If you're a Netflix subscriber, you've seen ads printed inside the red envelopes from time to time. Not long ago, one such ad featured a new series of films based on Nora Roberts novels. I've never read any of her titles, but given the tower of her paperbacks spilling out of the nightstand on the other side of my bed, I had a feeling somebody in my household might enjoy them. But in all honesty, I just wanted to know if these titles offered anything redeeming to men.
First up: Northern Lights, in which a big city cop (Eddie Cibrian, TV's CSI: Miami) takes a gig as a small-town Alaskan sheriff after the death of his partner. He takes a liking to the town's pilot, played by singer LeAnn Rimes, but before he can settle in, he must discover who's offing several of the townspeople. She's cute, but Rimes' acting isn't as good as her singing, and the tabloid headlines of her stealing Cibrian from his wife in real life made me laugh at several lines.
Second: Midnight Bayou, in which a lawyer (Jerry O'Connell, TV's Crossing Jordan) buys a haunted New Orleans mansion. With the help of a local waitress (Lauren Stamile, TV's Grey's Anatomy), he tries to solve the mystery of the house's former occupants before the domicile's sordid history repeats itself. O'Connell, kind of a boob, was totally out of place, but Faye Dunaway as the spookily intuitive grandmother was right on.
Third: Tribute, in which a grown-up child actress (Brittany Murphy, The Dead Girl) moves into her grandmother's old house and strikes up a romance with a neighbor, who is a graphic novelist (Jason Lewis, TV's Sex and the City). But somebody who disliked her grandmother long ago is hell-bent on scaring the girl away. Forgive me for sounding like Us Weekly, but Murphy looked like hell and acted worse, and I found it incredibly unbelievable that anyone would fall for her.
My conclusion: Despite reassurance I've been given that the books are far better than their film counterparts, there's a reason these movies are made for TV and don't hit the big screen: because they're awkward, the characters are stereotypes and I've seen more convincing romance on daytime television.
I still have one more title coming that could completely change my mind, but from where I currently stand, Nora means no.