Do you remember Mary Stewart? An even more important question would be, of course, did you ever read a Mary Stewart novel?
Those of us who are of a certain age – I would say over thirty – probably did read her, since her books were among the most popular of the romance genre in the late 50’s and then the 60’s and 70’s. In fact, many critics would say she’s one of the creators of the modern romantic suspense novel, that unique form of storytelling that blends a thrilling mystery with a solid love story. I discovered Mary Stewart’s books in my teens, when my big sister handed me a whole pile of them to read. It was love at first sight and I tore through them. Along with Victoria Holt and Georgette Heyer, Mrs. Stewart’s books inspired in me a love for the romance genre that ultimately prompted me to pick up pen and begin writing romance novels myself.
Mrs. Stewart’s impact on the romantic suspense genre has been profound. Here’s what Pamela Regis, Professor of English and noted author of critical works on the romance genre had to say about MS in her book, A Natural History of the Romance Novel:
“Stewart’s influence extends to every writer of romantic suspense, for Stewart understood and perfected this hybrid of romance and mystery and used it as a structure for books so beautifully written that they have endured to become part of the canon of the twentieth-century romance novel.”
And her books are beautifully written. One of Mrs. Stewart’s many strengths was her ability to incorporate setting into her books as a key element of story. Her settings are exotic and a reflection of her many travels around the world with her husband, Frederick Stewart. For instance, The Gabriel Hounds is set in Lebanon, This Rough Magic is set in Corfu, Greece, and the book I just finished, Madam Will You Talk? is set in the south of France. Her descriptions are so evocative and compelling that they blend seamlessly into the story, and enhance plot and character in a way that is unique to Mary Stewart novels.
But why am I talking about Mary Stewart today? Several weeks ago, I received an email from a woman who works in the marketing department of Hodder and Stoughton, the venerable English publisher who has published everyone from Winston Churchill to Stephen King. Recently, they decided to reissue the books of Mary Stewart, who began her career with H & S and remains with them to this day. Since I had written a few posts about Mary Stewart, the marketing person with H & S asked if I would be interested in reading the reissues and posting some reviews. As you can imagine I was eager to say yes, and thanks to the generosity of H & S I now have several of the beautiful reissues of classic Mary Stewart novels to give away. And the books are gorgeous, too, lovely trade paperbacks with really cool retro covers.
That’s the cover for Madam Will You Talk?, Mrs. Stewart’s first book, published in 1955. It was one of the few MS books I hadn’t yet read and I finished it last night. It blew me away with the quality of the writing, the intensity of the suspense, and the deeply realized character of the heroine, a young war widow who, while on vacation in Provence, stumbles upon a kidnapping and a murder plot. Madam also features two incredible car chases through the French countryside – the heroine learned to drive race cars from her husband – that were incredibly exciting and suspenseful. And how many car chases do you actually find in novels these days? MS totally pulls it off.
Anyway, I’m thrilled to have the opporunity to introduce a new generation of readers to Mary Stewart’s classic romantic supsense novels. Today, I’m giving away a copy of one of my very favorite MS books, This Rough Magic. It takes place on the island of Corfu and the heroine, a British actress fleeing her failed career on the London stage, stumbles into the middle of smuggling ring and lots of danger and adventure. Oh, and along the way she rescues a stranded dolphin and finds the man of her dreams. It’s an absolutely awesome book.
H & S also sent me several sets of beautiful postcards of these reissues, so I’ll also give away two copies of those to readers who comment. Just tell me who was the first romance author you ever read and you’ll have a chance to win the book or one of these great postcard sets. And if you have read Mary Stewart, tell me which book is your favorite!
25 thoughts on “The Fabulous Mary Stewart & Giveaway!”
The first romance book I read was Touch The Wind by Janet Daily I really loved that book and have read it many times after that I was hooked on the romance books
Janet Daily is another classic romance writer!
Most romance readers might not think the first book I read that I considered a “romance” book to be one as we considered them today. My first “romance” was written even earlier than Mary Stewart’s books! That book was Man of la Mancha by Cervantes.
I think that Don Quoixote was the perfect romance hero because he saw only the best of his one “true love” Dulcinea. Who wouldn’t want hero who would fight for all that was right and defend his one true love in the face of all that threaten to take that love away. Don Quoixte not only faced her rejection and scorn but kept on fighting for her love and that made Don Quoixote my favorite romance hero!
Today when so many relationships don’t stand the age of time I think we need the honor and integrity of Don Quioxte in our society more than ever.
Jeanne, I absolutely agree with you. As would many scholars, since this book is considered to be one of the first (if not the first) romances ever written.
The first romance author that I read was Jane Austen. I’ve never read a Mary Stewart, but I’d love to. Thank you.
I think you’d love Mary, Loopy Librarian. The quality of her writing is superb.
Funnily enough, Mary Stewart’s books are the first I read that you could categorize as romance, although I never thought of them as romance novels at the time. I love her books and I’m so glad to see them being re-issued.
Kate, I don’t think I actually categorized them as romances, either – at least not as first. Just darn good stories, which is the way Mary thought about books, too. She once said that there were only two kinds of novels – badly written and well written. She liked to call herself a storyteller, rather than categorize herself as someone who wrote mysteries, romances, or thrillers.
