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London Calling

On the heels of a new book, we check in with British Rancho Santa Fe author Tobsha Learner before she crosses the pond.

Tobsha Learner at home in Rancho Santa Fe

“I love London, but this is where I refuel. I go from a frenetic life to a quiet life,” says author Tobsha Learner, who for years has been penning thrillers and the U.K.’s thinking woman’s erotica. In other words, she’s the antithesis of Fifty Shades of Grey. Learner splits her time between Rancho Santa Fe and London, where she and her husband live in The Albany, a famous building whose past residents have included the poet Lord Byron. “It’s this incredibly old Georgian mansion. It’s beautiful and quite small,” she says. Small, yes, compared to the Rancho Santa Fe estate where they got married last fall in an intimate ceremony, replete with models dressed as mermaids frolicking in the pool. Half Australian and half British, Learner got her start as a playwright. Today, she specializes in historic fiction. This spring, several of her books are being released for the first time in the U.S., starting with Quiver then followed by Tremble and Yearn, which includes stories on everything from an obese San Diego phone-sex operator whose avatar is a femme fatale to a 19th-century biographer embroiled in a Polynesian sex rite. “I’m a very diverse writer. It’s a blessing and a curse,” laughs Learner, donning a blue Vivienne Westwood dress. Most recently, she tracked down gypsies in Romania for research in order to nail what has become the backbone of her books: transforming mysticism into real history. “It’s a bit cheeky but I love doing it.” Back at the ranch, she chooses a more tranquil life. “I don’t tend to write first drafts here,” she says. “This is my sanctuary.”

Learner’s Hots
The David Bowie exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the London Literature Festival this month, Solana Beach Farmers Market, Market Del Mar, the lily pond in Balboa Park (transcendental), mermaids—it’s the new big lit wave

Learner’s Nots
Vampires, fatalism—particularly economic, Bikram yoga