From to Hibbert wrote four novels as Elbur Ford , a pen name derived from her maiden name, Eleanor Burford. Between and Hibbert used the pseudonym Kathleen Kellow to write eight novels that were mostly crime and mystery fiction. From to she wrote five novels as Ellalice Tate , a pseudonym inspired by her mother's name, Alice Tate. In , at the suggestion of her agent, Patricia Schartle Myrer , she wrote her first Gothic romance, Mistress of Mellyn , under the name Victoria Holt. Its setting in Cornwall made the resemblance to Rebecca so remarkable that it was speculated that Victoria Holt was a pseudonym for Daphne du Maurier.
In , Hibbert wrote a novel under the name Anna Percival , a pseudonym inspired by her husband's middle name, Percival. Hibbert never used that pen name again.
She created her last pseudonym, Philippa Carr, in at the suggestion of her publisher, Collins , to create a new series showing successive generations of English gentlewomen involved in important historical events starting with the Reformation and ending with World War II. Hibbert continued to use the pseudonym Jean Plaidy for her historical novels about the crowned heads of Europe.
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Her books written under this pseudonym were popular with the general public and were also hailed by critics and historians for their historical accuracy, quality of writing, and attention to detail. Each of Hibbert's Jean Plaidy books featured a bibliography at the end, listing the historical works consulted during the process of writing the book.
The Kensington Central Library gave Hibbert special concessions to aid her research. She was allowed to go down to the vault where the out-of-circulation books were stored, and borrow them a trolley-load at a time. When her eyesight started failing towards the end of her life, she borrowed audiobooks from the Westminster City Council public libraries. Hibbert was a prolific writer, churning out multiple books in a year under different pseudonyms, chiefly Jean Plaidy, Victoria Holt and Philippa Carr.
Many of her readers never realized that behind all these pen names was a single author. Hibbert attributed her large output to her regular working habits. She described herself as a compulsive writer and would write all seven days in the week. She started every morning at the typewriter on her desk, usually completing five thousand words by lunchtime.
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She devoted five hours every day to her writing, in addition to the time that it took her to proof-read her draft and conduct research. In the afternoon, she would personally answer all the fan mail she received. She would also spend time at Kensington Central Library. In the evening, she played chess if she could find an opponent or attended social engagements. Even while on her annual cruise around the world, Hibbert maintained her discipline.
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She wrote in the mornings, played chess in the afternoons, and joined in the shipboard entertainments in the evenings. She preferred to work on her Victoria Holt novels while on board the cruise ship because they did not require as much research or fact-checking at a library. Eleanor Hibbert enjoyed healthy, lifelong relationships with her literary agents and publishers, a rare feat in the publishing world. London publisher Herbert Jenkins published 20 light romantic novels from to that Hibbert wrote under the pen name Eleanor Burford. Mills and Boon , a London publisher that specialised in low-priced, paperback, romantic novels brought out 10 romance novels from to that Hibbert wrote under the pen name Eleanor Burford.
Starting with Beyond the Blue Mountains and extending over the entire course of her lifetime, Robert Hale published a total of 90 Jean Plaidy books in hardcover with dust jackets illustrated by specialist artist Philip Gough. MacRae Smith Co.
Luitingh, Amsterdam. In , Canadian paperback publishers Harlequin reprinted Jean Plaidy' s Beyond the Blue Mountains in paperback to achieve their greatest commercial success to that date: of the 30, copies sold, only 48 were returned. Robert Hale published eight Kathleen Kellow crime and mystery novels between and in hardcover with dust jackets by Philip Gough.
Many of them were bestsellers and were translated into 20 languages to reach a worldwide audience. A few of them were later translated into foreign langagues such as Spanish, Finnish, Russian and Polish. By the time of her death in , Hibbert had sold 75 million books translated in 20 languages under the name Victoria Holt , 14 million under the name Jean Plaidy and 3 million under the name Philippa Carr.
After her death, Mark Hamilton of the A.
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The book "The Love Child" published in by Eleanor Burford must not be mistaken for the same-titled novel by Philippa Carr published in as part of the Daughters of England Series. Many Jean Plaidy books were published under different titles in the United States. Her trilogies were also later republished as single books, often under different titles than those shown. Jean Plaidy historical novels were welcomed by readers who found them to be an easy way to gain insight into a sweeping panorama of European history.
