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Fiction by Jess Wells

Straight Uphill: A Tale of Love and Chocolate

In a hilltop Italian village, five generations of women confectioners work the improbable magic of love and chocolate. Can a brokenhearted American tourist fight the ghosts of her past to find a new life? Can a courageous mother save the village in the midst of war; and a renegade daughter redefine familial love? Could unlikely couples find each other despite their differences? If an abandoned widow navigates a shifting sense of purpose, will the legacy of chocolatiers take a new turn?

Straight Uphill: A Tale of Love and Chocolate

The Disappearing Andersons of Loon Lake

An audio book narrated by the author focuses on the love, loss, irony and humor in the lives of eight families living around Loon Lake, a shallow fishing spot in Northern Michigan. Whether it’s the story of a young dreamer and a bully, a man looking forward to retirement and the family that stands in his way; a teacher facing ethical choices, or a family coping with disaster, these stories delight.

New reviews on

By obeck -
The Disappearing Andersons of Loon Lake
"A collection of short stories loosely tied together by a location, that being Loon Lake, a sort of darker version of Lake Wobegon. But what really ties the stories together is Well’s wry sensibilities and lyrical prose. She mixes tragedy and comedy to great effect; producing stories that feel true as if it were gossip heard first hand. The bite sized stories in audio-book form are perfect for listening-to-while-commuting."
By kelly hemingway -
This review is of: The Disappearing Andersons of Loon Lake (Kindle Edition)
"This story stuck with me long after I first listened to it. Living in a small community and seeing the remnants your life floating in the air for everyone to examine is such a strange kind of exposure. My mind has wandered back to it on a number of occasions, most recently in the aftermath of the North County fires in California. There was a picture in the newspaper of someone holding a half burned photo that had floated down into their yard; the burned remnants of someone else's life. Jess Wells must be prescient."

Read more reviews here.

The Disappearing Andersons of Loon Lake, an audio book, is available on, and iTunes.

Audiobook ISBN 978-1-5136-2050-3
FIC029000 FICTION/Short Stories
FIC 066000 FICTION/Small Town and Rural

Book Club Guide for A Slender Tether

Amid the violent weather of Europe's Little Ice Age in 1395, A Slender Tether offers three compelling tales of self-discovery, including the early life of Christine de Pizan who would go on to become the supreme intellectual of the century and the first woman to make her living as a writer.
A Slender Tether

Amid the turbulent weather of Europe’s Little Ice Age, A Slender Tether offers three compelling tales of self-discovery, woven into a rich tapestry of 14th century France. Christine de Pizan, daughter of a disgraced court physician and astrologer, grapples with her ambition to be the first woman writer in France. A doctor finds an unusual way to cope with the death of his wife. And opportunity alternates with disasters in the lives of four commoners, yoked by necessity: a paper-maker struggling to keep his business, a falconer with a mysterious past, a merchant’s daughter frantic to avoid an arranged marriage, and a down-on-his-luck musician with a broken guitar and the voice of an angel.

"Three novellas combine to create a greater whole in Jess Wells’ A Slender Tether. Fourteenth-century France was submerging into a period eventually known as “the little ice age,” a nearly 200-year-long era of climate change that caused harsher and longer winters in the northern hemisphere. The book brings together a cast of characters from all ranges of common society during this period. A young woman, Christine de Pizan, the court physician’s daughter (and an actual historical figure), struggles with her desire to be a writer and scholar in a time when it was not an appropriate path for women. There is a doctor coping the death of his wife; a paper maker, Bernard, whose failing eyesight may cost him his livelihood; a merchant’s daughter fearing an arranged marriage; a hunter, Jean; a falconer; and the unlucky singer, Guillaume. This cast is woven together, their stories loosely and yet intimately connected.

Wells has artfully captured with economy and delicacy a time in history that is overlooked in favor of more revolutionary time periods. Notably, instead of focusing on royalty or nobility – often the inclination of historical fiction in this period – Wells has focused on ordinary people. Each of these characters is struggling with survival, their desires, and the ridged reality of society at the time. For a relatively short book that is comprised of three even smaller parts, one at times wonders what exactly the “tether” is. But, as the story draws to a close, one realizes the tether is both in the interwoven threads of characters within the story as well as the similarity of their struggles. One is left feeling connected to these people, and their cold harsh time comes across beautifully in this well-written and researched work." -- Historical Novels Review

