A recovered academic, Justine Saracen started out producing dreary theses, dissertations and articles for esoteric literary journals. Writing fiction, it turned out, was way more fun. With seven historical thrillers now under her literary belt, she has moved from Ancient Egyptian theology (The 100th Generation) to the Crusades (2007 Lammy-nominated Vulture’s Kiss) to the Roman Renaissance.
Sistine Heresy, which conjures up a thoroughly blasphemic backstory to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes, won a 2009 Independent Publisher’s Award (IPPY) and was a finalist in the ForeWord Book of the Year Award.
A few centuries farther along, WWII thriller Mephisto Aria, was a finalist in the EPIC award competition, won Rainbow awards for Best Historical Novel and Best Writing Style, and took the 2011 Golden Crown first prize for best historical novel.
The Eddie Izzard inspired novel, Sarah, Son of God followed soon after. In the story within a story, a transgendered beauty takes us through Stonewall- rioting New York, Venice under the Inquisition, and Nero’s Rome. The novel won the Rainbow First Prize for Best Transgendered Novel.
Her second WWII thriller Tyger, Tyger, Burning Bright, which follows the lives of four homosexuals during the Third Reich, won the 2012 Rainbow First Prize for Historical Novel. Having lived in Germany and taught courses on 20th Century German history, Justine is deeply engaged in the moral issues of the ‘urge to war’ and the ease with which it infects.
Beloved Gomorrah, appearing March 2013, marks a return to her critique of Bible myths – in this case an LGBT version of Sodom and Gomorrah -- though it also involves a lot of Red Sea diving and the dangerous allure of a certain Hollywood actress.
Saracen lives on a “charming little winding street in Brussels.” Being an adopted European has brought her close to the memories of WWII and engendered a sort of obsession with the war years. Waiting for the Violins, her work in progress, tells of an English nurse, nearly killed while fleeing Dunkirk, who returns as a British spy and joins forces with the Belgian resistance. In a year of constant terror, she discovers both betrayal and heroism and learns how very costly love can be.
When dwelling in reality, Justine’s favorite pursuits are scuba diving and listening to opera.
Mephisto Aria won a 2010 Rainbow Award as Best LGBT Historical. Sarah, Son of God won a 2011 Rainbow Award as Best Bisexual / Transgender Contemporary and Best Bisexual / Transgender Novel. Tyger Tyger, Burning Bright won a 2012 Rainbow Award as Best Lesbian Historical. Waiting for the Violins won a 2014 Rainbow Award as Best Lesbian Historical Fiction & Romance and Best Lesbian Book.
Mephisto Aria by Justine Saracen
Paperback: 264 pages
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books; 1 edition (January 12, 2010)
Amazon Kindle: Mephisto
Is the history of a dangerous love affair destined to be repeated? At the height of her career, opera singer Katherina Marov is stunned by her father's suicide. Reading his journals, she learns of his dark days as a soldier on the Russian front and in war-torn Berlin. She cannot condemn him for his crimes and secrets, though, for while she is learning of his demons, she is discovering her own. The stage-world she lives in draws her into an ecstatic realm beyond good and evil and she is tempted, as he was, by a love for a woman that could destroy her. Has she too made a devil's pact? And if so, will she pay for it, as her father did, with her life?
Sarah, Son of God by Justine Saracen
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (March 15, 2011)
Amazon: Sarah, Son of God
Amazon Kindle: Sarah, Son of God
What happens when who we love forces us to change our view of who we are?
Against her better judgment, Professor Joanna Valois takes on sexually undefinable Sara Falier as her assistant on a trip to Venice. The object of their research is a sixteenth century heretical book and the truth about the woman condemned to death for printing it. The book, a translation of an ancient codex, not only shattered the lives of nearly everyone who touched it, but 400 years later, could still bring half the world to its knees.
Like nesting dolls, this story within a story within a story raises the question as to whether gender-breaking has not only challenged the boundaries of love and sexual desire, but altered the course of history.
Tyger, Tyger, Burning Bright by Justine Saracen
Paperback: 264 pages
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (March 13, 2012)
Amazon: Tyger, Tyger, Burning Bright
Amazon Kindle: Tyger, Tyger, Burning Bright
Twelve years of terror end with a world in flames. Behind filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl’s stirring footage of a million joyous patriots, the horror of Nazi Germany slowly unfolds. It engulfs Katja Sommer, a “good German” with dangerous desires; Frederica Brandt, a traitor to her homeland; Rudi Lamm, a homosexual camp survivor and forced soldier for Hitler; and Peter Arnhelm, a half-Jewish smuggler on the run. Under the scrutiny of the familiar monsters of the Third Reich, their enablers, and their hangers-on, these four struggle for life and for each other. Love does not conquer all, but it’s far better than going to hell alone.
Waiting for the Violins by Justine Saracen
Paperback: 312 pages
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (March 18, 2014)
Amazon: Waiting for the Violins
Amazon Kindle: Waiting for the Violins
Antonia Forrester, an English nurse, is nearly killed while trying to save soldiers fleeing at Dunkirk. Embittered, she returns to occupied Brussels as a British spy to foment resistance to the Nazis. She works with urban partisans who sabotage deportation efforts and execute collaborators, before résistante leader Sandrine Toussaint accepts her into the Comet Line, an operation to rescue downed Allied pilots. After capture and then escape from a deportation train headed for Auschwitz, the women join the Maquis fighting in the Ardenne Forests. Passion is the glowing ember that warms them amidst the winter carnage until London radio transmits the news they’ve waited for. Huddled in the darkness, they hear the coded message, “the long sobs of the violins” signaling that the Allied Invasion is about to begin.
More Rainbow Awards at my website: www.elisarolle.com/, Rainbow Awards/2010, 2011, 2012 & 2014
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