Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Charlotte Lamb news update Summer 2014


Some news for Summer 2014

Along with this blog, there are now Charlotte Lamb fan accounts for you to follow at:


and 



IN THE STILL OF THE NIGHT

Also, a selection of her most popular romantic suspense novels have recently been republished by Hodder & Stoughton. These are in ebook form only at present, and are available from Amazon or other online book retailers. The links on this page are to the Hodder & Stoughton website.


ANGEL OF DEATH: Charlotte Lamb's final novel, published the day after her death



DEEP AND SILENT WATERS

Friday, October 26, 2012

Charlotte Lamb in the Science Museum

This photograph was taken recently by Lynsey Dalladay, who spotted one of my mother's books in the Changing Culture section of the Science Museum, London.

Crescendo, by Charlotte Lamb, is a gentle fairytale romance that turns terribly dark when Marina begins to remember ... [Photo by Lynsey Dalladay]


Crescendo

Charlotte Lamb.
First published by Mills and Boon 1979
Basslea was a haven, and Marina was totally content there. She had her music and her innocent childlike fantasies. Nothing seemed capable of changing her world--until Gideon Firth arrived.

He was everything she was not: sophisticated, urbane, powerful. And she found herself responding to his magnetism the way no unawakened girl should ....

He seemed to wield a power she didn't understand, until he forced her to recognize the truth for herself. Then Marina realized what was happening to her--and what had happened!

Photograph by Lynsey Dalladay

Friday, June 01, 2012

Harlequin begins to reissue Charlotte Lamb titles


Digital edition
For all those who would like to read a Lamb title onscreen, Harlequin has begun reissuing Lamb titles digitally.

At the moment, there are only a limited number of 90s Classic Romance Charlotte Lamb titles available. This is a pity, as her best-loved books were mainly published in the late 70s and early 80s.

However it's likely the hold-up is due to earlier titles not being held electronically. Fingers crossed we see popular early titles like the controversial 'Obsession' and 'Love is a Frenzy' available soon.

Meanwhile here is a small selection of Lamb titles for your e-reader. More are available on the Harlequin E-book site, under Classic Romance.

ANGRY DESIRE by Charlotte Lamb


From the 'Sins' series
Wedding nerves
This was supposed to be the happiest day of Gabriella's life—her wedding day. But last night the fear had finally begun to tear her apart and she knew she couldn't go through with the ceremony.
She could walk out, vanish. But Stephen would search for her until he found her. And then she would have to face the truth: that she was frightened to make love with her husband-to-be!

Love can conquer the deadliest of Sins.


THE SEDUCTION BUSINESS by Charlotte Lamb


Bianca Milne looks the part of the ambitious female executive, with her sleek, touch-me-not looks and her cool, controlled manner. But there's another Bianca underneath she never lets the business world see. Until she's assigned to buy out Matt Hearne's company.

Matt has hear rumors about Bianca--so how far will she go to clinch this deal? When he's called home to look after his little daughter, Bianca impulsively offers him her help, not anticipating that the enforced proximity will only ignite the smoldering physical attraction between them.


HAUNTED DREAMS by Charlotte Lamb



From the 'Sins' series
Was the grass really greener for Ambrose Kerr?
"I've never told a living soul any of that before."
Emilie stared up at Ambrose, as what he had told her reverberated in her mind. She hadn't really taken it all in—where on earth could he have come from to have lived like that?
He ran his hand through his thick black hair in an angry gesture. "God knows why I blurted it out to you. I wonder if you realize... I've given you a weapon that could destroy me."

Love can conquer the deadliest of Sins.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Birthday, Charlotte Lamb!

Today, 22nd December, would have been my mother's 73rd birthday, by my somewhat numerically challenged reckoning.

So Happy Birthday to Charlotte Lamb, novelist extraordinaire!



My scanner isn't working again, so no new photo this time. Apologies for that. I'll get it fixed asap. But here are some of my personal favourites from among her books: Dark Dominion, The Tilthammer, Sweet Compulsion, and of course, a popular favourite from her golden era at Mills & Boon, Call Back Yesterday.

Meanwhile, if you have any favourites of your own, do leave a comment and let me know. I may be able to arrange a feature on any requests you may have, such as a Lamb book you've heard about but not yet read.

