Rossana Patruno’s The Hidden Heir is just the beginning of the story – one that features a mysterious, handsome aristocrat, forgotten family secrets, and a fight against the patriarchy. And though the book might leave you desperate for more, that doesn’t make The Hidden Heir any less worth reading. If anything, it makes it even more appealing
Fangirlish had a chance to talk to Patruno about the book, where Inga and Biagio go next, and writing a story that is basically one girl fighting the patriarchy – something most women have felt like doing at one point or another.
“I’d like to say that it was a deeply-thought decision, but it was either accidental or an expression of my deepest subconscious,” Patruno said about the messaging of the book. “In the earliest drafts, the closest thing to the patriarchy was a dropped subplot about recovering from an abusive ex-boyfriend and consequently healing with the support of a loving family and learning to open our hearts to a new love. However, things took a turn in the current direction after professional developmental editing made me reconsider Inga’s relationship with her mother.”
Then, came the story we see in The Hidden Heir, the one that feels both very real and very, very relatable. “The realization that the story had taken a “Heroine Against the Patriarchy” turn came later. The more I thought about it, the more my guts urged me to move in that direction. I needed to show Inga fighting not only to make her dreams come true and become her own person, capable of standing on her feet but how she also pushes away the mold her mother had been trying to fit her into: a meek girl at the service of her family with no agency of her own, completely depending on others.”
Any book whose main storyline has to do with dismantling the patriarchy has to deal with the sad reality that women do a lot to uphold the patriarchy themselves. For Paturno, this wasn’t just something she had to keep in mind, it was something she had to understand.
“I was raised in a patriarchal environment, and couldn’t see how older women can support it. After I moved to France, I was confronted with a different more supportive way to raise a girl (or at least in my husband’s family), which opened my eyes to this situation. But the event that showed me the extent of the role of older women in a patriarchal society was the reading of a news article about excision. This awful custom unfortunately is still practised today, and many young ladies in France, coming from foreign countries, suffer from it. What disgusted me the most was that older women —mothers, grandmothers, or aunts— not men, imposed the negation of little girls’ womanhood,” she shared, adding that she was “fortunate not to live in such a culture, but it didn’t mean I wasn’t stumped in a more metaphorical way.
But that’s not all. “After my mother died, I was told that she was proud of me, although not for the efforts I put into my accomplishments, be it writing or creating my own business. Not the courage to leave everything behind for someone I barely knew (she was so embarrassed that she said I left for a job in a different city and was staying with a friend’s family), not for my courage to leave the country and strive to reach the life I truly wanted to live, but only… for “the job I was doing raising my children and the sacrifices I did on their behalf”.”
For Paturno, this was a pivotal moment. “It was from the moment that she had the impression that I “conformed” to her vision, where the husband is the breadwinner and the wife the homemaker, that I got a form of validation from her. It was my desire to prove that I was much more than the SAHM label she stuck on me, that motivated me to write my debut novel.”
This, in turn, inspired Paturno’s writing and her main character Inga in The Hidden Heir. “This is also why I wanted Inga to “open her eyes” about her mother so early in her life. I wished for her to get a stand when it still felt like the beginning and the momentum of early adulthood hadn’t been tarnished by Life. I wanted her to have the opportunities and support I needed at her age but got only later. I wanted her to have no regrets and no what-ifs.”
And though Paturno has a lot of respect for stay-at-home mothers, and was clear that “a white picket fenced house and a brood of children is a dream as valid as winning a Nobel, or becoming a best-selling author,” the important thing about that dream is that it has to be “your own dream,” not someone else’s.
For the author, who describes herself as “far from the “perfect wife model” who wakes up at dawn to cook breakfast for everyone,” there’s still some guilt in the decision to not adhere to the expectations of society. “At first, the years of miseducation make you feel guilt—until you remember that you were up till one AM cursing at your characters who had no intention to stick to the plot.”
Paturno, whose second book in the series is now being edited, and who is now writing the third act of her first draft of the third book, while plotting the last one, couldn’t really give us much on where Inga’s journey would take her next, but she did tease that Inga would “have some important life lessons to learn, notably to get out of her comfort zone and that sometimes we must change our perspective to find the solution, and that there is a time for acting, and another for waiting if we want to reach the best possible result.”
The author, who got her start writing fanfiction, and who credits fanfiction not just with helping her get comfortable with writing in English, but also with helping her discover her own personal tropes. “It was my playground where I could acquire and hone the skills I need in my craft. Wondering about where the original author could have taken this or that character and my theatrical experience gave me the hang of character building. Understanding the mechanism and the rules governing a setting gave me the means to create my own,” she shared.
Plus, there’s also the validation. One that, for Paturno, would turn into her very own love story, as her husband not only read her fanfictions but found them so good that he insisted she turn them into original novels.
And now, here she is. Here we are. And hopefully, soon, there’ll be more to discuss from the world of The Hidden Heir.
More about the book:
When the “less-talented” witch Inga meets the mysterious and handsome magical instructor Biago and starts taking secret lessons among London’s aristocracy, her world opens up to an unexpected euphoria she didn’t know existed, despite being raised by a close-minded mother and patriarchal family. But Inga’s world continues to be turned upside down when family secrets begin to resurface through hallucinations, including a millennia-old sorcerer hunting down Inga’s family, and young women suddenly disappearing across London.
The Hidden Heir is available now, wherever books are sold.