PERSONAL: Born in Tampa, FL; daughter of Jim (a lawyer) and Joem (a homemaker) Gaffney. Ethnicity: "Irish American." Education: Marymount College, B.A. (English and philosophy); studied at Royal Holloway College, London and George Washington University; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, M.A. (education).
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, 7th Floor, HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022.
CAREER: Novelist. English teacher, East Mecklenburg High School, Charlotte, NC; worked variously as a freelance photographer and court reporter.
AWARDS, HONORS: Romance Writers of America Golden Heart awardm 1989, for Sweet Treason.
Sweet Treason, Dorchester Publishing (New York, NY), 1989.
Fortune's Lady, Dorchester Publishing (New York, NY), 1989.
Thief of Hearts, Dorchester Publishing (New York, NY), 1990.
Lily, Dorchester Publishing (New York, NY), 1991.
Another Eden, Dorchester Publishing (New York, NY), 1992.
Sweet Everlasting, Topaz (New York, NY), 1993.
Crooked Hearts, Topaz (New York, NY), 1994.
To Love and to Cherish (first novel in "Wyckerley" trilogy), Topaz Publishing (New York, NY), 1995.
To Have and to Hold (second novel in "Wyckerley" trilogy), Topaz Publishing (New York, NY) 1995.
Forever and Ever (second novel in "Wyckerley" trilogy), Topaz Publishing (New York, NY), 1996.
Outlaw in Paradise, Wheeler Publishing (Rockland, MA), 1997.
Wild at Heart, Topaz Publishing (New York, NY), 1997.
The Saving Graces, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.
Circle of Three, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.
Flight Lessons, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Working on a new novel.
SIDELIGHTS: Patricia Gaffney grew up in the Washington, D.C. area. Her father was a government lawyer, and upon graduating from college, Gaffney thought she might enjoy being a court reporter. The job had just the right amount of passivity, a quality that suited her personality. She could sit around and record what was happening in other people's lives. However, the writing she was required to do was very disciplined. There was no room for creativity. In 1984, after discovering a lump in her breast and convinced that she did not have much time left to live, she asked herself what she most wanted to do with the rest of her life. In response to this question, she convinced her husband to move with her to a quiet country house, where she could do what she loves to do most: write fiction.
Gaffney's first five books were written in the romance genre. The first one, 1989's Sweet Treason, is about a young Scottish woman who becomes intrigued by her enemy and captor, an English officer. Though most of Gaffney's fans claim that this is not her best work, the book did win Gaffney the Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart Award for best new work. That same year, Gaffney also wrote Fortune's Lady, another story with espionage as a major theme. This time the response to the novel was more positive: Gaffney's confidence with the genre began to take shape and her characters were more fully fleshed out and crisp. Gaffney also created a strong sexual tension that critics and readers enjoyed. Fortune's Lady was a finalist for the Rita Award.
1990's Thief of Hearts, according to some critics, set an example of what a good romance novel is all about. Rounding up the first set of novels is the dark Gothic tale, Lily, which was nominated as best English historical romance by Romantic Times; Another Eden, a tale set in New York during the 1890s, also was nominated for an award, this time the best Victorian historical romance by Romantic Times.
In 1993 Gaffney changed publishers. She wrote another series of romance books for Penguin USA, including the "Wyckerley" trilogy of To Love and to Cherish, To Have and to Hold, and Forever and Ever. These novels are set in Victorian England, and the first follows the sad details of Anne Verlaine as she suffers through a bad marriage. The heroine of the second is Rachel, who has been imprisoned for ten years for the murder of her husband. She is not given the death sentence because some of her husband's cruelties become known. She must, however, find a patron after she is released from jail. Thus enters the potential lover. The third novel in the set revolves around the lives of Sophie and Connor, through which Gaffney discusses the social issues women in the Victorian era had to face. This is a "touching story," wrote a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, which ends "with love winning over pride and ambition."
After completing this series, Gaffney began to feel restless about the romance theme. She wanted to continue writing fiction, but she wanted it to relate more to her own life. Toward this end, Gaffney wrote 1999's Saving Graces, a book that enjoyed a stay on the New York Times bestseller list. This is a story very close to home for Gaffney, as she tells of the trials of four women, all battling cancer. Gaffney herself has belonged to such a group for several years, and one of the women in her group died. Saving Graces tells the story of that experience. Summing up the novel, Gaffney calls it a story about love, friendship, trust, and commitment among women. In a review posted on the Romance Reader Web site, a reviewer also commented that Saving Graces is also part comedy, "one of those rare novels that can make a reader grin while being slowly twisted into knots inside." A Publishers Weekly reviewer described it as "a variation on the theme of women's solidarity and bravery."
Gaffney explores the relationship between mother and daughter in her novel Circle of Three. The story actually involves three generations: daughter, mother, and grandmother. The matriarch of the trio, Dana, is modeled on the author's own mother, Gaffney reported in an interview posted on the Web site Crescent Blues, especially in terms of "her southernness, her bluntness, her absolute certainty she knows what's best for her daughter—well, for everybody—and her constant and unconditional love.". In Circle of Three, Gaffney has each of the three female protagonists take turns telling their story in alternating chapters, which Patty Englemann for Booklist found "added dimension to this poignant story of growing up and growing old."
The main protagonist in 2002's Flight Lessons is Anna Catalano, a thirty-something woman who returns home for a short spell to mend her relationship with her Aunt Rose, who runs the family restaurant. Although the women in this story are a niece and aunt, Gaffney admits it really is a mother-daughter relationship in disguise; the core story is about two women who really love one another but must fight their way through a lot of emotional baggage in order to renew their relationship. In an interview posted on the HarperCollins Web site Gaffney stated: "Anna has to learn to forgive Rose for an ancient betrayal; Rose has to learn to forgive Anna for being self-righteous, intolerant, and pretty much a blockhead."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 15, 1999, Nancy Pearl, review of The Saving Graces, p. 1452; May 15, 2000, Patty Engelmann, review of Circle of Three, p. 1700; January 1, 2002, Whitney Scott, review of Circle of Three, p. 987.
Library Journal, August 1997, Kristin Ramsdell, review of Outlaw in Paradise, p. 66; April 15, 1999, Jodi L. Israel, review of The Saving Graces, p. 143; June 1, 2000, Jodi L. Israel, review of Circle of Three, p. 196.
Publishers Weekly, September 15, 1989, review of Fortune's Lady, p. 114; June 21, 1993, review of Sweet Everlasting, p. 99; March 7, 1994, review of Crooked Hearts, p. 66; July 24, 1995, review of To Have and to Hold, p. 58; March 11, 1996, review of Forever and Ever, p. 57; June 30, 1997, review of Outlaw in Paradise, p. 74; May 24, 1999, review of The Saving Graces, p. 63; August 2, 1999, Judy Quinn, "Amazing 'Grace', " review of The Saving Graces, p. 20; May 29, 2000, review of Circle of Three, p. 51.
Crescent Blues,http://www.crescentblues.com/ (April 9, 2002), "Patricia Gaffney: Swimming in the Mainstream" (interview).
HarperCollins Web site,http://www.harpercollins.com/ (January 11, 2003), interview with Gaffney.
Romance Reader,http://www.theromacereader.com/ (May 7, 2002), Cathy Sova, review of The Saving Graces; Linda Mowery, review of Circle of Three.*