Natural Attraction was published by Penner Publishing in May 2015. Sadly, the publishing house with the tag “books for smart women” closed in 2018. I have the right to my title and am considering what to do with it.
Natural Attraction is about Clementine, an aspiring scientist from Spookstad, Michigan who takes a tonic to become a man to advance her career.
The bookback reads: Clementine dreams of being a naturalist—a career that leaves no time for romance. To sneak on an adventurous prospecting expedition, Clementine will have to convince everyone she’s a man. A mysterious tonic offers her just that disguise.
But “Calvin,” as she calls herself now, had no idea what she was giving up. When Wesley, the expedition’s gentle preacher, catches her eye, she can’t get him out of her head; not his lush lips, wide brown eyes…or broad chest. Dare she reveal her secret to him? Can she keep her career if she does?
Among run-ins with cowboys, natural disasters, and traveling shows, Wesley’s most fascinating adventure is meeting Calvin. Though Wesley’s betrothed to another, the cute, clever naturalist threatens to make him fall into temptation.
“Catherine Haustein’s love of science imbues every page of this fascinating novel. Be prepared to learn as well as be entertained. The heroine Clementine is a frustrated naturalist longing to make a great scientific discovery. A special potion enables her to transform into a man so that she can serve as a naturalist on a prospecting expedition in 1871. Haustein packs her book with mid-nineteenth century happenings and curiosities: gold-rush era prospectors, madams, cowboys, traveling road show performers, and her native mid-western Dutch culture. Woven into the romantic plot between Clementine/Calvin and her star-crossed lover, Wesley, Haustein weaves reflections on Darwin and religion, the relationship between plant, animal, and human life, and the struggles of women in science. Queer readers will like her fluid view of mid-nineteenth century sexuality. A smart, lively read.”(Amazon review)
“I adored NATURAL ATTRACTION by Catherine Haustein from beginning to end. I read it with an enthusiasm rarely felt in my life since early puberty when sci fi, romance and western novels were an escape from what I then saw as an unbearable dull small town existence…If MOBY DICK and PLAYING THE JACK had a love child that was educated at Harvard and had a side gig as a stand up comedian in a steampunk hipster bar it might be a little like Natural Attraction.”” – See more at: http://www.scifiromancequarterly.org/2015/09/reviews/#sthash.7nYhd9mA.dpuf
This review from Goodreads hits at the serious heart of this comic novel:
Rosalie’s review Dec 02, 2016
it was amazing
This novel has been categorized in various ways: a historical romance, an adventure novel, a novel of the Old West. The descriptions are accurate, but what I appreciate most about the book is its subtle wit and its good-humored, naive, endearingly goofy narrator, Clementine. Another aspect I appreciate: though the plot hinges on societal constraints preventing a woman in the 1870s from pursuing her dream to find work as a naturalist, the novel doesn’t ignore Clementine’s racial and class privilege as a white person with a good (if unorthodox) education. As she takes on a male appearance and moves west, the novel makes clear that it’s not just her presumed maleness but also her whiteness that earns acknowledgment and respect for her work.
In a way, you could argue that Clementine’s main love interest here is science, and she is so eager and well-intentioned that you can’t help sharing her sense of wonder at the natural world and her enthusiasm about contributing to our knowledge of it.
I was introduced to the author’s work a couple of years ago, when she contributed a wonderfully dystopic short story to the anthology I edited. That’s going to be the basis of her next novel, and I can’t wait to read it!