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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Eileen Owbridge

Mrs. Eileen Owbridge, of Three Ways, Whepstead, Bury St Edmunds, who writes under the pseudonym of "Jane Arbor," has had her first novel accepted by the publishers she first approached. "This Second Spring" is the title of her light romantic story, set in India, and is expected to be published early in 1948." (Suffolk and Essex Free Press, 9 October 1947)

Thus began the career of novelist Eileen Owbridge, whose novels from Mills and Boon were best-sellers. They found a wide audience and proved popular with reviewers who took to her vivid characters. Reviewing two of her early novels, XYZ of the Bury Free Press, described one as "an appealing story of a young and attractive war widow, who gives up a profitable London job to live in a small Suffolk village, where she eventually finds a new romance" (14 May 1948) and the next in even more glowing terms:
In this, her third novel, Mrs. Eileen Owbridge, of Three-ways, Whepstead, has written what is likely to become another best seller. She has the rare knack of being able to tell a story in such a way that one can believe that it might well have happened; her characters are beautifully drawn, her situations invested with a great sense of reality. In other words, Mrs. Owbridge is a writer who will make a big name for herself in the literary world. (6 May 1949)
Her next novel, Strange Loyalties, was serialised in at least one Scottish evening newspaper under the title "If Anyone Should Tell" (1950) as was the later "Blind To Her Love" (1953).

Eileen Owbridge subsequently disappeared into the treadmill of Mills & Boon, eventually penning sixty novels for the company between 1948 and 1984. For some years, Mrs. Owbridge ran a bookshop at Whepstead, a village of around 400 people south of Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, from which experience she learned exactly what romance readers were looking for in their books. Although she described herself modestly as an “acceptable storyteller”, Arlene Moore (in 20th Century Romance & Historical Writers) says of her “[she was] a storyteller of great originality and sensitivity; she tangles her skein of characters and backgrounds into a many-hued tapestry of love and happiness.”

Most of Owbridge’s early novels fall into the hospital romance category, although many are set in more exotic locations – Morocco, Venice, the Greek Islands, Amsterdam, the Pacific Islands, etc. – which she researched heavily in order to write about them with effortless authenticity. Her heroines are usually well educated and employed in responsible jobs, although they inevitably fall in love with someone (a dedicated, brilliant surgeon, a nobleman) who cannot return their love. Invariably, love wins the day.

Owbridge was born Eileen Norah Murphy in Yeovil, Somerset, on 8 September 1903, the daughter of Irishman Patrick Murphy, an officer with Customs & Excise, and his wife Rose Emma (née Mothersole). She and her sister, Kathleen Ellen Murphy, were both born in Yeovil, but were living in 81 Fox Oak Street, Cradley Heath, Staffordshire, in 1911.

By 1939, she worked as a retail stationer, living at 29 Bell Street, Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire, and had adopted the surname Owbridge, which became her legal name by deed poll on 15 January 1946.

The Whepstead address often given in early newspaper reports about the West Suffolk author was that of Major Walter Wills Owbridge, born in Kensington, London, on 23 January 1895. During the war, whilst serving in the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, he married Loula Wilna Miller, an American born in Arkasas on 25 August 1891, who had previously married Jim Walter in April 1905. Her marriage to Owbridge took place in London in early 1917 and a son, Giles William Gidley Owbridge, was born in 1920. Both Walter and Loula were supposedly living together at Hunton Mill, Epping, Essex, in 1939 where Laula was a restaurant proprietor.

Laula Owbridge died in Cambridge in 1963. While probate records list her as a married woman, she leaves her effects to a waiter named William Sole.

It seems likely that Walter and Laula Owbridge separated before the war, but were never officially divorced, hence Eileen Murphy changing her name by deed poll in 1946. Walter died at Dene Cottage, Route Orange, St. Brelade, Jersey, on 12 June 1966. His son, Giles, died in South Africa.

Eileen Owbridge retired from writing in 1984. She died  in Worthing, West Sussex, on 4 February 1994, leaving over £360,000.


