Sunday, January 08, 2012

Penny Jordan -- An Appreciation

From Diane Gaston's blog
 The Pink Heart Society was very saddened to hear of Penny Jordan's recent death. She lost her fight with cancer on 31 December 2011. She had known for awhile but chose to keep the news quiet, instead she concentrated on living her life, including continuing to write. Penny's work ethic was legendary. Her like will not be see again.

Several authors who knew her well agreed to write a few words in appreciation.

From India Grey Harlequin Presents Author:

On December 31st the romance world didn’t just say goodbye to 2011, but also to one of the biggest, brightest and most beloved stars in its galaxy. Penny Jordan had been privately holding her own against cancer for a long time, even when she knew it was a fight she wasn’t going to win. She finally submitted to it last week, with the grace and dignity that were the cornerstones of her character.

It’s impossible to know where to begin to sum up her life and her achievements as she was so many things to so many people, and she accomplished so much. In that respect the figures speak for themselves – in the 32 years since her first novel Duchess in Disguise was published under the pseudonym Caroline Courtney, she wrote over 200 novels under 5 different pen names and sold in excess of 100 million copies across the world. (Gosh. I wonder how many hours of reading pleasure that equals?)

Numbers like that don’t stack up by themselves: Penny was jaw-droppingly hard-working and the romantic imagination that enabled her to create her glorious stories was coupled with a steely professionalism. In 1985 alone she had 17 books published, written on an old typewriter balanced on a card table in the sitting room of the home she shared with her husband, Steve. (She said he always used to be able to tell when she was writing a sex scene as the clicking of her fingers on the keys would become even more frantic.)

Beth Kendrick admiring one of Penny's fabulous shoes
 The essence of Penny the person is harder to encapsulate.  It would be impossible to talk about her without mentioning elegance and glamour – both of which she had in effortless spades – but if she could hear me say that she’d wave a dismissive hand and tell me not to talk rubbish. Because the second thing you noticed about her was that she was incredibly down to earth. Given how phenomenally successful and well-loved she was, she could have been forgiven for being just a tiny-weeny bit complacent, deep down. But she wasn’t, not one bit.  There was an undercurrent of insecurity and vulnerability in her that was as endearing as it was incomprehensible. Her success only made her more conscious of her responsibility to her readers, and she had a genuine and generous desire to share it with others. She devoted considerable amounts of time and energy to encouraging and mentoring aspiring authors, as Susan Stephens and I – amongst many others – can gratefully attest. Like a modern-day Fairy Godmother, she changed things for the better.

During even the toughest times in her own life her capacity for hard work didn’t desert her – perhaps it even kept her going. But not only did she keep writing, she also managed to keep on top of the market (and the bestseller lists) by adapting her stories and her characters to suit the mood of the times. She did this quite naturally – by reading newspapers and magazines voraciously, collecting snippets to spin into stories. She did it by people-watching – whether it was on the elegant Via dei Tornabuoni in her beloved Florence, or in a coffee shop in the small Cheshire market town where she lived – and just by engaging in conversation, both in real life and online, which she did with irrepressible interest. She adored fashion and could shop for Britain (especially with the Mses Stephens or Kendrick as her partners in crime!) and her love of clothes and shoes and jewellery echoes through her books.

From Lucy Monroe's photo album
And of course, it’s her books that are her greatest legacy – her lasting gift to us all. Through them she has touched millions of lives; brought numberless hours of joy to women around the world and immeasurable comfort during dark days and long nights. They will endure, as will the memory of Penny’s warmth and wit and generosity in the minds of those who were lucky enough to know her.  She will be missed so much, by so many.

Sandra Martin Harlequin Presents:

We've lost a wonderful writer and a true friend. If you knew Penny through her books, you probably imagine her as feminine, beautiful, elegant, determined and strong. That's exactly what she was like in person. Penny never let life defeat her. She kept to that to the end, by leaving this world with amazing dignity and grace.

Michelle Styles Harlequin Historical author:

Penny Jordan has been a huge influence on me. First of all I loved her books and they provided an escape from university reading, work and then a lifeline to home when I first moved to the UK. It may seem strange as she was from the UK but Harlequin (Mills and Boon) made those first few months bearable as they were familiar. Later when I lay sick in hospital with gall stones, a lady in the next bed told me you couldn't go wrong with A Penny Jordan and I knew the sort of books I wanted to write books you could turn to in times of trouble or need and somehow find the strength to carry on after escaping. Still later, I got to know Penny via several yahoo loops and even had the pleasure of meeting her on occasion. She was unfailingly kind and patient. In short she was the sort of author any young author could look up to. She set a very high standard and her like will not be seen again. I feel very honoured to have known her.

Please feel free to add any personal thoughts or remembrances of Penny.


  1. When it comes to Harlequin Presents..I think Penny Jordan's name will always come to mind. I've read her books since I was in high school. She'll be missed greatly in the reading world.

  2. A beautiful tribute India, and Sandra and Michelle. There simply aren't enough superlatives to describe Penny Jordan and they would all be true. She really was that elegant and that kind and that generous. And above all, that GOOD. She was astonishingly good at what she did. She created a world that people could step into and lose themselves for a minute or an hour or for days, depending on how quickly you devoured her books.
    She will be missed by so many but we're lucky that she's left such a wonderful legacy to comfort us. She raised the bar high indeed.
    x Abby

  3. I didn't realize that Penny Jordan also wrote as Caroline Courtney, as well as a few other names. I guess the best tribute I can give her is my mom always bought her books when they came out. This often stretched my mom's budget as she was the bread winner in the family after my dad had a nervous breakdown when I was 12. Mom loved Presents and Penny Jordan was her favorite author. she would go to a used book store for other books but not for Penny's books.

  4. What a lovely tribute. Like so many I cut my M&B teeth reading her stories as a teenager. Caroline x

  5. What beautiful beautiful words! It is a sad sad loss to us readers but I am continuously blown away by the heartfelt memories and descriptions I read by those who personally knew Penny Jordan. You all paint such and incredible and inspiring picture of who we would all ideally aspire to be. The honour it must feel to have personally known who is described as just beautiful in so many ways inside and out. I sit back and think "Wow!

    I read Penny Jordan and Carole Mortimer when I was a young teenager. My M&B's were given to me by my elderly Nana after she read them. Penny Jordan was the first M&B I ever remember reading.

    That is my "raise my glass" dedication to Penny; that she (and CM) are the only two authors I remember avidly reading 20+ years ago :))

  6. I met Penny on a couple of occassions. She always looked elegant and beautiful. She was extremely kind to a new writer - me - and I feel blessed and privileged to have known her.

  7. Thanks India, Sandra and Michelle for the lovely tributes to the amazing Penny Jordan. She's always been larger than life to me and something of a legend in romance circles. I'm so glad we have the legacy of her books still to enjoy.

  8. Penny was a class act from beginning to end. Her professionalism was legendary, her talent prodigious, her charm and her infectious VBGs were apparent both in person and in emails, and her books will live to give joy to generations of readers. Thanks, India, Sandra and Michelle for your memories. I will store them with my own and raise a toast to a very special woman.

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