I’m British, and so of course I love to talk about the weather. I’m talking about it even more than usual today, though, as hurricane Sandy tears up the east coast of the US – and this weekend I fly out from rainy Manchester to an even rainier New York, to support my niece in the New York marathon. Just my luck! Fortunately we Brits are also stoically equipped with rainwear, so I’ll be wielding my Mary Poppins style brolly and my wellies whilst my niece battles her way round the course in the high winds.
I’ve spent the past couple of days deciding which romance novels to take with me on my flight, and decided that any that had to do with extreme weather conditions would be an ideal choice.
The weather can often play a useful symbolic role in romantic fiction, as the heroes and heroines find themselves tossed in the storm of their turbulent emotions to a backdrop of whirlwinds, hurricanes and earthquakes.
So, here goes with my selection:
This is a great novel of seething emotions – love, jealousy and lust – simmering with typically English reserve in the midst of one summer heatwave. Pauline is editing a historical romance novel. Her daughter and son-in-law are staying with her in her cottage in the countryside. During the course of their stay the son-in-law falls for another woman. It’s not a true Happy Ever After romance, but it’s an emotional read packed with understatement. The tension under the calm surface is reflected in the heat: ‘Tight, tense days. Blue and gold days in which the sun pours down.’ Eventually the heat breaks in a terrible storm and the novel finishes with an astonishing twist – I won’t spoil the ending!
A researcher, Roland Mitchell, comes across some letters in the British Library which apparently reveal that the Victorian poet he’s researching – Randolph Henry Ashe – had a love affair with a woman not his wife. The news would cause a sensation in the literary world and further his career, and so he determines to discover the truth. Along the way, he falls in love with Maud, another academic. His mad quest for the truth about the poet’s secret love leads to a dramatic scene at Ash’s grave during the terrible English storm of 1987.
(The novel was made into a film – Possession – starring Gwyneth Paltrow as Maud, but I haven’t watched it as I read poor reviews and I always hate to spoil a good novel with a bad film. If you’ve watched the film and disagree with the reviews, please let me know!)
Liz Fielding is one of my favourite Mills & Boon (Harlequin) authors. This book is set on a tropical island. An earthquake entombs the hero and heroine in an underground cave, and they must find their way out – and at the same time find their way around their growing love for each other. It’s not easy to sustain the simmering sexual tension for 50,000 words with only the inside of a cave as scenerey, but Liz Fielding does so with great skill! Will they, won’t they…? I was riveted right to the last word!
This is a tremendously dramatic and romantic novel, set in the seventeenth century in the wilds of Exmoor. It concerns the romance between Lorna Doone, the heroine, and John Ridd, a farmer whose ancestor was killed by the Doone clan. During the course of the novel, Lorna is pursued by the hated Carver, who is determined she must marry him. During one of the worst winters in British history, Lorna is cut off by snow for three months in a remote valley on the moors. The dastardly Carver refuses to rescue her, determined to starve her into marry him, but the magnificent John Ridd comes to her aid on a snow sled. Great hero, great heroine and fantastic moorland scenery.
And now my final choice:
If you’ve read A bit about me you’ll know I live near Bronte country, where I walk the moors every day with my dog. I intend to take this novel with me on my travels, in case of homesickness! The story is so well known it needs no explanation. Emily Bronte is an absolute mistress of the gothic, matching the wildness of her protagonists’ moods with the wildness of the Yorkshire weather with consummate skill. I’m very curious to watch Andrea Arnold’s film version (trailer here) as from what I’ve seen so far she does excellent justice to the bleakness of the landscape – despite the fact that, appparently, for the first few weeks of filming the sun shone every day! I can assure you, that hardly ever happens!
So, those are my stormy reading choices for my flight towards hurricane Sandy. Do you have any other novels you can recommend where the weather plays as big a part as the characters? If so, I’d love to hear from you. I may be at the airport some time – the more books I have to fall back on, the better!