Leo (Stephen Hagan) and Emily (Lacey Chabert) have been together nearly a year when he reveals a big secret. He’s been studying in Philadelphia under an assumed name, but he’s really Prince Leopold, heir to the throne of Cordinia. Prince Leo brings Emily home for Christmas, and Queen Isadora (Jane Seymour) is pissed. A lowly commoner?!?! Gross. Must protect monarchy from Yankee at all costs.
And make no mistake: Queen Isadora has a plan. The plan’s name is Natasha, Duchess of Warren (played by Seymour’s own daughter, Katherine Flynn). No one much cares for Natasha, but her peerage is suitable, and that seems to be all that matters. Of course, it’s not great for the monarchy if the prince abdicates the throne before he can become king. As the only heir, perhaps the Queen should be a little more flexible with her son. Instead she seems intent on making sure he reigns with a broken heart.
Meanwhile, Emily finds unexpected support in the castle’s staff. A kind butler tucks her under his wing, instructing her on royal etiquette. It won’t be enough to thaw the Queen’s heart, if she does indeed have one; she’s set on humiliating Emily to drive her away. Long live the Queen.
Not to worry: the romance genre guarantees a happy ending. I have a good feeling this one’s going to work out.
Prince Edmond (Jordan Renzo) rarely visits home anymore, so to butter up his mother (the Queen!), he brings her a gift that’s sure to delight her: a third Corgi. One can never have too many Corgis. Little Mistletoe is no doubt a very good boy but the royal Corgi handler refuses to deal with him, not being of royal Corgi lineage, and already being too old to be trainable to a royal standard at just a year old. After an incident with a royal ham, the Crown Prince’s judgment is deemed unfit for rule, which is kind of extreme. To prove his seriousness, he invites an American dog trainer named Cecily (Hunter King) to come rescue his royal butt.
Prince Edward should likely be spending his time getting to know his subjects and country again before his ascension, but mostly continues to be useless. Fortunately, Mistletoe’s naughty side gains the palace some notoriety when he becomes a Youtube sensation, making the monarchy surprisingly relevant for a viral moment.
Dogs make everything better. Mistletoe can humanize an aloof prince, prompt charity work, and even make sparks fly between a lowly commoner and a future King.
Between tours of duty, Dee Dee (Megan Park) is helping her cousin’s bakery land a big account when Colin (Julian Morris) practically mows her down in a hotel lobby, crushing the pastries. She makes him repay her by playing piano for her children’s choir. Then he gets shuffled along to family dinner, where Dee Dee’s family enacts My Big Fat Italian Dinner Party With Gravy, tossing him a towel to help out with dishes, and making up the couch so he can stay over. Naturally, neither Dee Dee nor her family realize that Colin is the Crown Prince of Exeter.
The King and Queen are preparing Colin to assume the crown, but to do that, he’ll have to get married first. His parents have an arranged marriage in mind, so it’s no wonder he falls for Dee Dee instead, a woman willing to bust his balls and even exercise the word ‘no’ once in a while.
Romance tropes abound: secret identities, family traditions, crown-chasing shrews, love across classes, and a charity ball. Most importantly though, Julian Morris has a royal butt that’s actually majestic.
In 2020 I was living in a narrow, dark little world, ignorant that Hallmark had its own shared universes and extended stories. But late last year I came into the light and there’s no looking back now.
Just a week ago I was telling you about One Winter Weekend, in which a couple of gals rented a ski chalet that turned out to be shared with a couple of guys, unbeknownst to all four. They were all mildly attractive and wildly single, so by the end of just one (winter) weekend, they’d coupled up, strangely along race lines. Happily ever after is assumed when you close with a Hallmark kiss, but this particular movie has since reached franchise status with a sequel that gives us a glimpse of what’s been happening in the year since.
In fact, it’s been a very good year for Cara (Taylor Cole), who is now publishing that mystery novel she was working on when we first met her, and boyfriend Ben (Jack Turner) who has indeed founded a new snowboarding company that makes a helmet with a ponytail slot. They’re spending a romantic weekend together at the same chalet that started it all, and Cara suspects an engagement might be imminent. Ben is less sure – Cara is impossible to surprise, plus the weekend’s turning out to be less about romance and more about business as he’s meeting a possible investor there. Oh, and there’s the fact that Megan (Rukiya Bernard) is tagging along, for work. And Sean (Dewshane Williams), well, he gave up his Seattle surgeon gig to be a ski resort doctor full time, so the whole gang’s back together. Not together together – Megan and Sean never made it was a couple – so it’s either going to get super awkward, or shit’s about to get rekindled.
Will Ben’s company get funded? Will Cara get a ring? Will Megan and Sean bump uglies? The possibilities are endless, and each more juicy than the last. Hit them up on Hallmark.
Ten years ago, Faye McArthy (Michele Scarabelli) and Lydia Harper (Jennifer-Juniper Angeli) were best friends, until a pumpkin pie contest was their undoing. Competing against each other with rival pie recipes, their friendship unraveled in front of a live audience as Faye accused Lydia of betraying her, of seizing an opportunity to open “their” bakery alone. Ten years later, the McArthys and the Harpers are sworn enemies with rival bakeries across town from each other. Faye is really hoping to win this year’s pie bake-off to bring much-needed business back into the bakery as times have been tough, but an accident leaves her with an injury that forces her off her feet and out of the kitchen. Daughter Casey (Julie Gonzalo) has heretofore been solely on the business end of the bakery, but now she’ll have to win the contest – and, um, learn to bake first, of course. Meanwhile, over in the Harper bakery, Lydia thinks it’ll be good for business to stoke the family rivalry by sending her own son Sam (Rico Aragon) to compete in her place – 2nd generation feud and so on. Small towns! Rico is a very talented chef who’d love to expand his mother’s business to include more than just pastry, but Lydia is risk-adverse and keeps pushing him off.
Wouldn’t you know it, Sam and Casey have no vested interest in carrying on their family’s feud and in fact agree to help each other out: Casey will help Sam create a viable business plan to present to his mother, and Sam will teach Casey how to bake. Like any good Hallmark movie (or indeed, any bad Hallmark movie), Sam and Casey fall in love, because that’s what happens when you spend time with someone. But wait! They both actually really need to win this competition for their moms! Can their relationship possibly survive the rivalry? Or will their feelings allow them to find a common goal? One can only hope…
This movie made me rationally angry. I rolled my eyes, I yelled in vain, I gestured wildly, I made that little vein in my forehead swell up in anger, I put my heartrate in the danger zone, I made myself into a furious little anger ball until I got the sweats, but every bit of it, I assure you, was a rational reaction. I’ve been watching loads of Hallmark movies lately, and though their premises tend not to be grounded in reality, I’ve been surprisingly cool about it. I just watched an animated film that I basically called a sexist dumpster fire, and while I wasn’t cool about it, nor did I overheat. But this movie? This movie really got my goat.
Ally (Italia Ricci) is a contestant on a dating reality show that wants to remind you of The Bachelor without treading on any copyright laws, and without the constraints of actual reality. By the time The Bachelor airs, the season has been done taping for months, and the editors have worked their magic, manipulating the reels and reels of footage into a pseudo-narrative that plays up the drama and crafts characters the audience will both root for and hate. In the Winterland universe, the shows are taped one a time. Ally doesn’t live in a mansion with the other contestants, she goes home to her apartment, watches the show with her friends, and has no idea how things will pan out because that’s next week’s episode. In next week’s episode, in fact, Ally is surprised when eligible bachelor and “international man of many hats” Tanner (Jack Turner) selects her for the Hometown Date.
It’s been ages since Ally’s been to Winterland (the apparent actual name of her hometown), and while she’s thrilled to see her parents and to show Tanner around town, the reason she’s stayed away keeps rearing his ugly head. Brett (Chad Michael Murray), the ex who broke her heart, shows up a lot. Like, he’s hanging out with her parents on the regular, apparently. Plus she’s staying at the hotel he owns. And he likes to eat/eavesdrop in the next booth over at the local dinner…you get the point. And as soon as the producers smell drama, they’re pushing the three of them together like love triangles are going out of style. On a dating reality show!
Even though there’s nothing wrong with Tanner and everything wrong with heartbreaker Invasive Brett, the film really wants us to root for Brett and Ally getting back together. Even though Chad Michael Murray has inexplicably decided to do this film in a Batman voice! Plus Brett acts like a jealous brat and claims to have pined for Ally despite the fact that he broke up with her by never showing his face again, which is hella rude and awkward, and doesn’t seem to know what personal boundaries are. Brett is a yuck human being, and I’m not even that big of an Ally fan, and I still don’t want her to end up with a garbage boyfriend. I mean, she’s on reality TV so clearly she’s willing to risk it. Don’t worry guys, she’s only really there to promote a job she doesn’t even like. As if that makes it better. She sold her soul for nothing!
There’s no way you’re desperate enough for cheesy romance to watch this movie. If you’re on the Hallmark channel already, there’s plenty to choose from, and almost all of them will be better than this.
