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  • Cristina Merrill 5:00 pm on 2018/01/08 Permalink
    Tags: , , curmudgeons, , , , , , , , lovable grumps, , , , wuthering heights   

    Our Favorite Sexy Curmudgeons: 8 Guys Whose Frowns We Want to Turn Upside Down 

    No one wants to be tied to a grump, but once in a while we come across that brooding kind of man we wouldn’t mind cheering up. You know the type. He doesn’t give the best first impression, but once you get to know him, it’s easy to look past his gruff exterior and appreciate the wonderful man within. (And you just know all of that seriousness and pent-up longing will release itself in some very pleasant ways!) Guys like these may not always make the best Plus Ones at dinner parties, but they’ll definitely make you remember dessert.

    Here are 8 of the sexiest curmudgeons in romance who can brood all they want!

    Hareton from Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë
    No, we are NOT going in the Heathcliff direction! (True, he had it rough, but he was still awful.) Instead, let’s focus on Hareton. He wasn’t raised under the best of circumstances, to say the least, but throughout his harsh life he managed to show an innate sweetness. As he grew older he displayed a loyalty that would bode well for his upcoming marriage to young Catherine. A guy like that may not make the best impression on society, and he might curse in your presence upon your first meeting, but he’ll ultimately stay faithful to you and he’ll always be honest about his feelings.

    Sir William of Miraval in Candle in the Window, by Christina Dodd
    Sir William of Miraval is not the happiest of knights. He was blinded in battle, and his caretakers are growing frustrated with his awful attitude and poor hygiene. (Dude’s quite depressed, so he gets a pass at being curmudgeonly.) He meets his match when Lady Saura of Roget is summoned to help him get his act together. She’s blind, too, but this is a woman who know how to run a house and keep everyone in line. William soon falls in love with her, and he displays a fierce loyalty that would make any woman sigh. William, we knew that beneath that rugged, filthy, muscled exterior was a tender-hearted man yearning to break free!

    Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
    There are many mighty good reasons why Mr. Darcy ALWAYS comes up in romantic conversations. He didn’t always have the best manners, and he could hardly be called the life of the party, but when a guy is willing to help your crazy family by keeping your nutty sister on the straight and narrow, well, there’s a lot to be said for that. (Imagine a guy who stays with you even though your extended family posts weird things on social media on an hourly basis.) Mr. Darcy, you practically invented the smolder, so you can smolder all you want!

    Wulfgar from The Wolf and the Dove, by Kathleen Woodiwiss
    To be fair, this Medieval knight had an exceptionally harsh life. He was a bastard, which wasn’t easy in those days. (He and Jon Snow of Game of Thrones would probably have a great deal to talk about.) You’re also under a lot of pressure when William the Conqueror wants you to, well, help him conquer England. This attitude of his mostly changes, though, when his posse conquers Darkenwald, the home of the very proud and beautiful Aislinn. It takes a very long time until they actually get along, and boy it’s fun to read that roller coaster of a relationship. Carry on with your growling ways, Wulfgar, and flex your muscles while you’re at it!

    Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë
    Love him or hate him, Mr. Rochester was a curmudgeonly curmudgeon who needed some major intervention—and lots of time to soul-search—before he could find some inner peace and have his happy ending with Jane. True, he’d been through a lot in his life—bad marriage, saddled with a kid he wasn’t even sure was his, lost his eyesight, lost his hand, and more—but that doesn’t excuse some of the things he did. (Buddy, you might want to consider taking up poetry writing!) Still, he had some good qualities, and he ultimately changed for the better thanks to Jane. Mr. Rochester, brood as you please, and please make sure you show Jane your appreciation as often as humanely possible!

    Rocco from A Girl’s Guide to Moving On, by Debbie Macomber
    Poor Rocco’s a little bit in over his head. He’s the macho-est of macho men, and he has a teenage daughter with whom he doesn’t exactly see eye-to-eye. Fortunately he meets Nichole, the modern-day equivalent of a gently-bred lady who recently ditched her cheating husband. Rocco may be more at home in a biker bar than, well, in many other places, but he’s solid, muscly proof that surprises can come in the most unexpected of packages. Rocco, bring on the cranky. We know that inside you’re really just a marshmallow with nothing but love for your woman!