And do continue to ask about books you haven't been able to find online, or whose titles you've forgotten. Someone out there may have the answer you're looking for.



Now for a little plea.

Although this blog gets hundreds of hits every week, very few people leave comments, which means it's hard to know if I'm hitting the right note or not. So to encourage me to blog more often, do please leave comments to let me know if you've found my features on Lamb books interesting, or if you'd rather read other types of features, perhaps. Or contribute your own reviews and reappraisals. I'd also be happy to feature scholarly articles on Lamb books, plots, influence on later writers, or her style of writing.

Basically, I'm open to new ideas. Try me!

Victoria Lamb




Saturday, October 22, 2011

Lang Hyland: the Womaniser in "Obsession"

[Spoilers Alert!]


Re-reading Charlotte Lamb's "Obsession" last night, I was struck yet again by the difference between the modern romance hero and the Lamb hero of the late seventies and early eighties.

"Obsession" was first published in 1980, one of the ten or so books written around that time which have passed into Mills & Boon history as Lamb classics.
- Lang Hyland was undeniably attractive; he was also, equally undeniably, a womaniser - three months was the average life of one of his ladies. As his secretary, Nicola was in the best position to know all about Lang and his ways - and his secretary was what she intended to remain; she had no intention whatsoever of being just another scalp on Lang's belt. -
Yet a scalp on his belt is ultimately what Nicola does become. Though this being Mills & Boon, there's a price tag attached for our promiscuous hero - it's marriage or nothing with Nicola. For she is a 'good girl', unlike her married sister Caroline, whose adulterous dalliance with Lang earns her Nicola's fury, and - presumably - the reader's disgust. Nicola is so good, in fact, she has never allowed a man to have sex with her. And I use the verb 'allowed' deliberately. For Nicola's much-discussed virginity in this book is about control, not morality. It is not merely a chip to bargain with on the marriage mart, but a way of controlling the men in her life - and there are two other professional males vying for a potential place in her bed; she is no lonely virgin, desperate to be loved, unable to interest a man. Nicola's virginity is a calculated withholding of intimacy that allows her to remain superior to Lang and his promiscuous affairs.

Nicola, the secretary, the anchor of office life, is the moral core of "Obsession". We identify with her as the cool, unruffled receiver of Lang's reprehensible advances and congratulate her on the smooth running of the dangerous jungle atmosphere in which Lang moves and strikes like a tiger. The label 'tiger' is applied to him - and other men like him - at least three times in this book.
- Lang had the instincts of a jungle animal: keep free of cages and keep your claws sharp. He prowled around the firm like a sleek tiger, seeing and hearing everything, constantly alert. -
He is a sexual predator and lord of the office. Yet Nicola is presented to us as the power behind the tiger. She runs the show from her desk, discreetly, her eyes lowered, 'smiling like a crocodile and using a voice like melted honey' as Lang observes at one point. 'At first I thought you were just a simple-minded bitch. Then I realised you did it deliberately. And very effective it is too. It's hard to go on shouting at someone who smiles back with sunny good temper and agrees with everything you say.'

Was it really OK for a Mills & Boon hero to call the heroine 'a simple-minded little bitch', even back then? Even familiar with Lamb's violent heroes, I felt a frisson of disquiet on re-reading those lines. A warning, perhaps, for Nicola to get out while she can. You tame these men into marrying you, but do they really change after they've tumbled into the trap? Do they not simply revert to type a few years after they've 'put a ring on it' and go back to dating other women - and perhaps slapping you around for good measure?

Later in the book, following an argument, Lang spanks Nicola before having sex with her for the first time. It's a full-on spanking: 'He wasn't just playing; he was slapping her hard, intending to hurt.' Seconds later, he's 'kissing her ruthlessly, his lips fierce and hot.'

