Tag Archives: M M Kaye

Smuggler’s Kiss

Hands up anyone who hasn’t secretly wanted to find themselves on a pirate ship, in the company of a desirable male, young or otherwise! I obviously mean this in the romantic, fictional way, that has nothing to do with a smuggler’s reality, which is a lot less attractive. (Or so I imagine.)

Marie-Louise Jensen, Smuggler's Kiss

It might be a set type of plot, but it’s one that I have enjoyed from long forgotten books via MM Kaye’s Trade Wind, and on to Marie-Louise Jensen’s Smuggler’s Kiss. I’m very grateful to Marie-Louise, because she is taking care of this historical romance writing that I didn’t see enough of for far too long. She writes the sort of books I’d have written, if I’d been able to.

Smuggler’s Kiss starts with young Isabelle who feels compelled to do something pretty desperate, but who ends up being rescued by a group of smugglers, out smuggling. Luckily they don’t throw her overboard again, and so her new life as a smuggler begins.

Isabelle meets the annoying, but kind and handsome Will, who also appears not to be your typical smuggler. He helps Isabelle as she gets involved with the smuggler’s work, and she in turn assists her new shipmates with what little she is able to do. She is very spoiled, so it’s not all smooth sailing.

The trouble with being a smuggler is that it’s illegal and people are always out to get you. So it is for this crew, and for Will and Isabelle, as well. She learns a few lessons, but so do the smugglers. And finally they, and the reader, find out why they have been particularly unlucky.

It’s quite a useful lesson in history (though I’m not sure exactly when this is set…), and as I hinted before, it is romantic, in just the right way.

Bring me more smuggler romances!

From Kashmir to the Andamans

That day, when I began pulling ‘Indian’ books from my shelves, to re-visit or to read for the first time, I was rather alarmed to find that the first book my hand encountered was Death in Kashmir by M M Kaye. I looked at it, and hoped it wouldn’t be. Then I stashed it away for the time being.

That means I’ve not even attempted to re-read, speedily or otherwise, either the Kashmir based romantic thriller, or the one called Death in the Andamans. The strange thing is I remember virtually nothing about them, so could obviously re-read as though they were new. Not so much should I want to, but if I ever have time.

I suspect that back in the olden days, I was simply less interested in this part of the world. Zanzibar was romantic and Cyprus was my favourite. Kenya was OK, and Berlin seemed a little on the grey side.

M M Kaye, Death in Kashmir

I won’t have realised that India was M M’s own country, rather than just another exotic place she had picked to write about. This time round I found the author’s notes the most enlightening, and it seems the Kashmir book was delayed considerably while she met her husband-to-be, married him, had their children and moved around a lot. It’s very romantic, that M M went from 2000 words a day, to nothing. And less romantic that she began writing again because they were poor and needed the money.

If I put them all together, I’m sure my readers have been everywhere in the world. Needless to say I ‘spoke’ to one this week who visited Kashmir while it was ‘open for business.’ Probably would have sent me a postcard, too, if we’d known each other back then.

Postcards have been thin on the ground this time. But, there is always facebook, so I have to make do with that. And perhaps the postcard is in the post.

TFP

It’s good to see that The Far Pavilions is alive and well enough to merit being called TFP by its fans. I’ve also found a fantastic website about the book, which I will only let you visit if you promise you are not writing an essay on M M Kaye’s novel and are intending to cheat. I’m so impressed that someone is keen enough to do all that extra work and then to put it on the internet.

Also really impressed that so many readers were not put off the 950 pages and actually bought and read the book. I know the power of television and film, but I gather people read TFP before it as well. As you know – because I told you the other day – I read it after, but never watched the mini-series.

The Far Pavilions

What surprises me is that the story isn’t coming back to me all that much, despite reacquainting myself with the book and reading up on it. I do remember enjoying it, nearly 30 years ago, but I wonder if it was a little heavy on the history for me. Reading it with an atlas to hand would make a lot of difference.

The story begins in the 1850s when Ash is born, somewhere in the middle of nowhere in India. He’s British, but ends up being brought up by an Indian woman, learning to speak lots of the local languages. Circumstances then send him to school in England, which he hates, until he can return home. Ash falls in love with a bullied Indian princess, and the rest of TFP deals with their love and their enemies and the general unrest in the country, finishing up in Kabul…

I must have missed the 2005 London musical based on TFP, and not being an avid radio listener I had no idea it was on Radio Four a year ago. That would have been nice. There is  apparently a new film being made, which sounds like it’s a cooperation with Bollywood. I would love to see it, and it’s a good idea to make more of an Indian film of such an Indian story.

In fact, the Resident IT Consultant and I were discussing how history is taught in schools. I decided I remembered more from fiction and films than from twelve years of history at school. Perhaps that’s where they go wrong? Give children books, and the occasional film instead. When I get that eighth day in my week I will read some more.

Shadow of the Moon

What I was really after as I searched my shelves was M M Kaye’s Indian novels. I came to them late, having ‘grown up’ on her modern romantic thrillers. But then in the early 1980s we had The Far Pavilions and The Jewel in the Crown (neither of which I watched, as we didn’t own a television…) and I somehow got swept up in this new love for old love in India in the past. And I may have been television-less, but books are easy to buy.

Finding that I had several new-to-me, absolutely gloriously romantic and exciting and very long novels by my old favourite, was a real bonus, and I enjoyed every single one.

I must own up to not having hastily re-read Shadow of the Moon, but I had a quick look through and am as charmed now as I was then, and very tempted to have another go at reading it. I used to be of the opinion that earlier works tend to be better than novels written by authors well past retirement age (sorry!) so I picked Shadow of the Moon because it was written in the 1950s, well before M M Kaye’s television success.

