Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Genres I enjoy

Well, today I thought I'd tackle a genre I enjoy - romance. I'm a sucker for a good romance. Who isn't? I love seeing a rough, tough guy sort of tender up around a smart girl. I love reading about the rogue and rakehell who is tamed by the love of a good woman.

The thing with the romance genre is that it usually leaves the reader with a good feeling. There's hope yet for us true romantics.

My first introduction to romance was probably Victoria Holt back in high school in the 1980's. I loved Holt's writing. Her books though mostly fit into a category known as Gothic Romance, where elements from the Goth and Romance are combined. There's a woman in distress, a castle, a man who intially appears to be "the bad guy" but turns out to be the romantic hero. I remember reading "The India Fan," and "The Captive." Holt has also written historical fiction about the kings and queens of England that I enjoyed.

This blurb from the NY Times dated 21 JAN 1993, sadly, ends Holt's story.

"Eleanor Hibbert, a prolific and popular novelist whose books, written under the pen names Jean Plaidy, Victoria Holt and Philippa Carr, sold more than 100 million copies, died on Monday aboard a Mediterranean cruise ship. She was believed to be in her 80's.

She died on the Sea Princess between Athens and Port Said, Egypt, while on her annual winter trip, said Julie Fallowfield, her agent in the United States. The cause of death was not disclosed.
Mrs. Hibbert, a Londoner, was secretive about her life. She never revealed her maiden name or age. Two of her publishers listed conflicting birth years, 1906 and 1910.

For years the true identity of the writer behind the three pseudonyms was a tightly guarded secret in the publishing world.

In all, Mrs. Hibbert wrote about 200 novels. They were romantic tales, often filled with rich historical detail, that regularly featured young women living in castles and country manors. She said she focused on "women of integrity and strong character" who were "struggling for liberation, fighting for their own survival."

Her books, which were translated into 20 languages, were especially popular in her native England, the United States and Australia. Although some critics dismissed her books, others found them well-done works of their type.

Her first published novel was "Beyond the Blue Mountains" (1947), under the Plaidy name. Eventually she wrote 90 Plaidy books, many of which were historical novels about royalty.
In 1960 she tried a new name and a new genre. At the suggestion of an agent, Patricia Schartle Myrer, Mrs. Hibbert wrote a romantic suspense novel set in Cornwall and published under the Victoria Holt pen name. The result, "Mistress of Mellyn," was an instant international best seller.
Thirty more Holt novels followed, establishing Mrs. Hibbert as a pioneer in the romantic suspense or Gothic genre. Her last Holt book, "The Black Opal," is scheduled for publication this year.

In 1972 she began a third series, writing as Philippa Carr, in which she followed the fortunes of an English family through several generations. The last of the 19 Carr books, "We'll Meet Again," is due next year.

Early in her career, Mrs. Hibbert also used the pen names Eleanor Burford, Elbur Ford and Ellalice Tate. She wrote short stories for British publications before trying novels.
Ms. Hibbert's husband, George, a businessman, died in the 1960's. There are no immediate survivors."

I also read alot of her queen series under her Jean Plaidy name which I enjoyed. Heck, now that I think about it, Diane Setterfield's recluse writer in her story "The 13th Tale" reminds me of how Holt guarded her name. Maybe some inspiration?

This is what I loved about her the most: She wrote about women of strong character. For me, a woman, I like reading about women with strong character.

After Holt, I read a bunch of other stuff with romantic elements, but I didn't really come back to fully appreciate the romance genre until I picked up "Whitney, My Love" by Judith McNaught, back in 2007 I believe. Oh, Miss Whitney Stone was a carefree one with plenty of gumption who fell in love with the man she didn't expect to. Set in historical, regency England, it was a story that totally entertained me. I also enjoyed "Once and Always," and I'll share that book review with you shortly.

Recently, I've discovered Lisa Kleypas and Jillian Hunter. (But those are stories for another day.)

I'd love to hear who your first romantic writer was and how they inspired you.


Here's my book review for "Once and Always" by Judith McNaught.

By: Judith McNaught
ISBN: 978-1-4165-3073-2
Simon & Shuster
5 Stars

Best selling author Judith McNaught engages her readers with another riveting romance, “Once and Always.” Published in 1898, this classic is hard to put down. It captures the reader’s attention immediately with an interesting twist on the heroine’s heritage and dives into the story with somber, yet revealing scenes regarding the main characters, Victoria and Jason.

The story first shows us American daughters, Victoria and Dorothy Seaton who are orphaned as young adults and sent to live with their English relatives. Set in 1815, “Once and Always” focuses on Victoria’s adventures in England when she goes to live with Charles, Due of Atherton, who she affectionately calls her uncle. While Charles has no real relationship to Victoria, her own great-grandmother won’t take her in because Victoria reminds the old woman of her mother, Katherine. Surprisingly, Victoria is a Scottish countess, a title she has inherited from her mother. Charles, who harbored a deep seated love for Victoria’s mother takes the young girl into his care and rather boldly places an announcement in “The Times” announcing Victoria’s engagement to his heir, Jason Fielding.

Jason, while handsome, has a cold, distant heart, a product of his upbringing. He’s rather abrupt with Victoria, but she holds her own against him, surprising him when he least expects it. Slowly, Victoria starts to chip away at the stone which ha hardened Jason’s heart. The couple procrastinate regarding an actual wedding, as both try to find a way to break the engagement honorably. Victoria is introduced to London society in which she’s well received. Charles forces their hands with a feigned sickness when he fears a man from America which Victoria was sweet on might come to find her, and the two finally marry. Unfortunately, a series of misunderstandings between the pair may derail their chance at true happiness.

McNaught’s writing is sharp, fast-paced, and accurate. She paints vivid scenes and evokes heartfelt emotion from the reader with ease. Her heroine, Victoria, is one of the most likeable heroines I’ve read. Jason is also a dynamic character and it is delightful to see the positive change that Victoria and her love have on him.

“Once and Always” is well paced and hard to let go with it’s breath taking descriptions and enticing characters. It is written with shifting points of view, jumping from Victoria to Jason and other characters without breaks. With a historical backdrop, this is a must for romance readers.

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