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Barbara Cartland

One of the most prolific and popular authors of all time, British novelist Barbara Cartland was born in Edgbaston, Birmingham, England, on July 9, 1901.  Nicknamed the "queen of the romance novel," she has penned more than 700 books.  Starting in the mid-1970s, she averaged 23 books a year, selling more than a billion copies in her lifetime.

Most of her novels are set in exotic places during the nineteenth century.  Her characters are English upper-class, mostly chaste women and the wealthy, well-dressed men who adore them.  All live with the manners and ideals of an aristocratic culture, which may explain why Cartland, herself, had a penchant for pink chiffon dresses and showy jewelry. 

During the post-war period, Cartland was seen as a new woman: independent, talented, and smart, three attributes that helped her make the leap from lower middle class to the echelon of British society.  She also married well.  Her first step into the public limelight came when she went to work as a Fleet Street reporter.  In her book of memoirs, We Danced All Night: 1919 - 1929 (1970), Cartland revealed how in 1919 she managed to break into the upper class after leaving school and the sheltering world of childhood.

"Now the restrictions were ended.  I was out!  I was grown-up!  I was expected overnight to be amusing, gay, and attractive to men.  And, incredible though it seemed, I was!"

In 1927, Cartland married Alexander George McCorquodale (d. 1964), becoming the stepmother of the mother of Raine, Countess Spencer, stepmother of the late Princess of Wales, Diana Spencer.  After her divorce in 1936, she married Hugh McCorquodale (d. 1963), her first husband's cousin.  In 1991, she was made Dame of the Order of the British Empire.

Cartland is listed in the Guinness Book of Records for having written 26 books in one year, 1983.  In reality, she didn't do the writing herself, but most often dictated her stories to a stenographer. 

In her books, the author never describes the act of sex, which is, she once said, why her novels are so popular.  "My heroines never go to bed without a ring on their fingers. Not until page 118 at least."  She once revealed that her idea of a sexy man was one who was "fully clothed and preferably in uniform."

While her heroines were all virgins, they were not without their complexities.  Cartland enjoyed drawing on real-life stories gleaned from Britain's Regency, Victorian, and Edwardian periods--eras largely ignored before Cartland began writing about them.

Barbara Cartland died on May 21, 2000, after a short illness.  During her career she published 723 books, which were translated into some 40 languages, and wrote several film scripts.

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