Blurbs make me crazy at times. I mean it. And I’m sure I’m not the only author who feels that way. How in the hell do you convey the juicy, rich center of all that your book represents while at the same time NOT give away the plot to the extent that the reader sees no point in buying the book? I struggled with this question in Love’s Magic AND the struggle continues in Love’s Trials.
But let me say this. The struggle was greater in Love’s Magic because it’s a timely book, especially now when we have a nominee for the Supreme Count who is accused of numerous instances of sexual harassment if not outright assault. Now, when we have women who are stepping forward to speak their truth after years of living in shame and fear. Now, when we are at last telling these women that it is good and right that, at long last, their voices be heard!
Love’s Magic addresses all these issues. Colin’s is a police officer who works exclusively on assault cases. His biggest challenge, and the conflict that causes him the most personal anguish, is that of convincing assault victims to press charges, to speak up, to let their voices be heard. Sadly, women have been so brainwashed by the male dominated society we live in that they are left feeling that they somehow had to be to blame for what happened and that speaking out will smear their character.
Colin knew that nothing could be further from the truth. NO ONE is to blame for sexual assault other than the perpetrator. They are the sole, exclusive wrongdoer and the ONLY one who should be burdened with guilt and shame. And it doesn’t matter whether the victim is female or male. The only one who is responsible… the ONLY one who deserves punishment… is the low-life scum who perpetrated this heinous crime upon another human being.
But could I say that in a blurb? ‘This book talks about sexual and criminal assault and the kind of damage it does to every single person involved on every single level. This is supposed to be a gay romance novel and I was, frankly, worried about scaring people off with that kind of introduction.
I was fearful of triggering pain and extreme emotional reactions from victims of these crimes if I spoke too openly of the on-campus assault which is the central issue in Love’s Magic, though the book isn’t graphic, not in any way. What IS discussed are the many ways human beings respond when this kind of horrific situation suddenly becomes part of their life. And almost none of the principals in this novel are women. They’re all men who have been deeply affected by various forms of assault either as a victim or as one who is close to a victim and suffers from the subsequent guilt and emotional distress.
The two couples in Love’s Magic all are deeply involved in assaults which happen on the University of Virginia campus. Some are involved more directly than other, but ALL in ways that affect both their own ability to move forward in their lives and to believe in the relationship which they thought would sustain them.
A lot of one’s inner nature is revealed when facing a traumatic event like this one. Sometimes what’s revealed is an inner courage and determination that the person didn’t know they possessed. Sometimes what’s revealed is a fear so overwhelming that everything which one previously trusted is shattered beyond recall. Sometimes what’s revealed are the deeply buried secrets which have twisted inside us for decades, totally dominating our lives while never once being acknowledged, not even to yourself.
I wrote Love’s Magic to give a voice to all those people who have suffered this kind of trauma and who have had no voice or were afraid to use their voice. Love’s Magic talks about the life of two gay couples who live and work in Charlottesville, VA for the University of Virginia. It explores their reactions to an assault which takes place on the university campus.
A reader recently commented that writing a book which featured TWO unique gay couples seemed like dangerous territory for a first-time novelist. In fact, that one aspect of Love’s Magic has drawn more attention than any other from both readers and reviewers, which rather surprised me.
I can only say this. As someone who has been an assault victim I felt the subject needed discussion. And since I was attempting to offer as many viewpoints as possible on how victims and the persons close to them experience and deal with such a dreadful ordeal, I needed the perspective of both my couples in order to best explore the full range of possibilities. And I need the perspective of both my couples to adequately express my own feelings of anger and helplessness.
The four main characters in Love’s magic had to deal with assault and abuse, each in their own way. And no one of them handles it quite the way the others do. Each of these four men are stumbling toward their own healing and eventually share the best of what they’ve learned along the way with the other three. I needed every single one of these men in order to tell the story that needed to be told.
Each of them saw the issue from a different perspective as many of us do. But before they could find the healing they needed they each had to learn to see it through each other’s eyes. And their path to understanding was rife with misunderstandings… not to mention knock down drag out fights.
I wanted to talk a bit about each of the four main characters.
Colin is the cop. As the Sergeant in charge of the Special Assault Unit, he deals with assault on a daily basis, every kind of assault. As the man charged with finding and arresting the perpetrators of these crimes his is merciless in his pursuit of these wrong-doers. His tender concern for victims of assault is legendary, but his greatest frustration comes when he is unable to convince them to speak out and press charges against their attacker. He doesn’t ever press them once they’ve refused, but it tears at his soul because these assaults represent a deeply personal issue for him. An issue he has never discussed and never will. There is pain buried deep within Colin that no one sees, feelings he has suppressed for most of his life. And when Joshua cracks open his heart… everything comes pouring out, and not all of it is good.
Joshua was abused as a child. He was physically assaulted by a drunken father who broke Joshua’s arm when he was eight. He knows what it’s like to be locked in a dark closet and left alone for hours with no food, no light, no help. He became a Doctor of Psychology in order to help others who had suffered as he had, but also to find his own healing. He could see more easily into Colin’s heart than he could into his own. He sensed the pain which Colin kept buried, and felt the anguished frustration of being unable to reach him. And, because his job as a Title IX consultant require strict impartiality, he was also unable to speak out forcefully on behalf of university students who were victims of these heinous crimes.
David was never physically abused. But he was assaulted emotionally and verbally by a cold and critical parent and grew up completely unable to believe in his own worth. These issues haunted him for most of his life and were the primary reason why his marriage failed. His father’s voice was still in his ears, directing his life through constant criticism of everything David did and became. The psychological damage David suffered kept him closeted for many, many years. His relationship with Nate led him to the therapy he needed and at least a partial healing.
Nate was never abused in any way. He had an almost ideal childhood. But he fell in love with a man whose self esteem had been badly damaged by a father’s coldness and constant criticism and had to learn how to cope with David’s resulting insecurities as their relationship grew.
When Nate went to the rescue of a student who was under attack on the Tog, a park on the university campus, he was badly, though not critically, injured. The trauma he suffered then was the catalyst which eventually drew all four men together.
Love’s Magic delves into all the issues suffered by these men and the people who interact with them. It is not a graphic book. A reviewer at Kimmer’s Erotic Book Banter said this:
“Sensitive readers will especially appreciate Love’s Magic. Despite its thoroughness and suspense, the novel is never gruesome. Ms. Jarrell earns my respect and gratitude for her willingness to explore a very complex, critical topic in a detailed, yet entertaining fashion, to bring us decent, interesting men, who struggle to develop delightfully realistic relationships. As it is the first in her Revolutionary Hearts series, we can surely expect an intense follow-up!”
But it is a book which speaks to the heart of the issues which are currently transforming our society. And now, more than at any other time… I am so glad I wrote it.
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