Here at BookPage we are loving debut romance novelist Nina Rowan and her new book A Study in Seduction. If you are a romance enthusiast with a little bit of closet nerd inside of you, then this novel is the perfect fit for you.
Rowan expertly casts secretive mathematician Lydia Kellaway in the role of the leading lady, who may have met her match in complicated nobleman Alexander Hall. In our recent Q&A, Nina Rowan had much to say about how she created such a character and her real life inspiration for Lydia Kellaway:
Lydia Kellaway is an advanced mathematician, yet you admit that you are terrified of math. How did you manage to write about advanced mathematical concepts so convincingly?
I sought help. Lots and lots of help. I did a great deal of academic research and vetted the details with mathematicians. One of the most interesting things I discovered is how drastically the study of mathematics has changed since the Victorian era. Also, my husband is a research scientist whose brain somehow comprehends things like advanced calculus and flow density, so I forced him to
. . . er, I mean, he graciously volunteered to review all of Lydia’s calculations and the mathematicians’ discourse.
Tell us about Sofia Kovalevskaya, your inspiration for Lydia’s character. How did you discover her in your research?
I’ve always been interested in Russian history, and I knew I wanted this book to be set during the Crimean War because of the story possibilities and the conflict between Great Britain and Russia. One day I was just surfing the internet, looking up information about both 19th century Russia and Victorian women. Aside from Her Majesty, I found the histories of women writers, poets, travelers, scientists, nurses and artists. I was fascinated by Sofia Kovalevskaya, a Russian woman who had an early talent for mathematics and eventually sought a university education at a time when many such doors were closed to women. Sofia persisted and eventually became the first woman in Europe to earn a doctorate summa cum laude and a full university professorship. She unfortunately died at the age of 41 of pneumonia, but her ground-breaking work paved the way for future discoveries in mathematics.
Judging by this week's Monday Contest, readers are interested in debut novels. (We've got 381 entries and counting—keep 'em coming!) If you like debuts, here are five new features I think you'll be interested in.
We liked five of the books from our debut novel roundup so much that we got in touch with the authors.
Read web-exclusive interviews with:
• Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
• Enid Shomer, author of The Twelve Rooms of the Nile
• David R. Gillham, author of City of Women
• Carol Rifka Brunt, author of Tell the Wolves I'm Home
• Liza Klaussmann, author of Tigers in Red Weather
The authors all tell us a little bit about how they came to publish first novels. I especially like to read about their various inspirations (from an over-the-top halftime show at a Dallas Cowboys game to a beloved English teacher).
Which book will you read first?
Loved Fifty Shades of Grey and looking for what to read next? Curious about the popularity of erotic romance? Interested in why authors choose to self-publish versus publish with a traditional publisher? Ever wondered how romance novelists keep the romantic chemistry between their characters interesting?
For answers to these questions and more, read our interview with Sylvia Day, author of Bared to You—the newest sensation in erotic romance. Day (an established romance novelist) self-published her novel in April, but the Penguin Group scooped up the rights soon after. The print version of the book went on sale this week.
Bared to You tells the story of Eva, a young woman making her way in New York City, and Gideon, the billionaire entrepreneur who pursues her. Though both characters have painful pasts and are wary of starting a new relationship, their magnetic attraction is undeniable—and their love scenes are scorchers. Read more about this novel on BookPage.com.
Will you check out Bared to You? Have you jumped on the Fifty Shades bandwagon? What would you recommend to readers who loved that book?
Robert Goolrick, the author of the hugely successful A Reliable Wife, dropped by the BookPage office a couple of months ago to talk about his new novel, Heading Out to Wonderful. The interview appears in our June issue, and I am so excited that readers can finally get their hands on this book! (It's on sale today.)
You can read my full interview with Goolrick here; in it, he talks about what he's trying to say with his work; how his life changed after the success of A Reliable Wife; and why he decided to write a novel that's based entirely on a true story.
The premise of Heading Out to Wonderful is fairly simple: A stranger comes to a small Southern town in 1948 and changes its residents irrevocably. Since this is a Robert Goolrick novel, though, you know you're in for more than just a simple story. The writing is pristine and the descriptions beg to be re-read, read out loud and underlined. The story includes love, violence, heartbreak and miracles, and the setting will come alive in your mind.
In person, Goolrick was just as articulate as he is on the page. There were so many quotes that I couldn't fit in the print interview. Here's one "outtake" from our conversation:
I think that writers do have an essential truth they’re trying to get across in their work. There is a theme to writers’ works, and I think that you finish a book and you look at it and you think, 'well that’s not quite exactly what I want to say.' So you write another book and you hope that the second book or the third book comes closer to saying what you wanted to say in the first place—which is usually, in most writers' cases, something very simple. It’s a very simple thought that you build these elaborate structures around to try to indicate what you’re trying to say. And in my case, I think it’s something about the nature of several things:
It’s something about the nature of goodness and kindness. And I think it’s also something about the nature of the innocence of childhood and how easily lost that is.
