CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's a classic tale of a double life: mild-mannered librarian by day, steamy romance writer by night.
Susan Maguire is the circulation services supervisor for the Kanawha County Public Library, but she is also romance author Sarah Title. When she's not making sure overdue books are returned, she's making pulses race with her new digital book, "Kentucky Home," which came out April 18 from e-Kensington and is available anywhere e-books are sold, like Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.
Her sexy lead characters Mallory Thompson and Keith Carson discover love and passion underneath their initial frustration with each other at the fictional Wild Rose Farm and Stables. Mallory is distancing herself from a villainous ex-husband, and Keith has withdrawn after his wife's death.
The bookends of heartbreak and healing are expected in a romance novel, but it's the in-between parts that challenge a writer, Maguire said.
"There is sort of a dismissal of all kinds of genre fiction -- that it's predictable and it's not meaningful. I don't like to compare it to literary fiction because I think that makes both kinds of writing come out losing. I think all kinds of reading are valuable," she said.
"People are attracted to the romance formula because it's comforting. But, in the right hands, it's also interesting because you know you have to get from point A to point B, and there are a lot of different ways to get there."
Maguire has a bachelor's degree in English from Vassar College and a master's in library science from Indiana University. She came to Charleston six years ago to take the job at the library, though her passion for books and reading has had the lead in her life since childhood.
She wrote her debut novel, "A Ride on Halley's Comet," when she was in the third grade. Her blog says, "It was a compelling story of one girl's anthropological adventures at a Martian dinner party. Feedback was strong, but reviewers said the science needed work."
"Kentucky Home" came to life when Maguire and a friend, who was living in Kentucky, started having fun with the Harlequin romance novel formula.
"My friend was in Kentucky horse country at the time, and we started creating characters. We made up the feisty Irish horse trainer and the sheik who owns all these thoroughbred horses -- stuff that does appear in romance novels. That is where I jumped off from, but it turned out not at all to be the Kentucky that I wrote about. These people are not rich."
As a transplant to Appalachia, she wanted to write "a love letter of sorts" to the region that captures her feelings about the unexpected warmth and complexity of people here. Though set in Kentucky, Maguire's novel addresses many of her perceptions of her experiences with people in West Virginia.
She began reading romance novels in high school but stopped in college when she became "a serious English major person." When she started toward her master's degree, however, she read a wide range of genres to gain the skills to help library patrons. "I started reading romance again and thought, wait, these are good. That got me back into it."