Oct 18 2012 1:30pm

Author Jamie Brenner: “Everything I Needed to Know About Life and Love I Learned From Soaps”

The Gin Lovers #3: Society SinnersToday Heroes and Heartbreakers is pleased to welcome author Jamie Brenner to the site. Jamie's Gin Lovers, set during Prohibition and the Jazz Age (unusual historical, anyone?) is also a serial, and it appears Jamie is already a big fan of the serial format, since she loves soap operas so much. Plus, she explains below, you can learn a lot about life by watching soaps. Thanks for joining us, Jamie!

It’s a sad fact that the words “soap opera” garner as much respect in our culture as the words “processed cheese.” So up until now, I have been reluctant to admit that the trashy travails of daytime dramas, primetime soaps, and some spectacular, sudsy novels—have in fact taught me some of life’s most valuable lessons.

It took me hours of viewing and decades of reading to glean the following nuggets of wisdom, but they have served me well. Below, the ten tartiest and true things I have learned from soap operas and their literary counterpart, trashy novels.

1. The more miserable the childhood, the more spectacular the adult success

Case in point: In Jackie Collins's Chances, young Lucky Santangelo discovers her murdered mother’s body floating in the family swimming pool. She is later shipped off to boarding schools and ignored by her gangster father before being married off at age sixteen. She grows up to be gorgeous, fabulously wealthy, and the head of her father’s empire. In Judith Krantz's Scruples, Billy Ikehorn Orsini suffered a childhood of obesity and isolation, only to become rich, beautiful, and the wildly successful owner of Beverly Hills’ hottest boutique. The list goes on and on. The point is, misery is life’s great motivator. I try to remember this when my children complain.

2. Men Want What They Can’t Have

On The Bold and the Beautiful, Brooke Logan pined away for the love of her life, Ridge Forrester, while he married Caroline Spencer and later, Taylor Hayes. But did Brooke sit around wallowing in misery? No. She got busy—first with Ridge’s father, Eric, and then with his brother, Thorne. And you know what? Ridge came around pretty fast. The lesson here is that men want what they can’t have, and if it takes a little sleeping around in the family to remind them of that, so be it.

3. Baby-Making Can Make You Crazy

I bring this up only because celebrities make the whole fertility game look so easy. But one only has to look at Taylor’s agony on The Bold and the Beautiful to find the ultimate cautionary tale: Taylor did IVF, but the clinic goofed and put her husband’s sperm together with another woman’s egg. And not just any woman—Brooke Logan’s egg! Brooke Logan, the woman who has gone after every man Taylor has ever loved, including Taylor’s husband at the time. (Full disclosure: I happen to love Brooke Logan and chose my pen name, Logan Belle, with her in mind) The lesson here is that fertility struggles are a bitch, no matter what you see on E! News.

4. Every Woman Needs Her Own Money

A woman should never stake her future on any job in which you depend on your fleeting youth and good-looks. (Unless you are Heidi Klum and can milk it on reality television for years. But she’s the rare exception. ) In Krantz's Mistral’s Daughter, beautiful, vivacious Maggie Lunel gives up everything to be the muse for egotistical painter Julian Mistral. Of course, the second a bitchy gallery owner wants Mistral all to herself, Maggie gets the boot. And she doesn’t even get to keep the nude paintings of herself that will later be worth millions. Girls, do yourself a favor and get a degree and a decent job. No matter how boring it is, it won’t cheat on you and dump you for someone richer and blonder.

5. Put Mom before Men

This is another gem courtesy of Mistral’s Daughter. When Maggie’s daughter, Teddy, grows up to be the world’s biggest supermodel (clearly not following the previous lesson), she can have any man she wants. But who does she choose? Julian Mistral! Her mother’s first love who betrayed her. This, as you can imagine, caused quite a rift between Teddy and her mom. Ladies, we might not have a “bro code,” but some things are just plain common sense: if a man has slept with your mom, just say no. Lovers come and go, but moms are forever. For the most part. See lesson number six.

6. Competition Can Come When You Least Expect It

Again, we must visit The Bold and the Beautiful: When young Bridget Forrester marries drifter Deacon Sharpe, no one is more appalled than her mother, Brooke. Which makes it all the more hot when Brooke sleeps with him! Of course, this one-night indiscretion really upset Bridget, especially when her mom ended up pregnant. No one was surprised by this turn of events except Bridget. Ladies, if your mom is super-hot and has a history of seducing every man who crosses her path, your own husband could be fair game. Real life is more of a soap opera than a fairy tale. Sh*t happens.

7. Never Trust a Redhead

I hate to make sweeping judgments like this, but let’s examine the evidence. First, Melrose Place: we had Dr. Kimberley Shaw—crazy redhead. On the same show, we had Sydney Andrews, another crazy redhead. The original Bridget on The Bold and the Beautiful—crazy redhead (but who could blame her with Brooke for a mother?) Referring again to Mistral’s Daughter, we have three generations of wacky redheads who are arguably promiscuous and make very poor life choices. Bottom line: beware the redhead.

