Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Writers' Wednesday : : Essie Summers

Anne McAllister is finishing up a book, and re-reading old favorites because they keep her sane when her book is driving her in the other direction. One of those she is reading is Essie Summers.

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.

As I read my way through the box I began to sort the books into the ones that were okay, the ones that were very good, and the ones that I saved to read again – and again.paradise

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 werewindrush 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 sparadisetyle.

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.

As for me, I’ll re-read those and others and enjoy Essie’s world yet again. Who are your favorite romance auHiredByHerHusband_ukthors? Which of their books do you re-read and why?

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.


  1. I'm not much of a re-reader, but I do re-read Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre.
    As for my current favorites. These are not just writers, I like, they're the writers I study to try and see how it's done! :-)
    So, there's Liz Fielding, Ally Blake, and Jessica Hart for their humor and "fizz." Sophie Weston and Lucy Gordon for their depth of emotion and vivid descriptions. Fiona Harper for her contemporary but at the same time very romantic voice.
    And, ahem, Anne McAllister for a little bit of all of the above ;-)

  2. The name Essie Summers lept off the blog, Anne. She is also one of my many all time favourite romance authors and I have kept every book of hers I have read. In fact, after reading her biography, it encouraged me to think more positively about my own attempts to have my first romance published. If a Presbyterian minister's wife could be published by Mills & Boon why shouldn't another minister's wife be also! After my first HM&B medical romance was released I contacted to thank her for her beautiful books and received a beautiful hand-written letter back. She made a very interesting comment that it was good to hear from an author who actually had her book published and not from someone still trying to write one!
    And other favourite books? There are so very, very many but I am still trying to collect all of the old books by Australian writer, Mary Grant Bruce and anything by Lucy Walker who wrote beautiful stories mainly set in the West Australian outback.
    Thank you for the reminder, Anne!

  3. Hey, Anne, a sexy physicist works for me! Sounds very appealing. You may be interested to hear that here in Australia there's a Radio National contest on at the moment for the husband with the sexiest mind! Cute, eh?

    I love the Essie Summers' covers and the sound of her stories. More reading coming up for me (well, books for the tbr pile!).

  4. Hi, Anne,

    I keep a special stack of books
    on my book shelf. They are all original Mills & Boon novels by Betty Neels, Rebecca Stratton, Margaret Pargeter, Sara Craven, Elizabeth Graham, Penny Jordan, Robyn Donald, Daphne Clair,
    Margaret Rome, Lillian Peake,
    Anne Hampson,Anne Mather,Yvonne
    Whittal, and Marjorie Lewty. I
    also have two boxes in my closet
    which contain the first 250 of
    the Presents Series. When I feel
    the need, I usually select one
    of the M&Bs, most often Betty

    Pat Cochran

  5. Jill,
    We share a lot of the same 'faves' among the contemporary authors of series romance that you have cited. All are good 'uns. Thanks for including me in your list! If you 'see how it's done,' please let me know!

    Mary, so good to hear from you. You lucky woman to get a hand-written letter from Essie herself. And I'm sure it was a joy to her to hear from someone she inspired who had already made it to publication. I'm so glad to know you have enjoyed her books as well.I like the outback writers you mentioned, too. Reminds me of several I have tucked away. Once this book is gone, I'll have to go have a look and do some re-reading.

    Annie, The sexiest mind, huh? Sounds like a winner. George will be right down. When he makes his appearance down under, I hope you enjoy him. And yes, dip into some of Essie's books when you have a chance. She's got a style and a flavor all her own.

    Pat, what a list! Wonderful writers. I would add Mary Wibberley, Mary Burchell, Flora Kidd, Jane Donnelly (oh, yes!), Charlotte Lamb, and Jayne Bauling as well.

    Read on!


  6. Essie Summers was marvelous. I am missing a couple of her books, which truly saddens me. She along with Jane Donnelly, Mary Burchell, Marjorie Lewty, Betty Neels, Isobel Chace are why I started, and keep, reading Harlequin/M&B. (Georgette Heyer, Emilie Loring and Grace Livingston Hill are why I stared reading romance.)


  7. So strange but so nice...people across countries..continents are all connected..I am from India and vintage Mills and Boon books are still on my bookshelf...Catherine George, Yvonne Whittal, Jessica Steele, Rachel Lindsay and of course my all time favourite Essie am trying to download any ebook I can find of my fav authors..

  8. you I am an ardent Georgette Heyer Fan..I have every book on my Ipad..but Emily Loring and Denise Robins were the pioneers..Barbara Cartland tried to join this list but I never took to her..

  9. Essie Summers An Appreciation by Shirley Brealey is available on Kindle. Shirley is trying to get all Essie's books published on Kindle as they are difficult to track down nowadays. If anyone can help please do so as we don't want her wonderful books forgotten.

  10. Essie Summers was the best! I have all her books, and I read them over and over. She was my introduction to romance, and the inspiration that made me want to be a writer. I hope they become available for Kindle someday.