Why These Two Tales Will Make Your Valentine's

Fancy something to tug on the heartstrings this Valentine's? Here are just a few reasons Lorna Doone and Wives and Daughters are just the thing.

Lorna Doone


It goes without saying Valentine's is a time for grand love stories, and with Lorna Doone and Wives and Daughters, you'll be embroiled in two very different types. The first is a tempestuous epic of helpless passion with shades of Romeo and Juliet and Wuthering Heights, while the second is a more restrained, Jane Austen-like story of unvoiced adoration which will have you on tenterhooks for the clever, underappreciated heroine.

Let's start with Lorna Doone, based on a great 19th Century novel set in the wilds of Exmoor. This is an ominous, untamed landscape that even Heathcliff might steer clear of, and it's the stalking ground of the Doones - a notorious family of vicious ruffians. One man with a personal score to settle is John Ridd, whose father was murdered by the Doones. But his plans for revenge are complicated when he falls in love with the ravishing Lorna Doone, a sworn enemy by blood, who also happens to be betrothed to the worst member of the Doone clan.

Then there's Wives and Daughters, an exquisite tale from the great Victorian author Elizabeth Gaskell. Adapted by Andrew Davies, the man who gave us the Colin Firth-flavoured Pride and Prejudice adaptation, it's the story of Molly, the daughter of a humble doctor, whose life is turned upside down when father marries a selfish, social-climbing woman, who has a daughter of her own. A very flirty and flighty daughter who catches the eye of a handsome scientist, who you just know would be a far better match for the intelligent, bookish Molly. But will he see sense? And will Molly overcome the fearsome figure of her new stepmother?


It wouldn't be Valentine's if there weren't some handsome and dashing chaps in period garb to feast your eyes on. Lorna Doone and Wives and Daughters deliver on that front, both with the good guys AND the dastardly villains. Take John Ridd, the vengeful son of a murdered father, who falls madly in love with Lorna Doone. Played by Richard Coyle, bedecked with wavy, Byronic locks and rugged country garb, he could pass for Ross Poldark's brother. His nemesis, Carver Doone, is played by Aiden Gillen, who brings all his dark, wolf-like intensity to the part - a man you'll love to hate.

Meanwhile, over in the more genteel world of Wives and Daughters, there's the passionate scientist and adventurer Roger Hamley, played by Anthony Howell, who is torn between his globe-trotting vocation and his love for the wrong woman. But beware - you might just find yourself guiltily distracted by Iain Glen's scheming and rather awful Mr Preston, who has designs on the woman Roger is besotted with.


It's not just the cast who are striking. These two costume dramas are among the most beautiful ever to be filmed in this country. Lorna Doone immerses us in a dreamy realm of misty forests, hidden gorges, emerald hills and cascading waterfalls which make a swoon-worthy backdrop to the fierce emotions of love and hate being played out before our eyes. The scenery captivated original audiences so much that Exmoor tourist officials were flooded with requests for where to find the exact locations (in truth, it was largely shot in Wales).

Wives and Daughters is also filled with scenic eye-candy. It's a perfect Valentine's getaway to gorgeous country estates like Wentworth Woodhouse and Dyrham Park. Think ornate mansions, trickling fountains and landscape gardens - the kind of idyllic serenity you can lose yourself in, without budging from the comfy nook of the sofa.


What makes these tales so rich isn't just the romantic sub-plots. It's the complexity of the sagas, and how they take on all kinds of juicy themes - from the relationship between fathers and their off-spring, to sibling rivalry, to the rigid social etiquette of their respective eras. It all tugs on us as we watch, whether we're seeing Molly in Wives and Daughters trying to deal with her status in life, or John in Lorna Doone bearing the burden of his fallen father's memory.

In other words, you'll want to have the hankies handy, because these are classic stories packed with poignant revelations and heartbreaking realisations, and coursing with the redemptive power of love. What better fit for this Valentine's season?