PERSONAL: Born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; married, c. 1973; husband's name Peter; children: Jeffrey. Hobbies and other interests: Travel, working with stained glass.
AWARDS, HONORS: Swashbuckler of the Year Award, Romantic Times, 1986, for The Wind and the Sea, and 1988, for The Pride of Lions; Golden Quill Award, Affaire de Coeur, 1986, for The Wind and the Sea; Career Achievement Award, Romantic Times, 1989, 1998; Best Historical Romance of the Year Award and Storyteller of the Year Award, Romantic Times, 1991, for Through a Dark Mist; Best Medieval Romance of the Year Award, Romantic Times, 1994, for In the Shadow of Midnight; Francis Award for Best Medieval Romance of the Year, Romance Journal, 1997, for Through a Dark Mist; Hughie Award, RBL Romantica, 1998, for The Blood of Roses; Favorite Historical Romance Award, Addicted to Romance Books, 1999, for Swept Away.
China Rose, Avon (New York, NY), 1984.
Bound by the Heart, Avon (New York, NY), 1984.
The Wind and the Sea, Paperjacks (New York, NY), 1986.
The Pride of Lions (first volume of the "Scotland" trilogy), Paperjacks (New York, NY), 1988.
The Blood of Roses (second volume of the "Scotland" trilogy), Paperjacks (New York, NY), 1989.
Through a Dark Mist (first volume of the "Medieval" trilogy), Dell (New York, NY), 1991.
Under the Desert Moon, Dell (New York, NY), 1992.
Dark and Dangerous, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1992.
In the Shadow of Midnight (second volume of the "Medieval" trilogy), Dell (New York, NY), 1994.
Straight for the Heart, Dell (New York, NY), 1995.
Across a Moonlit Sea, Dell (New York, NY), 1996.
The Last Arrow (third volume of the "Medieval" trilogy), Dell (New York, NY), 1997.
Pale Moon Rider, Dell (New York, NY), 1998.
Swept Away, Dell (New York, NY), 1999.
Midnight Honor (third volume of the "Scotland" trilogy), Dell (New York, NY), 2001.
The Iron Rose, Signet Books (New York, NY), 2003. My Forever Love, Signet Books, 2004.
ADAPTATIONS: Swept Away was adapted for audiocassette, DH Audio, 1999.
SIDELIGHTS: Marsha Canham has won acclaim for her historical-romance novels set in a variety of eras and locales, including medieval England, Jacobite Scotland, and antebellum America. Among her early works is China Rose, named for the young woman who is forced to marry a sadistically cruel man, only to fall in love with his rival brother. A critic for the West Coast Review of Books observed: "The writing is superb…. Mystery, romance, and a fast-paced plot are all together in this one." In another of Canham's early novels, The Wind and the Sea, a female pirate, who avoids naval authorities by posing as a boy aboard a military vessel, falls in love with an officer of the ship. A Publishers Weekly reviewer found it "packed with well-drawn characters [and] fiery sea battles," while a Romance Times critic stated that "no lover of high seas adventure should miss this one."
Canham began what would become her "Scotland" trilogy with The Pride of Lions. Set during the eighteenth-century Jacobite rebellion, this is the romantic saga of Catherine Ashbrooke, an English beauty forced to marry a Scottish spy and murderer, Alexander Cameron. A Romantic Times reviewer called it "an electrifying love story with characters that leap from the pages," while a Publishers Weekly critic appreciated the novel's "entertaining plot twists." The Blood of Roses continues the saga, charting the evolving passion of the marriage and of a secondary romantic relationship between Catherine's maid and Alexander's close friend. "A well-wrought story," remarked Mary Banas, in her Booklist appraisal of The Blood of Roses. A reviewer for Romantic Times observed that Canham "completely captures the essence of this era with an emotional intensity that will stun and thrill readers." Canham's Midnight Honor concludes the trilogy. It focuses on the climactic Battle of Culloden and the personal story of Anne Moy, a fiery Scottish woman who defies her husband to join the rebels against the English and finds an unexpected ally from her youth. "Through lush and earthy prose," related a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "Canham depicts the simplicity of Highland life and the brutality of war with vivid accuracy, and infuses her characters with vitality." In a review for Booklist, Maria Hatton concluded: "In turns poignant and heroic, Canham's tale is bigger than a simple love triangle…. This gifted author has created an intriguing adventure that should not be missed."
Canham has also written the "Medieval" trilogy set in thirteenth-century England. In her own version of the Robin Hood legend, Canham develops the heroic character of the Black Wolf of Lincoln in Through a Dark Mist, and continues the saga with his illegitimate son, Eduard FitzRandwulf, in In the Shadow of Midnight. Canham completes the trilogy with The Last Arrow, which portrays the love that develops between Lady Brenna Wardieu, a temperamental archer who is the daughter of Black Wolf, and a mysterious mercenary as they fight to protect the heir to the throne of England. "Rousing action" fills the pages, according to a Publishers Weekly critic of The Last Arrow, while Library Journal reviewer Kristin Ramsdell pointed out the author's flair for "beautifully done historical detail."
