Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Talk-Time Tuesday - An Ode to Jilly Cooper

It all began in my early teens, this love affair I have with romance. I used to pinch my sister’s Harlequin Presents novels and read them under the covers at night. Slightly wicked, they were the most satisfying escape from my teenage angst I could find—a fantasy world where gorgeous alpha heroes and feisty heroines reigned supreme and a happy ending was guaranteed. 

One of my absolute favourites from that era was Robyn Donald’s book, Summer at Awakopu, a coming of age story that stole my heart. I think maybe I loved it so much because it mirrored so many of the things I was going through at the time. And that would become a big part of romance for me—how it allowed me to explore my own feelings and emotions alongside the heroine.

Little did I realize then how much romance would come to mean to me. It has seen me through four decades and counting of this rollercoaster journey we call life. But, like my painful teenage years, it’s been through the lows that it’s meant the most to me. I didn’t realize how much until, in the midst of a successful but grueling PR career, I let my love of reading slide. Burnt out and unsure of my next move, I remember rediscovering my passion one night when I happened across Sandra Marton’s Mistress of the Sheikh as I was leaving the supermarket. It was passionate and exciting and I remember thinking over a glass of wine and that book, “how could I have let this go?”

That wonderful book not only made me remember how much I loved romance, but it gave me the impetus to make a scary and ultimately amazing career transition to full-time writer.

Fast forward to very recently when I lost my father. His slow decline was heartbreaking in the truest sense of the word. With so much emotional turmoil going on inside me and so little emotional energy for anything else, a romance was the only thing I could envision picking up. I chose Jilly Cooper’s Riders, a book I’d been meaning to read for years. And I fell in love.

I’d never read anything like the hilarious, scandalous, tour de forces Cooper writes. It was exactly what I needed, allowing me to escape for a few minutes every night into a world that made me laugh and gave me such joy when it seemed there was none to be had. And that, in its essence, has been what romance has meant most to me. It makes me happy.

Funny then when I came across this quote from Cooper in a recent BBC interview:

“I am proud of these books. I know they’re frivolous, imperfect, but people love them.
 Basically, my aim in life is to add to the sum of human happiness.”

And that, Jilly Cooper, is what you did for me. I thank you for that.


If you’ve never read Jilly Cooper’s Rutshire Chronicles, they’re a must. I’m half way through the series so if you’ve read it, I’d love for you to weigh in. Favourite hero anyone? Rupert? Luke? And if you’d like to listen to one of the most delightful interviews you’ll ever hear about romance, writing and life, tune in to Jilly Cooper’s Desert Island Discs BBC’s podcast. I guarantee it will make you smile.

Award-winning author Jennifer Hayward writes fast-paced, sexy stories, always with a touch of humour. You can read a free chapter of her latest, A Deal for the Di Sione Ring, the seventh story in Harlequin Presents' glamorous, intriguing, The Billionaire's Legacy series, on her website.

"Marry me, sell me the ring and I will fly you out of here tonight." 

Hotel magnate Nate Brunswick's faith in marriage was destroyed by his father. But in searching for the ring that his beloved grandfather has asked him to retrieve, the illegitimate Di Sione who hates weddings finds himself inconveniently engaged!  

The alluring owner of the ring, Mina Mastrantino, can only pass it on once she's married. Quick vows and an even quicker annulment should be easy…but the exquisite impromptu wedding night gives them both far more than they planned! 



  1. I haven't read Jilly Cooper, but I will certainly correct that mistake!

    And I can say the same about your wonderful books giving me hours of pleasure from real life. Much needed this year! Thank you!

    1. Aww thank you Carol! xx I am in LOVE with Jilly Cooper. I think you'll adore her. Much love and best wishes for 2017! Jen x

  2. I loved reading this, Jen. And now you are adding to the sum of human happiness. Have a wonderful holiday. I'll be tucked up with more of your books throughout mine and will definitely read Jilly Cooper now too.

    1. :) Olivia. Thank you! Hope you have a wonderful holiday. I'm going to get there and see you all soon. xx

  3. Love love love Jilly Cooper and was delighted to find while I was cleaning out last month that I did own a copy of Riders, so hopefully will get to read over the summer break (now for us in the southern hemisphere). I too read it when I was younger and I love Rupert and Tilly and all the characters among the books. I havent read the latest but am thinking of starting from the beginning again. I've also had the privilege of reading your Di Sione contribution - what an amazing book which thoroughly complements the incredible series.

    1. Yay! I'm so happy you enjoyed my Di Sione Tash! I had more fun writing that book than any other I think. It made me LOL. And we'll have to chat about Jilly. I have Mount too, but I'm only up to Appassionata. xx

  4. Back in the day Jilly Cooper wrote a series of romance novels about contemporary young women, finding their way in the world and discovering love whilst on the journey. They were called Prudence, Octavia, Imogen, Harriet, Emily and Bella. These heroines were fun and feisty, and I loved all of them. I read these novels many times throughout my teens and twenties, and am inclined to do so again, now my memory has been jogged.

    1. Karen I just read Prudence which was really funny! Have a couple others too. Happy Holidays and I'm so glad you stopped by xx