I’ve always loved romantic suspense novels and very few writers wrote contemporary romance as well as Mary Stewart. The photo above shows just some of her well-loved novels that have been in my bookcase for a very long time. Born in England, Mary Stewart married a Scot and has lived most of her married life in Scotland.
Although she also wrote the acclaimed Arthurian novels, it was the romantic suspense that kept me turning the pages desperate to know the ending of each story. Exotic locations, independent heroines, danger, and often nail-biting suspense combined to make an irresistible read. An added attraction was the interesting information and knowledge painlessly absorbed along with a good story. It was in Airs Above the Ground, set in Austria, that I first learned of the famous Lipizzaner horses and the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. And when I watched them myself a few years ago, I suddenly remembered Mary Stewart's book - such was its impact on me in the days before I travelled to Europe.
A few of my favourites were:
Wildfire at Midnight (1956) – Ritual murder and suspicion on the island of Skye
Nine Coaches Waiting (1958) – Danger in a chateau in the French Alps
Thunder on the Right (1957) – Intrigue and dangerous mystery in the Pyrenees
The Gabriel Hounds (1967) – Mystery and suspense in Damascus
This Rough Magic (1964) – Dolphins and danger on a Greek island
The Moon-spinners (1962) – thrilling danger in Greece (made into a film)
One of her slightly more modern novels, Touch Not the Cat (1976), seemed different in some ways from the others, yet it still had that necessary suspense and danger to keep readers turning the pages. An even later novel, Thornyhold (1988), is still in my bookcase (in hardback) and I really must read it again one day as I don’t think it ever grabbed me as much as her earlier works.
I know I’m not the only modern writer who devoured Mary Stewart’s novels from my own romance-seeking adolescence, and her stories are no doubt the inspiration of many a romantic suspense novelist ever since. Mary Stewart is truly an iconic author.