Anna Campbell

August 2017



Mad for Mather!

Having devoted last month’s My Favorite Things to Annie West, my current favorite category romance author, I found myself thinking back over the authors I read when I was a teen and who really rocked my world. And one name came to mind immediately – Anne Mather.

In Australia, for most people when you say you write romance, they think you mean Mills and Boon (Harlequin), so omnipresent is that brand of romance on our shelves. The M&B market dominance was even more powerful when I was a girl and I can remember spending many a long hot summer holiday with the box of second-hand Mills and Boons that we’d got from the nearest book exchange.

I grew up in a tiny and at the time isolated farming hamlet, so even getting to the book exchange (secondhand book store) was a major effort of time and resources. But it was worth it when I curled up with a new book to me, if not new in the purest sense, and lost myself in the world of square-jawed and arrogant Spaniards and bossy upper-class British tycoons.

I actually wrote an MFT about my teenage M&B reading pleasures already. Here’s the link:

My joy was complete when the box included some books by my writing heroine at the time, Anne Mather. Right through the 1970s, I devoured everything she could write – and my goodness, she was prolific. I looked her up on Wikipedia and the list of books under her name is astonishing. Check it out: Impressive, huh?

Even the sight of these old covers (as far as I could, I picked the covers from the books I read as a girl) is enough to give me a remembered thrill. Aren’t they amazing? Right down to modern for the time makeup on Devil in Velvet. And aren’t those titles so evocative? I must say I much prefer them to the Greek Tycoon’s Disobedient Mistress-type title that puts everything out there in terms of hooks. Some of Anne Mather’s titles are poetic – The Distant Sound of Thunder, Waterfalls of the Moon, Silver Fruit Upon Silver Trees. Don’t the mere sound of those conjure up the image of romance?

So why did I love Anne Mather so much when I was a teenager? I have to admit the fact that they were very sexy for the time certainly helped. There was no doubting the immediate physical passion between the arrogant, hot-blooded hero and the usually innocent young heroine. Passion was definitely king in these stories – and sometimes passion had to overcome huge barriers. I vaguely remember one where the hero was training for the priesthood – not a natural vocation for an Anne Mather hero! But even when there was no actual consummation in the pages of her stories, she wrote the most marvelous sexual tension. The pages sizzled. Emotions were tumultuous. These people fell in love so powerfully that the world moved! Just what a teenage girl wants from a book!

It’s so long ago that I don’t remember a lot of the details of the plots, although I read and re-read my favorites over and over. I’m pretty sure that if I picked one of those up now, I’d remember the plot fairly quickly.

The High Valley (1971) featured a South American revolutionary falling in love with a young Englishwoman (her heroines were always English, from memory, and while innocent, they were usually pretty gutsy) held captive by a gang of political rivals.

Scorpions’ Dance (1978) featured a couple forced into an unwilling marriage – he goes away to become a heroic doctor in South America (not all of them were South American, I wonder why those are the ones I remember most vividly) and then comes back to claim her, with sparks flying everywhere.

Who Rides the Tiger had the heroine trapping the hero into marriage and them working through his anger as an alpha male having his power stolen from him. That was a pretty daring plot back in 1970. I can still remember thinking the love scene in that one was pretty steamy! I wonder what I’d think now.

Leopard in the Snow (1974) had a wounded racing car driver hero with a leopard for a pet who hides away somewhere like Cumbria or Northumberland to nurse his bitterness, only to be ripped out of his self-pity by the arrival of a feisty English miss who won’t let him hide away from the world. That one was a corker of a story and I’m not surprised they later filmed it, although I never saw the movie.

Master of Zaracas (1970) had a passionate Mexican hero who falls in love with the daughter of an English archeologist who is excavating on his land. I remember that one had a great kiss scene!

I wasn’t alone in loving Anne Mather back then – I’m sure I read somewhere that she was the most popular Mills and Boon writer in the 1970s. Clearly a lot of other readers responded to the volcanic passions in her stories. She was born Mildred Grieverson in England in 1946 and she’s still writing today.

I really believe that these intense stories of people carried away by love, much against good sense and what they think is their own interest, helped to form me as a writer. They certainly taught me the power of a great love story.

I wonder what I’d make of these stories now. I’m very sad to report that I had all my favorite Anne Mathers in a box under my bed in my childhood home, where I continued to revisit them right up into my 20s. But my mother had a mad clean-up day and threw them out. I still feel the pain!

Anyway, I can’t resist sharing a few more of those classic covers. They really take me back to when I was a kid and discovering just how wonderful the romance genre was.