Snow Falls by Gerri Hill

snowfallsThere are those times in your (reading) life when plot makes you irritable. When the mere mention of a complicated crime story makes you want to run for the hills (no pun inteded). You look at all the books you own, you browse through your ebooks and look for that one story that is not complicated, the one that will make you feel good without having to think about it too much. Such a book is Snow Falls.

Ryan lives a hermit’s life on a mountain in Colorado with her two dogs. She’s got her reasons for being a recluse and only one of those is that she wants to write another novel. But then her life is disrupted by the arrival of Jennifer Kincaid and an avalanche. The avalanche buries Jen’s car and the road down the mountain for the next seven weeks. Jen Kincaid captures Ryan’s attention and heart as the women spent the next seven weeks talking, writing and hiking the breathtaking paths of Ryan’s home. But time on the mountain is running out and Ryan has a secret she wants to keep.

I read this novel in two days but I’m not fooling myself that I’m back in the reading mood. Yet Snow Falls was just the story I needed to read. It’s not overly complex, it’s an easy read, a pleasant read and a rather typical romance. And it gripped me like few have this year.

Here’s Hill writing a good story with likable characters and little plot. The story flows from the page into your heart and makes you feel good about life, love and being trapped in a cozy cabin in the mountains with a complete stranger. The characters carry the story, they talk, they contemplate and fall in love, only to be seperated by their inability to reveal their hearts.

I already told you that Hill is one of my favorite romance writers, if not THE favorite. Mind you, she’s written better stories than Snow Falls but I actually cherished that this story wasn’t complex, that it simply led me to a good place where I wanted to stay. It’s a warm and cozy novel, the conflicts are not too overwhelming. This may sound boring to some but I found myself wholly captivated. It’s a story about two women. They have their lives, their problems but all is put on hold for seven weeks when they only have each other and two lively dogs to keep them company. I liked it.

It’s also a story about two writers stuck in a cabin. You know I’m not a fan of writers writing about writers, it’s a little self-congratulatory, a little masturbatory. But Hill has the sensibility to not bore us with pages over pages of someone agonizing over the writing process. She doesn’t complicate, she simplifies. Maybe it’s a little too much, maybe the main conflict is just too easily solved. But for me it was just the book I wanted to read, just the story I needed to become inspired myself. And I dare say, I will pick it up again and still like it. Maybe not as much as some of Hill’s other novels but well enough to read and read again.

Alma Mater by Rita Mae Brown

almamaterI read this novel years ago and in German. I read a lot of Brown back then and I loved her stories, mainly because they’re very Southern stories about Southern women and their relationships to each other (and not just lesbian relationships, I’m talking sisters, mothers and daughters,  aunts and nieces). While I come from nowhere near the American South, I can certainly relate to the female relations-part since like most of her characters I have very strong, very determined female relatives. They have influenced my life.

Since reading it last, I have always remembered Alma Mater as a book I wanted to read again – here’s what it’s about:

Vic Savedge meets Chris Carter and is besotted. She falls hard for the other young woman and the feeling is mutual – too bad that Vic has a boyfriend and all her relatives in Surry County expect her to marry him soon. While Vic loves Charly Harrison very much, there is just something missing from their relationship. Vic finds that piece of herself in Chris: it is unbridled passion. Between new cars, old acquaintances and the drink of the day, Vic has to find out where she belongs and with whom – never mind that life has its own ideas of what is going to happen next.

The whole story is a great big mess – just like life. Because life doesn’t wait until you have made up your mind and it isn’t fair if you can’t. Life just happens. And there’s a lot of life happening in Rita Mae Brown’s Virginia. Her characters walk, glide, stumble and fall into the full of it, usually with a sense of humor if not decorum. The voices are distinct, the dialect telling, the settings sometimes beautiful, sometimes bizarre but always close to home.

I guess you can tell that I like Brown’s stories. With Alma Mater, after all those years of not reading Brown, I realized that her style is quite disorganized. I’m not sure it’s the same with her other books but I rather liked that her writing is as unpredictable as the things that are happening. After reading so much about how to properly structure and paragraph a novel, it’s amusing to read somethig that defies the rules. But this is Rita Mae Brown and she can afford it – us mere mortals who are amateurs shall not.

There’s one thing about the novel that left me dissatisfied, though. While most of the characters get their share of exploration, Chris Carter remains a little pale to me. I couldn’t quite grasp her and would have wished for more time between her and Vic. Given, this is not a traditional lesbian romance, it’s much more of a family portrait, a book about Southern women and relationships. Still, the romance between Vic and Chris is why a lot of things happen but it pales in comparison to other relationships, even the one between Vic and Charly. I would have liked to spend more time with Chris, get to know why she did the things she did, where her convictions came from.

Apart from that: a great read, a wild ride, entertaining and quick.