Television series adapted from novels are plentiful indeed. But while the Crime, Fantasy/Sci-Fi, Historical and Young Adult markets are always well represented – even if we only look at the shows airing this summer, we have Longmire, King and Maxwell, Rizzoli and Isles, Under the Dome, True Blood, The White Queen and Pretty Little Liars as examples – the percentage of them that are pure Romance has long held steady at a resounding zero.
Oh, there have been TV movies, of course: Danielle Steel’s books are a staple of the genre, and Barbara Cartland’s particular brand of historical hijinks have made their mark in the medium (we’ll always love you, Lord Vulcan!). A select few Harlequin Mills and Boon novels have made it to the small screen, and romance-based mini-series abound, with the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice perhaps the most glowing example—though certainly the fractious family sagas of Judith Krantz, Jackie Collins and Catherine Cookson, among others, have enlivened many a Sunday night. But when it comes to weekly television series, Urban Fantasy is close as we have come to seeing Romance on the regularly-scheduled air, with Blood Ties and the aforementioned True Blood the most prominent examples.
The strange thing is that romance novel series lend themselves beautifully to the television format, which makes it so peculiar that they have so far been left so unexploited. Not only do they have self-contained stories crying out to be season-arcs, but they also have an enormous built-in audience: the romance novel industry is worth over US$1 billion annually, which is a lot of highly desirable female viewers waiting to be tapped into by a clever network. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Hallmark may well be that network, with their July 20 premiere of Cedar Cove, based on Debbie Macomber’s popular books. And up in Canada, an adaptation of Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series is currently under way, which if nothing else will make for a fun game of “Hey, I know that guy from The X-Files/Stargate/Supernatural/Lost Girl/Degrassi Junior High!” (And boy does that kid they have playing live-action Clay have some big shoes to fill.)
Here, some more favorite romance series that could so easily make their way to our small screens...
Chinooks Hockey Team by Rachel Gibson
Who doesn’t love a sports story? Especially one containing romance! And when you have an opening novel like Simply Irresistible, which kicks off with a runaway bride prologue and then kicks into overdrive seven years later with dyslexic heroine Georgeanne reuniting with her one night stand, star Chinook John Kowalsky, then there is much potential for hilarious trashy fun here. With hockey! (Yes, there is a dreaded Secret Baby storyline; no, it’s not as bad as most.) And let us not forget: hockey!
First Book: Simply Irresistible (1998)
Number of Books: 6
The Pitch: The Game meets MVP
Suggested Network: USA
The Cynsters by Stephanie Laurens
Oh, the Cynsters! The historicals that Trad lovers love to hate. On the one hand, all of Laurens’s detailed descriptions of chaste maidens unhinged by their desire for the ruthless Alphas of the Cynster clan are so very unseemly. On the other hand, the Cynster books have some of the most captivating heroines in all of modern Regency; young ladies of independent spirit who are not at all marriage-minded, and who must be wooed into commitment by the reformed rakes rejoicing under such names as Devil, Rake, Scandal, Rogue and Lucifer. (Throw in some h’s, and look: new BDB names!) Plus, think of all the handsome British actors who might personify our aristocratic heroes: Matthew Goode, Henry Cavill, John Barrowman, Max Brown, Ben Barnes, Bradley James, Max Irons... yes, please!
First Book: Devil’s Bride (1998)
Number of Books: 16 (plus two spinoff series)
The Pitch: Pride and Prejudice meets Mistresses
Suggested Network: BBC America
Hagen Strikes Again by Kay Hooper
Why shouldn’t a category romance series also see some TV love? This beloved Loveswept collection features the exploits of the enigmatic black ops puppet master Hagen and his elite team of do-gooding super-spies, and the assorted civilians who fall for them. Witty, suspenseful, exciting and glamorous, this is a story that encompasses the fight against white slavery, terrorism, assassination, cat burglary, billionaire playboys and classy, sassy women (most of whom are improbably virginal). The wardrobes might have to be updated, though – the 80’s were not kind.
First Book: In Serena’s Web (1987)
Number of Books: 11
The Pitch: Covert Affairs meets The Saint
Suggested Network: TNT
McKettricks by Linda Lael Miller
Arizona, 1884. The Triple M Ranch is home to Rafe, Kade and Jeb McKettrick, whose ornery old father Angus has just given them an ultimatum: get married, or get disinherited. Throw in some mail order brides, pretend nuns, bigamy, a couple of trips to Texas and a leap forward across several generations, and this has so much potential for so much fascinating Western costume drama, featuring a family of macho stiff-necked cowboys and the feisty women they come to adore.
First Book: High Country Bride (2002)
Number of Books: 20, and some short stories
The Pitch: Love Comes Softly meets McLeod’s Daughters
Suggested Network: A&E
Set your DVRs now....
What other series do you think would make good TV shows? Tell us in the comments!
Rachel Hyland is Editor in Chief of Geek Speak Magazine.