Jul 24 2013 4:30pm

Spreading the TV Love: Romance Novel Series as Television Series

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
Status: Complete?
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)
Status: Ongoing
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
Status: Complete
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
Status: Ongoing
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.

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Jennifer Proffitt
1. JenniferProffitt
I LOVE this idea! I would totally watch the Cynster show and you are so right that throw in some "h"s and maybe a z and all of a sudden their names become BDB heroes.

Also haven't read the McKettricks series yet but I might add some to my TBR pile. Don't typically like westerns but you've won me over!
2. Scarlettleigh
Virgin River series by Robyn Carr would make some great small screen moments and of course SEP's Star football books.
3. Kareni
J. D. Robb's ... in Death series could guarantee at least a couple season's worth of viewing given the number of books already in print!
4. Karen Paul
The Virgin River series by Robyn Carr.
Ginny Dappen
5. vldreader
Yes to Kay Hooper !
I'd also suggest Rachel Lee's Conard County books.
6. pamelia
I would so totally love to see Kristen Ashley's "Rock Chick" books brought to TV. (Or her Colorado Mountain books or her Berg books for that matter).
It really puzzles my why there aren't more TV movies/shows based on romance novels. Then again, I wasn't crazy about the adaptation of "Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor".
One of my favorite (GUILTY GUILTY GUILTY PLEASURE) Lifetime movies is called "Living with the Enemy" and I was actually shocked that it wasn't based on some 1990s romantic suspense book.
Carmen Pinzon
7. bungluna
I think tv people have a hard time adapting true emotion to the small screen without going all melodrama.

One series I would love to see is Anita Blake, the early years. I would love to see her training as a necromancer with Mani and as a vamp excecutioner with Edward, with JC trying to seduce her to the dark side.
9. carmenlire
I would definitely watch the Mckettricks! I've loved that series for years! The Chinook books could work too though
Rachel Hyland
10. RachelHyland
@ JenniferProffitt

My love of the McKettricks speaks to a particular part of my romance-reading life, where I'd delve into any paperback at the library that had the telling loveheart on the spine. I'm not really into Westerns either, but I still have a soft spot for these hard men and the addlepated women who somehow fall for their often dubious charms.

@ Scarlettleigh and Karen Paul

I came so close to adding Virgin River to this list! But decided it and the McKettricks were a little too close in general vibe... I totally agree with you, though. I'd watch, anyway.

@ Kareni

Oh, definitely! And hopefully it would get to Season 8, so we could see a casting agent's idea of Troy Trueheart.

@ vldreader

I know, right?

@ pamelia

You know, Kristen Ashley's work has somehow never come in my way... Have just ordered Rock Chick. Thanks for the tip!

@ bunglunga

Anita Blake: The Early Years made me think you were after a prequel like The Carrie Diaries; Anita in High School, first learning that she's an Animator and maybe having to stake her first boyfriend when he is turned and goes rogue... Well, we all miss Buffy, right?

@ carmenlire

Yeah, me too! I've optimistically listed the series as "ongoing" here, because I haven't heard that it's officially ended, but we haven't had a new title in a while... Could it be that all the McKettrick family have finally been married off?
11. Sleipnir
The Fatal Series books by Marie Force with Sam, Nick and Tinkerbell would make a great series.
12. Oonafitz
Never could get into the Cynsters. If you were going to Laurens' series, I'd prefer The Bastion Club.
13. KateO
I'd love to see a few series on TV...JR Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood or Fallen Angels series. Cindy Gerard's Black Ops series. Laura Griffin's Tracer series. Roxanne St. Claire's Bullet Catchers series. There are so many...but these are some of my faves.
14. Coleen K
I would love to see Jill Shalvis' Lucky Harbor or even her Animal Magnetism series. They would be so much fun!

Jaci Burton's Play-by-Play series would be awesome too.

I would love to see Rachel Gibson's Chinooks seriers, they were so much fun to read.

I agree that the Anita Blake books would make great tv (so would the Kim Harrison's) but they are not technically "romance" however both series would make great tv.
15. Darby
How about the UnDEAD series by Mary Janice Davidson. funny, scary, sexy, what's not to like?
16. Fawne
I think of 3 series in mind. 2 of them by Nora Roberts. 1) being the Stanislaskis. I love their storylines and they went off with the children as well. 2) being the Bride Quartet series. What more romance is there when you are talking about a wedding business with 4 women in their own business of weddings and the men in their lives. 3) being Jude Devereaux the Montgomery throughout the timelines is funny and would be fun to watch.
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