Tartan titillation lures fans of 50 Shades of Grey

Samantha Young, who has signed a deal with Penguin. Picture: TSPL
Samantha Young, who has signed a deal with Penguin. Picture: TSPL
Share this article
Have your say

MOVE over 50 Shades Of Grey; the latest blockbuster is more 50 Shades Of Tartan.

An erotic novel written by a 26-year-old Edinburgh University graduate and set in the rarefied world of the capital’s New Town has become a runaway bestseller in the United States, beating JK Rowling’s latest offering, The Casual Vacancy, to become number one in the Kindle USA charts.

On Dublin Street

On Dublin Street

On Dublin Street tells the story of a young American woman who moves in to the New Town street - best known for its upmarket restaurants and quiet Georgian houses - and starts a passionate love affair with Braden Carmichael, a dashing Edinburgh property developer at Commercial Quay. It is currently on the New York Times and USA Today e-book bestseller lists and is due to be published in paperback in January.

Its author, Samantha Young, who grew up in Falkirk before studying history at the University of Edinburgh, has now been snapped up for a two-book deal by Penguin and is currently working on a sequel to On Dublin Street, which was described by one Amazon.com reviewer as having “just the right amount of hotness, sexiness and romance”.

She admits that Edinburgh’s New Town was perhaps an unusual venue to set such a steamy book.

“To a certain extent I did want to tear down the stiff upper lip reputation that Edinburgh has,” she said. “You don’t really think of Edinburgh as a ‘sexy’ sort of place and I wanted to bring a more contemporary and modern feel. I’ve had a few readers in the US who mentioned that it doesn’t seem like Scotland in their head as they see it as such a traditional place.”

In the book, Young’s heroine, Jocelyn spends time at a number of famous Edinburgh landmarks, including George Street nightclub Tigerlily, the German Christmas market, Edinburgh Castle, where she is particularly fond of Mons Meg, also known as the One O’Clock Gun, and Carmichael’s fictional office at Commercial Quay in Leith.

Young, who has already written ten young adult novels, self-published the book online in August after being unable to find a publisher. Within a fortnight it was at number 16 in the US Kindle charts, she had signed up with a literary agent and been offered a deal with Penguin. She says she has been blown away by the reaction the book has received.

“Things got very crazy very quickly,” said Young, who now lives in Bridge of Allan. “A lot of my teen fiction readers are older and they bought it and immediately put it into the top 100, and from there it went all the way to number one, which was just incredible. I’ve had people campaigning on Facebook for it to get to number one but I thought there was no way it was going to happen. When it did, I was absolutely gobsmacked.”

Young said that she wanted Carmichael, the steamy hero of the book, to be a recognisably Scottish character. “Braden is like a lot of the Scottish men I’m used to - he’s blunt, straightforward, there’s a little bit of authenticity to him. But he is very much a fantasy character,” she said, adding that a number of her American readers had expressed interest in visiting Scotland in search of their very own Braden Carmichael.

The rise in popularity of erotic fiction has been the phenomenon of the publishing world in 2012. Novels like 50 Shades of Grey and its two sequels, by EL James, as well as the Fade series by Kate Dawes and others have dominated the bestseller lists. However the books have been slammed for their lack of literary merit, with Liz Lochhead, currently Scotland’s Makar, characterising them as “sixty shades of shite”.

Scotland on Sunday books editor David Robinson said that there was a certain appeal to erotic fiction, particularly in e-book form.

“The conventional wisdom is that erotic fiction has taken off because people can’t see what kind of book it is when you’re using an e-reader,” he said. “But that isn’t the whole story. E-readers, as novelist James Runcie recently pointed out, are particularly good for straightforward, undemanding, linear narrative - the kind where you don’t need to refer back a few pages to a key paragraph that you subsequently realise may have contained greater depth than you realised. Erotic fiction is, therefore tailor-made for e-readers precisely because it is so undemanding on the reader’s intelligence.”

Edinburgh, currently a Unesco City of Literature, has a rich writing heritage with luminaries from Robert Louis Stevenson to Ian Rankin setting works of fiction amongst its cobbled streets. JK Rowling wrote the entire Harry Potter series in the city, and Sir Walter Scott found it particularly inspiring.

However not everyone was convinced that the novel will be good for Scotland’s literary reputation, or indeed its men. “What will On Dublin Street do for literary Edinburgh? Will it entice hordes of frustrated American women to descend on Edinburgh’s New Town in search of affluent thirty-something Scottish hunks like Braden with his “rumbling, gravelly voice”, “sharp jaw-line, cleft chin, wide cheekbones, roman nose”, and his “amazing arms?” asked Robinson.

“I doubt it. If any of them do make the journey, I suspect that they will be disappointed by the standard issue Scottish male they will bump into near Dublin Street.”

On Dublin Street: an excerpt

I rushed towards the cab with a single-minded determination to grab the door handle.

Instead of the door handle, I grabbed a hand. Bemused, I followed the masculine, tan hand up a long arm to broad shoulders and to a face obscured by the sun beaming down behind his head. Tall, over six feet, the guy towered above me as most tall people did. I was a smallish five foot five.

Wondering why this guy had his hand on my cab, all I really took in was the suit. A sigh escaped from his shadowed face. “Which way are you headed?” he asked me in a rumbling, gravelly voice. Four years I’d been living here and still a smooth, Scots accent could send a shiver down my spine. And his definitely did, despite the terse question.

“Dublin Street,” I answered automatically, hoping I had a longer distance to travel so he’d give me the cab.

“Good.” He pulled the door open.

Download On Dublin Street as an e-book for £2.49. Published by Penguin in paperback on 17 January, priced £7.99