My newest novel, Textbook Romance, debuted on Pink Petal Book's website on June 7th, where it happens to be 15% off in advance of wide release (coming soon)!
Chase after love? As a single mother, Professor Liberty Sullivan knows better. Between her flighty mother and a disastrous history with men, she's pretty much soured on the whole concept of romance. Personal freedom and self-reliance are her new guiding mantras. Raising her son and being a career star are the most important things now.
Then she meets Seth.
An ex-cop who’s making a new life for himself and his daughter, Seth Webster has every reason to play it safe. Then he meets Liberty. Prickly about love, following some crazy anti-romance curriculum, she still makes Seth's heart pound. And a lifetime of cop instinct tells him he's about to teach Liberty that this romance will be anything but by the book.
Libby Sullivan hated The Scarlet Letter section of the “Ideology of Literature” course she taught.
Carefully keeping her intellectual mask in place, she used the last bit of class time for free discussion and reactions to the book. It was her job to push her students to consider the text in new ways, despite the twinge she felt in the vicinity of her heart. It’s just a book, she told herself, even though she didn’t really believe it.
“I thought it was really sad,” a junior in the back reflected. “No one really got a happy ending, though I guess the author tried a bit at the end, since the little girl grew up okay. The two main characters loved each other, but that still didn’t seem to count for them. They just ended up buried close to each other; that’s all.”
Libby heard the same complaint every year.
“In the end, Hester Prynne is redeemed not by love but by expressing her penance through a life of charity work, modesty and strong independence. Her estranged husband dies, twisted by his hate; her lover, Reverend Dimmesdale, dies of guilt after giving too little too late to his illegitimate daughter, Pearl, who is irrevocably alienated from the community where she was born due to her parents’ actions. But Hester finds some peace through reclaiming her quiet dignity despite her badge of shame.” The themes of sin and redemption, and propriety over personal freedom, were always things Libby noticed students tended to under-value in the book. Their belief that love is worth any price, no matter who got hurt, usually got in the way. “Hester believed that her demonstration of restraint, of having learned her lessons, would redeem her, and I believe that’s as happy as the ending could be, considering the attitudes on wives committing adultery of the time.”
“It’s not like her old husband even loved her,” another pretty student complained. “I don’t see why she had to live like a nun to show she was sorry for falling in love. I mean, like, it’s only natural, what she did.”
Only natural, but leading to so much pain, Libby added silently. They’re young, she reminded herself. Unfortunately, most of them will learn differently soon enough.
“But isn’t the point of the book that Hester, Pearl, and Dimmesdale would’ve all been better off without the puritanical dedication the town had to conventions?” A deep male voice from the front said. “I figure
’s saying it’s
not that she and Dimmesdale were wrong for being in love, but that the
community was wrong for standing in their way. That love, that family bond, has
a sanctity that shouldn’t be touched by rumors or prudes.” Hawthorne
The student, Seth, was a tall, lanky mature student she usually welcomed answers from. Today, however, she would have appreciated his silence more. He was a little too handsome and romantic notions from someone who looked like him, though they might have thrilled her when she was a junior herself, now sounded as appealing to her as a snake offering an apple.
“But isn’t it possible that they all would’ve been better off if Dimmesdale and Hester had never given into passion, since he wasn’t prepared to follow through on it? Reproduction is a natural result, yes, but the sex itself was a choice they made, right? Hester had no other option but to give birth after the deed was done, which left her rather compromised, so perhaps she and Dimmesdale should have controlled themselves,” she said, carefully keeping her voice bland. “It was Dimmesdale’s guilt and weakness involved in that choice, as much as the town’s shaming, that lead to their being apart.”
“True, I guess,” Seth conceded. “He was no hero, and a terrible father. But, if he had controlled his instincts better, Hester wouldn’t have had
at all, so I suppose she’d think it was worth it in the long run.” Pearl
“But is that supported by the text?” Libby pressed. “For
embodiment of her parents’ sin, isn’t she? Eventually, the child can’t even
recognize her mother without that badge of shame, showing how the so-called
‘love affair’ cast a pall over their lives. Should we necessarily assume that
Hester considered it all worth it because she had a daughter to raise in such
“But, for a parent, doesn’t a child make everything worth it, in the end?” Seth was pressing back, with a flame in his eyes that announced his own personal passion for what he was saying.
“That’s a rather modern way of viewing it,” Libby said weakly, but couldn’t deny the softening she felt at his reasoning. Wispy images passed, fleetingly, through her mind; a toddler smearing cake on his face, a little boy clinging to her during a scary part in a movie, a big smile with gaps left by lost teeth… “But, yes,” she said, “it’s a possible reading.”
Grateful to find the time had run out, she reminded the class they’d be moving on to Madame Bovary after the upcoming midterm exam and wrapped up the session. She pushed her hair back off her forehead, realizing that, despite her exhaustion, it would be hours still before she could sleep.But, at least they were finished with The Scarlet Letter unit.
Join us back here on June 22 for the official grand release celebration!