Help A Bitch Out

Help a Bitch Out

SB Reader Lindsey wrote:

my name is lindsey and i have come to seek your knowledge. i am interested in learning more about 1930’s and 40’s romance novels. The ones my grandma used to read. When she died some short-sighted relative through out her extensive collection of old adventure romance books, and now i want to know about them. she was also a big communist, so i wonder about the connection there. do you know anything about this? any tips on where i might begin to look? im also interested in secondary sources about adventure-romance (since i am a geeky academic). can you smart bitches help me out?

Far be it from me to draw the line connecting adventure romance of the 40’s to Communism, but hey, my father in law works for the Jewish socialists so I’ll ask him tonight. Either way – anyone got any titles or authors for Lindsey to look up?

I have to say, going back to look up the popular literature that your grandparents might have read is a fine idea. I’m seeing my grandmother on Sunday (OH, the joys of having two, no, THREE faiths in one marriage) and I know she loves Wodehouse and Trollope but I wonder if she indulged in the Catherine Coulters of her day.

Leave your answers in the comments, and if you are celebrating Pesach this evening, Chag Sameach!

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Theresa S. says:

    I think Georgette Heyer wrote most of her books in this time period. Not sure, but I seem to remember her first book came out in the early 20s and her last in the early 50s.

  2. 2
    Tonda says:

    Back on the 9th there was a discussion about rereading a classic romance over on FOG CITY DIVAS. Maybe that discussion (and those having it) would be of help.

  3. 3
    emdee says:

    Let’s not forget Forever Amber written in 1944 by Kathleen Winsor.  It is a classic and was shocking for its time.  Read all about it here:

  4. 4
    Maura says:

    There’s actually a nice study of women’s adventure books, but it’s on books written a little earlier (1910s-1920s), although the conclusion might discuss later books.  It’s called “Ladies of Labor, Girls of Adventure” and it’s by Nan Enstad.  She actually does argue that these adventure novels (and films) helped working-class women form a particular identity that they then enacted through activities such as striking.  She discusses Clara Lemlich, a communist and leader of a huge garment workers’ strike in 1911 or 1912, in conjunction with these novels.  Despite being an academic book, it’s a pretty easy read.

  5. 5

    I was going to suggest Forever Amber but I see someone beat me to it.  I don’t remember when Anya Seton started publishing, but some of her early books may be out from the 50’s, and Jane Aiken Hodge may have been writing during that period as well.

    Dorothy Sayers Gaudy Night is about as romantic as it comes, but rightly is classified as a mystery.

    And Chag kasher v’sameach Pesach backatcha, Sarah!

  6. 6
    ElaineMc says:

    Maybe M. M. Kaye’s mystery/romances? They were published with “Death in…” titles, such as “Death in Kenya”, “Death in Berlin”, and so on.

    They have fairly narrowly focussed heroine and hero types, but the settings are the real stars. They were generally published in the post WWII era, so they might be a bit late for what Lindsey wants.

  7. 7
    Aoife says:

    How about Helen MacInnes?  She wrote adventure and suspense in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.  Then there’s always Denise Robins, who wrote from the 1920’s on.  Helen MacInnes was a better writer, but Denise Robins wrote the precursors of all those virgin/alpha male Harlequin Presents-type storylines.Lots of swooning and fluttering in the early ones.  Not that I ever read any of those.  Only for research purposes.  Really.

  8. 8
    Karen says:

    A few very prolific contemporary romance writers from the ‘20s and ‘30s (and beyond) are Faith Baldwin, Kathleen Norris, and Maysie Greig, though I don’t know that their stories would be considered adventure-romance.

    A great source for ‘20s & ‘30s fiction is eBay. You’ll often see big lots for sale for relatively cheap. The Dell mapbacks (whether romance or paperback) are rather collectible and have fun period covers.

  9. 9
    Joyce says:

    Have to admit Helen MacInnes was my favorite for a long time.  There is Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt.

  10. 10
    packbacker says:

    In terms of secondary literature, try Janice Radway’s Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature, and more recently Pamela Regis’ A Natural History of the Romance Novel.

    I personally like Regis’ book more because she has a good chronological history of the romance novel and seems enthusiastic about her topic, while I got the impression that Radway believes she’s “too educated” to actually read a romance novel – she only writes about other women who read them.

  11. 11
    DebL says:

    I don’t have dates for her, but what about Daphne DuMaurier? Jamaica Inn et al.

  12. 12
    Robin F says:

    There is also D.E. Stevenson, she is a relation of R.L. Stevenson and wrote some wonderful romantic and just funny books, my favorite is Miss Buncle’s Book which isn’t so much a romance but is very funny.  A lot of hers are set during World War II and in Scotland, and she actually lived in Dumfries & Galloway so her Scottish references are pretty accurate.

  13. 13
    Rosemary says:

    Emilie Loring wrote books around 1915-1960s.  Her books after WW2 deal mainly with the Red Scare, but that’s also when they fall apart for me.  They are too wrapped up in the conspiracy theory of invading Communists. 

    Some are extremely bad but others are pretty good.  You can find them at a public library.


  14. 14
    Urraca says:

    How about Mazo de la Roche’s Jalna series?  They were tremendously popular at that time.

  15. 15
    Joanna says:

    you might try Elizabeth Cadell – British, mostly 1940s-60s I think – she’s a lot funnier than Emilie Loring and a little less dire than some DE Stevensons.  not available in all libraries, but ebay should help. I work with a lot of women in their 70s and we read all the same books – another favorite here is Elswyth Thane’s Williamsburg books, although you have to be willing to ignore some unfortunate racial attitudes.  for gothics, it’s Mary Stewart and Jane Aiken Hodge all the way. the Historical Society ladies wish you luck!

  16. 16
    Susan says:

    Sabatini!!  The author of Captain Blood, Scaramouche, and The Sea Hawk—-he wrote mostly swashbucklers and was a huge bestseller back in the day.  And don’t forget Daphne du Maurier.

    I tend to think of socialists as having their own trashy literature in the 30s and 40s—-my mom suggests Howard Fast (author of Spartacus and other historical novels) and Upton Sinclair’s Lanny Budd books (a series about a socialist millionaire who went around having adventures, saving people from the Nazis and the like).  She can’t think of any adventure-romance specifically, but if she does, she’ll let me know.

  17. 17
    Jackie says:

    Daphne Du Maurier and Dame Agatha Christie Classics.

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