Friday, June 24, 2016

Loving Women-in-Jeopardy Stories by Cheryl Bolen

I’m seriously dating myself here. I totally fell in love with a certain brand of women-in-jeopardy stories in the seventies, though most of the ones I loved had been published in the sixties or earlier.

I cringe at and refuse to read stories about young women being stalked by mass murdering maniacs, but I cut my teeth on a gentler story. For example, The Lady Vanishes, a Hitchcock adaptation of Ethel Lina White’s 1936 The Wheel Spins. It’s a story about a lone young heiress who befriends an elderly governess on a train through the Balkan states, but the lady vanishes, and seemingly everyone on the train tries to tell our heroine she dreamed of the governess’s existence. Something sinister is afoot!

In a similar vein, Victoria Holt, one of the most commercially successful novelists of the 20th century, launched her career with gothic-style tales of maidens at remote and mysterious castles, like in the Mistress of Mellyn, her first.

Other popular writers of the era wrote in Holt’s style—but in the modern day. These included Phyllis Whitney, Dorothy Eden, and Velda Johnson.  

Far and away my favorite author of the era was Mary Stewart. Her heroines always went to enchantingly desirable locales like the Greek Islands, or the Pyrenees. The source of the heroine’s jeopardy was never earth-shattering or a high-stakes crime, nevertheless, I adored her flawless prose, witty British dialogue, and wonderful literary illusions. If you haven’t tried her, I recommend Moonspinners for its blend of suspense and humor—and its island setting in Crete. Disney adapted the book for a movie starring Hayley Mills.

I suppose some women today are still writing this type of story, but it obviously doesn’t sell well. I tried. My self-published 2011 Protecting Britannia got a 4-star review from RT Book Club magazine with praise for its fast pace and touching love story, but it sells pathetically—a whopping ten sales of my 30,000 total sales thus far in 2016.
Sadly, today’s readers prefer reading about demented serial killers and hot sex.—Cheryl Bolen’s most recent writing credits are three connected Jane Austen Sequels, starting with Miss Darcy’s New Companion.


  1. I love women in jeopardy stories, too, although I must admit to liking the old oes better. I can't really explain why, either.

  2. Cheryl - I have an even more dated favorite author of romantic suspense, Emilie Loring. Her work was dated when I found it at my local library while in grade school. Many, many years ago!!

  3. Cheryl, you and I share similar taste in books. Mary Stewart was my favorite. Read all of her novels after starting with Stewart's romantic suspense. Same for Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney, and all the others who paved the way for all of us.

  4. These were books I read when my girlfriend lent them to me. We were 13 and I fell in love!

    1. Good to hear, Bonnie! Wish the pendulum would swing again in that direction.

  5. Great cover!
    I didn't read Mary Stewart, but I did read Dorothy Daniels. Wish I knew more about her.

  6. Thanks, Pamela. I don't think I've read Dorothy Daniels.

  7. Great post. And it is interesting to see how readers' tastes change over the decades.

  8. Thanks, Kathleen. A good thing about indie publishing is that -- as in the case of traditional regencies, which are no longer published in New York -- you can find something for every taste.

  9. Cheryl ~ I read Mistress of Mellyn ages ago in my Victoria Holt phase. Like Kathleen, I'm interested in the way readers' tastes change over time, and empowered female characters seem more popular now.
    All best,


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