What kind of impact did this apparent assault have on readers in 1980? Today, accustomed to the rigidly controlled, politically correct romance of Harlequin and its competitors, you almost need protective gloves to handle a book like "Obsession". Yet spanking and forced sex seems to have fitted more easily with romance in the early eighties, which was just beginning to test the limits of what was acceptable in this kind of series fiction. Some women may have been appalled, yes. (The ones who were not reading Jackie Collins that decade, for instance.) But some may have found it exciting to return to the pre-feminism model of Dominant Male, Submissive Female - as does Nicola.
- For a few seconds Nicola resisted him with every ounce of her strength,' the paragraph quoted above continues, 'then she gave up the useless contest and her arms curved about his bent head. -
The word 'contest' seems an interesting choice of descriptor for a confrontation where a man spanks and then has fairly rapid sex - almost no foreplay - with a woman whom he knows to be a virgin. Once more Lamb presents us with 'The Sex War' where the woman appears to lose, but secretly wins (because she subdues the male and snares him into marriage). The 'bent head' of the hero above is an image of male submission - not dominance. Though Lang's lovemaking here is curiously one-sided for a Lamb hero. Most of them spend rather more time encouraging the woman to respond as a sexual creature; Lang is more brutal and driven, a highly self-interested hero for whom Nicola's capitulation is at least as exciting as her body.

By contrast with Nicola, Lang's 'other women' are presented - by Nicola, of course, who can be considered our narrator here - as stereotypical 'fluffy blondes' who 'totter in high heels' and who possess a 'vocabulary ... of around six words, all of them apparently indicating yes.' This is another politically incorrect aspect we seem to have lost in modern romance: the snarky heroine or 'bitch' who denigrates other women, particularly those who are less fastidious than her about having sex outside marriage, describing the hero's previous girlfriends as 'girls' with 'Identikit faces and bodies'.

Nicola, on the other hand, has a wide vocabulary and an independent mind. Does not sleeping with the hero give her this, perhaps? Is that the subtle inference behind Lamb's contrasting of these two female 'types', the promiscuous fluffies and the tough virgins? That you give it up at your peril? Lang is right to be suspicious of her crocodile smile, of course. For while smiling pleasantly at him, Nicola is thinking less than pleasant thoughts about her unreconstituted boss: 'You charming and delightful man, she thought. I just love working for you. I'd like to push you down the lift shaft.'

To consider "Obsession" as a romance is to do it little justice as a study of sexual tension in the office, and of sexual hang-ups in general. Both Nicola and Lang are obsessed with each other, of course. Lang is obsessed with going to bed with her without being forced into marriage first, and Nicola is obsessed with controlling men and her own sexual appetites.

Ultimately, the contest in "Obsession" is not between Nicola and Lang, but between Nicola and her (only gently hinted at) obsession with remaining a virgin until she is married. A contest she loses, of course, though with Lang's red-faced offer of marriage ringing in her ears soon afterwards as a salve to her pride. (Sex before marriage in a 1980 Mills & Boon novel? Holy crap!) Which is precisely how it should be in a short romance.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Hot Blood" gets another outing with Harlequin Treasury

Click to read another fresh and interesting take on Charlotte Lamb's "Hot Blood" - which is a May to December romance from 1996. It was recently reissued as a Harlequin Treasury book, I believe, though I can't find the link for that.

The new review of "Hot Blood" has been posted today, 20th July 2011, on Dear Author, via Sunita's to be read challenge.

Thanks to Embrace romance author Rachel Lyndhurst for spotting this with her eagle eyes and passing on the link!



I discussed "Hot Blood" in an earlier post where it was considered in an academic light.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Charlotte Lamb and Carole Mortimer

I finally got the scanner to behave today, thanks to my husband's persistence long after I would willingly have thrown the computer across the room. So here at last is a never-before-seen photograph of my mother, Charlotte Lamb.

To see an enlarged version, just double-click the photograph.

Richard Holland, Sheila Holland (aka Charlotte Lamb), Carole Mortimer and Jane Holland (aka Victoria Lamb) 

I'm not entirely sure where this was taken. Any suggestions gratefully accepted. That's my father on the end, of course, then my mother - we seem to be wearing scarily similar floral dresses - then one of my mother's closest friends, the romantic novelist Carole Mortimer, looking smart and professional as ever, and me on the far end.

I would date this photograph somewhere in the late 1980s, or perhaps around 1990. 

Hopefully more photographs to follow, now that I have mastered the secrets of the scanner ... including some classics like Charlotte Lamb with Janet Dailey, with Alan Boon, and so on.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Happy New Year, Charlotte Lamb Fans!

I'm aware that I still owe this blog the second part of my article on The Long Surrender - long overdue, I agree, but events overtook me! - but meanwhile, this is a New Year message to all Charlotte Lamb readers out there and a round-up of how 2010 looked.

