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The Thomas Crown Affair

The Thomas Crown Affair (1999) R
Debonair, self made millionaire Thomas Crown can’t help himself. He just has to have certain things of beauty such as important paintings and expensive vases. A Monet on the wall of the Metropolitan Museum of Art calls out to him, for instance. When the painting is stolen in a masterful caper, beautiful insurance investigator Catherine Banning focuses her attention on Crown, but soon finds her interest aroused by more than the idea of recovering the painting, but by the man himself. Pierce Brosnan as Thomas Crown is charming and intriguing and Rene Russo as Banning is his match.

Don’t follow the plot too closely: you could drive a Mack truck through the holes in it. But the two performers are so appealing and amusing and some of the plot twists so witty that the movie is just out and out fun to watch. I found it much more enjoyable than the over-stylized self-consciously artsy original with Faye Dunaway and Steve McQueen.

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees (2010)
For those who have enjoyed Little Women, this imagined story of Louisa May Alcott's life is a good read. In her first novel, McNees invents a youthful love affair for the writer, who never married, and explores how Alcott struggled with the conflict of her public ambition and personal life.

The family, never financially secure, moved to Walpole, Massachusetts, in 1855, to take up residence in a house offered by a relative. The Alcott sisters begin to make a life by meeting other young people, including Joseph Singer, the son of the owner of Walpole's dry goods store. Joseph and Louisa are drawn to each other but, as you will see, their relationship is doomed. All Louisa really wants is a room somewhere in Boston where she can make a living from her writing. Marriage, as she sees it, is slavery. The Lost Summer… is the kind of romantic tale which Alcott herself might have written, one in which love is not a solution to life's trials.

Read an excerpt of the book here.

Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks (2010)
This is a rather captivating story written by Nicholas Sparks about a young woman who manages to escape from her abusive husband and start a new life in North Carolina. She meets a widower and falls in love with him and his two children. Of course, her deranged husband, who is also a police detective, never gives up searching for her. Good entertaining read!

If you like Nicholas Sparks, check out our list of other books you may enjoy.

The Enchanted Cottage

The Enchanted Cottage (1945)
Watch the transforming power of love personified in this lovely, gentle romantic drama set in the WWII era. Dorothy McGuire and Robert Young play a plain, lonely young woman and an outgoing—later injured—pilot. They come to terms, in a manner of speaking, with their appearances as they grow to know and love each other after meeting at what some would describe as an enchanted cottage by the sea.

Shattered by Karen Robards

Shattered by Karen Robards (2010)
A young attorney returns home to Kentucky to care for her terminally ill mother. While at work, she stumbles across a cold case which, of course, leads to danger. Throw in some romance, and this is a story that’s fun to read and hard to put down.

For other romantic suspense titles, check out our bibliography. Read an excerpt on the author's website.

Midnight

Midnight (1939)
Claudette Colbert is down on her luck. She managed to arrive in London from Monte Carlo with only an evening dress. Unable to find a job to make enough money for a room, she crashes a society party and meets John Barrymore, who turns out to be her own fairy godfather. Disturbed that his wife, Mary Astor, is more interested in a charming man about town than in himself, Barrymore hires Colbert to seduce said man away from his wife. However, a certain Paris cab driver, Don Ameche, has different plans for Colbert.

This funny and fast paced screwball comedy from the golden era of the genre has snappy dialogue and ridiculous situations. It also showcases the Colbert persona personality perfectly: when caught in a lie tell a bigger lie.

Check out the original New York Times review from 1939.

Morning Glory

Morning Glory (2010) PG-13
Ambitious 28-year-old producer Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams) takes the helm of a failing morning show. To revitalize the show, she snares legendary newsman Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford) to partner Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton). Hilarity ensues. The banter between Ford and Keaton is spot on.

Becky learns that there’s life outside of work, childhood heroes may disappoint, old dreams may no longer fit, and there may be a guy for her after all.

Check out a featurette at IMDb.com.

Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless by Gail Carriger (2009)
Set in Victorian London, Soulless follows Alexia Tarabotti – a spinster with a secret. She’s a preternatural – without a soul – and her abilities cancel out the powers of other supernatural creatures.

It sounds farfetched, but Gail Carriger creates vivid characters and sharp humor that draw you in. I admit I don’t usually read and enjoy books with vampires, werewolves, and alternate history, but I was hooked. There’s a mystery to solve, a romance to enjoy, and secondary characters to follow.

A fun read and a good introduction to steampunk! If you enjoy Soulless, check out the next two books in the Parasol Protectorate: Changeless and Blameless.

Easy A

Easy A (2010) PG-13
Don’t miss this Golden Globe-nominated performance by Emma Stone as Olive, a high school student who uses rumors to enhance her popularity, to help a friend, and to make a little money on the side. Olive’s life begins to resemble the story she is studying in class, The Scarlet Letter, and she even sews a scarlet “A” to her school outfits. This teen comedy/romance includes Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci as Olive’s impossibly wonderful parents and Lisa Kudrow as a guidance counselor who has a lot to learn from Olive about how to do the right thing.

Check out reviews in TIME Magazine and Salon.com.

Just Wright

Just Wright (2010) PG
Leslie Wright (Queen Latifah) is a diehard basketball fan, a successful physical therapist, and every guy’s best friend. At 35, she’s ready to meet the man she can’t live without.

And then there’s her friend Morgan – a woman looking for the man who can make all of her financial dreams come true (better than looking for a job, in her opinion). Through a chance meeting, the pair attends a birthday party for professional basketball player Scott McKnight (Common).

Morgan meets Scott, he falls hard, and the rest is history. Not quite. When Scott suffers a career-threatening knee injury, Morgan ends the engagement.

Leslie becomes his physical therapist, his friend, and his motivator. But the road to love is never smooth. This enjoyable romantic comedy provides the usual laughs while giving sports fans something to watch (see cameos by Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard). For a basketball romance with a little drama, check out Love & Basketball (2000).

Read a review from Roger Ebert.

A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff

A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff (2010)
Isabel Wolff has written a delightful story to entertain and captivate. A Vintage Affair tells the story of Phoebe Swift, who leaves Sotheby’s to open her own vintage clothing shop. Each garment has a history and each garment has a future as far as Phoebe is concerned. Throughout the story we are treated to brief descriptions of designer named clothing and they do sound wonderful!

Phoebe goes to purchase clothing from an elderly Frenchwoman and finds a child’s blue coat among her things. They gradually become friends and share a connection because of the coat, which helps Phoebe heal her pain of a past heartbreak. Wolff’s writing is so lovely that the stories become vivid, endearing and special. The story includes two men competing for Phoebe’s affection, her mother who leans on Phoebe for life-advice, her father coping with a new family, and an amusing cast of customers.

Don’t miss A Vintage Affair. It’s a well put together, brilliantly amusing book.

Watch the clip below to hear the author discuss her book.

The Shop around the Corner

The Shop around the Corner (1940)
I list this among my top holiday movies, but you’ll enjoy it any time of year. James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan delightfully embody employees at a Budapest gift shop circa 1940; they can barely tolerate each other but have unknowingly carried on a romantic pen pal correspondence. Supporting actors also do memorable work. This charming comedy has sweetness, wit, warmth, a bit of sassiness, and extremely likeable characters. I adore this film.

Other versions include In the Good Old Summertime (1949) and You’ve Got Mail (1998). Also check out Slate's comparison of The Shop around the Corner to Stewart's other Christmas classic, It's a Wonderful Life.

The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O’Neal

The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O’Neal (2009)
Great, fast-paced, escapist novel for anyone who loves food and romance. The main character, Elena, is a gifted chef hired for a new restaurant in Aspen. The story is well-crafted and filled with complex, likable characters, even though it is somewhat predictable. The brilliant descriptions of the food, its preparations, and the inner workings of a restaurant made me wish that I were a better cook, but not in a restaurant! I’d love to try a few of the recipes that the author includes throughout.

I also loved another book by this author, titled The Secret of Everything, and plan to read her next novel (How to Bake a Perfect Life) due out at the end of December. One warning: there are a few graphic sex scenes that may be off-putting to some.

Read an excerpt and reviews, visit the author's website and view the reading group guide.

Christmas in Connecticut

Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck), a successful food writer for Smart Housekeeping (a popular magazine such as Family Circle), writes about her idyllic life on a farm in Connecticut with her husband and baby. Her readers and her publisher, Alexander Yardley (Sydney Greenstreet) love her columns and believe them to be true.

The truth is Elizabeth is unmarried, has no child, lives in a New York City apartment, has never lived on a farm, and can't cook. Elizabeth is well paid and loves living in New York. But both her position and her lifestyle are threatened when Yardley decides it would make wonderful publicity for Elizabeth to invite Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan) into her home at Christmas. Jones is a war hero who had spent weeks at sea in a lifeboat after his ship had been sunk. To complicate matters even further, after Yardley is put on an extremely restrictive diet, he decides to invite himself to Elizabeth's farm.

How Elizabeth copes with her dilemma leads to very funny film. You'll roar with laughter at times and the romance that develops between Elizabeth and Jones is both comic and heartwarming. This is one of my favorite Christmas films.

It’s Complicated

It’s Complicated (2009) R
Jake and Jane have been divorced for 10 years. Jake’s younger second wife is pressuring for a second child and Jake is evaluating what he had and what Jane now offers to his life. Jane’s kids are out of the house; her business is running and she meets a very nice architect who is doing her home remodeling.

Then Jake and Jane spend a dancing, drinking night together and suddenly the affair of the exes begins. Jane becomes a livelier, energetic person but grows closer to Adam, the architect. Finally, when Jake wants to get back with Jane she nixes the idea (it’s complicated) and tries to follow her heart and be true to her own feelings.

Starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin. Check out a funny interview with the trio in USA Today.