First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen Virtual Book Launch Party with Author Charlie Lovett

First Impressions A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen, by Charlie Lovett (2014 )We are thrilled to welcome bestselling author Charlie Lovett to Austenprose today as guest of honor for the virtual book launch party of his new book, First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen, just released by Viking (Penguin Group USA).

This intriguing new novel combines two of my favorite genres – historical romance and contemporary mystery. It features dual heroines: English author Jane Austen while she is writing her first draft of Elinor and Marianne (later entitled Sense and Sensibility) in 1796 Hampshire and Sophie Collingwood, an antiquarian bookseller in modern day London who stumbles upon a literary mystery that casts doubt upon the true authorship of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s second published novel and her most famous work.

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR FIRST IMPRESSIONS

  • “[An] ingenious novel….Ardent fans of Jane Austen and lovers of gripping stories will enjoy following Sophie’s pursuit of the truth.” — Publishers Weekly
  • “[An] appealing combination of mystery, romance, and bibliophilism….An absolute must for Austen fans, a pleasure for others.” — Booklist
  • “A delightful read that Janeites will love….[Lovett] adds bookish intrigue to the life of another luminary of English literature.” — Library Journal

Mr. Lovett has generously offered a guest blog sharing his inspiration to write First Impressions—and to add to the festivities—his publisher has also offered three hardcover copies of the book in a giveaway contest. To enter, please ask Mr. Lovett a question or leave a comment following this blog post. The entry details are listed below. Good luck to all.

PLEASE JOIN ME IN WELCOMING CHARLIE LOVETT: 

When I first wrote my novel The Bookman’s Tale (Viking 2013), I titled it Marginalia, which would have been a great title if the only customers were rare book librarians and literary scholars. My agent wisely suggested a change. He sold the book as The First Folio, and it ultimately became The Bookman’s Tale, but the idea of The First Folio stuck with me. If one book was titled The First Folio might my next book be titled The Second . . . something? That’s when I started thinking about the idea of a book that was worthless in its first edition but, for some reason, priceless in its second edition. Once I threw in Jane Austen, the idea for First Impressions was born. I talked to my agent about the idea very early on and he encouraged me to do two things: not write a sequel to The Bookman’s Tale, and have a female protagonist. Those two ideas are what really solidified First Impressions in my mind.

I spent several months making notes and when my wife and I were in England in the summer of 2012 I visited Steventon in Hampshire, where Jane Austen had grown up and where part of my novel would be set. I relate very strongly to place in my writing, and even though we spent less than an hour in this peaceful village, I began to see Jane there. I visited other sites associated with Jane Austen—from Bath to Winchester to Chawton—but I wanted to write about young Jane Austen, and Steventon is where she spent her formative years and where she started writing. That one hour spent basking in the quiet, looking out over the fields shimmering in the summer sun, sitting inside the cool stone church Jane had attended for all those years, provided more inspiration than a hundred hours of research possibly could.

Why Jane Austen? Well, it seems that Jane Austen was always in my house. My father, now retired, was an English Professor at Wake Forest University, and his specialty was the eighteenth century. True, Jane Austen’s novels were not published until the early nineteenth century, but her work was very much a part of his syllabus and he often talked about her. In seventh grade, I made the rather impetuous decision to read more “grown up” books in my spare time. I read Brave New World and then I moved on to Pride and Prejudice. Now I can’t tell you exactly who Jane Austen’s imagined audience was, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t seventh grade American boys of the 1970s. To me, the novel was nothing more than a soap opera. How could my dad spend all his time with this stuff? Sadly, I let this impression of Austen guide me for the next couple of decades. I was probably in my thirties when I picked up Pride and Prejudice and gave it a second chance. The first thing that surprised me was that it was funny—really funny. And it was smart and incisive and observant. I regretted having spent so long laboring under my seventh grade misconceptions, and since then I have read Austen frequently and with much enjoyment.

When I set about writing Jane Austen as a character, I didn’t want to know too much about her. Yes, I wanted to get the facts of her life correct—where she lived, when she wrote her novels, the names of her family members—but I was creating a character in a novel. So, instead of looking to her biography to discover her personality, I looked to the novels. What kind of person, I asked myself, would write Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility? To me Jane had to be not just smart but witty, energetic, a tad irreverent, and quietly revolutionary. I did my best to make her all of this as she interacts with her fictional mentor, Richard Mansfield. I also endowed my contemporary heroine, Sophie Collingwood, who fights to save Jane’s reputation, with some of the same qualities.

