Friday, October 04, 2013

A Date With Kate - The Book That Started It All

I’ve  just finished the revisions – and this time they really were just ‘tweaks’ (thank heaven!) on  my latest novel.  It’s been a difficult year for writing and I’ve not been as productive as usual, but I’m hoping to be able to look forward to a new title – and I’m really thankful about that.

I’ve been thinking about this for a very special reason.  Next year is a really important year for me as a writer -  at the end of 2014, it will be 30 years – 30! – since the very first time I ever saw one of my own books in print. December 1984 was the month that my first ever title, The Chalk Line was published by Mills & Boon in the UK. It didn’t come out in America until 1992 – my first USA title was Game of Hazard. But The Chalk Line was the book that started it all off – a career writing and publishing romance that has lasted almost  30 years!

So I was thinking about one particular book – The  book that - as the heading to this post says - the book that started it all.

When I was growing up in Yorkshire, as I've said before, my mother had a friend who wrote for Mills & Boon as Margaret Baumann, and she gave my mother her books when they were published. I read some of those and quite enjoyed them but they seemed quite mild to me when I was interested in stronger emotions, more passionate stories. (It has always intrigued me that my mother was thrilled to see me reading Wuthering Heights with its story of passion, betrayal, death and hateful revenge but she didn't like the idea of my reading contemporary romance!) So after I left home and went to university I stopped reading Mills & Boon novels for a while. I was studying Children's Literature as part of my degree and I turned to that for my fix of good, straightforward storytelling.

But then when my son was very small, on an impulse I picked up a book that appealed to me and when I read it I remembered the old romances I had read - and this one did reach out and grab me. It was set in the North of England with a dark, saturnine hero and a young innocent heroine. I loved it and it sparked my interest in romances all over again. I read more and, recalling how Margaret Baumann had written her novels while looking after 2 young children, it spurred me on to write my own first (and pretty dreadful) attempt at a romance.(I hadn't read enough of the current output to really understand what editors were looking for so I made the classic mistake of not understanding the genre properly.)

Over the years, that first book had got lost, mislaid in several house moves, and as my career progressed I kept wishing I could remember just which book it had been. I knew the author - Anne Mather (still writing today) and I remembered that the hero and heroine had been called Jake and Ashley and that she had lived in the local small hotel of pub. And I knew that when I'd bought it it had been a Bestseller reprint, not the first published edition. I kept looking though and talked to author friends about it - but no one could recall the book I was talking about. Sadly, I have never met Anne Mather so that I could tell her of this book and ask her which one of her many novels it was.


But  a couple of years back, then I decided to have one last go at finding this title. With the help of the database over on Fantastic Fiction and a vague idea of the date, I worked through all their synopses for Anne Mather titles of that time. And eventually I found it - there were the names Ashley and Jake, and the small hotel. And it had been first published in 1974 which would m
ean that it could have been reprinted in about 1981.

And the title was Witchstone

When young Ashley Calder's father died she travelled north to make her home with her uncle and aunt in their small hotel. It was while helping them there that she met Jake Seton and her whole life changed yet again. For Jake Seton and her whole life yet again. For Jake was unlike any other man she had ever met, and beyond her reach in just about every way. Although a man of immense and undeniable attraction for her,- he was far too old and sophisticated for her, his social sphere was far removed from her own-and above all he shortly to be married to his fiancee the glamorous Barbara Forrest. So why did he persist in making it clear to Ashley that the attraction was by no means only on her side?

Armed with this information I found a secondhand copy of Amazon and ordered it. When it arrived, to my delight it was the Bestseller reprint edition that I originally remember buying. That was published in December 1980.

So I think  one of my reading-binge-after-writing treats will be to sit down and reread this once again and see if it still has the impact I remember. I've just had a quick glance at the first chapter and found that the heroine first appears in her school uniform! (She's 17) And first her aunt lights up a cigarette when she's finished her baking, then Ashley's uncle lights his pipe and finally at Jake Seton's first appearance he hands round a pack of cheroots. Can't imagine that happening today.

So I was wondering what was the first romance that got you started on reading them – can you remember?  Does it have an impact on your memory as strong as mine does?  I’d love to know.  I have a signed copy of a book from my backlist (sadly it doesn’t go back as far as the 30 years) for one commenter who tells me the name of the book they recall.

And this has reminded me that I should plan ahead to celebrate that special 30th anniversary next year.
So what for you was 'The Book that started it all'? I'd love to know.
Kate's latest  novel is A Throne For The Taking:
Alexei Sarova, the black sheep prince who has to face up to a new and unexpected destiny with his heroine Honoria Escalona (Ria) as the woman he wants as his queen.

