Editor’s Note: Fans of the critically acclaimed hit CW series Jane the Virgin have watched the ups and downs its title character Jane Villanueva has experienced on the road to becoming a published author. After several re-writes and working with the publisher to find the right cover illustration, Jane celebrated the completed novel with a book party on Friday’s episode “Chapter Seventy.” Adams Media decided to make Snow Falling a reality by publishing the novel under the banner of the fictional imprint, “Lorden + Gregor,” under license by CBS Consumer Products. Here is our review of Jane’s debut novel. For the purposes of this review, we stick to the premise that Jane Gloriana Villanueva is a first-time author, not a fictional TV character.
Here’s how you should judge a romance novel (you know, the kind that feature a bare-chested man on the cover hugging a beautifully distressed woman): look at the way they describe the men. I mean, that’s why we all pick up these books, yes? To find a release for our innermost lustful thoughts. It’s also likely the very reason why those books are written. And if Snow Falling is any indication, first-time author Jane Gloriana Villanueva clearly has plenty of those pent up emotions and has found the perfect outlet for them.
Look, for example, how the former publishing assistant and Cosmopolitan dating columnist introduces her heroine’s soon-to-be-paramour, Martin Calden, who’s just happened upon Josephine Galena Valencia (on her birthday of all days) as she jots down ideas for one of the novels she hopes to publish one day: “Dark blond wisps of hair escaped the confines of a straw boater that cast shadows on his features until she raised a lantern to chase away the darkness. Smiling blue eyes as bright as a summer sky held no malice, only concern. A sharp straight nose led to full lips and a strong jawline with a hint of light evening stubble.” Immediately – this only on page 8 of this historical romance novel set in 1902 – you get the sense that Ms. Villanueva has a knack for making us inhabit Josephine’s head, not least because we’re also encouraged to longingly look at this dashing young member of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.
But I’m getting ahead of myself and starting to sound like the narrator voice that interjects Villanueva’s prose every once in a while to pepper it with knowing winks at her reader. It should be noted that Snow Falling, set in the author’s hometown of Miami, follows young Josephine, a would-be writer working at a fancy hotel who lives with her mother and abuela, who hail from Venezuela. Having never known her father and eager to finish her studies so she can pursue her dreams, she falls for Martin immediately and the two make plans to get married – at which point they’ll finally consummate their love for one another. Josephine, we learn, values her virginity and has been well-taught by her abuela about why she should wait until she’s a married woman to indulge in such deliciously tempting activities.
“The man was tall, dark, and handsome. Way too handsome. Way too dangerous, she corrected herself as she took in the sight of him.”
Only, and you should’ve known there’d be some kind of obstacle involved here, Josephine becomes smitten when she meets Rake Solvino, the hotel’s owner. Actually, meets him again as they’d already shared one kiss many years ago. But again, better let Villanueva describe him to us so you can see why Josephine, fuming over a misunderstanding with Martin ends up (spoiler alert) having a one-night stand with him and – worse yet – carrying his baby:
“The man was tall, dark, and handsome. Way too handsome. Way too dangerous, she corrected herself as she took in the sight of him. Dark stubble across a strong jaw called attention to full lips set in a scowl. His shirt was unbuttoned to midchest, revealing a hint of lean, smooth muscle beneath. Pinstriped pants hugged a slim waist and hips, and powerful thighs. Thick brown hair waved around his face, billowing as if touched by a breeze.”
That’s enough to get you to reach for a fan, yes? And while Ms. Villanueva’s descriptions are sumptuous enough to keep you engaged, this is truly a plot-driven novel that gets you involved in this unlikely love triangle. But lest you think the novel merely hinges on that one question – will Josephine want to forsake her impending marriage to try her luck at lust and love with the dashing father of her baby – know that Snow Falling also has a subplot that has Martin trying to hunt down a criminal mastermind that goes by the name Sin Sombra as well as some family drama that will introduce Josephine to a rather bombastic person from her past she never thought she’d meet.
Equal parts harlequin (button shirts and corsets will be ripped open in fits of passion!) and telenovela (watch out for mistaken identities and family reunions!), Snow Falling is endlessly enjoyable. It’s the kind of book you won’t be able to put down, and will surely make you wonder where Ms. Villanueva has found inspiration to create such a wildly funny and steamy romp. I have one theory but it’s so implausible I can’t possibly vouch for it. You see, the novel is dedicated to Michael Cordero Jr. (“You live in my heart forever”) whereas the Acknowledgements credit Rafael Solano (“without whom this book wouldn’t have been written”). The Martin/Michael and Rake/Rafael echoes are probably too much of a coincidence, no? But then I start to imagine what it would mean for this novel to be autobiographical in any shape or form and my mind goes dizzy – stuff like that doesn’t even happen on TV shows! ?
Snow Falling was published on November 14, 2017.