I’ve said this before, but to me childhood is the most dangerous place of all and very few people escape unscarred. I think that my work has to do with the ramifications of that and the result of a childhood in which innocence was lost too soon.
It’s certainly true of Heading Out to Wonderful. And in A Reliable Wife it’s the story of three people, each of whom was abused as a child in one way or another: physically, emotionally, sexually. And how they try to deal with that as an adult and how they try desperately to get back to the innocence they lost as children.
One note: Whereas I do think that Heading Out to Wonderful will appeal to fans of A Reliable Wife, I also know that some readers found Goolrick's debut novel to be a bit sensational. (That sort of thing appeals to me, personally, but I can see how some readers might have found the story—hidden identities; poisoning plots, etc.—over the top.) Heading Out to Wonderful has a more realistic feel. There's still passion, but it feels less pulpy. In any case: Give this novel a try. And recommend it to your book club.
We had a special treat at the BookPage office this week: YA authors Jen Calonita (author of Belles), Elizabeth Eulberg (author of Take a Bow) and Jackson Pearce (author of Purity) dropped by to say hello!
The authors were so much fun to talk to (as you can tell from the video!) and I am excited about reading all three of their novels. Here are quick plot descriptions:
Belles is about a teen girl who is forced out of her comfort zone when she moves in with preppy relatives. Take a Bow takes place at an elite performing arts high school (we interviewed Eulberg about it for Children's Corner!). Purity is about a teen girl who struggles with honoring her mother’s dying wishes while still remaining true to herself (we interviewed Pearce about her "Little Red Riding Hood" re-telling a couple of years ago).
Just for fun, I'll ask you a few of the questions I asked the authors: What book were you obsessed with when you were a teen? If you could be friends with any book character . . . who would it be?
My answers are a) A Ring of Endless Light and b) Hermione Granger. Duh!
I've mentioned before how much I enjoy Laura Lippman's smart thrillers, so any book that she recommends with a blurb is naturally going to catch my eye. Even better when that book is delivered to BookPage inside an over-sized milk carton (read this blog post to see what I mean).
I stated reading Alison Gaylin's And She Was with high expectations, and I was not disappointed. First of all, the thriller has an interesting hook: Missing persons investigator Brenna Spector has Hyperthymestic Syndrome, a rare, real-life condition that causes a person to have a perfect autobiographical memory. In other words: She can remember every moment from her life.
For example, you probably went to the dentist, oh, 10 years ago. Do you remember exactly what the receptionist said to you, exactly what the waiting room sounded and smelled like, exactly what you wore? Well, Brenna can remember details like that from her life, no matter how insignificant, important or tragic. It's a helpful quality for an investigator, but also a hindrance. Would you really like to have every memory from your life automatically playing on loop in your mind?
Brenna's sister disappeared when she was a child, and that's what triggered the disorder to kick in. As an adult, she is called to investigate the disappearance of a woman named Carol, and that case is connected with the disappearance of another young girl that happened years before, and to Brenna's past.
I interviewed Gaylin for BookPage.com and asked her whether a perfect memory would be a blessing or a curse. Here's what she said:
Having a pretty good memory myself, my first response was, “That must be awful!” I honestly think that the ability to forget—to let the past fade into soft focus and recede in your mind—is one of the great tools of survival. How can you forgive and forget if you can’t forget? How can you move on at all, if the past is just as clear and visceral as the present? How can you truly be with the people around you, if your mind is full of everyone who is no longer in your life?
Our February Mystery of the Month, Defending Jacob by William Landay, taps into a parent's worst nightmare. No -- worse.
Assistant D.A. Andy Barber's son seems the most likely suspect for a neighbor's brutal murder. Andy finds himself desperately defending his son, holding his family together and keeping at bay that tiny nagging doubt. Writes Whodunit columnist Bruce Tierney, "Defending Jacob is one of the most disturbing books of the year, and soon to be one of the most talked-about."
Check out an excerpt from Chapter 1, when Andy is being questioned by the prosecuting attorney:
In the grand jury room that morning, the jurors were in a sullen, defeated mood. They sat, thirty-odd men and women who had not been clever enough to find a way out of serving, all crammed into those school chairs with a teardrop-shaped desk for a chair-arm. They understood their jobs well enough by now. Grand juries serve for months, and they figure out pretty quickly what the gig is all about: accuse, point your finger, name the wicked one.
A grand jury proceeding is not a trial. There is no judge in the room and no defense lawyer. The prosecutor runs the show. It is an investigation and in theory a check on the prosecutor’s power, since the grand jury decides whether the prosecutor has enough evidence to haul a suspect into court for trial. If there is enough evidence, the grand jury grants the prosecutor an indictment, his ticket to Superior Court. If not, they return a “no bill” and the case is over before it begins. In practice, “no bill”s are rare. Most grand juries indict. Why not? They only see one side of the case.
