Sara has just released the second in her trilogy of historical Jewish romances. Arnold, the male lead in this story, is Sara’s favourite character. Join us as we discuss what happens when you fall in love with someone on the page, research on Georgian England and a few intricacies of the Jewish faith.
How was Book One: Margins of Love received?
My first few promotions went well. One weekend I had over 1000 downloads. I’ve had many flattering reviews, which I enjoy reading over and over. One of the biggest honours was the feedback from one of my English college professors, who is tied to Nobel Laureates, Pulitzer Prize Winners and many famous writers. She saw past the surface romance to the deeper meaning about staying true to your identity and the messages I am hoping to send with this series. I’ll keep hers and many wonderful emails from friends and family locked up in a very special place in my heart forever.
Can you please share the blurb for The Pearl of All Brides?
This time the handsome jeweller Arnold Ehrlich has gone too far. He has not just kissed the Rabbi’s daughter—he was caught! Custom dictates that he has to marry her now, but there is no room for a bride in his life amidst the competition for the crown jewels. And yet, he finds himself looking after her—and unable to keep his hands off the beautiful and witty girl.
Contrary to popular belief, Hannah Solomon, is quite sure that her community newspaper can inspire the orthodox Jews to get out of their rut. She is determined to spend her life caring for her younger siblings but fears that she is missing out on the excitement that life beyond London’s Jewish quarters may hold. And when Arnold’s lips touch hers, she’s suddenly unable to resist the temptation of her life.
You’ve told me you had a little crush on Arnold. How did this come about?
There’s a moment in book one when Arnold nudges Fave to go after Rachel. He says, ‘If you don’t do it, I will.’ We find out that he’s ready for love, which is astonishing for anyone who knows him as he’s always been a player. I think this is when I realised I had to write more about him. And of course, he’s overcome when he sees Hannah.
Arnold’s a bit rougher than Fave, though he’s just as smart. He’s talented in a different way. Fave is a mathematical genius who applies this gift to jewels. Arnold invents trinkets and special tools, he’s a bit of an engineer. Fave is more like me. Arnold is how I would like to be.
How did your affection for him impact the writing process?
I really couldn’t cause him any trouble. A whole building could have collapsed on him, he could have broken through a frozen lake, but really, he just loses his scarf. Then I make it up to him with some really hard kisses from the girl he adores. Once I got his pants off later in the book, I couldn’t get them back on.
Didn’t your editor encourage you to raise the stakes?
I think with your help, I inconvenienced him a bit more, but still as little as possible, and when I did, I made sure to make up for it.
In book one, Fave had strict limits on his behaviour, while Arnold has more freedom. Can you explain why they live by different rules?
Although Fave and Arnold share the same grandfather, who was a Cohen, Fave is a Cohen because it passes through his father, Arnold is not because it passes through his mother. The Cohanim are a special group in Judaism, who are direct descendants of Aaron, Moses’s brother. They are like high priests and hold special privileges and responsibilities. A man can lose those privileges by becoming impure, for example by having sex before marriage. When a woman is impure, she cannot help her husband pass on the Cohanim privileges. Traditionally, a person cannot touch the Torah if they have any impurity. In the past, women couldn’t touch the Torah when they had their period, although now that’s no longer considered impure. I am not an expert, but many of the traditions vary from community to community, and these days, rules are more relaxed. My characters are fictional and they tried their best to stay true to their heritage.
I’m a more emancipated Jew, so I don’t necessarily keep with these traditions, but I wanted to show that it was important for Fave to stay true to his identity and honour his lineage. He faced a big conflict when he fell in love, and it was hard for him to work out how to reconcile his obligations with his passion.
For Arnold, I don’t want to say it’s okay for him to sleep around, but he didn’t have anything to lose religiously as long as he didn’t marry outside the faith.
Research is important in historical fiction. How did you do this for the Georgian time period?
There are fun things to check like what day of the week corresponds to a date in 1813.
When I was writing books one and two, I kept a PhD thesis open on my computer: The Jews of Britain by Todd M. Endelman. It’s an excellent reference. He won an award. His research is published by University of California Press which has a map of London showing where Jews lived. That’s where Hannah lives, and she hasn’t left that area. Arnold comes from a different neighbourhood, closer to the royals.
For book three, I found a good article by Cecil Roth, ‘The Jews in the English Universities’. Jews couldn’t go to university in England at the time, and my heroes are university educated, so I had to figure out how this could be possible.
For clothing, I looked online for paintings of the era and studied what British aristocrats wore, which is how people in the ton would dress. The men wore custom-made velvet coats and their pants had leather laces, not buttons, which doesn’t sound comfortable to me.
I’ve been to London many times and used a map to make sure I showed the geography correctly. The London I know is obviously very different but walking the streets is inspiring and feels a bit like time traveling.
You feature a special food in each of the books. Can you tell us a bit about that?
In book one, Fave and Rachel fall in love over jasmine tea. They also eat rugalech, a filled pastry. In book two, Arnold and Hannah bake challah, a sacred traditional bread. I cook this most Fridays. It is lovely to come home to the smell of bread on Fridays after a long week. You’ll have to wait to see what they cook in book three.
If anyone signs up to my newsletter, I offer a free downloadable cookbook with some of these recipes.
What have you learned after launching your first book?
I now know that marketing is more work than writing the book. While I’m still building my readership, I need to market specifically to readers of Regency romance or Jewish novels, not broadly to romance readers or general readers. Maybe later, I can expand.
I will complete this trilogy about infiltrating the ton, which follows through to the conclusion of the jewellery competition. Then I’m writing a prequel to bridge to the second series about orthodox Jews who are not in hiding, so they need to overcome obstacles from a different direction. This summer, I am recording and producing the audiobooks for the first trilogy, the Pearler Family Saga.
You can find Sara here:
Facebook: Sara Adrien
LinkedIn: Sara Adrien
Goodreads: Sara Adrien
Booksales link: Amazon US
Next time: My final entries for Writers Victoria Flash Fiction 2022 – Part Three
Next interview: Sarah Hawthorn on The Dilemma, her latest release.
Next Sara Adrien interview: Sara Adrien on The Jewellery Competition and her latest release.