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Until Sylvia retired, she didn't have much time for writing, though she did attempt a modern "woman in danger" novel, which she worked on desultorily for about 20 years, then abandoned. Teaching full-time as vice principal of a large comprehensive sixth form college, while also running a house and a family didn't really give her much time for writing. When she took it up again she found the heroine a complete wimp and the hero a pompous bore. On the whole it seemed better to leave them to their fate.
She never attempted to have anything published before she sent in her first historical romance to Mills & Boon, in the days when the series was called "Masquerade." She was somewhat flabbergasted — though absolutely delighted — when it was accepted. Perdita first appeared in 1991 and she now has seven "sisters," with a new brother and sister due to appear as part of the Steepwood Scandal series. In spite of this, Sylvia is still surprised at the idea of herself as a writer.
Like every writer she has ever met, Sylvia is a great reader. Her preference in fiction is for thrillers and historical romances, though she is ready to read anything if desperate. However, she draws a line at her husband's learned tomes on wild orchids and ecclesiastical architecture, which are, in any case, too heavy to read in bed. She reads very quickly, and also likes to finish a book in one session — even if that means reading into the early hours. So there are never enough books to keep her happy! One benefit of writing seriously is that she no longer haunts the library looking for something new to read — she is usually too busy plotting her own.
Her interest in languages can be seen in the way she tries to convey the flavor of early 19th century English in her books, without attempting to make the language an exact copy. You'll always find loving descriptions of buildings in her books — she shares her delight in Georgian architecture and interior decoration with her husband. And because she loves the theater, too, you'll also find details of those gorgeous 18th- and 19th-century clothes — silks, satins, sarsenet, blond, pelisses, paduasoy. Stop her! She'll go on for hours.
Her heroines are usually spirited — one reason why she prefers to write of the early 19th century rather than later — and her favorite hero is of the sort that has fascinated women ever since Mr. Darcy and Mr. Rochester hit the scene. Proud, disdainful, arrogant, often cold-hearted... But underneath, to be discovered only by the heroine, is a lover to enchant, ready to be enchanted in return. Everyone likes to think that they alone have the key to a proud man's heart.
There is some romance in Sylvia's life. She married the boy next door because his mother told him to! Though, like most stories, it isn't quite as it sounds. She was already grown up and had left home when her family moved to their new house, but she grew friendly with the new neighbors, Pauline and Leslie Andrew. When Pauline heard that Sylvia was taking up a job in Cambridge she asked her son, who was reading natural sciences there, to look after her until she found her feet....
Simon has been helping Sylvia to find her feet for over 40 years now — and very well, too! There are occasional arguments. Simon must hold the record for the speed with which he can reduce a perfectly tidy room to complete chaos. And Sylvia's tendency — a very natural one, you will agree — to buy anything that appears to be a bargain whether they need it or not — occasionally causes Simon to regard her as less than perfect. They both took early retirement and now live in the West Country with their dog and cat (bargains, of course, from the RSPCA, but whatever Simon may say, he likes walking the dog!). Simon is an active town councillor in Crewkerne, and very well-known there. Sylvia is less sociable. Simon calls her a failed recluse.
They have one daughter, Catherine, who is married and works in London. She lives in Maidenhead quite near the river — a lovely place to visit. She and her husband are great travelers — from a shopping weekend in Paris to a three week tour of Vietnam on a bicycle!
Simon and Sylvia have a small house in Normandy, which they visit whenever they can. They still talk in Caen of Sylvia's piercing shriek of delight when she first discovered one of her romances on sale in the "Continent" supermarket there.
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