On Saturday evening, I was wakened at approximately 6:30pm (go ahead and judge) by a siren blaring from my phone. Our new lockdown curfew was set to commence at 8pm and the government saw fit to wake me up in order to warn me to stay home. Not to worry: I’ve been home. I’m doing my part. The last time I was out of my home was 3 weeks ago, before Christmas, for bloodwork. The time previous was 3 weeks before that, for an MRI. You get the idea. Medical appointments only. Sean leaves the house for 3 things: food, prescriptions, and work when it absolutely necessitates it. We support the lockdown and the curfew and yes, even the siren. We have radically changed our behaviour in order to support the collective well-being. It’s not easy, but it’s saving lives, so there’s no question that it must be done. There’s also no question that it isn’t always easy. Last weekend we jacked up the heat in the house, dragged our garden lounge chairs out of storage, donned our swimsuits, and served up margaritas, pretending we were on the beach in Mexico, one of our favourite winter escapes. We are travelers. 2020 was the first year we didn’t travel outside of the country, and that’s only partially true because we were actually already in (real) Mexico when we rang in the new year, so we started off the year abroad and had lots of plans to keep it up, all of which had to be cancelled when the pandemic hit. Which is fine. We just miss it. And I bet most if not all of you do too. Even if you’re not in the habit of travelling annually, the mere fact of being on lockdown has given most of us cabin fever, so we’re dreaming of destinations more frequently than ever. Luckily, even lockdown affords us certain escapes, and movies continue to be one of them. They may not be playing in theatres, but they’re still playing right in your living room, and even a made for the Hallmark channel movie like this one can transport you to a new and interesting place.
Most Hallmark movies start off with stock footage of New York City, or perhaps Chicago. They never film there. They film in Utah, or Vancouver. But once in a blue moon, they film in an exotic location, and this is one of those rare and beautiful times when they did just that.
Iceland is a beautiful country; I’ve never been but I’m definitely not opposed! Chloe (Kaitlin Doubleday) heads there when she needs a little adventure and inspiration, tapping her college group of travel buddies to join her, including (accidentally) her ex, Charlie (Colin Donnell). Their tour guide shows them everything that Iceland has to offer – hot springs, shopping, museums, ice caves, the northern lights and more – you might almost think that Iceland paid for a very glossy, live-action, movie-like tourism brochure that aired for 84 minutes on the Hallmark channel. Regardless, it is indeed a thing of beauty and I got to travel there vicariously, no luggage hassle, no bulky parkas, and best of all, no breathing in recycled virus air on a plane for 8 hours!
One day, we will travel again, and it will be splendid. It will not be Hallmark perfect. I won’t find room to pack a different scarf for every day of the week, and my lipgloss will occasionally smudge, or wear off completely. Sean won’t profess his undying love for me, and his sweetest gesture will be carrying around my glitter polka dot Kate Spade tote without complaint. And between you and I, NONE of our friends look good in viking hats. But we will travel again. Until then, you might want to engage in some pure escapism with a Hallmark romance.
Spencer (Andrew Walker) came to town to coach skating prodigy Nikki to gold at regionals and beyond, but it’s her former skating teacher Emily (Julie Berman) who catches his eye. Emily is cute, single, and age appropriate, but she’s also a former pro skater herself. She gave it up 8 years ago to care for her dying mother, but Spencer thinks there’s still greatness in her, and when Emily finally allows herself to look deep within, she finds she’s still got the heart of a competitor.
Of course, there are a few obstacles, not even counting her (relatively advanced) age, or the many years she’s spent off the competitive circuit and not in competitive shape. There’s her relationship with Nikki, for starters, a very nice young girl who didn’t really deserve to have her coaching time split though it would seem she was still paying full price. And Nikki’s super alpha competitive mom, Mia, who doesn’t appreciate the interference or a less than militaristic style of coaching . And Nikki’s new coach slash Emily’s old coach, Lindsay, who is ruthless and plays dirty. And a local reporter who puts skating rink gossip on live TV as if people would actually care. And money, always money. And there’s the fact that Emily’s maybe falling in love with Spencer, and Spencer’s maybe falling in love with her. Just a few obstacles to an ideal comeback, but who’s counting?
Between training montages, diner fundraisers, obligatory skate sharpening cuts, and a very odd “kids these days,” “old ladies don’t like rap” scene (wherein the old lady was a 27 year old), there was very little time for romance. Which was just as well because I don’t think Andrew Walker is particularly good at acting in love, an unfortunately flaw when Hallmark is your bread and butter. As much as I rolled my eyes at the title, Take A Shot At Love was a much better skating-themed Hallmark romance, if that’s your jam.
