Penguin Michael Joseph has pre-empted two novels by book blogger Katie Lumsden.
Publisher Jessica Leeke acquired UK and Commonwealth rights to first title The Secrets of Hartwood Hall, and one other, from Karolina Sutton at Curtis Brown. It will publish in hardback in early 2023 as a lead debut.
Lumsden's YouTube channel "Books and Things" is dedicated to Victorian literature and The Secrets of Hartwood Hall is described as "a pitch-perfect love letter to the Brontës".
It follows Margaret Lennox, a young widow who attempts to escape her past by taking a position as governess to an only child at an isolated country house. The synopsis goes on: "Cut off from the village, Margaret soon starts to feel that something isn’t quite right. There are strange figures in the dark, tensions between servants and an abandoned east wing. Even stranger are the repeated trips away on business by Mrs Eversham, the child’s mother. Lonely, and unsure who to trust, Margaret soon finds distraction in a forbidden relationship with the gardener, Paul. But as Margaret’s history threatens to catch up with her, it isn’t long before she learns the frightening truth behind the secrets of Hartwood Hall."
Leeke said: "I adore Katie’s writing for its atmosphere, its authenticity and its affection for the period. We see plenty of submissions in this space, such is its popularity with readers, but rarely are they so sure-footed. If you love the tropes and characteristics of Victorian fiction you will be transfixed by Margaret Lennox and Hartwood Hall. And just when you think you know exactly what her story is and where it’s going, Katie puts her own twist on this beloved genre. We had to bring Katie to Penguin Michael Joseph, and see her as a rising star in historical fiction."
Lumsden added: "I am delighted to be publishing my debut novel with Penguin Michael Joseph. It feels like the perfect home for The Secrets of Hartwood Hall, and Jessica’s passion for the book has really blown me away. I’ve been fascinated by Victorian literature since I was a teenager and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing something not only in response to, but in conversation with, the books I’ve grown up loving. I wanted to write something that will hopefully make you think, but also something that is just a really fun read—I love playing with the tropes and themes of Victorian writing, exploring this fascinating time period and especially the position of women within it. I can’t wait for the book to be out in the world."
Sutton commented: "I first read The Secrets of Hartwood Hall in the depth of lockdown. It was the most frustrating time when our concentration was shot and joy felt impossible to come by. Katie’s words brought me back from the pandemic slumber, restoring my faith in the power of storytelling. As a reader, I felt alive again, immediately recognising her love of Jane Eyre—a love that informs every word of this delicious story—and her ability to create a literary tribute that feels fresh to the modern reader. It’s the perfect book to curl up with."
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