My first romance book that I read was by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, THE WOLF AND THE DOVE. After that I was sooo in love with romance books! She is the author that put me on the romance path. A path I have been on for years now and still love it!
I have never read any books by Mary Stewart. In fact I hate to say this, I never heard of her. 🙁
I will definitely have to locate some and give her a read, thanks for opening my eyes to a new author for me! 🙂
Have a great weekend!
Dalila, she is really the author who created the modern romantic suspense genre. Her books will definitely be in libraries. She also wrote a really cool historical/fantasy series about Merlin and the Court of King Arthur.
Vanessa, until I saw you mention the Merlin series, I had forgotten all about it. I don’t know how I could do that, since it was one of my favorite series of all time. Any time I’ve ever read anything or watched a movie about Arthur, I always wind up comparing it in my head to the MS version. I can’t remember how long ago I first read that series, but I remember getting the first 3 in a boxed set for Christmas when I was pregnant with my daughter, who is now 30. And they are still great reads!!
Wow…Mary Stewart. I haven’t heard anyone mention her in years. She was so great. I can’t even remember what my first MS was, but I do remember my fav was always Madam, Will you Talk? Glad you finally got to enjoy it 🙂 I always think of Rosemary Rogers as my introduction to romance, but i had forgotten all about MS and VH. One of my all time favorite books (which I will now have to find and re-read agin, since it’s been too may years) is Legend of the Seventh Virgin by VH. Such an awesome story..sigh. As for GH..I noticed the other day that The Grand Sophy was on sale for Kindle for less than a buck, so I HAD to go buy it LOL. While I was there I also found The Black Moth for under 1$, too, so I got it, too. Just finished re-reading it 2 days ago, and it was STILL great 🙂
Love, love, love The Grand Sophy! My favorite Heyer. Didn’t Victoria Holt also write Bride of Pendorric? I loved that book, too.
The first romance author I ever read was Susan Elizabeth Phillips 🙂
I’ve never read a Mary Stewart book, but they sound great!
Can’t go wrong with SEP, Chelsea! The thing I really like about Mary Stewart’s books is how sophisticated they are while being really fun, exciting reads.
I have read all of Mary Stewart’s novels! I fell in love with them in high school.
Nine Coaches Waiting was my favorite for a long time — I always envisioned a young Laurence Olivier in the hero’s part, and an old Laurence Olivier as the hero’s bitter old uncle.
Madam Will You Talk and This Rough Magic are also, in my opinion, two of her best! When I was able to go to Provence a few years ago I toured the places around Avignon, Nimes, and Marseilles mentioned in Madam Will You Talk. Although the landscape has changed over the years, it was still so easy to imagine the events of the book! I loved it.
Her gorgeous and evocative descriptions of the locations made me want to get to France, Greece and England. (Still working on Greece!) Her books are so lovely and intelligent as well as filled with action and suspense. I hope these reissues will garner a new legion of fans.
Jennifer, your post is a perfect description of Mary’s talents! It blows me away that Madam Will You Talk? was her first book. So unbelievably good. And I think Nine Coaches Waiting is one of her best, too – great sexual chemistry.
When you think of pioneers like Mary do you ever consider what readers 50 years for now will think of romance written in the 21st century? Will they think that our romance books are risque? Will they laugh when they read a time travel or Vampire novel?
What do you think they will learn about the social attitude of the current generation when viewed through the books being read today? Just curious if you and your fellow authors ever think about this as you write your wonderful stories.
Jeanne, I think what will be most interesting is how readers 50 years from now react to paranormal and futuristic romance. Will ideas and storylines that seem far-fetched today seem limited and quaint 50 years from now?
As to what they will learn about our social attitudes, I guess you’d have to measure by comparing them to romances of earlier periods. Certainly, there have been changes in attitudes with romances written today as opposed the romances of the 70’s and 80’s. Just think of the whole issue of “forced seduction”, for instance. And it’s no longer a requirement that the heroine absolutely be a virgin.
And, yes! Romance writers do think about these issues, including historical romance writers. Even though our stories are situated in the past, we write them for modern audiences.
I’ll be posting my Mary Stewart winner on Sunday morning. Thanks for your patience, everyone!
Love, love, love Mary Stewart, the Grand Dame of all mystery writers! Wildfire at Midnight was my first time book and a fantastic one it was! In high school I borrowed this book from my older sister and actually did a book report on it for English class. Talk about suspense – this book has it in spades, not to mention romance and glamour. I became a huge fan of Mary Stewart; my favorites are this Rough Magic, Wildfire at Midnight, Airs Above the Ground, Nine Coaches Waiting, and on and on for all of them. I have been rereading my old copies for years now, and was thrilled to see the reissue of these delightful mystery books. Amazon has some in stock and I have ordered all they have, but had to actually order others from British publishers as that was the only place they were available. Please let your contacts know we would buy them in the states if they were available here. I highly recommend Mary Stewart books to any reader – you will not be disappointed!
I consider something genuinely interesting about your web blog so I saved to bookmarks .
I’d been honored to get a call from a friend immediately he found the important suggestions shared on your site. Studying your blog post is a real great experience. Many thanks for taking into consideration readers much like me, and I want for you the best of success as a professional discipline.
Really excellent visual appeal on this website, I’d value it 10.
Absolutely composed subject material , regards for selective information .