Period romances are enjoying increased attention on screen right now. Happily for fans, there is no shortage of possible source material to adapt from this genre. Every romance reader will have their own personal favorites and I thought it was time to introduce one of mine. Let me tell you about the Pink Carnation series and why it would make a fantastic television show or series of films.
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation was written by Lauren Willig and published in 2004. It was the first entry in a series that would end in 2015 with 12 novels, each focusing on one couple in the Regency period as they fall in love. Before you say that you’ve heard that before, there’s a lot more that sets this series apart.
Most significantly, there is a modern-day story that acts as a framing device throughout all the books, and there is a romance in that section too. So, bonus couple! Also, the series’ plot has another significant element aside from romance: action. The historical characters are involved in espionage as Britain and France duke it out in the Napoleonic Wars.
Remember The Scarlet Pimpernel? The story of the British dandy who is actually working as a spy against France by Baroness Orczy is a major reference here.
The details of this book series that could translate into an entertaining television series or film franchise are many. The humor of author Willig’s narrative voice is wonderful, so finding a way to present that comedy would be a huge piece of making an adaptation successful. The physical gags, the banter between certain characters: if these work, stand back.
But there’s more than that the novels have going for them, too. Memorable cameos such as Napoleon and Jane Austen herself, for example. One of the heroines is plus-sized. One of the heroes is biracial. A central couple in one book is on the other side of 40. Christmas provides the setting for one story. For a genre not known for diverse representation until recently, these are positive facts. There is simply an entire enjoyable world here for an audience to settle into.
One wonderful thing about the love stories in these novels is the wide variety of personalities that Willig manages to invest in her characters and then believably match them up. Wallflowers and redeemed mean girls, rogues, and silly jokesters– they’re all here among the pages of these novels. You’ll care for them and want them to care for each other. From Richard and Amy in the first book to Jane and Jack in the last, their connections will charm readers.
You’ll find the things that make romance novels so enjoyable in each book of this series, such as the interior monologues of characters’ feelings. There is also sexual content, of course, but not too much in each book. I would say the page time is devoted to the right amount of each– romance and sex. After that, the action plot highlights each couple’s teamwork.