I may be getting soft in my old age. The Hallmark channel recently had a 16 (yes - Sixteen) hour marathon of movies based on the books by Janette Oke collectively called The Love Saga. I DVR'd them all (I couldn't watch them then - the Olympics were on and I barely had a life already). They are Christian Historical Western Romances based on one family as they pass through several generations. I have not read the books, thus my comments are solely based on the movies. So let's break this down...
Christian - if you are into that, these are made for you - if you aren't, you can overlook this aspect and still appreciate I think. What does it mean for the story: There is a lot of talk about God and faith and praying for answers and such. It also means that every disagreeable misunderstood person will typically end on a happy note having learned something and grown as a person (and as a person of faith) because of their interaction with or within our primary family.
Historical Western - they all take place in roughly the 1860 - 1880/90 period while we were settling this country and times were plenty tough. What does this mean for the story: It means that a lot of people die, a lot of people have babies, a lot of people get first and second husbands/wives and there are plenty of adopted children (cuz a lot of people are dying). The family is defined as whoever you choose to include in it - thru adoption, marrying, blood, or friendship ( I like the inclusiveness of this family definition).
Romance - Yes, it has the typical romantic formula for happy endings which I love and is why I read so much in the romance genre. What does this mean: Every movie is about a couple finding their way to love and the alter. It also means that everyone stays together forever... unless one of them dies.
Is it formulaic? Yes, but all genre stuff is - not just romance - get over it.
Does every single story line get wrapped up and usually happily so? Yes - we can all use some positivity in our lives despite all the hardships of frontier life and everyone dying.
Is it sappy-sweet? Oh heck yes! Sugar-shock sappy-sweet (except right when someone is dying - but then shortly after yes again).
Is anything surprising? Mostly no, but I was shocked (and appalled when my favorite hottie husband died....sniff).
Is it trying to make you cry? At every given opportunity - darn it all. Geez - I hate crying and am cold-hearted (I've mentioned this) and I shed a few tears I'll admit, grudgingly (maybe more than a few - I'll never tell). Even if you know it's coming and you are prepared and may even find the situation corny, when whatever is going to happen happens - you cry. Grrrrr.
Is it addicting? Yes again - I sat and watched all eight movies over the course of one evening and the entire next day! I had no self control and only stopped overnight because I didn't want to fall asleep and miss something.
It has some really good actors in the movies (Katherine Heigl, Patty Duke, a young January Jones, and Dale Midkiff) a slew of cutie pie guys (some are just downright smokin' hot) for our gals to fall in love with, advocates for literacy and education (always a plus to my mind), and has strong women (another plus). All in all, I say I liked them (OK - I liked them a lot...told ya I''m getting soft) and if romance is a genre (with or without the Christian aspect) that you are into - then watch. Here are the eight movies in order: Love Comes Softly, Love's Enduring Promise, Love's Long Journey, Love's Abiding Joy, Love's Unending Legacy, Love's Unfolding Dream, Love Takes Wing, Love Finds a Home.