Meghan Markle‘s most recent role might have been as the clever Rachel Zane on Suits, but did you know she has also been in two Hallmark Channel movies? Yes, it’s true! You want to watch them so bad, don’t you? Yes, you do! It’s the most perfect way to while away a few hours.
Cozily predictable, #relatable, and all kinds of sweet fun, When Sparks Fly and Dater’s Handbook are just what Hallmark movies should be: the movie equivalents of Uggs. The future Duchess is just as approachably charming to watch as you’d expect; she radiates loveable charisma as a capable, professional woman on the hunt for love. (It’s a shame neither film involves a prince, but we have real life for that, I guess!)
If you’re curious about Markle, there’s lots of fodder here. You can see her laugh, cry, and kiss non-Prince Harrys, all in delightfully digestible packages. To help you along your way, here’s everything you need to know about When Sparks Fly and Dater’s Handbook. (For one thing, both movies involve cake.) And when you’re done, watch Markle explain her love for Hallmark in an interview here. I think all of this calls for a new holiday: Happy HallMarkle!
Note: Spoilers galore!
Who does Meghan Markle play? Cassandra Brand, a.k.a Cass, a smart business owner who just keeps picking the wrong men! (LOL, in real life, she’s engaged to a prince, don’t worry.) She seems to be a very nice lady. Note: She loves her dog, Duke, a lot. She even has a dog treadmill for him! Those cost, like, $600!
The dog can WALK ITSELF, okay?
What’s the set-up? Relationship expert Dr. Susie is holding court on morning TV. “Why are so many women having issues finding the right men in today’s dating world?” she asks. “Ladies, the problem is not the men in your life…It’s you.” Ouch. Luckily, she’s selling a manual for gals who struggle to choose good guys. It’s called (can you guess?) The Dater’s Handbook. “My husband is consistent, predictable, and average in every way,” Dr. Susie says. That’s what you should want! Cass is not having it. Or is she?
Who is her terrible boyfriend? Meet Peter (Matt Hamilton). On the one hand, he brings her free wings at the bar where he works! Honestly, put him in the Boyfriend Hall of Fame. On the other hand, he can’t remember basic facts about his gf. For example, she’s allergic to honey—which happens to be in the wings he brought her. Honestly, get it together!
Given this thoughtlessness, it’s no surprise when Peter refuses to accompany Amy to her employee’s wedding. Sorry, but Peter doesn’t do weddings. Sure, I get it, the wedding industrial complex is a scam! Oh, wait: He’s not taking a principled stand. He just hates being asked when HE’S going to get married.
So Cass is going to said nuptials on her own. Dump him, I say! Which she eventually does, when she realizes his idea of a great date is to have her watch him practice his baseball swing. Zzzzzz. Bye, Peter.
You sure about that tie, dude?
Meet-Cute #1: At the wedding, Cass gets put at the kids’ table. Hehehehe. So does Robert Zappia (Kristoffer Polaha), whose lavender tie is a bit questionable, but whatever. He’s at the kids’ table too, and defuses the situation by calling it “the best table in the entire place.” To which one little lass in a flower crown giggles and says, “You’re one cool dude.” I wish I were joking, but I am not.
Cass eats some of Wedding Guy’s cake, which, as I now know after “accidentally” doing this to everyone I ever meet, might be considered “flirting” by some. Does he know she’s not single? I don’t think so. Miss Flower Crown tells Robert he’d better ask our gal on a date, but before he knows it, she’s goner than Gone Girl. Better luck next time, friend.
Meet-Cute #2: Cass and Robert meet at the dog park. Wearing the same thing. With basically the same dog. His dog’s name is Daisy, and remember, her dog’s name is Duke. DAISY and DUKE. HOKAY. They might as well hire a plane to skywrite “Made For Each Other.”
“Voulez-vous coucher avec moi? Hahahaha, JK. I will have the steak tartare.”
But wait a minute…: Our girl must be lit up like a Christmas tree, because next thing you know, a very (very, very, very) happy customer asks her on a date, and she’s like, “Uh, ohhhhhh, I…um, I think, sure, yes?” Said gentleman, George, is not exactly the epitome of “chill.” “Great. I will call and make the appropriate arrangements,” he says. Wow, sounds like a very reliable, predictable, nice guy! Methinks Dr. Susie would approve. (But I don’t? First, he’s a client, and second, he’s boring AF. DON’T DO IT, CASS.)
