Mary Burchell

Last updated
Ida Cook
Born(1904-08-24)24 August 1904
Sunderland, England
Died22 December 1986(1986-12-22) (aged 82)
Pen nameMary Burchell
Occupation Novelist
Genre Romance
Notable worksThe Warrender Saga
RelativesMary Louise Cook (sister)
We Followed Our Stars by Ida Cook, known to millions as Mary Burchell, 1950 We Followed Our Stars by Ida Cook.jpg
We Followed Our Stars by Ida Cook, known to millions as Mary Burchell, 1950

Ida Cook (24 August 1904 22 December 1986) was a British campaigner for Jewish refugees and a romance novelist as Mary Burchell.


Ida Cook and her sister Mary Louise Cook (1901–1991) rescued Jews from the Nazis during the 1930s. [1] [2] The sisters helped 29 people escape, funded mainly by Ida's writing. In 1965, the Cook sisters were honoured as Righteous among the Nations by the Yad Vashem Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority in Israel. [3]

Between 1936 and 1985, Ida Cook wrote 112 romance novels as Mary Burchell for Mills & Boon (many of which were later republished by Harlequin). She helped to found, and from 1966 to 1986 was the second president of, the Romantic Novelists' Association. In 1950 she wrote her autobiography, We Followed Our Stars, later re-edited and expanded as Safe Passage, which is currently in print.


Personal life

Ida Cook was born on 24 August 1904 in Sunderland, County Durham, England. [4] With her elder sister Mary Louise Cook (1901–1991), she attended the Duchess' School in Alnwick and later took civil service jobs in London. Ida with her sister, Louise, developed a passionate interest in opera. [5]

During the 1930s, as part of the work they undertook to help Jews to escape from the Nazi regime, the sisters visited Germany on multiple occasions, using their genuine fanaticism for opera as a cover for their frequent travel. When returning to England, they smuggled valuables (such as jewellery), which allowed Jews fleeing Germany to satisfy the British financial security requirements for immigration. [2] They worked with Austrian conductor Clemens Krauss and his wife, the soprano Viorica Ursuleac, who had initially told them of the persecution of the Jews. [1] The sisters helped 29 people escape, funded mainly by Ida's writing. In 1965 the Cook sisters were honoured as Righteous among the Nations by the Yad Vashem Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority in Israel. In 2010 they were posthumously named a British Hero of the Holocaust by the British Government. [6]

Writing career

In 1936 Ida published her first romance novels as Mary Burchell. During her career she wrote 112 romances for Mills & Boon (re-edited by Harlequin Books), including the famous Warrender Saga, a series about the opera and concert hall world. She incorporated many famous operas ( Otello , Eugene Onegin and Carmen , among others) into the Warrender series plots. She wrote in the Romantic Novelists' Association's newsletter: [7]

I concede that a bad romantic novel is embarrassing and indefensible. So is a bad so-called realistic novel. (And it is usually pretentious into the bargain which is insufferable.) But a good romantic novel is a heart-warming thing which strikes a responsive chord in those who are happy and offers a certain lifting of the spirits to those who are not.

In 1950 she published her autobiography, We Followed Our Stars. In 2008 it was re-issued, re-edited and expanded as Safe Passage. [2]

She ghost-wrote Tito Gobbi's autobiography, My Life. [8]

She was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1956 when she was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the BBC Television Theatre.[ citation needed ]


In January 2017 Sunderland Council erected a blue plaque commemorating the sisters on the site of their childhood home at 37 Croft Avenue, Sunderland. [1] [9]

In 2021, investigative journalist Isabel Vincent published Two Against Hitler: The True Story of Two Courageous Sisters, a Rescue Mission in the Third Reich, and Opera, about the Cook sisters. [10] [11] In 2017 producer Donald Rosenfeld discussed plans to make a film of the sisters' humanitarian work and his efforts to unseal CIA files on their activities. [12] [13] The film was to be based on the research by Vincent.

An episode of the documentary series Mysteries of the Museum was about the sisters' activities in rescuing Jews from Nazi Germany.[ citation needed ]


Burchell's works include: [5]

