Ovstedal, Barbara 1925-

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Ovstedal, Barbara 1925-

(Barbara Douglas, Rosalind Laker, Barbara Paul)

PERSONAL: Born 1925, in England; daughter of John Douglas and Ethel (Jenkins) Geils; married Inge Ovstedal; children: Susan, Paul. Education: Attended West Sussex Art College.

ADDRESSES: Agent—Julien Burton Literary Agency, 2 Clifton Ave., London W12 9DR, England.

CAREER: Writer.

AWARDS, HONORS: Elizabeth Goudge historical award, 1986.


Norway (travel), Batsford (London, England), 1973.

Red Cherry Summer (novel), Hale (London, England), 1973.

Valley of the Reindeer (novel), Hale (London, England), 1973.

Souvenir from Sweden (novel), Hale (London, England), 1974.


Sovereign's Key, Hale (London, England), 1969.

Ride the Blue Riband, Hale (London, England), 1970, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1977.

Far Seeks the Heart, Hale (London, England), 1970.

Sail a Jewelled Ship, Hale (London, England), 1971.

The Shripney Lady, Hale (London, England), 1972.

Fair Wind of Love, Hale (London, England), 1974, published under pseudonym Barbara Douglas, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1980.

The Smuggler's Bride, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1975.

Warwyck's Woman, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1978, published as Warwyck's Wife, Eyre Methuen (London, England), 1979.

Claudine's Daughter, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1978.

Warwyck's Choice, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1980, published as The Warwycks of Easthampton, Eyre Methuen (London, England), 1980.

Banners of Silk, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1981.

Gilded Splendour, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1982.

Jewelled Path, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1983.

What the Heart Keeps, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1984.

This Shining Land, Methuen (London, England), 1985.

Tree of Gold, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1986.

The Silver Touch, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1987.

To Dance with Kings, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1989.

Circle of Pearls, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1990.

The Golden Tulip, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1991.

The Venetian Mask, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1992.

The Sugar Pavilion, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1993.

Orchids and Diamonds, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1995.

Fortuny Gown, 1995.

The Fragile Hour, Thorndike Press (Thorndike, ME), 1997.

New World, New Love, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2002.

To Dream of Snow, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2004.


The Seventeenth Stair, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1975.

Devil's Fire, Love's Revenge, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1976, published as The Curse of Hale-wood, Macdonald & Jane's (London, England), 1976.

The Frenchwoman, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1977.

To Love a Stranger, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1978.

Ovstedal's works have been translated into many languages, including Russian.

SIDELIGHTS: Barbara Ovstedal has written novels ranging from period gothics to fictionalized biographies. Judith A. Gifford noted in Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers that although the author "achieves varying degrees of success," the novels are generally "well-written, tightly woven books."

Ovstedal writes her historical romances as Rosalind Laker, and many of these novels feature women of great talent and skill. The Smuggler's Bride and Claudine's Daughter feature young orphaned women who make new lives for themselves. The Smuggler's Bride is the story of a woman who takes a position as a governess for a conceited, wealthy family. The children believe the house is haunted when they hear strange sounds coming from the adjoining home of a reclusive neighbor. The governess investigates the sounds in order to calm the children's fears and finds that the neighbor is alone and hurt. She offers to nurse him back to health, and when he recovers he marries her. Claudine's Daughter is the story of Lucy di Castelloni, an orphan raised in a convent and then married to an elderly, wealthy landowner. Upon the death of her husband, Lucy goes to Easthampton to find a home where she can enjoy her freedom, but instead she finds love. During her visit, a scandal from the past emerges, involving a beautiful woman and the key to Lucy's past and future.

The dreams of artisans provide the foundations for both Gilded Splendour and Jewelled Path. Gilded Splendour is a fictionalized biography of the famous carpenter Thomas Chippendale. The story tells about the life of an apprentice and the genteel woman driven to be his patroness and help him make his dreams a reality. Jewelled Path is about the daughter of a distinguished London jeweler. Although her father wants to see her married, Tiffany and Faberge are promoting her jewelry designs, and she prefers to continue pursuing her career.

Deemed by Gifford as "perhaps [the author's] strongest work," This Shining Land is set in Norway during the German occupation. The novel depicts the horrors and degradation that everyday citizens faced, along with the determination that enabled them to survive. Gifford noted that "she offers a grim portrait of the experiences of the concentration camps without excessively gruesome detail or gratuitous violence or presenting her protagonists as superhuman heroes."

