By Jill Vejnoska
Just ask Lucy Westmore. She's the high society debut-dissing, charity-loving, occasional pants-wearing heroine of "The Spinster's Guide to Scandalous Behavior," the latest Victorian era romance from the prolific pen of Atlanta's Jennifer McQuiston. The Avon book goes on sale Tuesday (Nov. 24th), and is a delightfully valuable read for anyone dreading a fresh onslaught of "helpful" personal questions from relatives over Thanksgiving.
When Great Aunt Gert wonders when you're going to find a nice guy to settle down with permanently, tell her about Lucy, who finds out on page 10 of "The Spinster's Guide" that an elderly female relative has bequeathed her a secluded cottage and the diary that goes along with it.
"My hope is that in reading my diary, you will understand the choices I have made," Aunt Edith, the original "spinster" of the title informs Lucy in a "buck up, you're not alone in being freespirited"-type note. "Probably someone will try to convince you I was mad — or worse, that you are yourself. But I lived my life the way I wanted . . . "
This being a historical romance, of course, a broodingly handsome and richly-titled man quickly enters the picture. He wants the cottage and the valuable plot of land it's on and Lucy doesn't want anything to do with him and — well, we're not about to spill any more of the plot. Except to tell you that "The Spinster's Guide" is the second in McQuiston's planned "Seduction Diary" series of books; each stands on its own (the first, "Diary of an Accidental Wallflower," came out last February), but all are tied together by the thread of a scandalous diary.
Meanwhile, McQuiston just might be that rare author whose own bio reads at least as good as — if not better than — any of her fictional heroines. A veterinarian and infectious disease researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the busy wife and mother of two writes her, uh, infectiously witty and romantic books at night. We chronicled her rise to publishing success and a bit of her dual life here. Meanwhile, McQuiston's "day job" found her traveling to Sierra Leone at the height of the Ebola epidemic last year, working for the CDC to help educate people about the virus and minimize its spread. She's part of a thriving, mutually supportive community of authors here that give metro Atlanta a legitimate shot at being known as the Romance Writing Capital of the Country, as the AJC chronicled in an earlier story.