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Book Review: The Passionate Pen

The Passionate Pen: New Zealand's Romance Writers Talk to Rachel McAlpine

The Passionate Pen: New Zealand’s Romance Writers Talk to Rachel McAlpine by Rachel McAlpine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


For me to analyse what the romance writers say would be a breach of trust. Our explicit understanding was that they would speak for themselves, and they have vetted my edited transcripts of our conversations…

Rachel McAlpine

And this is both this books strength and it’s weakness, as the interviewed authors trusted noted NZ author McAlpine enough to open up to her about their lives, but it can be short on biographical specifics.

But their lives are all interesting. Some come from backgrounds of considerable hardship. Many had to leave school early because their father’s business was failing, some were isolated in ramshackle farm houses. Mary Moore says that in the first five years of her marriage the only female visitor she had was when her mother came to stay. Some of their manuscripts were posted overseas and there was no response, positive or negative for months.Many of these women milked cows, churned butter. Still want to sneer over them wanting to escape into light romance?

A positive common theme is the great affection the older writers had for Alan Boon from Mills and Boon who was endlessly supportive. Essie Summers went out of her way to help other romance writers and became a close personal friend of some of them, in particular Gloria Bevan and Miriam Macgregor. Some like Eva Burfield and Daphne Clair wrote in other genres.

In New Zealand, romance writers are very supportive to one another; in this I suspect they differ from “serious” writers. People who write literary books depend on grants for survival…

Jessie Nichols

She could also have added that the NZ literary elite can be snobbish and envious of those that enjoy commercial success.

In spite of all the hardships I had a sense that these were happy women who had enjoyed rewarding lives, other than Rachelle Swift A tough childhood in England, followed by a difficult life in New Zealand.

ButRobyn Donald still going strong – a new title Claimed by her Billionaire Protector was published last year.

Ms McAlpine’s sensitive touch has allowed us to get to know these women. I’ve tried to use this book to fill in gaps in their biographies on Goodreads. Romance now if not a more respected genre, at least women (and men) can be more open about enjoying it.

This quote isn’t from this book,but I can’t resist using it!

“On romance books: We might assume then that men, major consumers of thrillers, westerns, and detective fiction, enjoy being beaten up, tortured, shot, stabbed, dragged by galloping horses, and thrown out of moving vehicles.”

Daphne Clair

Indeed. Why the assumptions that romance readers are the only readers who can’t tell the difference between real life and fiction?…

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