Shy author was queen of romantic novels

The Painted Ladies was one of numerous novels by Frances Paige, aka May Martin.
The Painted Ladies was one of numerous novels by Frances Paige, aka May Martin.

An award winning romantic novelist who wrote 40 books including one aged 93 when she was almost blind has died.

May Martin, who used the pen names Jane Wallace, Jay Allerton and her best known of Frances Paige, won the Romantic Novel of the Year award with Vote for a Silk Gown in 1974.

May was originally from Glasgow. In 1953 her husband Archie was offered a consultant’s post at Lancaster Moor Hospital and the couple, and son Eric and daughter Helen, decamped north, living for the first year in a hospital flat before buying the family home in Hest Bank.

May was lonely after moving to Lancaster but immersed herself in classes at the art college.

But a slipped disc put paid to standing at an easel and before long her need to express herself creatively had turned to writing.

She started with magazine short stories in womens’ magazines and then moved on to writing novels.

She was instantly successful, writing under several pseudonyms - always too shy to use her own name. The first books were written under Jane Wallace.

But it was under Jay Allerton that in 1974 she won the Romantic Novel of the Year award.

Her daughter Helen said: “Winning the award was in some ways a mixed blessing since it typecast her into a genre with which she felt ill at ease.

“Her writing was far from sentimental or indeed romantic.”

Over 40 books followed but by now she had switched to the pseudonym Frances Paige. Amongst them were two best sellers and critically acclaimed series including The Glasgow Girls.

She greatly enjoyed walking around Silverdale, Arnside, the Lune Valley and of the Lakes, and was inspired in her writing by trips overseas to Japan, Thailand, Mexico and America.

In her 50s she was diagnosed with glaucoma and as the disease progressed and her sight deteriorated she found the writing increasingly difficult.

Never someone to be put off she learned to use a computer in her 80s and finally published her last book when she was 93 and nearly completely blind.

Helen said she struggled on for a further nine years but as a keen reader and writer and with a well developed visual sense from her painting, the loss of sight hit her badly, coming as it did around the time she also lost Archie, her husband of 58 years.

In 2012, following a fall she moved to a nursing home near Grange where she died on June 12.