Mistaken Identity

‘Female’ Romance Novelist Unmasked As 89-Year-Old Grandad

You've heard of George Sand, George Eliot, Isak Dinesen, and Acton, Currer, and Ellis Bell (Anne, Charlotte, and Emily Brontë), but here's the inverse. Meet Jessica Blair, the writer of 22 romance novels since 1993—her latest, In the Silence of the Snow, is out this week in the U.K. and available in the U.S. in April. But “she” is actually 89-year-old Bill Spence, a grandfather of four from Ampleforth, North Yorkshire, England, and a former bomb aimer during World War II. A publisher had suggested his books carry a woman’s name, but he didn’t mind. “I suppose some men may suppose their masculinity had been questioned, but it has never bothered me.”