Violet Winspear (April 28, 1928 in England – 1989) was a British writer of 70 romance novels in Mills & Boon from 1961 to 1987.
In 1973, she became a launch author for the new Mills & Boon-Harlequin Presents line of category romance novels. Presents line books were more sexually explicit than the previous line, Romance, under which Winspear had been published. She was chosen to be a launch author because she, along with Anne Mather and Anne Hampson were the most popular and prolific British authors of Mills and Boon.
In 1970 Winspear commented that she wrote her leading males as if they were 'capable of rape'. This comment caused uproar and lead to her receiving hate mail.
Violet Winspear was born on April 28, 1928 in England. She sold her first novels in 1961 to Mills & Boon. She said: "The real aim of romance is to provide escape and entertainment", but when in 1970 she commented: "I get my heroes so that they're lean and hard muscled and mocking and sardonic and tough and tigerish and single, of course. Oh and they've got to be rich and then I make it that they're only cynical and smooth on the surface. But underneath they're well, you know, sort of lost and lonely. In need of love but, when roused, capable of breathtaking passion and potency. Most of my heroes, well all of them really, are like that. They frighten but fascinate. They must be the sort of men who are capable of rape: men it's dangerous to be alone in the room with." The comment, that they were 'capable of rape' caused uproar and lead to her receiving hate mail.
She wrote from her home in the south-east England, that she never left, but she meticulously researched her far-flung settings at the local library. She never married, and had no children. She inspired her nephew Jonathan Winspear to write. She died at the beginning of 1989 after a long battle with cancer.
Violet Winspear's novels take the readers around the world. Even though many of her storylines are uninspiring, she excels at boldly using the written words to picturize the surroundings of her plot. For example, The Palace of the Peacocks (1969).
Many established Harlequin novelists such as Robyn Donald and Kay Thorpe, employ sexual antagonism in developing conflict in their stories. For instance, Robyn Donald creates leaping sexual awareness between men and women. Since men are quick to acknowledge this vital force, Robyn casts them into the role of hunter and as women label it as a weakness to despise and overcome, she makes them the prey. This is the adversarial set up that drives her plots forward.
Employing the same motif of sexual antagonism, Winspear however, contrasts her hero and heroine in such extremes that the heroine lacks awareness of her own sexuality against the hero who is fully aware of his. This lends her stories an acute imbalance in character development where the heroine is left bemused with an alpha male hero who exerts overwhelming control over every situation. For example, The Time of the Temptress (1978).
Modern day critics will say that Winspear reinforces a non-entity driven personality of the heroine against a larger than life hero. It is not that the heroine lacks intelligence or initiative. But by today's standards she lacks self esteem in her role as a woman. Whereas Winspear makes it clear as to the sex appeal of the hero, it is not always graphically described why the heroine would be attractive in the same way. As a consequence, although the heroine is duly attracted to the hero, it remains unconvincing to those used to having such attractions graphically spelled out as to why the hero is likewise attracted to the heroine. For example, The Awakening of Alice (1978).
To modern readers, reading any of the older Harlequin romances can be painful in their depictions of women. What Winspear could do was beautifully capture a time, a place, and a British view of the world. Her descriptions of the internal dialogue of her heroines was innovative at a time when most heroines were two dimensional.
One must consider the social mores of the 1970s. Although these books were written after the sexual revolution, it was still a "bad" woman and not a "good" girl who would choose to have sex. Therefore, having the choice taken away from the heroine by plot devices like being captured, or being secretly in love with a hero so very worthy (and she felt she was not) that she had little choice but to carpe diem. The heroine relieved herself of moral responsibility in the eyes of the reader.
The Time of the Temptress (1978) conveys its jungle surrounding very realistically, especially with an episode where an unsuspecting Eve is besieged by crabs. Caught amidst an African civil war, Eve and Wade are forced to make their escape out of the jungle on foot. Despite Wade's ceaseless taunts and jeers, in a case of Stockholm syndrome, where Eve finds herself totally dependent on Wade for her rescue, she falls in love with him.
Even an unimaginative melodrama such as the Valdez Marriage (1977) retains its vivid portrayal of place and atmosphere. In Valdez Marriage, a young girl is lured to the side of a school friend by his overbearing brother. She is blamed for the accident which crippled her friend, even though the latter's uninvited groping caused the car accident. Add to this a dour housekeeper, sexy distant relative and an ancient mansion.
The Palace of the Peacock (1969) is a Violet Winspear classic. In this story Winspear showcases a Java island and its people with extreme delicacy contributing to both realism and a sense of escapist reading one and the same time for her post-World War II English readers.
In The Palace of the Peacock (1969) Temple Lane reveals a streak for adventure when she travels to a far away island in the Java Seas in search of her fiance Nick. A disillusioned Temple takes the initiative to pose as a boy to obtain the last cabin bunk available in the outgoing steamer. She then accepts a temporary job offer by Dutchman Ryk van Helden, a local plantation manager.
A criticism of this story must be that although Temple is excited by Ryk, the question goes unanswered as to why should Ryk find Temple desirable. It happens that in the island of Bayanura, Temple is the only white women in miles. And so, despite Temple Lane's spunky attempts at adventure, she comes across as yet another of Winspear's unoriginal heroines.
A plain Jane Alice in Awakening of Alice (1978) steps out of her comfort zone as she travels to a Greek island to tidy up a mess created by her glamorous sister. The awakening of love in this story is more convincing since it also gives a reason for the hero's attraction for Alice who resembels his past fiance. However, the imbalance in the equity between the two main characters is apparent when Alice is held against her wishes by the Greek hero, with whom she falls in love.
Another classic Court of the Veils (1968) also stands out for this reason because the hero spells out his attraction for the heroine for being a 'deep girl' compared to her foil who preferred much dancing and friovolous gaiety.
Joanna in Rain Tree Valley (1971) reads an advertising for home help. She answers the add, and gets the job. Adam, the alpha male hero is abrasive, but Joanna falls for him anyway.
The heroine of Black Douglas (1971), forever complaining about the deficiencies in her looks, is accepted by the hero who is blind.
The local color to add 'eh' after each sentence is unavoidable when reading Violet Winspear. However, unlike Flora Kidd's rendering of Scottish inspired dialogues, Winspear's attempt takes away from the general flow of conversation rather than adding substance to it.
Violet Winspear writes in a style that is not sufficiently modern for present day readers. However, the use of archaic turn of phrasing and dialogues create a by-gone era mood in step with her subject material.