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Book Review | The Queen of Romance by Liz Jones

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book cover for The Queen of Romance by Liz Jones
  • Publisher : Honno Welsh Women’s Press (6 May 2021)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 256 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1912905116
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1912905119

During the course of her 60-year career, Marguerite Florence Laura Jervis (1886-1964) published over 150 books, with 11 novels adapted for film, including The Pleasure Garden (1925), the directorial debut of Alfred Hitchcock. 

 In her heyday, she sold hundreds of thousands of novels; she wrote for newspapers, women’s magazines and the silent movie screen; she married one of Wales’ most controversial literary figures, Caradoc Evans. She was an actress, a theatrical impresario, and one of the most successful novelists of her time, but now she is largely forgotten. 

Known variously as Mrs Caradoc Evans, Oliver Sandys, Countess Barcynska and by many other pseudonyms, who was she really?

Liz Jones has dug deep beneath the romanticised tale told in Jervis’s own memoir to reveal what made this driven and determined woman and how she became a runaway popular success during the most turbulent years of the 20th century.

Book Review

The Queen of Romance tells the story of Marguerite Jervis who was a successful author of romantic fiction books during the 20th century.

A writer I had never heard of before, I was excited to read this book which charts her life from her birth in India (her father was a disciplinarian and her mother was disinterested in her) through two marriages and a son and a whole collection of romance books.

Her father wanted her to live a conventional life and she married her first husband in what was more like a business arrangement than a loving partnership. She had other ideas though and her second husband was the famous Welsh author Caradoc Evans and to him she was utterly devoted. Their relationship was fiery and at times abusive and his work totally overshadowed hers. Her son Nick (who she did not have with Evans) was abandoned by her when she ran away with Caradoc however later she did all she could to make it up to him. 

Though her personal life was interesting I enjoyed reading about her writing. She wrote under the pen names Oliver Sandys and Countess Barcynska and primarily romantic fiction for women.

I loved how she wrote about the women in her books overcoming adversity and overcoming odds.

She wrote many books and kept up this writing at a furious pace releasing new books regularly that were devoured by her readers.

I found it sad that though she wrote about women’s successes she herself could never really find happiness and she died in poverty with no proper headstone, having been rejected by all the men in her life. Perhaps she lived through the characters she wrote about?

The author has done a marvellous job of bringing this little-known woman to life. Clearly passionate about the subject, I really enjoyed learning about Marguerite and felt so sorry that she didn’t enjoy more success while she was alive.

The way she is portrayed is fascinating and I began to search for some of her titles. I found that some of her novels had been turned into film including one by Alfred Hitchcock, The Pleasure Garden. 

Reading this has opened my eyes to this strong woman who I would otherwise never have come across and I thoroughly enjoyed learning all about her. 

Pages in the mindfulness activities printable workbook

Liz Jones writes drama and creative non-fiction, reviews, short stories and journalism ranging from Take a Break to New Welsh Review. Along the way she has raised two daughters, tried to change the world, worked in a café-cum-bookshop, a housing association, in community development and lifelong learning. She is now a Teaching Fellow at Aberystwyth University.

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