He takes her to a French restaurant, where he proceeds to ORDER IN FRENCH. Siren emoji! He also doesn’t laugh at any of her adorable jokes. Call the fun police! There’s a dullard on the loose, and I think he works for them.
You know what’s really annoying? When your nosy sister encourages you to date the Living Piece of Cardboard instead of the Pretty Charismatic Despite His Lavender Tie Guy. But sister Nadia (Christine Chatelain) is adamant: Dr. Susie is right! Boring is best! Sigh.
But you know what’s really awesome? When your mom (Lynda Boyd) meets Breathing Drywall and is like, “I don’t think so, babe! The other guy has a personality!”
Do they kiss? The answer is yes.
When Sparks Fly
Who does Meghan Markle play? Amy Peterson of Lakeside, Washington, has a sweet best friend, Sammie (Kristina Pesic), with whom she loves to eat cupcakes. A true family girl, Amy helps her parents out with their fireworks business. As well as cupcakes, she loves chips and ribs. Amy’s a simple gal with simple tastes! Just like you ‘n’ me. She also has nice boyfriend, Hank (Christopher Jacot). He’s a perfectly nice boyfriend! But…we’ll see about that.
The Fourth of July: By the way, I hope you like the Fourth of July, because this movie is literally about the Fourth of July! I counted, and they say “Fourth of July” about one millionty times. Which means I have to, as well.
Here is an actual printed photograph depicting young love.
The set-up: Amy just got the job of her dreams, as a reporter for the Chicago Post. Which is too bad for Hank, who’s hiding an engagement ring behind his back—which he sadly tucks back into his pocket when he hears her good news. Heartbroken Hank! Don’t worry, we’ll be seeing you again.
Fast-forward: Seven years later, there’s Meghan Markle, I mean, Amy, in Chicago! She’s sitting in an editorial meeting and pitches a story about her parents and their fireworks company, just in time for…THE FOURTH OF JULY. Looks like our girl is heading home for the holiday.
But wait, there’s a Fancy Guy in the picture now: Amy’s Great Chicago Adventure did get in the way of her and Hank’s relationship, after all. Now, she’s seeing big-shot Phil (Lochlyn Munro), a man of refined interests; he travels a lot, talks about opera, and takes her to a French restaurant. (Again with the bistros!) But remember, Amy is not a fancy lady. She orders a hamburger instead of the foie gras terrine or whatever French people eat. Don’t judge her. She likes ribs! She stores her shoes in the oven! Hmmmm, this love match seems like a mismatch to me.
Yes, this is her WEDDING DRESS. I told you Sammie loves the Fourth of July.
Back at home: You HAVE to be kidding me. Apparently, Sammie—Amy’s BEST FRIEND—is engaged to Hank, Amy’s ex???? And didn’t tell her????? And now they’re getting married. That’s weird, right? So weird. Sammie, you’re not the best friend I’ve ever seen, TBH.
Also, Sammie has gone full Bridezilla. She has fired three wedding planners. Her wedding theme is THE FOURTH OF JULY. She wants everything to be red, white, and blue. Hank, get out of there! Your fiancée makes poor decisions. Plus, you’re clearly still in love with Amy, so that’s a thing.
That’s the look of a man in love…with the wrong lady.
Look, Amy is having doubts: Everyone is impressed with her; she made it in the big city. But coming home has given her a different perspective: “I know it probably seems pretty good on paper, this big hectic life I have,” she says. “But sometimes I just feel like none of it is real.” Cue violins.
Like, really, really big doubts: In the middle of the wedding rehearsal dinner, Amy can’t handle it anymore and goes outside for some air. Hank follows like a puppy, trying to sniff out what’s wrong. (And whether she still loves him.) “I went after the wrong dream,” says Amy tearfully. “I just didn’t realize it. And I lost the person I cared about the most.” Hank is all about to be like I LOVE YOU, but here comes Sammie. Oops.
All’s well that ends well: Honestly, Sammie’s pissed that her fiancé is still in love with his old girlfriend and that her best friend stole her fiancé. But if we’re all being honest here, she deserved what was coming to her for having this heinous themed wedding. Anyhow, she forgives Amy, because she realized she was more excited about the wedding itself (convenient). And guess who also happens to just love the Fourth of July? A certain fancypants called Phil…ah, don’t you love a happy ending?
Dater’s Handbook is scheduled to air on Hallmark Channel on January 30 and February 10. When Sparks Fly can be streamed at Hallmark Movies Now.