“Shall I tell you the story of Jack in the glory?”


“Shall I begin it?”


“That’s all that’s in it.”

That utterly silly sequence of questions was a common joke among children when I was little, and there would always be some poor soul who would fall for it and be left bitterly disappointed while the narrator cackled with glee.

My sister asked me the first two questions one night. We must have been very young–we still shared a room and even a bed. She did not end the sequence in the usual way, however. She told the story of Jack in the Glory, making it up as she went, and it went on night by night in serial form. She would always stop at a point of cliffhanging suspense or when our mother called up from downstairs promising dire consequences if we did not stop talking and go to sleep. The dire consequence was usually an hour of Saturday morning spent sitting on hard kitchen chairs without books or any other form of entertainment, including conversation. It was cruel and unusual, let me tell you!

I can’t remember if my determination to be a writer came before those nightly stories or not, but I do know that at a very early age I was telling anyone who asked that when I grew up I was going to be an authoress. And it was not a mere pipe dream. Both my sister and I used to fill notebooks with our stories (oh, that I had kept some of them!), all of them full of wild, happily and triumphantly resolved adventures involving children. It’s no wonder I ended up writing romance. I remember as a ten-year-old being assigned a story in school that had to begin with the sentence, “Rat-a-tat went the postman on the door.” And off went Mary’s imagination on a wild ride. While everyone else in the class finished their stories within the half hour, I had to be given extensions for the next week to finish my 25-page story (and, oh, would that I had kept THAT!). My teacher and headmistress entered it in a competition, and I won a box full of Cadbury’s chocolate bars. This was during the post-WWII years when rationing had only just stopped and luxury goods were scarce even when one could afford them. I couldn’t have been more excited if that box had contained gold bars.


When I grew up, of course, it was to the sad discovery that I needed to eat (more than chocolate bars) and so I became an English teacher and moved to Canada from Wales. And then, inevitably, I fell in love and married and had three children. Life was full and busy. The dream seemed dead. Two things revived it, in addition to the fact that my children grew beyond the demands of early infancy:

(1) I pulled a Harlequin romance (Anne Mather’s  No Gentle Possession) out of a Corn Flakes box, almost threw it away, and read it instead. I was enchanted. At the same time, I thought it looked easy to write and so dashed off two books of my own and sent them off to Harlequin with the idea of becoming instantly rich. Ha! Both books, quite deservedly, were rejected with the curtest of rejection letters. And no, I don’t still have either book, and no, I don’t wish I did.

(2) I discovered the Regency and Georgian romances of Georgette Heyer rather late in life, fell irrevocably in love with them and the world she created, and knew that THIS was what I must write for myself, creating my own world about the same historical period.

And this is my Jack-in-the-Glory story. I know every writer has a totally different one. Some writers do not know that is what they want to do until they sit down to produce their first book. Others, like me, were born to write, though their path to actually doing it was very different from mine. We are all different–thank goodness. Life would be dreary without variety.



thencomes4    atlastcomes4

To one person who leaves a comment before the end of next Tuesday, August 13,   I will send a CD audio copy of either FIRST COMES MARRIAGE or THEN COMES SEDUCTION, or AT LAST COMES LOVE. Last week’s winner was Melissa Tarun. Congratulations to her, and thank you to all of you who left such interesting comments.


49 Replies to “JACK IN THE GLORY”

  1. I was the story teller to my little sis..All those nights spent imaging what to say next to give her the best story..It was truly special times and now that she’s no longer with us,I treasure them all the more..Thank you for making me smile with remembrance tonight!!!..And thanks for telling us special stories too!!

  2. I used to want to be a writer, until I tried once and it didn’t seem to flow out of me like I thought it would. I can daydream the most wonderful stories though! And write a college paper with ease. Funny how that works. I love to read though! I keep telling my husband we could cut off cable and I would never notice because I like my books better lol.

  3. I love your blogs and I love your books. I would also love to read those two books you wrote that were rejected. I didn’t pick up a book to read until I was in my 30’s! I am so glad I did and I could kick myself in the behind for wasting all those precious years NOT reading. Keep calm and keep reading.

