Web Exclusives: Alumni Spotlight
Nancy Herkness '79's second novel, Shower
of Stars, is due out next July.
death, and more love
Herkness '79 writes her first romance novel
Comfortably ensconced on the living room sofa of her gracious
Glen Ridge, New Jersey, house, Nancy Herkness '79 smiles about how
she "took a nice, comfortable suburban life and destroyed it."
Luckily for Herkness's neighbors, that life belongs to Kate Chilton,
the heroine of A Bridge to Love, Herkness's recently published
romance novel, released by Berkeley in August.
Herkness is not the first Princetonian to publish a romance novel,
but she may be the first to put her real name on the cover. An English
major who wrote a creative thesis under the direction of poet Maxine
Kumin, Herkness finds nothing odd about making her professional
debut in the genre she calls the "Rodney Dangerfield of the
A Bridge to Love delves into the emotions and daily life
of Kate Chilton, a recently widowed soccer mom who makes a devastating
discovery about her marriage and her husband an affair he
had during their marriage when it is no longer possible to
fix it or confront him. To begin to restore her self-confidence,
Kate engineers a one-night stand with Randall Johnson, a Princeton
alumnus she meets at a Princeton alumni picnic. The plan seems to
work, until she realizes that omitting the gentleman's feelings
from her calculations will make the next year of her life very .
. . interesting.
Herkness says that she never had the urge to write literary fiction,
though she enjoys reading it. Her grandmother was a fan of Georgette
Heyer's Regency romances, and passed along her copies to Herkness.
The stories "appealed to me because of their happy endings."
Romance is the "genre of optimism, and that's why I like it,"
So do 51 million other North American readers, who snap up the
2,000 plus romance titles published each year. Romance fiction may
be the Rodney Dangerfield of literature, but it is also the Bill
Gates, accounting for almost 36 percent of popular fiction sales.
Herkness's path to A Bridge to Love began at Princeton,
when she and classmate Julia Rabkin tried to coauthor a romance
novel. Twenty-five or so years later, after working as a shoe buyer
and a systems analyst, Herkness now writes full-time. A second novel,
Shower of Stars, will be published by Berkeley next July,
and a third, as-yet untitled romance is in the works. She has no
plans to publish what she calls her "learning novel,"
written 14 years ago. Herkness calls that early effort "sweet,
but dated"; after not finding a publisher for it, she realized
she had to learn more about what romance readers and publishers
were looking for. That research gave her "the nerve to open
the bedroom door," and reviews have praised A Bridge to
Love's "story of sexual tension and passion."
Herkness writes very specific love scenes because she wants the
reader to know "exactly what's going on in the moment."
Conveying those details without being graphic is a challenge she
enjoys. She adds that her husband, Jeff Theodorou, is happy when
she is working on a love scene, "because it does put you in
a certain mood." To read one of those scenes, head for your
neighborhood bookstore and look for A Bridge to Love under
the Hs. "Bookstores shelve romance alphabetically by last name,"
Herkness explains. "I didn't want to be down at the bottom
of the shelf with the Ts. I wanted to be up there with Georgette
(For more reviews of Bridge and information about Herkness's current
projects, visit www.nancyherkness.com.)
Marianne Eismann '79 reads historical romances in New Jersey.