When searching for inspiration for her newest historical fiction novel, L.A.-based novelist Nicola Harrison knew Laguna Beach would make the perfect backdrop for her tale of love, art and secrets as the main character, Hazel Frances, searches for direction and meaning in the aftermath of World War 2.
In her book, “Hotel Laguna,” Harrison vividly depicts a Laguna adapting to post-war change – taking old traditions and rebuilding them in an altered world. Laguna’s storied coastline, coves, caves, and beaches are a large part of the book’s setting, while Hotel Laguna, once frequented by Hollywood’s elite, feels opulent once again and takes center stage in its pages.
The novel follows the story of Hazel Frances from Wichita, Kansas. Frances spent World War II building planes in a Los Angeles factory. She loved the work, the paycheck and the sense of purpose. But when the war ends, the soldiers return, and Frances loses her job and home. With no husband or parents to return home, she hops on a train and heads South toward Orange County.
Frances relocates to Laguna Beach and takes a job as an assistant to a cantankerous artist named Hanson Radcliff. She is quickly pulled into a long-buried scandal involving the artist and a Hollywood starlet. Frances believes a missing painting will set the story straight and set her boss free from his mental anguish. She resolves to find the painting and, in the process, finds out who she is and who she hopes to be.
“The artist character isn’t based on any real-life artists from Laguna Beach, but I did certainly research the California impressionist artists who were in Laguna,” said Harrison, who consulted with the Laguna Beach Historical Society and the Laguna Beach library while she was writing. “I created him based on an amalgamation of those artists and what I imagined an older or more reclusive artist to be like. I also included the characteristics of that art style, the loose brushstrokes, the great colors and the influences from the French impressionist artists.”
Harrison, whose parents were local artists, lived in Laguna Beach after graduating from UCLA in the early 2000s and said she has plenty of fond memories from that time.
“I had a little apartment right behind the Quorum Gallery from around 2002 to 2003, so I know Laguna and love it. It was a time when I had my first taste of independence. I had a salary job and lived without roommates and everything. It was just a time that was very fun for me.”
More about Hotel Laguna, Harrison’s upcoming in-person events and novels can be found at www.nicolaharrison.com.