Saturday, May 6, 2017

Beauty and the Beast Movie Review

I recently went to the movie "Beauty and the Beast", starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens.

All I can say is "Wow". It is a stunning big screen experience.
I am a big fan of this storyline, a classic tale of love and romance, of a gentle, beautiful woman taming a beast. Isn't that what marriage is all about?

Yeah, in real life, the wild man bachelor is tamed when he weds and succumbs to civilization by his gentle spouse. Caveman becomes Gentleman. Gotta love it!

The story was first brought to life in the eighteenth century, written in 1740 by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, and published in The Young American and Marine Tales. It was later rewritten, abridged and published by Jeanne-Marie LaPrince de Beaumont in 1756 in a book called Children's Collections.  The original story has been changed and morphed into various adaptations in recent years.

Basically, the beast is actually a handsome prince, cursed to take the shape of a beast for some transgression. Tradition holds that it is because he was cruel to an old woman who was actually a witch. His punishment is that he must bear the shape of a beast until someone can love him and set him free of the curse.

There is a merchant in the story, with a lovely daughter. The merchant loses his way one night during a storm, and takes refuge in a palace. He picks a rose, and is cursed by the beast to be imprisoned forever for trespassing. The beautiful daughter offers to take her father's place as the beast's prisoner. So, the story is set up for beauty to tame the beast. You know the story, classic, they gradually fall in love, and the beast is freed from his curse.

In 1991, Disney remade the tale into a cartoon movie. I bought it for my kids for Christmas that year. This version is a musical, and it was stunning, beautiful, incomparable, so far above any other rendition--until now. The 1991 Disney version sort of the gold standard for any true Beauty and the Beast Fans.

In March of 2017, the world was given a new version, a live action version with actors instead of carton characters.  Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame is Belle, and she executes her role superbly. I was impressed. She brings Belle to life with exceptional skill. Dan Stevens plays an impressive Beast. His British accent and his voice are charming, but the makeup he had to endure to become the Beast is also worthy of an Oscar nomination.

The musical big screen version is the same as the 1991 version, pretty much word for word. Yes, I know this because it was watched obsessively in my house when my kids were little, so I pretty much have the musical version burned into my memory.

The sets are stunning, and the castle is truly a masterpiece. I loved the Gothic feel of the castle. The Castle and land surrounding it seems to be frozen in winter, while in the outside world, it's June.

To retrace my steps back to the plot, Beauty (Belle), agrees to take her father's place as the Beast's prisoner. At first the Beast is very harsh with  her, but his staff treat her well and coax the Beast into being nicer to her. The staff has been enchanted with him, and all have been changed into objects that signify what their role was in Castle. Mrs. Potts is the housekeeper, and she becomes a teapot. The butler is changed into a clock, and the head footman into a candelabra, and so forth. They are cursed with the Beast so they have a vested interest in helping the Beast win her heart so they all can be free of the curse.

As a movie goer, I was impressed. This is one movie that you must see on the big screen. It's a classic fairytale. The director and producers did a wonderful job of bringing the story to life in a live action film.

When the Beast gives Belle the ultimate gift of his library as her own, I think we all swoon a little!

In Belle, Emma Watson's beauty is not the Razzle Dazzle Sparkly Hollywood kind, it's a refreshing natural woman kind of beauty. She's not showy, she's intelligent, brave as she faces the beast and confronts him to save her father, and she's a role model for young girls. Learning is good, reading is good, so is standing up for what you believe in! This is a heroine for little girls to root for.

Dan Stevens plays the Beast with grace and aplomb. He's known for his character in Downton Abbey, Matthew Crawley, and I believe he brings some of that grace into this role. At first the Beast is angry and cruel, but he can't keep it up for long. His humanity keeps slipping through. The Beast is an educated man, a well read man inside, and this love of literature between both Belle and the Beast is the thing that brings them together.

And this is the part of the story that is so fantastic. It's not Barbie and Ken, or The Kardashians!  It's the brainy, intelligent girl, the class nerd who doesn't fit into the crowd finding love and acceptance. It's Alex Dunphy of Modern Family finding romance and good fortune instead of her older sister, Haley. Yay Alex, and Yay Belle! Remember, the townspeople all think Belle is odd. She doesn't fit in because she likes to read so much, to learn, and she doesn't want to just marry Gaston and become a wife and mother. She wants more out of life. She's different then her peers, and yet, she's given the chance of a happily ever after.

