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J.F. Riordan Books In Order

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Publication Order of North Of The Tension Line Books

North of the Tension Line (2014)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Audacity of Goats (2016)Description / Buy at Amazon
Robert's Rules (2018)Description / Buy at Amazon
A Small Earnest Question (2020)Description / Buy at Amazon
Throwing Bears for George (2025)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

Reflections on a Life in Exile (2019)Description / Buy at Amazon

J.F. Riordan is a literary fiction author from Washington Island best known for the “North of the Tension Line” series of novels. She was born in New Jersey but grew up in Wisconsin and Michigan as a child. When she was fourteen, she made up her mind to become an opera singer and she was lucky enough to have singing talent. After two years of high school and aged sixteen, she got admission to the University of New Mexico, where she studied voice. She would, later on, go on to study music in Milwaukee and Chicago before becoming a professional singer. She came back to the Midwest after becoming homesick due to years traveling across the world. Riordan completed her college degree and qualified to become a high school teacher. She was an inner-city school teacher for three years before she quit becoming the program officer for a foundation. JF currently lives with her husband and two canines on Washington Island.

Riordan’s interest in books and storytelling was piqued when as a seven-year-old she was offered a thick red book of fairy tales by her grandmother. She may never have realized how important the book would be in her life. She has since written about fairy tales and the moral code inherent in all of them. About a year later, while she was in the second grade she read “Harriet the Spy.” While JF Riordan has often been compared to Jane Austen, she believes her biggest inspiration has been Louise Fitzhugh. She has read the author’s “The Long Secret,” the sequel to “Harriet Spy” several times over the years. She also liked the “Marry Poppins” book series by TL Travers and the “Doctor Doolittle” novels. She still reads these books to her children just as her father read to her the likes of “Five Children and It,” “The Railway Children,” and “The Phoenix and the Carpet” by E. Nesbit. She was also influenced by a brother that was taking English in college and he read to her and also let her read poetry and other types of literature. Some of the authors she can remember reading at this time include WH Auden, Theodore Roethke, WB Yeats, and Dylan Thomas in addition to some medieval stuff. Riordan developed some baroque habits when she was very young and still reads the likes of Ray Bradbury and Willa Cather.

As for writing, JF Riordan has said that she has always been a writer in some form or other. When she was seven, she would often walk home in summer evenings while making up stories in her head. However, the writing persona has always existed alongside her musical side and for a while, it left her confused. Even though she would have quite a successful career as an opera singer having studied music in her childhood, she was never fully satisfied. Still the movement of phrases, the feeling and sound of words, and rhythm form a big part of her writing. Riordan started writing late thirties when she sought an outlet from her stressful job. Writing was something private and personal that helped her preserve her sanity and gave her a sense of purpose and an outlet. Partly because she did not have any pressure to finish and partly because of so much pressure at work, it took her seven years to write “North of the Tension Line.” The novel was published in 2014 and since then she has published four more novels and “Reflections on a Life in Exile,” a book of essays.

JF Riordan’s “North of the Tension Line” tells the story of Fiona Campbell who just moved to the small town of Ephraim in Wisconsin. The town is full of summer tourists and artists and in the meantime, there is a lot to satisfy even someone from the city like Ephraim. She is repelled and fascinated by Washington Island, utterly removed from modernity, at the remotest end of Door County peninsula. Her visits to the island leave her refreshed, but she believes only hermits and lunatics can live in the frigid isolation the place is blanketed in during the winter. In a moment of weakness, she lets herself be pressured into a dare that she will not be able to live on the old and decrepit house on the island during the winter. Determined to win the dare, she gets a copy of Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations,” the finest single malt scotch. It is not long before she realizes that the small town may not be as boring as she thought it would be. Ephraim abandons the things she once thought very important as she deals with a ruthless neighbor, small-town life, a haunted ferry captain, and persistent animals.

“The Audacity of Goats” by JF Riordan continues the story of Fiona Campbell’s exasperations, pleasures, and mysteries. But all is not well in the north as several nighttime happenings have left the islanders uncertain, unsettled and not knowing whether to be annoyed or nervous. Could a malevolent stranger be hiding and seeking to harm the citizens or maybe they are just the victims of a well thought out teenage prank. In the meantime, the newest owners of a goat farm who just moved into town proclaim themselves the leaders of the town. Meanwhile, the captain’s ten-year-old son Ben seems to be hiding something, and the ferry captain Pali has writer’s block which is something very unusual that it troubles him. Stella announces that she will be running for the seat left vacant by Lars Olafsen Fiona’s friend who is retiring. Fiona now has to decide if it is time to make a reckless gamble or get out of the island for good.

JF Riordan’s novel “Robert’s Rules” has Fiona Campbell as the newest chairman of the Town Board. She now has to deal with endless dull meetings, squabbles, and papers. Overwhelmed, she decides to hire Oliver Robert, a compulsive orderly that is relatively new in town to keep her organized and run her office. Roger’s reputation as a quirky practitioner of yoga is growing like bush fire and he and Elizabeth now need to find a new place since the coffee shop will no longer do. Pali the poet and ferry captain gets an offer to leave the Island but is not sure if he is ready for the outside world. In the meantime, Fiona is dealing with a series of controversies even as the Fire Chief threatens to resign. As Pete Landry makes preparations to get out of town to go on his regular excursions, Fiona thinks his life is not as rosy as he wants everybody to believe. His secrecy causes her to doubt him and since she cannot trust him, they break up and in her grief; she seeks comfort in the arms of Jim.

Book Series In Order » Authors » J.F. Riordan

4 Responses to “J.F. Riordan”

  1. julie kline: 5 months ago

    I love these books being a goat person myself and am so glad to find out there is another to come.

  2. Ellen Van Hoesen: 12 months ago

    I, too, just came upon these books and am just finishing #1, very slowly, until the mail brings me #2 and #3. I have so enjoyed this book, the writing and the stories are delightful and one just wants to keep going! I must say that when I saw “Robert” in the title of the 2nd book, I thought the goat had taken everything over! Anyway, thank you for such wonderful treats!

  3. Nancy Bertrand: 12 months ago

    I fell into these books after following a random mention on twitter. I live in a small town in Massachusetts, with almost no point of reference to Door County or Wisconsin. But the lovely light prose drew me in, and the finely crafted characters addicted me to the storyline. When I read that many of the inhabitants were descended from Icelanders, I was hooked! (As a native Icelander, how could I be otherwise?) I have found the books to be lively, literate and sometimes riotously funny. I can’t wait for the next one!

  4. Virginia Carnahan: 2 years ago

    My husband grew up 60 years ago in Chicago and would spend summers in a cabin in Door County. He introduced me to the area in late summer 2019. We had intended to return in 2020, but Covid derailed our plans, along with those of many others. In the meantime I discovered a series of books, available from Bas Bleu books, about Washington Island. North of the Tension Line. We were to return to “Hedgehog Harbor” in Gills Rock in late summer of 2021, so I treated myself to the books and escaped the Florida heat by transporting myself daily through your imagery. What a wonderful story oozed from these chapters! I read them a few pages at a time, making the story last and last. I finished book 4 a few months ago and felt bereft without more news from Fiona and the island’s colorful denizens. Today I did a search to see if I could find a method of contacting you. In doing so, I discovered that there is a 5th book in the works. Oh joy and jubilation! I will count the days until the book is available. Thank you for sharing your imagination with me.


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