I've always loved Mary Stewart, ever since I was about fourteen years old and my mom handed me one of her romantic suspense novels--probably MADAM, WILL YOU TALK?--and I read it almost all in one sitting (or lying, as I tended to read while draped across our couch), amazed by the thrill ride that was a MS novel.
But what made her special? Lots of people have written suspense, and lots more have written tales with romantic storylines. But Mary Stewart's greatness lay not only in her plots, nor was it found only in her strong, loveable heroines or her sweetly old-fashioned heroes. Her special skill, her ineffable Stewart-ness, was in her literary sensibility and her sophisticated tone. One understood, reading her books, that she was smart, ladylike, but ready for adventure, if only between the pages of her mysteries. And her settings--the estates of England, the elegant French chateaus, the wildly beautiful Greek islands--they were like little vacations for the reader. Vacations, I might add, that I rarely wanted to end, despite my desire for denouement.
So Mary, wherever you are, and in your 90s now, I salute you. You have always been my favorite, and I will happily re-read your books forever.