Category Archives: Magnum Books

Shadows on the Moon

Category Romance Review: Shadows on the Moon by Peggy Gaddis

Synopsis:

Lovely Eve Harrison was shouldering the burden of running the many businesses that made up the vast Harrison enterprises in Florida, while at the same time caring for her crippled, embittered brother, Pete.

Eve had no time to think of her own life…or of love, even though her general manager and childhood sweetheart, Doug Hammond, had been pressing her to marry him. It took the arrival of a mysterious, handsome hitch-hiker and a glamorous heiress to create a many-sided triangle and open Eve’s eyes to the meaning of life and love. 

SHADOWS ON THE MOON

Reviewed by Mary Anne Landers

Spoiler Free Review 😊

The Prolific Peggy Gaddis

Peggy Gaddis (1895 to 1966) was a big name in mid-century genre fiction. Born in the state of Georgia, she worked as a pulp magazine editor in New York in the 1920s. She must have learned what the readers wanted because she later became a popular fiction writer in various genres. Gaddis is credited with almost 300 works under a dozen names (that I know of). 

Her fortes include contemporary category romance novels; Shadows on the Moon is one example. First published as a hardcover by Arcadia House in 1960, it has been reprinted several times and on both sides of the pond. The version I read is a Magnum paperback published by Prestige Books in the mid-to-late 1970s. Like all books in the series, the copyright page doesn’t bear the date of this edition.

The title sounds gothic-like, but the novel is actually a brisk, dynamic tale of a young businesswoman (circa 1960) facing problems in her work, her family, and her love life. If you go for zesty, realistic plots full of true-to-life characters, with snappy dialog and a pace that never lags, this book might well be your cup of tea. Or should I say a glass of orange juice; it takes place at a citrus grove and processing center in Florida.

Growing Oranges Can Be the Pits

That estate, a family business, is run by Eve Harrison. She’s doing a great job, but mechanical failures and accidents are cutting into the profits. And she must put up with her only close kin, her embittered brother Peter, who’s confined to a wheelchair. Together they own the company, but only Eve takes part in it.

She has an understanding, sort of, with Doug Hammond, her general manager. They were childhood sweethearts, but the grownup Eve simply can’t work up the requisite passion for him. Against his desires, she does her best to evade the prospect of marriage. Which wouldn’t be possible anyhow as long as Eve must take care of the testy Peter.

Then she picks up hitchhiker Brian Eldredge. Though he seems like just another tramp, he turns out to be a highly-skilled mechanic. Eve gives him a job repairing her trouble-prone machinery.

Brian quickly suspects these accidents are anything but. He says it’s sabotage. But who would do such a thing? Why?

As if all this weren’t enough, enter Valerie Blaisdell—New York socialite, adventure-seeker, heiress to millions. She stumbles upon the Harrison property when a maritime mishap leaves her adrift off its shore. With her beauty, charm, and vivacious personality, Valerie makes herself right at home. Eve likes her. Doug likes her. But how well?

A Juicy Story

A lot happens, but to avoid spoilers I’ll stop here. Shadows on the Moon has much going for it. The author skillfully brings to life her characters, their conflicts, their issues. Ditto the setting, a colorful agricultural-industrial town. Her characters are very much a part of their environment and vice versa. A real slice of life. An orange slice!

Still, I have a few reservations. It’s clear from the first chapter that Brian is the hero. He and Eve are destined for each other. She’s bound to become his main squeeze. (Okay, I’ll cool it with the orange jokes!)

But it takes forever for their relationship to move beyond strictly business. I’m not talking about a slow burn. That term implies the hero and/or heroine feel early on the first stirrings of love. Or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

Here that doesn’t happen until the last quarter of the word count. Way too late for me! 

And then there’s the one major character the author handles poorly. That’s Peter. Even in 1960 the embittered cripple, to use the then-current term, must’ve been a cliché. I just can’t believe him. He gets his own romantic subplot, but I can’t believe that either.

Still, I enjoyed Shadows on the Moon, and recommend it. A few rotten oranges shouldn’t stop you from buying the whole crate.

Oh jeez, there I go again! 🍊

4 Stars

univited wedding guest edited

Category Romance Review: Uninvited Wedding Guest by Marsha Manning (aka Hettie Grimstead)

Uninvited Wedding Guest, Marsha Manning, Prestige Books, 1979 (1968 original pub date), cover artist TBD

#4287 Magnum Books

(#108 Treasures of Love & #1106 Women’s Weekly Library)

Spoiler Free Review 😊

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It’s not exactly the easiest vintage romance to find, but it’s a memorable one. Uninvited Wedding Guest began as a hardcover titled Friend of the Bride, published in 1968 by Ward, Lock, & Company, Ltd. in the UK and by Lenox Hill Press in the US. My guess is these companies aimed their products at public libraries, in the manner of Avalon Romances. This novel was reprinted as a booklet-style paperback by the British publisher IPC Magazines in its “Women’s Weekly Library” series, as number #1106, in 1974.

Friend of the Bride, Marsha Manning, Women’s Weekly Library, 1974, cover artist TBD

It next appeared in June 1979 as a mass-market paperback, Magnum Romances #4287, published by the New York company Prestige Books. It was released with a new title, the (fittingly) more dramatic one under which I’m reviewing the novel. 

In December of that year it turned up in another series, the three-books-in-one “Treasures of Love” #108, also published by Prestige Books. The last edition is the one I read, and probably the easiest to find in the used-book market. These chunky multi-book paperbacks hold up through time and use better than the slimmer single-title kind. And we all know what lending-library books go through! 

Uninvited Wedding Guest, Marsha Manning, Prestige Books, 1979, Gina Waldman interior artwork

I don’t know of any subsequent reprints. As of this writing, the book isn’t available at the Internet Archive.

As for the author, Marsha Manning was a pen-name of the prolific Hettie Grimstead. I’ve already reviewed on this blog two other category romances she wrote, one under each name, Yesterday’s Love and Whisper to the Stars.

He Makes Quite an Entrance!

Uninvited Wedding Guest starts with our heroine, English country girl Tessa Paulton, attending the wedding of her twin brother Terry, a seed merchant, and the glamorous model Carol Stokeley. At the reception, a stranger appears, an attractive but angry man who demands to see the bride. When that fails, he makes a scene. Tessa gets curious and talks to him, but learns nothing, not even his name. He vanishes as mysteriously as he’d appeared.

She assumes the wedding crasher is an old boyfriend of Carol’s, chagrined at losing her. A good guess. But wrong! 

Tessa and the mystery man cross paths again when she goes to Ibiza in the Balearic Islands for a vacation–er, holiday; this is a British novel! His name is Dominic Tannis; he’s a wealthy shipper; he has a strong connection to Carol. What is it? That’s one of several twists and surprises in the plot. And given my aversion to spoilers, I’ll stop here.

A Real Page-Turner

But it’s obvious from the get-go that Tessa and Dominic will fall in love. One of them does so considerably sooner than the other. This provides plenty of engrossing drama, as do family problems and trouble at his company. 

Not to mention an old boyfriend of Tessa’s. Plus disturbing evidence that she might not be the only woman in Dominic’s life. A staple element in category romances of this period, but here the author handles it better than usual. Her accomplishment is even greater because the heroine suspects she has not just one rival, but two.

These are disparate themes, but they all work together. They don’t detract from each other. Rather, they enhance each other. Which is my idea of how a plot should work.

The author conveys well the emotions of the one viewpoint character, Tessa. The various principal characters all come to life. As do the three contrasting main venues of the story: the heroine’s quaint hometown in Sussex, charming and picturesque Ibiza, and glamorous, sophisticated London during the Swinging Sixties.

But, There Are the Buts

So why didn’t I give this book five stars? Two reasons. The romantic drama is done well, but it relies too heavily on finding out facts and clearing up misconceptions. It doesn’t plunge into the depths of more profound dramatic elements—for instance, coming to a painful decision, growing from one stage of life to another, epiphany. The Marsha Manning romance I first reviewed, Yesterday’s Love, deals with all three. Thus reading it was a more meaningful and moving experience. And yes, a more romantic one, at least to me.

My second issue? At one point the relationship between the hero and heroine collapses because of a misdirected letter. That worked in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, but here it’s just a contrivance. The heart-wrenching misunderstanding goes on for several weeks. Nowadays it can be cleared up in seconds with a text message. In the 1960s, when this novel was written, it could’ve been cleared up in minutes with an overseas phone call.

But don’t let that discourage you. If you go for emo romances, I recommend Uninvited Wedding Guest. I just wish it were easier to find!

Reviewed by Mary Anne Landers

To see a Stranger

Category Romance Review: To See a Stranger by Kate Cartwright

To see a Stranger
To See a Stranger, Kate Cartwright, Magnum Books, 1976, cover artist unknown

Magnum Books Blue Fire Romance #4200-86

Spoiler-free review 🙂

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Good novel, poor romance

In a way, Kate Cartwright’s To See a Stranger is a fine novel. It’s well-written. It ticks most of the boxes. But it still disappointed me. Why? Because IMHO if a story is labeled a romance, there should be plenty of romance in it. Here there’s hardly any. So I almost didn’t write a review for this blog. But my definition of romance fiction isn’t everyone’s, so here goes.

First, the publishing background, which is sketchy. The paperback I read was issued by Magnum Books, an imprint of Playmore, Inc., Publishers and Waldman Publishing Corp., both in New York. At least that’s what’s listed on the copyright page; some other titles in the series list Prestige Books as the publisher.

But there’s no publication date. Since this same page says the book is copyright 1976 by IPC Magazines, Ltd., To See a Stranger must have been originally published as part of the Woman’s Weekly Library series in the UK. My guess is the Magnum reprint was issued a year or two later.

About the author, Kate Cartwright, I have no information at all. Yes, I looked for it.

“I want to break free!”

So goes a classic rock song by Queen, and it fits how our heroine Roslyn Fenton feels as the novel opens. She’s had it with life in a provincial English village. Especially with two men; one is her control-freak father, with whom she still lives. The other is Evan Witham, the lover who got engaged to her, then suddenly and unceremoniously dumped her for another woman. Roslyn heads for the (fictitious) city of Martsworth, where she finds work as the secretary to an insurance agent.

But her job plays hardly any part in the story. What does is her charitable work at a counseling center, a clearinghouse for information for the poor and marginalized seeking help. It’s run by Robert Greysand, whose heart is in the right place. But he can be just as overbearing as the father Roslyn moved out on.

In helping the needy, she finds herself. Roslyn develops the strength to stand up on her own. She needs it when Evan gets second thoughts and tries to talk her into giving him another chance.

Old love vs. new love

It seems the author intended this novel to be a one woman/two men triangle romance. But it doesn’t work because most of the wordage deals with the heroine’s charity work. What romance there is doesn’t develop until the last quarter of the book. Way too late!

As if that’s not bad enough, there’s plenty of interaction, but no romantic chemistry between the hero and heroine. When their love finally happens, it seems perfunctory. The reader—well, this reader, anyhow—is left wondering what she sees in him, and vice versa. And why it took so long!

Bad timing?

There was a period in my life when I was in a situation comparable to Roslyn’s. I too rebelled against others directing my life. It took a lot of pain, worry, drama, and grief; but eventually I determined that the only person who’d direct my life would be me.

Had I read this book back then, it probably would’ve deeply resonated with me. I would’ve related to the heroine and her situation in a meaningful manner. Alas, that phase of my life was around forty years ago. The central issue of this novel is no longer an issue at all.

So the personal-growth theme failed to move me. All that was left was a sense of disappointment in a romance with too little romance.

Reviewed by: Mary Anne Landers

Yesterday's Love

Category Romance Review: Yesterday’s Love by Marsha Manning

Yesterday's Love
Yesterday’s Love, Marsha Manning, Magnum Books, 1969, cover artist unknown

#4286 Magnum Books Easy Eye

Spoiler-free review 🙂

5 Stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Magnum Books

Yesterday’s Love is a moving romance with a rather mysterious background. It’s part of the Magnum Books imprint of Prestige Books, Inc., a small New York paperback publisher active during the mid to late 1970s. The novel was originally published as a hardcover by Mills & Boon in 1969, under the title Yesterday’s Lover. But the copyright page of this edition doesn’t say when it was published. Nor can I find this info anywhere else.

The author, Marsha Manning, was a pen name of Hettie Grimstead. Or was Hettie Grimstead a pen name of Marsha Manning? If you know, drop me a line.

An Impossible Situation

Here’s the setup. Kerry Talbot, a London office worker for a large corporation, is in love with Philip Ingram, her boss. And he’s in love with her. The situation presents an obvious problem. But wait, there’s more. He’s married. An issue that troubles her far more than him.

What other people think of her doesn’t matter to Kerry, but what she thinks of herself does. Philip says he’ll seek a divorce. But promises aren’t good enough. Until he’s actually free, she determines to distance herself from him. Thus she accepts a transfer to Stockholm.

