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by Tobsha Learner

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Learner's The Witch of Cologne is an erotically-charged novel of people swept inexorably along by events they could not control. In Soul, Learner relates the story of Lavinia and Julia Huntington, passionate women trapped in emotional whirlpools that threaten to drown them and everyone they love.

In 19th century Britain, Lavinia is married to an


Learner's The Witch of Cologne is an erotically-charged novel of people swept inexorably along by events they could not control. In Soul, Learner relates the story of Lavinia and Julia Huntington, passionate women trapped in emotional whirlpools that threaten to drown them and everyone they love.

In 19th century Britain, Lavinia is married to an older man who seems to appreciate her lively curiosity. Lavinia proves to be an apt pupil in both the study and the bedroom, glorying in the pleasures of the physical.

In 21st century Los Angeles, geneticist Julia is trying to identify people who can kill without remorse. Stunned to discover that she seems to possess the trait she is looking for, Julia is reassured of her emotions by her intense passion for her husband and her delight in her pregnancy.

In the past, Lavinia's desire for her husband grows, but his cools as he becomes fascinated with another. In the present, Julia's love overwhelms her husband, who leaves her.

Lavinia and Julia feel the tortures of passion unspent. Cold logic tells them that the deaths of their tormentors will bring them peace. Separated by a hundred years, two Huntington women face the same decision. Their choices will echo far into the future.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“A riveting page-turner.” —Publishers Weekly on The Witch of Cologne

“The kind of all-consuming novel that readers hate to see end.” —Booklist on The Witch of Cologne

“Deep and moving.” —Romantic Times BOOKreviews on The Witch of Cologne

“Like a tapestry, the setting is meticulously detailed [and] carefully woven. Learner has a rich historical palette to play with and uses it to create a plot that gains pace as it progresses. The novel will appeal to readers who delight in the worlds conjured in Anne Rice's dark historical romances. Like Rice, Learner writes with a leaning toward eroticism.” —Australian Bookseller & Publisher on The Witch of Cologne

Publishers Weekly

This combination period bodice-ripper and contemporary medical thriller asks if it is possible for a killer trait to be passed down generations. In 2002, Julia Huntington is a genetic researcher working to isolate the gene that turns a person into a killer. She and her husband, Klaus, are expecting their first child when Julia finds out that Klaus has fallen in love with her best friend, and her life goes into a tailspin. Julia's story alternates with that of her great-grandmother, Lavinia, a young Irishwoman married to an older amateur anthropologist, Col. James Huntington, who has his own secret. When revealed, it makes a shambles of Lavinia's life. Will nature dictate how vengefully these two women treat their erring husbands, or will nurture allow them to rise above their baser instincts? Learner (The Witch of Cologne ) details the science behind the question nicely, but underpowers the story's emotion and drama. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
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Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Ireland, 1849

The housekeeper had brought Lavinia to the remote place before, to this gully south of the village where the peat bog finished in a sharp edge, sliced away like a layer cake. The housekeeper’s sister had married a peatcutter whose stone and peat hut crouched resolute against the unforgiving elements. They were Catholics, now suffering under the great famine.

It was spring and the squares of turf sitting in piles on the new grass of the returning bog exuded a rich smell that was somehow exciting. The nine-year-old girl glanced back at the hut. The housekeeper, her wispy gray hair tucked firmly under a woolen bonnet, was in intense conversation with her sister, pushing the bound food parcels into her clawlike hands. Starvation had reduced the woman’s femininity to a series of sharp corners beneath her ragged dress.

Behind her, Lavinia heard the thud of a slean, then ringing as the iron turf-spade found a hidden rock. She knew it was the boy. He looked to be a good three or four years older than her, with a fudge of curling black hair over the wind-burnt oval of his solemn face. She’d noticed him as they were driving toward the small outpost: a skinny, shadowy parody of a man standing by the split peat, scowling at the approaching cart. Here was mystery, and Lavinia had felt her power as she caught him staring at her long loose hair, the ribbons of her bonnet, the extraordinary whiteness of her clean hands, her fresh face.

Without thinking, Lavinia ran toward him while the boy, feigning indifference, knelt to carve a rectangle with the slean.

"Do you like it here?" She kicked at the soil beside him.

Squinting up, he paused, watching the play of her fingers against the scarlet wool of her cloak.

"It’s a living . . . but you wouldn't know anything about that, a flash missy like yourself."

She skipped around to the other side of his patch of peat, turning the word "flash" around in her mind until she imagined she could taste it, like the sugar plums her father had brought her from Dublin for Christmas. The idea made her heart and stomach flutter.

"You think me flash?"

"Flash and pretty, like the sun, like a golden statue that belongs in church." He sat back, surprised at how the observation had suddenly made him feel demeaned, unclean. He knew her to be the daughter of a Protestant vicar, near gentry, and now he found that he resented the pristine naivety of the child, the plumpness of her forearms visible beyond the sleeves of her pinafore. It was almost as if he could eat the child herself. Picking up a sod of peat, he threw it at a crow—the bird’s cawing scribbled across the pewter sky as the black wings lifted it high into the air. Standing, the boy wiped his muddy hands across his thighs, then looked back to where the two women were still engrossed in conversation.

"If you like, I can show you some magic—an elvin’s cave."

Lavinia hesitated. She knew it was wrong to walk off unescorted, but he looked harmless enough, his adolescent wrists dangling, his face as mournful as a donkey’s. Besides, she liked the burning feeling she had when he looked at her.

"We cannot be long. Mrs. O’Brien will worry if I am not in sight."