  4. With helping my older sister on raising her children while she and her husband worked, I have always made up stories to tell them and they always wanted me to tell them more. I wish that I had written them down. But I could not make them sound like the way that I was making them up as I told the story.
    But, I always told them that books are an adventure to follow of other storytellers with different imaginations that they can read and go in their imagination and still learn a lot. To this day my niece’s and nephews always want me to tell those adventure’s of ” Inkie stinki and the his imaginary friends” to their children.
    I have always taught them books are there to be used for knowledge, imagination, fun, and to travel to different locations by time and space. And to always treat books carefully so that once finding favorites they can always escape to read them again and again.
    Love books, books, books in ant form.

  5. In my English Literature class in high school we had to write a story and our teacher was going to read 5 of those stories on Friday. He only had time to read 4 of them and mine was the 5th. I received an “A” on that story and he told me if I worked hard and took classes I had talent in writing but my heart just was not in it. I love to read so many different types of books and would rather read than write.

    I love your books and so many other authors it is hard to tell who is my favorite. I love so many authors. Sometimes my husband and I leave the TV off and just read for the evening. I love those times.

  6. I love to make up stories. In junior and senior high I gave serious thought to being a writer. I loved writing and many of my writing projects would be two or three times longer than what as asked for by my teachers. Actually after awhile my teachers would take away points if I went over the word or page count. As life has taken (working full-time and 3 kids) over I find less and less times to write, but I still love to tell a good tale to those who will listen.

  7. I just recently found your books. Love, love, love them!! I worked in the public library in my small town during high school. I’ve always had my face stuck in a book!! I’m a grandma now, but still remember the feelings of new love and desire after all these years….you are help me relive those times.

  8. As always, fascinating! I love hearing how different authors have started writing. I too used to write as a kid. Most of my stories were love stories. They main characters were always Kate and Jeff, and they were usually different kinds of animals. 🙂 Of course, I have not become a professional writer. But, true to my love of reading, I teach kids how to read! I hope that my love of reading gets them excited! We are so glad you did decide to follow your dream and write! I love the Huxtable series!

  9. Just started listen to audio books while walking (lost 10lbs last month) and would LOVE to get these!!
    Thanks for the offer,

  10. I love reading and making stories. And I love to read your books the most. I found it hard to find your book at bookstore in Malaysia. Reading your book while listening to music can make me feel like being pull inside the story. not to mention i become addicted in reading more and more historical romance books…

  11. I love that your sister told you stories, I was an older sister and don’t remember telling stories with my sister at night unless it was scary stories around the campfire. We used to go camping quite a lot as children, something I loved then and don’t miss now. Bugs, eww! 🙂

  12. Thanks a lot to share this part of your own story with us et thanks also for the great books you write. 3 years ago I discovered with one of yours that I could read a book in english – I’m french – after having thought during thirty years that my level in english was too poor ! An huge world of books opened then for me because very few historical romances books are translated in France. Yours books are unrivalled for me : interplay between she and him are always exceptional, feelings are deeper and graduel… in few words, I love your books ! I’m eager for your next one at the end of this month (ordered on amazon since september 2012 !!). Now I have to further improve my english level (my way of speaking is atrocious !) and perhaps in earing a CD audio I’ll succeed. Moreover if its your books I’ll listen, I’ll take delight in this training ! Thanks in advance Mary.

  13. Your blog brought back such great memories of my own childhood. My sister and I would tell stories in bed or sometimes just talk. When my mother would tell us to be quiet (OR ELSE!!) we would silently draw pictures on each others back and try to guess what was being drawn.

    It seems like all of the kids now have their own beds if not their own bedrooms. I think they are missing something special.

  14. Oh, a new book! Thanks for the chance to win and for sharing your story! Love the Cadbury’s! cjdempsey9 at msn dot com

  15. I didn’t have the best of Childhoods, that’s not to say I didn’t have everything I needed, but that was mainly it. My mom as a single mom worked ridiculous hours and my brother , sister and I were latchkey kids. I fell in love with books at 9 and have read everything I could get my grubby little hands on. through the ENTIRE set of Curious George and Dr Suess, to my pre-teen and teen years with Sweet Valley High, to my adult romance novels (Mary and Catherine Coulter ARE MY ABSOLUTE FAVS FOR Historicals), I have always had my own little world in my books. So for that lil piece of sanity, I thank you and every author out there who pours his or her souls into their writing to make it enjoyable for the rest of us.

