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The Wenches

  • Mary Jo Putney

  • Patricia Rice

  • Susan Fraser King

  • Anne Gracie

  • Nicola Cornick

  • Andrea Penrose

  • Christina Courtenay

In Memoriam

  • Jo Beverley
    Word Wench 2006-2016

  • Edith Layton
    Word Wench 2006-2009

Word Wenches Staff

Wench Staff Emeritae

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  • Want to read ALL the posts by a specific Wench? Just scroll down to the bottom of her post and click on her name!

June 2023

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Wenches Statistics

  • Years published: 164

    Novels published: 231

    Novellas published: 74

    Range of story dates: nine centuries (1026-present)

    Awards Won:

    • RWA RITA

    • RWA Honor Roll

    • RWA Top 10 Favorite

    • RT Lifetime Achievement

    • RT Living Legend

    • RT Reviewers Choice

    • Publishers Weekly Starred Reviews

    • Golden Leaf

    • Barclay Gold

    • ABA Notable Book

    • Historical Novels Review Editors Choice

    • AAR Best Romance

    • Smart Bitches Top 10

    Kirkus Reviews Top 21

    Library Journal Top 5

    Publishers Weekly Top 5

    Booklist Top 10

    • Booktopia Top 10

    • Golden Apple Award for Lifetime Achievement

    Bestseller Lists:

    NY Times

    • Wall Street Journal

    • USA Today

    • Waldenbooks Mass Market

    • Barnes & Noble

    • Amazon.com

    Chicago Tribune

    • Rocky Mountain News

    • Publishers Weekly


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Patricia Rice

I, too, was forcefed Great Expectations in high school, and it was done so badly that I refused to ever pick up another Dickens for years. I'm not certain why I checked TALE OF TWO CITIES out of the library, but the book sucked me like a vacuum. I lived in that world. You're right, it's the power of Dickens vocabulary that makes his stories resonate on every level, from the visceral to the intellectual. I love that people ran out to buy his chapters because of the story, but he was doing was forcing them to see the society they were living in through characters the average reader would never have met. Great stuff, thanks for reminding us!


A Tale of Two Cities was the one a high school English teacher ruined for me. We spent nine weeks "analyzing" the novel, and we all hated Dickens by the time the term was over. Except for A Christmas Carol, I avoided Dickens for years, convinced there was no author more boring. Then in grad school, I took a Victorian novel course and was forced to read Bleak House. Reading BH made me aware of how great a disservice my teacher had done me. But while I agree with everything you said about Dickens's mastery in BH, Loretta, Pickwick Papers is my favorite Dickens to reread. I know it is a less mature work than BH, but have there ever been characters more filled with exuberance and good-humor than Pickwick and company? I smile just thinking of Sam Weller.


I'm a fan and regular reader of Dickens also, so you needn't feel lonely, Loretta.

BLEAK HOUSE is high on my list of his finest. I love PICKWICK PAPERS. But my fave of all of them is NICHOLAS NICKLEBY.

Which reminds me, I'm due for a re-read...


Thanks for bringing Mr. Dickens to the blog, Loretta. In addition to his writing, I've always felt a kinship to him because he was a Working Writer, one of us -- always under deadline, always short of funds no matter how popular his books were, always out there on reading tours (aka self-promotion.)

Though I do have to stand up for dreary Mr. Hardy. I LIKE Hardy. :) And Anthony Trollope, too. Viva les Victorians!



Great post, Loretta. I am always re-reading the classic 19th c. novels that I first read in high school and college -- Dickens, Scott, Stevenson, Trollope, Lawrence, Collins, and others I've discovered since. I've always enjoyed Dickens -- one of my personal faves is A Tale of Two Cities (I first read it in high school after slogging through Eliot's Silas Marner, which I didn't like, so Dickens' voice was like a breath of fresh air and I kept coming back to it).

I liked Bleak House, though I've only read it once, and Oliver Twist, absolutely. And I've always gone back to A Christmas Carol, reading to my kids too.

My husband does amateur theater and once played Marley's ghost in an updated version, where Marley is the onstage narrator. I played a little Victorian lady who faces up to Scrooge. I loved the black velvet and lace bonnet so much that they practically had to tear it away from me. :)

(And a nod to Blackadder's Christmas Carol, where Queen Vickie visits the shop, just hilarious!)

Susan, rambling a bit ;)


From Loretta:

Pat, you nailed it: the power of vocabulary. His command of the English language was extraordinary.

Wylene, A Tale of Two Cities was ruined for me, too. But not permanently, I'm happy to say. I'm able now to go back and read any Dickens book, and always discover something new to enjoy. Of course The Pickwick Papers is a delight, and Sam Weller is one of a long line of wonderful characters.

Margaret, Nicholas Nickleby is another great (OK, to me they're all greats) with one of Dickens's more complex villains, I think.

Susan, you (and Mary Jo) already had to endure my yammering about BLEAK HOUSE for an hour. Did you want to shake me when you saw the title of my post? I do like FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD. But I liked Hardy's books better when I was younger. Same goes for the Brontes. Tragedy is harder for me to take these days, so I tend to return to the Victorian authors who give me more humor. And I do love Trollope, too. And Thackeray.
And George Eliot--Susan/Sarah, I haven't gone back to Silas Marner, but I did read Middlemarch and discovered that George Eliot is pretty wonderful--and wittier than I'd been led to believe in high school.

Ooh, Blackadder. Be still my heart. Maybe we should blog about that sometime.

How wonderful to find out that others find joy in Dickens, too!

Mary Jo Putney

Loretta, I loved that you spoke on Dickens at the WRW Retreat two years ago. As Susan/Miranda says, he was a working writer like us, and he combined great storytelling with powerful social messages: a man after my own heart.

While I'm not as well read in Dickens as others of you, I do remember the surprise I felt when forced to read David Copperfield when I found how FUNNY Dickens could be. WHo knew?

Hardy, on the other hand, of whom I had to read too much (the trials and tribulations of an English major), makes me want to slit my wrists. Give me a jolly 18th century writer like Oliver Goldsmith or Henry Fielding, please.

Mary Jo


Mary Jo, I laughed about the "trials and tribulations of the English major." There WAS a lot of Hardy in our English Dept, too, as I recall, and little or no Dickens. I think at the time the profs considered him more "modern" than Dickens. But thank you for mentioning the 18th century writers. I did love one of the survey courses where we read Fielding, Sterne, Smollet, et al. I loved them even more later, when I read them for pure pleasure.


Dickens had some wonderful character names, didn't he? Which reminds me, I was going to suggest that someone (or all of you) blog on the subject of naming characters.

---Tal, aka Tiffany the Viking jarl's daughter


These Hardy references reminded me of an experience from my high school teaching years. A student read Tess for a book report, but evidently she found the novel too disturbing to finish. She gave Tess and Angel a HEA in her report. I laughed almost as much as I did the time a student wrote movingly of Benjamin Franklin's death when reporting on Franklin's Autobiography.

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