The Last Romantics

New in February 2019

© 2019 Tara Conklin

Website design in WIX.com by Writerly Liz Consulting
All photos by Mary Grace Long

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Lina Sparrow, an ambitious first-year associate in an elite Manhattan law firm, is given a difficult, highly sensitive assignment that can make her career: find the “perfect plaintiff” to lead a historic class-action lawsuit worth trillions of dollars in reparations for the descendants of American slaves.

An unexpected lead comes from her father, renowned artist Oscar Sparrow, who tells her about a controversy currently rocking the art world. Art historians now suspect that the revered paintings of Lu Anne Bell, an antebellum artist known for her humanizing portraits of slaves from her plantation Bell Creek, were actually the work of her house slave, Josephine.

A descendant of Josephine’s would be the perfect face for the firm’s lawsuit—if Lina can find one. But nothing is known about Josephine’s fate following Lu Anne Bell’s death in 1852.  Did Josephine die at Bell Creek?  Was she sold? Or did she escape?  Searching for clues in old letters and plantation records, Lina begins to piece together Josephine’s story—a journey that leads her to question her own life, including the full story of her mother’s mysterious death twenty years before.

Alternating between antebellum Virginia and modern-day New York, this searing tale of art and history, love and secrets explores what it means to repair a wrong, and ask whether truth is sometimes more important than justice.

REVIEWS

“Assured and arresting…You cannot put it down.” ~ Chicago Tribune

 

“Tara Conklin’s exquisite debut novel… is the kind of read that reminds you of why holding a good book in your hands is one of the great pleasures in life.” ~ Essence

 

“[A] sorrowful, engrossing novel in which the pursuit of justice serves as a catalyst to a more personal pursuit for truth… The House Girl is… a meditation on motherhood, feminism, loss, and, ultimately, redemption.” ~ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

 

“A seamless juxtaposition of past and present, of the lives of two women, and of the redemptive nature of art and the search for truth and justice. Guaranteed to keep readers up long past their bedtimes.” 
~ Library Journal – starred review

 

“[A] beautifully written, carefully plotted debut novel… Conklin is a writer of exceptional skill.”
~ The Washington Independent Review of Books

 

“The House Girl is absorbing fiction, a first novel from a former litigator, who buttresses her legal savvy with strong historical research.” ~ New York Daily News

 

“The first chapter of The House Girl grabs you by the bonnet strings and starts running.” 
~ Entertainment Weekly

 

“[A] story of personal and national identity that you won’t want to miss.” ~ Book Reporter

 

“Conklin’s research blends subtly into the background while successfully rendering a picture of the complex tensions inherent in 1850s society… A historical novel that succeeds in giving voice to the voiceless.” (Winnepeg Free Press)

 

““Rich and surprising…will make hearts ache yet again for those who suffered through slavery as well as cheer for those–Conklin and Lina–who illuminate their stories.” ~ Cleveland Plain Dealer

 

“Conklin … is a skilled writer … who knows how to craft a thoughtful page-turner …We’re glued to the pages.” ~ Seattle Times

 

“Skillfully executed and packed with surprises, this novel of the ways in which art saves our humanity is an engrossing, do-not-miss adventure.” ~ Shelf Awareness

 

“Infused with ominous atmosphere and evocative detail…a dramatic montage of narrative and personal testimonies that depicts the grotesque routines of the slave trade, the deadly risks of the Underground Railroad and the impossible choices that slaves and abolitionists faced.” ~ Washington Post

 

“Luminous . . . The rare novel that seamlessly toggles between centuries and characters and remains consistently gripping throughout . . . Powerful.” ~ BookPage

 

“This will be the book-club book of 2013." ~ Marie Claire

 

“Conklin persuasively intertwines the stories of two women separated by time and circumstances but united by a quest for justice…Stretching back and forth across time and geography, this riveting tale is bolstered by some powerful universal truths.” ~ Booklist

 

“Tara Conklin’s debut novel, The House Girl, is a riveting story.” ~ Ebony

 

The House Girl is a Good Housekeeping “New Book Pick” for February

 

“Tara Conklin’s wise, stirring and assured debut tells the story of two extraordinary women, living a century apart, but joined by their ferocity of spirit.  From page one, I fell under the spell of THE HOUSE GIRL’s sensuous prose and was frantically turning pages until its thrilling conclusion.” 

~ Maria Semple, Author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette and This One Is Mine

 

“THE HOUSE GIRL is an enthralling story of identity and social justice told through the eyes of two indomitable women, one a slave and the other a modern-day attorney, determined to define themselves on their own terms.” ~ Hillary Jordan, Author of Mudbound and When She Woke

 

“There’s so much to admire in THE HOUSE GIRL – two richly imagined heroines, two fully realized worlds, a deeply satisfying plot – but what made me stand up and cheer was the moral complexity of these characters and the situations they face.  I’m grateful for this transporting novel.” ~ Margot Livesey, New York Times bestselling author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy

 

“THE HOUSE GIRL is a heartbreaking, heartwarming novel, ambitious, beautifully told, and elegantly crafted. Tara Conklin negotiates great vast swaths of time and tribulation, character and place, with grace, insight, and, simply, love.” ~ Laurie Frankel, Author of Goodbye for Now and The Atlas of Love

 

“Tara Conklin’s powerful debut novel is a literary page-turner filled with history, lost love, and buried family secrets. Conklin masterfully interweaves the stories of two women across time, a runaway slave in 1852 Virginia and a young lawyer in present-day New York, all while asking us to contemplate the nature of truth and justice in America.” ~ Amy Greene Author of Bloodroot

 

“THE HOUSE GIRL stands as both a literary memorial to the hundreds of thousands of slaves once exploited in the American South and a mellifluous meditation on the mysterious bonds of family, the hopes and sorrows of human existence, and the timeless quest for freedom.” ~ Corban Addison, Author of A Walk Across the Sun

 

“The House Girl is a rarity, a novel that succeeds in fulfilling the highest of aspirations.  The juxtaposed stories of a slave girl in 1852 and a lawyer in 2004 combine to create a beautiful examination of freedom, identity, family, desire and obligation.  This work is absorbing, enthralling, stimulating and provocative and almost guaranteed to be read in one sitting.” ~ Bill Cusumano, Nicola’s Books Ann Arbor, Mich.

 

“Art connects people to truth hidden by time in this powerfully woven story…  Told in both the 1800s and present day, this story is a literary exploration of truth and reminds us that it is what we choose to do in any given situation that makes us who we are.” ~ Kimberly Daniels, The Country Bookshop Southern Pines, North Carolina