  16. I Love your books! I read and reread them. I listen to audio books all the time, so I need to win the audio books!! I have introduced my 22 year old daughter to your books, and she reads them in order. She is starting Precious Pearl.

  17. I love all of your books, and I listen to audio books whenever I am in the car, so I need to win! I am a book a day reader, and so is my 22 year old daughter. I have introduced her to your books, and she is now on “Precious Pearl” one of my favorites.

  18. Dear Mary Balogh,
    The words “Shall I tell you a story of Jack and the Glory” have been going round in my lately. That and “Shall I begin” are all that I could remember. So I did a search and your name came up along with the whole five lines! Growing up in Caerphilly, my dad told this to me. I also moved to Canada. I married here and my wife and I have a house in Oakville and one in Glencoe Ont.
    Yours faithfully.
    David Branson
    P.S. Have you read “Talk Tidy” by John Edwards?

    1. It’s nice to hear from a fellow Welshman, David! I have not read TALK TIDY. I am heading over to amazon now to check it out.

  19. I have enjoyed your books for a number of years. I can honestly say I am envious of your ability. I have tried to write at several different times in my life and can never quite get it to come out the way I want. I am an avid reader (from a very young age) and now firmly believe that not everyone is destined to be a writer, at least not me, I am destined to be a reader. For me these stories come alive and I love that I am able to immerse myself in the characters and plot lines. I find myself at the end of each story hoping for just one more detail. I can imagine the characters later in life and picture what they may have done with themselves. Thank you for creating such lasting memories for all of us who read your works.

  20. I would like to write a story someday, but I’m a reader. I love to read all kind of books and stories. I have read since I was 3 years old. I read when I’m sad. I read when I’m happy. I read to learn, and I read for fun. Reading is one of the best things in life.

  21. Mary,
    I want to thank you for the wonderful books you write. I have read your books numerous times over the years, first discovering them when I worked in a used book shop in a farmer’s market during high school and college Sadly it has now closed so no more free books to read. My mother discovered (but couldn’t remember reading them, I can’t imagine how.) a bunch of your books at a church flea market and bought the whole lot and now I am reading your books again, they get better everytime. The characters are wonderful. Keep up the wonderful stories!!!

  22. I loved to write when I was young. I had a daydream of having a huge, old southern house with a wraparound porch and plenty of climbable trees in the yard. I wouldn’t be alone in the house either! I wanted 10 children at least ( no dreams about the father – no romance at that time!).
    We would spend our days on the porch or in the trees, eating apples. I would write and the children would play and read. Guess what book outlined my dream…’Little Women’ and ‘Jo’s Boys’.
    Real life doesn’t go the way of daydreams and that’s ok, but it WAS a good dream.

  23. hola me encantan sus libros ,los primeros que lei fueron ligeramente casados …y desde hay empece a volar con el resto…los leo durante la noche…. me diverti con todos,hasta los mas serios de los personajes .me sacaron una sonrisa….gracias por hacer volar mi imaginacion

  24. Posted this on wrong spot…reposting

    Isn’t it funny how it is never too late to discover our dreams. I always wanted to teach. However in the 70′s everyone told me I should become a scientist. I dutifully did that, but my dream was always to teach. When I had my children, I decided to stay at home and be a mommy. When I wanted to go back into the workforce, I knew I had to get a masters so I got a teaching degree instead. I love teaching children to read, write, do math and YES! science.
    I think about some of your characters. Sometimes they think they are too old for a new life (well the life that was offered to Regency women–marriage/motherhood). Christine, Daisy, Claudia…they all thought they were too old to find their happiness. They decided to go for it as well.
    Glad you stuck to your dream of writing.We love your stories!
    I write–although mostly for my students an children. My second dream is to write science and history books suitable for young readers when I retire. I have lots of ideas and starts. We shall see where it leads

  25. I checked out book 1 of this series from the library and discovery your books. I quickly got my hands on whatever else I could find after that.

