Jess Wells is the author of five novels and five books of short stories, a recipient of a San Francisco Arts Council Grant for Literature and a member of the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival Hall of Fame. Her work is included in more than three dozen anthologies and literary journals, has been reprinted in the UK and translated into Italian. Her latest novel, Straight Uphill: A Tale of Love and Chocolate, mixes both historical and modern times as it spotlights five generations of women chocolatiers in a small Italian village.
Straight Uphill is her first foray into stories of love and romance. She says “I wanted to discuss the many facets of love beyond romantic love: love of community; maternal love, love of mastery of a craft or art, the love of purpose, heartbreak and loss of love, even the willingness to settle for the echo of love, the remembrance of love. Plus, the way the imaginary ideal of love can embitter genuine love; fear of love and the vulnerability that love requires; the tough choice, especially for women, between love and freedom. As so much of what we do is caught up with some type of love, it became a really fascinating topic to me.”
Jess’s previous historical fiction includes A Slender Tether, a vivid tale set in 14th Century France that dramatizes the early years of the historical Christine de Pizan, a woman now considered one of the great minds of the Middle Ages.
Her earlier historical novel, The Mandrake Broom, dramatizes the fight to save medical knowledge during the witch-burning times in Europe, 1465-1540.
Of her historical fiction, Wells writes:
“I’m drawn to the late Middle Ages or early modern period, 1300-1550, because it was a time of tremendous change in Europe. In A Slender Tether, we see Christine de Pizan, a brilliant thinker at a time when women did not write, grappling with ambition, while her mentor struggles with disillusionment. I wanted to dramatize the very thin line between those two states; the thin connection between what is and what can be; what is and what is imagined, the fragile tether that keeps us from harm and loneliness, as well as attached to our own identity.”
“I’m also interested in how inventions changed the social landscape. For instance, in The Mandrake Broom, the main character sees herself in one of the first full-length mirrors. In our day we worry about footage of ourselves showing up on YouTube, but here’s a woman who, like most of the day, had never seen an accurate reflection of their entire body. It must have been a startling moment.”
Praise for Straight Uphill: A Tale of Love and Chocolate
“…Wells captures love and longing, death and grief, hope and fortitude in writing that is lucid, clear and immediate. I am in awe of how much is going on in this short novel, and how vividly it is presented.” —Seymour Hamilton, author of The Astreya Trilogy
“The arrival of a grief-stricken American sparks a series of unlikely alliances in a remote Italian village known only for its chocolates. Sweetly sensuous, the story spins across centuries as only Jess Wells can do, weaving historic fiction into a contemporary tapestry of tale of loss, love, second-chances and chocolate.” —Nisa Donnelly, author of The Bar Stories
“Author Jess Wells has written an insightful, delicious novel in Straight Uphill: A Tale of Love and Chocolate. The reader is engaged in the story from the ﬁrst page to the last, while contemplating the sumptuous chocolates, delicious Italian meals, and budding love relationships. Along the way, there are some surprising twists and turns. A simply delightful book!” —5 Stars from Deborah Lloyd for Readers’ Favorite
“Straight Uphill is lush, lovely and enchanting, merging past and present with the tang and sweetness of chocolate, and proving that redemption and healing, and even love are there waiting where one least expects it. I had a marvelous time getting wrapped up in this spellbinding and beautifully written novel. Straight Uphill: A Tale of Love and Chocolate is most highly recommended.” —5 Stars from Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite