Friday, July 23, 2010

Hope Tarr's "The Tutor"

Hope Tarr is the award-winning author of more than a dozen historical and contemporary romance novels, including The Tutor (Harlequin, July 2010).

Here she shares some casting ideas for an adaptation of the new novel:
Period pieces adapted to film are my personal favorite. There’s something about imagining oneself in a far away, and presumably more genteel time, that screams romance, glamour, and yes, escape.

Flash backward in time to late 19th century Scotland. Victoria is still queen, the English empire is still sufficiently vast that the sun never sets on all of it, and technological advances such as the telephone and telegraph are finding their way into middle and upper class daily life.

The hero of The Tutor, Ralph Sylvester (maybe his real name, probably not) holds court as a scalawag turned semi-respectable private secretary in the Scottish castle now owned by his friend and former partner-in-crime. Fortunately for the sensually curious and newly engaged Lady Beatrice Lindsey, Ralph’s…skills extend well beyond dictation and telegraph wiring. When Bea makes Ralph an indecent proposal he can’t refuse, to teach her everything he knows about sex in preparation for her wedding night, seven sexy days and nights ensue.

Ralph is inspired, dare I say modeled, on fair-haired Aussie TV and film actor, Simon Baker. I’ve followed Simon Baker’s…career for some time now. My fan-ship started late in the game when Baker starred as Nick Fallon on the short-lived CBS drama series, The Guardian (2001-2004). A recovering coke-addicted attorney, Simon’s Fallon found redemption through child advocacy despite being thwarted in love. I so wanted to help him out. With the love part, I mean.

But it’s Baker’s current portrayal of yet another tortured anti-hero, Patrick Jane on the hit crime solving series, The Mentalist that gave me the idea for The Tutor. As a former con artist turned police investigator with razor sharp observational skills, Baker’s vest-wearing Jayne strikes the perfect balance between being tortured by the past and exhibiting jaunty cockiness in the present.

Mentally casting the female parts feels like slightly less fun but cast them I do. For my heroine, Lady Beatrice, Scarlett Johansson is my hands-down primary pick. The tall, nubile blonde exhibits the perfect balance of innocence and sensuality, of vulnerability and yes, pluck. Roles in The Horse Whisperer, Lost in Translation, and The Other Boleyn Girl, the latter a film adaptation of Phillippa Gregory’s historical novel of same name—hey, I’m just sayin’—show Johansson has the talent and then some to back up her classic Hollywood sexy starlet looks.

For her caring if occasionally uptight older sister, Kate, I’m seeing Emily Blunt. In The Young Victoria, Blunt shows she has the acting chops to carry off leading lady status and admittedly “Kate” is a secondary character. Then again, maybe Blunt’s affinity for all things nineteenth century—she also appeared in the ensemble film, The Jane Austen Book Club—will prompt her to throw this not quite starving if hopeful Harlequin “authoress” a proverbial bone.

“Let them eat cake,” is well, so very eighteenth century.
Look for The Tutor in bookstores now, and visit Hope Tarr's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue