Mary Stewart is the preeminent writer of the romantic thriller. She raised the standard of the genre partly by innovations in character, moving beyond the convention of the helpless heroine that dominated romantic fiction in the mid-1950’s; she created charming, intelligent, capable young women with whom the reader could identify. She also discarded the convention of the hero’s casual and uncaring attitude toward violence. Her heroines and heroes are ordinary people, not especially endowed with courage or heroism, who are thrust into dangerous and challenging situations in which they must make choices. Other qualities of her work that have made her one of the best-selling novelists in the world include an elegant and graceful style and the use of attractive, authentic settings, usually in Europe.