Please for the love of retinol in my skincare and all that is holy, will you please let me know in the comments whether you’ve ever inherited something from a long-lost uncle? And I don’t mean the ones you hear from in your spam folder. Those uncles don’t count. I’m talking cold, hard inheritance, in your hands, at whatever rate of taxation your country pretends is fair.
Clearly all of my uncles are duds. My which of course I mean poor. Or, you know, “middle class” (same difference). But in the movies, uncles are wonderful. They make zero demands on you. You may have even forgotten they exist. You let them die alone in their big old houses and then one day you get that jackpot call from a lawyer who’s almost as incredulous as you are. That’s how it happens Chelsea (Lacey Chabert), only her dead uncle’s lawyer spares her even the awkward phone call. One no-nonsense letter later, she’s the proud owner of a property in Vail. Up until this point she’s been a hard-working party planner in Los Angeles but she suffers – well, not exactly a set back, but a disappointment based on a rumour from Larry in the mailroom she only heard about 20 minutes ago. So I’m not sure how close to her heart this sudden hope could really have been, but between that and her new landfall, she quits her job and high-tails it to Vail, a picturesque ski resort town in Colorado.
In Vail she immediately makes friends with all sorts of Vail legends, who all knew her dead uncle of course, but makes an enemy out of the one man she’ll need to rely on, out of a parking dispute of all things. Owen (Tyler Hynes) is a former architect turned handyman, and he’s the only one who can help her restore her uncle’s house into a livable home (turns out he was mid-renovation, and that phone call might have come in handy after all). Though she no longer has an income, Chelsea somehow finds the money to restore plumbing, heating, flooring and more, all the while kitting herself out in more than one new ski ensemble.
Turns out, handyman Owen is actually in town to help his dad stabilize his struggling restaurant, which used to be co-owned by Chelsea’s uncle. Old Vail is being left behind by tourists for newer, fancier more high-end options, and many businesses are failing. Chelsea decides to put her event planning skills and her dead uncle’s recipe to use, co-founding StrudelFest along with Owen to highlight the charm Old Vail still has to offer.
Romantic strudel making ensues. Strudel wooing follows. But when Chelsea’s old boss comes begging for her to come back, what happens to Vail, to her uncle’s house, and to her new something-something with handyman Owen? Guess you’ll have to watch to find out 😉
Ryan (Luke Macfarlane) is a professional hockey player who’s trying to come back after a complex ankle injury. None of the usual rehab protocols have gotten him to where he needs to be, so his agent proposes something radical: ballet. The agent’s cousin Jenna (Alexa PenaVega) is a former professional dancer who was able to make a comeback after the same injury, using some fundamental ballet exercises. Since her dance studio is struggling, she agrees to take on Ryan as a rehab patient (although, to be clear: she is completely unqualified to do so) and since he’s desperate to get back to the NHL and has no other options, he’s in too.
This Hallmark movie has a ring of The Cutting Edge to it, certainly enough for a toe pick loving girl such as myself to get a little excited just by the premise. Almost all of Hallmark’s winter-but-not-Christmas themed movies are about skiing, so hockey was a nice change of pace. Of course, it wasn’t really about hockey, it was about ballet and ankle injuries. And it wasn’t so much about ballet and ankle injuries as it was about falling in love on the dance floor.
I am rehabbing from my own ankle injury and have been since…2012. Yeah. It’s a crapfest. I was in actual literal rehab for it right before the pandemic hit, and not so much since, unfortunately. I wore nitro patches on my wonky tendon for the past year and have had several cortisone injections in the joint which has now gone arthritic. I just heard back from my doctor after my second (ankle) MRI, which has now been sent off to an orthopedic surgeon who, mark my words, won’t be able to do anything either. I am doomed to limp in pain forever. Although, to be honest…I haven’t tried ballet. At least not since the ankle injury. I did do ballet as a little girl (and despite my expression in the photo, I was generally pretty thrilled about it) but I don’t remember it being very ankle-forward at the time.
To my surprise, Taking A Shot At Love, despite the horrible title, is an unhorrible Hallmark movie. Jenna’s all about that hygge life, Ryan’s not afraid to be unmanned by a woman, and when the power goes out, they keep each other warm. PenaVega and Macfarlane are in Hallmark’s top tier of talent and their charm and chemistry are not just watchable but delightful. If you’re looking for a cozy Hallmark romance to take the edge off, this new addition to their lineup is a straight up goal.