When introduced to "Oliver Twist " in my earnest early 20s, my first thought was, "Sheesh, who knew the beloved purveyor of sentimentalist Christmas Cheer was anti-Semitic?" From reading and dissecting it, I learned an awful lot about social "morality," the 19th C English class system and my own

misconceptions and naïveté about possible bigotry even amongst folks whose hearts are in the right place. 

Have I completely dropped the torch I'd carried for intellectual enlightenment if I admit that today I'm having even more fun reading about Dickens' "scamps in peril" all grown up and sexy-like?

Depends on whom you ask and, frankly, I ain't in the mood to ask.  It's my and other romance readers' and authors' love of classic literature - and most of our abilities not take ourselves too seriously -- that, for us, makes reading romances based on classics so enjoyable. 

Yes. I'm well aware that many don't consider Dickens' stuff "classic," in the same way they eschew Austen as such.  I've been thinking on this long and hard, and my considered erudition has me concluding simply: Any riff done on a novel which includes zombies, vampires, or reformed children of the rookeries, automatically delineates said tome as an official classic. 

Which is why I'm so jazzed about Lorraine Heath's Scoundrels of St. James series of romances based loosely upon Dickens' "Oliver Twist." 

Her current release is the engaging, beautifully written and wonderfully sensual "Surrender to the Devil." It tells the story of Franny Darling, (a decidedly romanticized) Faegan's favorite, and a sort of big sister to a group of adept thieving lads now grown to be successful men and intensely attractive romance heroes.  Franny's bright - having learned mad math skills counting contraband for years with the canny Faegan - and is in charge of accounts at Dodger's gaming club, where she's part owner along with childhood friend, Jack.  His delicious and artful love story is told in Heath's "Between the Devil and Desire."

Franny survived horrific childhood trauma -  an avenging angel from her youth earns his due in "In Bed with the Devil" -- to become a self-possessed young woman who chooses a protected, solitary life over intimacy with the many men who'd gladly wed her.  Until Sterling Mabry, 8th Duke of Greystone proposes to Franny a tempting sensual partnership she thinks may be the only he'd offer a woman of her station - despite her understanding of her worth. 

In reality, Mabry offers her all he's worth, yet struggles with wanting to be more for Franny: everything she deserves, and all he never can give her.

Heath's Scoundrels of St. James series isn't some tricky little take on a Dickens classic.  Heath respectfully addresses the realities of both child exploitation and the indomitable human spirit as seen in real life. She just makes the resulting tale entertaining and emotionally satisfying, and wraps it in sexy HEA.

 

Look for "Midnight Pleasures with a Scoundrel" in November, the book in this series about which I'm all atremble.  For when it comes to Heath's Scoundrels - and romance riffs on classics in general - I'm with the crew of lit-lovin' ruffians who can say naught but -

 

"I want some more!"

How do you feel about classics turned to romances: Divine? Or Profane?  What do you love about Lorraine Heath's novels and the Scoundrels of St. James?

Michelle brings you more of what's hot in romance fiction at BN.com's new blog, Heart to Heart (H2H)!
Comments
by Moderator becke_davis on ‎07-28-2009 09:31 PM

I'm looking forward to reading this book, and I'm always intrigued by remakes of classics. I'm not as happy when TV shows take a classic book, make it into a show that carries the author's name and then change it completely. To me, that's cheating. I'll watch it, but I won't like it.

 

It doesn't bother me at all when author upon author does their own version of Pride and Prejudice, though, and I also got a kick out of Colette Gale's erotic versions of the Phantom of the Opera, Robin Hood and the Count of Monte Cristo.

 

And how many books have been based on Shakespeare's plays? Far too many to count! 

by amyskf on ‎07-29-2009 12:18 AM

I never really think of them  as re-makes, more like continuations of, or with "the good parts" added.  How many Cinderella stories are there in the world?

 

And Heath's books, I'm definately getting the first two, JackJackJack ("his artful story" -- snort) was my childhood fantasy, before I even knew what fantasies were.  And Franny, having mad math skills, and being in charge of the accounts, well, that does this math loving girl's heart proud.

 

Heath never gives you the "expected" hero or heroine.

by Moderator dhaupt on ‎07-29-2009 09:12 AM
I'm with Amy on this I too think of them as, well getting the ending that they deserve that all elusive HEA that we committed romance readers usually require. Can't wait to read these as she's a yet discovered author for me. See there's always something to look forward to in the wide world of romance.
by Author MonicaBurns on ‎07-29-2009 09:42 AM

Personally, I LOVE twists on the classics. I've got a couple running around in my head that I want to use in future books. I love TO2 Cities, but there's not a lot one can do with that, but there ARE other classics I can think of that would be awesome. I can just see someone using Dracula in a new twist. Perhaps Frankenstein not quite so horrifying? I think the only limitation is an author's imagination and the reader's willingness to go where the writer takes them.

 

by Author SuzanneWelsh on ‎07-29-2009 02:22 PM

Good afternoon and a day late, Michelle and Bellas!

 

I must say, Michelle, you have excellent taste in authors and books! Lorrine has always been one of my favorite hisotrical writers, but when I started reading her Scoundrels of St. James series last year, the woman literally (pun intended) blew me away. 

 

As a young teen I adored all things Dickens. Oliver Twist especially. And I studied it in high school and learned even more about the man, the history of England at the time, social moray's, etc... 

 

Lorraine has taken the tale years later as the Fegan's boys and girl have grown and shows us what they're lives might be now and how they are still affected by their youth. (Totally hot heroes doesn't hurt the telling here, either!! WHOA MAMA!)

 

It's truly one of the best England Victorian based historical romance series EVER published! IMHO!!

 

Thanks for including her in your blog. 

by LorraineH on ‎07-30-2009 12:53 AM

Michelle: Thank you for the wonderful blog about the Scoundrels of St. James. I have to admit that I loved when you wrote "In reality, Mabry offers her all he's worth..." I really loved Sterling. He just seemed perfect for Frannie and she seemed perfect for him. I hope you'll enjoy James Swindler's story in November.

 

Thank you to everyone who has posted -- esp. long time fan Suzanne. She's always hawking my books. What a great compliment that is to a writer.

 

Best,

Lorraine

by Lisa_Kroener on ‎08-02-2009 06:22 AM

Oh my oh my, I know I'm horribly late but I just <i>have to</i> comment on that because I'm an absolute sucker for <i>The  Scoundrels Of St. James</i> which already belong to my all time favourites (although I have to admit that in neither of the three books I liked the epilogue - it made the stories seem so long ago and that somehow made me sad, but that didn't make the books any less good; sorry, Lorraine, don't want to be mean, it's just a personal thing!). I can't wait for "Midnight Pleasures" to come out.

 

A twist on a classic I love very much is the movie <i>O brother, where art thou?</i>,  based loosely on Homer's <i>Odyssey</i>. I love how things like the sirens or the cyclops are transported into the Mississippi of the 20s. It's so much fun! 

 

 

 

 

 

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎08-11-2009 11:54 AM
What an interesting point about the epilogues, Lisa! I so dig this series, like you, and I'm dying for the Nov book.  I'm going back to read them, because I find your talking about the melancholy feeling such a strong statement to make about an historical.  And now I want to see that movie, too.  Glad you commented, even 'late'
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