If you’ve followed my writing/reviews/blog for any length of time, there are a few things you may have picked up about me and my preferred reading.
I love Paris. I love books set during WWI, WWII, and the interwar years. I love stories with a magical element. And I certainly like an interesting twist.
So it should come as no surprise to anyone that I’ve really enjoyed M.J. Rose’s Daughters of La Lune series. And if you like any or all of the aforementioned storytelling elements, then chances are you’ll like these books, too.
The Library of Light and Shadow, the third book in the series (though really, each one can easily be read alone) releases this week, and I’ve been so intrigued by all of them that I thought I’d sit down with the author herself and dig into their backstory a little. I caught up with Rose last week by phone.
All three Daughters of La Lune titles deal with magick — a term which refers to both the magical qualities the female family members possess and the undercurrent of Spiritualism that exists in Paris at the time. Rose does a masterful job of weaving truth and fiction together in these two elements, especially in The Library of Light and Shadow and The Secret Language of Stones.
“So many of the aspects of the Paris Occult that I use in both books were real. The Spiritualist bookshop, the man who owned it and most of the historical figures I mention as attached to it really did exist. Emma Calvé, a famous opera singer, really did buy a chateau in the South of France and renovated it extensively, believing Nicolas Flamel had buried his secrets somewhere in its Medieval walls.” In fact, Rose found tidbits of evidence that many of the artistic geniuses of the time dabbled in the occult in one way or another, and she threaded as much of that information into the book as was possible in an authentic way.
“Sometimes I think I write just so I can do research on things that interest me,” says Rose, who went to jewelry school in Paris for The Secret Language of Stones. (The main character, Opaline, is a jewelry designer who gets messages from the dead for loved ones when she creates amulets for them.) “I try to use source materials as much as possible, and occasionally you find one line that sends you in a whole new fascinating direction, or gives you a new, unexpected facet to your characters or historical figures.”
Her most surprising discovery in researching this piece of history? “We think of Spiritualism and the Occult as having these specific time periods where they ‘existed’—and yes, they were especially prevalent from the mid-1850s to about 1930 or so, for a variety of reasons. The Industrial Revolution, World War I, times of massive change in social order. But what I found is they’re always there. Always. Sometimes you have to look a little harder, but when you do, it’s still rich and deep.”
Rose began her writing career in 1999 and continues to have one of the most unique publishing stories around. After penning two books she couldn’t sell, since they were too cross-genre for publishers, she self-published Lip Service—pre-Kindle and the bestselling indie published book of the time, as well as the first self-pubbed title to ever be picked up by a traditional publisher. (Read more about her journey here.)
But after 8 psychological thrillers with an erotic edge, Rose shifted to another kind of storytelling, first stepping into supernatural elements with The Reincarnationist, which released in 2007. However, the Paris-set Daughters of La Lune series is especially dear to her heart. “My grandmother was French, and a few years ago, I connected with a cousin who knew her better than I did. I’m not sure why, but for some reason that really allowed me to explore that part of my own history more deeply, and made me feel like I had a right to it all.”
And by all, Rose means her French heritage, the vast canvas of Paris and everything it has to offer, as well as a strain of mysticism that had always been part of her mother’s family. “Some people may think it sounds strange, but my grandmother was always giving these vague warnings. And so often, by the end of the day, whatever she warned about would come to pass, in some way or another. She was a self-proclaimed witch, which is not something I would ever say about myself. However her experience and my experience through her does make me more aware of those things we tend to ignore—Big Magic, intuition, moments that seem to be guided by something I can’t understand, like that. I believe in those things. I think we all should.”
Of course the gifts the women possess in her books are much more extreme than anything you’ll see in real life. But that’s the fun of imagination and creativity. “My background was in art and psychology. Professionally, I’ve always been involved in advertising and marketing, which directly plays on those disciplines. Writing is just another way for me to explore and to design worlds that bring fascinating elements of my research to life, as well as to expand magic in ways that can’t happen in reality, but which make a fictional world even more compelling.”
And compelling is exactly how I’d describe these books, and the magic in them. I love how Delphine, in The Library of Light and Shadow, paints blindfolded yet sees the deepest, darkest secrets of her clients. Or how Opaline can read the emotional frame of mind of the dead loved ones her clients are trying to connect with and uses all the meanings of the stones to create jewelry and amulets that, she hopes, will bring some peace to both parties.
The synthesis of the gift and its manifestation is so powerful and inspired (and yes, sometimes troublesome—that’s often where the intriguing conflict comes in!) that it both grounds the story and yet also propels it forward.
If you’re someone who loves Paris, magic (however you spell it), and the historical eras from the Belle Epoque to World War II (especially set in Paris), then seriously, these books are practically perfect for you. Start with lush, lovely writing that explores all the senses—in both uses of the word sensuality—add in a story that has romance in every sense, then embrace the other-worldly world-building that also has footsteps in historical reality.
In other words, fall in love with the magic of M.J. Rose.
Want to learn more about M.J. Rose? Visit her website, mjrose.com.
Read more about the Daughters of La Lune (from the website):
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I also wanted to mention that I did the intro and additional content for the BUZZ BOOKS 2017: Romance preview this year. I was a big supporter of this endeavor last year—another piece of evidence that Romance is getting noticed and spotlighted by the industry in new ways!—and was honored when they invited me to take a role in creating it this summer.
I hope you’ll take a few minutes to download it - here’s the press release:
New York, NY – JULY 12, 2017 – Just in time for Romance Writers of America conference, the biggest romance book event of the year, Publishers Lunch offers excerpts from 18 of the most buzzed-about romance titles scheduled for publication this season in an exclusive, free ebook, BUZZ BOOKS 2017: Romance.
Leading romance publishers, including Harlequin, Kensington, Avon, and Berkley, have enthusiastically embraced Buzz Books. From power players such as Eloisa James, Meredith Wild and Karen Rose to fan favorites Hannah Howell, Shelly Laurenston and Roni Loren, these authors are bestselling, award-winning, and irresistible.
These titles represent the best romance has to offer—from powerhouses to up-and-comers—and includes new series, the latest installments from industry faves and standalones. It’s an exciting mix of everything we expect from romance along with some new directions. Authors renowned for one genre are stepping into another; subgenres are combining to great effect. Romantic suspense across the board—contemporary, contemporary Western, historical and inspirational, as well as a variety of eclectic historical time frames. One of the greatest strengths of romance is that it has something for everyone, and this spotlight of upcoming titles is no exception.
Bobbi Dumas, an expert in all things romance, offers a useful, even essential roundup of additional, noteworthy summer/fall/winter romance books to have on your radar.
BUZZ BOOKS 2017: Romance is offered free and available in the U.S. and Canada on all major ebook platforms, including Kindle/Amazon, iBooks/Apple, Nook/Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and the universe of retailers served by Ingram.