A Very Happy New Year to everyone reading Charlotte Lamb novels for the very first time - welcome to the club! - and to those faithful readers with old Lamb editions firmly on their keeper shelves.

This year 'Charlotte Lamb, Queen of Romance' spread its blogging wings to include extracts from diary entries and links to sites such as Smart Bitches, Trashy Books which were featuring discussions of Lamb titles.

The latest of these links has to be the one which arrived in my inbox only this afternoon, courtesy of the lovely Fabiola from a French romance website, Les Romantiques.

At Les Romantiques, Charlotte Lamb features - in a lovingly detailed three page article - as this month's Author of the Month in their spin-off webzine, Issue No. 37, December 2010.

For the French-speakers among us, you can download that issue as a PDF, which is all in French, at this link: http://www.lesromantiques.com/Webzine/Webzinedec2010.pdf

And the latest news is, we may soon be seeing the publication of a digital edition of one of Charlotte Lamb's rare early historical novels, originally published under the name Sheila Holland.

Watch this space for more details!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"The Long Surrender" Part One: Sex, violence and two suicide attempts

Found an interesting blog entry whilst trawling the net for a cover picture of one of Charlotte Lamb's best-known and perhaps most controversial classics, The Long Surrender. I have a copy here - several, in fact - but my scanner is not currently working. Some annoying software conflict that I am trying to fix. Meanwhile, I had to go online to find this not terribly satisfactory image:


The blog I found is called The Tyranny of Reading and, in a blog post from April 2007, discusses The Long Surrender in glowing terms, largely for the memorable sex scenes, the 'obsessive' violence of the hero, and the heroine's repeated suicide attempts - the only complaint, by someone leaving a comment, was that the sex was not graphic enough!

What is interesting is that modern readers of Lamb - including the inimitable Sarah from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books - on the one hand frequently accuse Lamb of writing over-violent sex and abusive relationships, yet on the other hand praise her for the power of these same stories, commenting on their unputdownable quality.

The reader at The Tyranny of Reading seemed to suffer no such qualms, simply enjoying the book for what it is - a product of the sexually confused late seventies, and strikingly honest in its portrayal of a troubled marriage looking for love. Indeed, on a blog post relating to the equally violent and traumatic Night Music - which, as I recall, also features a suicide attempt of some description - the blogger complains about 'the years of PC dross that followed' these more violent predecessors.

It needs to be underlined, sadly enough, that Lamb's diaries and letters reveal her own discontent with the politically correct direction in which romances began to turn from the early eighties onwards. Popular romance writers are nearly always at the mercy of marketing and sales teams, who decide what the market wants and instruct the editors accordingly. It was a pity that Lamb's great strength - the portrayal of loving but obsessive relationships - became unacceptable just at the peak of her career.

The Long Surrender is quite difficult to get hold of, by the way. But I'll be blogging about the plot and the writing itself in more detail in "The Long Surrender" Part Two. Busy enjoying a re-read right now.

Friday, October 08, 2010

10th Anniversary

Today, October 8th, is the tenth anniversary of Charlotte Lamb's death.

Looking back at her diaries, I am once more struck by how universal the writer's processes and dilemmas are. What I feel, as a fellow novelist, to be my own personal struggle with the raw material out of which a novel or other piece of writing is born, is in fact a struggle shared by most, if not all writers.

So, on March 3rd 1972, in a fairly typical entry, Charlotte Lamb notes:
Went to Romford to shop. Got some good books at the market bookstall. 

After lunch, I thought about writing another novel but came up against a brick wall. I cannot decide on direction. What sort of book do I want to write? Do I want to write another fictional historical novel? Or a biography? Or a biographical novel? 

I go round in circles. And in the meantime I write nothing. 

Although lately the words have begun to bubble up in my mind again as they do when I am ready to write. So far I have used them to write poetry. What I want is to find a subject which makes my sense of excitement come into play.
That image she uses, 'lately the words have begun to bubble up in my mind again as they do when I am ready to write', is a striking description of the drive to create narrative, to tell a story, which is rarely some idyllic moment of inspiration from the Muse, but more often experienced as a cruel pressure, or at the very least a restlessness, a desire to kick the world away and concentrate solely on the work.