But in this case, I suspect the jurors knew Logiudice did not have a case. Not today. The truth was not going to be found, not with evidence this stale and tainted, not after everything that had happened. It had been over a year already — over twelve months since the body of a fourteen-year-old boy was found in the woods with three stab wounds arranged in a line across the chest as if he’d been forked with a trident. But it was not the time, so much. It was everything else. Too late, and the grand jury knew it.
I knew it, too.
Only Logiudice was undeterred. He pursed his lips in that odd way of his. He reviewed his notes on a yellow legal pad, considered his next question. He was doing just what I’d taught him. The voice in his head was mine: Never mind how weak your case is. Stick to the system. Play the game the same way it’s been played the last 500-odd years, use the same gutter tactic that has always governed cross-examination — lure, trap, f*ck.
Does it sound like your type of thriller?
Teresa Medeiros' The Pleasure of Your Kiss is our January Top Pick in Romance. It heats up the desert with the tale of a notorious adventurer sent to rescue his brother's fiancée—who happens to be his first love from long ago—from a sultan's harem.
Naturally, it's spicy, with lots of sun-kissed skin and burning glances.
Enjoy an excerpt from The Pleasure of Your Kiss:
He had come for her, Clarinda thought, her treacherous heart leaping with hope as she met Ashton Burke's gaze for the first time in nearly ten years.
In those dark hours after he had first left her behind while he went off to chase his dreams, her spiteful imagination had supplied her with hours of entertainment by conjuring up countless scenarios during which they might once again come face to face.
There was the one where she alighted from a gilded carriage drawn by six snowy white horses only to find his wasted figure huddled in the gutter outside her father's Mayfair town house. Favoring him with a pitying smile, she would pluck a farthing from her purse and toss it to him before blithely stepping over his rag-wrapped form and proceeding into the house. (If she were in a particularly mean-spirited mood, it would be snowing outside and she would accidentally stomp on his fingers as she swept past him.)
Those vengeful fantasies had been the product of a young girl's bruised heart, hardly befitting the mature woman Clarinda had become. A woman who had spent years mastering her more petty emotions.
Which didn't explain the malicious twinge of satisfaction she felt as she came face to face with Ashton Burke while she was cradled in the muscular arms of a devastatingly handsome Moroccan sultan and wearing little more than an enticing collection of veils. Even her bountiful imagination hadn't been able to whip up such an unlikely—or delicious—scenario.
As their gazes locked in the shadows beneath the brim of his hat, Ash's familiar gold-flecked eyes narrowed without betraying so much as a trace of regret or yearning. On the contrary, he looked more inclined to step over her body as she lay gasping her last in some filthy gutter. Or to give her the cut direct in a crowded ballroom before a throng of gawking onlookers.
She had to blink more than once to dispel the image of the beautiful boy she remembered from her youth. The jaded stranger who stood before her now was every inch a man. A man who looked as if he'd be more at home in a seedy saloon than an elegant salon. Wind, sand, and time had polished away all traces of youth and vulnerability, leaving him lean and hard and infinitely more dangerous than the boy who had walked out of her life all those years ago. Flecks of sand clung to his sun-baked skin, catching like powdered gold dust in the rakish hint of beard stubble shadowing his jaw and upper lip.
Medeiros certainly has a knack for creating sizzling moments . . . but as proven by our 7 questions interview, she also has a great sense of humor! We chatted about hot guys, some of her favorite characters from The Lord of the Rings movies and much more!
What is your favorite setting for a historical romance?
Don't you love when an author's backstory is just as interesting as his or her fantastic new book? Take Taylor Stevens, for example, whose second Vanessa Michael Munroe novel, The Innocent, is featured in our January Whodunit column.
Self-employed spy Munroe has the difficult task of infiltrating a religious cult called "The Chosen" in order to rescue her best friend's kidnapped daughter. Sounds intense, right?
It just so happens that Stevens was born and raised in a very similar cult, the Children of God. Her education stopped at age 12, she hopped from country to country and lived (as she describes on her website) as a "worker bee child in a communal apocalyptic cult."
So before you check out The Innocent, read what Stevens had to say about the Children of God in our 7 questions interview. (And if you haven't read her first book, The Informationist, you should read that, too.)
Is Vanessa Michael Munroe your type of heroine? And does knowing an author's cool backstory entice you to read their book?
The final installment in Tom Rob Smith's Child 44 trilogy comes out this Thursday, January 5!
The first book, Child 44, introduced readers to Leo Demidov, Soviet war hero and rising star within Stalin's State Security force, who must stop a serial killer the State refuses to admit exists. Smith's debut made the longlist for the Man Booker, and it certainly caught our attention -- read our interview with Smith about Child 44.
Next up was The Secret Speech, which finds Demidov once again fighting a dark past. Khrushchev has come to power and promises major change in post-Stalin Soviet Russia, and a mass release of prisoners unearths feelings of revenge toward Demidov.
AND check out the trailer from Grand Central Publishing:
Will you be picking up a copy of Smith's finale?