With both her children at school by the late 1950s, Hodge started writing with an eye to publication, enjoying her first success with Camilla, published in instalments in 1961 in the US magazine, Ladies’ Home Journal. She learnt of the serialisation deal in a call box at Waterloo. “It was some fancy sum for those days — several thousand dollars,” her elder daughter remembers, “and she was so excited, that we all got on the wrong train.”
Later published in book form as Marry in Haste, Camilla was set in Napoleonic Portugal, a favourite background for Hodge (as were the Southern US states of the same period). Its title character is a typically spirited Hodge heroine, a lovely young governess, oppressed by misunderstandings and intrigue.
Hodge’s first published book, Maulever Hall (1964), was evidence of her admiration for Austen (the heroine is named Marianne) and Georgette Heyer (the hero is a battle-scarred veteran of Waterloo), but Hodge added her own Gothic elements of a haunted house and moments of stark terror. This was followed by The Adventurers (1966), dealing with thrilling moments during Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow; The Winding Stair (1968), another tale of romantic suspense in Portugal; and Savannah Purchase (1970), describing early-19th-century intrigue in the Southern US city where her father was born.
Other titles followed at the rate of about one a year, even though sales of romantic novels by almost all authors diminished in the 1980s and after. Of Hodge’s Polonaise (1987), The Times wrote: “not only highly enjoyable as a story, but also a painless way to absorb some Polish history”. Its reviewer described Escapade (1993) as “two engaging love stories, an abduction, and a great deal of history expertly and painlessly elucidated”.
A woman of decided views, Hodge surrendered her US citizenship in 1972 when the Americans mined Hanoi harbour. Until the election of Barack Obama she had no regrets about having done so.
I’m spending far more of my time on Twitter lately than I am here. This is partly due to the dissertation chapter I’m trying to finish before the end of summer, and the million other little checkboxes waiting on my Basecamp to-do lists. But I’ve also found Twitter to be a great source of book-related chatter and am therefore following way too many book bloggers, bookstores, and etc. You can find me here, and more importantly, you can also check out the list of people I’m following.