“Jess Wells (The Mandrake Broom) has mastered the art of the immersive historical, exemplified by her latest release from Fireship Press, A Slender Tether .... Brilliantly conceived and perfectly executed, A Slender Tether is an engaging, rewarding read. Highly recommended.” – Jerry Wheeler, in Out in Print

“Wells has spun this woman's tale into an intriguing and engrossing story that will set readers seeking more… Wells has an incredible ability to teach without diatribe, tells a wickedly engrossing tale full of empathy (and, in this case, more than a little sympathy), and knows her history cold. Jess Wells is just bloody brilliant. Go. Buy. Read.” – ‘Nathan Burgoine writing on

“This extraordinary trio of stories …celebrate human ingenuity, resourcefulness, and resilience. The writing is sure, the voice arresting and original. Places come alive; the seasons are painted skillfully, there for the reader to experience… Highly recommended to readers interested in the lives of medieval people who were neither royalty nor members of the nobility, and who are all the more individual and interesting for that.”— Tinney S. Heath, author of A Thing Done (Fireship Press)

Published by FireShip Press, 2013
Available in paperback and ebook formats.

Book Club Guide for The Mandrake Broom

One woman's fight to save medical knowledge during the witch-burning times 1465-1540 in Europe and preserve the writings of Trotula. The Mandrake Broom shows the tension between visibility and invisibility, between internal strength and external powerlessness, and the continually fluid interplay of those factors, while it takes the reader through persecution and plague, love and joy, and the struggle for unity.
The Mandrake Broom

The Historical Novels Review Magazine says...

"The Mandrake Broom belongs on everyone's reading list."
The Historical Novels Review, Issue 41, August 2007
Reviewed by Suzanne J. Sprague

"Historical events...are elegantly woven into the plot...Wells' detailed bibliography confirms her extensive research. The well-rounded characters, constant action, and captivating subject matter unite to enlighten as well as infuriate as the atrocities of the time period become real through Wells' vivid writing... Reminiscent of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon series, Jess Wells' third novel belongs on everyone's reading list, especially of those who enjoy books about strong women willing to fight for their beliefs."

The Mandrake Broom, a historical novel based in Europe 1465-1540, dramatizes one woman’s courageous fight to save medical knowledge during the witch-burning times.
Early praise is calling it "stunningly good...tremendously involving and impressive," --Katherine Forrest, author.

Luccia Alimenti, daughter of a medical professor at the University of Salerno, Italy, destined to carry ancient texts and herbal lore into the dangerous and ground-breaking future.
Fiona, her Irish godmother who tries to protect her and forge a family while struggling with epilepsy and grief.
Marcelle, a hunter and co-conspirator as they are pushed to the brink and take up arms for revenge.
Theo Paracelsus, father of modern chemistry, a brilliant eunuch and addict who works with Luccia to forge a bridge between the new and old medicines.

The Mandrake Broom involves the tension between visibility and invisibility, between internal strength and external powerlessness, and the continually fluid interplay of those factors, while it takes the reader through persecution and Plague, love and joy, and the struggle for unity.

The Price of Passion

The Price of Passion
Firebrand Books, $10.95
Signed by the author

In The Price of Passion, Simone -- the orphaned, emotionally neglected daughter of a wealthy family -- must earn her inheritance by traveling the globe delivering a message to her dying grandmother's lovers. The young woman hopes that the pilgrimage will help her reconstruct her shadowed family history -- the shape of lives lived without her, but learns that there is a price to be paid for the emotions one is willing to feel, and the truths one is capable of acknowledging.

Reviews say:
"Wells' language is a rich and varied drug...Unlike so many other highly charged novels, The Price of Passion is a fully integrated story with a compelling conflict and fully developed theme that deals with a subject that is consistent with such a passionate story line. Wells' talents as a storyteller shine in this remarkable voyage." -- Lambda Rising Book Report



InsightOut Books

This classic tale of control, fear and upheaval, features Trout, a successful businesswoman unaccustomed to losing control...Her partner-in-life Patricia, eyewitness to the collapse of a building she helped construct...Cherice, a bisexual trapped in an elevator with a straight man... Louise, whose bar becomes a haven for so many whose lives have suddenly become upended by an 8.0 earthquake in San Francisco.

Reviews say:
"AfterShocks is an achievement. There are lines that are so filled with beauty and truth that they are sheer pleasure to read." -- The Washington Blade

"In this capitvating novel...details leap from the pages." -- Booklist