8. Sibling Rivalry Can Be Dangerous

In Chances, Lucky finds out that her brother, Dario, is not only useless in business, he’s into some seriously kinky bedroom activity. She tells him no more sex parties and cuts him off financially. At the next family get-together, Dario shows up with a gun. More recently, on Downton Abbey, Lady Edith got her sister Lady Mary busted for the ill-fated sex romp with the Turkish diplomat, which in turn made Lady Mary ruin Edith’s shot with Sir Anthony Strallen. The take-away is this: Live and let live.

9. What’s in a Name? Everything, Apparently.

Fauve Lunel of Mistral’s Daughter: runs the biggest modeling agency in the world. Maxie Amberville of I’ll Take Manhattan: a magazine publishing superstar. Lucky Santangelo of Chances: controls a Vegas hotel empire. Cricket on Young and the Restless: model turned lawyer. Fallon Carringon on Dynasty: okay, she didn’t do much but I still love the name. The point is, there is a direct correlation between having an unusual name and having a stellar career. That is why I named my daughters Bronwen and Georgia.

10. Death is not necessarily permanent.

This lesson came through loud and clear back in the '80s when Luke was presumed dead on General Hospital, only to come back much to the surprise of his lover, Holly Sutton and his best friend Robert Scorpio, who had gotten married. Oops. Similarly, Taylor Forrester was shot and killed on The Bold and the Beautiful, only to return several years later to find her husband married to nemesis Brooke Logan. I hate when that happens. So while I’m not a religious person, I have come to understand through these dramas that while the death of a loved one might seem like the end, in some cases, it is just the beginning.


Jamie Brenner grew up in Main Line Philadelphia on a steady diet of Judith Krantz, Jackie Collins, and Aaron Spelling. Her latest novel, The Gin Lovers, is published as an original e-book serial with St. Martin’s Press. Jamie is the author of the erotic romance trilogy Blue Angel, published under the pseudonym Logan Belle. Also writing as Logan Belle, her upcoming erotic romance Bettie Page Presents: The Librarian will be published by Pocket Star/Simon & Schuster. Jamie lives in New York City. For more, please visit or follow her @jamieLbrenner.

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Hell Cat
1. hellcat
Note: this are Days of Our Lives minded, mostly.

For the death means nothing, you can't forget Stefano DiMera. Seriously. The man is the called The Phoenix for a reason. And he unsurped Victor's badassery techniques.

And crazy baby making? Hello, Nicole Walker. That poor woman goes past the crazy train and creates her own choo-choo track.

Seems like the desiring whatever someone else has pretty much defines the appeal of Sharon Newman, I think. Why else would she have all three Newmans and a couple Abbotts under her belt in the past 5-6 years?

Redhead? Never trust Natalie Buchanan (even if I love her) if your name is Jessica Buchanan (whom I loathe). Or Melanie Jonas. Don't forget the best of all: Dorian Lord.

Finally, sibling warfare is often a great showdown. Carrie and Sami. Phyllis and Avery. Ricky and Heather. Any of the Lord kids. Starr and Jack. AJ and Jason. And the biggest rivalry of all: JR and Bobby. Still going strong.

I might, have, maybe written a paper about Sami Brady's rape and romance confusion. I did a lot of research on soaps and have some books I need to finish reading. I blame Aaron Spelling. Dynasty and Dallas defined my childhood. I've wanted to be Alexis Carrington...forever. It's why I loved Cordelia Chase. She was a younger Carrington.
Heather Waters
2. HeatherWaters
Such a fun post! Yep, soaps are definitely full of advice on what not to do in real life; but man are they fun to watch and read.
Wendy the Super Librarian
3. SuperWendy
The Dead Can And Will Rise. Probably best illustrated by the villainous Sheila on The Young And The Restless. By my count she's been killed about 467 times, but keeps coming back to life every few years. The lesson here is that if you're running up against a murderous pyschopath, might be a good idea to drive a stake in their heart, decapitate them, then cryogenically freeze the head. You know, just to be on the safe side.

(And seriously, I loved those redheads on Melrose Place.....)
Jamie Brenner
4. jamieloganbrenner
Sheila! Omg, yes -- Sheila Carter. She was on The Bold and the Beautiful, too! She's got nine lives and bicoastal...
Saundra Peck
5. sk1336
Welcome Jamie! Oh, soaps. I am a 40 something woman who knew that in the 70's (and on) from 1p-4p my mother would be doing all her housework to "Days of Our Lives", "Another World", etc. When the soaps were not on, she would be reading romance non-stop, which I then did, as does my daughter. Thanks for the memories and cannot wait for future posts!
Jamie Brenner
6. jamieloganbrenner
Thanks so much. My mother was the same, and watching soaps together was something we could always share even when, during my teen years, we disagreed about everything else. I could never resist talking about the latest thing Victor and Nicky did on Y&R or Frannie on As the Word Turns (yes, I remember when Julianne Moore was on a daytime soap :)
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