This novel is the product of two unlikely interests. Ever since I spent two years teaching English to adults in Finland, I have loved ice hockey. It was one of the few subjects I could get my male students to converse happily about. My son even played it for a while. At the same time, I’ve lived in a small Scottish village for many years, and have had the opportunity to observe it in all its endearing complexity. It’s no coincidence that one of my favourite authors is Barbara Pym, with her keen eye for the pleasure and frustration of village and suburban life. So in a sense, this is my homage to Barbara. But it’s also a very grown up love story indeed, a deliberate evocation of the lightning strike of love at first sight, as well as a story of past suffering, its horrific but inevitable consequences – and the possibility of healing.
Helen – who tells her own story – has almost resigned herself to the downward slide into mildly discontented middle age. She’s an attractive and intelligent woman, approaching forty, married and living in a rural backwater, with her only child about to fly the nest. But when she meets and falls in love with Joe, a Canadian ice hockey player spending a season with a local team, she realises that nothing can ever be the same for either of them again. Joe is nine years younger and a hero to die for, good looking, polite and articulate. But many of my novels deal with betrayal as well as love, and this story has a dark side. Although Joe skates like an angel, he has his own demons to cope with, a sadder, more complicated and infinitely more shocking past than Helen could ever imagine.
‘He was utterly and completely beautiful out there on the ice. The music was part of the magic, sensual and insistent. He seemed like nothing but movement. I could have watched him all day. A creature of ice and fire. Bright and enticing.’
Hilary Ely, reviewing this novel for Vulpes Libris, writes, ‘The narrative brilliantly describes the physical imperative they have to be together – not just the snatched times alone, but the magnetic pull they have towards one another when other people are around, their almost uncontrollable urge to touch one another and the risks that brings.’
This is a quirky novel, I’d be the first to admit. But you don’t have to be a fan of ice hockey to enjoy it.