Back in the old days when I had never read a romance (if you don’t count Pride and Prejudice as a part of my British Novels university course), a friend of mine dumped a box of books in my lap and said, “Remember those stories you used to write in high school? Well, I think you could write one of these.”
Optimistic and supportive, that’s what she was. I wasn’t at all sure I could write “one of these” which happened to be a box full of Harlequin Romance and Presents books.
But I dutifully began to read them, and it wasn't long before I was enthralled.
Books about relationships! Hopeful books! Book with drop-dead gorgeous heroes! My kind of books, thank you very much.
There were a few authors in that pile. One of those I still re-read regularly is Essie Summers.
Essie Summers – with no disrespect to my dear friends Robyn Donald and Daphne Clair – put New Zealand on the romance readers’ map.
Her books brought New Zealand – its varied, always stunning, landscape, its urban and its sheep station lifestyles -- to life in the pages of her books. If it hadn’t already been on my “destinations of choice” list, she certainly would have put it there.
But it wasn’t just New Zealand that she made me love. It was her people.
She wrote about men and women finding their “kindred spirits.” In all her books she captured so well the quest for the right person with whom to share a life.
Her men were often quiet and solitary, but they were always men you could count on. Maybe it’s my affinity for American cowboys that draws me to her sheep station ranchers. Maybe it’s that they share the same code of honor, the same sense of responsibility to the land and to the animals they are raising. Maybe it’s because you know that, when the chips are down, they will be there to count on.
Maybe it’s that I always see in them a dawning respect and growing love for the heroine that I know is more than lust. Whatever it is, Essie captures it every time – hero after hero.
Some might find her books dated, but the love in them never dates. The honor and the compassion and the belief in each other that her hero and heroine feel, forged as it is by the fire of their experiences while learning to trust each other, never goes out of style.
If you haven’t read Essie Summers – and you want a taste of the essentials of what makes romance novels endure across generations – go have a look for her books. Settle down and prepare to be enchanted by the world she paints, the poetry and the prose of the people she writes about, and believe that Essie knew what she was talking about when it came to true enduring love.
You might also want to go buy a ticket to New Zealand – as an astonish number of readers have – in hopes of capturing a real life taste of such books as Summer in December, Heir to Windrush Hill, A Place Called Paradise, South Island Stowaway and A Touch of Magic.
Anne McAllister’s latest book, Hired By Her Husband, about sexy physicist (no, it’s not an oxymoron) George Savas, is out now in UK as a Mills & Boon Modern. It will be out in January (she thinks) in North America.Her most recent NA release is The Virgin’s Proposition, the story of George’s brother, Demetrios, and the princess who threatens to turn his life upside down.