And what a new life awaits her! Kerry works in big business but lives in an apartment house full of offbeat, creative Bohemian types. Including painter Len Sandeman, who does her portrait and falls in love with her. But the feeling isn’t mutual. Len is a skillful painter, but as a lover, he’s a lout. One with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

In contrast, there’s the refined Axel Von Fersen. Kind and considerate, he’s every inch a gentleman. But he’s also Kerry’s boss and has a fiancée. He tries to hide his feelings, but eventually, it becomes clear he loves Kerry. The situation largely parallels the one she left behind.

But not entirely. Axel isn’t Philip. For once, a man can and will put Kerry’s happiness above his own. Can he persuade her to love him and forget Philip?

My Reactions

There’s more, but in order to avoid spoilers, I’ll stop here. Yesterday’s Love presents the heroine’s dilemma with skill, grace, and depth. There’s plenty of romantic drama, and all of it seems natural and real, without exaggeration or contrivance. The story remains engaging from beginning to end.

The author conveys well the emotions of the characters. The point of view is strictly limited to Kerry, but we can tell what the others are thinking and feeling. Even the minor characters come to life convincingly and memorably.

Equally compelling are the exterior descriptions. The settings, mostly in Stockholm and the Swedish island of Gotland, seem vividly real.

I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone in the mood for an emo romance. It’s available at the major websites that sell used books.

Reviewed by: Mary Anne Landers

to cherish my beloved

Category Romance Review: To Cherish My Beloved by Dorothy Heaton (aka Mary Cummins)

cherishmybeloved2
To Cherish My Beloved, Dorothy Heaton, Magnum Books, 1977, cover artist unknown

Magnum Books Blue Fire Romance #4200-81

Spoiler Free Review 🙂

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

A Promise Not Delivered

I’m very fond of the line of Magnum romances published during the seventies. Someone was carefully curating the best products of the big British publishers for reprinting in the US. Often the result was a winner. But often isn’t always.

First published in 1976 by IPC Magazines Ltd. in the Women’s Weekly Library series, To Cherish My Beloved by Dorothy Heaton in its 1977 Magnum reprint caught my eye with an intriguing blurb and a gorgeous emo clinch cover; wish I knew who created it. The first few chapters presented a fascinating situation. I just had to find out what happened next!

A lot of stuff did, but overall the story failed to live up to its early promise. So I must be frank: this book is a dud.

Now You See Him, Now You Don’t

Candice Errinmore, assistant to an airport manager on the south coast of England, is engaged to Clive Benley. But not for long. He’s a mercurial, impulsive, self-centered drama king. When she lets him know she’s had it with him, he threatens to kill himself. Then he goes missing while swimming off the seashore. Did he drown? Was Candice to blame?

Of course she wasn’t, but that’s all she’s sure of. As the days wear on and Clive fails to turn up, the local gossip blames her more and more. For reasons that hardly warrant explanation, she accepts a job on the other side of England, as the administrator of a heliport. Their choppers take off to supply the then-new oil rigs in the North Sea.

Oops, She Did It Again

A change of venue might mean a second chance for love. Sure enough, her boss Martin Starr, manager of the nearby airport, falls for her hot and hard, if rather clumsily. Candice won’t warm to him.

But another man hovers onto the scene, literally. A cocky helicopter pilot with all the warmth of an ice sculpture. And who should it be but Jonathan Benley, brother of the missing Clive? The person most suspicious of Candice and her role in the disappearance.

And Then What?

As I mentioned earlier, a lot of stuff happens. Much is potentially interesting. But after the initial episodes, the story fails to come to life. Largely because the focal figures fail as well.

Candice is more of a character sketch than a character. Ditto the rest of the cast. Except for Clive, who’s out of there quickly.

Eventually, there’s a romantic relationship, but it lacks chemistry. And it takes forever to develop. There’s a slow burn, and then there’s a no burn. Guess which one this romance is.

The plot depends heavily on contrivances. I’ve already indicated one, how the missing man’s brother turns up in the heroine’s life. There’s an even bigger one at the end. But I doubt a discerning reader would stick around that long.

Thumbs Up? Thumbs Down?

Down, of course. But just because this book struck out with me doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t appeal to somebody. If you want to check it out, you can search for free at the Internet Archive, the online lending library with a humongous catalog, including reams of vintage romances.

Reviewed by: Mary Anne Landers

Click here to read To Cherish My Beloved FREE at Internet Archive