If you spend time on Heroes and Heartbreakers, or with other groups of engaged readers, you'll notice that many of us love the idea of our favorite books becoming movies. But the pleasure can also flow in the opposite direction. I'm not talking about novelizations, but about books that get a little extra kick of interest from evoking our favorite movies.
The movie-book connection doesn't have to be a literal retelling, or even necessarily intentional. As soon as I read the plot description of Jamie Wesley's opposites-attract romance Tell Me Something Good, I knew I had to read it, because the story of battling radio personalities given a show together made me think of one of my favorite movies, “He Said/She Said.” The fact that there are plenty of differences in characters and plot just made it more intriguing and made me want to see where the author would take it. (Though sadly, no one throws a mug.
Other romances which use movie plots as a take off point include Eloping with Emmy by Liz Fielding (“It Happened One Night,” but with a goodhearted rather than arrogant heroine), Short Straw Bride by Dallas Schulze (“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” if it stopped with the first wedding) and My Favorite Bride by Christina Dodd (“The Sound of Music,” but with a heroine from the Regency slums rather than a convent. On her website, Dodd writes, “I get ideas everywhere — from the news, movies, books, friends, songs” so a number of her books fall into this theme. IIRC, Just The Way You Are uses several, including the musical “Bells Are Ringing.”)
Certain popular movies seem to especially lend themselves to romance homage. I wrote about several “Shop Around the Corner” riffs (or “In The Good Old Summertime” or “You've Got Mail,” depending on your favorite style of movie) in my piece, Love in Disguise. Just recently I found a new one, Courtney Milan's Hold Me, where the anonymous pen pals who are enemies in real life have been updated to a blogger and her favorite commenter. The classic theme gains new life here, as Milan uses it for dramatic tension while skillfully pointing out the underlying issues of deceit that are usually ignored.
“Pygmalion”/“My Fair Lady” is also a popular inspiration in romance novels. (You could argue those might have been inspired by the original play rather than the movies... but the play did not have a HEA!) Judith Ivory did a fun sex reversal in The Proposition, with a mustachioed ratcatcher being schooled in how to behave as a gentleman. Jeannie Lin set her version, My Fair Concubine, in the Tang dynasty. Fellow H&H blogger Janet Webb recently read Poppy by Marion Chesney and enjoyed seeing the “indomitable spirit” of Eliza Doolittle in Poppy, a beautiful girl with an “execrable” accent and nonexistent knowledge of manners and protocol.
I was tickled to discover a completely unexpected homage recently, in To Dream Again by Laura Lee Guhrke. The inspiration for this story about an embittered widow who learns to trust again with the help of a whimsical, literature-quoting toymaker is not immediately obvious in either title or summary, but the author has slyly put inseveral reference, including to its most iconic scene. Our worried heroine Mara is trying to sleep but “a soft and delicate melody” keeps drifting into her room. So she goes upstairs to give her unwanted neighbor a piece of her mind:
“...Mara opened her mouth to tell him exactly what she thought of his prowess with the violin, but the words stuck in her throat. Light spilled from the doorway over his bare shoulders and gave his skin the tawny smoothness of polished leather. He was wearing nothing but a pair of trousers. She stared straight into the solid wall of his naked chest and couldn't think of a thing to say.”
“She closed her eyes. Still resenting him for keeping her awake, Mara drifted off to sleep to the poignant notes of Brahm's Lullaby.”
All my examples are from romantic comedies or musicals. Do you know a movie from another genre that's inspired a book? Which one is your favorite?