Friday, May 01, 2009

Must Watch Friday - Twilight

Modern Heat/Presents author Heidi Rice takes a look at the much-hyped movie of Stephenie Meyer's bestselling paranormal young adult romance and finds a wildly atmospheric teen gothic version of Jane Eyre with a blood-sucking twist and not a fang in sight. And just to give you an incentive to read her post, she'll be giving away a copy of her June release Hot-Shot Tycoon, Indecent Proposal to one lucky commentator.

I should first of all admit that not only have I not read Stephenie Meyer's stupendously successful book, but I'm not a big reader of paranormal romance (which has more to do with time constraints than taste). So I came to this movie without many expectations. 
From the hype, I was expecting to see a bog-standard high-school romance with a bit of blood-sucking action on the side.

How wrong was I? 

First off, Twilight is a very long way from being your average teen romance. All swirling fog, tortured passions and oddly stilted dialogue it is both wildly atmospheric and strangely compelling and has as its centrepiece Robert Pattinson's Edward Cullen as the embodiment of the brooding bad boy hero — and you know what a sucker I am for bad boys. 

Now Pattinson's already warranted a Male on Monday slot, so I'm not going to go into a lot of detail here about his looks, but suffice it to say, he is not conventionally handsome, rather he made we think of Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre (more about that in a bit). Pattinson's features are striking and unusual and a little bit odd making him ideal for the part of the tortured outsider he plays here. The fact that the young actor is also surprisingly charismatic and knows how to smoulder doesn't hurt a bit either. 

As soon as Pattinson's Cullen first appears — striding into the high-school dinner hall and giving awkward new girl Bella a magnetic stare — his pasty white skin, hunched shoulders, sculpted features and tortured expression make him stand out as a Byronic anti-hero with the gothic intensity of a Heathcliffe or a Rochester. This is a guy who is not one of the crowd. He's apart, alone, aloof in a way that makes him instantly intriguing — and of course he's pretty gorgeous too.

Right from the get-go Bella is fascinated and so are we... And then when she has to sit next to him in a chemistry class and he glowers at her and strains away from her as if he can't stand to be near her (as it turns out he can't but the reasons why are far from ordinary) we're not just fascinated we're enthralled and also a little bit repulsed... And then, when he saves her from being crushed to death by a van with a  superhuman display of strength and speed, well it's clear this guy has some very dark secrets. 

As he says to Bella when she compares him with Superman: 'What if I'm not the hero? What if I'm the bad guy?' At which stage, Bella, like any good heroine worth her salt, is thinking, I don't care if he is the bad guy, he's wildly attractive and frankly irresistible. 

Eventually, of course, Bella (played with commendable calm and certainty by Kristen Stewart) discovers that Edward's secret could be very bad for her health - but as it also means he can scale treetops in a single bound with her on his back, read people's minds, play baseball better than any pro and save her from a maniacal vampire tracker it's hard to hold it against him.

For a two-hour plus movie, there's actually very little plot, here. Instead what we get is oodles of moody atmosphere — the rainy, foggy, bleakly unsettling Pacific Northwest scenery adding a stark feeling of foreboding and beauty to every scene — and the slow evolution of the love between Bella and Edward. 

Their passion is necessarily repressed - if they get too close Edward might go into a bloodlust frenzy and accidentally suck all the life out of her, literally. But as in all great gothic romances, it's the fact that Edward and Bella are forced to deny themselves any real expression of physical love that adds a whole new level of intensity to all the touches, the looks and the subtlely nuanced dialogue between them. In fact, Bella doesn't actually touch Edward for the first time until we're a good way into the movie, by which time she's already half-way in love with him - and the moment is electric, not least because she discovers his skin is ice cold.

Now, there's been a lot of talk about Meyer's hidden Mormon subtext in all this. Is she embedding messages into her text about adolescent chastity and the like? Frankly, that's far too hot a potato to handle for this couch potato blog — and anyway, anyone with teenagers will know perfectly well that you can embed as many subtexts as you like into what you tell them about sex, but it'll be up to them whether they choose to listen. 

The point here is Edward and Bella's constrained situation adds a much higher level of sensuality to this movie than is usually the case with teen romances — and whatever Meyer's motives may have been, this movie certainly ain't chaste. The two young actors evoking a living, breathing eroticism in every one of their scenes together.  

Take the sequence when Edward describes his physical reaction to Bella: 'Your scent is like a drug to me, it's like you're my own personal brand of heroine.' Or when he tells her how dangerous he is: 'I'm the world's most dangerous predator. Everything about me invites you in. My voice, my face, even my smell. As if I would need any of that. As if you could outrun me. As if you could fight me off. I'm designed to kill.'

