131 romance books #BFILoveFest authors LOVE

We have grouped together all of the romance books as recommended by romance authors. 131 must-reads. Happy reading.

  1. A Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Ban
  2. A Knight in Shining Armour by Jude Deveraux
  3. A Room With A View by E.M. Forster
  4. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  5. After The Last Dance by Sarra Manning
  6. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  7. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  8. Anne Of GreenGables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  9. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  10. Atonement by Ian McEwan
  11. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
  12. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  13. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
  14. Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
  15. Bonjour Tristette by Francoise Sagan
  16. Breathing Room by Susan Elizabeth Philips
  17. Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller
  18. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding
  19. By Grand Central Station I Sat Down And Wept by Elizabeth Smart**
  20. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres 
  21. Carrying Albert Home by Homer Hickam
  22. Confetti Confidential: They Do, I Don’t!!!!! by Susan Murphy
  23. Cotillion by Georgette Heyer
  24. Damage by Josephine Hart
  25. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
  26. Deeper by Robin York
  27. Doukakis’s Apprentice by Sarah Morgan
  28. Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak**
  29. Dreaming of You byLisa Kleypas
  30. Easy by Tammara Webber
  31. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  32. Faro’s Daughter by Georgette Heyer
  33. Ferney by James Long
  34. Flowers From the Storm by Laura Kinsale
  35. Forever by Judy Blume
  36. From This Day Forward by Deborah Cox
  37. Girl from Mars by Julie Cohen
  38. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell**
  39. Grace Grows by Shelle Sumners
  40. How to Fall In Love by Cecelia Ahern
  41. I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith
  42. I Heart London by Lindsey Kelk
  43. Invitation to the Waltz by Rosamund Lehmann
  44. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte**
  45. Katherine by Anya Seaton
  46. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
  47. Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier
  48. Le Grand Meaulnes by Henri Alain-Fournier
  49. Letters to The Lost by Iona Grey
  50. Little Birds by Anaïs Nin
  51. Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
  52. Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
  53. Love at First Flight by Tess Woods
  54. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Marquez
  55. Lucky by Jackie Collins
  56. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  57. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes**
  58. Meant For Me by L.P. Dover
  59. Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer
  60. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  61. Night Embrace by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  62. Nightingale Wood by Stella Gibbons
  63. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  64. Not A Fairy Tale by Romy Sommer
  65. Octavia by Jilly Cooper
  66. One Day by David Nicholls**
  67. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  68. Persuasion by Jane Austen**
  69. Pieces of You by Ella Harper.
  70. Polo by Jilly Cooper
  71. Possession by A S Byatt
  72. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen**
  73. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
  74. Protecting the Desert Princess by Carol Marinelli
  75. Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes
  76. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier**
  77. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
  78. Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer
  79. Riders by JillyCooper
  80. Rivals by Jilly Cooper
  81. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare**
  82. Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks
  83. Secrets by Freya North
  84. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  85. Silk is For Seduction by Loretta Chase
  86. Snap Happy by Fiona Walker
  87. Sophia’s Secret bySusanna Kearsley
  88. Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas by James Patterson
  89. Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck.
  90. Ten Things I Love About You by Julia Quinn
  91. The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer
  92. The Consequences of Loving Colton by Rachel Van Dyken
  93. The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
  94. The Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
  95. The End Of The Affair by Graham Greene
  96. The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye
  97. The Fault in our Stars by John Green
  98. The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles
  99. The Great Christmas Knit Off by Alexandra Brown
  100. The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman
  101. The Last of Cheri by Colette
  102. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
  103. The Little Shop of Hopes & Dreams byFiona Harper
  104. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
  105. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  106. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks**
  107. The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
  108. The Perfect Rake by Anne Gracie
  109. The Poldark series (especially Warleggan) by Winston Graham
  110. The Princess Bride by William Goldman
  111. The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
  112. The Rake by Mary Jo Putney.
  113. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
  114. The Selection by Kiera Cass
  115. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafon
  116. The Sheikh’s Guarded Heart by Liz Fielding
  117. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
  118. The Tailor’s Girl by Fiona McIntosh
  119. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
  120. The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  121. The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer
  122. The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me by Lucy Robinson
  123. The Unpredictable Consequences of Love by Jill Mansell
  124. Timeless Night by Torie James
  125. Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover
  126. Wait For You by J. Lynn
  127. Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie
  128. Who’s Afraid of Mr Wolfe? by Hazel Osmond
  129. Wonderwall by M. H. Soars
  130. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  131. 50 Shades of Grey by E. L. James

The books with * have been recommended multiple times by authors.

