In Jamie Brenner’s The Gin Lovers, Charlotte Delacorte’s transgression against the life she was instructed to live first begins when she tries on her sister-in-law’s red flapper dress. “The feeling of being alone with that dress was exhilarating.”
Thus begins Charlotte’s discovery of the speakeasy underworld, channeling her into a whirlwind romance. Each perceived transgression becomes deeper than the next, making it impossible for Charlotte to turn back.
Brenner was also once accustomed to an uncompromising life. “Charlotte made safe choices in life and I definitely felt like I had to get married and have kids,” she said. “I had to restart my life in my 30s. I wasn’t happy being a stay-at-home mom. I left my marriage and started writing more risqué writing.” Brenner lives in New York City with her two girls.
Before turning to the page, Brenner was a scout, publicist and agent for more than a decade. She had watched many live their dreams, take risks and conquer challenges. Her foray into a writing career was anything but subtle. Writing under the pen name, Logan Belle, Brenner published erotic romances, Blue Angel (Kensington Books, 2011), a burlesque e-serial, and Bettie Paige Presents: The Librarian (Pocket Star/Simon & Schuster 2012), an ebook.
“When I started writing erotic novels four years ago, soccer moms and book clubs were not reading them,” Brenner said, explaining why she invented an alias. “I didn’t want to be stigmatized, but now it’s so much more mainstream. When Fifty Shades of Grey happened, I felt out of the closet and women liked it.”
Brenner was inspired by romance novelists Jackie Collins and Judith Krantz, and Aaron Spelling’s primetime dramas (the only time she enjoyed TV more than books). In her ebooks, she wanted to replicate the experience of watching a one-hour drama with high anticipation for the next episode. Brenner’s e-serials were broken up into episodes, one released per week, beginning with The Gin Lovers.
Readers’ responses were mixed. “They don’t want a man who is great in bed, but is going to give them aggravation,” Brenner said. “I definitely learned that the hard way in my first novel.”
Since then, Brenner has been writing for the typical reader, toned down a bit. Her change in strategy did not go unnoticed. Bette Paige Presents: The Librarian was published in 15 countries, and, most recently, The Gin Lovers (St. Martin’s Press, 2012) was featured as the top 13 must read books in 2013 on Good Morning Texas, calling her novel the Downton Abbey meets Fifty Shades of Grey.
Brenner’s stories cast women living the safe life, until they meet someone who shakes it up and challenges them to take risks. Her next e-serial is a spinoff of D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover. In Brenner’s Miss Chatterly (Simon & Schuster, May 2013), the heroine is married to a nerdy husband who is physically withdrawn and she has an affair with a cross-fit trainer.
“She feels she can’t have both,” Brenner said. “One is the life of the mind and the other is the life of the body and for a good relationship you need both of that.”
But don’t expect Brenner to give readers just another happily ever after. She wants to tell soap opera stories but not with neat, perfect heroes and villains.
“My challenge is finding that balance,” Brenner said. “It’s always easier to look to someone else to save you. I’ve done that myself. The best man for any woman is not the man who saves her, but shows her how to save herself, maybe not literally, but whatever he gives you in that relationship.”
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