How's that for full-on sexual tension? 

Check out this YouTube link if you don't believe me.

In the end Bella's declaration of love is that much more powerful because of the danger she faces. She has to give Edward her complete trust, even when he's not sure he can trust himself.

So, my final verdict on Twilight is simply this. If you like your romance dark, driven, dangerous and full of gothic intensity... And your heroes the same way. You could do a lot worse. But don't expect to be entirely comfortable while you're watching. I found this film remarkably unsettling... but in the best possible way. 

Now if you're in the mood for something fun and flirty on the other hand... With a lot of sexual tension and some completely unrepressed passion, then leave me a comment and you might win a copy of my latest book, Hot-Shot Tycoon, Indecent Proposal.

How's that for a subtly nuanced shameless plug??

Heidi is hard at work on her seventh Modern Heat novel — when she's not watching teen vampire movies. Her fifth book, Hot-Shot Tycoon, Indecent Proposal is due out in the UK in June and the US in September.  While her sixth book will be out in the UK in November and is called Public Affair, Secretly Expecting. 

You can chat to her on her blog and read all about her books on her website

Along with lots of other great PHS bloggers, she's also taking part in Brenda Novak's Online Auction in aid of Diabetes Research which kicks off today — and is offering an author critique of a full manuscript aimed at Harlequin Presents, which you can bid on here.


  1. Hi,

    I really liked Twilight, even if I was frustrated by the lack of “sensuality” at the beginning, but actually the fact that everything is suggested is not such a bad thing for a teen movie (I'm thinking about my 10 year-old cousin who is a huge fan).

    Apart from that, I don't know if we have to leave a comment here or on your blog to win your new book, and I don't know if we just have to say : “I want it !!! please” (yes I'm polite), and beg you (I'm desperate too) to have the chance to be selected, or write a full resume along with a cover letter and three references, but I've decided that I would try to explain why I need this book.

    I've discovered you with “The Millionaire's Blackmail Bargain” and it's still one of my two favorites book. It even gave me the urge to become a romance novelist and write amazing stories with incredible characters, and then I tried and figured out it was hard, and a long process (especially with the description and everything).

    I'm still looking for other books to place among my favorites, but it is really difficult.

    Then I heard about your new project “Hot-Shot Tycoon, Indecent Proposal” and it appeared to be the book I was looking for : the story seemed amazing, then I discovered the fabulous front page, and the fact that you wanted to post a sneak peek of the story on your blog (I have never checked a blog as often that I did on yours at that time), and finally, one day, I read the excerpt, which was definitely too short, and made me want to invent a time machine to travel until June to be able to buy the book.

    I failed at that too, but then you said that you would GIVE a copy, BEFORE that date, and it was like Christmas before Christmas, or my birthday before my birthday, or if Jack Devlin would come at my house and propose to me (yeah, Carmel was not that good. No I am kidding they were fabulous together. Or even better, it would be like Cormac Brody would knock at my door and ask me : “Hey Baby, do you want to read my story ?”, and I would answer yes, yes, yes, definitely YES !!

    So please choose me to win the copy of your book.

    PS : This comment must definitely contain some mistakes, but it is not that I am a 8 year-old, it is just because I am French, and English is not my mother tong.

    Have a nice day !

  2. I haven't seen the twighlight movie yet but I was completely unsettled (in a good way) just watching that you tube scene lol! Now I'm hooked!

    How to follow Kar? Of course I think your books are absolutely amazing! I haven't missed a single one yet and I'm hanging on the edge of my seat in the hope that Daisy and Cormac want to come and live with me. I have to say I have unfortunately crawled over a neighbors fence in search of the family dog but there was no half naked man waiting to haul me into his home *sigh* I did find a tiny - previously white dog - covered in mud though...

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  4. Ooo Twilight! Well I read the book and emjoyed it but the film *swoon*. I watched it last weekend and you are spot on about the eroticism. And Robert Pattinson... *drool*

    Oh and you know I is a fan of yours ;-)


  5. Okay, I just had to delete my last comment cos I got everyone's name mixed up!!

    First off, although lovely comments are wonderful and I can happily bask in them for hours, I'm going to pick the winner from random so they are not required. But hey, don't let that stop anyone telling me how wonderful my books are!!

    Kar, so glad you liked Millionaire's Blackmail Bargain. That one was a hoot to write and got me a RITA nom under the title The Mile-High Club so it's pretty close to my heart too. Unfortunately I have to fess up and say my French sister-in-law had to do the two short lines of French dialogue because my French is nowhere near as good as your English.

