I recently read Janice Kay Johnson’s All That Remains (Harlequin Superromance #1736), which was just released. The heavily pregnant heroine is caught in a flash flood and finds sanctuary in the attic of an abandoned house where the hero, unable to rescue her in his boat, joins her and delivers her baby. Several days pass before help comes.
Reading Johnson’s new book set me to thinking about other cabin romances, a subset of romances beloved by readers who prefer an intense focus on the hero and the heroine. Not all novels labeled “cabin romance” take place in a cabin; the hero and heroine may also be trapped together on an island, on board a ship, or in some other isolated location. The essential element is that they are forced into one another’s company for an extended period of time with little to no contact with others. During this period of forced togetherness, they fall in love.
Generally I want rich contexts in the romances I read, and that typically requires secondary characters whose interactions with the H/H’s interaction are significant. But there is something to be said for the intensity of the cabin romance, and I do have my favorites. My top five (in chronological order) include two European historicals, one American historical, and two contemporaries (both categories).
1. White Lies (Silhouette Intimate Moments #452, 1988) by Linda Howard
Jay Granger is called to the hospital bedside of a man the FBI tells her is her ex-husband. His injuries are severe and bandages make it impossible for Jay to recognize him. By the time he regains consciousness and she realizes his eyes are the wrong shade of brown, she has fallen for him. “Steve” is suffering from amnesia and accepts his relationship with Jay. In fact, he can’t understand why they split up. A Colorado cabin gives them a safe place to fall deeper in love and, of course, to fall in bed as well. But the bad guys are still out there, and “Steve” is regaining his memory. Melodramatic? Yes, but I weep nonetheless and count on Jay and her man to defeat evil and earn their HEA.
2. The Snow Angel (1991) by Mary Balogh
Widow Rosamund Hunter, fed up with her dictatorial brother, walks away from his carriage and is caught in a snowstorm. Justin Halliday, the Earl of Wetherby, is headed for a friend’s hunting box, even though his plans for his stay there have gone awry, when he comes upon Rosamund and offers her a seat in his carriage and shelter from the storm in the hunting box. Isolated for three days, the pair surrenders to the attraction they feel for one another, understanding that what they share is a brief, if perfect, interlude because Wetherby’s betrothal will soon be announced. When the snow melts, they separate. But they meet again at a houseparty where the betrothal between Wetherby and his family’s choice for his bride will become official. The bride-to-be is Rosamund’s niece, daughter of her overbearing but affectionate brother. I’m less than enamored of the houseparty section, but the snowbound section is a wonderful mix of laughter, playfulness, and passion between two people who like as well as desire each other.
3. The Horsemaster’s Daughter (1999) by Susan Wiggs
Hunter Calhoun, a widower with two troubled children, is one step from losing everything. His last hope was invested in the Irish thoroughbred that he’s about to destroy when he hears of Flyte Island, the home of a horsemaster who works magic on horses. Eliza Flyte has inherited her deceased father’s magic way with wild horses, and she possesses a healing touch for a wounded hero and his family as well. The novel works its own magic on the reader.
4. Snowbound (Harlequin Superromance #1454, 2007) by Janice Kay Johnson
Fiona MacPherson and eight of her students are returning from an academic competition when they are stranded in a blizzard and find shelter at a mountain lodge owned by Iraqi War veteran John Fallon. Atypical because of the presence of eight teenagers, this 2008 Rita-winner qualifies as a cabin romance nonetheless. The H/H are trapped together for several days and come to know each other with an intimacy that would have been improbable in other circumstances. This book shows how emotionally powerful and satisfying a category can be.
5. Surrender of a Siren (2009) by Tessa Dare
Runaway bride Sophia Hathaway, disguised as a governess in route to Central America, buys passage on the ship Aphrodite in search of adventure, freedom, and passion. Former privateer Benedict “Gray” Grayson, owner of the ship, is set on repairing his scandalous reputation for the sake of his younger siblings. Some might place this one in a separate, shipboard romance category, but since Sophia and Gray are forced into one another’s company for over half the book, much of it isolated in a cabin, I label it as a cabin romance. As a bonus, it has one of the best first-kiss scenes ever.
Janga spent decades teaching literature and writing to groups ranging from twelve-year-olds to college students. She is currently a freelance writer, who sometimes writes about romance fiction, and an aspiring writer of contemporary romance, who sometimes thinks of writing an American historical romance. She can be found at her blog Just Janga and tweeting obscure bits about writers as @Janga724