Harlequin novels sell like hotcakes, but do they make good TV-movies? Oh yes, whew, yes indeed. All you have to do is lie back and let yourself enjoy them
“He’s over there,” they said, pointing past a priceless Darracq touring car toward the massive Rosedale mansion surrounded by summer gardens in full bloom.
But the woman didn’t need to be told who Simon was. He drew her gaze as effortlessly – and unwittingly – as a burning flame captures the innocent gray moth. Unable to tear her eyes away, and knowing full well he hadn’t seen her yet, she stood outside the estate’s gates and studied him, shamelessly, from head to toe.
Simon strode from the dark entranceway and down the stone steps into bright daylight. She knew instantly from the storm of emotion in his flashing eyes that he was terribly angry, and when he leaned over the Darracq and spoke with barely controlled fury, the driver shrank back from his unbridled power.
For a moment she felt faint. Was this the kind of man he was? Cold, imperious, perhaps even … cruel? At the same time she couldn’t help admiring how the sun glanced off the patently incorrigible wave in his thick blond hair. He was tall and spare, and moved with a casual elegance that couldn’t be bought with mere money — even all his money. A cashmere sweater topped expertly tailored wool gaberdines that draped gracefully on his slim hips, a simple ensemble that indicated well-honed tastes combined with a natural, manly reserve. His bearing was aristocratic, she decided, with the handsome glamour of an old-fashioned matinee idol. Then she grinned inwardly. Just like her to use such an outdated term. Any other modern woman would have thought, “What a hunk!” But she herself had never felt very modern. In any case, she reminded herself sternly, now was not the time for idle fantasies. She had a job to do. She squared her shoulders and took a deep breath, waiting for just the right moment.
And finally it came. As soon as the director yelled, “Cut,” she marched down the driveway in her sensible shoes, ready to interview Harlequin Romance Movie star Simon MacCorkindale.
When you are an archetypal leading man, which is what I am,” says MacCorkindale, “to some extent you can’t avoid the stereotype.” Articulate, charming, the former Falcon Crest star is discussing his role in a new Harlequin movie, “At the Midnight Hour.” Despite the hectic shooting schedule at this location in one of Toronto’s ritziest neighborhoods, MacCorkindale, 43, is utterly relaxed as he lounges against a street sign between scenes. “All you can do is be very truthful about the emotions in each moment. You’ve got to commit to the story; you have to approach the material with the same intensity that you do with a so-called ‘serious’ role.”
In the movie, he plays Richard, brilliant scientist, suspected wife killer, emotionally paralyzed father and potential husband for our heroine Elizabeth, the new nanny. She’s played with sweet vulnerability by Patsy Kensit (Mel Gibson’s lover in “Lethal Weapon II”). The wild card in their dangerous gamble with love is rich, idle, troublemaking Jillian, played by Cynthia Dale (formerly of Street Legal and currently of Taking the Falls).
<snip – article edited>
It’s somewhat surprising that the movies work at all. After all, though many of us might enjoy reading melodrama, it tends to be a private vice. As MacCorkindale says, “I used to think of Harlequin romances as closet reading. Just as guys might go out to the garden shed to read Playboy, Mum grabs her Harlequin from under the mattress and sublimates herself into the character and imagines whatever she wants to imagine.” Cast real people as those fantasy characters, he says, and “you potentially eliminate some of the audience.” Judging by the ratings, however, the transition from page to screen “seems to be working, perhaps because people know they’re going to get a good romantic yarn which is reasonably harmless, especially nowadays when there’s so much blood spewed on our TV screens.”
<snip – article edited>
The most successful Harlequin movie so far, “Treacherous Beauties,” underwent the same radical makeover to its characters and plot. But the essentials remained: a mystery thriller plot combined with courtship and passion. As MacCorkindale says, a darn good romantic yarn with no distressing outbursts of unnecessary violence or mundane realism.
Suddenly, Simon’s smile froze. A woman told him to stop talking to me, that she needed him, now, back on the set. He reached for my hand. His grip was dry, cool and firm. I’d been holding a tape recorder in the midday sun, so my hand was warm and sticky, but I’m sure he understood. I swallowed my disappointment as he slowly released me. We’d never meet again, but I still can’t forget his piercing gaze, his vibrant intelligence, and the way his trousers draped gracefully on his slim hips.
I don’t know if I’ll meet anyone like Simon again (and if I do, I’ll have some explaining to do to my husband), but he changed my mind about Harlequin movies and forced me to see the truth – that melodrama is good for anyone’s soul.