If you’d like to win 13 romance books and a BFI membership, you can enter our competition here.



FOOLS FOR LOVE: Romances with Unhappy Endings – in Film and Real Life @CarlaCaruso79 #BFILoveFest

Carla Caruso, author pic, HarperCollinsSome of my favourite romantic films don’t have happy endings.

I know, I know! I’m a romance author, where if Ms X doesn’t wind up with Mr Y, I can expect some copious ‘structural notes’ from my editor. As in, a total change of ending!

But let’s be honest, in real life, relationships END.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t beauty in the journey, the heartbreak, the nostalgia. Just because you’ve since ‘uncoupled’ (thanks Gwynnie), it doesn’t mean you have to shove that memory in a box, lock it, and throw away the key.

It was a chapter of your life, just like that ‘ombre’ hairdo you sported. Your former partner, in some way, changed your view of the world, introduced you to new things. And that should be celebrated.

Without breakups, after all, we wouldn’t have songs like Adele’s Someone Like You or Taylor Swift’s We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together to shriek along to in our car when we think nobody’s watching.

In the words of Victorian poet Alfred Tennyson: “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

The following movies are a testament to the fact that being a ‘fool for love’, putting your heart on the line, isn’t a bad thing, even if you don’t stay together. And that films with ‘unhappy’ endings can still be satisfying…


When art dealer Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) and tour-bus driver Gary (Vince Vaughn) finally call it quits, neither is willing to move out of their shared condo. Instead they become hostile housemates, each acting out to provoke the other.

Most interesting about the film, though, is the ‘autopsy’ of their relationship, from the escalation of “Why can’t you do this one little thing for me?!” arguments to Gary’s pal pointing out that Gary always had his guard up in the relationship and has been guilty of a lot of selfishness.

It’s particularly poignant (and realistic) when the pair later meet again by chance on the street, and after some slightly awkward catching up, part ways – with a smile – having moved on with their lives.


This American Civil War movie sees Rhett Butler striding away from lover Scarlett O’Hara after uttering that classic line: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Not the usual Hollywood-clinch ending. But Scarlett is held up as a strong, independent woman (the kind Beyoncé would warble about) for vowing to carry on, saying: “After all, tomorrow is another day.”


Things don’t go well when young aristocrat Rose (Kate Winslet) falls in love with struggling artist Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) aboard the ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic. When the ship breaks in half, Jack and Rose ride into the icy water together, Jack helping Rose onto a wooden panel only buoyant enough for one. He assures her she will die an old woman, warm in her bed – he, however, dies of hypothermia. Fast forward to the future and we find an old Rose alone on the stern of a treasure hunter’s research vessel, where she takes out the Heart of the Ocean blue diamond they’ve been searching for — in her possession all along — and secretly drops it into the sea over the wreck site. She won’t let them get her last ‘piece’ of Jack.


What’s cool about this offbeat rom-com – surrounding a woman who doesn’t believe true love exists, and the young man who falls for her – is that it’s told in a nonlinear narrative, jumping around within the 500-day span of Tom and Summer’s relationship.

On day 488, Summer (Zooey Deschanel) and Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) catch up at Tom’s fave city spot. Summer admits he was right about true love being real and that she has discovered – in someone else – all the ‘feels’ she’d never been sure about with Tom. As she departs, Tom tells her he really hopes she’s happy. Twelve days later, he attends a job interview and meets a pretty lass, applying for the same role. They chat and make plans for a coffee date. When he asks her name, she ironically replies: “Autumn.”


As IMDB perfectly sums up this flick: “When a woman’s long-time friend says he’s engaged, she realises she loves him herself…and sets out to get him, with only days before the wedding.” After various shenanigans, things reach breaking point for the newlyweds-to-be (played by Dermot Mulroney and Cameron Diaz). Julianne (Julia Roberts) must do the right thing, confess her deception and apologise. The happy couple reunite. At the reception, Julianne finally acts like a true best friend by telling Michael (Mulroney) that he and Kimmy (Diaz) can use their special song until they find one of their own and then hits the dance floor in non-Hollywood style with her gay bestie, George.

Carla Caruso


To find out more about Carla click here, or pick up her new novel STARCROSSED

Or to get to know the other authors involved in the festival click here. 

Why Women Love the Military Hero in a Film @ #BFILoveFest

Military men have that dash of danger and peril about them whilst being seasoned in a heroism that is often spectacularly unassuming.

Death stalks the military hero like a shadow; an unstable war, the loneliness, the uncertainty and yet there’s a romance that is all pervasive in such a career choice. The military hero is often the last one left between good and evil, the final man standing who can save the world and life as we know it. Yet even then, and often after great danger, he demands little recompense for his actions, leaning instead to a pureness of motive that eschews money, fame and society’s adulation.

An officer. A gentleman. A man of principle and high morals. Why wouldn’t any woman love that?

War strips away the unimportant and focusses instead on what is crucial now. With emotions and timeframes condensed the military hero is like a small microcosm of all that is good and bad in the human form. He is identifiably under stress, he makes decisions that might affect a town, a country, the entire planet.

The stakes are high and the personal losses are higher still. Factor in trauma and inevitability, rigid training and the propensity for mistakes and there is a desperateness that makes a woman sit up and take notice whilst praying for the salvation of the embattled soldier hero.

His decisions are not small and there is no going back on them. One man could die or ten or a hundred or one thousand. Exponentially damning. Undeniably mesmerising as a story without limits.

Yet military films are an entertainment based in reality. Soldiers do die in war. And civilians. Military campaigns are often costly and terrible. Perhaps it’s the duality of truth and fiction that also tugs at the feminine heartstrings.

In the angry soldier lies the seeds of anarchy or heroism.

In the brave soldier the hope of redemption and possibility.

In the loner the promise of brotherhood and belonging.

In the injured the propensity for a heroic death or a miraculous recovery.

So many layers of human emotion. So much rising on one simple action. Salvation. Hope. Faith. Honour.

The unselfish and extraordinary actions of men who at any other time and place might have been only ordinary. The punch of the military hero lies in the transcending of what is into what could be.

The young soldier who smothers the wrongly pulled pin of a grenade with his own body. The officer who carries his colleagues broken corpse across the ever present danger on a battlefield.

All women hope to have a partner in life who might act with the same sort of unselfish truth and goodness, a man who might say this is what I have to do, and does it.

Military films and heroes hold the guiding light of honour. The parades, the comradeship, the uniforms, the medals all countered against the mud, blood, pain and danger. Two sides of the coin and more than two when balanced against the good of an individual, a community, a country, the world.

It’s the enormity of the odds, the smallness of the human condition, an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances and doing his best.

It’s a love story.

It’s a story of loss.

It’s the greatest story on earth in the worst places on earth. It’s entertainment and it’s reality, danger and hope, strength and truth. It’s every woman’s definition of honour.

Give me a man in a uniform with a brain under his braided cap and a heart that beats for justice and I’ll give you a woman who hopes to find a hero just like him. Damaged, brave and alpha.  Honourable, independent and extraordinary. Honed by war and sharpened in passion.

No wonder the military hero is unmatched.

Sophia James


To find out more about Sophia click here, or pick up her new novel MARRIAGE MADE IN SHAME

Or to get to know the other authors involved in the festival click here. 

The Last Proposal @GillPaulauthor #BFILoveFest

Gill Paul PhotoFlorence scrutinised her appearance in the looking glass: auburn hair parted precisely and secured in a knot at the crown of her head; a cameo choker, which looked good above the cornflower-blue gown with ruffs of lace at neck and sleeves. Her brown eyes and sharp nose were not exceptional, but perfectly in proportion to the rest of her face. She would pass muster. Mr Richard Monckton Milnes was interested in her conversation rather than her looks, as he had demonstrated over their seven years of close friendship. And yet today she felt a frisson of excitement at the thought of seeing him.

She checked the clock and saw there was still an hour before guests would start to arrive at Embley for her family’s annual summer party. She should go down and inspect the table settings in the garden, but she hesitated. Would Richard repeat his proposal of marriage today? In a recent letter he hinted that he wished to be settled before his fortieth birthday, and she supposed that, at twenty-nine years of age, this was likely to be the last proposal she ever received. It was now or never.

When Richard Monckton Milnes, MP for Pontefract, had first asked her to marry him, two years earlier in 1847, she had tried to explain her reservations. “It seems to me that when women marry, the marriage becomes the centre of their life, and as such it is bound to cause disappointment because for men the same is not true: they carry on pursuing their ambitions, fulfilling their duty, being active and useful. But I too wish to be active and useful.”

Richard had laughed: “I admire you for your good sense, not your ability to arrange a bunch of flowers artfully. I want a wife with whom I can discuss the matters I will debate in Parliament. I want you.”

The words made her smile, but still she had doubts and she asked him to give her time, explaining that she wished to have a clearer sense of her own purpose before making such a commitment. To his credit he had waited patiently, riding regularly to visit her at Embley and writing two or three times a week – clever, insightful letters that always made her laugh. He was a gregarious, well-liked man, who numbered several other women amongst his acquaintance, and yet she seemed to be his favourite. Her cheeks flushed at the thought and she turned to go downstairs.

The menu included bouillon, creamed oysters, broiled partridges, fancy cakes, bonbons, and whipped cream piped inside spun-sugar confections. Fresh-cut flowers adorned each table: hollyhocks, snapdragon and freckled pansies. The weather was fair, with only a few white clouds meandering above. Florence straightened cutlery as she wandered round but her thoughts were elsewhere. “What if I just say yes? We could wed, set up home together, and then I will persuade him afterwards that I must work.” It was an enticing idea with much to recommend it…

She was interrupted in her reverie by a maid come to inform her that the first guests, an elderly, rather deaf couple had arrived prematurely, and she hurried to the door to greet them.

Half an hour into the party Florence was circulating amongst the guests when she sensed Richard behind her and turned to see his dear dimpled face and unruly olive-blonde hair. She grinned broadly and cried “You’re here!”

He was grinning too: “I wouldn’t have missed your party for the world. And we are blessed that the weather is much kinder than last year. How are you, my dearest, sweetest Miss Nightingale?” He took her hand and raised it to his lips.

The smile wouldn’t leave her face: “All the better for seeing you. Tell me everything. How was Paris? Did you see George Sand this time? Have you had any more irate readers complaining about your ‘scandalous’ book on Keats?” The previous year he had published Keats’ letters and had received sackloads of vituperous complaint from those who objected to the poet’s louche lifestyle and “unmanliness”, almost as if Richard himself were guilty of the same crimes.

“Which question shall I answer first?” He laughed, her fingers still loosely held between his. “Paris was divine; George Sand is utterly furious with Chopin for being the one to end their affair and she rants about him endlessly while claiming she could not care a fig; and I fear the opprobrium heaped on Keats looks set to overshadow the rest of my literary output combined.”

“That last cannot be true, sir. Your ballads are the nation’s favourites; each new volume is eagerly anticipated.” She suddenly felt self-conscious to be complimenting him. Ridiculous! Since they met at a dinner given by the Palmerstons seven years earlier their friendship had been characterised by frank exchanges of views. How silly to feel shy.

“Ah, you are most kind.” He released her fingers and accepted a glass of cordial from a waitress. “I have had little time for poetry of late as the famine in Ireland has been occupying my time. I am recently returned from another visit.”

She was concerned; a resurgence of cholera had been reported in the newspapers. “I hope you kept yourself out of harm’s way.”

“I was stricken by the depths of suffering these people endure on our doorstep, and the British government has utterly failed them. Landlords evict them in their thousands as they can’t pay the rent and the roads are lined with begging families, rags falling off their backs, little ones near death …” He shook himself. “But this is wrong of me. I must beg your pardon for introducing a distressing topic on such a glorious afternoon.” He paused. “Pray let me start again and compliment you on the beauty of your table settings. I think snapdragons are quite my favourite flower.”

“My goodness, that was a conversational leap,” Florence exclaimed. “I should very much like to hear about your experiences in Ireland. Perhaps we can talk at length once the guests are settled with heaped plates in front of them.” She glanced around. “There are a few people I must welcome.”

Richard winked conspiratorially. “Let’s say half an hour from now, under the gazebo. There is a matter on which I must speak with you.”

Florence found it difficult to focus on conversing with guests. Did that sound as though he intended to propose again? Should she accept this time? They were intellectually compatible; she certainly felt passionate about him, as he appeared to do about her; her mother approved, since he was well-connected and comfortably off; but would marriage curtail her determination to make a difference in the world?

Richard was serious when she arrived at the gazebo, bearing a small plate of bonbons for them to share. He motioned for her to sit beside him on the bench and couldn’t resist accepting a bonbon, which made it difficult for him to speak for a few moments, during which they gazed into each other’s eyes. She waited.

“You look radiant,” he told her at last. “I’ve been watching how gracefully you glide around the company and thinking that I would love you to be the hostess at my own gatherings.”

Florence felt her pulse quicken. “But your breakfast parties are already the talk of the town; it’s hard to see how they could be improved upon.”

“A woman’s touch improves everything about a man’s life, especially when there is also a meeting of the minds – such as you and I have.” He took her fingers between his and looked deep into her eyes. “You must admit I have been patient till now, but seeing you here, today, I find I cannot wait to renew my suit. Miss Nightingale, you have had plenty of time to consider my previous offers and I ask if you would please give me your answer. Will you make me the happiest man in the world by agreeing to be my wife?”

She could hardly speak. “I… you are so kind to me. I would be honoured…” She couldn’t finish the sentence she had intended before he leapt on her response.

“I thought we could marry in September just before Parliament sits, when everyone will be in town. It should be a lavish occasion, no expense spared. You like my London house, don’t you? If not, we’ll get another. Oh Florence…” He stopped and frowned at her expression.

“I may be busy in September,” she said. “I had hoped to visit a nursing school in Kaiserworth, in Germany. I think they could prove a useful model for us to follow.”

He was puzzled. “But why would you…? I don’t understand…”

She started to answer – “They provide free health care for the poor, subsidised by commercial services offered to the wealthy…” – but he was speaking at the same time “You would prioritise this over our marriage?”

Both stopped, confused, and Richard repeated his question with surprise and a tinge of harshness in his tone.

“Provisional arrangements have been made but perhaps…”

“Perhaps?” He leapt on the word. “Is becoming my wife of so little importance to you?”

Florence felt a fog in her mind and it alarmed her. She was used to clear and incisive thinking, to having strong opinions, and now she simply could not decide how to respond. “Of course it is important to me.”

“Which? Nursing or marriage?”

She spoke quietly: “Richard, I hoped not to be forced to choose.”

“I see by your answer that you have already made your choice. I am surprised that you would let a man dangle in hope for so long when your innermost desires have long been set in stone. It is most unkind – and that is a word I never expected to use of you. Perhaps I have been blinded by my ardour.”

She felt panic: how had the conversation taken this turn? “You are jumping to conclusions, sir. I have not turned you down – quite the contrary.”

“No. You are just ‘too busy’ to marry me. That offers an inkling of what I could expect from married life.” His cheeks had reddened and he rose to his feet. “I dare say you are too busy to talk with me just now. You have guests to look after.”

She was flustered. Why was he so angry? “Of course I’m not too busy to talk with you. Pray sit down. Let me explain myself.” Should she agree to a September wedding? But why could he not understand how much she wanted to visit Kaiserworth? He was regarding her with an expression of deep hurt. What could she say?

He spoke formally: “After seven years of friendship, and two years since I made my first proposal, you still have reservations. So there is my answer in a nutshell: I have been a fool to wait. Miss Nightingale, I will take my leave and let you enjoy the remainder of your party.” He strode away.

She leapt to her feet and hurried after him calling, “Please … wait.” Out of the corner of her eye she saw the other guests watching and slowed her pace. He opened the side gate and was gone without a backward glance.

Florence wrote to him that evening, trying to set out her position as eloquently as she could. She received a cool, formal reply. When they both attended a party in Paris the following spring, he extended the barest of courtesies and would not stop to talk. She was plunged into depression when she heard he had become engaged to Annabel Crewe, wasting little time in finding her replacement.

In later years, long after Florence became Britain’s national heroine, the lady with the lamp who took care of soldiers wounded in the Crimean War, she sometimes wondered what would have happened if he had suggested a wedding in August or October. Chances are she would have agreed.

Gill Paul


To find out more about Gill click here, or pick up her new novel NO PLACE FOR A LADY.

Or to get to know the other authors involved in the festival click here. 

Inspired by Films @Sharon_Kendrick #BFILoveFest

I’ve written ninety-nine books and sold over 23 million copies and people always stare at me in bewilderment and say, “but where do you get your ideas from?”

Easy.  From films.  They’re my biggest inspiration – by a mile.  I love going to the cinema – preferably alone, in the afternoon.  Taking someone along is too much like hard work.  What if they don’t like it as much as I do?  What if they like it more and I start wondering what I’ve missed?  I spend too much time analysing every quiet shift of their body and it stops me from losing myself in the big story which is unfolding on the screen.

I write romantic fiction, so Rom-Com would seem my obvious first choice of movie and of course I’d be lying if I denied loving The Holiday (Jack Black so sexy!) or Bridget Jones (the cameo from Bridge’s mother is heartbreakingly brilliant).  When Harry Met Sally never did it for me (I mean, Billy Crystal… really?)  but Notting Hill I can watch over and over because Richard Curtis is a genius.  Yet much as I love the light and upbeat tone of the Rom-Com, I get ideas for my happy-ever-afters from the most unlikely places.

Foreign films are great for kick-starting the imagination.  Especially if they’re dark (and they usually are).  Whisky is right up there in my top five.  Filmed in sombre shades, it’s a story about a middle-aged man who runs a Uruguayan sock factory.  When his brother decides to pay him a visit, Jacobo sees how sad his life must appear from the outside and persuades his near-mute assistant to pose as his wife.  It’s a film about desperation – and hope.  It’s spare, poignant and hilarious, and it’s different.  For a couple of hours you can immerse yourself in an alien environment.  For a while you can really imagine what it must be like to work in a failing sock factory in the middle of Uruguay.  And no holiday you take is ever going to give you that feeling!

The 2013 Czech film Honeymoon was also tantalisingly good.  It opens with a marriage (obvs) and again, took me to a country I’ve never visited.   It was good to have some of my preconceptions shattered and to see an insider’s view of somewhere different.  At the upmarket wedding reception, all is not as it first seems (is it ever?).  As a stranger enters the fold, a sense of growing menace looms and different layers are peeled away to reveal the horrible secrets beneath.  My job is to present the idealised version of love and marriage, but it’s not a one-dimensional concept.  Peeping at the dark underbelly of an institution reminds me to balance out my stories with elements of shade as well as sunshine.

I use film to give me ideas for new heroes.  No, honestly.  Watching gorgeous men on screen is a legitimate source of research!  I like watching actors who capture the irresistibility of the alpha male which readers can’t get enough of.  The younger Mickey Rourke just oozed sex-appeal – not only in the mercury-rising Nine And A Half Weeks but also the classic thriller Angel Heart.

Some actors are sexy without even trying – check out David Wilmot in Shadow Dancer if you want to see a man who is brooding and quietly powerful.   He inspired me so much that I asked our editorial director if she thought an ex-terrorist could ever make a bone-fide hero.  She said?  No.

I watch a film a week, at least.  I think of it as creative medicine and never lose that sense of excitement and anticipation as the lights go down.  It transports you.  It’s magic.

And everyone needs a spell in the cinema…

Sharon Kendrick

You can follow Sharon on Twitter, or pick up a copy of her latest novel The Sheikh’s Christmas Conquest.

Or to get to know the other authors involved in the festival click here. 

Audrey Hepburn’s Spaghetti al Pomodoro #BFILoveFest

AUdrey spaghetti pomodoro imge for BFI Love fest

Spaghetti al Pomodoro


1.5 kg vine-ripened  tomatoes, cored and coarsely diced

1 onion, peeled and left whole 1 stalk celery, cleaned and left whole

1 carrot, cleaned and left whole

6 basil leaves, chopped, plus whole leaves for garnish

Extra-virgin olive oil Pinch sugar


Freshly ground black pepper

500 g spaghetti


To cook the spaghetti al dente, fill a large pot with cold water and place over high heat. When the water comes to a boil add a handful of coarse salt and the pasta, without breaking it.

