Why I absolutely loved, loved, LOVED Bridgerton

I’ve been working flat out recently – evenings and weekends – working on the first round of edits for the third book in my Hedgehog Hollow series: Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow. With them emailed to my editor on Sunday evening and the second round due back within a week, it didn’t make sense to get into my next book – only to have to dip out of it soon after – so I decided to take this week off to catch up on a combination of housework and admin. And perhaps a rare bit of relaxation.

Last night, conscious I was quite late to the party as friends have been raving about it for a while, I decided to try the first episode of Netflix’s new eight-strong series: Bridgerton. Four episodes later, I had to force myself to stop watching and go to bed. Today I caught up on the remaining four. Wow! What a series!

I do love a period drama but I dragged my heels on watching this one and nearly didn’t bother last night because I was disappointed with a couple of period films I’d watched over Christmas and was reluctant to invest my time in Bridgerton in case it left me with the same feeling of disappointment. It absolutely didn’t.

The two films in question were Emma and Little Women. Both really good films and I am sure that many will have loved them but I’m afraid I personally preferred previous adaptations of both. I love the 1994 version of Little Women starring Winona Ryder and Emma was always going to have tough boots to fill for me as the 1996 version starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Toni Collette and Ewan McGregor is one of my all-time favourite films.

I confess I haven’t read either of the books so I have no idea which version of the film is the closest representation of Austen’s/Alcott’s classics but the 90s films definitely did it for me.

It’s always hard, isn’t it, when there’s a remake of a film you love? I can’t think of any occasions where I’ve preferred the version I’ve seen second time around. Miracle on 34th Street is my all-time favourite Christmas film but it’s the 1994 version I love. I’ve never seen the 1947 original as I know I will be constantly comparing it, even though I know most who saw that first will probably say it’s the best.

Anyway, back to Bridgerton. Set in 1813 Regency England, why did I love it so much?

The Costumes

Oh my goodness, how simply divine were the costumes? Tiaras? Jewellery? Apparently a whopping 7,500 pieces were made for the series with the lead female character having a whopping 104 costume changes. Eek! And the make-up and hairstyles were fabulous too. Stunning. I loved how the two main families – Bridgerton and Featheringtons – had a colour palette. And the final ball is a visual delight of different shades of blue.

The Music

Set across one debutante season, Bridgerton is packed full of balls so there’s lots of music courtesy of string quartets. As I listened, I thought, ‘I recognise this song!’ and I don’t mean familiarity with a classical piece. You see, the music is contemporary but played by a string quartet in the regency style. I specifically recognised ‘In My Blood’ by Shawn Mendes (the munchkin is a huge fan of his so I know that song well) and ‘Wildest Dreams’ by Taylor Swift (although I confess to only confirming that one after I Googled it as I didn’t quite get there and it was bugging me!) I loved this contemporary edge on a period piece.

The Settings

As with any period drama involving society, there are some sumptuous properties. Much of the series was filmed in London and Bath but there were various settings used around the country and I was particularly thrilled to spot that The Duke of Hastings’s fictional home was Castle Howard. Deep in the countryside off the A64 between Scarborough and York, I love Castle Howard. I visited it with my good friend and fellow author, Sharon Booth, in Christmas 2019 where the decorations were masquerade-themed. We’d have returned in 2020 if we could but hopefully will be able to return in 2021. I’ve put a few pics below although the sunny one was not from Christmas 2019!

Incidentally, Castle Howard makes an appearance in one of my books – New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms – under the guise of Denbury Castle where protagonist Sarah has a hot air balloon flight.

The Story

But my absolute favourite part was the story itself. It was fast-paced, gripping, full of intriguing characters. It was about love, family and friendships and all the challenges that come with that. It explored how relationships change as character circumstances change. It made me laugh out loud and it made me cry. In short, it was everything a good book should be and these are the elements I endeavour to include in all my stories as they are what excite me.