As Mary Burchell

Single novels

  • Wife to Christopher, 1936
  • Except my Love, 1937
  • Nobody Asked Me, 1937
  • But Not For Me, 1938
  • Other Lips Have Loved You (later republished as Two Loves Have I), 1938
  • With all my Worldly goods, 1938
  • Yet Love Remains, 1938
  • After Office Hours, 1939
  • Little Sister, 1939
  • One of the Family, 1939
  • Such is Love, 1939
  • I'll Go With You, 1940
  • Pay Me Tomorrow, 1940
  • Yours With Love, 1940
  • Accompanied by his Wife, 1941
  • Always Yours, 1941
  • Just a Nice Girl, 1941
  • Strangers May Marry, 1941
  • Love Made the Choice, 1942
  • Thine Is My Heart, 1942
  • Where Shall I Wander? (later republished as Bargain Wife), 1942
  • Dare I Be Happy?, 1943
  • My Old Love Came, 1943
  • Dearly Beloved, 1944
  • Take Me with You, 1944
  • Thanks to Elizabeth, 1944
  • Away Went Love, 1945
  • Meant for Each Other, 1945
  • Find Out the Way, 1946
  • First Love-Last Love, 1946
  • Wife by Arrangement, 1946
  • Not Without You, 1947
  • Under Joint Management, 1947
  • Ward of Lucifer, 1947
  • If You Care, 1948
  • The Brave in Heart 1948
  • Then Come Kiss Me, 1948
  • Choose Which You Will, 1949
  • I Will Love You Still, 1949
  • If This Were All, 1949
  • Wish on the Moon, 1949
  • A Letter for Don, 1950
  • At First Sight, 1950
  • Love Him or Leave Him, 1950
  • Here I Belong, 1951
  • Mine for a Day, 1951
  • Tell Me My Fortune, 1951
  • Over the Blue Mountains, 1952
  • Stolen Heart, 1952
  • Sweet Adventure, 1952
  • A Ring on Her Finger, 1953
  • No Real Relation, 1953
  • The Heart Cannot Forget, 1953
  • The Heart Must Choose 1953
  • Meet Me Again (later republished as Nurse Allison's Trust), 1954
  • Under the Stars of Paris, 1954
  • When Love's Beginning, 1954
  • The Prettiest Girl, 1955
  • Yours to Command, 1955
  • For Ever and Ever, 1956
  • Loving is Giving, 1956
  • On the Air, 1956
  • To Journey Together, 1956
  • And Falsely Pledge My Love, 1957
  • It's Rumoured in the Village, 1957
  • Joanna at the Grange, 1957
  • Love is my Reason, 1957
  • Loyal in All (later republished as Nurse Marika, Loyal in All, 1957
  • Dear Sir 1958
  • Dear Trustee, 1958
  • Hospital Corridors, 1958
  • The Girl in the Blue Dress, 1958
  • Honey, 1959
  • Star Quality (later republished as Surgeon of Distinction), 1959
  • Across the Counter, 1960
  • Choose the One You'll Marry, 1960
  • Corner House, 1960
  • Paris-and my love, 1960
  • My Sister Celia, 1961
  • Reluctant Relation, 1961
  • The Wedding Dress, 1961
  • House of Conflict, 1962
  • Inherit My Heart, 1962
  • Dangerous Loving, 1963
  • Sweet Meadows, 1963
  • Do Not Go, My Love, 1964/01
  • The Strange Quest of Anne Weston (later republished as The Strange Quest of Nurse Anne), 1964
  • Girl With a Challenge, 1965
  • Her Sister's Children, 1965
  • The Other Linding Girl, 1966
  • Cinderella After Midnight, 1967
  • The Marshall Family, 1967
  • Though Worlds Apart, 1967
  • Missing from Home, 1968
  • A Home for Joy, 1969
  • The Rosewood Box, 1970
  • Call and I'll Come, 1970
  • Second Marriage, 1971
  • One Man's Heart 1971

The Warrender Saga

  1. A Song Begins, 1965 (Otello)
  2. The Broken Wing (later republished as Damaged Angel), 1966 (excerpts Così fan tutte, Semiramide, Norma (opera))
  3. When Love is Blind, 1967 (Beethoven's 3rd Concerto)
  4. The Curtain Rises, 1969 (The Magic Flute)
  5. Child of Music, 1971
  6. Music of the Heart, 1972
  7. Unbidden Melody, 1973 (Eugene Onegin)
  8. Song Cycle, 1974
  9. Remembered Serenade, 1975 (L'amore dei tre re)
  10. Elusive Harmony, 1976 (Carmen, Otello, André Chénier)
  11. Nightingales, 1980 (Mendolssohn's Elijah)
  12. Masquerade with Music, 1982 (I Pagliacci))
  13. On Wings of Song, 1985 (Alceste, Suor Angelica)

Omnibus collections

  • 3 Great Novels: Me With You; Choose Which You Will; Meant for Each Other (1975)
  • 3 Great Novels: The Heart Cannot Forget; Ward of Lucifer; A Home for Joy
  • 3 Great Novels: The Other Linding Girl; Girl with a Challenge; My Sister Celia
  • It's Rumored in the Village / Except My Love / Strangers May Marry (1983)

Anthologies in collaboration

As Ida Cook


References and sources

  1. 1 2 3 "The opera-loving sisters who 'stumbled' into heroism". BBC News . 28 January 2017. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Talbot, Margaret (2019-09-03). "Ida and Louise Cook, Two Unusual Heroines of the Second World War". The New Yorker. ISSN   0028-792X . Retrieved 2019-09-03.
  3. Mary Burchell at Yad Vashem site.
  4. "Rescue mission". The Telegraph. 14 July 2007.
  5. 1 2 Mary Burchell in Fantastic Fiction , retrieved 2008-09-08
  6. "Britons honoured for holocaust heroism". The Telegraph. 9 March 2010. Archived from the original on 9 March 2010. Retrieved 9 March 2010.
  7. Romantic Novelists' Association's Story, archived from the original on 2012-10-22, retrieved 2013-09-03
  8. Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center. "Entry for Gobbi, Tito (1915-1984)" . Retrieved 28 January 2017.
  9. "Ida Cook and Louise Cook blue plaque". Open Plaques . Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  10. Alberge, Dalya (2017-11-05). "Spy mystery of British sisters who helped Jewish refugees flee the Nazis". The Observer. ISSN   0029-7712 . Retrieved 2020-03-14.
  11. "Two Against Hitler by Isabel Vincent". Retrieved 2021-07-07.
  12. Alberge, Dalya (5 November 2017). "Spy mystery of British sisters who helped Jewish refugees flee the Nazis". The Guardian . Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  13. "Donald recreates history through power of films". Jewish Telegraph . Retrieved 5 November 2018.

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