A kingdom's safety...
Betrayed by those she loves, Honoria Escalona must now face the only man capable of bringing stability to the Mediterranean kingdom of Mecjoria. A cold, hard man who once called her his friend... Alexei Sarova-the true King of Mecjoria.
In exchange for her happiness

But Alexei's tortuous past has changed him into someone she hardly knows. He blames Ria's family for his bitterness, and his help-when he offers it-comes with a price: he'll take his rightful place as King with Ria as his wife, until she produces a true-blood heir  

A Throne For the Taking  is published in the Royal and Ruthless miniseries in both Harlequin Presents and Mills & Boon Modern in June.
Other up to date news and details of all Kate’s books can be found on her web site and in her blog.


  1. Hi Kate,
    I'm looking forward to reading you next book and can't wait for the celebrations next year!
    The book that started it all for me was Shirley Conran's Lace. As a teenager it totally captivated me, taking me on a journey into a completely new world.

    1. Hi Rachael. I hope the 'tweaks' have worked and the book will please my ed. I have to plan something special for the 30th anniversary - don't I?

      Ah - Lace - that was one heck of a read. It had one of the best opening lines - remember?

  2. The book that got me hooked into reading romance was 'Pale Orchid' by Anne Mather. I can still see the cover -blue with a white rose. Thanks for your lovely blog, I haven't thought of this before but I think I'll go and hunt up this book, would be lovely to read it again.


    1. Thank you Ferdous - I'm glad you enjoyed the blog. Great to see you're another Anne Mather fan! I don't think I've ever read Pale Orchid - I'll have to look for that one too.

      Hope you find your 'first one' - and that you still enjoy it

  3. I have no idea, Kate. I was in Grade 9 or 10, back in 1972/73. The man across the street (who I learned after he and my parents died was actually my brother's and my biological father) used to sit in his lawn chair with his feet up on his porch railing after work every night while his mother made supper, and after he finished the local newspapers, out came the romance books. I loved to read, so I'd sit in a lawn chair beside him, checking out the books. I remember that he looked at me and said something like, "You're old enough!" When he realized just how quickly I could read and how much I enjoyed the books, he'd take me to a used book store just outside of town and let me help him choose more books to buy.
    I don't remember book titles, but I DO remember enjoying Anne Mather, Violet Winspear, Flora Kidd, Lillian Peake, Penny Jordan, Charlotte Lamb, Janet Dailey, and Jessica Steele, to name but a few. Harlequins were the most popular, and other romance companies came and went through the years (or were bought out by Harlequin), but I recall preferring more Harlequins than anything else.

    1. Hi Laney - that's quite a story about the man across the street. It's fascinating that he introduced you to romance books. You've listed some of the real 'oldies but goodies' in your comment. I remember meeting writers like Charlotte Lamb, Jessica Steel and of course the late great Penny Jordan for the first time. Sadly, I've never met Anne Mather. I'd love to tell her she was my 'first'!

  4. Kate ~ My mom started borrowing Harlequins from a small volunteer library when I was 11 years old. I would sneak the books and read them at night. I have no idea which book started it all. I do know my first favorite author was Mary Burchell followed by Betty Neels. Back in 1959 the only line available was H Romance. When Presents came out my mom switched her loyalty to that line as she liked the racier stories.

    1. Hi Kaelee - I never read any Mary Burchell though I do have one really old book of hers with a fabulous cover.(I've gone and forgotten the title now!) And of course Betty Neels is a legend I'm glad your mom switched to the Presents line so that we got to know each other!

  5. 'Double Standards' by Judith McNaught. I've reread it after a gazillion years, and today it feels like reading a historical romance :-) typewriters and shorthand, a hero who is quite a bit older than the heroine and who smokes like the proverbial chimney. Still loved it though!

    1. I know what you mean about older books seeming like historical novels, Lia -I know that in my second book the hero smoked ! I'd never write about that now - but it seemed much more sophisticated then. Isn't it great when you pick up an old favourite and it's still so good>

  6. Kate - I can remember the first romance that really registered for me. It was one of Penny Jordan's when I was about 13/14. I was lucky enough to be able to tell her. I always meant to find a copy and get her to sign it but didn't until after she sadly passed away.
    And then sometime in the late 90s I read a M&B which made me want to write them. I think the author was called Kate Walker... ;-)

    1. Ah Ms Coady, you know the right things to say! I hope that Kate Walker woman still writes books that inspire you! Of course Penny Jordan would inspire anyone. One of the other books that grabbed me when I went back to reading M&B was her Tiger Man - I think it was only her 2nd or 3rd book. Like you, I wished I'd get her to sign it for me. So sad that she's no longer here to ask

    2. Well I'm glad I have signed ones from that Kate Walker woman.

  7. I need to post winners! Charlie the Maine Coon was called on to pick a winner - but being greedy he snaffled two treats so I don't know which was first - so the winnerS are:
    Ferdous and


    Please email me kate AT kate-walker .com so that I can organise your giveaway

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