Thursday, April 24, 2008

Thursday Talk Time - How I Came To Read Category Romance

This Thursday we welcome Harlequin Mills and Boon Historicals author Michelle Styles, who tells us how she got hooked on romances!

Welcome, Michelle!

Many readers have stories of borrowing series romance books from their grandmothers or other relatives. Unfortunately none of my relatives read series romance. Ever. In fact, my mother had only given me permission to go to the adult section of the library, if and only if I promised not to get any Harlequins out. Being an avid reader and generally good child, I did promise. And thus was able to get my adult library card.

I kept the promise for a little while…and duly discovered the delights of Barbara Micheals, Jean Plaidy, Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, Joan Aiken Hodge, Georgette Heyer and finally Elizabeth Cadell. It was reading Elizabeth Cadell that made me forget my promise and start reading series romance.

Elizabeth Cadell never wrote for Harlequin Mills & Boon. Her first book was published by Robert Hale in the UK in 1946 and she continued to write until her death in 1989. Her later publishers included William & Morrow as well as Hodder & Stoughton. But what she did write was intelligent, feel good, warm hearted romance with a fictional world that stays with the reader long after the book is finished. It is the way she can turn a phrase.

Her books were mostly set in England, Spain or Portugal. They were light romances and generally had a large set of secondary characters – eccentric aunts (there are generally several), a variety of children and one must not forget the animals who complicated the hero and heroine’s lives. The secondaries were sympathetic and not over sentimental. The heroes and heroines were intelligent and practical. The heroines’ weaknesses often revolved around warm hearted impulsiveness. And my local library had a long book shelf of her books as did my school library.

One rainy day at school, I wandered in to the school’s library and pulled Honey for Tea off the shelf and began to read. So captured was I with the story that I missed the bell and ended up getting in trouble for being late. The story revolves around Jendy whose life becomes complicated when the next door neighbour’s black sheep brother, Roderick returns. And I certainly thought it was worth getting told off.

I then went on to inhale Mrs. Cadell’s books, coming at last to Canary Yellow which I took out from my local library. The book is a light hearted romantic suspense but begins with the heroine having dumped her finance and having decided to go on to the cruise she won on her own. Unfortunately, it is a cruise for newly weds and she grabs the hero, Charles, forcing him to pose with her, starting of a chain of events.

After I finished Canary Yellow, I wanted to read more books like that and suspected that Harlequin might be the answer, my promise to my mother not withstanding. I took down several and was hooked.

However despite the passage of years, Mrs. Cadell’s books have lingered in my mind. It is the way she described her fictional world and her secondaries. Unfortunately Mrs. Cadell’s books have been out of print for years, but such is the quality of the world she created that she does have a dedicated group of readers who regularly talk about and discuss the books.

If you ever come across one of her books, do read it, but be certain you have plenty of time to become immersed in the world.

Thanks Michelle!

Michelle's Taken By The Viking is out in NA in May and is already available at eharlequin! Our own Pink Heart Reviews had rave things to say about it: " Writing with plenty of skill, style and alacrity, Michelle Styles paints a vivid picture of the Viking era and makes her readers feel as if they are living the story next to her characters rather than just reading it." Viking Warrior, Unwilling Wife is the followup and will be released in the UK in June.


  1. Hi Michelle,
    Just wanted to say hi. I can't wait to read "Sold and Seduced." Thanks.

  2. waves back to Jane.
    I posted it last week, do let me know it arrives. Jane won my prize from the Kate Walker launch party.

  3. Michelle you kindred spirit you!!! I LOVE LOVE LOVE Elizabeth Cadell - and it was my grandmother of course who had them (she lived with us until she died and we still have all her old M&Bs, Georgette Heyers, Mary Stewarts and Elizabeth Cadells in the family) - wonderful, wonderful - and you're so right, she built fabulous worlds that I always wanted to be part of and had such wonderful heroes too... sigh!
    Great post!

  4. Oh Nat!
    How wonderful that you understand. Her heroes were just... well, they were heroes. And I adore the worlds she created.
    YOu must have had a grandmother with fantstic taste.

  5. She did have fantastic taste ;) - and she also left me with an insatiable appetite for Agatha Christie books and also a series of wonderful 'cosy mystery' books by Conyth Little - who was infact two sisters - Constance & Gwenyth Little - written late 30s-40s they were always 'The Black' something - - The Black Piano, The Black Coat etc - wondefully written and always with a touch of romance too!!! If you ever come across one - read it!

  6. Oh I don't think I have come across Conyth Little. I shall have to have a look next time I am in the Lit & Phil.
    I love Agatha Christie. As my aunt pointed out -- many of her early books are in fact romantic suspense.

  7. I love Agatha Christie and her romances are good too. She wrote as Mary Westmacott and I think there are six. My favourite is the Rose and the Yew Tree.