Friday, October 3, 2014

Highlight: North of the Tension Line by J.F. Riordan

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A mainland girl with city roots dares to withstand a winter North of the Tension Line

North of the Tension Line (Beaufort Books, September 15, 2014) is the first in a projected series of novels by J. F. Riordan. Fiona Campbell is a newcomer to tiny Ephraim, Wisconsin. Populated with artists and summer tourists, Ephraim has just enough going on to satisfy Fiona’s city tastes, but she is fascinated and repelled by what lies at the furthest tip of the Door County peninsula: Washington Island, a place utterly removed from the hubbub of modern life.

Fiona’s visits to the island leave her refreshed in spirit, but fully convinced that only lunatics and hermits could survive a winter in its frigid isolation. Still, in a moment of weakness, Fiona is goaded into accepting a dare: that she cannot survive the winter on Washington Island in a decrepit, old house. Armed with some very fine single malt scotch and a copy of Meditations, Fiona sets out to win the dare, and she discovers that small town life is not nearly as dull as she had foreseen.

North of the Tension Line is J. F. Riordan’s first novel—it follows Fiona, a fierce female protagonist, and an accompanying cast of eccentric characters. At turns comic, romantic, and thought-provoking, this book is part-compelling-romance and part-comedy-of-manners—evocative of the work of Alexander McCall Smith, Jan Karon, Miss Read, and Jane Austen. Adults and young adults alike will enjoy Fiona’s foray into the vicious politics of small town life, her encounters with a ruthless neighbor and the captain of a haunted ferry, and her eventual discovery of the peculiar spiritual renewal of life as it is north of the tension line.

J. F. Riordan was born in New Jersey and moved first to Michigan, then Wisconsin as a child. At sixteen, after two years of high school, she went to the University of New Mexico to study voice and ultimately became a professional singer. After years of travel, she returned to the Midwest, finished her college degree, and became certified to teach high school English. She taught for three years in the inner city before taking a position as a program officer for a foundation.

She lives in exile from Washington Island with her husband and two dogs. North of the Tension Line is her first novel.

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