Welcome to Jen’s Jewels, your go-to destination for uncovering the story behind remarkable literary gems. This week, I’m thrilled to shine a spotlight on Jamie Ogle, the gifted mind behind OF LOVE AND TREASON. Join us as Jamie unveils the inspiration that transformed Valentine’s Day from a puzzling celebration into a compelling narrative. Explore with us the extensive research that brought the enchanting backdrop of ancient Rome to life, and discover the delicate balance Jamie strikes between love, courage, and the early church’s indomitable spirit. Step into the heart of Jen’s Jewels where each author and their story is a precious gem waiting to be discovered.
Jennifer Vido: What inspired you to write a captivating story about the legend of St. Valentine?
Jamie Ogle: I never really liked Valentine’s Day, and for so many years didn’t understand why we celebrated it. But I have always loved digging into the “why” behind things, and when I finally looked up the origins of the holiday, I was captivated by the story of forbidden marriages and a man who risked his life to marry couples in secret. I couldn’t help but start playing around with a story centering on one of the couples Valentine married, but the whole story suddenly tilted when I stumbled across an artist’s rendering of Valentine as a young man (versus the typical drawings of an old man with a white beard). My mind raced. Because, instead of an elderly man risking his last few years to defy the emperor, what if Valentine was young? What if he had his whole life ahead of him? What if he risked not only his life, but his own chance for love?
That’s when I realized I had a real story.
Jen: How extensive was your research to ensure the authenticity and resonance of the story with readers?
Jamie: History has long been a favorite subject of mine. But while I minored in history in college and found the Roman Empire fascinating, I never thought I’d write anything set in the ancient world. When this story idea struck, I dove headfirst into the overwhelming amount of documentaries and books on Roman history, life, and culture. The best part about researching this era is that there are so many others who love it and love to talk about it and recommend books and resources—so that was incredibly helpful! My husband and I took a trip to Italy and were able to see Valentine’s remains and walk through the Forum, the Colosseum, and the Markets of Trajan. That was when the story-world really came to life for me.
Jen: What compels Valentine to defy the emperor and officiate weddings despite their prohibition?
Jamie: In addition to Valentine’s belief that God has ordained marriage as good and sacred, the right of free citizens to marry and bear legal heirs was a big deal in ancient Rome. To revoke that right, even for a short time, would have caused a huge uproar. Valentine defies this edict first because of his belief in God-ordained marriage, but also because unmarried women at that time had little to no rights. A widow might inherit her deceased husband’s property and continue to run his business and support her children, but for a couple who wasn’t legally married, if the man died, the woman wouldn’t have the same status as a legitimate widow and would likely become destitute. In the story, Valentine was raised by his widowed aunt who inherited and runs her late husband’s business, so he understands the importance of this issue.
Jen: What circumstances bring Valentine and Iris, the daughter of a Roman jailor, together?
Jamie: At first, it’s a matter of them both being in the same place at the same time, but as the story progresses, Valentine’s and Iris’s lives become increasingly entangled. Their friendship grows over Iris’s interest in Valentine’s God, while at the same time, her father (a head jailor drowning in debts) and her childhood friend, Titus (a Praetorian investigator), are hunting Valentine for reasons of their own.
Jen: How does the story skillfully illuminate and celebrate the courage exhibited by the early church?
Jamie: The beginning of the book shows Valentine and his church living in a time of relative peace, though undercurrents of unrest and impending persecution begin to thread through the story pretty quickly. I was so inspired as I read accounts of the early church and how they lived “on mission” every day, pooling their resources to ensure no one in their midst was in need. We see the church stepping in to help in the aftermath of a collapsed insula (apartment building), caring for elderly widows, and later rescuing children from a slave market after their parents have been condemned for their faith. We also get to see Valentine as a young church leader caring for his church and community, while under a vow not to abandon his duty to serve them, even with the threat of danger and possible arrest.
Jen: How does the narrative effectively portray the delicate balance between experiencing God’s blessings and miracles while also delving into the shared experience of Christ’s suffering?