Here, Lamb is searching for a subject. Something that will bring her 'sense of excitement ... into play'. She found it three days later, making notes on a long historical novel about Mary Fitton, one of the candidates for the unnamed 'Dark Lady' of Shakespeare's sonnets.

That novel, not to be published until 1979, under the pseudonym Sheila Lancaster, was eventually entitled Dark Sweet Wanton and was - in many people's opinion - one of her finest works.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Diary of a Novelist: June 1980

June 3rd 1980:
Suddenly it happened. I got up at 9.30 and I knew. C. had really begun to shape in my head. I started to write and it just fell out of me in easy torrents. I did 36 pages today. At last, at last. I was so happy and relieved and ecstatic.

[Received] the S&S [Simon & Schuster] contract from L. and a letter from Caradoc [literary agent].

The new book is set in Greece to begin with, and is very different to anything I've ever done before.


June 4th 1980:
I revised the work I did yesterday, improving it, then I wrote Ch 3. I got to p. 61. I'm very pleased with it. It feels good. The last two pages need revision, though.

I expected a call from F. [editor] but no call came. I was bubbling with euphoria all day about the book. That does worry me. Have I lost my touch? I rang her later to tell her not to tell me what she thought of J. [previous ms]. It might put me off C. ...
She said kind things about my poetry and I said it was all derivative. She didn't disagree. How could she? It is true, alas. She said she wondered what poems I'd torn off the 2 sheets: self-combusting ones?

June 5th 1980:
Today I largely revised the 3 chaps I'd already done. My extreme excitement went, though this time I am determined to finish it. It was rainy, misty, grey and clammy. Thunderstorms all over England. I booked my hotel and air flight to London.

June 6th 1980:
A beautiful day; not as warm as it has been, but sunny and slightly hazy. Sent carbon of C. to F. (1st 3 chaps). I wrote C. but it was all revision of what I'd done before. Sharpening impact, glossing up, tightening. I only did part of the revision needed but at least it got done. I was working on the book all day.

Felt restless, irritable, on edge, but oddly excited about C. I feel sure now that it is going to be a great book. What I have to do is strike the right note.
I feel myself moving into the frame of mind which I can only call shaping or forging. The book has now taken hold and I am like a man heating iron and forging it to make a sharp spear. My old way of writing won't do any more. I have got to get used to writing, rewriting, writing. I must be more patient. Tenacity is a great virtue for a writer.


These edited extracts are taken from Charlotte Lamb's personal diaries, which cover most years of her writing career. The book above, 'C', was begun on May 30th, following this entry: 'Later in the evening I began to think about writing [an] M&B. Jane was reading Obsession and I suddenly felt like doing another book.' She finished this ms on June 29th - her fifth novel in 6 months.' 

I haven't definitely pinned down which of her books these extracts describe, though I have a few key suspects. More extracts on writing to follow.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Festival Summer: 'every woman adores a Fascist'


Festival Summer was first published by Mills & Boon in 1977.

The Magnificent Milfords are one of England's great theatrical families - brilliant, beautiful and witty. All except Katrine, who prefers to stay at home and has no yearnings for the limelight. But this summer, at the Cantwich Festical, she falls under the spell of the brooding, enigmatic actor-director Max Neilson, who soon co-opts her as his PA. But Max has other plans for Katrine beside fetching and carrying ...

This is a very early contemporary Lamb title, written just as she is emerging from several years of writing historicals, and it flags up territory she will revisit in later novels about the stage or actors in general.

Charlotte Lamb had little or no contact with the professional theatre, despite the number of novels where her hero or heroine are actors. Before becoming a writer, she worked for a spell at the BBC, where she came into contact with a number of acting folk, and of course she was a great theatregoer herself while still living in the London area. Lamb's knowledge of Shakespeare was exemplary, and she knew much modern drama too, reading plays even once her many children made it difficult for her to visit the theatre in person. Yet she never showed any personal inclination to write for the stage or to act herself, preferring the solitude of the novelist's life.

In Festival Summer, Max Neilson shows all the hallmarks of a typical Lamb hero: worldly-wise, cynical, brooding, charismatic, even domineering. The sample text in the inside front cover sums up that kind of hero's bleak outlook on life, and his reliance on the idea of a woman's destiny - which usually turns out to be a place in his bed:

He looked into her upturned face with a menacing smile. "Cowards have to learn that it's easier to fight than to run away because no matter how fast you run fate can run faster."

