Written by Claire Wooldridge, UMASCS Graduate Trainee
I have recently finished cataloguing a wonderful collection of books by the historical novelist Rosalind Laker (1921-2012). Her book collection can be searched on our online catalogue and a handlist of her archival collection has been created.
Laker’s inspiration for her historical romance novels was drawn from a multitude of time periods and historical figures, often with a personal connection. Born in Bognor Regis, Laker’s love of her home county of West Sussex resonated through her novels. Bognor was the setting for her first novel Sovereign’s Key (Hale, 1970) and the Royal Pavilion in Brighton took centre stage in The Sugar Pavilion (Doubleday, 1993).
In 1944 Laker met Inge Øvstedal when he was stationed at Pagham with the Royal Norwegian Air Force. They married in 1945 and moved to Norway in 1946. It is for this reason that Norway also features in several of Laker’s novels. This Shining Land (Doubleday, 1984) draws on the activities of the Norwegian resistance following the brutal invasion of Norway by the Nazis in WWII, a dramatic time period which also featured as the setting of The Fragile Hour (Severn House, 1996) and The House by the Fjord (Severn House, 2011).
As you may have already noted the name ‘Rosalind Laker’ was in fact a pseudonym, with Laker’s real name being Barbara Øvstedal. Rosalind Laker was in fact the name of Øvstedal’s grandmother. Laker was the name Øvstedal most commonly wrote under, also publishing works under the names Barbara Paul and Barbara Douglas.
This is lovely collection of titles, which sits well alongside our Mills & Boon collection. What makes the collection extra special is that these were Laker’s own copies of her works, sometimes beautifully bound and boxed editions such as an edition of To Dance with Kings (Doubleday, 1988) which was presented to Laker by the publisher as the title had topped their bestsellers list.
In many cases Laker also covered the front and back covers of her books with illustrations, postcards and newspaper clippings which were relevant to the story. These additions give a real insight into Laker’s process of conceiving and writing the novels and how her personal interest in the subject matter continued beyond publication.
In the image below from the front end pages of her edition The Golden Tulip (Doubleday, 1991) you can see a postcard of Vermeer’s The Love Letter (1666), to whom the heroine of the novel is apprenticed. Also in her edition of The Fortuny Gown (Doubleday, 1995, also published under the title Orchids and Diamonds) Laker paste down her own photographs taken during trips to Venice, where the novel featuring the Spanish designer Fortuny is set.