In seventh grade, a friend lent me her copy of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsong. That book turned me into an instant fan, and over the rest of middle school and high school, and into college, I managed to read almost all of her fantasy novels, and eventually tracked down the mostly forgotten romances she’d written early in her career: The Mark of Merlin (1971), Ring of Fear (1971), and The Kilternan Legacy (1975). In the mid-1980s, in the midst of my largest interest in her writing, McCaffrey wrote another romance and a couple of more literary novels that give pictures of very particular moments in feminism (The Year of the Lucy, 1986, and The Lady, 1987).
The romance Stitch in Snow (1985), remains one of my favorite romance novels ever; it’s also one of the first romance novels I ever read, though I had forgotten that until I began writing this post.
Why do I love it so much? Mostly, it’s for the older heroine, and her somewhat younger hero. I really feel for her as she takes a chance to reaffirm her selfhood, despite her own doubts that she’s too old for love, and has been merely a mother for too long.
The novel beautifully captures some of the issues women were confronting in the 1980s (and today), but does so in the midst of a charming romance in which I was rooting for both characters. It’s first person, from the heroine’s point of view. Her voice draws one in, and for me there’s the added charm of the narrator being a successful writer; it’s a fun fantasy to think of being famous, and there’s enough real detail of what it’s like to make the story ring true, and not feel like a fantasy.
Dana Jane Lovell is a well-known children’s author who’s on a lecture tour when a snowstorm strands her in Denver. She meets fellow passenger Dan Lowell because he asks her about her knitting. Dana doesn’t tell Dan that she’s a writer, and she learns nothing consequential about his life. She tells him that her name is Jane, though he decides to call her Jenny; they remark on the similarity of their surnames.
Because of the snowstorm, the airline puts the passengers up in a hotel for the duration. They get adjoining rooms and Dan talks her into having meals, watching movies, going swimming—and eventually having sex. It’s very romantic; Dan is utterly sweet in his admiration of Dana as he draws her out. When the snowstorm ends, they both continue on their way. Days later, Dana is woken from a sound sleep in another city to be informed that Dan’s been accused of murdering his ex-wife in Denver, and she is his alibi.
The suspense plot isn’t a large part of the story; though the mystery is interesting, it’s quickly solved. It mostly serves to bring Dan and Dana together again for a brief period before Dana returns to her home in Ireland. The brief reunion complicates things. It reminds Dana of how much she likes Dan, but also makes her worry about how he would fit into her everyday life, and how her life would change if she wanted to be with him. She also worries about how a new romance for her would affect her relationship with her son, who’s twenty years old and off at college.
After she returns home, Dana’s doubts and fears are fully explored as she deals with her career and her son, who’s just become involved in a romantic relationship of his own. I like that Dana has a good female friend in this section, something that’s often shortchanged in romance for a focus on the hero. A section that might have been less interesting, because of the offstage hero, is enlivened by the descriptions of Dana’s house (which is totally covetable!) and the sweet relationship she shares with her son.
In some ways, the book shows its age. Dana is less proactive than many heroines of contemporary romance in the 21st century, but her life is full and interesting, told with a strong voice. There’s allure in the gallantry of her hero, as well. For those reasons, the novel still resonates for me on several levels.
Victoria Janssen is the author of three erotic novels and numerous short stories. Her latest novel is The Duke and The Pirate Queen from Harlequin Spice. Follow her on Twitter: @victoriajanssen or find out more at victoriajanssen.com.