#Feature: Celebrating 60 years of the Romantic Novelists’ Association (Part 2) – the 70s, with Sophie Weston @sophiewestonbks @RNAtweets #RNA60

By | November 17, 2020

Welcome to the second in my series of articles where RNA authors look back at their favourite romance reads through the decades to celebrate 60 years of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Today it’s the 70s – and I’m delighted to welcome Sophie Weston remembering some of her personal favourites.

Did you vote for your favourite book of the 70s in Sunday’s poll on the RNA twitter feed? Another Mary Stewart (Touch Not The Cat), and The Princess Bride by William Goldman (which I’ve never actually read…), but I was really torn between Erich Segal’s Love Story (goodness, I’m in tears just thinking about it!) and The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough (and I must dig out my DVD of the TV series… I really was in love with Ralph de Bricassart… or was it Richard Chamberlain?). It was The Thorn Birds that won my personal vote – and, as it won in Sunday’s poll, I see many others agreed.

Let’s see which 70s books Sophie has chosen…

In the 1970s sex invaded romantic fiction. And, like so much, it started in the USA. Onto the best seller lists came first hot historicals aka bodice rippers, in the shape of The Flame and the Flower (1972) by Kathleen E Woodiwiss. It was followed by sex and shopping in Scruples (1978) by Judith Krantz. Both books were the size of a couple of bricks. They had many imitators.

My personal picks from the decade, though, all happen to be British and the sex is in the subtext. But it simmers like crazy in every one. At least, I think so.

 

Short Romance

 

Mills & Boon was edging towards sex-on-the-page over the 70s – and achieved it in the fabulous Flame of Diablo by Sara Craven in 1979 – but the M&B I want to commend to you here is Sullivan’s Reef (1971) by Anne Weale. Daringly this is a novel which starts with a gigantic slug of looking-back-into-the-past.

And what a story it is! There’s jungle, a deserted island, a haunted house almost hidden by encroaching vines, dark family secrets, love denied, rejection and despair. Oh, and a fantastically attractive hero, with a past cloaked in mystery. The heroine, like Jane Eyre, is young but perceptive and heartbreakingly honest. An absolute cracker of an escapist read.

 

Award Winning Cool Historical

 

More Gothic mystery, and exotic location, this time Tibet – my second choice is Merlin’s Keep by Madeleine Brent. The heroine goes from truth-telling mixed race orphan in the Himalayas to a composed resident of an English country house. The plot is all adventure and mystery with a dash of the occult. A hero of quiet endurance and an energetic and not always wise heroine, this is compelling stuff. Rudyard Kipling meets Daphne du Maurier, only with a happy ending.

It well deserved the RNA’s award of Romantic Novel of the Year in 1978. Though the author mysteriously failed to turn up to receive her award at the ceremony. Her publisher accepted in her stead, claiming she was in Mexico and that plot story had been inspired by a relative who had been with Younghusband in Tibet. Many years later it emerged that she was Peter O’Donnell of Modesty Blaise fame. Publisher, agent and author kept the secret pretty much until his death, I think.

 

Multi-generation Blockbuster

 

Csardas (1975) by Diane Pearson is one of my all time favourite novels. Set in Hungary, runs from the Austro-Hungarian belle époque when two rich sisters are going to ball, through world wars, defeat, deprivation, enmity, betrayal, and the tribulations of the next generation. It is a saga embracing twentieth century issues as well as the timeless questions of family, truth and loyalties.

I include it as a favourite because stories are often defined by their endings. And this one ends at a moment of peace and harmony, with the unexpected action of the man who has become the story’s hero, against all the odds. The final scene is an absolute tear-jerker and yet so hopeful.

 

It was republished a couple of years ago Head of Zeus, and is available on Kindle. If you need a big story about endurance and love to get you through lockdown, this is surely it.

Sophie, thank you – and I just couldn’t resist downloading Csardas! Join me again tomorrow when Jill Mansell remembers her favourites from the 80s…

About Sophie Weston

Sophie writes contemporary romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon. At the last count she was published in 26 languages – and manga!

A lifelong writer, her first book was published after a bout of mystery illness kicked her into submitting a mss to an agent. She loves the unequivocal happy ending that you are allowed in HMB but her characters have to fight their way through the difficulties of very twenty-first century relationships to get there, like the workaholic international negotiator hero of The Englishman’s Bride.

She travels widely and lives in London.

A former Chairman of the RNA, under her real name Jenny Haddon, she was also previously Treasurer.

The Bedroom Assignment was short listed for the Love Story of the Year.

This year, Sophie was also one of the authors behind Libertà Books‘ first beach holiday anthology, Beach Hut Surprise: you’ll find my special feature, a lovely conversation between a few of the hivies, here.

Libertà Books website | Sophie’s website | Facebook | Twitter

9 thoughts on “#Feature: Celebrating 60 years of the Romantic Novelists’ Association (Part 2) – the 70s, with Sophie Weston @sophiewestonbks @RNAtweets #RNA60

  1. Liz Fielding

    Wonderful. This brought back so many memories, especially of many breakfasts shared with Anne Weale at the New Cavendish Club.

    Reply
  2. Joanne

    Haven’t read any of those choices but I LOVED The Thorn Birds (and yes probably Ralph too!).

    Reply
    1. Anne Post author

      I’m still wondering how on earth I missed Csardas – think it looks wonderful!

      Reply
  3. Deborah Klee

    I loved the Thorn Birds and Scruples. I remember reading Lace too. It was very steamy for a teenage read. But so was Harold Robbins who was still
    Popular in the 70s. I am loving these posts.

    Reply
    1. Anne Post author

      Do you know Deborah, I was surprised to find that Lace came out in the 80s – I’d have said 70s too! I did love that one, and Savages – I’ve mentioned both in Wednesday’s post. Thanks for reminding me about Harold Robbins – I remember reading and rereading The Lonely Lady! Made me think of Sidney Sheldon too – remember The Other Side of Midnight?

      Reply
  4. Jessica Redland Writer

    Ooh, The Thorn Birds. Loved the TV series, loved the book. Someone mentioned Lace above too. Yep, loved the series, loved the book for that too although I seem to remember there was one more character in the book than in the TV series or something like that so it was a bit confusing having seen the series before I read the book

    Reply
    1. Anne Post author

      Do you know Jessica, I have no memory at all of the tv series of Lace – 1984 apparently. Must see if it’s available anywhere…

      Reply
      1. Jessica Redland Writer

        The timing would make sense. I remember watching it either at school or college which was mid-late 80s. There was another one called Mistral’s Daughter around the same time (possibly a bit earlier) but not sure whether that was a book or not. Not sure how well it will have aged as seem to remember both of those ones being very Dynasty-like! Hopefully you can find it and check it out. I keep meaning to watch The Thorn Birds again at some point to see if it’s as good as I recalled x

        Reply
        1. Anne Post author

          Now I do remember Mistral’s Daughter – and it was indeed a book, another from Judith Kranz! Another one to add to my search list… x

          Reply

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