M M Kaye, Shadow of the Moon

Set in the time leading up to the Indian mutiny in the middle of the 19th century, I somehow thought it might not be very interesting. How wrong I was! A good romance and a good adventure is always great, whenever it is set. And the love story between Winter and Alex is one of the memorable ones.

True, this kind of book is mainly set among the ‘British’ and is not ‘real’ Indian, but the British were there, so it features something that did exist, whether you think it is right or wrong. M M Kaye was born there, and lived in India for many years. She spoke Hindi. She did what is natural; wrote about what she knew.

That’s why it’s so very good.

M M Kaye on the background to writing Shadow of the Moon.

(The cover image above is the one I have. It’s not my favourite, and here you can see why.)

Young and hot, or perhaps not

Mary Hoffman went on a book tour to America last week, leaving us – her blog readers – with some exciting men to think about. I bet she did that on purpose.

She writes about some very attractive young men in her own books, and I trust Mary has done a lot of research to make our reading experience the best ever. But I am too old for her boys. I simply cannot lust after a teenager. Even setting propriety aside I find I can’t. I need older men.

Like the ones I was too young for when I was a teenager. Except in those days there wasn’t much in the way of teen books, so a girl had to lust after grown older men, or not lust at all. Lord Peter Wimsey is one such example mentioned by Mary. (And don’t tell anyone, but I did like him.)

That’s life. Nothing is ever right.

So, in those days I liked the Scarlet Pimpernel (even without Leslie Howard), and I adored Steven Howard in MM Kaye’s Death in Cyprus and Richard Byron in Mary Stewart’s Madam Will You Talk. Various Alistair MacLean heroes, and Carl Zlinter from Nevil Shute’s The Far Country. (Go on, ridicule me!)

If there were any boys, I have forgotten them, which means they can’t have been all that special.

More recently I have liked Margery Allingham’s Campion, Mr Knightley, and Robert Stephens’s voice as Aragorn in the radio version of Lord of the Rings. There aren’t all that many attractive men in modern children’s or YA books, but there is Lupin. And from an old classic we have Daddy Longlegs.

If I absolutely have to find young men in current fiction they won’t be vampires. Not even faeries (sorry, Seth McGregor). I liked Wes in Sarah Dessen’s The Truth About Forever, and Sanchez in Ribblestrop by Andy Mulligan is quite a boy. And now that I think about it, the Cathys (Cassidy and Hopkins) do lovely young ones.

Abby and Ducky

Men on the screen, however, have got easier with age. The ten-year-old me knew it was wrong to be in love with Ilya Kuryakin, 23 years my senior. But he was so cute! And this being a lasting kind of passion, it was David McCallum who got me started on NCIS. He is still very good looking for a man approaching 80. And it was at NCIS I found Very Special Agent Gibbs, a man of the right age. At last. I reckon he is a modern Mr Knightley.

Gibbs

So, for me it is No Thanks to ‘hot young men.’ I need them to be grey these days.

(Link here to an older post about pretty boys. I seem to have grown out of them.)

Now for some romance before it gets dark!

Last week several authors linked to this blog post, which primarily moans about sequelitis in the world of romantic fiction, and especially that aimed at younger readers. At least, I think so. Mercifully I have not read them, but I can imagine what they are like. Or perhaps I can’t.

The thing is, the post was written by a fan of this type of book before publishers lost all sense of proportion.

Now, I grew up on plenty of romance of the fictional kind. I was actually under the impression that I was awfully grown-up when tackling Barbara Cartland, who was perpetually serialised in the weekly magazine I liked so much that I spent my pocket money buying it, until Mother-of-witch gave up and paid.

I saw the light – eventually – and moved on to Alistair MacLean and other mature books.

In my brief course on children’s literature at university we were ordered to read two unexpected books alongside Anne of Green Gables and other worthies. One had to be a cheap romance, and the other an action story like Nick Carter. The reason being that children, or young adults (long before the term was invented), were reading them. Ergo, they counted as children’s books.

And now we have vampires.

The cheap action type novel has plenty of modern alternatives. And I suppose Twilight & Co are better than my old Barbara Cartlands? Miss Cartland reputedly spent all of two weeks on every book she ‘wrote’, and whatever your opinion of Stephenie Meyer, she must have worked somewhat harder on her writing.

Dark romance

I suspect young girls are hardwired to want romance at some point in their early reading lives. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as the romance is allowed to end and the readers move on to new things. That’s where it might be worse now, because vampire novels and similar books look so much like real books. Mills & Boons look exactly as what they are. Cheap romance. Some of them pretty good. Some not.

Now publishers are milking the black and red covered cash cow. Endlessly. I want to sit down and cry when previously sensible publishers bring out their own Twilight.  I could almost accept it, if it weren’t the case that these Twilights are squeezing out real books. Not all of them, but there are many excellent books that never get published, or that sell so badly that they don’t stand a chance in the shadow of romance.

There is good YA romance. Recent examples that come to mind are Mary Hoffman, Celia Rees and Gillian Philip, who all write real, and romantic, novels. It’s not my intention to come up with a long list here. I just want to say that there is choice.

We had very little of that in the 1970s. Cartland and M&B on one side and Jane Eyre & Co on the other. Although, in my late teens I did find a couple of authors who were capable of writing light but intelligent romance with death and excitement on the side. M M Kaye and Mary Stewart were both authors I inherited from nearby adults. And unlike the cheap stuff, I still remember them well.