Clare Mallory was a New Zealander who wrote books for children and teenagers in the 1940s and 1950s. I came across her books fairly recently and immediately enjoyed them. Many of them are school stories but the schools tend to be much more relaxed than their British contemporaries although they do have much in common. My favourite of Clare Mallory’s novels is Juliet Overseas. It concerns a girl who is sent halfway around the world to attend her mother’s old school in England. In a typical school story plot, the tone of the school is not all it might be and Juliet takes it upon herself to effect an improvement. Of course she succeeds but reading about how she does it is entertaining and even thought-provoking. Juliet is an engaging character, fairly self-sufficient but keenly aware that the customs of New Zealand are not those of home – as England is always referred to – and anxious not to trample on sensitivities, whilst at the same time being impatient with the unwillingness to change displayed by some of her contemporaries.
I love a Regency romance and one of my favourite writers in the genre is Julia Quinn. She’s American but she manages to hide that pretty well in her use of language and, unusually for American-penned novels of the genre, there are very few jarring notes in her writing. Her series of books about the Bridgerton family is good fun. The characters are likeable and varied and over the series Julia builds up a great picture of their family life. Each of the children has a book describing his or her courtship and these stories are all quite different. I like Colin’s story, Romancing Mr Bridgerton, best of all. He’s an urbane young man, intelligent, witty and attractive but with a deep seam of insecurity. The heroine of the piece is Penelope Featherington, old enough to be considered an irredeemable spinster but hiding an explosive secret. It’s funny, romantic, sexy and great escapism!