Among Canham's other novels are Under the Desert Moon, in which an attractive woman, posing as a schoolmarm, attempts to avenge the untimely deaths of her parents and, in carrying out her scheme, falls in love with an innocent prisoner; and Straight for the Heart, in which a teenaged widow finds herself embroiled in post-U.S. Civil War political intrigue after becoming involved with a conniving opportunist. A Publishers Weekly considered the latter to be "deftly plotted" while a Romantic Times critic dubbed it a "dazzling novel."
In Pale Moon Rider a young woman flees from the violence of the French Revolution only to find herself pledged to a despicable Englishman. This novel won praise in Booklist, where Ann Bouricius called it "a grand adventure full of heroic men and dastardly villains," and in Publishers Weekly, where a critic described it as a "dashing historical romance." Romance Reader critic Judith Flavell affirmed that the novel holds "a little bit of the unexpected," while a Romantic Times reviewer considered it "another example of Ms. Canham's incredible talent." A young woman abandons London for the seaside only to find an amnesiac suspected of involvement in the exiled Napoleon's escape from Elba in Swept Away. Karen Lynch, in her Romance Reader analysis, appreciated the book's "lyrical writing and strong characterization."
Further romantic and historical adventures include the 2003 title The Iron Rose and the 2004 work My Forever Love. According to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, Canham "breathes new life into the tired pirate romance genre" with The Iron Rose. The tale is set in the Caribbean and features privateer Juliet Dante, last of a long line of pirates. When she rescues the foppish Varian St. Glare, she considers him to be spoils of war, but she soon discovers his romantic and hidden military charms as well. In fact, Varian had been on a mission to find Juliet's father when his ship was attacked by a Spanish galleon and was in turn saved by Juliet and her ship, the Iron Rose. Slowly the roles are reversed, as Varian sheds his effete affectations and is attracted more and more to this unique woman who is as skilled with the sword as she is with command of a ship and its crew. The Publishers Weekly reviewer went on to praise Canham's "terrific yarn" for its "vivid historical detail, humor and characters that will touch the mind and heart." Reviewing the same title in Booklist, Hatton characterized the work as a "swashbuckling tale" of a lady pirate and her unlikely love.
With My Forever Love Canham turns to the medieval era for a tale of Ciaran Tamberlane, a disillusioned member of the Knights Templar. Disgusted by the bloodshed in the Holy Land, he returns, excommunicated and shamed, to England only to discover more of the same. He comes upon a village massacre with only one victim remaining alive, Amaranth de Langois. Ciaran saves the woman's life, but then discovers that her vile husband has plans to chastise his wife whom he finds disobedient. Suddenly Ciaran, who has pledged himself to nonviolence, discovers that there are still battles that must be fought. Booklist contributor John Charles considered this work a "beautifully crafted historical," complete with Can-ham's trademark "superbly nuanced characters."
As critics frequently point out, the tone of Canham's writings is often intense, sometimes even dark, but her Web site reveals the author's down-to-earth and even humorous side. In an interview with Angela Weiss for Romantische Bücherecke, Canham explained: "The Web site and message board are my way of not taking myself or what I do so seriously … of just showing everyone I'm as normal and human and ordinary as everyone else, with the same mortgage, the same family tribulations, the same frantic act of juggling work, home, and family life."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 15, 1989, Mary Banas, review of The Blood of Roses, p. 143; March 15, 1995, Denise Perry Donavin, review of Straight for the Heart, p. 1306; December 15, 1998, Ann Bouricius, review of Pale Moon Rider, p. 729; May 1, 2001, Maria Hatton, review of Midnight Honor, p. 1670; February 15, 2003, Maria Hatton, review of The Iron Rose, p. 1056; September 15, 2003, John Charles, "Passionate Pirates," review of The Iron Rose, p. 225; July, 2004, John Charles, review of My Forever Love, p. 1826.
Library Journal, May 15, 1997, Kristin Ramsdell, review of The Last Arrow, p. 68.
Publishers Weekly, February 28, 1986, review of The Wind and the Sea, p. 121; August 24, 1992, review of Under the Desert Moon, p. 76; March 20, 1995, review of Straight for the Heart, p. 55; March 7, 1997, review of The Last Arrow, p. 80; October 6, 1997, review of The Pride of Lions, p. 81; November 16, 1998, review of Pale Moon Rider, p. 72; March 19, 2001, review of Midnight Honor, p. 82; February 10, 2003, review of The Iron Rose, p. 168.
West Coast Review of Books, July, 1984, review of China Rose, p. 42.
Marsha Canham Home Page, http://www.marshacanham.com (March 17, 2006).
Romance Reader, http://www.theromancereader.com/(March 17, 2006), Judith Flavell, review of Pale Moon Rider; Karen Lynch, "Marsha Canham: Author of Historical Romance," and review of Swept Away.
Romantic Times, http://www.romantictimes.com/ (March 17, 2006), reviews of The Wind and the Sea, The Pride of Lions, Under the Desert Moon, The Blood of Roses, Straight for the Heart, and Pale Moon Rider.
Romantische Bücherecke, http://www.die-buecherecke.de/ (April 1, 2000), Angela Weiss, "Interview with Marsha Canham."