Jean Plaidy- even now the name conjures up warm, happy memories. Her novels were the first grown-up books I read as a teenager, in common, I suspect, with many other women of my age. It was her historical romances that gave me an abiding interest in Henry VIII’s six wives with what to me is a real, passionate understanding of each woman - I felt I knew each one personally. The first Jean Plaidy I ever read was ‘Murder Most Royal’, about Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, and I remember the painful pleasure I felt with each of Anne’s triumphs as she became more powerful, even though I knew she was doomed. Catherine I just felt so sorry for; she didn’t stand a chance against the scheming of her greedy, selfish family; their total abandonment of her when she fell out of favour was heartbreakingly poignant. But it was Anne I gave my heart to; the book coloured my view of her so that to this day she is my favourite queen of England ever. I don’t care that she was selfish, arrogant and sometimes even cruel. She played the meagre hand she was dealt in life as a Tudor woman with subtle skill and nearly won. If only Elizabeth (my second favourite queen) had been a boy, her position in Henry’s court would have been unassailable.
After that I was hooked and a visit to my local library was never complete without at least one Jean Plaidy book in my hand. There was a time when I could name all the Plantagenet kings and queens, all the Stuart kings and queens, and even knew which Hanoverian George was mad/ fat/ completely German and only saw Britain as a source of money. I remember writing about the Jean Plaidy books in my English language ‘O’ level, and waxing lyrical about how it made me feel as though I were transported back in time to each court. I often wonder what the examiner reading my paper must have thought. Still, I got a ‘B’ grade (and of course in those days, dear readers, as we know, the exams were much harder!) so I didn’t do too badly. I looked JP up on Wikipedia (fantastic resource – the novelist’s friend) and discovered that her real name was Eleanor Hibbert and that she wrote more than 200 books, including murder mysteries and crime thrillers. I now feel totally inadequate and so am signing off to try to complete my sixth novel. Only 194 to go!
Jacqueline Farrell writes historical and paranormal romances with The Wild Rose Press. Her two latest novels 'Sophronia and the Vampire' and 'Maids, Mothers and Crones' can be purchased from Amazon. Follow her on twitter @jacquiefw1 and on her website www.jacquelinefarrell.co.uk