Ultimately, this was a beautiful love story about someone whose past has left them damaged and how they find their way through that. Again, a bit of a theme for my own writing.

I loved the idea that the narrator, voiced by Julie Andrews, is the person who pens the society gossip pages – Lady Whistledown – whose identity is a mystery but whose narrative certainly causes a few problems for everyone. This added a level of intrigue throughout the series which was fun. I made several wrong guesses in the first couple of episodes before guessing correctly. Not that guessing spoilt my enjoyment of the rest as I did change my mind a couple of times after that before the final reveal!

I adored all the comments about the place of women and could feel the frustration of the characters who wanted more from their lives than what society expected of them. I felt invested in them all and hoped they’d manage to achieve their dreams in the future.

And I love that this beautiful story has not been out of the Top 10 on Netflix since its release on Christmas Day proving that romance stories are alive and loved. As they should be!

I don’t want to say too much more as I don’t want to give any spoilers but I’m delighted to see the author of the books – Julia Quinn – riding high in the Amazon and Apple charts (screen shot from Apple as there were more of her books together at the time of writing).

I’d love to read the books and I can’t wait for season 2 of the series (had been planned but filming coudln’t go ahead due to the pandemic). Netflix haven’t confirmed a second season but, after the success of this one, surely there’s no question that they will.

Congratulations to Julia Quinn, Netflix, and absolutely everyone involved in this production. My faith in period dramas has been restored.

Have you seen it? If so, what did you think? Had you perhaps read the books first? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where I talk about the amazing Eurovision Song Contest: The story of Fire Saga

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Image by FlorenceEH from Pixabay

I’m one of those people who can watch films I love over and over again. I have a collection of favourites I’ve probably seen 20-30 times – possibly more – and I never get tired of them. I think there’s something wonderful about the familiar when I’m perhaps a little tired and don’t want to concentrate. And there’s something in particular about romcoms when I fancy a pick-me-up, knowing that my chosen film has all the feels and is going to leave me with a warm and fuzzy moment.

IMG_8547A brand new addition to this collection is the Netflix film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. A film based around the Eurovision Song Contest was always going to be a must-see for me. I’ve adored it since I was a little girl. One of the very first vinyl singles I bought was Milk and Honey’s ‘Hallelujah’ which was the winning entry for Israel back in 1979 (I was seven). I’ve just had a rummage through my old 7” vinyls and have unearthed:

IMG_85461980 – ‘Love Enough for Two’ by Prima Donna

3rd place

Super cheesy and reminiscent of a poor version of the amazing Brotherhood of Man (who won in 1976 with ‘Save Your Kisses for Me’. Brilliant). This song has not stood the test of time but I still love it … although perhaps in more of a nostalgic way!

 

1981 – ‘Making Your Mind Up’ by Bucks Fizz

IMG_8549WINNER!

This song started me as a lifelong Bucks Fizz fan. The first gig I ever went to was Bucks Fizz in Middlesbrough Town Hall when I was about 13 and I’ve seen them three times since. I had a crush on both the boys and desperately wanted one of those double skirts Cheryl and Jay wear for this routine. I was devastated when my friend’s mum over the road made her one and one each for a pair of twins we played with … but not one for me 😦

 

IMG_85451983 – ‘Never Giving Up’ by Sweet Dreams

6th place. Luxembourg won that year but the song doesn’t ring a bell at all

I still love this song! Interestingly enough, the last time I went to see Bucks Fizz, the male member of this group joined them as the 2nd male member and they sang this. What a treat! I used to want the outfit the blonde woman wore but in the red colour the brunette had

 

IMG_85501984 – ‘Love Games’ by Belle and the Devotions

7th place. Sweden’s ‘Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley’ by The Herreys won that year. Ooh, I remember those golden shoes!

