The Gold of Apollo: a retrospective

In the first of what I hope will be many retrospectives, here is an extract from one of my mother's earliest contemporary novels, The Gold of Apollo (Robert Hale, 1976). Written under her married name of Sheila Holland, this was a thriller romance in similar vein to the sort of 'big' thriller romances to which she returned in the last decade of her life.

The Gold of Apollo was also published in this Woman's Weekly Library Edition (No. 1453), a pamphlet on sale in 1976 for just 10p!

Abigail Smith is a young holiday rep. working in Athens. Max Elliot, a typically brusque, arrogant and devastatingly attractive Lamb hero, is a renowned archaeologist. Later, it becomes clear that he's also obsessed with investigating what he suspects to be a ring of international smugglers of Greek antiquities. When Abigail stumbles across their illegal activities, she naturally assumes Max Elliot to be in league with the smugglers because of his constant proximity to the suspects.

Below is a brief extract from the book, taken from the very last page. Since the smugglers who kidnapped Abigail have been apprehended, and her suspicions about him have been cleared up by the police, she is at last able to face her conflicted feelings for the 'maddening' Max Elliot. The style here is almost a prototype for many classic Lamb endings in her Mills and Boon romances; the feisty heroine still fighting to the last for independence, the hero calm but determined, intent on winning his prize.

THE GOLD OF APOLLO (Robert Hale: February 26, 1976)

'I've seen him and settled everything,' Max said. 'You've lost your job, all right.'

She put down her cup and leapt to her feet. 'Oh no! What did you say to him?'

Max rose too. The grey eyes looked coolly down into hers, a sardonic light in them. 'What do you think I said?'

... Furiously she glared at him. 'I must go down and see him, try to get my job back. You must have put his back up. I know how maddening you can be!'

'You're pretty maddening yourself,' he said, clamping her arms to her side. 'Will you stay still and be quiet just long enough for me to kiss you?'

The air left her lungs in a rush that left her gasping like a landed fish. She stared up at him incredulously.

'I know I did it once before,' he said, as coolly as if he were discussing the weather. 'I found it an extremely enjoyable experience and I decided then that when I had time to pursue the matter I would find out how I like a repeat dose.'

She took a backward step, involuntarily, as he bent towards her, but his hands hauled her close to him again, and the firm mouth descended on hers, sending her brain whirling in dizzy circles and her blood pumping furiously through her veins. Her hands clutched at his shoulders. She clung in order that she would not fall down.

When Max drew back they were both pale and breathing heavily. He looked down into her face with a possessive intentness.

'Before I am driven out of my mind, Miss Smith, will you marry me?'

'I detest you,' Abigail sighed. 'Max, are you sure? I'm sure to irritate you.'

He kissed her softly beneath her ear, then moved his lips along the line of her throat. 'From the first moment I set eyes on you, Abigail, I knew I found you distractingly attractive. We were both antagonists. I had to get that other business out of the way before I could get round to you, and I've been as frustrated as I've ever been in my life. If I've snapped, that is the reason. It wasn't easy to keep a rein on my instincts. I'm not a patient man. Or a simple one. But I do love you.'

She yielded to his hands with a long sigh, and lifted her mouth for his kiss. Vaguely, as she submerged beneath a wave of desire, she wondered what her father would say when he heard that she was to marry an archaeologist. Well, at least she had had a lifetime's training in coping with such obsessed, haunted, irritating creatures.


  1. Interestingly, this week I received a First Hardback Edition of THE GOLD OF APOLLO (R. Hale 1976) which I'd bought from a small independent bookseller via Amazon. It cost me £10 plus £2.60-odd in P&P: a good copy, very good condition inside, no dust jacket and both board covers spotted in places from being stored somewhere damp but otherwise sound and in reasonable nick. It made me wonder how many other rare copies of early 'Holland' titles are lurking out there, maybe in storage boxes somewhere or on someone's shelf as a reading copy, or perhaps for sale in a bookshop. I don't want to buy more copies, I'm simply interested to know how rare such early editions of my mother's books really are.

    If you do happen to own an early Holland or Lamb title - the early Lamb hardbacks from the late 70s or early 80s, for instance, or one of her classic historical romances - let me know. I love the idea of these older books still enjoying a healthy creative life out there somewhere, being read or waiting to be re-read or passed on to new readers ...


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