Wendy Holden explains how Jilly Cooper introduced her to the idea that romantic comedy could actually be funny.

Best-selling author Wendy Holden worked as a journalist before writing her first book Simply Divine. Her 12th novel, Gifted & Talented, is available now in paperback.

The Story of My Life by Enid Blyton

By the time I came upon Enid’s autobiography, at the tender age of ten, I’d read practically every single book she’d written and I adored them. So to read all about her life, and admire the glamorous photos of her and her handsome husband playing tennis, and her girls with their shiny ponies, was tremendously exciting.

I remember she explained how she wrote her books: “I sit in my chair and shut my eyes and, hey presto, the story appears all ready and complete.” I thought, It sounds so easy, I want to be a writer too! It was only when I started writing for a living that I realised it doesn’t work quite like that…

Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain

This memoir, published in 1933, is about Brittain’s early life in provincial Derbyshire, her determination to get to Oxford University against the odds and her time as a nurse in the First World War. It’s a feminist classic and I lapped it up as a teenager, swept up in the big themes the book embraced—it’s very romantic and very sad. Her fiancée, friends and brother all die in the war, and the impact of those tremendous losses, both for her and women across the country, led her to become a committed pacifist. I admired her so much.

Rivals by Jilly Cooper

Until I’d read Jilly Cooper, I hadn’t realised that romance could be laugh-out-loud funny. She has an incredible ability to make her heroines immensely interesting because of their character flaws, yet always sympathetic to the reader. I’d read all her early romances, but Rivals was the first of her massive novels that stepped up a gear; the humour was sustained over more than 500 pages and her deep love of English literature is evident throughout the book—the gorgeous Declan O’Hara is always quoting Yeats. I love the way Jilly is confident enough to be both funny and literary. Comic writing is very hard to do well. I think she’s brilliant.

Wendy's book heart warming read Haatchi and Little B is available in our shop.

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