I’m going to keep this brief, but I wanted to write a bit about The Golden Door Duet. Book One, La Bellezza, is available now; Book Two, Il Bestione, is up for preorder now, and goes live this coming Saturday.
It’s a historical romance duet set in Sicily and New York at the dawn of the 20th century, focusing on two Sicilian immigrants, a sister and brother, as they begin a new life in the United States. They get a very rough start, and the tones of the books are noticeably different from each other (in the ways their titles suggest), but each book, and the duet as a whole, is a story about overcoming trauma and hardship and finding happiness and purpose—and true, abiding love—despite those traumas and hardships.
The titles are Italian, and translate to The Beauty and The Beast, respectively, but this isn’t a retelling of the fairy tale. Or … it sort of is, which is what I want to talk about.
Within the narrative, the reasons Caterina and Paolo come to be known as The Beauty and The Beast have little to do with the fairy tale, but as the narrative progresses, Paolo, the male lead of Il Bestione, becomes fairly beastly, and his story, with his female lead Mirabella, does, in fact, take on some aspects of the Beast and Belle. Again, I didn’t set out to retell the fairy tale, or choose Mirabella’s name with that in mind, and it isn’t really a retelling. But the story seemed to organically grow associations as it developed.
One literary association I totally did intend is quite a bit more obscure, I think, and deserves some context. I don’t want to give too much of it away before Il Bestione is out, but maybe just tune your eyes to expect it.
Most of you know I’m an English professor by day. The primary focuses of my teaching are English education (teaching students to be middle and high school English teachers) and pop culture (mainly teaching genre lit—science fiction, fantasy, and romance). But the main specialization of my PhD is American literature, specifically early-20th century American lit. I wrote my dissertation on transgressive writing in the works of Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, Zora Neale Hurston, and Nella Larsen.
One of my very favorite novels of all time is The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton. If you’ve read it, you will probably catch the flavor of that story in certain aspects of Il Bestione, and you will no doubt recognize a secondary (more like tertiary) character who is quite obviously inspired by Lily Bart, the protagonist of The House of Mirth. I named the character so that if you’ve heard of Lily Bart, you won’t miss the reference.
Though both novels of this duet have some challenging content that was painful to write—La Bellezza most of all—these stories were an absolute joy to create. I ADORE writing historical romance, probably more than anything else I write. I love bringing these past worlds to vivid life, and discovering a way to inject one of my life’s great reading joys into Il Bestione was a particular treat.
I’ve heard from quite a few readers this week that La Bellezza is striking a chord, and I’m always thrilled (and relieved) to know readers enjoy my stories, and especially when a story is particularly meaningful for them. I love Cati and Dario fiercely. But I think maybe I love Paolo and Mirabella just a tiny bit more (don’t tell). Paolo is dark and damaged, and Mirabella is fiery and fierce, and their chemistry practically set my laptop on fire.
I’ve also mentioned that The Golden Door Duet is the origin story for the Romano family of Long Island, one of the Pagano Brothers’ allies. If you’ve read Things Impossible (the finale of The Pagano Brothers), and La Bellezza, you no doubt recognize the connection. But Il Bestione is the true origin story of the Romano family as Mafiosi. You don’t need to have read the Pagano Brothers to fully embrace and enjoy The Golden Door Duet; they take place more than a hundred years apart. It’s just a little bonus feature.
And it’s something else I didn’t intend until I was already deep in the writing. I actually went back and changed a couple surnames when I saw what this little immigrant story could be.
Okay! If historical romance is your jam (or you just like whatever I write), La Bellezza is currently available, and Il Bestione goes live on Saturday!
I hope you’re safe and well.