Apr 28 2014 11:30am

From Trixie Belden to Anne Calhoun: A Journey to Adulthood

 The Secret of the Mansion by Julie CampbellReading was my escape from reality when I was growing up. My childhood wasn’t sublime and I spent a large portion of time by myself. So I read. Books were my escape as they didn’t judge, yell, ignore, or hurt me. Romance, straight fiction, mystery, coming of age, fantasy...nothing was out of bounds for me.

Mysteries have always been my first love. I adored watching Alfred Hitchcock Presents on CBS and Mystery! on PBS. Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys filled my young literary needs. I discovered Trixie Belden by accident when I was looking for a particular Nancy Drew book, which had already been checked out of the library. The librarian asked if I had ever read Trixie Belden and it was then my love affair started.

Trixie Belden was a girl after my own heart. She wasn’t as poised or self assured as Nancy Drew. She wasn’t rich or beautiful. She didn’t have a boyfriend who drove a snazzy sports car. She was average. Like me. Trixie was the quintessential teenager who grumbled about chores, boys, and her parents. The appeal of Trixie was not only her detecting skills but her strength and perseverance. She didn’t rely on a male figure as her savior. She and her best friend/sidekick Honey always managed more often than not to save themselves and solve the mystery. The fact she could and did make mistakes only endeared her to me more. At a time when my life was overwhelmed by internal and external forces, Trixie was my port in the storm.

Trixie Belden paper dollSet in a fictional town in upstate New York, Trixie with her brothers and friends form a club called the Bob-Whites of the Glen. From there they find themselves embroiled in a series of mysteries that span their teen years. Though romance was definitely not a theme, various ‘connections’ are made between six of the seven members. Trixie and Jim, Honey and Brian, and Diana and Mart. I’m sad to say Trixie and Jim’s complicated relationship (there was a four year age difference, after all) was downplayed later in the series. It was a subtle example of outgrowing a crush.

An interesting fact about this series. There were 39 books total published between 1948-1986. The series was originally authored by Julie Campbell Tatham. But Tatham only wrote the first six books; the other 33 were written by various other authors all under the pseudonym Kathryn Kenny. To date, no one knows exactly who the other authors were or how many of them there were in total.

With Trixie I became enamoured with strong intelligent fallible heroines. Though my love for pure mystery lasted well into my teen years, my need for romance became more prevalent as I got older and I found a new passion—romantic suspense. Barbara Michaels, Phyllis Whitney, and Sidney Sheldon caught my eye early on. I was hooked by the darkness that surrounded but never defeated the heroines in Michaels's and Whitney's stories, while entranced by the sheer determination of the heroines who occupied Sheldon’s storylines. All three authors wrote strong heroines who were able to persevere against incredible odds.

Jaded by Anne CalhounBy the '90s, Heather Graham, Karen Harper, and Nora Roberts quickly became my go-to authors. Suspense, mystery, romance, and engaging characters and storylines drew me in and held me hostage. I did step off the beaten path for a little as I worked my way through historical romances, though I continued to look for those that stressed a mystery or a suspenseful subplot. Julie Garwood, Catherine Coulter, and Amanda Quick all offered a well-balanced romance with intriguing suspense and mystery. Sometimes they even tossed in a dash of the supernatural. The supernatural aspects led me into paranormal romance and urban fantasy. Such authors as Anne Bishop, Ilona Andrews, and Nalini Singh build such fabulous alternative worlds anchored in realism with dynamic heroines, sensual romances, and of course, fabulous suspense filled storylines. From there I ventured into erotic romances and with the inclusion of Jasmine Haynes, Anne Calhoun, etc...on my bookshelf, my life was finally complete.

Though I now read any and all genres at any given time, I still continue to choose authors and stories where strong heroines use their wits and skills to save the day and get their man.


Tori Benson can be found at Smexybooks and at Twitter.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
M. Jean Gardiner
1. M. Jean Gardiner
I still have all my Trixie Belden books! I loved them to pieces, and there were some I never did locate. It was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. I loved her dog, Reddy. And I think she had a little brother, too, if I remember right. It was an aunt of mine that gave the first three to me for my birthday when I was probably ten. I believe she had read them as well. I'm glad to meet another person familiar with them-- it's been a long time since I thought about them.
2. willaful
Lovely post! I read a few Trixies, though they didn't come my way very often. My favorite female book friend was Eilonwy from the Prydain Chronicles.
M. Jean Gardiner
3. Torifl
M. Jean Gardiner-Bobby!! :) I love seeing how many people grew up on Trixie.

