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The romance is hot in a Kansas City speakeasy, thanks to this new Harlequin author

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"A Blues Singer to Redeem Him," by Elle Jackson.

"A Blues Singer to Redeem Him," by Elle Jackson. (Harlequin/TNS)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — To some, she is Dana Jackson, real estate agent, or perhaps Professor Dana Jackson, if you're her student at the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth.

Or maybe D.L. Jackson to readers of young adult fiction.

But the name most likely to succeed is Elle Jackson, romance writer.

The woman of many identities is a native of Kansas City, Kansas (she was Dana Carroll when she attended Sumner Academy) who has attained the holy grail of romance writers: a contract with Harlequin. Her first book with the legendary publishing company, "A Blues Singer to Redeem Him," will be released Aug. 24. She is the first Black author for the Harlequin Historical romance line.

"I was in shock," she said of hearing the news from Harlequin. "I don't even think I thought it was real at first.

"It was actually on my vision board from a few years ago that I wanted to write for Harlequin."

The book is set during Prohibition in Kansas City, where blues club owner Lorenzo De Luca falls for singer Evelyn Laroque. Romance, of course, ensues — as do obstacles posed by the Ku Klux Klan and gangsters.

Harlequin books are known to be fairly racy, and Jackson's Facebook page reads, "Elle Jackson writes naughty books."

Perhaps that's not what you would expect from an author who cut her teeth on young adult and science fiction novels, much less one who holds a doctorate in education and is a former teacher in KCK public schools and a mother of two young children. But Jackson, who also has done editing and designing for books, is nothing if not versatile.

"I see myself ... as somebody who writes a little bit of everything," she said.

For now, she is concentrating on real estate and romance fiction, having stepped away from her position in the English department at the University of St. Mary.

Jackson's career trajectory changed while she was earning a Master of Fine Arts degree with a focus on writing popular fiction from 2016 to 2018 at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. She met a romance author who inspired her. Jackson also made her first contact with the Harlequin folks, who have partnered with Seton Hill to establish the Harlequin Diverse Voices Annual Scholarship for Writing Popular Fiction.

"So that was really when I started thinking of myself as a romance writer because I realized everything I was writing had a strong romantic element to it," she said.

Jackson was a finalist for Harlequin's 2019 Romance Includes You Mentorship, which led to her book deal for "A Blues Singer to Redeem Him."

She is working on a second book for Harlequin.

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