Juli Page Morgan’s debut novel Crimson and Clover is reissued this week in a brand new, updated edition!
It’s unusual for me to pluck a book off the shelves that’s marketed as “Romance”, but this one is special – it takes place in my favorite era, my favorite place and stars my favorite people – rockers. So I snapped it up.
From Birmingham, Alabama, by way of Haight Ashbury, Katie travels to Swinging London for rock’n’roll, British accents and bacon. She meets rock singer Adam, but soon realizes her mistake – her real passion is for dark-haired lead guitarist Jay Carey. Katie and Jay fall in love, but Jay’s career involves long weeks on the road, where rock’n’roll’s natural companions, sex and drugs, always beckon. And Katie has a secret that’s she sure will drive Jay away if she reveals it – and the secret is one which, if they stay together long enough, he’s bound to learn.
I loved this story, at first for the obvious reasons (Ladbroke Grove, rock music, late sixties) and as I read on, I loved it for other reasons as well. For a start, although Katie is described as wanting a June Cleaver, white-picket-fence family life, she’s no pushover when she encounters the rock stars and their tough managers and road managers. She maintains her own vision as she lives and works among them. And one reason why I normally avoid things shelved in Romance is that I can’t stand the stress of three hundred pages of true lovers being kept apart by step-mothers, angry aunties, finicky fortune-inheriting rules, sadistic lords of the manor, World War II and all the other conflicts writers use to keep couples apart until the Big Ending. In many of these stories I feel the writer wanted to tell the story of How Frodo Got To Destroy the Ring After Three Book’s Worth Of Set-Backs rather than an actual romance. None of that in Crimson and Clover; the pair find each other quickly and satisfyingly, and tension arises naturally from the plot revelations. Given all that could come between them, can Katie really keep Jay Carey?
I think we’ve all seen those movies where Michael York, with his cut-glass accent and wearing a suit with a white carnation in the jacket pocket, has to interact for some manufactured reason with a Freak (played, if we’re lucky by Twink, if we’re not lucky (and we usually aren’t lucky) played by a toffee-nosed RADA graduate in a paisley blouse and fright wig) who says Hey Man and Groovy a lot and eventually persuades ‘uptight’ Basil to wear flares (bell bottoms) and trip out on pot in a Soho basement filled with writhing mini-skirted dolly birds and atonal music by a band probably called The Chocolate Teapot. This is not the book of that movie. As a Led Zeppelin fan, Juli has fully explored the late sixties and early seventies. As a DJ, Juli has met and mingled with real rock stars of various kinds and flavors. She understands (and more importantly, can get down on the page) the power and intensity of rock music and the intervening hours and days of monotony that accompany it – traveling on the road, staying in hotel rooms, bickering with band-mates, managers and wives – and uses the contrast to drive the plot and build well-rounded, fully human characters.
Disclosure – I’m a friend of Juli’s, in that internet way where we’ve known each other for ages and yet have never met in real life. We bonded on a Led Zeppelin message board (of course) and shared our mutual appreciation of Ladbroke Grove, the late sixties and long-haired rock guitarists – all of which are featured in Crimson and Clover as well as in my own stories.
Read Chapter One of Crimson and Clover here.