While reading is a first love of mine, finding the time to spend between the pages of a good novel is sometimes a challenge. But a good romance novel, especially enjoyable during the long, dark winter months, is my favourite guilty pleasure. Nora Roberts writing romance happens to be another.
For a fan of romance, finding an adaptation of my favourite novel (outside of the classics of course) is near impossible. Which is why Nora Roberts, one of the most prolific writers of this century, is the perfect opportunity to marry romance with the small screen. With more than 200 novels in print, she is a constant feature on The New York Times Best Seller list. While her career began writing romance for Silhouette Romance in the early 1980’s, she has subsequently evolved into a highly successful female writer. Her niche, in particular, is the marriage of contemporary or paranormal romance with elements of suspense or whodunit murder-mysteries.
Between 1996 and 1999, in partnership with Lifetime, 8 of her romance novels were adapted for television. Boasting a host of recognisable acting talent, these made-for-tv romance novel adaptations are a great substitute when I need a romance fix, but I don’t have the time to pour through the pages of a novel. In most cases, they are the perfect blend of romance, suspense, drama and sometimes a good old-fashioned thrill.
Nora Roberts – 8 Romance Novel TV Adaptations
(In Alphabetical Order)
#1 Angels Fall (2007)
Starring: Heather Locklear and Johnathon Schaech
Heather Locklear, a well known Melrose Place alum, plays Reese Gilmore in Angels Fall, the first book adapted in the Nora Roberts, Lifetime series. Wanting to escape a violent past and outrun her trauma, Reese packs up her life in Boston. When her car breaks down, she is forced to settle in small town Wyoming. Using her skills as a Chef, she works at a local diner and hopes to start afresh. However, Reese cannot seem to outrun her past and the troubles within it. Struggling with difficult memories, Reese inadvertently witnesses a murder. Unfortunately, when she alerts the authorities, there is little evidence of a crime. Already paranoid, Reese wonders if her fragile mental state is responsible for an imaginary crime, or whether something more sinister is at play.
Complicating matters is Johnathon Schaech, a handsome, brooding writer who is also new to Angels Fall. Cool and distant initially, Reese and Brody become friends as romance blooms. When Reese’s past is unmasked and her mental state deteriorates, Brody is her only champion. Together they work to unearth the mysteries surrounding them.
I’m a huge fan of Heather Locklear as she is literally one of the bastions of my pre-teens. She looks amazing and does a great job as the paranoid, anxious Reese, trying to start afresh. Heather also has great chemistry with Johnathon Schaech, who despite his bad-boy looks, is a good guy here.
#2 Blue Smoke (2007)
Starring: Alicia Witt, Matthew Settle and Scott Bakula
Alicia Witt plays Reena Hale, a young woman who used her traumatic past as a vehicle towards finding her career. As a child she watched her family’s restaurant burn to the ground. The event left an impression and Reena found herself becoming a fire investigator years later. Unfortunately, her fascination with fire is also her Achilles’ heel. Reena is being stalked by someone who is determined to use fire as a way to entice her. As the mystery arsonist escalates, Reena and her partner (Scott Bakula) are forced to work together to solve the mystery. While Reena has literally been scorched by romance, Bo Goodnight (the ever handsome Matthew Settle) has other ideas and sets out to win the romance-averse Reena’s, heart.
I’m not a huge fan of cop romances, so Blue Smoke was not my favourite of the Nora Roberts’ adaptations. Having said that, Alicia Witt (a Hallmark alum) is more than competent as a tough cop and Matthew Settle is adorable as the man vying for her heart.
#3 Carolina Moon (2007)
Starring: Claire Forlani, Oliver Hudson, Chad Willett, Jonathan Scarfe and Jacqueline Bisset
The ever gorgeous Claire Forlani is Tory Bodeen, a young woman who returns home after many years. Her hometown in South Carolina holds violent memories of the murder of her best friend, Hope. When Tory returns, she is plagued by visions of the murder, her psychic visions stronger than ever. With the help of Hope’s handsome older brother (Oliver Hudson), Tory tries to work through her hazy memories and unearth the truth of Hope’s murder. Unfortunately for Tory, the murderer has been waiting years for her return. Can Tory and Oliver find the killer before they are found first?
Carolina Moon is one of my favourites among the initial Lifetime adaptations. Claire and Oliver have great chemistry and the murder mystery is surprisingly suspenseful. The cinematography of small town America is also beautiful and adds to the charm of the film, despite the murder mystery afoot.
#4 High Noon (2009)
Starring: Emilie de Ravin, Ivan Sergei and Cybill Shepherd
The ever enchanting Emilie de Ravin is Lieutenant Phoebe McNamara, a professional hostage negotiator. Phoebe is a young, single mother and must balance her demanding career with the demands of raising a daughter. But Phoebe is charmed when she meets Duncan Swift (Ivan Sergei), a funny, handsome bar owner who is swept off his feet by her forthright, take-charge attitude. Pretty much instantly, Duncan is determined to win her affections. But just as Phoebe starts to focus on romance, she begins receiving threatening messages. It’s soon apparent that she is the target of a deranged psychopath who is determined to destroy her personal and professional lives.
Emilie de Ravin is pre-Once Upon A Time but is no less amiable here than in her fairy tale duds. Of course, she plays a completely different character than her fabled counterpart. If you like height differences in your romantic pairings, you’ll love Phoebe and Duncan, as he veritably towers over her. High Noon is a somewhat uneven crime thriller, with some unnecessary subplots. However, Ivan Sergei is a balm to my eyes, especially if anyone remembers him from Jack and Jill or Once a Thief. If you’ve also ever wondered what happened to Cybill Shepherd, apparently she’s doing made-for-tv movies for Lifetime.