Novels as Jane Arbor
This Second Spring. London, Mills & Boon, 1948.
Each Song Twice Over. London, Mills & Boon, 1948.
Ladder of Understanding. London, Mills & Boon, 1949.
Strange Loyalties. London, Mills & Boon, 1949; as Doctor’s Love, Harlequin, 1962.
By Yet Another Door. London, Mills & Boon, 1950; Toronto, Harlequin, 1980.
No Lease for Love. London, Mills & Boon, 1950; as My Surgeon Neighbour, Harlequin, 1964.
The Heart Expects Adventure. London, Mills & Boon, 1951.
Eternal Circle. London, Mills & Boon, 1952; Toronto, Harlequin, 1958; as Nurse Atholl Returns, Harlequin, 1960.
Memory Serves My Love. London, Mills & Boon, 1952.
Flower of the Nettle. London, Mills & Boon, 1953.
Such Frail Armour. London, Mills & Boon, 1953; Toronto, Harlequin, 1959.
Jess Mawney, Queen’s Nurse. London, Mills & Boon, 1954; as Queen’s Nurse, Toronto, Harlequin, 1960.
Folly of the Heart. London, Mills & Boon, 1954 [1955]; as Nurse Harlowe, Toronto, Harlequin, 1959.
Dear Intruder. London, Mills & Boon, 1955; Winnipeg, Harlequin, 1965.
City Nurse. London, Mills & Boon, 1956; as Nurse Greve, Winnipeg, Harlequin, 1958.
Towards the Dawn. London, Mills & Boon, 1956; Toronto, Harlequin, 1959.
Yesterday’s Magic. London, Mills & Boon, 1957; Winnipeg, Harlequin, 1967.
Far Sanctuary. London, Mills & Boon, 1958; Toronto, Harlequin, 1960.
Consulting Surgeon. Toronto, Harlequin, 1959.
No Silver Spoon. London, Mills & Boon, 1959; Toronto, Harlequin, 1964.
Nurse in Love. Toronto, Harlequin, 1959.
Sandflower. London, Mills & Boon, 1959; Winnipeg, Harlequin, 1961.
A Girl Named Smith. London, Mills & Boon, 1960; Toronto, Harlequin, 1966.
Nurse in Waiting. London, Mills & Boon, 1962; Winnipeg, Harlequin, 1962.
Nurse of all Work. London, Mills & Boon, 1962; Toronto, Harlequin, 1962.
Desert Nurse. London, Mills & Boon, 1963; Toronto, Harlequin, 1964.
Jasmine Harvest. London, Mills & Boon, 1963; Toronto, Harlequin, 1963.
Lake of Shadows. London, Mills & Boon, 1964; Toronto, Harlequin, 1965.
Kingfisher Tide. London, Mills & Boon, 1965; Toronto, Harlequin, 1965.
High Master of Clere. London, Mills & Boon, 1966; Toronto, Harlequin, 1966.
Summer Every Day. London, Mills & Boon, 1966; Toronto, Harlequin, 1967.
Golden Apple Island. London, Mills & Boon, 1967; Toronto, Harlequin, 1968.
Stranger’s Trespass. London, Mills & Boon, 1968; Toronto, Harlequin, 1969.
The Cypress Garden. London, Mills & Boon, 1969; Toronto, Harlequin, 1969.
The Feathered Shaft. London, Mills & Boon, 1970; Toronto, Harlequin, 1970.
Walk into the Wind. London, Mills & Boon, 1970; Toronto, Harlequin, 1970.
The Other Miss Donne. London, Mills & Boon, 1971; Toronto, Harlequin, 1971.
The Linden Leaf. London, Mills & Boon, 1971; Toronto, Harlequin, 1971.
The Flower on the Rock. London, Mills & Boon, 1972; Toronto, Harlequin, 1973.
Wildfire Quest. London, Mills & Boon, 1972; Toronto, Harlequin, 1972.
Roman Summer. London, Mills & Boon, 1973; Toronto, Harlequin, 1973.
The Velvet Spur. London, Mills & Boon, 1974; Toronto, Harlequin, 1974.
Meet the Sun Halfway. London, Mills & Boon, 1974; Toronto, Harlequin, 1974.
The Wide Fields of Home. London, Mills & Boon, 1975; Toronto, Harlequin, 1975.
Tree of Paradise. London, Mills & Boon, 1976; Toronto, Harlequin, 1977.
Smoke Into Flame. Toronto, Harlequin, 1976.
A Growing Moon. London, Mills & Boon, 1977; Toronto, Harlequin, 1977.
Flash of Emerald. London, Mills & Boon, 1977.
Two Pins in a Fountain. London, Mills & Boon, 1977; Toronto, Harlequin, 1977.
Late Rapture. London, Mills & Boon, 1978; Toronto, Harlequin, 1979.
Return to Silbersee. London, Mills & Boon, 1978; Toronto, Harlequin, 1979.
Pact with Desire. London, Mills & Boon, 1979; Toronto, Harlequin, 1979.
The Devil Drives. London, Mills & Boon, 1979; Toronto, Harlequin, 1980.
One Brief Sweet Hour. London, Mills & Boon, 1980; Toronto, Harlequin, 1981.
Where the Wolf Leads. London, Mills & Boon, 1980; Toronto, Harlequin, 1981.
Invisible Wife. London, Mills & Boon, 1981; Toronto, Harlequin, 1982.
Handmaid to Midas. London, Mills & Boon, 1982; Toronto, Harlequin, 1983.
The Price of Paradise. London, Mills & Boon, 1982; Toronto, Harlequin, 1982.
House of Discord. London, Mills & Boon, 1983; Toronto, Harlequin, 1987.
Lost Yesterday. London, Mills & Boon, 1984.

3 Great Novels. Toronto, Harlequin Books, 1975.

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