Ready for the third part of my series? RNA authors are joining me every day this week, looking back at their favourite romance reads through the decades to celebrate 60 years of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Today it’s the 80s, and I’m really delighted to welcome Jill Mansell as my guest – and I think her choice rather sums up the decade for me too…
I managed to bag the 1980s, hooray!
1985 was when I first read Riders by Jilly Cooper – an experience that, for me, turned out to be quite literally life changing. I’d loved her work before that, of course, and had even started trying to write myself (for Mills and Boon), but Riders was the novel that made me decide my genre. The joy de vivre, the humour and shenanigans, the fabulous writing style and the feelgood factor – these were the kinds of things that really spoke to me. If I could just write novels that contained a fraction of those attributes, I’d be so happy. (I’d have to leave the horseyness out of mine, though. Despite growing up in Badminton, I knew nothing about horses. Oh, and I also had to leave out the sex scenes, because I wrote my manuscripts by hand and my mum was typing them up for me.)
Riders was a massive tome that I could, and did, get completely lost in. There were hundreds of characters to get to know! And they were all so glamorous and exciting! I wanted to live in Rutshire and meet them all. It was just impossible to imagine that I could ever love another book as much as I loved this one…
Then 1988 came along and Rivals was published. And if I was forced to choose a favourite, I think Rivals might win by a nose (horsey joke, get me!). I adored it, re-read it and was just so happy that wickedly irresistible Rupert Campbell-Black had finally met his match and fallen in love.
The following year I sold my first novel to Transworld, met Jilly at a party, and she was everything I’d hoped she would be. Like her books, she was absolutely perfect.
I so loved her books, Jill! Then came Polo, The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous, Appassionata, Score!… but that was the 90s, and I’d already found another favourite in this exciting new author called Jill Mansell.
Did everyone join in with the poll on the RNA twitter feed on Monday? It seems a lot of people agreed with Jill, and Riders came out on top. The other choices? Anita Brookner’s Booker prize winning Hotel du Lac (beautiful writing, but a little slow for my 80s self – I suspect I’d enjoy it rather more if I read it now); The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (a Nobel prizewinner, but sadly not one I’ve read – but I very much enjoyed the film….); and Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine (I’ve since caught up with her wonderful books, and loved every one, but not in the 80s!).
My 80s reading? Those wonderful bonkbusters that threatened to push my holiday suitcase over the weight limit like Shirley Conran’s Lace (“Which of you bitches is my mother?”) and Savages, Jackie Collins’ Hollywood books… and Danielle Steele, whose books I loved so much that I preordered every new one in hardcover!
Remember that there’s a poll every day – today it’s for the 00s – followed by a vote for best romantic read on Saturday featuring all the winners.
Join me again tomorrow, when Jeevani Charika – you might also know her as Rhoda Baxter – shares her favourite book from the 90s.
About Jill Mansell
Jill Mansell is the author of over twenty-five Sunday Times bestsellers including The One You Really Want, To The Moon and Back, You and Me, Always and Meet Me At Beachcomber Bay. Take A Chance On Me won the RNA’s Romantic Comedy Prize, and in 2015 the RNA presented Jill with an outstanding achievement award.
Jill’s personal favourite amongst her novels is Three Amazing Things About You, which is about cystic fibrosis and organ donation; to her great delight, many people have joined the organ donor register as a direct result of reading this novel.
Jill started writing fiction while working in the NHS, after she read a magazine article that inspired her to join a local creative writing class. Her first book was published in 1991 and she is now a full-time novelist. She is one of the few who still write their books by hand, like a leftover from the dark ages. She lives in Bristol with her family.