This has such a fabulous 60s vibe and I adore 60s music which I think is why I loved this so much (and, yes, still do!) Not sure about the outfits, though! I remember loving that they all had different hair colours – red, white and yellow. Class

 

IMG_85441985 – ‘Love Is’ by Vikki

4th place. Norway won with ‘La Det Swing’ by Bobbysocks which I also remember. “Let it swing you let it rock and roll….”

Another song I still love. I used to sing this constantly and have just realised I can still remember all the lyrics. How crazy is that? I can remember the lyrics to our non-winning Eurovision entry from 35 years ago and I can’t remember my mobile phone number that I’ve had for ten years or where I put my house keys earlier!

 

IMG_85481990 – ‘Give a Little Love Back to the World’ by Emma

6th place. Italy won that year but the song doesn’t ring a bell either

Aw, bless her. She looks about ten. From when we believed that a song about peace was very ‘Eurovision’ and would win. Nope.

 

This is where my vinyl collection ends. It doesn’t mean I didn’t love any others but I started university in October 1990 and had traded a record player for a ghetto-blaster and CD player. Several other entries appear on Now albums after that point but, for me, the 1980s entries were the heyday of Britain’s entries. I’m just gutted I never bought Bardo’s ‘One Step Further’ from 1982 to have a full run-through from the early 80s. They came 7th and I loved their entry so I’m not sure why I didn’t by it.

If you want to see a short clip of all of these – and any other UK entries through the year – you can visit the BBC’s Eurovision page here.

 

Screenshot 2020-07-10 at 22.00.55So let’s go back to the film. It tells the fictional story of life-long friends, Lars (Will Ferrell) and Sigrit (Rachel McAdams) who, as Fire Saga, have a long-held dream of representing their home country of Iceland in the Eurovision Song Contest. And winning it, of course.

The munchkin and I watched it for the first time together last weekend. I loved the opening scene where a young Lars, mourning the loss of his mother, is captivated by Abba’s 1974 winning performance of ‘Waterloo’. Who wouldn’t be? That song is A-MAY-ZING! It then jumps to present day where they’re performing one of their songs ‘Volcano Man’. I knew in those five minutes or so that I was going to absolutely love this film. And I did.

It’s funny, it’s heartwarming, it has an amazing soundtrack (which I have had on constant repeat ever since) and Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley from Downton Abbey and The Beast from the Disney live-action remake). Sigrit’s voice is stunning and did I mention Dan Stevens? With a Russian accent? I love that Graham Norton is the UK’s commentator and says very typically Norton-esque comments. The elves – fabulous. The song-along with stars from Eurovision-past – what a treat. The song ‘Jaja Ding Dong’  – genius (and ever so rude but I didn’t realise that at first – hee hee). Oh, and Dan Stevens.

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Image by David Mark from Pixabay

I spotted a BBC news article running through an enormous list of things that are ‘wrong’ in the film e.g. there’s a joke about how the UK never win yet the final is set in Edinburgh meaning the UK would have had to have won the year before, the presenters are not from the host nation, one of the acts had too many dancers and so on. Yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah. For goodness sake, people, this is a piece of light-hearted fiction based around a real event. It was never going to be a perfect match for how Eurovision works, especially given how slick the actual event is, because the story wouldn’t have been fun and silly and simply divine if it was. And who doesn’t need a bit of light relief with the year 2020 has turned out to be so far?

I have so many favourite parts of the film but the bit that knocks me right in the feels is when Fire Saga perform ‘Husavik (My Hometown)’. Absolutely sensational.

I started today feeling really nervous and anxious with no reason to be. After about an hour, the feeling wore off and I was able to do what I’d planned but I felt that need for comfort and warmth this evening. This was the perfect go-to film and I feel calm and uplifted now.

Even if you don’t like The Eurovision Song Contest, I’d give it a go. Beautiful scenery, humour, fabulous soundtrack, elves and Dan Stevens. What’s not to love? Don’t believe me? Check out this trailer on You Tube here.

Big hugs

Jessica xx