    Rhys Winterborne in Marrying Winterborne, by Lisa Kleypas
    Welshman Rhys Winterborne worked extremely hard to get to where he is. He owns a major department store, and even though he is supremely wealthy, his modest background means that society doesn’t have much room for him at their social gatherings. He’s determined to win over his lady love, and what’s more, he knows he’s not always the most pleasant man to be around. You can’t go wrong with a guy who admits his faults and is eager to prove his devotion. That said, he also shows an exceptionally sweet and caring side. Rhys, no one is fooled! Admit it. You’re a softie.

    Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades series, by E.L. James
    Christian makes all of the other guys on this list seem joyful by comparison. He spends a lot of time brooding over Anastasia and his dark past. (Christian, buddy, you should seriously consider volunteering at an animal shelter. Giving your time just might help!) And he certainly knows how to, ahem, release his frustrations. Whether his dark ways turn you on or off, no woman can deny that life with Christian would never be boring!

    Who are your favorite fictional curmudgeons?

    The post Our Favorite Sexy Curmudgeons: 8 Guys Whose Frowns We Want to Turn Upside Down appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Tara Sonin 3:30 pm on 2017/08/24 Permalink
    Tags: , cat on a hot tin roof, , , darkness and light, , , , , , , , , , , , wuthering heights   

    The Gothic Novel Survival Guide 

    So, you’ve found yourself in the 18th or 19th century, stuck in a gothic—or Southern Gothic!—novel. Surrounded by mysterious settings, dangerous characters and a bit of romance, these novels can prove fatal, but nothing you can’t survive, if you follow these instructions:

    1. First, are you in Europe or America?

    The Gothic genre originated in Medieval Europe with The Castle of Ontranto, the story of a man who undoes his life while trying to prevent a prophecy from coming true (think Macbeth meets Oedipus Rex) while Southern Gothic novels like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil are the American response to the popularity of this genre, and deals with the South’s blood-tainted history as a result of slavery. So, depending on where—and therefore, when— you are, you play by different rules.

    2. If you’re in Europe, figure this out first and foremost: if there’s magic, hide on the sidelines.

    Look, I’m not saying Dracula isn’t kind of sexy (especially the Gary Oldman movie version), but in the Gothic genre, magic and mystery almost always spell death. The people who survive are the ones who don’t get mixed up in it. In The Picture of Dorian Gray, wishing for eternal youth has horrific, murderous consequences when a man decides to trap his youth inside a painting, but ultimately damns his soul. (The servants survive though, so probably best to stick to the downstairs parts of the great, gothic houses.)

    3. Are you a woman? Then decide: villain, or victim?

    There are two types of women in gothic literature. There’s the mysterious, often off-the-page villainess (such as Rebecca, in the classic gothic novel about a woman unraveling the truth about her new husband’s dead first wife) and Jane Eyre (whose romantic anti-hero Rochester keeps his mentally unstable wife locked in an attic until she tries to burn their house down). But there are characters like Jane, who is in many ways a victim of circumstance—an orphan, abused, forced into a life of servitude—and Nelly, in Wuthering Heights, the narrator of the story and servant to the family. She isn’t culpable for the tragedy that ensues as a result of Catherine and Heathcliffe’s romance, but she witnesses it, and lives to tell the tale. As I said before: villains usually have a tragic end, but as far as gothic literature goes, they’re usually the most infamous (and interesting) characters.

    4. If you’re in a Southern Gothic novel, outrun your past—fast.

    In books like The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, and plays like Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the characters are obsessed with events that happened in the past that they cannot undo. If your past is haunting you, it can be almost as powerful as the magic present in the European gothic novels. For the characters in The Sound and the Fury, three brothers fixating on what happened to their youngest sister, Caddy, caused the ruin of their entire family; and in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Brick’s inability to confront the truth about his sexuality led to tragedy both for his marriage, and a close friend. If you’re going to survive the Gothic South, either make peace with the past, or invent yourself a new one.

    On second thought, these books may be much more fun to read than they are to live through, but with these steps, you’re primed to make it to the 21st century intact. Unless, of course, I’m one of those gothic villainesses haunting you from the shadows of your past, waiting to take you down.

    What tips would you offer someone who’s just trying to live through a gothic novel?

    The post The Gothic Novel Survival Guide appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Monique Alice 4:00 pm on 2015/10/13 Permalink
    Tags: a streetcar named desire, , , , him?, , wuthering heights   

    Heroines Who Deserve Better Luck in Love 

    Whether it’s a result of bad luck or bad taste, some ladies really know how to pick ’em. We’ve all had a friend (or, in some cases, been the friend) who seems intent on picking the wrong guy, or who falls for a player in nice guy’s clothing, or who just seems to attract one winner after another. Maybe that’s why we love the characters below so very much—they remind us of our besties and ourselves during times when getting swept up in the crush of a romantic moment also meant sweeping our good sense under the rug. Just like us, these heroines have lessons to share as they fight to claim their own destinies.

    Nada (The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman)
    In Gaiman’s classic graphic novel, Nada is is the beautiful young queen of a great city, who falls in love with the immortal Dream King. She knows right away that their love isn’t the best idea, as humans not dating immortals is kind of a rule where she comes from. Nada tells Dream as much, and continually runs away from him. Sadly, godlike beings are not very good at accepting rejection, so Dream pursues her (note: his method of “pursuing” looks a lot like “stalking”). Finally, Nada relents and the two star-crossed lovers get together, at which point all hell breaks loose. In an act of retaliation for Dream and Nada’s union, an immortal destroys Nada’s city. Blaming herself, Nada again runs from Dream and tells him they’ll never work. Much to the surprise of no one, the super-needy and controlling Dream reacts poorly. He banishes Nada to Hell for, get ready for it: 10,000 years. Cool, right? Way to take it like a grownup, Dream. I’m sure you’ll find some way to make it up to her.

    Catherine Earnshaw (Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë)
    This classic tale is more of a hate story than a love story. Catherine is just a girl when her father adopts a young boy of similar age named Heathcliff. The two become fast friends, and, as the years wear on, fall into young love with one another. Although Heathcliff is Catherine’s true soulmate, she gives in to the cultural pressures of the day and marries a man of higher social standing. Devastated, Heathcliff retreats, returning several years later with one goal: to make life hell for the newlyweds. Now, in all fairness, Catherine is no peach either. She is self-centered, egotistical, and manipulative. However, no one deserves the kind of underhanded brutality that Heathcliff wields against Catherine and her family. With that said, it’s pretty clear that both of these characters deserved better.

    Ophelia (Hamlet, by William Shakespeare)
    Is there a heroine more wronged in all of literature than Ophelia? The poor woman just wants to get married and live happily ever after, for heaven’s sake. If only she hadn’t set her sights on Hamlet, who is about as deserving of her affection as a snapping turtle. In addition to having at least a few screws loose, Hamlet is so obsessed with avenging his father’s death that he barely seems to notice Ophelia, who clearly adores him. Hamlet becomes the standard bearer for jerks everywhere when, after he realizes Ophelia wants to marry him, he tells her she might as well become a nun. Seriously. It’s safe to say this fair maiden would’ve been better off with Malvolio or Antonio or literally any other guy in the Shakespearean universe.

    Stella Kowalski (A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams)
    If you’ve never read this classic play, you might think mainly of the iconic scene from the film adaptation, in which a desperate Stanley Kowalski (played by the inimitable Marlon Brando) screams his wife’s name beneath her window. You might even feel sorry for him, making a scene in the street like a lovesick teenager. But one thing is for sure: if you read the play, you will not feel sorry for him. Stanley Kowalski is a brute of a man who terrorizes his wife, Stella, and her sister, Blanche. Stella just can’t seem to bring herself to leave Stanley, despite his drunkenness, his jealousy of Stella and Blanche’s sisterly bond, and his bitterness over the way his life has turned out. She does everything she can to make Stanley happy, and he rewards her with cruelty and violence. Despite Stella’s devotion to her man, the story keeps a glimmer of hope alive that she will drop Stanley like a hot potato before the final curtain.

    Anastasia Steele Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
    When Ana agrees to stand in for an ailing roommate and interview a young CEO named Christian Grey for the college paper, she has no idea what she’s in for. Penthouses, expensive gifts, and unimaginable luxuries are soon flowing, and Ana feels swept off her feet. There’s only one problem (okay, fine, many problems): Christian Grey is a pompous, entitled, overgrown brat with serious mommy issues who says things like, “I don’t do romance.” Oh yes, I almost forgot—he also enjoys such hobbies as throwing temper tantrums, stalking people when they say they need some space, and ignoring boundaries in the bedroom. Ana is level-headed, smart, kind, et cetera, so it sure seems like she could find a more down-to-earth fellow. Then again, as Fifty Shades devotees would say, that wouldn’t be much of a story.

