Penny Jordan (1946 – 2011)

One of Harlequin’s most popular authors, Penny Jordan, died on December 31st 2011 aged 65 having lived with cancer for some time.

Penny Jordan was loved the world over for her Harlequin Presents novels  but she also wrote a number of novellas and single titles for Harlequin totalling 187 books over 30 years. Consistently successful in North America with her Harlequin Presents novels, Penny regularly hit the USA Today bestseller lists and overall has sold 100 million books worldwide in over 25 languages. She also wrote sagas for HarperCollins in the UK as Annie Groves and women’s fiction titles for Avon UK.  In 2011, the Romantic Novelists’ Association presented Penny with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to women’s fiction, both as Penny Jordan and as Annie Groves.

Penny was born in Preston, Lancashire, UK in 1946 where she spent her early childhood. She then moved to Cheshire as a teenager, and continued to live there throughout her life. She attended Todmorden Grammar School and shortly after began work as a typist in Manchester.  She was working in a bank when her accountant husband, Steve Halsall, bought her a typewriter and an author was born.

Penny often recalled that she was ‘making up stories’ as soon as she ‘could think’ but  her first introduction to Harlequin Mills & Boon came when she was 10 years old via the Woman’s Weekly magazines passed on to her mother by a neighbor. In her  twenties she wrote twenty five Regency romances, two air stewardess romances and a romantic suspense under various pseudonyms. Around this time she read in a magazine Mills & Boon were looking for new authors. “I was still an avid reader of Mills & Boon Romances – on publication day I used to rush out of work as early as I could to get to the local book store to grab my favourites before they all disappeared – and so I plucked up the courage to write my first Mills & Boon romance. I chose to write the kind of romance I love best – one with a sheikh hero – and that story ultimately became my first published Mills & Boon Romance – Falcon’s Prey.  I’ve always loved writing sheikh books and I tend to think of them as being very much my ‘signature’ books.”

The editor who spotted Penny in the pile of unsolicited manuscripts in 1980 said about her writing: “Such a raw talent – a born storyteller with a unique, intense and passionate voice”. When writing on her old typewriter, Penny’s manuscripts were legendary for having gaps where her characters’ names should be and often missing  letters due to a faulty daisywheel on her typewriter. In addition to Penny’s very fast (and often imprecise) typing, the manuscripts could sometimes be difficult to edit!

Penny wrote her first single title “Power Play” in 1987 which was very successful, hitting The New York Times and The Sunday Times bestseller lists. Up until that point, Penny had not travelled much but to coincide with the US launch of Power Play, Harlequin hosted a promotional ‘tea party’ in Boston. After that Penny travelled on to Toronto, then New York and on to the QE2. More promotional tours followed, to Ireland, Paris, Hamburg, Japan and later to conferences in the US. Penny was always thrilled to meet her fans.

Penny was warm, charming, shy and modest in person. She always supported up and coming authors, giving to them lots of her time, support and friendship. After the death of her husband Steve in 2002 Penny remained as focused and determined as ever. She bravely carried on writing throughout her illness. Penny did not tell her editors or indeed many of her friends that she was sick as she did not want to be defined by her illness and wanted to keep her professional life as normal as possible. Penny is survived by her mother, sister and brother.

Penny remained incredibly popular with her readers. In January 2012, a review said about her latest Harlequin Presents, Passion and the Prince: “I have but one regret about Jordan’s beautiful flowing narrative: it had to end.” Publishers Weekly said about Jordan: “Women everywhere will find pieces of themselves in Jordan’s characters” and this perhaps explains her enduring appeal.

Her last novel was completed in October 2011. A Secret Disgrace will be published in Harlequin Presents in June 2012.

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Comments ( 24 )
  1. Rhoda josephs
    July 3, 2012 at 9:43 am
    Reply

    I cant believe she is gone, cant stop wondering. She will be greatly missed by all especially me. Sleep on penny.

  2. Carol Friedman
    July 17, 2012 at 2:00 pm
    Reply

    I have loved Penny’s writing for years- she was an inspiration and a role model for us all-she taught me that having the strength to carry on, and the joy of a good read is possible for us mere mortals! Thanks for giving us a chance to let her family know about her passing- and a chance to say good-bye, dear friend.

  3. Pearl Vanderbilt
    November 23, 2012 at 9:45 pm
    Reply

    So saddened to hear of Penny’s passing! The first time I ever read a romance novel, it was one of Penny’s in 1981. She’d been a favorite every since. I wish her a sweet and peaceful journey.

  4. Gay Heywood (Scott)
    July 27, 2014 at 1:07 pm
    Reply

    I met Penny only once at a wedding reception just after her books had started to become popular. I knew her husband Steve – he was a colleague who worked at ICI in Macclesfield and was indeed a character!
    I knew Steve had died in 2002 but had no idea Jenny had passed away too.
    July 2014

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