by Radmila May
She wrote well and compellingly. The very first sentence of Madam, Will You Talk? - ‘The whole affair began so very quietly’ – draws the reader into the story inescapably. And in that novel the hero’s anger with Charity is for good reason, or what he thinks is good reason, is both chilling and convincing. She excelled at cliffhangers – ‘The lifting of the door latch sounded, in that sleepy silence, like a pistol-shot’ (Nine Coaches Waiting). Her descriptions of landscapes are beautiful although by today’s criteria somewhat wordy. She was an excellent cook and there are mouth-watering descriptions of meals in the various foreign locations where most of her novels are set. However, one thing her heroines were not are the 1950s fashionistas depicted on the covers of the latest reprints; those frilly frocks and dainty hats would have been quite unsuitable for careering around precipitous mountains! And her heroines are enviably fit and trim despite not spending an hour a day at the gym or running 10km or living on a diet of exclusively tofu, kale and quinoa!
Is there a future in the British market for the genre? The publishing firm Choc-Lit has published several titles specifically categorised as romantic suspense: their authors include Evonne Wareham, Henriette Gyland, and Clare Chase. Other publishers are remarkably coy about using the term. Nonetheless, perhaps the tradition established by Mary Stewart will continue in the future.