I was reading Christine Pullein-Thompson's The Impossible Horse recently, which I hadn't read in quite a while: mainly because it wasn't a book I remembered with much affection. However, on re-reading it I enjoyed it much more, and wondered why this was.
When I started senior school at the age of 11, all my friends loved ponies and that was what we talked about. However, when we came back for the second year (what is now year 8), it was as though someone had waved a magic wand. Only a few of us still wanted to obsess about ponies: with all the others it was boys, boys, boys. I was completely horrified by this: there were a few (a very few) boys at the stables but they were generally very wet and tended to cry when they fell off, which I regarded with contempt. We were generally a very female family, and I didn't meet boys really much at all: school was all girls. So, I decided firmly that I was going to stick with ponies, and so I did, for years (you will be able to tell, from the fact that I am married, that my resolution did eventually give out).
But this, I think, is why I didn't like The Impossible Horse. It wasn't my dream. To have a pony was; a boyfriend would have petrified me. I wonder if this was why CPT wrote this book under a pseudonym - Christine Keir - as it was aimed for a very different market.
I read Pony Club Camp, with its romance between Noel and Henry when I was much older, and I loved it, mainly because it was so very lightly drawn. Heartland is much more overt: the relationship between the heroine and her boyfriend is right there at the heart of the books, but then American pony books were always much more upfront about romance, even in the 1950s.
I've been trying to remember if there's even the merest hint of romance in the Jill books. Certainly as far as Jill and Ann are concerned there isn't. In fact, the books are strangely short on the portrayal of normal relationships. It's like the Archers in a way - there are so many characters who simply don't seem to appear. How about Mrs Cholly-Sawcutt? And Mr Darcy? And Mr Derry? Jill's father of course was killed off before the books started.
The only marriage I can think of where both partners appear is that of Martin's parents.
The vast majority of women in the book appear without their husbands, even if they do presumably have them, or are spinsters.
But the Jill books are undoubtedly the most popular section on my website - by really quite a long way, so maybe this complete absence of romance; the safety of predictable relationships; is what most children actually want.