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A Short Biography Of Jean Saunders And Agora Books’ Latest

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Agora Books, previously Ipso Books and established in 2015, is the digital-first publishing arm of literary agency Peters Fraser Dunlop. The publisher releases two sorts of work – brand new books, and the books of forgotten authors of the past decades, such as Anne Melville’s 1980s historical novel which I reviewed last month.

Their latest reprint, Taking Heart, will be released tomorrow; it’s the first book in a historical series by Rowena Summers (a pen name for Jean Saunders), originally published in 2000. It’s a book that will interest you if you like pre-war (WWII in this case) family sagas. I received a copy of the book; I’d thought I’d introduce you to the author in case she’s someone whose work you’d like to look into yourselves, and I’m posting the synopsis here in lieu of a review.

Jean Saunders, who also wrote under the names Jean Innes (her maiden name), Sally Blake, Rachel Moore, and, once, Jodi Nicols (for her solo erotic novel), became a writer in 1974. Born in 1923, she passed away after an illness in 2011. Her second novel was her first published, and following this she received several rejections. It’s a bit different to the usual story.

Saunders wrote just over 100 novels, and published approximately 600 short stories in magazines. Her 1970s début was in the gothic romance genre, in which she continued until the 1980s when she switched to regular historicals. Her books under the name Rowena Summers were the most popular.

The author was the 17th Chairman of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, holding the post for two years between 1993-1995. In later years she lectured in writing, often on cruise ships, and wrote a number of books on the craft.

Agora Books have so far published 6 of Saunders’ books; Taking Heart will be the first under a pen name. Here is the synopsis:

Imogen and her sisters are fighting to save their childhood home and remain in Bristol. Their father has announced the sale of the family business and everything is about to change.

But when a terrible tragedy tears the family apart, the Caldwell girls must forge their own paths in life. And with the Second World War looming over England, their lives begin to change more drastically than they could have imagined.

Through love and heartbreak, fear and loss, can the Caldwell girls make it out unscathed? Or will they be swept up in the chaos of the changing times?

And here’s the first line:

As the family gathered in the sitting-room of the tall Bristol house that Sunday afternoon, Quentin Caldwell looked at his three daughters with immense satisfaction and pride.

Agora’s books are available on Amazon; both ebook and paperback copies of Taking Heart are here.


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