The Time Is Short was first published in 1958. The copy I have is the Mills & Boon Classics edition, which was published in 1975. I'm fairly certain this book is very difficult to get hold of, but if you ever do see a copy, grab it and run.
Why do I love this book? It's hard to say - I don't even remember how it got into my hands, but I just know that I've never forgotten the story, and I've never even considered giving it away. It's an absolute and utter keeper.
Here's the backcover blurb:
"Love comes swiftly, at the first meeting....There is an attraction that grows undeniably stronger until it is a fire inside. You do not believe in love like that?"Since the backcover blurb doesn't tell you the reason Morgana can't let herself fall in love, I will. Don't worry, it's not a spoiler - you find out in the first few pages. She has an area of pressure in her brain (as a result of an accident) that is inoperable. She's been given 3 months to live.
Morgana had never been in love like that, and, hearing Felipe's words, she knew that now she never could be, that even if such a love did come her way, she must somehow find the strength to withstand it. For, knowing that the future could not give her the same things as it did to others, she now found herself in the very situation he wished to avoid.
Through a mix of circumstance and choice, she ends up nursing an older lady on the island of Jumasa. Portugal has sovereignity over the island, but Jumasa's undisputed master is the Marquez Felipe Manuel Ruiz de Aliviro Rialta, for whom Morgana immediately develops an irrational dislike. Sparks fly from day one.
The characters are all very well fleshed out, and I particularly like how we get to see Felipe through his actions, such as what he does for the people of the island. I also like that Morgana, while a wonderful, sympathetic character who is determined to live her last months to the full, isn't perfect, that she does give in to bitterness at times because of what fate has stolen from her.
In some ways, it's a very traditional M&B, with a wealthy, exotic hero, and a heroine who is a fish out of water. But in other ways, it's very different. The first thing I noticed when I recently reread it is how many more secondary characters there were, which reflects the longer length. The book is 188 pages of dense text - I'd say around 75k words at least.
But more than that, there is an indefinable "something" about The Time Is Short that sets it apart.
It's a fairytale - in a beautiful place. It's full of emotion (and even a villain you'll love to hate), and an ending that makes my heart sigh each time I read it. In the end, I think I love this book because it's pure, unashamed romance.