Crimson Peak: More Bloody Than a Tampon–And I Relished it

18 Feb
Got a sinister hero? Then you've got my interest.

Got a sinister hero? Then you’ve got my interest.

by Madeline Iva

I was attracted to the preview for Crimson Peak, and even more attracted to Tom Hiddleston, who stars in it. Yet I couldn’t tell from the preview if the movie was a horror film or romantic suspense.  Not loving horror films, I waited to watch it on video where I could fast forward through the scream-y parts if need be.

I shouldn’t have worried. Crimson Peak is a Gothic Romantic Suspense movie—capital G, emphasis on the ick.

Gothic? Horror? Gothic-horror? What’s the difference, you’re wondering. Some say it’s not horror if there’s no blood splatter on the wall. Oh, Crimson Peak has blood splatter a-plenty. Not just on the walls, but also the carpet, the snow, the clothes, the skin. Never since Carrie has a movie audience been so drenched in red dyed corn-syrup.

But a Gothic sensibility is all about the build up. We revel in the hints of secrets, and spend a lot of suspenseful time wondering what—what chilling secret could be in the creepy investigator’s file? In the locked rooms of the ancient hall, in the gooey red brick pits in the basement, in the locked luggage next to the gooey pits…

We’re looking for twisted hidden secrets. We want them revealed and brought out into the light of day–or at least twilight if that’s all there is to be had in the gloomy climate of Northern England. The dangerous horror part is only a small component of the whole.  We’re much more involved in the building psychological strain and suspense. (What could it beeeeee in that bedroom?)

Excellent Gothic stories always ends with a goodly amount of implosion. We want the mansion destroyed by fire, we want the mad-woman jumping off the roof–only to drown in the pond.  We want the carriage plunging over a cliff. (Bonus points for managing such a feat without harming the horses.)

In this way, CRIMSON PEAK is most definitely a gothic movie. I was worried about horror elements, when in fact (SPOILER ALERT!)

what we have here is merely……really ugly ghosts, trying to deliver helpful messages.

What the movie doesn’t deliver in horror, it delivers in gothic architecture and gowns. Is there any better satisfaction for the Gothic enthusiast than a once-gorgeous house pocked with decay like swiss cheese? Better yet is the house that delivers some weird and extravagant folly. Fluttering moths on the walls? Check.  Mine shaft in the basement? Check. (Yes, I’m not kidding, there really is!)

HouseCrimson Peak’s also got gothic quatrafoil bannisters, fan vault trim, and oculus glass up the wazoo. Spindle carvings drips from beamed ceilings panels, and gingerbread sprawls across the stairwells. It’s like being in heaven for those who know they really belong in hell.

Gowns billow in haunted breezes, Nightgowns hug the neck like a confining clasp of a strangler.  Robes of silk outline heaving breasts, and glorious hip length locks run in a dark river across the neck and down the ribs. Do I sound orgasmic? I was. I still am, a little.

TomTom Hiddleston is the anti-hero who stands in the center of all this wanton glory. Is there any better man to play a twisted romantic hero? I think not.

Tom…Tom…let me count the ways.

His intelligent sensitivity, his understated sensuality…his ice blue eyes that nevertheless melt with innate sympathy, yet tragic acceptance that no…there’s no help for you.

I get ovary spasms just from listening to the way he explains what Gothic romance is on Charlie Rose and how repressed sexuality bursts forth in ghosts, mayhem and horror —

Jessica Chastain, meanwhile, plays his evil sister in a repressed matronly way worthy of Mrs. Danvers (The nasty housekeeper in REBECCA). We’re not quite so interested in her while Tom is on screen–how could we be?  But at the same time, yeah, she’s workin it.

Frankly, I would have been just as happy if they decided to change the tale to that of a twisted incestuous couple who rid themselves of the shallow American heiress so they can live in lecherous macabre delight—an alternative HEA. (What’s that I hear?—It’s the sound of a thousand fan fiction posts launching on Wattpad.)

JessicaBut Crimson Peak is not a perfect movie for us Gothic fans. Alas, there are bad American accents, cheesy overdone bloody effects.  I like over the top as the much as anybody, and didn’t mind the costumes and sets (who doesn’t like a mind shaft in a basement? Or leaves and snow falling gently through the gaping hole in the ceiling?) But the blood-like clay seeping from the walls? Okay…a leetle bit over done. Actually WAY overdone. Why Guillermo? Why? The writer/director crossed the line a few times, and in doing so seemed to aim his movie towards a less refined audience. Sad.

However I respect any movie in which two women, heroine and villainess, battle it out at the end. I warn those of you who couldn’t hack the Psycho shower scene to quickly avert your eyes during their epic throw down. Talk about death by a thousand cuts—and in billowing bloodstained nightgowns!

Back to our Gothic Rules of Attraction. I like it that the heroine loves the bad guy, Tom Hiddleston (again a favorite trope) even after she discovers his dark secrets. Does he loves her? Agh! We sit and wonder. And! If he does love her–can they get out of that house alive together before it tumbles down and sinks into the oozing clay, a la The House of Usher?*Gown

That’s the question that kept me going all the way through the gory ending.

Alas, this movie was a little watered down for my taste. A little more lowbrow than it needed to be. I liked chewing on parts of it, but the best of gothic suspense tradition is not about hack and slash, it’s all about the revealing twitch of an eyebrow, the moment the locked door creaks open and our heroine will never again be innocent again.

*I’ve always wanted to own a house that comes with a black tarn.

Thanks for tuning in, readers! And follow us at Lady Smut, where we devote ourselves to bringing you shivery, sexy fun.

Madeline Ivaimgres writes fantasy, paranormal, and contemporary romance.  Her novella ‘Sexsomnia’ is available in our LadySmut anthology HERE, and her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, will be out Spring, 2016.

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