Parade’s End: The new Downton Abbey?

Parade’s End DVD cover

Click cover for BBC page!

Have any of you guys seen the new BBC/HBO production Parade’s End?

I don’t know about you but this is fast becoming one of my favourite period mini-series! Set during the Edwardian era and the First World War, this epic period drama centers around a wealthy aristocrat Christopher Tietjens (played beautifully by Benedict Cumberbatch) and his loveless marriage to the beautiful but cold, destructive Sylvia (played by the stunning Rebecca Hall). Things escalate when a young suffragette walks in to Christopher’s life, challenging his ideals and his loyalty to his wife.

Downton Abbey comes to mind when watching the trailer for this series but despite appearances, Parade’s End is not much like the beloved ITV hit. Well apart from the setting and the costumes of course. But where Downton only skims the surface of the more serious issues of that time including the decline of the aristocracy, Parade’s End goes deeper, delving on more philosophical and thought provoking ideas of what makes someone a good person and what duty means to each person. The characters are also not as clean cut good or evil and you never know what you can expect as it will go from calm seas to explosive drama all within a single scene. Of course there are still beautiful sets and costumes to drool over and the acting is top notch as expected.

So is it better than Downton Abbey? Still a bit too early too tell but so far it’s great in a different way. Less high tea polite chats and more dramatic and provocative, with some very original, intriguing characters. There’s no security of a happy ending either, unlike Downton.

Currently two episodes have aired and both have been amazing in my humble opinion. Looks like things will get more gritty in the next few eps with the war starting. Beautifully shot and directed by Susanna White with a great screenplay by renowned Tom Stoppard, this BBC production is not to be missed. Try it out for yourself!

Check out the trailer:

And here’s a great look at the making of:

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Birdsong Review: BBC unveils epic new war romance

Summary:

As an English soldier fights in the horrific trenches of northern France, he is haunted by the memories of his forbidden love affair with a French woman.

Cast:

Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Wraysford

Clemence Posey as Isabelle Azaire

Review:

As soon as I heard there was a new BBC period drama to be broadcast early this year, I was excited. I got even more excited when I saw the trailer and how gorgeous the whole piece looked. The actors looked yummy, the costumes looked yummy, even the scenery was breathtaking. Clemence Posey looked so flawlessly beautiful as Isabelle Azaire, it was hard to believe she was real. In fact the whole thing just looked spectacular and I just couldn’t wait to watch it.

Sadly, when I did sit down to watch it, I was far from impressed. Things started well enough as the series fades in on a war torn battlefield in 1916. Stephen, our hero tries to rallies his groups and then proceeds to remember events from his past-how he met a woman and slowly fell in love with her. These flashback scenes are intertwined with scenes of him trying to survive the war with his comrades.

The cinematography was gorgeous (everything was filmed in this soft, flattering light which made everything, including the gritty battle scenes look as if it belonged in a dream), the score was beautiful, the story was intriguing, the acting was great; it’s almost hard to believe how this could have gone wrong. But go wrong it did and the fault lay mainly with the screenplay and the pacing. This should have been a wonderful classic drama but my goodness, it was SLOW. Like agonizingly slow.

Let me give you a taste of what the pacing is like: Stephen and Isabelle are in a boat and she avoids looking at him for 5 seconds. He then slowly lifts his eyes to look her way (another 5 seconds) before she turns around and her foot lightly leans against his. His eyes flicker down and we get another 5 second shot of their feet touching before he raises his eyes (again for 5 seconds) and she avoids his gaze (again for another 5 seconds) before she finally (finally!) turns and they share a long, smouldering look. Ok, now I’ve got nothing against silent, smouldering looks from across a room (or a boat)-in fact I adore them; after all, who can forget Lizzy and Darcy’s smouldering looks shared over the piano in the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice?

The problem is you can’t make a whole movie (let alone a romance) out of a bunch of smouldering looks and moments from two very good looking people and have the audience care about them. Eddie and Clemence look good together and yet they had absolutely no chemistry. They barely spoke in the movie and me as an audience member simply could not get involved in their love story. I couldn’t see they shared anything other than good looks and a whole lot of L-U-S-T.

The battle scenes weren’t much better and the emotional effect of war on the soldiers wasn’t well shown at all. As a result, the war scenes ended up feeling un-necessary, just an excuse for a some action amidst all that slow, draggy romance.

So between the painful pacing and the complete lack of chemistry between these so-called lovers, this BBC series was a great opportunity wasted.

If only, if only…

Historical Drama Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Sexiness Rating: 3 out of 5

Eddie and Clemence are both gorgeous people but without chemistry, their scenes lacked fire and sexiness.

Broadcasting Information:

BBC One: Aired January 22 and 29, 2012

PBS: Due to air April 22 and 29, 2012

Click here to view the BBC page.

Click here to view the PBS page.

Published in: on March 15, 2012 at 11:47 AM  Comments (2)  
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My Reckless Surrender by Anna Campbell

Setting: 1827, Late Regency

Summary:

Headlong into sin . . .

A well-practiced rake, weary of easy conquests and empty pleasures, Tarquin Vale, Earl of Ashcroft, knows women—and his every instinct warns him to beware of this one. Diana Carrick’s brazen overtures have thrown the haunted, sinfully handsome lord completely off his guard. Why, the exquisite temptress stated outright that she wishes to be his lover. But it is neither Diana’s boldness nor her beauty that intrigues him so—it is the innocence he senses behind her worldly mask.

Intent upon the seduction that will finally free her, Diana has set her sights on the notorious Ashcroft—never dreaming that there is much more to the enigmatic rogue than sin and deviltry. His kiss is bewitching, his caress intoxicating—and even the dangerous secret Diana must protect cannot shield her from Ashcroft’s dark allure.

Unwittingly yet most willingly, they are playing with fire. Now the fuse has been lit and there is no escape . . . except surrender.

Click cover for more info


Review:

Anna Campbell is truly gifted. Every year she comes out with another book that’s just beyond amazing! Her books never feature characters that are the same or plot ideas that are repeated. Each book is a superbly crafted and complex piece of romance fiction that always leaves you satisfied.

What can I say about this book except that I completely and totally loved it? As a veteran romance reader, I’m used to what a usual romance novel entails but it takes a truly original novel to keep me hooked to the story. This was one of those books. I seriously  could not stop picking it up to read a little more and when I was not reading it, I was thinking about it. Now that’s a sure  sign a book is a hit 😉

The hero of the book is the dashing Tarquin Vale, who we meet and are introduced to as a rake with no principles. Naturally, it turns out that we’re wrong and he does have his own sense of honor and principles. The very first time he hid our heroine’s face in his coat to protect her identity, you just knew. I fell for him right along with Diana. And boyy, does that man know how to please a woman in bed 😉 I must have blushed at least a hundred times during the course of the book! He’s generous, kind, thoughtful, forgiving-a genuine jewel in disguise! He may be my favorite Campbell hero yet!

The heroine on the other hand is much harder to like. Once you discover how great Tarquin is, you can’t believe Diana would deceive him. Still, though there have been a lot of conflicting views on this point, I have to say that I felt an affinity with her and couldn’t completely hate her. It was hard to get over the fact that she sold her body for a house though. But after wards, I began to understand her and empathize with her. A very complex character but likable at the end of the day, I say.

When it comes to the writing, there’s no one like Anna Campbell to really get you into the mind of the characters. Though at times, the writing was a bit over the top and too wordy for my tastes, it was spot on and amazing when it came to divulging the characters’ thoughts and emotions. I felt like I really knew and understood these characters and I could place myself into their shoes. The plot was hooking and kept me interested the whole way. I have to say that I found the ending a bit rushed and cheesy though and personally I would have liked a little more groveling on the hero’s side. It was the book’s only flaw in my opinion that kept it from being perfection.

As for the love scenes… well it’s an Anna Campbell book. If your tastes don’t run to explicitly detailed and very long and spicy love scenes than you should probably stay away. There were alot of love scenes in the book but they weren’t gratuitous. Campbell doesn’t write sex just for sex’s sake. The love scenes had a purpose in the development of the plot, which made it ok for me as I usually don’t like too much sex. At times it did feel like the couple were into each other just for the sex. They had an undeniable sexual tension thoughout the book which was their relationship starting point.

Still, all in all a great, complex, hooking, well written romance novel that I would definitely read again. Can’t wait for Anna’s next!

Sensuality Level: EXPLICIT (Very detailed love scenes and numerous in number)

Verdict: Spicy and romantic, with an amazing hero and a plot so hooking, it will have you up all night!

Rating: 4 and a half out of 5 stars

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