The tale that Harry and Meghan hope will save their Hollywood dream

The tale of star-crossed lovers that Harry and Meghan hope will save their Hollywood dream… After a mixed response to their mutual collaborations so far, Netflix has purchased the rights to a book for the Sussexes to adapt

Move over Steven Spielberg. Harry and Meghan are going to be the next big thing in Hollywood. Despite the mixed response to their mutual collaborations so far, Netflix has purchased the rights to a book for the Sussexes to adapt.

Any minute now the dopes are going to become producers and turn the novel into a film under the auspices of their Archewell Production company. Can I let you into a secret? It’s not going to be called Oppenheimer 2.

H&M could have taken their pick from a million books, selected a storyline from thousands of plots, seeded in hundreds of issues, decided upon multiple intellectual twists and happy or unhappy conclusions.

In the end, they have gone for a standard romcom novel called Meet Me At The Lake, by Canadian author Carley Fortune. ‘One Day. One Promise. Two Lives Changed,’ goes the blurb. 

Elsewhere, the book has been described as ‘a breathtaking tale of star-crossed lovers’ and the ‘perfect summery blend of sexy romance and second chances’. Yikes. Tragedy, comedy, none of the above? 

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are adapting Carley Fortune’s novel Meet Me at the Lake for Netflix

Fortune’s book deals with mental health issues — of course it does — and features a plucky central character whose life changes following the death of her mother in a car accident. I see. I get it.

No one needs reminding that Harry lost his mother, Princess Diana, in a crash. Nor that Meghan revealed that she suffered from depression following the birth of her son, Archie. Then there was the incident in Africa when they were both surviving not thriving, and the time Harry got thrown on a dog bowl back in the misery pit of London.

Now Meghan is wearing an anxiety patch on her wrist and Harry is nearly 40, directionless and floating around the Far East playing polo. Sufferance thy name is Sussex! 

It would take Shakespeare himself to do justice to the ongoing traumaquake of this couple’s existence, but perhaps the fact that the novel contains elements of their lives is coincidental and not meant to be biographical. 

We must not read too much into anything, particularly not the fact one of the central characters is called Will, wears a ‘plain gold signet ring on his pinkie’ and is tall and aristocratic. Hang on a minute. As Will is later described as ‘looking like a sex dream’, I think we can safely conclude any resemblance to actual persons is purely detrimental.

Still, what is going on here? It’s like the Kardashians launching a credit card after their Dash boutique and that silly souvenir shop in Las Vegas went bust. All hands to the slump pump. Anything to keep the momentum going!

Indeed, Harry and Meghan are in such desperate need of a hit that no one should be surprised if they soon launch their own brand of tequila or start pimping out the rescue chickens for saucy parts in cluck buddy movies.

Yes, Prince Harry’s autobio-graphy Spare sold millions of copies around the world, but success in other areas has been elusive. Plans for Meghan’s first animated series, Pearl, have been scrapped.

The megamillions Spotify deal ended ingloriously — with an executive later calling the Sussexes ‘grifters’ — and a series of blathering feminist podcasts from Meghan failed to impress anyone except Meghan.

So what next? Making films seems the obvious next step for a couple who have little or no experience of making films. In addition, their grasp of managing big budgets seems to begin and end with asking King Charles for money — but come on, they might yet surprise us with hitherto unknown depths of talent, smarts and graft not grift.

As this bright new future as Hollywood producers beckons, the first question one must ponder is this: why have they opted for this book?

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex at Kingfisher Bay Resort during their 2018 Australian tour 

The only thing we know about their literary tastes is that Meghan likes reading motivational titles and fridge magnets, while all Harry demands of a novel is that it is short. As a joint intellectual force they are not exactly Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre.

In Spare, Harry even takes it upon himself to critique John Steinbeck’s dustbowl classic, Of Mice And Men. ‘It was brief,’ he noted approvingly. ‘150 little pages of nothing.’

Has he even read Meet Me At The Lake? Probably not, but I bet Meghan devoured every page. First published in May and already a best-seller in America, it tells the story of plucky Fern who has to choose between a dream of opening her own coffee shop in Toronto or returning to Muskoka to run the Dirty Dancing-style lakeside hotel owned by her family.

She hasn’t got a father (excellent) and, at one point, says to a lover tormented by his family: ‘I don’t want to be an escape. I want to be the reality.’

There is a love triangle of sorts between childhood sweetheart Jamie and Will. And there is no doubt the book has a certain rustic Canadian charm: Will has a tattoo of a fir tree on his arm, Fern spreads her Ritz cracker with ‘an orangey wedge of cheeseball’ and we learn early on — if we hadn’t already guessed — that it is impossible to have sex in a canoe, although you can j-stroke to your heart’s content.

