Saturday, November 03, 2007

Anne Weale Dies

Last weekend I put the finishing touches to my ballot for AAR's Top 100 Romance Novels. Among the many category romances that ended up being on my list is Anne Weale's Castle in Corsica at #56. I found the book five years ago in the darkest, dustiest corner of the English Bookshop in Mainz, together with several other old Harlequin novels. I greatly enjoyed Weale's novel, especially the ending when, just as the heroine is about to leave the island, the hero races after her to make her face the truth about their relationship:
"For once in your ostrich existence, I want you to face the truth. If you honestly believe that the feelings that you've been at such pains to suppress boil down to nothing more than antagonism -- well, I still won't be convinced but I'll accept it. But be very sure you aren't deluding yourself, little one." He paused and she saw the muscles at his jaw working. "I'm asking you to marry me, Polly."
Right on the next page he calls her a nincompoop and continues to give her an ultimatum: he'll wait outside in the car and give her half an hour to make up her mind -- and she lets him wait 25 minutes (which he apparently spends "pacing up and down the pavement behind the car" -- tee-hee, he is definitely not as cool as he wants to make her believe) before she finally comes after him. I have, of course, no idea whether the author intended it to be read this way, but I thought the scene very sweet and funny, though it does have some gritty undertones. Yes, from among that stack of old Harlequin novels I found in that dark corner in the English Bookshop, Castle in Corsica is one of my favourites.

Yesterday I was greatly saddened to learn from a post on Kate Walker's blog that Anne Weale had died on 24 October. Between 1955 and 2002 she wrote 88 novels for Mills&Boon, the last one having been The Man from Madrid. In the "Dear Reader" at the beginning of the book, she calls herself a "World Wide Web enthusiast" and writes, "I believe the Web can be used to enhance our enjoyment of reading." It is therefore not surprising that from 1998 to 2004 she wrote a website review column for the UK magazine The Bookseller, which she later used as a basis for her blog, Bookworm on the Net.

A biography of Anne Weale can be found on the Harlequin website (for some reason the link on the M&B website seems to be broken). Both Kate Walker and Liz Fielding have written tributes to her on their blogs.

8 comments:

  1. I didn't like the disparity in ages of the H/H in the Anne Weale books I've read, although I liked her writing style. I can't recall the book but a scene from a book by this author which I read over 20 years ago is still a favourite.

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  2. McAleer says of her that

    Jay Blakeney (Anne Weale) wrote her first novel for Mills & Boon in 1955, when she was 24 and working as a reporter for the Yorkshire Evening Press. She recalled reading several Mills & Boon novels, most notably those by Rosalind Brett, at the urging of her landlady in Bristol, a Mills & Boon ‘addict’ who read a dozen novels a week. ‘I had always intended to become a novelist but, at 23, felt it was too soon to attempt a big “serious” novel. Light romance seemed within my reach,’ she said. So she drew on her personal experience – two years living on a rubber estate in Malaya – for her first novel, Winter Is Past, which Alan Boon accepted.(101-02)

    and "Anne Weale evolved into one of the ‘sexiest’ authors Mills & Boon published in the 1960s and 1970s, adapting her writing style to the lower threshold of permissiveness when necessary" (255):

    Weale, whom we have seen once lamented that she did not want to write as explicitly or as sexily as did Roberta Leigh, demonstrated her newfound talents in two ground-breaking novels. Antigua Kiss (1982) featured Mills & Boon’s first oral sex scene: when the hero, Ash, attacks Christiana, she refuses to kiss him; Ash tells her, ‘There are other places to kiss.’ When he does so, she is shocked, but surrenders to ‘waves of ecstasy’. In Ecstasy (1983), the heroine, Suzy Walker, ‘Britain’s top secretary’, longs for her missing lover at night, but finds comfort in masturbation (‘Sometimes the longing for love came upon her like a sudden fever, keeping her awake at night, forcing her to an expedient which, although it eased her restlessness, left her unfulfilled emotionally, and depressed by the thought that this might be all she would ever have; this solitary, inadequate substitute for the ecstasies of a shared bed’).(288)

    Weale obviously still had concerns about some aspects of the depiction of sexuality in romances, because earlier this year she wrote that:

    I have serious misgivings about authors romanticising situations which, in real life, are 99% likely to end in disaster.

    Having sex with a stranger is an act of reckless stupidity. Ideally, making love should only be done by people who love each other, and love involves knowing the other person well and trusting them. Yes, casual sex happens and the fall-out is all around us. But what happens in the real world and what happens in romantic fiction are, or should be, two different things.


    One reponse to this, posted by an author who decided to write erotic romance after she "found out what a hot market it is", elicited the following response from Weale:

    I have nothing against born writers writing for money rather than literary acclaim, but I don't approve of the thousands of not-born writers who are currently cluttering the market with largely second-rate stuff. [...]

    This sort of thing strikes me as the book world equivalent of writing for those sleazy magazines on the top shelves in newsagents' shops. I'm amazed that a wife and mother, which I gather Bella Andre is in her private life, would demean herself by writing borderline porn. The market for children's books is also booming. She would do better to turn her talents to that field.


    Clearly Weale wasn't someone who shrank from controversy.

    McAleer, Joseph. Passion’s Fortune: The Story of Mills & Boon. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999.

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  3. Oh, and there's what seems to be a very comprehensive list of her novels here.

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  4. Thanks, Laura, for adding the information from McAleer. (Stupid me, it never occurred to me to look there. Duh.)

    Clearly Weale wasn't someone who shrank from controversy.

    No, she clearly wasn't. That's something Kate Walker mentions as well.

    ~*~

    Wendy, I've found that I don't mind the age gap when I read older romances, and so far I haven't come across huge age gaps in the recently published romances I've read.

    However, I've noticed that huge age gaps are still popular in film, but only as long as the man is the older one. If it's the other way round (and I've seen only one film in which this was the case), there won't be a happy ending for these characters. That's something I find annoying indeed.

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  5. Weale's The River Room was the first romance I ever read. I went through all her books that my mother owned. My first "mainstream" single-title was Weale's Summer's Awakening about a fat woman who diets and exercises to catch her guy (her boss, I think). I liked the expanded story and the expanded sex scenes! Sad that she died. She change my life, that's for sure.

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  6. i would like to know where i can get a copy of castle in corsica to download or if any one has it it was one of the very first books i read and i cant get it anywhere

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  7. Annabel, I'm fairly sure that any copy you found to download would be an illegal copy. You could get a second-hand paper copy, though. There are links here which would help you find one on Abebooks, various Amazon websites, and Ebay.

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  8. I have almost all Anne's books and regularly go back and re-read them! I sure do miss her!

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