With the evenings getting colder and bleaker and Christmas fast approaching, tis the season to stay in, wrap presents, drink mulled wine, eat mince pies and binge watch TV. Those of you with a jam-packed social calendar need not read on, but if, like me, you spend most evenings snuggled at home and are craving a little romance, I have a few suggestions for you.
When I’m not working, writing or reading books, I watch quite a range of TV shows; mainly fictional drama series’ (not reality shows or soaps) featuring anything from detectives to zombies. Some of my favourites include: Breaking Bad, The Fall, Inspector Montalbano, Happy Valley, This Is Us, Vikings, The Walking Dead, Orphan Black, Fargo etc. all of which I’d recommend. However, most of these productions are not known for their romantic storylines, and since I write Women’s Fiction, and mainly Romance, I have come up with a list of ten favourite shows which do contain love stories that inspire me (please note that I’ve deliberately omitted Pride and Prejudice and Friends from the list for being too obvious).
Personally I am drawn to relationships with an unusual quirk to them, a sinister edge or a tragic undercurrent – traits that I try to bring to my own books – so if that appeals to you too, maybe you’ll find a show worth trying here. (They are listed alphabetically, because that was easier than trying to order them by preference):
There can’t be many female leads cooler than hotshot viper pilot Lieutenant Kara ‘Starbuck’ Thrace. In this American military sci-fi series set in space, life is tough and dangerous and Starbuck is both heroic and deeply flawed. The plot is gripping and although Starbuck and Apollo (Captain Lee Adama), her almost brother-in-law, are often too busy in conflict to acknowledge the deeply-rooted affection and sexual tension between them, it simmers deliciously throughout.
Sadly this futuristic, space western was curtailed after just one season, but pressure from fans resulted in a feature film, Serenity, which helped tie up some of the loose ends. The banter and sexual tension between proud Captain Malcolm ‘Mal’ Reynolds and Inara, an equally proud, high-class escort, creates an interesting dynamic. But it is the touching relationship between Mal’s second-in-command, Zoe and her husband, their pilot, Hoban ‘Wash’ Washburne, which really stayed with me. Zoe is a seasoned fighter – a warrior woman – and the interaction between her and her adorably soppy husband, is both amusing and deeply romantic.
A Science fiction series exploring parallel universes, this show shares similarities with The X-Files, but I found the developing relationship between Agent Olivia Dunham and Dr Bishop’s estranged son, Peter, more satisfying than that between Mulder and Scully. I have long been a fan of Joshua Jackson (who plays Peter) and I’m a sucker for a romance between two people who first meet in childhood and then reconnect years later as adults (see my first two novels Kindred Hearts and Safe With Me). Unfortunately I feel the plot lost its way a bit in the fifth and final series, but don’t let that put you off.
Though I’m not sure it technically counts as romance, a powerful attraction of some kind definitely brews between sexy Detective John Luther (Idris Elba) and supremely intelligent psychopathic murderer, Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson). Alice manages to be both an arch-nemesis and a friend to Luther and while she makes no secret of her fondness for him, as a man of the law he struggles with who she is and what she does. It’s addictively fascinating and I really hope there is a series five to come.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the books that this TV show is based on, and I would recommend that you read Diana Gabaldon’s epic written works before watching the dramatisation if you can (Outlander features in my Ten Favourite Book Romances list). That said, the production team have made an excellent job of condensing the books down into screen format – in my opinion the casting is brilliant, the acting is above average for TV and the minor changes and embellishments they have made to the story are definite improvements. I could gush about the actor who plays Jamie Fraser but I will refrain and let you check out Sam Heughan for yourself.
There are several reasons to watch this show – the contrasting four main women and the enduring friendship between them; the amazing fashions; the funny dating stories etc., but for me it has to be the epic on-off relationship between Carrie Bradshaw and her ‘Mr Big’ (whom, incidently, is played by Chris Noth, the same actor who plays Peter Florrick in The Good Wife below). The saga is a long one (spanning six seasons and two feature films) with many ups and downs, but the magnetic pull between the two characters is undeniable.
A courtroom drama full of litigation and American politics, this show is not heavy on romance, however, the subtle chemistry between the State’s Attorney’s wife – protagonist Alicia Florrick – and her lawyer boss and old college friend, Will Gardner, had me hooked. Despite her husband Peter’s public sex scandal and stint in prison, Alicia decides to stand by him, partly for the sake of her children. But she is a smart, independent, working mother, and he did betray her, while Will is giving her a second chance at a career of her own, when she needs it most. Alicia and Will try to ignore the attraction between them, but as a viewer you know it is there and I couldn’t help rooting for them to get together. If you do watch this for the romance, just be warned, you’re in for a shock in season five.
This supernatural/sci-fi series tells the story of a group of people who have been held prisoner for seven years, in glass cages underground, by a scientist who experiments on them. There is more to it than that, but I don’t want to give too much away for those who haven’t seen it. Prairie, the protagonist is one of these captives and over the years falls in love with Homer; the guy in the cell next to her. There is no overt ‘romance’ in this series (not in the first season anyway, I still have hopes for the second) but I’m fascinated by this idea of forming a relationship with someone while you are trapped together in very close quarters; sleeping next to each other every night, for several years – denied all privacy and freedom and unable to escape each other – and yet constantly, physically separated by a pane of glass. I think the tension and intensity of emotion created by eliminating the sense of touch between two people in love, holds potential for great romance.
A must see for vampire fans this supernatural series is far grittier than The Vampire Diaries and rich with gore and dark humour. I found the chemistry between Sooky and Eric more interesting and convincing than the romance between Sooky and Bill, and again I preferred the earlier seasons to the latter ones, but overall worth a watch.
The enduring love between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert is legendary and notable because historically royal marriages tended to be arranged purely for political convenience with no consideration given to love. This sumptuous period production dramatises both the romance and the conflict in the couple’s relationship and appeals all the more to me, for being based on real British history.
So, what’s your favourite TV romance? Drop me a line, I’d love to know.