Penny Jordan Nov. 24, 1946 -- Dec. 31, 2011 British Novelist Sold More Than 100 Million Romances since '80S

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Penny Jordan, a British romance novelist whose tales of beguiling women falling breathlessly in love with handsome sheiks, Sicilian billionaires and Russian oligarchs sold more than 100 million copies worldwide, died Dec. 31 at a hospital in Cheshire, England. She was 65.

She had cancer, said Jenny Haddon, treasurer of the Romantic Novelists' Association.

Before her paperback books became irresistible fare for readers in more than 100 countries, Jordan worked as a secretary in a community bank. In the late 1970s, she entered a romance-writing contest. She lost but was soon discovered by an agent seeking fresh talent.

Beginning with "Falcon's Prey," published in 1981, Ms. Jordan, whose real name was Penny Halsall, wrote more than 200 books that were translated into dozens of languages. At times, she was so prolific that she churned out a new novel every two months, including "Captive at the Sicilian Billionaire's Command," "A Stormy Spanish Summer" and "One Night With the Sheikh."

She was a "brilliant story-teller," Ms. Haddon wrote in an email to The Washington Post, "at the forefront of the movement to have heroines of romantic fiction who were self-determining, independent women with careers."

A typical heroine of Ms. Jordan's stories longed after statuesque men with impenetrable hearts and luxuriant hair. The women, though ravishing and strong-minded, typically had egos as fragile as hibiscus petals and yearned for the satisfaction that came with transforming a steely-eyed hero into a gentle yet passionate lover.

Although her books brimmed with sensuality, Ms. …