But he was already leading her away from the field, his cutter swinging from a notch in his belt. She followed him, clambering down a hidden ravine beyond the bog.

Looking around, Lavinia panicked at their isolation. "Where is the cave?"

The boy walked across to a clump of low bush and pulled it aside to reveal the darkened mouth of a small burrow. Most likely an abandoned badger’s den, Lavinia thought, annoyed that he could believe her so gullible; but she still wanted to see it, just in case—against all the logic her father had taught her—elvins might really exist. Then, later, back at the vicarage, she would be able to tell the story to her whispering box, so that her mother could hear her up there in Paradise.

She hoisted her skirt above her knickerbockers and dropped to the spongy heather to crawl into the cave.

"If you get closer you will see their wee purple eyes glinting in the dark."

Lavinia peered into the darkness. Behind her, suddenly, she felt the strangeness of his hands under her petticoats, up between her legs. Kicking, she pushed herself back into the light as she tried to fight him off.

To her amazement, she was not so much afraid as surprised when he pinned her against the bracken. As he held her there he supported his weight with one hand while reaching down with the other to his breeches. The glint of his cutter hanging from his belt pulled at her consciousness. Before she had time to think, she’d grabbed it and, with a strange, soft tearing sound, plunged it into the boy’s thigh.

He screamed once like an animal. She rolled from under him and for a minute, they both stared down at the buried knife. Fascinated, Lavinia watched as blood began to well around the lip of the wound, staining his thin burlap breeches.

"You have fallen on your own knife, understand?" she said softly. Her cool demeanor sent a shiver through the injured boy. "If I hear mention of any other explanation, I shall have you whipped."

Lavinia waited until the boy nodded, his ruddy face now ashen. Then she ran, filled with a wild, thumping exhilaration that she intuitively knew she would have to keep secret, perhaps for her whole life.

Excerpted from Soul by Tobsha Learner

Copyright © 2008 by Tobsha Learner

Published in May 2008 by Tor/Forge

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

Meet the Author

Originally from London, where she trained to be a sculptor, Tobsha Learner has lived in the United States and Australia.

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Soul 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 2002 Los Angeles, pregnant genetic researcher Julia Huntington searches for the gene that makes someone become a remorseless killer. However Julia¿s life collapses when she learns her spouse Klaus loves her best friend she becomes despondent and angry. She also knows she can kill with no remorse having done so in Afghanistan.----------------------- In 1849 Julia¿s great-grandmother, Lavinia was a young woman living in Ireland when she was assaulted she stabbed her attacker feeling no remorse. In 1860 she was chosen to be the wife of three decade older amateur anthropologist Colonel James Huntington. Lavinia was given no choice in the matter. However, when she learns the secret that her spouse hid from she becomes despondent and angry.----------- The fun in this engaging psychological horror thriller lies with the comparative analysis of the two eras especially enlightening are biological theory, criminology, and psychology in 1860 vs. 2008. The audience will enjoy following the escapades of the abusive remorseless couples although the rotating viewpoints between the two women feel disruptive at times, not enabling the reader to get deep into the hearts of either lead female or their ¿abusive¿ spouses. Still psychological horror fans will enjoy Tobsha Learner¿s look at the souls of two female relatives a century and a half apart as the author raises the argument that civilization¿s nurturing can impede or enhance the core individual¿s DNA blueprint depending on circumstances.--------- Harriet Klausner
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pjpick More than 1 year ago
Only made it about 160 pages into this thing and decided it wasn't for me. Here are my impressions based on those 160 pages. I only found one main character likeable in this thing, Lavinia. Oddly enough, having found her the only likeable character I just didn't find her storyline in the book necessary. I understand the author was trying to draw a comparison between the two characters but I don't think it was really necessary for me. The inclusion of Lavinia's story just become filler for me. At first I was intrigued by the premise of the genetic project of the other main character and was interested to see how it was going to play out but after a small mention in the first 10 pages or so it was obvious it was going to take a back burner to sex,betrayal, and pity parties. Too bad, could have made an interesting story and perhaps the line of the book changed I'm just not willing to use my time to see if it does.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Two women, one living in the mid-1800¿s, the other in early 2000, have a lot in common, including their husbands¿ betrayals and perhaps a killer DNA gene. Lavinia was intrigued with James Huntington¿s scientific research. The fact that he was more than twice her age didn¿t stop her from falling in love and winning him over with her insatiable intellectual curiosity. Their marriage fulfilled her dreams and bearing him a male heir made them the perfect family. In the present day, Professor Julia Huntington, a direct descendent of Lavinia and James, has just landed a dream DNA sponsorship with the Department of Defense, discovers she¿s pregnant with her first child and is still madly in love with her husband of over a decade. The events in the women¿s lives parallel each other in an unsettling way and Julia is hoping to find resolution through her science. Soul is a relaxing read. The author aptly separated the novel into three parts of the Garden of Eden tale: The Apple, The Serpent, and The Fall. The short chapters alternate between the women¿s point of views which keeps the reader intrigued as to what will happen next. Learner handles transitions well and keeps the reader focused on the women and their lives. The book¿s many layers all relate to its overall theme of `nature vs. nurture.¿ Tobsha Learner, born and raised in England, has lived in Australia and the US. Her third book, the bestselling The Witch of Cologne, was her first work of historical fiction. She has had a collection of short stories published before each of her novels. I recommend Soul to anyone interested in a good story with intriguing female characters. Soul grasps right to the unpredictable end. Reviewer: Lisa Haselton, Allbooks Reviews.