21 August 2014

Throwback Thursday: ISO Harlequin authors Violet Winspear, Mary Wibberley, Katrina Britt, and Rebecca Stratton

I'll admit that reading old Harlequin romances was one of my favorite pastimes as a tween. Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and Cherry Ames books still captured my interest, but, oh my goodness, those old Harlequins I'd find at yard sales, book sales, and even auctions were like magical carpet rides to the exotic. I'll confess that I probably was as interested in their settings as in the romance. (Though I quickly did get hooked on the romance aspect too.)

These weren't books I'd purchase new, but rather well-thumbed and loved paperbacks. The covers were a draw too with their painterly impressions of the hero and heroine of the story. Among the authors I'd search out (in addition to Mary Burchell) were Violet Winspear, Mary Wibberley, Katrina Britt, and Rebecca Stratton. Sometimes these would be Harlequin Presents titles, but for the most part they were from the romance line.

It was a rare day that I wasn't curled up reading one of these authors after at the end of a day of school, play, and homework. After lights-out, my flashlight (usually hidden by the sheet) would illuminate the words.

As I was still considered too young by my parents to stay home alone, they'd usually encourage me to take a few books along when I'd be dropped off at a relative's house when they went out for the evening. My nana loved the fact that I read these stories, but she did have a slight prejudice against paperbacks. The first time she agreed to read one herself, I think I did a happy dance. Soon we were sharing them back and forth and chatting about which glamorous location was our favorite.

Now, of course, I have the light of my Kindle Paperwhite to read by - no flashlights necessary, but unfortunately none of these author's titles have been reissued yet. Well, except for three Violet Winspear books - Lucifer's Angel, The Passionate Sinner, Pilgrim's Castle - that have been rereleased under the Harlequin Comics imprint.


But all is not lost as OpenLibrary.org does have several titles by each author available to borrow. While these scans are not in any way perfect, I am just happy to be able to access these titles digitally.

If, like me, you're interested in knowing more about these authors, OpenLibrary.org also features a brief biographical page. Reading Violet Winspear's just now, I'm surprised and a bit shocked by a comment from her about her heroes that: Most of my heroes, well all of them really, are like that. They frighten but fascinate. They must be the sort of men who are capable of rape: men it's dangerous to be alone in the room with."

Hmmm, now I'm curious to reread these titles as I don't recall the heroes so much as the settings in Turkey, Greece, Britain. I admit to skipping over some of the more romantic clinches (well, I was pretty young), but truly, this is more than a bit disturbing to me. Yep, I love bad boys, but one of the major negative triggers in books is violence against women by a "hero" - whether rape, a beating, or other abuse. Yes, I'll pretty much close the book and take that author off my list when that occurs.

I'm guessing that some of these Violet Winspear stories fall under the sophisticated older man and virginal heroine trope - where the first marital bedding comes about after an argument. Not my favorite story at any age, but I have a feeling I was a bit more lenient as a child. I may just borrow one or two of the Violet Winspear's titles at OpenLibrary.org.

My recollection of Mary Wibberley's books is a bit different. She was one of the first writers I recall with modern Scottish Highland settings. Yes, I fell in love with the kilt and brogue at a very young age. I think the first Mary Wibberly book I read was Beloved Enemy, but will have to go in search of that physical title to make sure. The cover looks right though.

Looking over the titles by Wibberley, I realize that I had collected most of her books. I haven't read one in years, but just may borrow a few - or all - of the six available through OpenLibrary.org. I do hope that these will at some point be reissued, as I recall that Wibberley was an author who had strong heroines as well as some interesting alpha heroes.

Growing up, one of my best friends was a Swiss American and as I was at her house as much as my own sometimes, I began to feel like I knew Zurich, Geneva, and some of the Alpine communities as well as the Hudson Valley. We studied German together and I remember dinners at her house where we all chattered away in Schweizerdeutsch.

So, how could I resist the lure of Katrina Britt's A Spray of Edelweiss. I couldn't of course. And went on to collect other stories by this author - particularly the ones set in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. OpenLibrary.org has ten digital titles to borrow. Some of which I don't think I've read before. It will be fun to check them out at some point.

Rebecca Stratton (aka Lucy Gillen) was another favorite author whose books took me on virtual journeys around the world. I remember some set in Paris, others in Istanbul, a few in the Greek Islands - magical locations all.

Once again, the stories don't stand out in my memory as much as the sense of the exotic and unknown. I have a feeling her heroes were much like Violet Winspear's, but without rereading these titles, my memory is pretty hazy. OpenLibrary.org has fifteen digital titles to borrow, including one in French. Not however, the one I think I recall reading first - Firebird.

I've enjoyed this trip down memory lane and recalling some of the Harlequin Romance authors that I most loved as a child. I'm hoping that it will be possible at some point for Harlequin to reissue these titles in a digital format. But if not, I'll continue to hoard my original paper copies and borrow digital scans through OpenLibrary.org.

Did you love Harlequin Romances and collect them like I did? If so, what are some of your favorite authors.