    And Lacey, I love that you climbed over a neighbour's garden wall to get a dog - especially as my editor questioned the sanity of my heroine on that one!! You see now I have conclusive proof that she wasn't nuts, just determined!

    And now I should also add the hero in this book is actually called Connor, but I made a mistake on my website. Groan. Will have to sort that out. Cormac is his gorgeous brooding long-lost movie-star brother (shades of Edward Cullen without the fangs) who will be the hero of my November Modern Heat. Are you drooling yet?

    Heidi x

  6. Loved your post :)

    I've just finished the four "twilight" books and was totally hooked - esp numbers 3 & 4.

    As a wannabe romance writer, I felt so inadequate reading Meyer's books. The smouldering tension between Edward and Bella is incredible *sigh* I loved the quotes you included - I dream of being able to write like that!

    I'm hoping to watch the DVD soon as I missed the movie when it was out :(

    Thanks for a great read, cant wait for your next release :)

  7. I have plenty of 30-something friends who are acting like 15-year-olds over this book and movie. I'm the odd one out. It just didn't strike that chord with me.

    To each her own, right?

    Subtext? ~shudder~ I left academia so I never had to stress over that again. :-)

  8. Hey, Biddy good to see you back from Frisco... Still fondly remember the blast we had there last year at RWA. Oh how I wish I had a good excuse to go this year (and the money!)...

    Joanne, nice to have someone here who's read Meyer's books, haven't got round to that yet but may well give them a go after your endorsement.

    And Kim, I stuck that subtext reference in there just to make you shudder. Ha. So you haven't been bitten by the Twilight bug eh? Have to admit I was a little surprised I liked this movie so much, but then I do have a well-documented weakness for bad boys (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it)

  9. I adore subtext! LOL

    Heidi - interesting to have you mention Heathcliff because there is a really strong Wuthering Heights series of references in the book. As well as Romeo and Juliet.

    But I don't mind stuff being alluded to at all. Especially since my eleven year old is loving the books. And there is lots of sexual tension without coming right out and beating us over the head with the words. She does a really good job with that.

    I'm half way through the last book by the way, and we also have the movie. Did you ever watch Twin Peaks? It reminded me of that with all the atmospheric bits!

  10. Hi Heidi - congrats on your latest release! I loved "Pleasure, Pregnancy and a Proposition" which I won on another blog site recently (you are generous!)so I'm looking forward to the next release. Don't enter me in this competition (I don't want to be too greedy) and besides I couldn't go up against Kar's earlier comment! Take care. Caroline x

  11. Hi Heidi - congratulations on the new release.

    Twighlight - I read the first book and can see why the teens (and plenty of others are going crazy over Edward).

    My husband's away for the weekend, so teen daughter (who's a BIG fan) and I are going to get out the movie and watch it. Yay.

  12. Hey Donna, see I knew there was a definite Heathcliff thing going on there. Do I know my bad boys or what?

    Caroline, glad you liked PPP, I aim to please!

    And Sandra, enjoy it. I watched it with my teenage son and he really enjoyed it too, although I think the subtext went straight over his head (or at least I hope it did!)

    Will give the book winner tomorrow morning in the comments here so check back to find out who won.

    Just got back from seeing the new X-Men film. Definitely a lads movie - but boy oh boy Hugh Jackman and his gleaming pecs do make up for that.


  13. Connor and Cormac yum. Climbing that wall was no easy feat I remember questioning my own sanity and my shoe choice about halfway over, graceful I was not. Ah the crazy things we do for our pets!

  14. And the winner that came out of the hat is... Lacey Devlin!! Our intrepid dog catcher! I laughed when my son picked out your name because it seems that Hot-Shot Tycoon was written especially for you.

    But after Kar's wonderful comment got everything off to such a great start, I decided to give away another book to her.

    So if you could both email me with your snail mail addys at I'll post out the books.

    Cheers heidi

  15. Thank you, Very very very very veryyyyyyyyyyyy much !!!!!

    I am pinching myself to be sure it is really happening.

    I just have a question : what does "addys" mean ? I may sound stupid now :S

    PS : For me it is Hugh Jackman, his pecs, and his Wolverine claws. ;)

    Thank you again ! :D

  16. Sorry that would be your address, so I can post the book!

    H x

  17. See everybody I told you Heidi was generous! Congrats to Lacey and Kar - hope you both enjoy your book as much as I did. Take care. Caroline x

  18. Thank you Caroline.

    Congratulations to Lacey.

    And I agree with you, Heidi is generous !

    Kar x

  19. Ooo I'm so thrilled!

    Thanks Heidi!!

    Thanks Kar and Caroline!