Jamie: This is something Iris has to learn as she goes from being a pagan to being a believer in Christ. Although she experiences answered prayers and miracles, she also comes to understand that God is not simply a good-luck charm to do with as she pleases, or to direct as she wills. If she can only trust God when He does what she wants Him to, then she’s not trusting God at all—she’s trusting in herself and her own plan and using God as the means to get what she wants. The characters grow and find true and lasting hope as they come to understand and trust the sovereignty of God, that He is good and will one day set all wrongs to right, even if they don’t see it happen on earth or in their lifetime. It’s so hopeful to know that this life on earth is not the end of the story. Followers of Jesus were never promised a life of ease on earth, but we are promised that God will be with us, and that one day we believers will spend eternity with Him in a place with no unhappy endings.
Jen: What positive and meaningful messages do you hope readers will carry with them after experiencing the story?
Jamie: I hope readers see the theme of deep, selfless love running through the story and realize that is the way God loves them. I hope that love inspires a deeper relationship with God and the courage to stand for what is right despite the risks—writing this book definitely did that for me.
Jen: Switching topics to your promotional plans, what’s the best way for readers to stay in the loop and connect with you?
Jamie: Readers can head to my website, and subscribe to my newsletter - they’ll get my free novelette, The Translator’s Daughter, and have first access to all my book news and updates. My social media links are there too, and they can find me on Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads, and Bookbub.
Jen: What can readers expect from your next project?
Jamie: My next story, releasing in early 2025, picks up several years after Of Love and Treason and tells the story of Demitra, a young diver torn between protecting her family’s livelihood and risking it all to help the new church leader whose every decision seems to put everyone in greater danger. Set on the sunny, turquoise shores of ancient Lycia, this next book retells the life and legends of Saint Nicholas in a way you’ve never heard them before. (We also get a peek at what some of the characters from Of Love and Treason have been up to.)
Jen: What upcoming titles have made it onto your “to-be-read” list?
Jamie: There are so many great books coming out this year, and I’m sure I’ll miss some in this list. I’m super excited to read Heather Kaufman’s debut novel, Up From Dust, which also releases in January, The Seamstress of Acadie by Laura Frantz, Love in Tandem by Becca Kinzer, Her Part to Play by Jenny Erlingsson, The British Booksellers by Kristy Cambron, The Divine Proverb of Streusel by Sara Brunsvold, The Elusive Truth of Lily Temple by Joanna Davidson Politano, Born of Gilded Mountains by Amanda Dykes—and the list goes on!
Jen: It was a pleasure learning more about OF LOVE AND TREASON. Wishing you the very best as you navigate this exciting chapter in your literary journey!
Jamie: Thank you so much for chatting with me, Jen! This has been an absolute joy!
Valentine defies the emperor and becomes a hero . . . and the most wanted man in the empire. Compelled by his faith, he has nothing to lose, until a chance encounter with the daughter of a Roman jailor changes everything.
Rome, AD 270. In the wake of the emperor’s marriage ban, rumors swirl that there is one man brave enough to perform wedding ceremonies in secret. A public notarius and leader of an underground church, Valentine believes the emperor’s edict unjust and risks his own life for the sake of his convictions. But as his fame grows, so do fears for his safety.
Iris, the daughter of a Roman jailor, believes regaining her sight will ease the mounting troubles at home. Her last hope rests in searching out Valentine and his church, but the danger of associating with people labeled a threat to the empire is great. Still, as Iris's new friends lead her to faith in God, Iris is drawn to Valentine and they both begin to hope for a future together beyond the treacherous empire.
But when a past debt and a staggering betrayal collide, Valentine, Iris, and everyone they love must fight for their lives . . . and wrestle with trusting a God who can restore sight yet does not always keep His followers from peril.
Fiction | Historical [Tyndale House Publishers, On Sale: January 23, 2024, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781496479679 / ]
Jamie Ogle is a predawn writer, homeschool mom by day, and a reader by night. Inspired by her fascination with the storied history of faith, she writes historical fiction infused with hope, adventure, and courageous rebels. A Minnesota native, she now lives in Iowa with her husband and their three children, and she can usually be found gardening, beekeeping, and tromping through the woods.
Jennifer Vido writes sweet romances set in the Lowcountry filled with southern charm and hospitality. In between chapters, she interviews authors for her bi-weekly Jen’s Jewels column on FreshFiction.com. Most mornings, she teaches an arthritis-friendly water exercise class for seniors before heading to the office to serve as the executive director of a legal non-profit. A New Jersey native, she currently lives in Maryland with her husband and two rescue dogs and is the proud parent of two sons who miss her home-cooked meals. To learn more, please visit her website.
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