  26. Just finished re-reading Madeline Hunter’s first six novels all taking place in the late 1300s-early 1400s. And they include lots of English Kings trying to conquer Wales. The Welsh finally gained their independence from England around 1400. Every time I read about Wales I think of you, Mary. And Longing still remains one of my favorite Mary Balogh novels.

  27. That charming post lef me to try to remember the name of the first of yor books that I read. I believe it was ” A Chance Encounter”.After that I was hooked. I scoured the used book stores until I had the backlist. I still have them all with the exception of one. Thank you for many happy hours and a few tears.

  28. Wouldn’t it be great if romance novels still fell out of cereal boxes! Thank you for sharing that story, I am always curious how an author gets their start. It’s nice to know that you can follow your dream no matter what point you are at in life as long as you go for it.

  29. Hello Mary
    I love your books and am so thankful that our local library stocks them and I get to read your books and dream of the regency world. Like you, I have a dream of becoming a writer and my Jack in the glory story has not yet ended. Please keep writing. I am reading the series of books about the Dudleys and love Tresham. He is the perfect rogue gentleman. My husband gets jealous each time I pick your books as I get lost in your world. I read that you are Welsh but your name souis a popular Hungarian name too.
    Love, Reshma

  30. I just started reading your books Simply Love and Simply Magic, loved both, now I am hocked on your thoughtful stories. Thanks and please keep them coming!!!

  31. I love to read a good story but I never would want to write one. My attempt at school with story writing was… Well, I stick to mathematics and physics there is more logic to it 😉


  32. I love to read but have never aspired to write. Any subject matter will do, be it history, biography, mystery but especially romance. I like contemporary but regency romance is my favorite. The first book of yours I read was “Slightly Scandalous”. I was so intrigued by the family that I went and bought all the preceding books. I couldn’t wait to read Wilfric’s story. I have re-read it many times. Your characters are so real. You truly have a gift.

  33. I love your books. They take me to the time and place you are writing about making me look forward to reading about the other characters. This is my first visit to your website and blog. Thank you

  34. Hello,
    I discovered your charming novels about the time I turned 70, just this year. I was reading Georgette and Mary Stewart decades ago while stirring the soup and changing the diapers. They saved my sanity more than a few times.

    My comment isn’t profound. I enjoy your characters because they seem real. It’s amazing to write that considering they are riding around in curricles, drinking endless cups of tea, and worrying about whether or not to waltz. But, apart from all that, their concerns about life hit home, and there reactions (for the most part), resonate with me. Isn’t that the aim of an author, to make the reader care?

    I hope you don’t retire anytime soon. Thank you.


  35. Mary, I do love your books and the families that you introduce to us. They are mine to keep!!
    Thank you, Melanie Wible

  36. And thus it is – in a way – thanks to your sister that I have enjoyed many happy hours engrossed in the beautiful world you created for us. This is a special story you have shared with us, thank you for it!

  37. I’ve been reading your books for years – I started with “One Night for love” and have moved on to the rest of them and I believe I have all of them on audio book and most of them in regular book format. I’ve loved everyone one that you have out and I can’t wait to read more!!!

  38. Hi Mary
    I am new to your books and would love to discover them! I love audio book because I can listen to them while a create my jewellery . I could write a review for it! thank you!

  39. I love all of your books, and am glad that you enjoy re-reading them also. I come back to “a secret pearl” pretty often, such a wonderful story! and indiscreet

  40. So many of your books are in my keeper pile. The ‘Pearl’ is one that I had read over and over. However, today I am thinking of ‘Slightly Dangerous’ and Wulfric Bedwyn, Duke of Bewcastle. How amazing it was to see him fall in love and to see his real personality show through…. not the cold head of the house… but the man with feeling, wants, and needs like everyone else. It was worth the wait to see him fall.

  41. Mary, I’m so inspired by you. Thank you for taking the time to converse with us. I write almost every day, but it’s getting harder with a couple of lively little boys. When I went to university I considered every major there was because I just didn’t know if writing would pay off. Then I realized it’s all I want to do. Whether or not I’m ever published, my characters are a part of me and their stories feel as real as my actual life. I can’t not write. It’s what makes me whole.

  42. I love your books. So Real Life in the 18 or 19th Century. I have read a lot of your books. They are great. The characters are well thought out and I relate to the heroine. A lot of the time.Keep up the great work.

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