Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hump Day Hottie: Ashley Cowie

Wow, it's been a long time since I've had a hump day hottie, but I just had to share my new discovery, Ashley Cowie. I was scrolling through the TV guide on my DVR when the show Legend Quest popped otu at me.  I've written about my love for the National Treasure movies, and this seemed like a unique combination of those movies and Dan Brown's novels. The first episode that I watched was about the Holy Grail. Sweet, I was eager to hear what he had to say compared to Dan Brown.

Well imagine my surprise when Ashley Cowie turned out to not only be a hottie but a Scottish hottie! Be still my heart.  He's also a member of the Scottish Knights Templar. I'm not sure what that means but it sounds awesome. The TV show didn't disappoint, although I had the feeling that Dan Brown must be sitting in his house, counting his money, thinking 'Wow, that's even crazier than what I came up with!" Cowie's Quest tooks him from Rosslyn Chapel to Providencetown Massachussets, to Washington, DC and finally to the Statue of Liberty where he concluded that it was possible that the Freemasons (because Lord knows they have their hands in everything) melted down the Holy Grail and used the metal to forge the original torch of the Statue of Liberty.  Are you with me?

That's almost insane enough to be believable.  The other episodes that I watched thanks to Syfy on demand includes the search for Merlin's grave, Moses' Staff, and the Stone of Destiny which they may actually have found. There were only six episodes in this first series, but hopefully Syfy will order more. There hasn't been a show this cool since Josh Bernstein's show Digging for the Truth on the History Channel or Brad Meltzer's crazy show.

But back to Mr. Cowie. He's a photographer and a self-taught historian (sort of like me).  Unfortunately he's married, which is just how my luck runs. Just when I find a man who ticks all my boxes (Scottish, interested in history, slightly bat sh*t crazy), he's not available. *Sigh* However, he's now replaced Josh Bernstein as my bit of thinking woman's crumpet. Sorry Josh! Anyway, you're looking for a six-foot tall Jewish blonde who likes the outdoors (by the way, if you haven't found her, how is that working for you? UPDATE:  Josh Bernstein is getting married on Sunday to Lily Snyder who is tall, blonde and Jewish, as well as well-connected).

No, I'll settle for using Mr. Cowie as the prototype for a contemporary series that I'm thinking of working on, that would involve a loveable rogue like him.  Think of the Michael Douglas character in Romancing the Stone but hotter and Scottish!

You can read more about Mr. Cowie in this interview with The Morton Report.

Monday, August 29, 2011

William and Catherine - A Royal Romance

About the Movie

William & Catherine: A Royal Romance chronicles the love story of Prince William (Dan Amboyer) and Kate Middleton (Alice St. Clair) that resulted in one of the most celebrated weddings in history. At a pivotal point in their courtship, William takes to heart the advice of his mother, the late Princess Diana (Lesley Harcourt), which she bestowed in an interview before her untimely death. The message she left for her son: hold on to the love of your life and protect it with all of your heart.

Stars Jane Alexander (Queen Elizabeth II), Victor Garber (Prince Charles), Jean Smart (Camilla Parker Bowles), Alice St. Clair (Kate Middleton), Dan Amboyer (Prince William).

Gotham Gal says - Well, you just knew that I was going to watch this didn't you? Especially with Hurricane Irene battering the East Coast, I really, truly had nothing better to watch this weekend apart from Dr. Who and several episodes of Millionaire Matchmaker (Patti really is a bitch isn't she?).  This TV movie in many ways was even more laughable than the Lifetime TV movie that came out in April. I'm not even sure where to start with this one.  The scene at Prince William's 21st birthday party, when Kate comes bouncing up to the Queen and introduces herself without even curtesying.  The portrayal of the Middleton's as gauche, nouveau-riche idiots? Kate and the Queen playing WiFi tennis? Prince William breaking up with Kate over the telephone?The Queen trying to pronounce Kanye West? Or how about Prince Philip completely getting the Queen's genealogy wrong by calling Edward VII her great uncle? (He was her great grandfather).

