Guest post: A.B. Michaels, The Art of Love

Book Title: The Art of Love

Series: The Golden City, Book One

Your Journey to The Golden City begins here…


A tale of mystery, social morality and second chances during America’s Gilded Age, The Art of Love will take you on an unforgettable journey from the last frontier of the Yukon Territory to the new Sodom and Gomorrah of its time – the boomtown of San Francisco.

After digging a fortune from the frozen fields of the Klondike, August Wolff heads south to the “Golden City,” hoping to put the unsolved disappearance of his wife and daughter behind him. The turn of the twentieth century brings him even more success, but the distractions of a hedonistic mecca can’t fill the gaping hole in his life.

Amelia Starling is a wildly talented artist caught in the straightjacket of Old New York society. Making a heart-breaking decision, she moves to San Francisco to further her career, all the while living with the pain of a sacrifice no woman should ever have to make. 

Brought together by the city’s flourishing art scene, Gus and Lia forge a rare connection. But the past, shrouded in mystery, prevents the two of them from moving forward as one. Unwilling to face society’s scorn, Lia leaves the city and vows to begin again in Europe.

The Golden City offers everything a man could wish for except the answers Gus is desperate to find. But find them he must, or he and Lia have no chance at all.

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The Inspiration Behind The Art of Love

For many writers of historical fiction, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why they chose the period they write in. Perhaps a book or movie they enjoyed in childhood stuck with them, or an article about a fascinating historical discovery caught their eye. Sometimes the concept for a complete book or even an entire series just pops into a writer’s head.  I wish!

For me, it was all about the numbers.

Back in 2013 I began writing a contemporary novel of romantic suspense (which became Sinner’s Grove, Book One of My “Sinner’s Grove Suspense” series.). The story is about a family re-opening an artists’ retreat on the northern California coast that had been shut down for decades.

I needed an “origin story” about the retreat, so I got out my calculator and worked backward to figure out when the founders might have lived. The numbers pointed to the turn of the twentieth century, so that became my time period.

I put my main characters in San Francisco because I grew up near there and after college, I earned a master’s degree at San Francisco State University.  “The Golden City” has always held a special place in my heart.

So, I had a time period and a place.  Now what? I remembered enough local history to know that the city I loved had boomed as a result of both the California and the Klondike gold rushes. I thought of my dearly loved Da, who as a teenager had worked in Canada’s Yukon Territory, on and near the Klondike River, in the aftermath of that wild time. His sister, my great-aunt, had even married the brother of one of the “Klondike Kings”!

A few years before my grandfather died, my father and I recorded his recollections of that period. Da was quite clear and specific about what he remembered.  Here was someone in my own family who had hiked the infamous Chilkoot Pass, mushed sled dogs, worked a placer mining claim, dealt with sub-zero winters and survived in conditions most of us would consider primitive at best. He’d not even graduated from high school, but he was smart and honest and an extremely hard worker. Eventually he became a successful rancher and businessman and I admired him greatly. Why not build a story around a character with my grandfather’s qualities? And August Wolff was born.

The time period I decided to work in is known to most historians as America’s “Gilded Age,” which generally spans from the end of the Civil war to World War I.  One of the many fascinating aspects of that era was the first “cracking” of social constructs. Like the ice of the Klondike River after the first spring thaw, society was starting to experience upheavals in traditions that had been followed for generations. America was becoming an industrial power, and jobs in cities convinced many men and women to leave their rural roots behind. That migration opened up doors for women that had not been available before. At the same time, traditionalists worried that women were starting to flout society’s rules. The tension between old and new always makes for great fictional conflict, and I knew my main female character, Amelia Starling, would somehow push against the norm.

I know very little about the visual arts–my creativity usually ends up on the page and not a canvas. To learn more about painting and sculpture, I figured I’d create a fictional group of artists. From that point it was easy to make one of my main characters a budding artist with the talent and courage to press forward into what had for the most part been a man’s world. Family dynamics complicate her life immeasurably, causing her to make a gut-wrenching decision that most of us would not be able to make.

As I think about it, the ideas that went into my novel The Art of Love consist of a “little bit of this and a little bit of that.”  They’re like the ingredients for a marvelous soup, in which each addition is interesting on its own, but mixed together, they make something irresistible!

About A.B. Michaels

A native of California, A.B. Michaels holds masters’ degrees in history (UCLA) and broadcasting (San Francisco State University). After working for many years as a promotional writer and editor, she turned to writing fiction, which is the hardest thing she’s ever done besides raise two boys. She lives with her husband and two spoiled dogs in Boise, Idaho, where she is often distracted by playing darts and bocce and trying to hit a golf ball more than fifty yards. Reading, quilt-making and travel figure into the mix as well, leading her to hope that sometime soon, someone invents a 25+ hour day.

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