    Who are your favorite short-changed literary ladies?

  • Kate Willsky 3:30 pm on 2014/10/03 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , matchmaking, , , , , , , wuthering heights   

    Perfect Celebrity Love Matches for Our Favorite Fictional Characters 

    Gustave Flaubert's Madame BovaryIn third grade, I was in love with JTT (who wasn’t?) but I also dreamed of running away with the Artful Dodger. For readers, there’s little distinction between speculating on the love lives of famous actors and of famous literary characters. But since characters’ romances are sealed within the pages of their books, they aren’t subject to Bey and Jay level scrutiny. But nothing can prevent us from wondering who, for example, Walter Berglund would pair off with at the Golden Globes after party, or who Katniss Everdeen might take to the Teen Choice Awards. Here are 12 iconic literary characters and who we think they’d date on the celebrity scene:

    Emma Bovary (Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert)
    Poor Emma Bovary serves as a tragic example of why fairy tale romances are just that—fairy tales. She needs a man who can indulge her Prince Charming fantasy but also help her focus on the more meaningful and substantive things in life. Only Brad Pitt, with his classic good looks and world-saving ways, can reign in this fickle beauty.

    Dmitri Karamazov (The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
    This passionate and impulsive antihero is tricky to match. He’s guilt-riddled, a philanderer, and maybe a murderer, but he’s looking for a simple, goodhearted gal who will stand by him if he gets locked up forever. Oh, and she also needs to have major sex appeal (Grushenka sets a pretty high bar). Only one wholesome-at-heart sex kitten with humble beginnings fits the bill: Katy Perry. If she can handle Russell Brand, Dmitri’s brooding and baggage will be a breeze.

    Holden Caulfield (The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger)
    Introspective, jaded Holden needs a partner who has shaken off the yoke of angsty adolescence, but still has substance beneath the smiles. Enter Maisie Williams, whose curiosity and intelligence make her a good foil to his dark outlook. She’s also a world traveler, and knows enough about winter to tell Holden what the heck happens to the ducks when it comes.

    Jo March (Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott)
    Tomboyish and quick to anger, Jo needs someone playful enough to indulge her goofy side, patient enough to tolerate her temper, and smart enough to engage her intellect. I see down-to-earth goofball—and Brown grad—John Krasinski being the real-life Jim to her Pam.

    George (Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck)
    He’s a bit of an impatient hothead, but George has unshakable loyalty and will always be true to the one he loves. He’s a blue-collar guy, seeking an unpretentious lady who can help soften his rough edges, and there’s no better match for him than Carey Mulligan. She’s proven her ability to handle a man with a temper, and her sunny outlook provides a perfect counterpoint to George’s grumbling.

    Catherine Linton (Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë)
    The passionate, status-conscious, selfish Catherine requires not only all-consuming love with a man as intense as she is, but also money and prestige, and lots of it. As the son of a business mogul and model, Julian Casablancas, the grungy, ponderous frontman of The Strokes, marries the depth of Heathcliff with the moola and stature of Edgar.

    Nurse Ratched (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey)
    As the machinelike enforcer at an Oregon psychiatric hospital, Nurse Ratched is cold, controlling, and immune to human appeals. She won’t be charmed easily, nor will she be quick to let down her guard and be vulnerable with a man. It’ll take something stronger than electroshock treatments to break her cold exterior: this smile. George, she’s all yours.

    Meursault (The Stranger, by Albert Camus)
    Only a woman who has thought through all the big questions—and believes in the answers she’s come to—can handle the misanthrope who narrates Camus’ iconic existential tale. One look at Helena Bonham Carter’s hats tells you she’s seen the absurdity of existence, and rather than take it as a sign that All Must End, she uses it as a free pass to treat life as a playful-if-meaningless adventure. I see many long walks on the beach in this couple’s future.

    Hermione Granger (The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling)
    While she may harbor some childhood affection for her buddy Ron, let’s be real, Hermione needs somebody a bit more sophisticated. A renaissance man, one with an insatiable desire to learn, as well as an ability to laugh at himself when she inevitably corrects him. Accio: James Franco!