The movie opens up with Prince William watching a videotape of his mother in the infamous interview with Martin Bashir (he watches this interview intermittently during the movie to show how close he was to his mother and how her death affected him).  I had no problem with that.  I did have a problem with them showing Prince William showing up at St. Andrew's University sans Prince Charles (which the previous movie at least managed to get right). Kate and William meet cute in the hallway when he bumps into her and she drops her laundry. Hysterical moment when he points out her knickers are still on the ground. This Kate Middleton is a barmaid at the local pub, where William drowns his sorrows trying to be normal bloke.  There is the obligatory scene where Kate convinces him to stay at college which comes out of nowhere, and scenes of him dating some generic blonde named Cynthia.  Of course we have the infamous fashion show, where for some reason Prince Harry shows up, looking older than William.

In this version Kate and William's relationship doesn't start until after his 21st birthday, he's too preoccupied with someone named Jenna (presumably Jecca Craig).  Back at college, during their third year, he sets up a romantic dinner for two, which he burns. Kate comes to the rescue and she jumps him while they are watching a movie.  The one thing I will give this movie credit for, is that at least you have some sense as to why William and Kate are attracted to each other, and why they fell in love, a huge failure of the Lifetime Movie.  Where this movie fails is in their protrayal of the Middleton family.  Kate comes off as completely clueless about royal etiquette as do her parents.  There is no Pippa and James and no sense of how close the Middletons are, which is apparently what attracted William in the first place.

What gauls me about both these movies is that there are dozens of books and magazines that have been written about the royal couple, documenting at least the milestones in their relationship and both movies either fudge the details (because they have the cheapest budgets on the planet) or don't care.  Kate didn't take the job at Jigsaw until almost a year after her graduation from college. Where was the scene of Prince William landing a helicopter on the Middleton's lawn? Kate and her family showing up at Prince William's graduation, and Carole Middleton getting slagged for chewing nicotine gum? The nights out at Bouji and Mahiki? Kate taking part in the charity race (the first movie at least got this right).  The only sign of William feeling trapped is Kate pointing out a crib in a shop window. In the Hallmark movie, Kate and William get back together after they discover they are both watching the same concert in the park. 

While the Hallmark movie has a more distinguished cast (Victor Garber, Jane Alexander and Jean Smart), Ben Cross was a much more believable Prince Charles than Victor Garber.  Not sure what was the point of having scenes with Camilla since we never get a sense of her relationship with Prince William, Prince Harry or even the Queen. The Lifetime movie also gave you more of a sense of the time that Kate and William spent together, skiing, spending weekends at Highgrove.  However, both films feature the generic friends of Prince William who don't really have names but are just filler.

I have to give this film an A for effort but a C+ for delivery.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Gotham Gal Review: TOUT SWEET

Title:  Tout Sweet
Author:  Karen Wheeler
Pub. Date: August 2011

Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
Format: Paperback , 320pp

Synopsis:  In her mid-thirties, fashion editor Karen has it all: a handsome boyfriend, a fab flat in west London, and an array of gorgeus shoes. But when her boyfriend, Eric, leaves she makes an unexpected decision: to hang up her Manolos and wave good-bye to her glamorous city lifestyle to go it alone in a run-down house in rural Poitou-Charentes, central western France.

Tout Sweet is the perfect read for anyone who dreams of chucking away their BlackBerry in favor of real blackberrying and downshifting to a romantic, alluring locale where new friendships–and new loves–are just some of the treasures to be found amongst life's simple pleasures.

About the Author:  Karen Wheeler is a former fashion editor for the Mail on Sunday and current writer for the Financial Times 'How to Spend It' magazine and London's Daily Mail. Her work has appeared in the Evening Standard and You magazines, Sunday Times Style and numerous international publications. Visit Karen at and Twitter @mimipompom1

Gotham Gal says:  Sourcebooks asked me to review this book weeks ago, and due to work and putting together book proposals, I only managed to read the book this past weekend.  It was just the palate cleanser that I needed after reading severa historical novels and non-fiction books in succession. This was a light, fun read that had surprising depth at times. On the surface, Wheeler has led a life that most of us would envy, she works as a beauty and fashion editor for a leading London magazine (which she does not name), filled with beautiful parties, countless shoes and dresses.  When her plans to marry her handsome French boyfriend fall through, she decides at 35 to change her life. She buys a fixer-upper with no heat or hot water in a remote French village on impulse—"a long way from anyone's idea of the charming French house."

