Authors

Author Spotlight: Penny Jordan

Penny Jordan pic
“Penny Jordan” (real name Penny Jones-Halsall)

Penny Jordan was an immensely popular author for Mills and Boon/ Harlequin. She wrote romantic love stories that readers have enjoyed for 40 years. Penny Jordan was not her real identity but one of her many pseudonyms. Let’s take a look back at the career of this talented author.

Life Before Writing

Born on November 24, 1946, Penelope “Penny” Jones came into the world in a nursing home in Preston, Lancashire, England. Like many future writers, Penny had a vivid imagination as a child and was an active reader. Starting at age 10 or 11, her mother introduced Penny to the romantic serials in the Woman’s Weekly magazines. She became hooked on reading Mills & Boon and was a devoted fan. In those days, private lending libraries were the only source to obtain those books. Not until years later would the books go on sale in shops so Penny could have her keep of them.

She had met the love of her life, Steve Halsall, as a teenager, whom she married after her graduation. Steve was supportive of Penny’s burgeoning ambitions to write and purchased a typewriter for her to create romantic fiction.

Enter Caroline Courtney, Penny Jordan, and Anne Groves

Penny entered a competition run by the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA), which brought her to the attention of an agent, and in 1979 she published Duchess in Disguise, the first of her 25 Regency romances written under the name Caroline Courtney.

 Duchess in Disguise, Caroline Courtney, Warner 1979, Walter Popp cover art

Around the time that Duchess in Disguise was published, Penny read in a magazine that Mills & Boon were looking for new authors.

“I was still an avid reader of Mills & Boon romances – on publication day I used to rush out of work to get to the local book store to grab my favourites before they all disappeared. I chose to write the kind of romance I love best – one with a sheikh hero.”

The editor who discovered Penny’s work in the slush pile in 1980 described her as “a raw talent-–a born storyteller with a unique, intense and passionate voice.” Her first book for Mills & Boon was Falcon’s Prey (1981).

Falcon’s Prey, Penny Jordan, Mills & Boon, 1981, cover artist unknown

In the early 1980’s Penny also wrote several contemporary romances as Melinda Wright and Lydia Hitchcock. She also wrote for Mills & Boon/ Harlequins under the pseudonym Frances Roding.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Penny would be one of Mills & Boon/ Harlequin’s most successful writers. Her heroines were often shy, insecure, or misguided-but-well-meaning. Penny’s heroes could range from cruel and passionate to tender and loving. In the end, they always fell forever in love with their heroines.

In the 2000s, Penny found a new focus in her career, writing series of novels under the pseudonym Annie Groves. The inspiration for these books came from Penny’s mother’s experiences during World War II. Set Liverpool and London, these novels focused on the home front and the changing role of women during wartime. This series would introduce a new generation of fans to Penny Jones-Halsall’s works.

London Belles, Annie Groves, Harper Collins UK, 2011

The End of an Era

Sadly, Penny’s husband Steve passed away in 2002. She would continue thriving in the career that he had so lovingly encouraged her to pursue.

In 2011 Penny was presented with the RNA’s lifetime achievement award. During her 30 year career, Penny Halsall was one of the world’s best-selling romance writers, selling 90-100 million copies of her 200 books. Her works were translated into 25 languages worldwide.

Unfortunately, Penny died too young on December 31, 2011, at age 65, from cancer. She left behind many loving nieces, nephews, and godchildren, not to mention her millions of fans.

An Annie Groves novel, My Sweet Valentine, along with two further volumes for Mills & Boon, The Price of Royal Duty and A Secret Disgrace, would be published before her passing. More books would be released in the decade following her death, with a final Annie Groves book to be published in 2022.

Book Reviews:

Beyond compare
Beyond Compare, Penny Jordan, Harlequin, 1990, Ted Sizemore cover art
Escape From Desire, Penny Jordan, Harlequin, 1983, Tom Bjarnason cover art

For slightly more information on Penny Jordan and her other writing identities, visit her Author’s Page. You can go to the Menu at the top of every page to search for other authors’ biographies, links, and backlists.

Have you read Penny Jordan, Caroline Courtney, or Annie Groves’ books? If so, what are your favorite reads? Please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance.

4 replies »

  1. I love these author spotlights!

    Beyond compare cover is by Ted Sizemore. Escape From Desire cover by Tom Bjarnason–he’s another one whose work for HQN is unmistakable.

    • Iris, you are amazing! Yes, Bjarnason is recognizable, I’m going to look and see what other covers I have that might be his. Thank you for giving me names. There are many covers where I can see a similarity in style, but without a name or even an initial to put them, it’s frustrating. Now, I’ll be going over my bookshelves for a while.

      Thanks!😀

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