The Sharp Hook of Love
By: Sherry Jones
Format/Source: Paperback courtesy of the publishers as part of The Sharp Hook of Love blog tour by France Book Tours
My review of the novel
“To forbid the fruit only sweetens its flavor”
Among the young women of 12th century Paris, Heloise d’Argenteuil stands apart. Extraordinarily educated and quick-witted, she is being groomed by her uncle to become an abbess in the service of God.
But with one encounter, her destiny changes forever. Pierre Abelard, headmaster at the Nôtre Dame Cloister School, is acclaimed as one of the greatest philosophers in France. His controversial reputation only adds to his allure, yet despite the legions of women swooning over his poetry and dashing looks, he is captivated by the brilliant Heloise alone. As their relationship blossoms from a meeting of the minds to a forbidden love affair, both Heloise and Abelard must choose between love, duty, and ambition.
Sherry Jones weaves the lovers’ own words into an evocative account of desire and sacrifice. As intimate as it is erotic, as devastating as it is beautiful, The Sharp Hook of Love is a poignant, tender tribute to one of history’s greatest romances, and to love’s power to transform and endure.
Hello again, everyone! My review of The Sharp Hook of Love (review) has just gone live as part of a book blog tour hosted by France Book Tours. As part of my participation in the tour, I also had the opportunity to ask the author a few questions about the novel and the writing process. So thank you again to France Book Tours and Sherry Jones for taking the time to answer my questions 🙂
- What inspired you to write about Abelard and Heloise?
The most famous love story of all time — and it really happened! As soon as I heard their beautiful, tragic, thousand-year-old tale, I knew I had to write it. If you think reading a great love story is magical — and I do — just try writing one! Only being in love is more rewarding.
- What was the research process like for this novel?
I read everything I could get my hands on about the lovers — I read their writings, including Abelard’s philosophy (not an easy read, believe me) and, of course, all their letters as well as the letters written to them while they lived; scholarly exegeses of these letters; books about life in the 12th century including the city of Paris, the fashions and foods, the architecture, the cathedrals; the Catholic church and Gregorian reforms; the Notre-Dame Cloister, and more. I also read a wide sampling of works that Heloise and Abelard would have studied, and known as intimately as we know Shakespeare today — even quoting from these works in my book: Boethius, Seneca, Cicero, Ovid, Aristotle, and Plato, among others. When I finished, I felt like a philosophy expert!
- Was there something about the writing process for this novel or in your research about the couple that surprised you at any point?
I experienced the gamut of emotions while writing The Sharp Hook of Love: exhilaration, elation, passion, confusion, anger, sorrow, pain, determination, despair, gratitude, desire, longing, disgust, fear, loneliness, excitement — every emotion that lovers feel in a passionate, tumultuous relationship. I’ve never experienced anything like it — I daresay the writing of this book affected the love relationship I was in at the time. As I wrote the scene where the lovers part, tears rolled down my face.
The discoveries that Heloise makes in the book about the true nature of love also surprised me. As I wrote, I made the discoveries along with her, and my perspectives are very different now than they were before I’d begun this book.
- The book blurb likened Abelard and Heloise’s tale to that of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, and Romeo and Juliet. Who’s your favourite historical couple?
Heloise and Abelard, of course! And, unlike R&J, they were real people. However, I have other favorites, two of whom are mentioned in The Sharp Hook of Love. Queen Bertrade and King Philip I of France scandalized the Church and enthralled the French realm in the late 11th century by marrying each other when each was already married to someone else! She was the Countess of Anjou, married to a womanizer, when she met Philip, who “kidnapped” her from her castle, whisking her away on his horse. The Church excommunicated them several times and they pretended to part, but when the ban was lifted would always reunite again. Their passionate love affair popularized the idea of romantic love in marriage, and was said to spark the troubadour era.
Bertrade and Philip possibly inspired the famous Duke of Aquitaine — and the first troubadour — William, Count of Poitiers, to kidnap Dangerosa, the wife of one of his vassals, the viscount of Chatellerault. The handsome, charismatic William rode off with Dangerosa (also known as Maubergeonne, which means “Hazard,”) and installed her in a luxury tower on his grounds. When his wife, the Countess of Toulouse, came home and saw them together, she left him. Once again, they caused a huge scandal.
I’m sure you can detect a pattern here: I love a juicy scandal. Yes, indeed.
- What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Keep writing, read only the very best stuff (“garbage in, garbage out,” remember), and know that the first draft is always shit, as Hemingway said. The true art of writing comes in the revision process. Most published authors revise many times before their manuscript becomes a book. Don’t give up! Keep your eye on the prize — a story or book that may change the world.
Many thanks again to France Book Tours for the opportunity to ask these questions. The Sharp Hook of Love is available now.