Although her relationship with her boyfriend is long over, Wheeler finds it hard to recover, especially after she finds out some devastating information that makes her question everything. What I found interesting about the book was how quickly Wheeler adapted to life in a small village where everyone knows your business. She quickly settles into a routine and makes friends incredibly easy. I was impressed by the fact that she took her time improving her French in twice weekly classes before she made the move, instead of just relying on some weird version of Franglais like some of the Europeans that she describes in the book.  I found it rather strange that she lived on bread and cheese for months until she has a functioning kitchen, when she had new friends who were more than willing to feed her.

The book only became bogged down when it dealt with her dating life. It seemed like every man she met was either a heel or a loser. The book came to life when it chronicles the details of how she transformed an unloved and neglected house into a cozy home. The house in a sense serves as a metaphor for Wheeler's broken heart.  As the house starts to become more like a home, Wheeler starts to heal and become more whole. Wheeler proves to have a sharp eye for social commentary, her views on the ways on which ex-pats either don't adapt to France or they try to make France more like Britain (which begs the question why some of them chose to retire in a foreign country in the first place) are priceless.  Some of the scenes in the book were priceless, particularly when she makes a discovery about the hunky baker in town, and a fun weekend she spends with friends bunked down in suite at the Plaza Athenee.  I almost began to envy her life, being able to breeze to London and Paris for work, and in between settled down into her cozy country village, even without a Marks and Spencer food hall (don't they one in Paris?).

This book certainly deserves a place on the shelf of any armchair traveler.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Gotham Gal Review: Death Takes a Holiday

Synopsis:  In Death Takes a Holiday, it's just after the first World War and the loneliest of souls arrives at an Italian villa disguised as a handsome young Prince, and for the first time experiences the joys and heartbreaks of life. But when he unexpectedly falls in love with a newly engaged young woman, the mysterious stranger discovers that love may in fact be stronger than death. Directed by Tony® winner Doug Hughes (Doubt), this soaring tale of love is adapted by Tony®-winning writers Peter Stone (1776) and Thomas Meehan (Annie, The Producers, Hairspray), and features lush, romantic songs by Tony® winner Maury Yeston (Nine, Titanic).

Last night I went to see the new off-Broadway show DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY, produced by the Roundabout Theatre company. I absolutely adore the 1934 film with Frederic March (didn't even bother to watch the remake MEET BRAD PITT), so I was anxious to see how they adapted the story.  The film is based on an Italian play that was written right after the first World War when so many young men lost their lives, so there is a poignancy to the story of Death coming to Earth to take a holiday and learning about love and loss, and how what he does affects people.

Unfortunately I was very disappointed in both the show and several of the performances.  My first disappointment was discovering that the lead actor, Julian Ovenden (FOYLE'S WAR, THE FORSYTHE SAGA) had to leave the show because of vocal problems. Just from seeing the stills from the show, and a brief clip, I could tell just how right he would have been for the lead role. Death should be sexy, mysterious and a bit sinister.  The actor who replaced him, Kevin Early while a fine singer, just didn't have the acting chops for the role. He also looks more like a Midwestern farmer than either the Russian Prince he impersonates or Death. Jill Paice, who plays his love interest, plays Grazia as a giddy, naive woman, who flutters her hands alot and babbles on about true love. I found it hard to believe that they fell in love at first sight or that they are soulmates.

It doesn't help that the score is also unmemorable. I can't remember a single melody from the show, nothing stuck.  LOVE NEVER DIES was not a great show but the title tune sticks with you, even though its annoying. One song in DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY sounded like something that was left on the cutting room floor by the creators of the 1920's pastiche musical THE BOYFRIEND. The biggest weakness in the show, however, is the denouement. Death has told Grazia's father that he has decided not to take her with him, he goes to tell her, but she's not frightened of him after he reveals his true nature, and they embrace. End of show.  She never tells her parents of her decision, or why she's going.  There needs to be a song when she explains to her family why she has made the decision that she's made, and how even though she's unhappy to leave them, she's fulfilling her destiny.  The 1934 film has such a scene where Death and Grazia go off together, after she explains why.

The set was lovely and the costumes although generic 1920's were very pretty.  I enjoyed some of the performances of the minor characters incuding Simon Jones and the butler, but all in all, it was a pretty dull evening.