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REVIEW: Call and I’ll Come by Mary Burchell

Dear Readers,

call & I'll comeMary Burchell wrote an astounding number of books for Mills and Boon/Harlequin before her death. And before I wrote the review of her autobiography “Safe Passage,” I hadn’t heard of her or her books. What a loss that would have been as I’m discovering that she was an amazing author.

Anna was sure she’d made a mistake in marrying Tony Roone. Not that she didn’t love him, but she felt she had nothing to give him.

As a compensation, she had made a career for herself as a singer – but found success wasn’t satisfying. Only when things went wrong did they begin to really find each other!

That sounds like such a pitiful description when measured against the contents of the book. Today I’m sure there would be something included like, “after one night of unforgettable love, Tony and Anna find themselves torn apart but the cruel demands of his society family and her shrinking belief that she could never match the glittering future that is so clearly his!” Or maybe, “to buffer her broken heart, Anna throws herself into training for a grand career on the operatic stages of Europe. Only to find that dazzling triumph can’t compensate for the chance for true love!” Of course there must be exclamation points in these blurbs because we’re talking about grand passion here.

Only the book didn’t start out as if I was going to be sucked into it like a space vortex. When Tony begins calling Anna “child,” and treating her like one, I closed my eyes and thought, “not another superior hero who comes off more like a father figure and a tiny mouse of a heroine who, despite her description as bewitching, will be pathetically grateful to him for the course of the book.” Because Anna has nothing and is nothing while Tony comes from a world in which he’d always had every advantage and known that everything would always work out.

These two are both surprised at their quick romance and each seems to know, in the secret depths of the heart, just what they’re up against. And they’re up against almost everyone. His family is openly appalled that he’s marrying this common little nobody. The biddies of the small Yorkshire village where they met clearly believe that he’s only marrying her because he “Has To,” – insert delicious shiver at the salacious gossip. And once Anna and Tony arrive in London, things only go rapidly downhill on greased wheels. What a way to start a marriage.

But even as Tony is calling Anna a child, he also feels that sometimes she’s wiser than he. I felt that despite his education and position, Anna actually knows more about life and, pardon the term, hard knocks than he can possibly imagine. She can easily see that his family use calmness and polite manners as weapons and know exactly how to insert and twist the blade to make it hurt the most. And despite the fact that I know that when you hit someone, you’ve already lost the argument, I couldn’t help but feel slightly smug when Anna smacks her way out of one confrontation.

It says something for Burchell’s writing that when Anna makes the decision to leave Tony, I could feel that she truly felt it was for the best. That she did it for Tony. Generally martyr heroines make me want to go get the rope to tie them to the railroad tracks myself but not in this case. However, it’s a good thing that Anna lands on her feet and has a talent that others are willing to foster.

I know that Burchell was a lifelong fan of opera and she uses her knowledge of that world and those people to amazing effect. As I read about Anna beginning to learn how to be an opera singer, and not merely learning to use her natural voice, I got lost in the power of it and the power of her transformation as a person. When she meets Tony again, this time he’s the one who is a little in awe while she is the one who can spare him half an hour. But they still don’t understand each other, although I can see they’re both still in love with the other, so they part again as Anna heads off to Paris as the protege of a great conductor and his lover.

This whole time, as Anna’s voice is nurtured and she sees the glamorous world which appreciates such talent, I began to feel almost sorry for Tony’s family. Sure they have a position in society which family connections has given them. They have money and status but they don’t have what Anna has! A god given talent that is bestowed on few and for a fleeting time only. They will never know the adulation that pulls performers back to the stage. As Manora tells Anna, “There is a fascination that one cannot resist, you know. I think,” she said slowly, “that is why so few of us will not or cannot listen when time says: ‘Stop now if you would be remembered at your greatest.’ ”

So, Anna and Tony are separated and appear to be headed in different directions. “Hmmmm, how will this work out?” I puzzled. The answer is to be found in another conversation Anna and Manora have about life, love and careers as opera singers. What is one willing to give up to find the kind of love and/or marriage both yearn for? Manora tells Anna and at this point in the story, after having seen the public adoration and praise with which Manora is heaped, the telling makes a strong impact.

In the last section of the book, Anna and Tony meet again but this time it is Anna who is the one with something to offer that Tony needs. And it is Anna who proves that it isn’t a person’s background or social status which gives one worth. I wondered at the unspoken condemnation of Burchell for a whole class of English society while at the same time she elevated the foreigners of the book, all of whom would never be truly accepted by that class because of either birth or marital status.

By the end of the book, Anna and Tony have a chance to start over and find the happy ending which would never have been possible had events not played out as they did. Anna’s decision will astound some, disappoint others but felt totally in keeping with the earlier discussion she has with Manora about what someone will give for the kind of love that is granted to few. And at this point, I felt that Tony might finally be worthy of such a love and equal to returning it.

~Jayne

This book is currently out of print.

  • Date: Nov-1973
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • ISBN: 0373017332

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

13 Comments

  1. Miki
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 16:15:15

    This book was published around the time I first started reading romance novels. It’s a bit “off topic”, but I recognize the cover artist as being my favorite one back in those days. Oh, no – of course I don’t remember the artist’s name…but I used to love when the books I wanted to read had covers by that artist.

