Editor Kate Parkin on the glamorous, adventurous world of Mary Stewart.
‘A comfortable chair and a Mary Stewart: total heaven. I'd rather read her than most other authors’ Harriet Evans, bestselling author of A Hopeless Romantic
Mary Stewart's novels are international bestsellers beloved by generations of readers. Beautifully constructed modern classics with mysteries at their hearts, they offer the perfect escape from the winter chill. Perhaps, like Camilla in My Brother Michael, you fancy going to Greece in search of adventure (and find more than you bargained for)? Or you might, like Christy in The Gabriel Hounds, end up in the Middle East and discover a reclusive great-aunt living in a crumbling palace. If that’s too far afield, there’s Madam, Will You Talk? set in Provence, Thunder on the Right, set in the Pyrenees Nine Coaches Waiting, a masterful re-telling of Jane Eyre set in the French Alps, and one of my absolute favourites, Airs Above the Ground, set in a magically described Vienna. And if you don’t want to travel quite so far from your fireside, some of Mary Stewart’s finest stories are set in Britain – try The Ivy Tree, a genuinely haunting novel set along Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, Stormy Petrel, set on a remote Hebridean island off the coast of Mull, or Thornyhold, set near Stonehenge in Wiltshire.
Literate, intelligent, stylish and witty, what all Mary Stewart’s books have in common is a richly imagined sense of place, a compelling plot and that little touch of magic that lingers on in your mind long after the last page. Her heroines are feisty, clever, elegant and charmingly self-deprecating; her heroes attractive, resourceful, frequently sardonic and always tough. This is a world of grand hotels, of glamorous travel, of the best food and wine, of fast cars and sophisticated lives – as welcome a contrast to austerity Britain now as they were in the 1950s and 60s when they were written – and the perfect antidote to the winter blues!
‘She sets the bench mark for pace, suspense and romance - with a great dollop of escapism as the icing’ Elizabeth Buchan, bestselling author of Revenge of the Middle-aged Woman and Daughters
Try this selection of Mary Stewart novels . . .
Madam, Will You Talk?
Charity had been greatly looking forward to her driving holiday through France with her old friend Louise - long, leisurely days under the hot sun, enjoying the beauty of the parched Provençal landscape. But very soon her dreams turn into a nightmare, as Charity becomes enmeshed in the schemes of a gang of murderers, one of them a man with whom she is rapidly falling in love . . .
Wildfire at Midnight
When model, Gianetta Brooke, arrives at a country house hotel on the Isle of Skye for a longed-for holiday, she finds instead an acrimonious atmosphere of tension and suspicion. A young local girl has been horrifically murdered and all the guests – including her ex-husband – are potential suspects . . .
Thunder on the Right
Jenny Silver's trip to the Pyrenees is intended to be more than a welcome holiday in a beautiful part of France. Perturbed by a letter from her cousin Gillian who has been like a sister to her, Jenny has come to Gavarnie in an attempt to discover why Gill has entered a convent.
On arrival, however, she finds herself caught up in a mesh of intrigue. Her cousin has vanished, and there is evidence that she is dead. Refusing all explanations, Jenny throws herself into a dramatic and dangerous search.
Nine Coaches Waiting
In this modern homage to Jane Eyre, Linda Martin, survivor of a rather drab English orphanage, is appointed governess to the nine-year-old owner of the Château Valmy in the French Alps. During little Philippe's minority the estates are being managed by his crippled uncle Leon, and Leon's handsome son Raoul. All seems delightful, but there are tensions below the smooth surface. And when, one sunny afternoon, a bullet is fired in the beech woods - the tensions become terrors.
My Brother Michael
‘Nothing ever happens to me...’ As Camilla Haven sits in a cafe in Athens and writes those very words in a letter to her sister, she has no idea the twists and turns her life is about to take. A strange man approaches and hands her keys to a rental car, telling her to take it to ‘Monsieur Simon’ in Delphi right away – and that it is a matter of life and death. On a whim, and because she had planned to go to Delphi anyway, Camilla takes the car – and soon finds herself mixed up in a dark mystery with its roots in the Second World War . . .
The Ivy Tree
An English June in the Northumberland countryside; the ruin of a beautiful old house standing cheek-by-jowl with the solid, sunlit prosperity of the manor farm - a lovely place, and a rich inheritance for one of the two remaining Winslow heirs. There had been a third, but Annabel Winslow had died four years ago - so when a young woman calling herself Annabel Winslow comes 'home' to Whitescar, Con Winslow and his half-sister Lisa must find out just who she really is.
This Rough Magic
When Lucy's sister Phyllida suggests that she join her for a quiet holiday on the island of Corfu, Lucy is overjoyed. Her work as an actress has temporarily come to a halt. But the peaceful idyll does not last long. A series of incidents, seemingly unconnected - but all surrounded in mystery - throws Lucy's life into a dangerous spin, as fear, danger and death - as well as romance - supplant the former tranquillity.
On a break from her junior job in the British Embassy in Athens, Nicola Ferris goes to explore a neglected bit of Crete. But her idyll is shattered on the very first day when she is threatened by a very fierce Greek bearing, not gifts, but a knife. He is guarding a wounded Englishman and – intrigued by these strange circumstances – Nicola decides to help her fellow countryman, and finds herself dangerously caught up in robbery and murder.
Airs Above the Ground
After a fight with Lewis, her husband of two years, whom she suspects has not been entirely honest with her, Vanessa is happy to take a job escorting teenager Timothy Lacy to Vienna. It will offer her the chance to check up on Lewis, after all… However, she finds herself – and her young charge – caught up in a web of intrigue and danger that involves a travelling circus, which is being used as cover to smuggle drugs across national borders, and the famous white Lipizzaner stallions of Vienna. And it turns out that Lewis is very much part of the intrigue . . .
The Gabriel Hounds
Legend has it that when the Gabriel Hounds run howling over the crumbling palace of Dar Ibrahim in the Lebanon, someone will shortly die.
An eccentric old Englishwoman, known as 'Lady Harriet', lives there in decaying splendour and complete seclusion. The isolation is broken by the arrival of rich young Christy Mansel and her cousin Charles. All too soon they discover that if entrance to the palace is difficult, retreat from it is almost impossible - and the legend of the Gabriel Hounds becomes frighteningly real.