Essie Summers was born in Christchurch in 1912, and wanted to be a writer from a young age.
She had her first poem published when she was 18, but always harboured a burning desire to be a novelist.
She persisted over many years and sold her first romance novel to Mills and Boon in 1956 at the age of 44.
Essie went on to publish 55 romance novels with 19 million copies sold in more than 100 countries, and inspired many other New Zealand writers.
Her romances had New Zealand settings, and are credited with putting this country on the map for millions of readers.
With titles including Daughter of the Misty Gorges and High Country Governess, her key ingredients were feisty and intelligent characters, romance – but not of a mushy kind – and beautiful Kiwi settings.
It was a winning formula and she was known as New Zealand’s reigning queen of romance until her death at the age of 86.
She was married to William Flett, and the couple had two children, William and Elizabeth. She died in 1998 after a long and successful career.