I Am What I Read…And What I Read Is Me

We all know that ultimately a novel is a collaboration between author and reader. An author (usually) writes the book that he/she would want to read, and then each reader synthesizes the words, absorbing them through the filter of his or her own experiences, tastes, background and mores, with the end result being a unique reading experience. No two readers will ever experience a story in exactly the same way. Because of that, it always intrigues me to read negative reviews of a book I have loved, or vice versa. This was especially true today, when I read some of the low-rated reviews of Beth Kery’s Because You Are Mine, an erotic romance that I just finished and loved. Foremost among the criticisms was that it is in many ways a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. There are similarities…we have Ian, the dominant alpha billionaire hero with a troubled past and an affinity for BDSM who needs to punish and control Francesca, the beautiful, naturally submissive heroine. Ian, like Christian Grey, professes that he can offer sexual pleasure but not love or romance. Furthermore, a few of the scenes, set-ups and secondary characters in Because You Are Mine are deeply evocative of Fifty. While these similarities made a negative impression on some readers, for me it was just the opposite. (And we can’t forget: Fifty itself was the retelling of another tale.) Far from being a hindrance, I loved seeing how Kery would take these similarities and make the story her own, and she did not disappoint. The caliber of her writing, the crafting of her characters and her beautiful language make Because You Are Mine very compelling fiction–erotic writing at its finest. Writing in third person (my preference because it allows an author to tell a broader, richer story), Kery took me on an emotional journey with Ian and Francesca. One of my favorite elements of the novel is the fact that, years prior to their first meeting, Francesca, an artist, had seen Ian from the rear and been moved enough to capture his desolation on canvas:

“She’d painted him four years ago. That’s what he was telling her—that he knew she’d observed him walking the dark, lonely streets in the dead of the night while the rest of the world slumbered, warm and content in their beds. Francesca hadn’t realized the identity of her inspiration at the time, nor had he probably known he was being observed until he saw the painting, but there could be no doubt of it. Ian Noble was the cat who walked by himself. And he’d wanted her to know it.”

That’s a beautiful scene, one that speaks to the heart of the connection between these two characters. When it comes to erotic romance, Beth Kery is at the top of her game and the top of my list.

There were also a few things about this book that I loved on a personal note, e.g. when Ian takes Francesca to Paris, they stay at the Hotel George V. Apparently, it’s the hotel of choice for fictional billionaires. (I have it on good authority that Heaven in the Dark ‘s David Swift always stays there.)  Also, as the book is set largely in Chicago, the protagonists visited many of my favorite spots. Dinner at Trump’s hotel? Yes, thanks.

In summary, the person that I am–my tastes, my experiences–had a fulfilling journey with these characters. For me, Because You Are Mine was a work of beautiful, nuanced writing, and each turn of the page was time well-spent.

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A HEAVENly Casserole for Cheese and Artichoke Lovers

My novel, Heaven in the Dark, is set in Milan. When you read it–as hopefully you will when it comes out on Oct. 20–you’ll find that good food is important to, and relished by, the characters. It is Italy, after all! While most foods described in the book are authentic to the region, I did take advantage of a dinner party scene to have the characters enjoy one of my all-time favorite recipes, savory bread pudding with artichokes and two cheeses. I highly recommend going the extra mile and using Parmigiano Reggiano–there really is no substitute for its sublime flavor. I like to serve this rich, decadent casserole around the holidays, but cheese lovers will crave it all year. David Swift loves it! Here’s the recipe, courtesy of the Vegetarian Times:

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Buon Appetito!