I’m really sad to be here at the Pink Heart Society today with the news that Margaret McDonagh (known to many in the RNA and among Mills & Boon/Harlequin authors as Mags) passed away unexpectedly last weekend.
I’ve known Mags for years and I can remember her emailing me to congratulate me on ‘the call’ from M&B, back in late 2001. And I was thrilled to be able to ring her, a few years later, to congratulate her on her own ‘call’ and the publication of her first Medical Romance, ‘The Italian Doctor’s Bride’, in 2006. Her latest, her 18th, is on shelves this month in the UK – ‘Brought Together By Baby’. (And before that she wrote 15 novels for Linford – Mags was very prolific.) She was working on her 19th Medical Romance, and sent Christina Jones a very bubbly email a couple of days before she died saying that she’d written ‘about 30,000 words and none of them were yet in the right order’.
Mags was quite a private person and, although she struggled with health problems, she always brushed them aside or made light of them, not wanting to burden others. Christina Jones summed her up for the RNA’s cyber chapter:
she was funny, brave, cheerful, immensely generous and a prolific writer. She loved all things Italian (check out her heroes!), football, music, reading, the countryside, and was passionate about animals.
And that was the Mags I knew. I had the pleasure of working with her on three Penhally/St Piran’s continuities (which I always mistyped as ‘Penhappy’), and as soon as she learned that I was planning to have my vet rescue a dog (who would bite her, and Caroline Anderson could use that scene in an earlier book), she asked if I’d mind making it a flatcoat retriever like her beloved Bramble. Not only that, she was thrilled when I pinched Bramble’s name, and we had much fun in planning two litters of puppies (one in each series), naming them, and persuading the other contributing authors that their characters would just love to adopt a puppy...
She had an encyclopaedic memory which I think was better than the continuity’s ‘bible’. If you couldn’t find your notes on whose child was in which class, for example, you’d email Mags to ask if she remembered, and back would come the answer in about 20 seconds.
And she was generous to work with – Maggie Kingsley remembers asking her to alter something in her book (the one before Maggie’s) to help with the plot, and she was more than happy to help. Her ‘hero pictures’ file was legendary, and if she found a particularly gorgeous pic it would be in your inbox later that day!
Her love of animals spread to more than cats, dogs and horses; she ‘adopted’ elephants and rhinos, and supported the work of the David Sheldrick Trust.
She was generous to a fault, kind to others, and, at only 51, was way too young to die. But her stories will live on with her readers, and it was a privilege to have been her friend.
Rest in peace, Mags.