Circle of Pearls is set in post-Cromwell seventeenth-and eighteenth-century England and is the story of the romantic involvements of Julia Pallister, whose work is ribbon embroidery. The Golden Tulip is set in seventeenth-century Holland, where artist Francesca Visser is promised in marriage by her painter father to Ludolf van Deventer, to whom he owes a tremendous gambling debt. Unaware of her father's pact, Francesca travels from Amsterdam to Delft, where she begins a long apprenticeship with Jan Vermeer, and where she falls in love with Pieter, a patriot and tulip grower. Publishers Weekly contributor Sybil Steinberg described this romantic novel as being "tightly woven … swift-moving and filled with lusty characters."

Two friends from childhood, Marietta and Elena are the protagonists in The Venetian Mask, set in seventeenth-century Venice. They grow to adulthood and both marry, but when the marriage of one fails, leading to a child by a lover, the other takes on the job of raising that child. Sophie Delcourt is the talented confectioner in The Sugar Pavilion, a young woman who flees eighteenth-century revolutionary France to settle in Brighton, England, taking her talent for creating masterpieces from sugar, and another for smuggling, with her. Denise Perry Donavin noted in Booklist that the author "transports the reader straight into the inns, shops, bathing machines, and Royal Pavilion" of the period.

Juliette Cladel, who has spent years in a convent, returns home to 1909 Paris in Orchids and Diamonds, to work in the dressmaking shop of her sister. She falls in love with Nikolai Karasvin, a Russian count and sculptor who is a protege to Rodin, but he is unexpectedly called home. Pregnant with his child, Juliette marries a silk merchant who raises the child as his own. Years pass, taking the story to World War I, when Juliette's talent has advanced her career to find her working with famed designer Fortuny, but through it all, she cannot forget her first love. The protagonist of New World, New Love is Louise de Vailly, who flees the French Revolution to find love in New York, where her talent as a milliner gains her independence. Marguerite, the woman proficient in needle arts in To Dream of Snow, does the embroidery of Empress Elizabeth and becomes friends with her daughter-in-law, who later becomes Catherine the Great.

Ovstedal once told CA: "I was lucky enough to be born into a family that took a great interest in its forebears. Tales of my ancestors were handed down to me, and they proved invaluable later in my life as the foundation for several historical novels. My interest in history was kindled at an early age, and throughout my writing I have been meticulous in my research. I never delegate it elsewhere, and I am determined always to present an accurate background and atmosphere in my stories. My search for authenticity has taken me as far afield as Quadra Island off the coast of British Columbia to see the lonely site of a relative's turn-of-the-century lumber camp dwelling (for What the Heart Keeps) and to the haute couture salons of Paris (for Banners of Silk).

"For the book set during the Norwegian Resistance, I went up mountains to former hideouts, down into prison cells once used by the Gestapo, and to an outlying island to talk to a retired skipper, who had ferried the famous Shetland Bus escape route. This story is a special one for me, because I met my Norwegian husband when he was serving with the Free Royal Norwegian Air Force during World War II. In my travel book, Norway, I wrote of his double escape from Nazi-occupied Norway across the treacherous North Sea, which he made twice in a small fishing boat.

"Although we live in England, we have a four-hundred-year-old cottage in a Norwegian valley, which we use as a holiday home. We restored it from a ruin, renewing the traditional turf roof, which in summer is covered with wild flowers. My interest in the past is linked with my love of old houses and antique furniture. This is evident in my book Gilded Splendour, which is based on the life of eighteenth-century cabinetmaker Thomas Chippendale.

"At Art College I studied the history of costume as well as painting, which means that my characters are always dressed in the correct styles of the period. The paintings of old masters provide a wonderful source for new writers uncertain of clothes, transport, interiors, and the food of a past age.

"I started my writing career with short stories and serials, which were also translated in magazines worldwide. My first book was like my first short story in being accepted immediately. After my thirty-sixth book was published, I took a long break in which I travelled widely."



Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers, 3rd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.


Booklist, January 15, 1994, Denise Perry Donavin, review of The Sugar Pavilion, p. 900; March 1, 1995, Denise Perry Donavin, review of Orchids and Diamonds, p. 1178; January 1, 2003, John Charles, review of New World, New Love, p. 858; July, 2004, Maria Hatton, review of To Dream of Snow, p. 1827.

Publishers Weekly, May 25, 1990, Sybil Steinberg, review of Circle of Pearls, p. 48; August 2, 1991, review of The Golden Tulip, p. 64; November 16, 1992, review of The Venetian Mask, p. 44; January 10, 1994, review of The Sugar Pavilion, p. 44; March 27, 1995, review of Orchids and Diamonds, p. 74.

School Library Journal, November, 2004, Claudia Moore, review of To Dream of Snow, p. 176.


AllReaders.com, http://www.allreaders.com/ (January 4, 2006), Marie Morris, reviews of To Dance with Kings, The Venetian Mask, Circle of Pearls, and The Golden Tulip.