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Denise Robins
Denise Robins.jpg
Born Denise Naomi Klein
(1897-02-01)1 February 1897
London, England1
Died 1 May 1985(1985-05-01) (aged 88)
Pen name Denise Chesterton,
Eve Vaill,
Anne Llewellyn,
Denise Robins,
Hervey Hamilton,
Francesca Wright,
Ashley French,
Harriet Gray,
Julia Kane
Occupation Journalist, Novelist
Nationality English
Citizenship British
Period 1918–1985
Genre Gothic romance, Romantic novelist
Spouse (1) Arthur Robins (1918–1938)
(2) O'Neill Pearson (1939–19??)
Children (1) Eve Louise Robins
(2) Patricia Robins (a.k.a. Claire Lorrimer)
(3) Anne Eleanor Robins
Relatives K. C. Groom (mother),
Herman Klein (father)
Adrian Klein (brother)
Daryl Klein (brother)

Denise Robins (née Denise Naomi Klein; 1 February 1897 – 1 May 1985) was a prolific English romantic novelist and the first President of the Romantic Novelists' Association (1960–1966). She wrote under her first married name and under the pen-names: Denise Chesterton, Eve Vaill, 'Anne Llewellyn', Hervey Hamilton, Francesca Wright, Ashley French, Harriet Gray and Julia Kane, producing short stories, plays, and about 170 Gothic romance novels. In 1965, Robins published her autobiography, Stranger Than Fiction. At the time of her death in 1985, Robins's books had been translated into fifteen languages and had sold more than one hundred million copies. In 1984, they were borrowed more than one and a half million times from British libraries.

She was the daughter of the novelist K. C. Groom, and mother of romance novelist Patricia Robins. Some other members of her family are well-known artists.


Personal life

Robins was born Denise Naomi Klein on 1 February 1897 in London, England, the daughter of Kathleen Clarice Louise Cornwell, who was also a prolific author who wrote under several names, and of her first husband, Herman Klein, who was a professor of music and journalist. Of Russian Jewish ancestry, he had been born in Norwich in 1856. Her mother Kathleen Clarice had been born in Melbourne, Australia, on 11 March 1872 and was the daughter of George Cornwell and his wife Jemima Ridpath, married in 1850. George Cornwell was a railway guard who became a successful gold prospector in Australia, operating several mines, and a notable building contractor. His eldest daughter, Alice Cornwell, born 1852, was spectacularly rich by the 1890s, returning to England and buying the Sunday Times newspaper.

Her parents had married in 1890. He had a daughter Sibyl Klein, from a previous marriage, and they had two sons: Adrian Bernard Klein (1892–1969) and Daryl Klein (1894), before the birth of Denise Naomi Klein (1897–1985). The childhood of Denise, Adrian and Daryl Klein was far from settled. Kathleen Klein began an affair with a Worcestershire Regiment officer called Herbert Berkeley Dealtry, who was much younger than her husband, and little than herself, and when Hermann Klein became aware of it he filed a petition for divorce, which was granted in December 1901. Kathleen then married Dealtry.

In 1905, the Dealtrys had some serious troubles in connection with the promotion of dog shows, which they had been drawn into by Kathleen's sister Alice Stennard Robinson, a leading member of the Ladies' Kennel Association (founded 1904) and the National Cat Club. Somehow, the money from the first dog show went missing, and the Dealtrys held a second show to pay the prize money owed on the first. After the second show, prize winners sued Dealtry, which led to his being declared bankrupt. The family then lived in America for a few years but, by 1908, Kathleen (or 'Kit') Dealtry was back in London, writing Christian novels. In 1918 she married for a third time and wrote at least three books as Mrs Sydney Groom.

Her eldest brother Adrian Bernard Klein also became a writer, he was an artist and wrote books on photography and cinematography. After serving as an officer in the British Army, he became a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and changed his name to Adrian Cornwell-Clyne.