    Seems a silly thing to remember, but there it is!

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  2. Rosemary Laurey
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 16:29:11

    Not only did Mary Burchall write some unforgettable romances , she and her sister were heroines during the years before the outbreak of WW2, rescuing Jews from Hitler’s Germany
    See http://www.sunderlandecho.com/daily/Sisters-who-saved-Jews-from.1856410.jp

    Or (if you can) get a copy of out of print We Followed Our Stars by Ida Cook (Buchall’s given name.)
    Her M&B earnings helped fund their rescue ventures.
    An incredible and very modest woman.

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  3. Sunita
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 16:58:36

    Jayne, what a lovely review, and I’m so glad you liked it! That scene where Manora tells Anna what she can and can’t have with Schreiner and how much she loves him gets me every time. And I like to think that she and Tony will have their HEA because by the end of the book he’s pretty sure he doesn’t deserve her, so maybe he does.

    I too was struck by the way Burchell counterposed the loving, generous, genuine “foreigners” and the dreadful family. But what I really appreciated was that she did each as individuals, not as stereotypes.

    @Rosemary Laurey:
    Jayne reviewed the autobiography, which has been recently reissued by Harlequin as “Safe Passage.” You can click on the tag for Ida Cook and it should pop up.

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  4. Jayne
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 17:44:20

    Actually, the book was first published by Mills and Boon in the mid 1930s (1936, I think). However, most of it felt like it could still be current in 1974. Maybe not the bit at the beginning but Anna’s transformation to an opera singer, yes.

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  5. Jayne
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 17:47:57

    Sarah from Smart Bitches also mentioned Ida and Louise Cook’s work to save people before WWII during a radio interview she and Candy had with an Australian radio host.

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  6. Jayne
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 17:50:16

    Oh and Miki, you’ll never know how thrilled I was to actually find that cover – which is the one on the edition loaned to me by Sunita. Jane dug up the first one I reviewed after I scoured the Internet but I was determined to locate this one. ;)

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  7. Randi
    Jun 17, 2009 @ 12:32:56

    I just ordered it from paperbookswap. woot!!

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  8. xaipe
    Jun 17, 2009 @ 20:30:56

    Schreiner and Manora are beautifully done, and I love the way Anna refuses to think less of them for not being married. (I tend to forget that she has the excuse of having been raised by circus performers.) In her later books Burchell was sometimes rather harsher about that type of thing, maybe as a reaction to a more permissive society (or maybe in response to pressure from the publisher, who knows). Mario Frayne is also terrifically sympathetic.

    I also think it’s very effective the way the book begins and ends with Tony’s perspective (I was going to say he gets the first and last chapters, but actually it’s more than one chapter at the beginning). It distances us a little from the unpleasant aspects of Anna’s life when she first meets Tony and allows us to be shocked along with him by things like the fact that she doesn’t own any shoes.

    I hope you’re planning to do more Burchell reviews — I’ve really enjoyed these first two.

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  9. Jayne
    Jun 18, 2009 @ 12:11:42

    I hope you're planning to do more Burchell reviews -’ I've really enjoyed these first two.

    I have one more book from the group that Sunita carefully picked out for me. After that, I’ll have to see which ones I can easily get my hands on. And check back through the threads to see which of her books readers rate as their favorites. With Burchell’s extensive backlist, I need some guidance.

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  10. Cara
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 13:04:58

    I’m so glad to see you reviewing Mary Burchell’s books. I first discovered her when I discovered Harlequins in the 1970′s. Since then I’ve managed to collect a lot of her books, including some duplicates so if you need books to review I’d be happy to share! I LOVE when other people find her. It’s taken me quite a while but I think I have a fairly good bibliography – it’s kind of hard, because books were republished under different names or published several times. I keep thinking some day I’ll put it up on the internet.

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  11. Jayne
    Aug 04, 2009 @ 04:02:27

    Since then I've managed to collect a lot of her books

    Wow, that must have taken a lot of effort given the length of her backlist! I have a couple of her books I’ve managed to get my hands on but like I said earlier, any help with selecting the best to review is greatly appreciated.

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  12. xaipe
    Aug 04, 2009 @ 16:59:19

    There is an almost complete list of Mary Burchell’s books in the 1985 paperback re-issue of One of the Family, except it does not include On Wings of Song and it lists a title Design For Loving which does not exist. IT also doesn’t help with the books that have alternate titles — if I recall correctly, there are 112 distinct books but an additional 7 alternate titles. I’ve been meaning to make some corrections to the bibliography in Mary Burchell’s wikipedia entry, which has a pretty comprehensive list, but haven’t got around to it.

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  13. Cara
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 05:48:57

    Jayne – one book I would highly recommend is Loyal in All (later republished as Nurse Marika, Loyal in All,) It takes place during the Hungarian Uprising and embodies (for me) what I love about Mary Burchell. The secondary story is just as riveting as the romance and she gives us a wonderful look at the uprising as it actually affected people. I’m probably not putting it well (if I could I’d write reviews!) but if I could keep only one of her books, this would be the one.
    xaipe – I’d looked at the Wikipedia entry, I noticed today that it had been corrected to show that Damaged Angel and The Broken Wing are the same. Some of her stories were also published in the Womens World Weekly under different names and condensed.

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