A j-stroke is just like the Canadian stroke except you don’t pull your paddle out, you push it forwards instead. I’m not making this up.

Then there are moments, whole dazzling paragraphs, that could have come straight from the calligraphy pen of Meghan Markle herself.

‘The sun hasn’t yet risen when I’m woken by a loon’s mournful tremolo,’ was my favourite. Was it that morning in Montecito when Harry discovered his HRH had been expunged from the royal website? Or was it Fern listening to the cry of a waterbird echoing over Lake Muskoka? You’ll have to watch the film to find out.

So who’s behind the best selling romance?

She’s a brunette, a mother of two young children and describes herself as a feminist.

So Carley Fortune, author of Meet Me At The Lake, already had much in common with Meghan before Netflix snapped up the rights to her novel, to be produced by Harry and Meghan’s Archewell Productions.

She is also something of a Meghan fan, judging by articles and tweets she wrote as a journalist before turning novelist, which date back to tweeting the then-actress Markle was ‘going places’ after binge-watching Suits.

Fortune has always had a way with words. An avid reader as a child, she studied at Toronto Metropolitan University School of Journalism, graduating in 2006.

She later worked as an editor and was, briefly, editor-in-chief at Canadian publication Chatelaine. More recently, she was an executive editor at Refinery29, an online entertainment site for young women. But after what she describes as a ‘very upsetting work call’ in 2020, she took a leap to fulfil her dream of writing a book.

Juggling childcare, a second pregnancy and full-time job (she remained at Refinery29 until late 2021), she aimed to complete her manuscript by the end of that year.

By early 2022, her debut novel Every Summer After was complete, she’d signed with LA agent Taylor Haggerty and accepted a two-book deal with Penguin Random House, publishers of Prince Harry’s memoir Spare.

Meet Me At The Lake, her second book, was published this May. Fortune said: ‘I’m thrilled about working with Netflix and Archewell to bring Meet Me At The Lake to the screen.

‘Will and Fern’s love story is dear to my heart, and I can’t imagine a more perfect partnership.’

Projects in the pipeline? A sneak peek into the Archewell Productions files (according to JAN MOIR) reveals plans for books and films which the Sussexes could adapt, remake and perhaps even star in…

Anna Karenina

In this heartbreaker by Tolstoy, Anna (played by Meghan Markle) flees with Count Vronsky (Prince Harry). The thrill of their elopement is soon replaced by regret, loneliness, and paranoia.

Catherine Tyldesley, star of Coronation Street and Cakegate, co-stars as the long suffering Dolly.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

I’m saying nothing.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

Breezy update of the Ken Kesey classic. In the Archewell version a man pretends to be insane to escape the hard labour of a punishing regime. Then later struggles to prove he is sane as he tries to prove the system is rotten. ‘I want a family, not an institution,’ he says. 

The mental health of the rest of the inmates is vastly improved following a series of BetterUp mental health coaching packages via Zoom.

The original One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest in 1975

The Da-Vinci Code

Symbologist Robert Langdon (Prince Harry) and sexy, super-clever cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Meghan Markle) tangle with the unknown following a murder in Paris. 

The Priory of Sion soon hire Robert as an impact officer, while Opus Dei award Sophie a medal for International Achievement In Global Humanity. Did Jesus and Mary ever have a baby? ‘Who cares?’ says Sophie, who has finally cracked what the ctrl button on her keyboard means. ‘It’s all about control,’ she says darkly.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Aloes

In this reworking of the JK Rowling classic, the plucky Duchess of Sussex (Halle Berry) saves the world by discovering that the aloes used in the I’m Still Healing beauty product range have been poisoned by the evil Princess Kate (Miriam Margolyes).

The Bodyguard

Kevin Costner refuses to take a pay cut when his royal exile bosses have to start paying his wages themselves.

‘But my father literally, like, cut me off,’ pleads the Duke of Sussex (Damian Lewis).

In an exciting technical development, Whitney will be played by a hologram of Meghan Markle.

Pride and Prejudice

Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen in Pride and Prejudice 2005

The Austen classic retooled as Mr Darcy (Rupert Grint) falls for paralegal brainbox Elizabeth Bennet (Meghan Markle). 

‘Nothing is more deceitful than the appearance of humility,’ he tells her over a plant-based lunch. ‘Whatever,’ she replies, unimpressed.

Father of the Bride

Let’s not go there either.

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