Mary Stewart was a favorite author of mine in my younger days. And recently I've been delving back into her quite extensive works. I'm beginning with the romantic suspense -- partly in the spirit of wondering how they hold up -- I mean, young women in peril and a hero who always appears at just the right moment . . .
I couldn't resist showing these two covers for the same book. I'm pretty sure the long gown and billowing cloak in the first isn't accurate. Might as well have had her clutching a candelabrum with all the candles aflame. The girl on the second cover is a far better representation of the typical Stewart heroine -- young, attractive, adventurous, intelligent, and very much of her time. (I wonder if these books would appeal to the current crop of young women? Probably not -- far too innocent.)
The books I remember best are from the Fifties and Sixties, though Stewart's books were still coming out in the Nineties.
Her Arthurian books, a very different and wonderful kettle of fish, came out in the Seventies and I'll get to them when I've had enough of plucky girls in distress.
The thing I'm finding is that, in spite of the sometimes hackneyed setups, the plots are devious and fascinating, the heroines are charming and independent, taking matters into their own capable hands and not depending on the timely arrival of the hero. Stewart is, indeed, credited with doing away with the hapless, helpless damsel in distress by making all her heroines intelligent.
But even if all her heroines were wimps (they're not) and all her plots totally predictable (they're not,) it would still be worth reading Stewart for her absolutely glorious descriptions of places. And what places! Provence, the Isle of Skye, a French chateau, a convent in the French Pyrenees, Greece, Northumberland, Crete, Corfu, Austria, Damascus . . .
I'll be in one of these place for the next little while -- cheering for the plucky girl.
Do any of you remember the Mary Stewart books? If so, did you have a favorite? There are many more I haven't shown -- The Ivy Tree, The Gabriel Hounds, Thornycroft, The Stormy Petrel . . .