Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Marguerite Kaye: Baby Bookworm

By the time I started school I could already read (thanks Mum), so I found the Janet and John books which every British kid learned with back then really boring. In the class library I found the I want to be (a secretary, a nurse etc) series. Oh, how impossibly glamorous the world of the air hostess sounded to  wee Scottish lass. That’s what I wanted to be. 

Enid Blyton’s boarding school world sounded even more glamorous though, when I first discovered it. The Naughtiest Girl in the School was the first book I bought for myself, and I was hooked from the start. All my pocket money was saved up as I worked my way through the series, followed by Mallory Towers and St Clare’s. Rather bizarrely, the stories made me feel deprived. Why was I not sent off with my teddy and my tuck box aged ten, to a draughty converted stately home with a swimming pool? Why did my school uniform not include a straw hat? And most importantly, why did we not play lacrosse – whatever that was?

I’ve always obsessively identified with whatever I happen to be reading. Heidi made me want to climb mountains and eat roasted cheese, a delicacy subtly different and more exotic from the cheese on toast I got for supper. The Secret Garden and Tom’s Midnight Garden were the start of a lifelong love of growing things, and of course Little Women made me want to be a writer. 

But not quite straight away. Working my way through Sue Barton’s career in Helen Dore Boylston series, from Student Nurse to Staff Nurse by way of Rural Nurse, Visiting Nurse and various others (Sue didn’t seem to stick long at any one job), I dumped Jo March and decided I’d rather be like Sue, wooed by a dreamy doctor in the brief intervals between saving lives. Then I discovered James Herriot, and realised I wanted to be a vet. Needless to say, that ambition also went by the wayside, but my signed copy of Vets Might Fly is still one of my most treasured possessions.

My first romance was a Barbara Cartland (from my Nana’s collection). My second and third and twentieth romances were Barbara Cartland’s too, read under the covers, and never admitted to, naturally. I never really fancied being one of Bab’s heroines, I wasn’t really the fainting and shrieking kind, but in my mid-teens I read my first Georgette Heyer, not a Regency but one of her 1920s crime stories. I became a flapper then, and everything was ‘brill’ and ‘fab’ and ‘tremendous’.  

I bought Rebecca with the book token I got for winning the school geography prize, and I’d say that the opening line of this is what really made me want to write. I’ve read it over and over since, and the first Mrs de Winter’s ghost inspired some of the story behind my last book, Rake with a Frozen Heart. Around about the same time as I discovered du Maurier, I watched the BBC adaptation of Winston Graham’s Poldark, fell in love with Robin Ellis as Ross, and read every one of the books – they were the first ones I took out of the library on an adult ticket, aged sixteen. And that was the start of my fascination with historical romance. 

I was never tall enough or pretty enough to be an air hostess (yes, back then you had to be both). I was too squeamish to be a nurse or a vet. My training as a lawyer and twenty years in computing were absolutely nothing to do with any childhood reading. But eventually I saw the light, remembered Jo March and Winston Graham, wrote my own historical romance and now – well, now, I’m proof that dreams really do come true. 

Thank you to Cheryl for inviting me along. I have a signed copy of my latest book, Outrageous Confessions of Lady Deborah, to give away. Just leave a comment AND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS for a chance to win.   



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  1. Oh, I loved Sue Barton, and Dr. Herriot's entire list is on my keeper shelf!

    I tried to buy the Sue Barton series on eBay, but it was too steep for me.

    I'm glad your dreams have come true. I'm going to go get FLIRTING WITH RUIN now. Thank you for sharing it.

  2. i love barbara caltron but never read sue barton before

  3. I remember Sue Barton. My favs were Mallory towers, St Claires and then Forever by Judy blume! I love the way that Amazon have all my old favs on there, but hope that the innocence last!

  4. OH My naughty little sister was ME!!!!!!

  5. I think we read just about all the same books until we got to Poldark. I think I might have slid into Scifi about then.

  6. Marguerite, it seems that you and I "cut our teeth" on the same authors. I have always been a bookworm too. Perhaps that's why my Mom used to tease me by saying she found me under a rock! Then she would laugh and hug me! Worms do live under rocks! ;-)

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading "Outrageous Confessions of Lady Deborah" and have posted reviews. The characters are strong and so realistic. I'm hoping that everyone will get a copy of this terrific novel and enjoy it! I'm betting readers won't be able to put it down.

    Congratulations on your continued successes and all the best!

  7. My families dyslexia meant that learning to read was a real challenge for me and it was not until I had the good fortune to be taught by Mr MacDermid in Dunoon Primary School that it finally fell into place. He introduced me to Swallows and Amazons which led to the entire series of books. After that I was hooked, I never really read children's books after that but I still have a copy of S & A that I leaf through in moments of nostagla.

  8. Thank you for the free download! Will read it right away.

    I loved Trixie Belden books and the Miss Tippy books. I read everything from the school library and was lost over the summer without access to the books. I would read my own over and over until school started again.

    Thanks for visiting with us today, Marguerite!

  9. I used to love the famous five and the three golliwogs by Enid Blyton.
    Don't think I read Mallory Towers though.

  10. We read many of the same books. I have always loved to read and remember starting out with the Bobbsey Twins (still have all of mine). Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys, Trixie Belden, Cherry Ames nurse stories (got most of them from ebay), Sue Barton (ebay also - reliving my childhood), Little Women and Eight Cousins, the Little House books (Long Winter and These Happy Golden Years were my favorites), the Anne of Green Gables books. I remember reading the Happy Hollisters from my school library and a lot of the Childhood of Famous Americans biographies from the public library.

    I read my first Harlequin at the age of 12 and my first Barbara Cartland when I was 13. I read James Herriott when I was in high school and loved his books. I used to read him during my English class because I always finished my assigned reading far ahead of everyone else.

    Now that I'm retired I have even more time to read!

  11. Loved your post. Thanks for stopping by. Since I won yesterday, don't put me in today. But I wanted to say hi and thanks for sharing in Cheryl's celebration month.

  12. My, I remember all of these books! I read everything our small town library had and spent every penny I could earn on books.
    thanks for sharing.

  13. My first romance was Gone With the Wind and I was about thirteen when I read it. It got me hooked on reading romance, so I will never forget that book. Thanks for the chance to win one of your books.

    quiltlady110 AT gmail DOT com

  14. i love enid blyton and little woman. very great books for our children. and barbara cartland is very great romance books