I love Belle. The character, from the Disney version of 1991, and the new Live Action version of 2017 is a fantastic Heroine for modern times. Belle fights for her family, she is kind, patient, and intelligent. She craves knowledge, and when the Beast gives her the ultimate gift of his library as her own, I think we all swoon a little!

Special Gift for readers here:  Pick up a free copy of Dark Hero, A Gothic Romance, on Smashwords.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

New Gothic Movie Review: Crimson Peak

As you know, I adore Gothic literature. Anne Radcliffe, Jane Austen, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, and the new Gothic offerings of this generation of writers.  

Finding a Gothic Movie that's worth watching is another matter.  There are a lot of bad ones. 

I recently watched Crimson Peak, a new Gothic tale starring Tom Hiddleston (Loki), and Mia Wasikowski (Jane Eyre, Alice in Wonderland).  I missed it in the theater, and bought it a while back, but never managed to get around to watching it. I had bought season six of Downton Abbey along with this one, so of course I watched Downton first.

All I can say is  . . . . wow!  This is what a Gothic flick should be. 

The elements were all there, mysterious, dangerous love interest (Hiddleston), and the spooky, isolated home with an intriguing atmosphere that will bring chills---literally, as there is constantly snow or rain falling through the roof. Brrr.  You feel cold just watching Edith (Wasikowski) trying to find warmth in this odd and ill maintained Gothic mansion. Add to that the constant uncertainty about what is actually happening, the many ghostly appearances to Edith at the old manor, and the odd relationship between brother and sister, and you're kept on the edge of your seat. Something is very wrong at Allendale Estates, but you aren't sure what. The plot, and the danger is slowly revealed with very subtle and clever clues.

The story starts with Edith as a rich girl in America who wants to be a writer. It's about 1880. She's born into a wealthy home. Her father is a businessman and worked his way up from nothing, no silver spoon in his mouth. He's successful, and Edith lives in luxury in his well maintained, well staffed manor house.  Edith tells us in the opening segment that "Ghosts are real!"

She then goes on to share her one encounter with a ghost, her mother's ghost, after her mother's funeral. She was just a little girl when this occurred, and it's creepy scary. Mom appears, but in a state of decay, not the pretty type of ghosts we usually see. And this is where this movie is so unique for a Gothic Horror Romance.  The ghosts are UGLY, creepy and gross. They are scary because they are so ugly, they reflect their physical form, as in badly decayed and decomposed. But, I'm getting ahead of myself here.

Back to Edith, and the opening. After we are introduced to her world, rich girl, mother is dead, daddy is rich, we learn that she doesn't just want to go to dances like other young women her age and see and be seen. No, Edith has a passion, a dream. She wants to be a writer. She's written a manuscript, a ghost story, and her father arranges for her to see a publisher with it.  She goes, and is turned away, as the old gentleman suggests maybe she should write a romance, instead. Edith sighs and leaves, but continues to work on her manuscript at home.

She has a childhood friend who is a doctor, and he's sweet on her. She doesn't see him as anything but a friend, to his chagrin. A handsome stranger from England comes to her father's company asking for a loan, for support in an invention for mining that he needs backing for. This man is a baronet, Sir Thomas Sharpe. He charms Edith, and after a few meetings, he wants to marry her. But Daddy interferes, and then Daddy dies mysteriously.

Edith marries Sir Thomas, and goes to England to live at his estate. When you see the house, you'll be struck dumb with amazement!  The movie crew built this house just for the movie. It's not a movie set, its a bonafide Victorian mansion, complete with working bathrooms and an elevator. It's very, very Gothic!  Atmospheric as you've never encountered before. The house has a distinct personality.  As I said before, it's in disrepair. So our heroine, Edith, goes from a cozy mansion that is well maintained to a shoddy mansion where the roof is open and the weather actually comes in. Rain, snow, and what appears at times to be soot. Sir Thomas owns a mine, and the earth around his home is blood red. It's clay. The locals call the place Crimson Peak in the winter, as the red clay bleeds through the snow, giving the landscape an eerie feel. Blood red. There's a metaphor there.