Denise Naomi Klein married firstly Arthur Robins in 1918, a corn broker on the Baltic Exchange, they had three daughters, Eve Louise, Patricia Robins (a.k.a. Claire Lorrimer) who became another best-selling author, and Anne Eleanor. In 1938, the marriage ended in divorce, after Robins met O'Neill Pearson in Egypt, they married in 1939. However, like Agatha Christie, Robins continued to publish most of her books under her first married name.

Writing career

When she left school, Denise Klein went to work as a journalist for the D. C. Thomson Press, then became a freelance writer. She began to follow in her mother's footsteps when her first novel was published in 1924. Her serial What is Love? ran in The Star from December 1925 to February 1926. Her first play, Heatwave, written in collaboration with Roland Pertwee, was produced at the St James's Theatre, London, in 1929. As a writer of fiction, Denise Klein wrote under a variety of pen-names, including Denise Chesterton, Francesca Wright, Ashley French, Harriet Gray, Hervey Hamilton and Julia Kane. After marrying Arthur Robins, many of her books were written under her married name.

Robins had been writing fiction and getting it published for ten years when in 1927 she met Charles Boon, of Mills & Boon, and she entered her first contract with his firm the same year. Under the terms of this, she was to be paid an advance of thirty pounds for three novels, plus ten per cent terms. Her next contract, for a further six books, delivered an advance of twenty-five pounds for each book, while her third contract, for four more books, paid one hundred pounds for each, plus terms of twelve and a half per cent.

The colourful dust wrappers of Mills & Boon's books were becoming one of their biggest selling points. As an example, the cover of Robins's Women Who Seek (1928) showed a glamorous flapper checking her make-up.

Robins became not only Mills & Boon's most prolific writer, but also their best paid. A contract she signed in 1932 paid her £2,400 for eight books, which were those from Shatter the Sky (July 1933) to How Great the Price (June 1935). This was, however, her last work for the firm, as she was then 'poached' by a new publisher, Nicholson & Watson. Of this development, Arthur Boon wrote:

Denise Robins, one of our greatest authors, knew she could sell on her name more than other authors could. She was a superstar, and she knew it. Our problem was to find a way to satisfy the superstar. What could Mills & Boon offer a superstar? Superstars weren't grateful.

Robins gave her version of events in her autobiography:

Suddenly a young man named Ivor Nicholson came along – a clever, charming journalist who, with the wealth of Bernard Watson to back his new venture, launched a new publishing house – Ivor Nicholson & Watson. They wanted my name on their list. They tempted me with what was the biggest offer I had ever received from any literary quarter, a cheque for one thousand pounds, free, gratis, and for which I need do no work. It was merely for signing the contract! I did not go behind Charles Boon's back. I told him the facts. Unfortunately he was so annoyed by Ivor Nicholson's offer that he refused to compete and at once released me from my contract with his firm. Somewhat reluctantly I left my old publishers and became the new Nicholson & Watson 'star' author.

The first book Robins wrote for Nicholson was Life and Love (1935), which was launched with a huge publicity campaign. Robins's first photo opportunity was a visit to Liverpool to open a new lending library, and the slogan 'Robins for Romance' was posted on London buses.

Joseph McAleer has described Robins as "the recognised mistress of the punishing kiss device.

During her long career as a writer, from about 1917 until her death in 1985, Robins certainly wrote more than one hundred and sixty books. She was dubbed by the Daily Graphic "the queen of romantic fiction".

She was elected as President of the Romantic Novelists' Association in 1961.

In 1965, Robins published her autobiography, Stranger Than Fiction, summarised thus: "Apart from writing nearly two hundred novels that have brought her millions of fans throughout the world, Denise Robins led a remarkable life. Her unhappy childhood did not sour her belief in love. Here is her own story."

At the time of her death in 1985, Robins's books had been translated into fifteen languages and had sold more than one hundred million copies. In 1984, they were borrowed more than one and a half million times from British libraries. Among her best-selling works were House of the Seventh Cross, Khamsin and Dark Corridor. In October 2011 the first dozen of her novels were released in e-book format.

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