....or, what influenced me to become a writer?
I must have been around 12 - a critical moment for girls, when hormones are on the rise. At that age I was actively looking for someone or something to feed the romantic impulse which was blossoming inside me. I fixated first on a boy who lived a few houses up from ours and who travelled on the same train as me in the mornings to go to school - him to Dulwich College, me to Bromley Girls Grammar. The crush lasted for a year or so, but I never even spoke to him.
|Ethel and her older sister, Ella - known as Nettie and Sissie|
|My Book Shelf|
The heroine, Lady Anne, is unhappily married to a drunken brute, considerably older than she is. Nap falls for Lady Anne, and does all in his power to seduce her but, although she is miserable and quite obviously fancies Nap, she is bound by honour and duty to fend him off and stay true to her marital vows. I can’t recall precisely how we get from this dilemma to the happy ending, but in between are all the ingredients of a good melodrama - drunkenness, beatings, abduction, near rape and redemption. What I do recall is that Nap, when on the point of ravishment, was brought to his senses by her high-mindedness and purity of heart. One could be forgiven for inferring that had he had a woman of less obvious rectitude in his clutches, he would not have stopped at a fierce embrace. It goes without saying, however, that all ends well with the timely death of the horrid husband.
Even when I first read it I knew it was very old fashioned, with a strong sermonising moral tone, but I loved it. These days it would be considered shockingly un-PC. But I now believe the influence of this book was seminal in my early attempts to write romance. I can see in it so many of the ingredients that informed my own writing in those early teenage years. The bad-boy hero and the good-girl heroine - throbbing with unexpressed physical passion - who tames him.
|PB reprint - undated, but 1950s I guess|