#5 Midnight Bayou (2009)
Starring: Jerry O’Connell, Lauren Stamile, Isabella Hofmann and Faye Dunaway
Jerry O’Connell stars as a Harvard-educated lawyer, Declan Fitzpatrick, who decides to buy and restore a large plantation manor in the Louisiana bayou. Despite the fact that the house is rumoured to be haunted, Declan purchases it in any case because he’s fallen in love with the land. Things become strange when he begins hearing strange voices echo throughout the house and even starts seeing apparitions in the hallways. Ghosts aside, Declan also meets and is attracted to local Cajun Lena Simone (Lauren Stamile), a woman whose family has mysterious connections to the manor house he has purchased. With the help of Lena and her grandmother, Declan uncovers shocking secrets about his new home, some secrets hidden for more than a century.
Jerry O’Connell manages to be a charming rogue in most everything he stars in. Midnight Bayou is no exception. Marrying the supernatural with family drama, this film is a little different to the more straightforward murder mysteries that were adapted as part of this Lifetime series. Faye Dunaway has a supporting role as Lena’s grandmother Odette and she’s a treat to watch.
#6 Montana Sky (2007)
Starring: Ashley Williams, John Corbett, Charlotte Ross, Diane Ladd and Laura Mennell
Jack Mercy, a wealthy rancher dies after a battle with cancer. He bequeaths his $24 million estate to his three daughters – three very different women who have never met each other. Children from liaisons with different women, they each stand to inherit only after spending a full year together, living and working together on the vast Montana ranch. Willa (Ashley Williams), headstrong and beautiful has lived on the ranch all her life. Lily (Laura Mennell) is shy and running from an abusive past. Tess (Charlotte Ross) is glamourous, the perfect Hollywood beauty. All three women learn about their family and their heritage as they find love and acceptance in Montana. However, when animals end up slaughtered, murder permeates the air and threatens the peace.
My favourite of the adaptations, Montana Sky, has a lot of stories to pack into this film. There are three separate love stories, three different couples to give adequate screen time to, never mind the murder mystery afoot. While it doesn’t always succeed, the characters are compelling. John Corbett is a delight and he has wonderful chemistry with Ashley Williams. Montana Sky is a definite recommend.
#7 Northern Lights (2009)
Starring: Eddie Cibrian, Leann Rimes-Cibrian and Rosanna Arquette
Nate Burns (Eddie Cibrian) leaves Baltimore after the death of his partner and accepts the post as the new chief of police in Lunacy, Alaska. Wanting to start over, Nate moves to the sleepy town hoping to move on from his past. However, trouble seems to follow Nate. When he meets Meg Galligan (Leann Rimes-Cibrian) he is instantly smitten. An independent, feisty bush pilot, Meg helps Nate forget the demons from his past. Except Meg has demons of her own. 16 years after her father went missing, his corpse is found. This triggers other mysterious murders. Instead of a sleepy town, Lunacy is the center of a high profile murder investigation. Nate must use his big city smarts to solve the murder mystery that threatens his new love and their potential life together.
Famous as the film that brought together country singer Leann Rimes and soap star Eddie Cibrian, Northern Lights is remarkably entertaining. In Rimes’s first real acting role, she struggles to always be convincing, but her chemistry with now husband Cibrian is surprisingly enjoyable. The Alaskan cinematography is gorgeous with the winter wonderland vistas. Rosanna Arquette also stars as Meg’s mother and is a little over the top. But seeing as its Rosanna, it’s par for the course.
#8 Tribute (2009)
Starring: Brittany Murphy and Jason Lewis
Cilla McGowen (Brittany Murphy) is a former child TV starlet who in the hopes of finding peace and serenity, is content to restore old houses to their former glory. In search of a normal life, Cilla purchases an old family home in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia in order to breathe life back into the house. Next door, Cilla meets Ford Sawyer (Jason Lewis), her handsome neighbor who writes comics for a living. Forging a romantic relationship, Cilla finds herself the subject of Ford’s new Celtic comic. Ford becomes Cilla’s anchor as she falls victim to haunting dreams about her grandmother’s overdose in the family home, as well as a mysterious vandal determined to destroy her property. Soon her dark dreams and family secrets spiral into a real-life nightmare.
It’s hard to watch Tribute and not remember that Brittany Murphy died too soon. Beautiful and vivacious, she and Jason Lewis make a very handsome couple. Unfortunately, Tribute the novel is way more enjoyable than the film. Arguably, and despite its talented leads, Tribute is the weakest of the Nora Roberts’ adaptations.
So there you have it! 8 Romance Novel TV Adaptations to entertain. If you are in need of contemporary romance, sprinkled with a moderate dash of intrigue and mystery, check out any of Nora Roberts’s Lifetime romance adaptations.
Where to Watch: Nora Roberts’ TV adaptations are available to buy on Amazon or to watch on YouTube, Netflix or iTunes.
Content Note: These films are rated TV-14 for some mild violence and hints of mild sexuality.
Have you seen any of Nora Roberts’ Lifetime adaptations? Or perhaps you’ve read the books these tv movies were based on. What did you think? Comment below and let me know!
Photo credit: Mandalay TV, Lifetime Television