Of course, Sir Thomas and his sister, Lucille, are hiding something sinister there at the old manor. They are the only ones at the home, aside from Edith. Strangely, there are no servants at the house, at least none shown in the movie, aside from Finlay, the outside servant. Lucille, the sister, is cold and distant. She constantly is making Edith tea, however, and after a while, you get a little creeped out by that. A little too eager to hand over a cup a tea whenever Edith is upset.

There is plenty to be upset about, by the way. Edith is in a strange land. Well, England, but this version of England is anything but welcoming. The landscape around the estate is stark. Nothing much grows, due to the red clay.  She's in a big, big house that is empty, save her husband and his sister, and the house is falling apart. It seems to be sinking slowly into the earth, a nod to Poe's Fall of the House of Usher here. The house actually groans at times, and pipes rattle. Edith is rattled. She can't put her finger on what is wrong with the place, or her new family. And then there are the ghosts who pop up and try to warn her. At least, after a while she and you will realize that's what they are doing. At first it seems they are just trying to scare her.

And make no mistake, Edith is in grave danger. Is it the house that is trying to harm her? Sir Thomas, who seems genuinely enthralled with her but has a deeper motivation for marrying her than love? Or is it that demented sister of his? Something is very wrong in this place, and if you love atmospheric Gothic Suspense and horror, you'll be thrilled.  As all good Heroines in Gothic Stories, Edith starts to investigate her surroundings, in secret, of course. She travels the dark corridors with candlestick in hand, fearful but determined to make sense of her situation.

Silver Lining;  Edith's childhood friend, the doctor, is suspicious over her father's death, and decides to investigate. We are told in an early segment that he likes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's works, as in Sherlock Holmes. Will he arrive in time to save Edith from the horrors of Crimson Peak?

My rating:  A+.  There is so much to love about this flick!  Good storyline that is NOT too obvious. You'll be struggling to put together the pieces here, like a good mystery.  Stellar cast, EPIC setting and filming, and some pretty scary and creepy ghosts to keep you jumping out of your seat. Destined to become a classic.

If you'd like to see some to the set images, click the link below:

Image Gallery for the Movie Crimson Peak

Video Trailer:

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Undead Romance: Excerpt from Strictly Gothic

Preorder Strictly Gothic on iTunes and other platforms

Got Gothic? I do. I have loved Gothic romance stories since I was a teen. I loved the old Dracula movies, and I fell in love with Louis in Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice.

I'm currently completing my own Gothic Romance featuring a feisty Gothic Photographer and a Vampire.  It's been fun, and challenging.

Here is an excerpt from my upcoming release: Strictly Gothic, Copyright Lily Silver 2017
Light was slowly being devoured by the encroaching shadows.
It was Serena’s favorite time of day: twilight. A time for reflection and renewal as the last few rays of sunlight gasped and sputtered beneath the ominous grip of the night.
Serena leaned against the red jeep parked on the cracked tar road in the remote Louisiana woods. She inhaled the crisp October air, reveling in the cool caress of night as it filled her lungs. Twilight whispered seductive promises as scant tendrils of mist curled around the rows of ancient stones. 
The moon was rising over the trees. The moon made Serena feel energized, empowered. She was almost finished with her three month shoot of abandoned cemeteries in the Old South. And then she would have to come up with a new subject capture with her camera.
She surveyed the eerie landscape, searching for anything unusual in the historic site. Hallowed Horror,  her most recent body of work, received awards and ecstatic reviews in the art world after the exhibition last Halloween. Gothic imagery was in her blood and it showed in her portfolio. Serena couldn’t do warm, fuzzy and sunny if her life depended on it. For her life was all about danger, seduction, and intrigue.
It paid well.  In college as a photography undergrad, Serena quickly learned that safe, warm fuzzy pictures didn’t gain photographers entrance into the elusive, high paying and ultra-critical art world. Oh, cute babies and smiling brides could land a girl a job in a local portrait studio, but it didn’t win you invitations to exhibit your body of work at the Chicago Art Institute. 
The other alternative, magazine photography was equally unappealing. The thought of cranking out thousands of images of smiling people in restaurants, in parks, or in business suits posed in corporate situations in order to fulfill an assignment turned her stomach. Mind-numbing. She had enough of that scene in college while working as the staff photographer for the university newspaper. It was the same dreck every week. The faces might change, but the assignments were so much dead wood.
Dead. Now there was something she could get excited about. Death seduced her.