Willaful-Thank you. I haven't read that author. Fantasy?
M. Jean Gardiner
4. RobinC
@#3: Yes, The Prydain books are fantasies by Lloyd Alexander. There are some short stories that focus on Prydain as well. Later, he also wrote a series with a teenage girl as the main character, though I can't remember the name at the moment. I just started reading the Prydain books to our 3 boys. They are loving it and I love sharing some of my favorite childhood friends with them.
M. Jean Gardiner
5. Susieq71
I absolutely loved Trixie. I even had those paper dolls when they came out. Brings back really good memories for me. I still am reminded of these stories everytime I see an Irish Setter or see the word Dungarees :-D. As a kid I loved the escape that reading gave me and mysteries were my fave until I grew older and then wanted the romance factor. Thanks for the throwback! I also had no idea that they weren't all written by the same author!
Darynda Jones
6. DaryndaJones
Aw, I miss Trixie!!!! What a great post. I have just added Anne Calhoun to me TBR list. Thank you, Tori!
M. Jean Gardiner
7. Torifl
Susieq71-Me too. A used bookstore I visit has them. I MAY have purchased a book of them. :P

DaryndaJones-I LOVE Anne Calhoun and Jasmine Hayes. They both write some extremely sexy erotic romances that involves real people and situations.
Susan Frank
8. SusanFrank
I got hooked on Trixie when I found a copy of the first one that had belonged to my mom. She got it for her birthday when it first came out (1948). After that I read them all, bought the ones I could. About ten years ago I filled in all the missing ones from my collection, thanks to ebay. I loved seeing Trixie and Honey and the others solve their mysteries while still being normal teenagers.

I loved series books - still do. I read all the Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Dana Girls books. ALfred Hitchcock's Three Investigators were fun. I also loved the CHerry Ames nurse books and the Sue Barton series.

My first exposure to series books was on my seventh birthday when my grandmother gave me The Bobbsey Twins of Lakeport and I was hooked. Also read the Happy Hollisters when I was in elementary school.

I have been a voracious reader ever since. Moved from the series books to the teen romances like Nina Grant, Pediatric Nurse, and then to Barbara Cartland and Harlequin in my mid-teens. Then Kathleen Woodiwiss, Bertrice Small, Roberta Gellis and now I read almost anything :-)
Becky Hantsbarger
9. BeckyIA
Trixie was my hero too. In fact, I've collected almost all the books again because she was such an important part of my early reading. One of my fondest memories is going to the local five and dime and seeing if there was a new Trixie Belden book. I've always loved to read and just about any genre can catch my eye, but thanks to Trixie my first love has always been mysteries.
M. Jean Gardiner
10. ramore
Yep, I was a Trixie Belden fan too! I still have the first 16 books. And I still enjoy a great mystery.

After 16 books, I moved on to Sci-Fi. The Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Engdahl was a major eye-opening experience for me. My first Sci-fi novel, a young female heroine, aliens, space travel. Enchantress opened the door to lots of other great fiction for me.

Thanks for this walk down memory lane!
11. willaful
Engdahl was a big part of my adolescence. Her books used to be hard to find, but have been digitzed now.
M. Jean Gardiner
12. Pen M
I loved Trixie for the same reasons. She just felt more real. And she got in trouble. Completely unlike Nancy Drew. ;) I got my first one as a birthday present from my best friend. Then I tried to buy as many as I could. When my daughter was young, I bought more. I have added a few here and there over the years, but I've never come close to getting all of them. My granddaughter is reading chapter books now. I may have to see if I can find some of them. :D
I followed a reading route a lot like yours. I also read almost anything.
And I still love Trixie and the Bob-Whites. :)
M. Jean Gardiner
13. Nancy Everitt
Trixie Belden were my favorite books going through 4th through 10th grade. Between my best friend, Suzie and I, we had the entire set. They're long gone now, but I still remember the stories and how much I looked forward to looking at our local Ben Franklin Variety Store for new books to add to our collection. They are no longer in print, except the old copies you may find at used book stores, library and garage/tag sales. I wish some publisher would reprint them now with new updated covers so that the young girls of today could read and love Trixie and the gang as much as we all did.
M. Jean Gardiner
14. TyraBerger
I loved the Trixie Belden books growing up and still have them in my library. They were the perfect escape for me when things in the real world were not good. I loved the friendship between all of the Bob-Whites but especially between Trixie and Honey. These books are what started my love of series reading that still carries over today. I love the stronger connection to the characters who were in every book.
M. Jean Gardiner
15. Shark with Lasers
I read a lot of Tom Swift novels as a kid. I suppose they did influence my current reading habits.
M. Jean Gardiner
16. Eyvonne
I loved Trixie Belden much more than Nancy Drew for those same reasons. I moved from Trixie to Agatha Christi to Trevanian, and spy novels. Now Nalini Singh, Maya Banks (love those Scots), Shayla Black, Janet Evanovich and more contemporary romance writers are on my reading list. The characters are key and a series is great for feeling like you're visiting with friends.
M. Jean Gardiner
17. momoflowbrass
I grew up on Trixie Belden books and my love for them has only grown, maybe to an excessive way. I have recollected the entire series, in every format and even some foreign language titles. There is a great Trixie Belden facebook page if anyone is interested in meeting fellow Trixie lovers, and also some Trixie Belden message boards and fanfic sites.
M. Jean Gardiner
18. Juliaoz
I, too, grew up loving Trixie Belden (and especially loved Honey) The BWGs were all very real to me. I also went on to Barbara Michaels, Phyllis Whitney, and Mary Stewart, as well as Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh. I still read them all as well as Louise Penny, Jayne Ann Krentz, Nora Roberts and Jennifer Cruise. Love seeing how many people have a connection with Trixie.
kim eilerman
19. kae0013
I loved Trixie and the gang. I still have all of mine original books but I wasn't aware that there were more than 2 authors. She was my best friend
and hero when I was young.
I have also found many of the same authors as I have gotten older (nora roberts is one of my most favorite). I always look for some conflict that the female character can solve save her man... of course.
Post a comment