A novel approach: Is the romance over in the ‘new’ Barbara Cartland manuscripts?
Prolific writer and commentator John Walsh contributes columns to the paper as well as writing features, interviews and restaurant reviews. He has been editor of The Independent Magazine, literary editor of the Sunday Times and features editor of the London Evening Standard.
Wednesday 14 August 2013
When Dame Barbara Cartland died in 2000, aged 98, her publishers estimated that she’d published 723 historical-romantic novels. The news that she sold 750 million copies of her books is sometimes greeted with scepticism by British readers who have never seen a single copy on sale in any bookshop; but her fame was undoubtedly global.
Now, here’s excellent news for her fans. No fewer than 160 unpublished manuscripts, known as The Pink Collection after the Dame’s favourite colour, are to be published. Just over 100 have been available for a while on her website. But there are 57 others previously unseen, titles unknown, content un-guessed-at.
What could they be like? Recent rumours have hinted that, in her later years, Cartland wearied of the repetitive romance format and attempted to “branch out” into other genres. I managed to get a sneaky glimpse at some of the blurbs…
At the start of Fifty Hues of Puce, Lady Euphemia Harper is interviewed for the role of governess by Sir Gideon Throb, a distant cousin of her Uncle Miles’s. Among her duties is the unexpected Chastisement Hour, when she is obliged to thrash both gentlemen to a condition of excitement, while being inappropriately served tea by Ruby the parlourmaid. There follows a thrilling, if rather disgusting, journey into abasement, abandon and abscesses on the knee.
Chief Inspector Sir Roland McTaggart of Drumlanrig is a rozzer on the edge. His wife, Lady Marjorie, has eloped to Capri with Jocelyn “Jock Strap” Fraser. He drinks too much 16-year-old Bruichladdich malt and confides in his Border collie bitch, Catriona. But when a serial killer starts to eviscerate the local village virgins with a skean dhu, Roland must take charge. An Absolute Rotter kicks off a series of crime books that grip like Zara Phillips’s knees.
At finishing school in Montreux, the Honourable Maud Fritillary is disturbed by the attentions of green-eyed, black-haired cad Dennis “Bunk-Up” Costello, a fellow student of Trust Fund Accountancy. As his attentions intensify, she fears he is bent on securing the key to Fritillary Hall. Dennis explains he is merely an undead vampire who wishes only to drink her life’s blood. Whew! But can she trust him? Lust in the Dusk brilliantly balances the pash and the cash.
Dan Brown/Kate Mosse
Feisty, silver-haired dowager Countess Leila Rowbotham of Mere teams up with Yale symbologist Ricky Longjohn to investigate the connection between Constable’s The Hay Wain, Eddie the Eagle, Cologne Cathedral, Battersea Power Station, Nostradamus, Ken Dodd and Bird’s custard. The Michelangelo Citadel combines adventure and romance in a way that will… Fill in the rest would you, my dear, I need a little nap…
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