Along with Charlotte Lamb, Miranda Lee was my favorite writer from the Harlequin Presents line. Sadly, she passed away on November 13, 2021. She was 76. Lee wrote sensually charged romances that promoted the modern woman in all her forms.
An Author From Down Under
Miranda Lee, whose real first name was Maureen, was born in 1945 in Port Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia. She was the youngest of four children. Her older sister, Wendy, was also a successful writer for Harlequin under the pseudonym Emma Darcy. Wendy Brennan predeceased her sibling in 2020.
Lee’s father was a country school teacher and sportsman. Her mother was a dressmaker. At age 10, her father transferred to Gosford with the family. They moved to another rural town on the coast, much closer to the bustling Sydney metropolis.
Lee attended a convent school. She studied the cello and briefly pursued a career in classical music. Following that, she moved to Sydney, where she studied computer tech. Lee worked as a programmer before marrying her dear husband, Tony Lee. Together, they had three daughters. The family lived happily on a few acres of land with goats, horses, and greyhound dogs.
A Writer of Sexy Romances
While she raised her children at home, Lee craved an outlet for her creativity. Preferably one that would allow her to earn a living. At her sister’s suggestion, she set her hand at writing romance novels. After ten years of trying, she eventually signed with the Mills & Boon/ Harlequin in 1988. They released her first novel, After the Affair, Harlequin Presents #1362, in 1990 under her pseudonym of Miranda Lee.
After a while, the Lee family had enough of country life. They relocated to the more lively Central Coast. Tony assisted his wife’s thriving writing career by leaving his executive job. He would become a stay-at-home dad and partner. While Maureen wrote bestselling romances, Tony cooked, cleaned, and helped the girls with their assignments.
Lee’s sensual romances resonated with millions of readers. Her writing was provocative and daring.
In 1994, just a few years into her career, Harlequin Presents commissioned her to write a six-book series. This was only the second of its kind for the line. The series, called “Hearts of Fire,” had a tight nine-month deadline.
The first book, Seduction and Sacrifice, was officially released in July 1995. “Hearts of Fire” marked the love stories of six couples. The series had an overarching plotline about Gemma Smith’s search for her real parents. Also taking center stage was her romance with the much older playwright, the controlling and tortured Nathan Whitmore. The ultra-wealthy Whitmore clan takes Gemma in as part of their family.
The cast of players included: Nathan’s actress ex-wife Lenore; the Whitmore patriarch Byron, Nathan’s adoptive father; Byron’s plump kid sister Ava; Byron’s wild daughter Jade; his reserved housekeeper Melanie; and the notorious cougar Celeste Campbell.
Like a glittering soap opera of old, the melodrama is high. Couples fall in love and secrets are uncovered.
My Miranda Lee Experience
The first Miranda Lee I discovered was Aunt Lucy’s Lover. Surprisingly, it was far more erotic than the usual books I’d encountered from the line. After I picked up her “Hearts of Fire” series, I was hooked. The novels are a favorite guilty pleasure read.
Other Lee romances I enjoy are An Outrageous Proposal, Marriage in Jeopardy, Simply Irresistible, Marriage at a Price, and The Playboy in Pursuit. Besides the steamy bedroom scenes–or whatever place the couple found to get it on–I appreciated her diverse heroines. They could be young and virginal or have typically active sex lives. They could be shy and reserved or spunky and spontaneous.
In contrast, most of her heroes were modern-minded–dare I say–beta males. But on occasion, she could create magnetic bad-boy heroes as well.
Lee’s personal favorite was Maddie’s Love Child, about an independent businesswoman with no desire for marriage. She plans to get pregnant by having a fleeting affair, only to have the tables turned on her when her lover demands to be part of his child’s life.
Into the 21st Century
Each of Miranda’s novels contained her trademark style. They were quick-paced and passionate, with relatable characters and resonating storylines. Unsurprisingly, her ideology when writing romances was simple: “Don’t bore the reader!” If only all writers espoused that sentiment!
In 2002, Lee wrote a full-length follow-up to the “Hearts of Fire” series, titled aptly enough, Hearts of Fire. It told the parallel stories of Nathan’s daughter Kirsty finding love with her bodyguard and Gemma and Nathan trying to mend their rocky marriage on a cruise ship vacation.
Lee would expand outside of the Presents line by writing a couple of romances for the more sexually charged Harlequin Blaze series.
Most of Lee’s books were set in Australia. Quite often in Sydney, as Lee considered it “the most beautiful, exciting, go-ahead city in the world.” She liked creating believable, fast-paced, and passionate stories that kept the reader engaged.
Besides entertaining millions of readers worldwide, what did she love most about writing? She once said, “Not having to travel or even dress when going to work.” Alternatively, she hated dealing with deadlines. I can relate!
Her advice for keeping a marriage hot: “Weekend getaways. Somehow, hotel rooms are sexier than home.” Her husband never forgot an anniversary, lavishing her with gifts.
Death and Legacy
Miranda Lee was one of Harlequin/Mills & Boon’s most influential and popular romance authors. She would author over 90 novels for them. Lee was a USA Today Bestseller, selling over 18 million copies worldwide. She delighted readers around the globe with her captivating love stories.
Lee’s editor, Carly Byrne, recalled: “Being Maureen’s editor for the past nine years has been a career highlight. Her books were my entry point into the wonderful world of Harlequin/Mills & Boon, and it was a dream come true to eventually work with her. She leaves an amazing legacy of alpha heroes, fiery heroines, and stunning Australian settings behind her that will have brought joy to so many readers and continue to do so through her incredible backlist of novels.”
Lee’s motto was “Life is what you make it.” By all accounts, she made a wonderful life for herself as a mother, wife, sister, animal lover, and accomplished writer of sizzling romances.
In 2020, she retired from writing for Harlequin/Mills & Boon. They published her final book, The Billionaire’s Cinderella Housekeeper, in March 2021.
Her husband Tony, three children, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild are her surviving relatives. Millions of fans mourn her passing.