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Jeff Baron pens first romance novella

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A story of infidelity: former politician Jeff Baron signing copies of his book, Just South of Faithful, in the Boston, Massachusetts, area recently (Photograph supplied)

In March, Jeff Baron published his first novella, Just South of Faithful. Given that he is a former Minister of National Security known for publishing articles in criminology journals, some people were surprised by the spicy romance in the book.

“It has sexual content,” he said. “Some people have commented that I really leant in on that. It is a story about a four-day affair between two adults, so naturally, there is going to be sex.“

Just South of Faithful is about a brother and sister who discover a mysterious shoebox in a closet, while cleaning up after their mother’s death. Inside the box is evidence that their mother, Laura Becker, had a brief, but passionate affair over Cup Match 1985, despite being married.

The story was inspired by Mr Baron’s friend’s discovery of her mother’s infidelity, in a similar way.

Inspiring view: Jeff Baron and son Jack in Montana last year (Photograph supplied)

“The story stuck with me,” Mr Baron said. “Last year, I was in Montana when I suddenly thought, I want to write a story. I was driving in the car with my son, Jack, on our way to see the Old Faithful geyser in Wyoming, when we passed a road sign that said ‘South of Faithful’. I thought, that would be an amazing title for a book.”

After getting permission from his friend to write the story, Mr Baron was awake all night working the plot out in his mind. He started putting pen to paper on the flight home.

“I felt this urgency to get it down,” he said. “I felt anxious that if I did not get it out fast enough, I might lose the motivation to write it.”

That did not happen. Instead, he spent the next year working on it. Having a busy full-time job as chief compliance officer at Coindesk, he could write on Saturdays only.

“I dedicated all of my spare time last summer to writing,” he said. “I did not see my friends.”

He also kept his writing secret, because he was unsure if he would really finish the book, or if it would be worth anyone else reading.

After he completed the first draft, he shared the story with a couple of trusted people. The response from them was positive, and encouraged him to keep going.

“If they had said, this is cute, I would not have put it out publicly,” Mr Baron said.

Although the idea for the book was based on a real story the bulk of it was fictional.

“I had to make up a lot, because no one really knew much about the man my friend’s mother had an affair with,” he said.

It was important to him that the book be set in Bermuda. The fictional couple in Just South of Faithful meet at Chaplin Bay in Warwick. As a writer, he went back to the beach to look at it with fresh eyes.

“I looked around and thought, yeah, this is what you might see and feel when you are here,” he said. “I wanted to get things right so that even people reading in say, Toronto, could get a feel for the place.”

Self-published: Jeff Baron loves short stories, so it was natural that he write one (Photograph supplied)

He found it fun to research Bermuda in the 1980s.

“Cup Match 1985 was held in St George’s and the result was a draw,” he said. “In the book, that is why the lovers decide to stay in the West End. Laura did not want anyone to recognise her with her lover, New York Times reporter John Braeden. However, he had to go to the game to cover it.”

Mr Baron’s readers have sent him many messages of support.

“I had one message from someone on Facebook who said, I just read your book. It was amazing. I have not been to the island in 20 years, but I felt like I was there again. It was really nice to get a comment like that.”

One Amazon reviewer calling himself Big Dread Rasta wrote: “Bare heat a fling from de page”.

Another reviewer, Anette Sveen, wrote: “Jeff Baron has crafted a poignant, reflective, and beautifully written novel that speaks to the fears and hopes of anyone who has ever risked their heart for love.”

It took Mr Baron a year to write JustSouth of Faithful.

“I thought 150 to 200 pages was a good place to start for someone new to fiction writing,” he said. “After the first couple of edits, my editors swapped out stuff and cut stuff so it was even shorter than I initially thought it would be.”

When he first finished the novella he tried traditional publishing. The response he got back was that it was too short, and that he should lengthen it. He wanted to leave it as a novella.

“I did not want to extend it,” he said. “My favourite books and stories are all short stories or novellas. One of my top short stories is Legends of the Fall by Jim Harrison and Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx.”

He chose to self publish. “I am really pleased with how it came out,” he said.

Mr Baron’s character, John Braeden, hailed from Hancock Street, Newton, a town just outside of Boston.

“I chose that location because my grandparents lived on Hancock Street,” Mr Baron said. “I called bookstores and said I had a book coming out that mentioned Newton. I am going to do a book signing in Newton tonight. I also have one scheduled at Trident, my favourite independent bookstore on Newbury Street in Boston.”

• Just South of Faithful is available at Brown & Co and Amazon

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Published June 26, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated June 27, 2024 at 8:09 am)

Jeff Baron pens first romance novella

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