And that was how she’d found her muse.  In today’s art market, images had to be edgy, scintillating, and different to gain recognition. It was how Serena’s photography studio, Strictly Gothic, had gained her a solid reputation as a Gothic photographer.
“Where do you want the Strobes?”  Damien, her apprentice, asked.
Serena scanned the grey surroundings. The flash strobes needed to be positioned off camera but the cables to the light sources needed to be close enough to her during the shoot so she could tweak the metered settings if needed. It wasn’t something she could leave to an assistant as the fine balance of light and dark that could only be achieved through intuition. Her eyes came to rest on the sunken, moss encrusted low stone wall three feet to the left of her tripod. “Over there, prop the case against that wall, with the strobe control console opened for easy access.”
Damien hefted the heavy strobe light on his muscular shoulders and hurried to do her bidding. Not too hard on the eyes, she thought, watching as Damien meandered around the scattered gravestones to the wall she’d indicated. Too bad Damien was just a kid. He was barely twenty, with a mop of spiky black hair and a dog collar on his neck. He wore black eyeliner around his chocolate warm eyes. He had a ring in his lip and a stud in his nose. Serena didn’t mind body piercings, but she drew the line at mouth hardware. Definitely a turn off.
Damien was an undergrad student who signed on to be her personal assistant for the fall semester. An exuberant Goth, but a kid just the same,  much as the sweet boy tried to insinuate he’d not mind assisting her in other ways. She agreed to take him under her wing as a favor to Sarah, her mentor. Sarah had been instrumental in helping Serena launch her photography career. At twenty eight, Serena hardly found such spring pups intriguing.  The sun had fled the darkening landscape. Serena pulled herself from the Jeep Cherokee she’d been leaning against and took position in front of the tripod holding her Leica. She removed the lens cap and surveyed the eerie scene unfolding before her. Perfect. The light of the moon caressed the glistening white stones as the luminous orb rose in the black velvet sky. The full moon would give just enough light to illuminate the sinister image on silver gel.
She would shoot a few preliminary shots with her digital camera as she waited for the moon to rise to that exact point she wanted to capture in black and white film. The mausoleum was breathtaking, framed by twisted, angst ridden angels poised on either side of the arched entrance.  The green tile roof reaching up to the sky had a European feel. Resting atop the roof was a medieval spire. Whoever built this had been old world, probably eastern European.  
 She’d been shocked to discover a Gothic revival mausoleum existed in America. Gothic revival architecture had been all the rage in England during the latter years of the eighteenth century and for a couple of decades into the nineteenth. It was a period that spawned Mary Shelly, the creator of Frankenstein and Ann Radcliffe, the first woman writers to embrace the Gothic romance genre and make it popular two centuries before Anne Rice.

In America during that same period, men were fighting to gain a nation’s independence, not building romantic monuments to a by-gone era in history.   
Snap, click. Serena came to life. The lens was her only reality as she moved between the three tripods set up in a semi-circle at strategic places near the tomb and captured the swiftly changing scene. The fog was thickening, winding sultry fingers about the angel’s bare feet, along the stone path leading to her center tripod holding the expensive Leica.
Serena froze, her finger posed over the shutter cable. Was that a figure lingering beneath the tree behind the mausoleum? Click—click—click—click. Full landscape shot, including the lonely tree. She moved swiftly to the next camera, another film camera, her backup and turned the lens toward the tree. Click—click-click. She adjusted the focus of the zoom lens and shot several more close ups in quick succession. 
The tall, lean figure lingered before her eyes, and then it was suddenly gone.
She’d caught a few spirits over the years without intending to. She wasn’t aware of them when she took the shots but once she developed the film, she’d find a shadow that had an eerie resemblance to a human being in the frame. Ghosts weren’t transparent white fog, like in the movies. They were like black shadows, dark impressions on an otherwise normal film negative or digital capture. This one had been a man, a cloaked figure leaning against the tree. Serena would swear it was the same spirit who had been following her for weeks, appearing in various cemeteries where she shot her images.  
Serena frowned as she looked through the viewfinder. Sure enough, he was gone.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Undead Romance?

Love Gothic?  I do.

Currently, I am working on a contemporary Gothic Romance that features Vampires! Yum.  I'm loving it.

