A few months ago I sat in a movie theater, behaving myself, until a One for the Money preview came on. Katherine Heigl said, “They blew up my car!” in a Jersey accent, and I cheered. Grandma Mazur shot the dinner turkey, Joe Morelli called Stephanie Plum “cupcake” – I laughed and shouted “Yesss!”
I understand it’s generally thought uncouth for a woman my age to publicly indulge in teenage behavior. I was so excited, I didn’t care.
Excited, because Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series is brilliant. One for the Money sells over 75 million copies, and finally someone gets the idea to make it into a movie. Duh. The characters are endearing, the dialogue is hilarious, and the premise is simply awesome: Down-on-her-luck divorcée returns to her hometown and takes a job as a bounty hunter, and her old flame is the target. Stephanie Plum screws up a lot, but she’s unflappable. Joe Morelli handcuffs her to the shower rod – what’s not to love?
Sure, literary, suspense and YA fiction is adapted for the “big screen” all the time. I’m wondering if romance novels are passed over by Hollywood. I know we could debate whether or not One for the Money is technically a romance novel. And yes, Nicholas Sparks’ books and angsty teenage vampire series are made into movies. I’m not satisfied.
The enduring popularity of Jane Austen and Brontë adaptations should be a clue to producers that viewers crave a good love story. Romance novelists are great storytellers, and with an annual average of $1.4 billion in sales, romance is by far the bestselling fiction genre. Where is Hollywood, then?
Granted, not every bestselling romance is suitable for a screenplay, but the same could be said of books in every genre. That’s the purpose of adaptation and editing. I also admit a good deal of popular romance novels are too racy for me, and for the general viewership. I’m not advocating “that kind of movie.” Offhand I can think of a dozen romance novels which would appeal to broad audiences and could be well-adapted to screenplay, and so could you, I bet.
I’m talking about Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. The beloved classic Mrs. Mike by Freedman. Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase. Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie. Linda Howard’s Mr. Perfect. I could go on . . . but why don’t you instead?
Romance readers: What favorite should get the next big movie deal?
Okay, critics – take me to the mat. Go ahead and explain why I’m wrong about everything. I can take it.