It was common for school girls in England to read these in history lessons, whilst hiding them behind their proper text books. In the last decade of the 20th century, historical fiction went out of fashion. Jean Plaidy titles went out of print. Kahan bought the reprint rights to ten Jean Plaidy novels. The books were published in paperback with new titles, modern covers and a readers' guide at the back. The first printing of 30, copies of each book sold out in 3 months. Victoria Holt books proved popular with the reading public and many of them made it to bestseller lists.
Hibbert won loyalty from large numbers of women readers who passed along their copies to the next generation of women in their family. Hibbert described her heroines as "women of integrity and strong character" who were "struggling for liberation, fighting for their own survival. Her novel Mistress of Mellyn single-handedly revived the Gothic romance genre. Even male authors like Tom E.
Huff and Julian Fellowes succumbed to the trend and wrote romances under female pseudonyms. Victoria Holt novels became best-sellers. In , when gothic mania was at its peak, The Secret Woman became one of the top 10 best-selling books in the United States. By the early s gothic novels outsold all other genres in paperback fiction, including mysteries , science fiction and Westerns. This coincided with consolidation within the publishing industry where paperbacks and hardcover publishers were brought together under the same corporate parent for the first time.
More sophisticated marketing efforts led to placement in grocery ad drugstore checkout aisles, where they found their target audience: educated, middle-class women with a reading habit. Hibbert's romance novels were clean; at the most the main characters exchanged smouldering looks of longing. However, by the sexual revolution had made explicit description more acceptable. In April , the romance novel The Flame and the Flower took advantage of this change in trend and revolutionized the historical romance genre by detailing physical intimacy between the protagonists.
Another such novel, Sweet Savage Love , that followed in cemented the trend. A new genre was thus born, dubbed the 'sweet savage romance' or the 'bodice ripper' because of the heaving, partly exposed bosom often pictured on the cover. Interest in Hibbert's clean romances declined. In , a critic complained that Victoria Holt's heroines "must be a little bit dumb or they won't get themselves into such improbable messes in the first place.
By the early s, Gothic romances were no longer as popular as a decade earlier.
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Readers demanded more sex and adventure in their romance novels. Publishers created paperback imprints like Silhouette and Candlelight Ecstasy simply to satisfy the enormous demand for "bodice rippers" and "hot historicals". Bowing to the changing times, Hibbert wrote The Demon Lover , a Victoria Holt novel, in a style that borrowed several elements from the plot of Sweet Savage Love : forced seduction of a naive girl by a powerful man ending in marriage, set against a background of turmoil in war time. Critics congratulated the move: "Her latest, 'The Demon Lover', is a straight romance with sexual passion, which is currently 'in'.
It has no suspense: the thrilling twists and turns of plot that marked her Gothic novels are no more. In , Hibbert died. In the closing years of the 20th century, Victoria Holt titles were made available in large print, audiobook and Braille formats. Foreign language translations in European languages, Japanese, Sinhalese and Thai were also published that year.
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But, to my surprise, I simply cannot do it. I can't even begin to write a woman I like enough to give a lover to. Begin with myself, you say? There is nothing heroic about me. I am bilious and I smoke. Ready to become a book-a-month girl? A woman who does not believe herself loveable enough to write a hero for? Pass the axe. So I borrow a pair of cliches and swim into pastiche.
I write a prim, virginal heroine. Her name is Lucy and she grew up in a mining town. Her chain-smoking mother worked nights at a toy factory to send her to private school. Lucy works for the Guardian, where she dreams of being taken off the dressing-up-as-a-fairy-for-Glastonbury rota, "and given a shot at a real story! Either way, I hate her.
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And my hero is just a prat. He is called Darcy and he is a billionaire media tycoon. He hates women because his mother died of a diabetic fit, when he was supposed to be looking after her. But he went out riding instead. Once I have Lucy and Darcy, I begin to write a ridiculously hackneyed plot in which my cliches get on and off aeroplanes and my cliches have sex and my cliches cry and my cliches get drunk and roll about on the floor, moaning and saying things like, "I always believed in you.
How Dare You? I am pleased with myself when I have finished. I am particularly pleased that at the end Darcy buys Lucy the Guardian and she installs herself as editor, with a pro-shoes agenda. I cannot believe this.