It will be released later this year (2017).

If you've not followed my blog, you probably aren't aware that Gothic is my first love as far as fiction.  I've written three delicious Gothic Tales so far, all historical.

Dark Hero, A Gothic Romance; Features a young woman who has descended from Druids, and is trying to hide her emerging powers from her scientist husband. Plenty of ghosts and magic in this one.

Bright Scoundrel, the sequel to Dark Hero, takes place in early 19th Century Ireland. Wow, the Gothic implications here are endless. I set my hero in Black Rose Castle, a place where ghosts have congregated, and also a nasty elemental spirit that thirsts for human blood. The hero, being the brother of the heroine in Dark Hero, is also a practicing Druid sorcerer. Lots of magic, supernatural events, and Gothic atmosphere in that one.

The Third book is a stand-alone, The Gypsy's Curse, A Gothic Tale of Romantic Suspense. The gypsy woman in the story is fleeing angry villagers. She decides to set up camp in an abandoned abbey for the winter. But, when the owner of the abbey returns, she's presented with a dilemma; stay or flee. He's one hot dude, but . . .  he's also a werewolf. (Get this one free by subscribing to my email list, see offer to the right.)

And now, I'm working on the Fourth Gothic Romance: Strictly Gothic, A Midnight Rose Gothic Romance!

This will be a new series featuring Gothic characters in the modern age, and vampires. It's a natural for me.

In the first book of the series, Strictly Gothic, Photographer Serena Cole is on a road trip in the old south with her intern photographing abandoned cemeteries for her upcoming art exhibition. She discovers an aberration on her captured images, a shadowy mi's st that takes the form of a man. A chance meeting with Simon Delacroix, a sexy Frenchman makes Serena question whether the spirit in her images is a ghostly ancestor or Simon himself. What is it about this handsome Frenchman that stirs her blood and threatens to capture her soul? Has she awakened something dark and dangerous?

Simon Delacroix escaped France at the time of the Terror and settled in the Louisiana Territory. After two hundred and fifty years as an immortal, he fears the madness affecting his species will consume him. The only antidote to becoming a Revenant is in finding a human whose blood antigens match his. When Serena Cole comes along he recognizes her as his his blood mate. There's just one problem, his sworn enemy from the past wants to claim Serena as his own.

A local murder and a vampire hunter complicate Simon's plans as Serena and her college intern explore the ruins of an old mansion where Simon's nemesis has made his lair.

In Book Two, Gothic Legacy, Serena's intern, Damien, struggles with his family legacy after discovering that not all vampires are evil, as he was brainwashed to believe. He was taught to hate vampires and other supernatural beings, and to kill them on sight. He wants to leave the elite corps of vampire assassins known as the Guardians of Mankind. If he leaves his post he will lose everything, his family, his freedom and most assuredly his life. No one leaves, they can only die in service. His awakening to the truth about vampires, the fey and other creatures of myth and legend is a danger the Guardians cannot risk, as it will shine light on their secret society and the havoc they have wrought through the ages. Damien must choose between what he was taught by his family and the unpopular reality regarding good and evil.

In Book Three, Gothic Destiny, Destiny must come to terms with the life she left behind when she was changed into an immortal being. After a decade as an undead tourist, she wishes she could be human again. She wants to experience the love of a good man, have children and a career as a broadcast journalist. As a vampire, she might be able to find a mate, but having kids isn't possible, nor is her dream of becoming a journalist, as vampires must live in the shadows and remain a myth to humans or risk being hunted and destroyed  Can she turn back time, find a cure for vampirism and reclaim the life that was lost to her forever?

In Book Four, Gothic Promises, Arabella Rabideaux struggles to reclaim her life and her sanity after a century and a half of mourning her beloved. Can she fight against the darkness claiming her soul, the dreaded curse vampires fear; becoming a demented Revenant? As a vampire scientist searches for a cure to reverse the disease that is slowly claiming her sanity, Arabella struggles with the increasing blood rage, visions from the past, and the fight for a future. After seeing Simon Delacroix's good fortune in finding his Blood Mate, hope is rekindled anew for Arabella to escape madness creeping over her soul by finding another Blood Mate.

As you can see, I've a busy schedule ahead of me with these four new romances and a unique new Gothic Romance Series.   I hope you'll check back in for updates, and for excerpts from these works.