    Leopold Bloom (Ulysses, by James Joyce)
    This sensitive, neurotic, intellectually curious man needs a partner who can answer his questions and indulge his interest in science and how things work. Natalie Portman, having been published twice in scientific journals and being as interested in learning as she is in being a movie star, could be more than just a rebound after Leopold ends things with unfaithful Ms. Molly.

    Which modern-day celebrity would your favorite fictional character pair off with?

  • Sabrina Rojas Weiss 7:00 pm on 2014/09/29 Permalink
    Tags: Famous in Love, , , , nightshade, , shatter me, , the mortal instruments, , wuthering heights, ,   

    8 Essential Elements of a Juicy YA Love Triangle 

    YA love triangles

    Rebecca Serle’s Famous in Love (out next month) is a deliciously meta YA novel: aspiring actress Paige Townsen lands her dream breakout movie role as the lead in an adaptation of Locked, the hottest YA book in all the land, and finds herself in a love triangle with her costars that mirrors the love triangle in the movie. If you’ve been reading the genre for a couple of years, you might be finding yourself wearying of the triangle trope—but when the dilemma is done right, as it is in Serle’s hands, it can be a compelling examination of adolescent identity, healthy relationships, and that intangible thing we call “chemistry.”

    That’s why we put together this little guide for readers (and writers), of the things we think can make or break a good torn-between-two-lovers tale:

    1. The protagonist in the middle of the triangle isn’t sure about who he/she really is, especially after something has recently happened to shatter his/her identity. The two love choices represent different parts of who the protagonist wants to be — so it’s not just about whether the main character prefers blonds or brunettes. See: The Hunger Games, in which Katniss goes back and forth between her angry, survivalist identity (Gale) and the softer, more vulnerable one she never knew she had (Peeta).

    2. The two love choices are polar opposites from each other. It’s not just about who the protagonist wants to be; it’s about the reader being able to imagine getting to choose between a wide range of fantasy objects. See: Wuthering Heights‘ dark, brooding orphan Heathcliff vs. fair-haired, gentlemanly, and rich Edgar Linton.

    3. The two candidates are both very attractive—and not just physically. A high school librarian friend of mine asked some of her students what they love about love triangles, too. One avid fan of the genre said it’s especially fun when a book leads to debates with her friends. “Making both men appealing is key. … [We] often (most of the time) end up liking different men in the books. We even made a pro/con list.” See: The Raven Boys, in which readers can’t help but fall in love with both Adam and Gansey, and it’s impossible to imagine how Blue could ever choose between them.

    4. It’s believable that the character would be happy with either one. If it’s obvious that one is the better choice, we just get fed up with the protagonist for not seeing the obvious. Another teen reader told us that what gets her is when “you don’t know who the person would end up picking. … I like the suspense of that. It [makes] you want to keep reading the book to find out what is going to happen.” She even likes it when the author goes against her wishes. See: Grasshopper Jungle, in which Austin realizes he loves his best friend, Robby, as much as his girlfriend, Shann.

    5. The bad boy is even more attractive because of his good boy foil. Deep down, however, the bad one is actually good too. This way, we don’t feel like we might actually be attracted to sociopaths. See: Shatter Me, in which Warner’s daddy issues become so horrifying that we want to wrap him up in a big hug, despite the fact that he may or may not be capable of mass murder and torture. Or The Infernal Devices, in which Will’s awful behavior toward Tessa has a heartbreaking motivation.

    6. Friends and family all side with one choice, complicating matters for the chooser. It’s nice to get some of that teenage rebellion into the mix. See: Nightshade, which takes parental preference to the point of arranged teen marriage.

    7. There is serious, undeniable chemistry between the protagonist and the less-obvious choice. This helps when we’d otherwise automatically pick one side. Funny how we’ve yet to encounter this problem in real life, but that’s what makes fiction fun. See: Famous in Love, where the sparks between Paige and Jordan nearly set the book on fire.

    8. As a reader, you might want the character to end up with the bad boy, but in real life you’d probably marry the good one. This is all about wish fulfillment before we get back to our practical decisions. See: The Mortal Instruments, because as hot as Jace is, he’d be pretty terrible to live with long term.

    And this brings us to one final thought: Good love triangles are compelling because they’re total fantasy. We literally do not know a single person who’s been in one in real life. Do you?

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