Sunday, March 20, 2011

It's March, and I'm reading...

Patrick Taylor’s An Irish Country Courtship, of course!


There is something about these Irish Country books that, for me, define the word “cozy”, although I’m quite sure that in terms of genre they are not categorized that way. They transport me to a quiet and peaceful world, where folks tend to meander rather than stride, where the problems are real but manageable, and where no one ever, ever texts. This is a world I want to live in. But because I can’t, I look forward once or twice a year to visiting there.

As I look back over my reading life I realize that my love affair with peaceful, orderly worlds is decades old. I discovered the novels of Georgette Heyer when I was a teenager and devoured every one, pulling them off the library shelves like they were candy waiting to be unwrapped. Of course I realize that these books were technically Regency romances, but they were at heart stories about a kinder, gentler world where the rules of society were clearly understood and observed, where problems were small and easily solved, and where, in the end, everything turned out all right. And no one ever texted.

As a young woman I adored Lillian Jackson Braun’s “The Cat Who…” mysteries. I couldn’t name to this day even one of the crimes that the cats solved, but I’ll never forget Qwilleran’s big apple barn and the colorful characters of Moose County. At the same time I discovered  Elizabeth Peters' Egyptian mysteries, which I very much doubt are classified as cozies. But to me they are just that—comfortable, comforting, familiar. They take me away to a place where, even when the bad guys are chasing, I feel safe.

I found the same kind of easy reassurance in the Jan Karon’s Mitford novels. I love Margaret Maron’s Judge Knott series, not for the clever plotting or derring-do, but because when I settle down to read one it feels like coming home. I’m cozy there.

Of course in between escapes to these warm and comfy places I’ll visit fistula clinics in Ethiopia, drug dens in L.A., bombings in Ireland, massacres in Kuwait, ice floes in the North Atlantic; I’ll commune with serial killers, burnt-out cops, hard-assed prosecuters, sex offenders and junkies. I’ll plod through the history of the automobile and soar to another galaxy, doing my best to avoid vampires along the way. But at the end of the day it’s nice to know there is a Patrick Taylor in the world, or an Elizabeth Peters waiting for me. Sometimes you just need to relax.

I realize that now that in writing the Raine Stockton Dog Mystery series and the Ladybug Farm series—which are two very different types of books—I wanted to give readers the same feeling of comfort, familiarity and ease that I have with Maron or Karon or Taylor. I want them to settle back and enjoy a slower paced world that probably doesn’t exist much outside of imagination, a place where neighbors still know your name and problems are fairly manageable and no one ever texts. I want them to feel cozy.

There’s a lot of bad stuff going on in the world. There’s no doubt even more to come. But today, after a long hard winter, I’ll make myself a cup of tea, warm up some blueberry scones, close the door against the harsh March wind and settle back with a good book.

Boy, do I ever deserve it.

No comments: