Volume 1: Portrait of a Girl Running
All Leila wants is to get through her senior year at her new high school without drawing undue attention. Not that she has any big secret to protect, but her unconventional upbringing has made her very private. At seventeen, she realizes just how odd it was that two men raised her—one black, one white—and no mother. Not to mention they were blues musicians, always on the move. When her father died, he left her with a fear of foster care and a plan that would help her fall between the cracks of the system. Three teachers make that impossible—the handsome track coach, her math teacher from hell, and a jealous gym instructor. Compromising situations, accusations of misconduct, and judicial hearings put Leila’s autonomy and even her dignity at risk, unless she learns to trust an unlikely ally.
“The characters are deeply drawn and engaging. J. B. Chicoine is destined for greatness.”
“The prose is always lyrical, Chicoine’s words like a tapestry, growing more vibrant as the story continues.”
“One of the best books I’ve ever read!”
Volume 2: Portrait of a Protege
Four years after the close of Portrait of a Girl Running, Leila is twenty-two and living on a pretty little lake in New Hampshire. A new set of circumstances throws her into a repeating cycle of grief that twists and morphs into unexpected and powerful emotions. Leila must finally confront her fears and learn to let go while navigating the field of cutting-edge psychology, protecting herself from the capricious winds of Southern hospitality, playing in the backyard of big-money art, and taming her unruly heart. Even her ‘guardian’ has a thing or two he must learn about love and letting go.
“Chicoine has a mastery over words that I just can’t fathom. She brings us into Leila’s world with such depth and emotion that I swear I am right there in it.”
“Never have I been so wrapped up in a story!”
CIR: What inspired these “portraits”?
CHICOINE: Well, having grown up in a large family, I was never alone. My character Leila ends up as an orphan at 16 years old—really, a very precarious time in life. I guess writing this story was a way to explore how it would feel not to have anyone to rely on. Also, I’ve always been intrigued with unconventional relationships (romantic or otherwise) and what makes them endure or fizzle, especially when a lot is working against their success.
CIR: How did you go about the publishing process?
CHICOINE: I started this novel back in 2006. I originally wrote it just for my husband, but of course, in the back of my mind I thought it would be really cool to publish it some day. I’ve never had more fun writing any story! Then, I started looking into publishing and soon found out that I really didn’t have a clue about writing well. I put this novel, and it’s sequel, on the shelf. To be honest, I was a little squeamish about putting it out there because it revolves around a 17 year-old girl and her developing relationship with two male teachers—one relationship turns romantic. Because I relate to Leila in many ways—yes, there’s a lot of me in her—I was afraid readers might think it was somehow semi-autobiographical. For the record, it’s not! After I published two novels, it was time to make a decision about these stories—I figured, what the heck! They’re good, solid stories with a lot of depth and I’m proud of them. So far, they’ve been my most popular.
CIR: Are any of the characters like you or someone you know?
CHICOINE: I have to admit that Leila and I share a similar style of painting—very controlled and detailed. Of course, Leila is a far better artist at seventeen than I ever was. By the end of Protégé, she has conquered a lot of the fears I still struggle with, so I guess I tried on her daringness just to see how it felt.
CIR: Is there any content that some readers might find questionable despite the overall “clean” feel of the book?
CHICOINE: I think that some readers, when they see the description of this novel, may think this is a hot and steamy story with illicit sex. In fact, it’s not. Girl Running—and also Protégé—aren’t really about taboo relationships as much as they are about the twisted road that love sometimes takes, about letting go of old baggage and grabbing for something far more enduring than lust. As for Portrait of a Girl Running, if a reader is squeamish about a teacher/student relationship, even though there is no sex—closed-door or implied—with barely a kiss, then this is not a good choice for them. If they don’t mind reading about two people struggling to deal with an inappropriate attraction in a dignified way, this will be in enjoyable read with a lot of emotional depth and fully developed characters.