I love “the rake and the ingenue;” I love the Benedick-and-Beatrice couples who banter their way into love. And I love couples who get back together after years apart. That device cropped up twice for me this week, first while reading Natural Born Charmer, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and then while watching As the World Turns.
Phillips’ 2007 novel finds Chicago Stars’ quarterback Dean Robillard en route to his under-renovation Tennessee farmhouse and meeting a remarkable woman, Blue Bailey, in a beaver costume. Hilarity ensues. But Natural Born Charmer is also a painful story about parents and children and the possibility of a second chance for rock star Jack Patriot and ex-groupie, April Robillard, who had a mutually destructive relationship over 30 years ago, and never got each other out of their systems. And the test of a good story is when you want people to work things out even though they hurt one another.
And how can you talk about that premise without talking about ATWT‘s Craig and Rosanna? Theirs is a classic soap saga. They had a perfect marriage; they were two like minds, both from privileged backgrounds… and then Rosanna wanted a child and Craig’s dark nature reasserted itself. Actually, the combination of Ro wanting a child and Craig being a bastard ruined two of their marriages… ultimately rendering her comatose after Craig ran her off the road in 2005.
So how do you come back from your husband causing your car crash? (Amongst other crimes.) Well, it takes about four years and two recasts. When Jon Lindstrom joined ATWT in 2008, it was as a Craig who was no less ruthless than the previous incarnations, but also a Craig determined determined to set things right. He struggled to be a father again, and then fell in love with Rosanna’s sister, Carly, enabling her and then helping her through a wrenching alcoholism storyline. By the time Cady McClain brought Rosanna back, with the character having undergone an emotional transformation, Craig had learned enough lessons to be changed… but not enough to instantly earn Ro’s trust.
And that’s where we are now: Two people who’ve been through the worst together are trying to forge a truce, a friendship, for the sake of Carly’s kids… and it’s awesome. McClain and Lindstrom argue like it’s foreplay. History and bitterness is right there between their characters, but also a real sense of partnership. They just work. Make no mistake, Craig has been a reprehensible sleaze at times, but what always saves him is that his love for his family is sacrosanct. Well, that and his charm. He’d sell you the Brooklyn Bridge and you’d buy it twice.
Craig: You can dump on me all you want. I can take care of myself. But I won’t let you ruin Teri’s reputation.
Rosanna: Her reputation? I have done nothing but give that girl a job and a place to stay! You took her to a hotel and got her pregnant. If anybody’s ruined her reputation, it’s you, not me.
Craig: Oh, my gosh. Why didn’t I see this before? You’re obsessed with the idea of everyone else having hot, steamy sex because you’re not getting any. (Rosanna slaps him) What’s the matter? A little too close to home?
Rosanna: Get out.
Craig: Why, so you can call Carly and do your best to ruin our relationship?
Rosanna: You don’t have a relationship with my sister anymore.
Craig: We love each other, and you’re so jealous of that, you can hardly stand it.
Rosanna: I am not jealous. I don’t want you. Can’t you take that? I will never let you touch me again. The very thought of you touching me makes me sick! (She gasps as Craig pulls her close.)
Craig: Yeah? Is that what I see in your eyes? Disgust, revulsion? Or is there something else?
It was something else. It was definitely something else. And if Parker hadn’t interrupted, it would’ve been something more. As it stands, it was some darned good soap… and the perfect precursor to a renewed romance.