This week I want to write something a bit different. On May 9th, Mary Stewart passed away and it saddened me. I can remember her first book, Madam, Will You Talk? I wasn’t a reader of romances. Madam,Will You Talk? featured a woman lured into danger by her concern for a motherless boy. I was hooked and read every one of her books in the following years.
Mary Stewart said in one interview that the kinds of things that befell her heroines—threatened at gunpoint, drugged, chased, tied up and left to die—were not based on personal experience. However, she added, it wasn’t necessary:“I think I know how it would feel…. The place for truth is not in the facts of a novel; it is in the feelings.”
She was among the first to integrate mystery and love story, seamlessly blending the two elements in such a way that each strengthens the other. However, compared to today’s romantic suspense, romance in her books was much lighter.
Pamela Regis writes, “Stewart’s influence extends to every writer of romantic suspense, for Stewart understood and perfected this hybrid of romance and mystery and used it as a structure for books so beautifully written that they have endured to become part of the canon of the twentieth-century romance novel.”
Because of the wonderful settings in her books, I made sure to visit, Hadrian’s Wall in England (The ivy tree) and the Isle of Skye in Scotland (Wildfire at Midnight) when I was there. I never got to Provence in France (Madam, will you talk?), or the Pyrenees in France (Thunder on the right), or to Greece but I remember the vivid descriptions of those countries in her books.
Even though she became a best-selling author with her romantic suspense novels her trilogy of Merlin books, imagining the Arthurian legend from a sorcerer’s point of view, were ones she considered her best.
Mary Stewart is quoted as saying:”I’d rather just say that I write novels, fast-moving stories that entertain. To my mind there are really only two kinds of novels, badly written and well written. Beyond that, you cannot categorize…Can’t I say that I just write stories? ‘Storyteller’ is an old and honorable title, and I’d like to lay claim to it.”
She was one amazing storyteller.