When done, remove the pasta pot from the stove (perhaps even a minute sooner than the cooking time suggested on the package). Drain in a colander and add the pasta to the sauce with a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Toss well and garnish with a few leaves of basil.

Start by cooking the tomatoes in a large pan with lid over a high heat, with the onion, the celery, and the carrot for about 10 minutes to soften the vegetables.

Remove the lid and keep the boil for another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon.

Lower the heat to medium-low, and add the basil leaves and a drizzle of oil. The tomato sauce is ready when, as they say in Naples, “pipiotta,” in other words when the bubbles are no longer made of water but rather small craters of sauce. Remove from  the stove, remove the largest vegetable chunks, and allow the sauce to cool.

A stainless steel food mill—the hand-operated type—is necessary once the cooking is complete, in order to transform the tomato sauce and pieces of vegetables into a puree of the right consistency. It will also remove the bitter skins and tomato seeds.

Add a drizzle of olive oil and adjust bitterness with a pinch of sugar. Season with salt and pepper.


Mums Amatriciana

Mum also loved pasta all’amatriciana. The classic version is prepared by cutting some guanciale (cheek lard) into small strips and browning in a small skillet until crisp. If guanciale is not available use pancetta or bacon. Add to the pureed sauce  and simmer over low heat for a few minutes. Mum’s version was lighter; she used prosciutto crudo instead of guanciale, and once it was browned, she blotted the fat using paper towels.


Choosing Tomatoes: The first thing is to find the tomatoes. There are no set rules: the right tomato is simply the one that makes the best sauce (salad tomatoes are another thing). In Italy we usually pick San Marzano tomatoes, but in the right season you can probably find something appropriate in a shop around the corner. In Switzerland, for example, I discovered surprisingly good tomatoes from Berne.

If possible, however, grow your own. The tomato plant is not very demanding and can be grown easily in a pot (or large tin) on a terrace or a sunny windowsill, with very  little  hassle.

Taken from Audrey at Home: Memories of my mother’s kitchen, a unique biography with recipes, recollections and anecdotes.

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10 Best Love Songs on an Eighties Movie Soundtrack @HadleyFreeman #BFILoveFest

Hadley Freeman book coverCountdown of Hadley Freeman’s best love songs from 80s movies is an extract from her fabulous book Life Moves Pretty Fast.

10 ‘Almost Paradise’, by Mike Reno and Ann Wilson, from Footloose
The song from when the kids are waiting for the prom to start. A classic eighties duet.

9 ‘It Might Be You’, by Stephen Bishop, from Tootsie
One giant cheese mountain of a song, and that is no bad thing.

8 ‘Let’s Hear it for the Boy’, by Deniece Williams, from Footloose
Everything about this song, including the spelling of the singer’s name, is adorable.

7 ‘I Melt With You’, by Modern English, from Valley Girl
This song should be better known. The movie, on the other hand, should not.

6 ‘Hungry Eyes’, by Eric Carmen, from Dirty Dancing
Quality keyboard intro, bonus points for use in the best montage of the decade.

5 ‘Take My Breath Away’, by Berlin, from Top Gun
This song is so good it makes having sex with Tom Cruise seem almost sexy.

4 ‘(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life’, by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes, from Dirty Dancing
It is a testament to the quality of love songs from eighties films that this classic is not at number one.

3 ‘Waiting for a Star to Fall’, by Boy Meets Girl, from Mannequin
Terrible film, amazing song from the best one-hit-wonder band of all time.

2 ‘In Your Eyes’, by Peter Gabriel, from Say Anything
The most beautiful song in the world, and that is a scientific fact.

1 ‘She’s Like the Wind’, by Patrick Swayze, from Dirty Dancing
Patrick Swayze sang AND wrote this little piece of genius. Obviously it’s number one.

Hadley Freeman brings us her personalised guide to American movies from the 1980s – why they are brilliant, what they meant to her, and how they influenced movie-making forever in her fabulous book Life Moves Pretty Fast.