Saturday, 2 October 2010

Firsts and favourites

I’m feeling very frustrated because I can’t post on the New Voices site, where there’s a lively discussion going on about the first M&B everyone really loved, so I’ll have to have my say here instead.   

The first M&B that made me sit up and think, ‘Hey, this is really good,’ rather than sniggering was Devil Within by Catherine George. I loved the setting – a mining camp in Brazil – perhaps because it felt very familiar to me.  I’ve never been to South America, but I spent quite a lot of my childhood in places like that, in Africa, Papua New Guinea and Oman, and I could picture the house and the garden and the club exactly.  I vividly remember reading it in Raffles Hotel in Singapore, in 1984, but I’ve no idea now where I bought it.  I’ve still got it on my shelves: the cover has lasted pretty well, don’t you think?  Of course, Saul would never have worn a pink neckerchief (what was the artist thinking???) but I love the suggestion of a market behind, and check out the Land Rover!  The ultimate romantic car (my first real kiss was pressed up against a Land Rover, and I’ve never got over it!)

Another book I remember really enjoying was by Mary Wibberley.  It was called something like Gold from Peru, and it was about a heroine who was stuck in South America and disguised as a boy, and she and the hero ended up pretending to be married, or maybe they actually got married with the idea they would divorce as soon as they got back to England.  Can’t remember now, but there was a terrific sexual attraction between them and he was sort of engaged to a very nice girl at home, so there was a Big Problem.  I’ve always thought that a really nice other woman is much more of a threat than the manipulative bitch.  An exotic setting, a marriage of convenience, great characters … what was not to like? 

My favourite cover ever

I wish I still had a copy, although sometimes that can be a mistake. I once paid quite a lot of money for an out-of-print copy of Lucy Walker’s A Man Called Masters, which I loved when I first read it.  Lucy Walker started my love affair with the Australian outback, and I devoured any of her books that I could find  in the library van that used to come round to our village, but oh, what a disappointment when I read it again a few years ago!  Where had all the simmering sexual tension gone?  Where was the vivid description of the outback?  And I was sure I remembered a scene when they were driving home in the ute, and she sleepily pressed a kiss to his throat and he slammed on the brakes.  I think that must have been another of her stories, as it wasn’t there when I reread it.  

Ah, well, sometimes it’s a mistake to go back.  And the truth is that I owe Lucy Walker a lot.  When I couldn’t find her books any more, I tried to recreate the feel that I remembered so vividly in my own outback stories like Woman at Willagong Creek, Outback Husband and the Creek series (Baby at Bushman’s Creek, Wedding at Waverley Creek and A Bride for Barra Creek).

Anyway, I'm always interested to know which books other people really love.  It’s amazing how possessive we all feel about our favourite books.  I always get really cross if other Georgette Heyer fans, for instance, don’t like my favourites (The Talisman Ring, The Grand Sophy, Friday’s Child) and insist that Venetia or These Old Shades are better … I mean, how wrong can you be? 


  1. Great post Jessica :) I'm fascinated by that pink neckerchief. It's definitely not what I think of when I think of Catherine George's alpha males. I don't know that I have the Devil Within, I must track it down.

  2. I loved These Old Shades as a teenager but find it a little embarrassing now although I do love Devil's Cub. The Grand Sophy, Frederica and Cotillion are my absolute favourite comfort reads matched only by Anne of Green Gables...

  3. I love Devil's Cub too. The sexual frisson between Mary and Vidal is fab. Love Frederica and Cotillion as well - in fact, it's probably easier to list the Georgette Heyer's I don't love. Perfect comfort, as you say, and books you can pick up again and again.

    Must see if I can get hold of Anne of Green Gables again - I *loved* those books when I was growing up and still really like series where you can follow characters through, like Loretta Chase's Carsington quartet and Mary Balogh's Slightly series.

  4. Georgette Heyer - hmmm, definitely easier to list the ones I don't love, but I *think* The Convenient Marriage is my favourite comfort read.

    I have Anne of Green Gables as an ebook on my Kobo. I've never read it, but one day...

  5. Ah, yes, all that piquet playing ...! I always liked the fact that Horatia was rather plain too, and in fact, my most recent heroine (in the forthcoming and as yet untitled romcom) inherited those fierce eyebrows.