Katrine provides the pattern for Lamb's younger heroines, the ones who have yet to taste life and whose primary objective is to keep a low profile and hence avoid trouble. They are the emotional 'cowards' Max Neilson refers to above.

Where Festival Summer differs from some of the later Lamb titles following this same model is that Katrine has been suppressing her talent as an actress in order not to compete with her actor father and older siblings, all of whom are depicted as shallow, demanding, egotistical and self-serving - while Katrine herself is humble, modest, patient and a domestic slave. But she's not a doormat. There's an early scene in which she brushes her father aside and sorts out his clothes for him in a slightly brusque manner, making it clear that while she isn't keen on the limelight her siblings enjoy, she does need to feel in control of the household - and of them.

The first kiss appears to come over halfway through the book - too early yet for the infamous Lamb bedroom scenes - and again, sets the pattern for later sexual contact in Lamb novels of this period. Goaded beyond endurance by her stubborn refusal to admit any talent, the hero Max grabs Katrine and kisses her:

Max laughed. "Ordinary? You're as ordinary as dynamite!" He caught her by the shoulders, his fingers biting into her flesh, so that she raised her head, gasping.

'Max! You're hurt ..." The words were smothered beneath his lips as he bent his head and kissed her with violent intensity, so hard that it forced her head back and stretched her throat until it was painful.

Sounds harsh, yes? Yet one sentence later, we get this: 'A sensation of intolerable bliss burst upon her.'

Max Neilson is by no means the brutal, domineering hero of later Lamb novels, who comes along to wake the sleeping princess with a kiss - and likes to make damn sure she's aware of what's going on - but he does appear to be a prototype for that man. Indeed, these archetypal Lamb heroes are disturbingly reminiscent of Sylvia Plath's "Daddy", a visceral proto-feminist poem written about fifteen years earlier than Festival Summer:

Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

Here, the modest Katrine gets her reward. Max, who sees through her good-girl disguise to the star material beneath, tricks her into displaying her talent for all the world - but particularly her own family - to see. Because of this, she is cast in a major role, acting alongside her father and sister in the play festival of the title, and gains everyone's admiration. 'You could be a great actress,' Max tells her, near the end of the book.

In the final chapter, we see that Katrine's talent is undeniable, a shining future in theatre absolutely guaranteed. So does she pursue a career in the theatre, and outshine her talented father and siblings? No, because Max asks her to marry him immediately after the festival and she readily agrees, insisting that she wants to have children, not a career.

Those five minutes of fame are all Katrine wants - swiftly reverting to good-girl type before any of her readers can throw the book across the room. She will be quite happy to return to ironing shirts and cleaning up after other people, now she has a man in her life. Here the heroine validates the domestic drudgery of the typical late seventies romance reader by giving up her own dreams too and choosing marriage instead of a career.

Max resists for a few lines, 'incredulous' at this unthinking sacrifice: 'You mean you would give up the theatre, despite having made such a hit, just to have babies?' and then rapidly capitulates. But Katrine has earned the good virgin's reward with her sacrifice. His brooding violence is gone. She has tamed the beast, and now finds 'passion' in his eyes instead of anger and impatience.

It's hard to read these earlier Lamb novels now without being aware of how much British society has changed since the mid-late seventies. Yet these main characters are drawn in a complex way, with deeply contradictory impulses and hang-ups Freud would have recognised, something which is not always true of today's more politically correct short romances. Even the secondary characters here, the rest of the Magnificent Milfords - the flamboyant and emotionally flawed father, in particular - are masterpieces of psychological understanding.

Nor is Katrine's decision to abandon a career in acting irrelevant to today's readers, despite the three decades that have elapsed since it was written. Most women these days still face the same choice that Katrina faces here (even if she doesn't see it as a dilemma) once children arrive. Now, however, women are expected to 'have it all' - which, in real terms, means we are expected to cope with both the responsibility of raising children and the demands of an ongoing career - where that possibility would not have been open to the vast majority of women in post-war Britain, when my own mother was having her first children.

The irony of all this, of course, is that the writer herself was managing to do both, whilst tacitly condoning her heroine's decision to throw away her chance of a glittering career and be a 'stay at home mum' instead.