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Christine Monson (1946 – September 11, 2003)

Historical romance writer Christine Monson published six novels and had finished the draft of another when she died Sept. 11, 2003. Author Christine Monson, whose romance novels "Golden Nights" and "Stormfire" were the most successful of her six published books, died at her former husband's home in Greeley. She was 57 when she committed suicide.

Monson was slight, with long, curly blond hair, a woman who was as at home reading books as she was writing them. She became an avid reader when she was a child, relying on her imagination to make her forget - for a while - the joyless West Virginia coal camp where she and her brother were raised. She learned to coax the extraordinary out of the ordinary. She knew how to scour the racks at Goodwill stores, plucking Donna Karan and Yves St. Laurent from hangers crowded with more pedestrian labels. She braked for yard sales and once brought home an elegant maple dresser that she bought for $15.

She allowed herself to pay retail for one extravagance - a mink coat she purchased with proceeds from her first book.

When Monson first saw "Romancing the Stone," she immediately recognized herself in Joan Wilder, the timid romance writer appalled to find herself in the middle of a dangerous adventure. Like the movie character, Monson preferred to live vicariously through the characters she sketched for her books. "She was a romantic who loved adventure, but she loved reading and writing about adventure more than doing it," said her former husband, Jon Monson, with whom she remained close after their divorce. Once, the Monsons took their daughter, Jennifer, then a baby, camping near Aspen. When Jon Monson paused to set up their tent in a forest clearing, Christine shook her head. She chose a site high on some bluffs overlooking the valley, envisioning the dramatic sunset. However, she failed to foresee the relentless wind that buffeted their camp and dangerously fanned the flames of their campfire. They quenched the fire and rolled diaper wipes into earplugs to muffle the sound of their tent snapping in the gusty night. Christine Monson used the image of fire in several book titles - "Flame Run Wild" and "This Fiery Splendor," along with "Stormfire," her debut novel.

Her historical romances were colloquially known as bodice-rippers - novels that pitted a strong-willed woman against a headstrong man who behaves extremely badly for much of the story. Sometimes, even her fans thought her male characters got carried away. "The hero is too violent and cruel" in "Stormfire," one anonymous reader commented in a review on Amazon.com. The same reviewer went on to praise "Rangoon," Monson's second novel, "as wonderfully written" and to applaud Monson's ability to "take you to another time, another place where you can see the temples, feel the rain" in Burma.

Fan Alyssa Maizan wrote that "Rangoon" was "definitely tied for the very best romance novel ever written (along with 'The Wildflower')."

"But in later years, Christine was somewhat embarrassed by her romance writing," Jon Monson said.

Instead, she focused her attention on a screenplay about a social nature-versus-nurture experiment conducted on orphans during the Great Depression. During the last year of her life, she was working on what she considered a more serious novel about an internal quest for the Holy Grail.

She moved to London to research the new novel but found herself overwhelmed with depression and asked her former husband to bring her back to Colorado shortly before she died.

Besides her former husband, survivors include her daughter, Jennifer Monson of Cairo; and her mother, Lillian Clevinger, and brother, Tom Clevinger, both of Wilmington, N.C."

Christine Monson's Books on Amazon: Christine Monson

Source: Claire Martin, Denver Post Staff Writer
Tags: romance history
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