I truly enjoyed spending time with these two remarkable young women, and I hope you will too.

Charlie Lovett 2014AUTHOR BIO: Charlie Lovett, author of the New York Times bestselling novel The Bookman’s Tale, is a former antiquarian bookseller who has collected books and materials related to Lewis Carroll and Alice in Wonderland for over thirty years. He has written several books on Carroll and served as president of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America. As an educator, he served for more than a decade as writer in residence at Summit School in his hometown of Winston-Salem, NC. There he wrote twenty plays for young audiences, which have been published and seen around the world in more than 3000 productions. Charlie is a member of the Grolier Club for book collectors and is currently at work curating an exhibit at Lincoln Center on “Alice in Performance” in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice in Wonderland. He and his wife Janice live in Winston-Salem and in Kingham, Oxfordshire. Please visit him online at his website, charlielovett.com, on Facebook as Charlie Lovett Author, and follow him on Twitter as @CharlieLovett42.

ASK MR. LOVETT A QUESTION OR LEAVE A COMMENT TO ENTER A GRAND GIVEAWAY

In celebration of the release of First Impressions, please enter a chance to win one of three hardcover copies available by leaving a question for Charlie Lovett or a comment sharing what intrigues you about this novel before 11:59 pm, on Wednesday, October 22, 2014. Winners will be drawn at random and announced on Thursday, October 30, 2014. Shipment is to US addresses only. Good luck to all.

First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen, by Charlie Lovett
Viking (Penguin Group USA) 2014
Hardcover and eBook (320) pages
ISBN: 978-0525427247

Cover image courtesy of Viking Adult © 2014; text Charlie Lovett © 2014, Austenprose.com

Preview of Death Comes to Pemberley on Masterpiece Mystery PBS

Matthew Rhys and Anna Maxwell Martin in Death Comes to Pemberley

The long wait is almost over. The two part BBC/PBS mini-series of P. D. James’ bestselling novel, Death Comes to Pemberley, will premiere on Masterpiece Mystery in one week on Sunday, October 26 at 9pm (check your local listing) and concludes on the following Sunday, November 2.

To get you warmed up for this intriguing mystery that continues the story of Jane Austen’s characters from Pride and Prejudice, here is a brief synopsis of the first episode and a trailer from PBS:

Six years after Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy have prevailed over pride, prejudice, the caddish Mr. Wickam and the frivolous Mrs. Bennet, a coach races up to Pemberley, Darcy’s palatial estate, with an hysterical Lydia shrieking, “Murder!” So continues Jane Austen’s timeless classic, Pride and Prejudice, in Death Comes to Pemberley, a star-studded adaptation of crime-writer P.D. James’ bestselling whodunit.

On the eve of Pemberley’s annual ball, new and beloved iconic characters of Pride and Prejudice assemble to bask in the warm glow of the Darcy’s sumptuous estate. But following Lydia’s frantic arrival and an investigation into Pemberley’s woods, a nightmare ensues and a scandal mounts, threatening Pemberley and all the Darcys hold dear.

With lavish locations, handsome parklands, and beloved, iconic characters, Death Comes to Pemberley marries the splendor and emotion of period drama with the intrigue of murder mystery. Starring Starring Anna Maxwell Martin (Bleak House, South Riding) as quick-witted Elizabeth Darcy, Matthew Rhys (The Americans) as the principled Mr. Darcy, Matthew Goode (The Good Wife) as the roguish Wickham, and Jenna Coleman as coquettish minx Lydia (Doctor Who), Death Comes to Pemberley comes to MASTERPIECE Mystery! in two thrilling episodes, Sundays, October 26 and November 2, 2014 on PBS.

JOIN THE LIVE TWITTER PARTY FOR DEATH COMES TO PEMBERLEY

Twitter parties are a blast. Join me and 1,000’s of other Jane Austen fans while we watch Death Comes to Pemberley together and tweet our reactions to the mini-series in real time. I will be co-moderating along with @masterpiecepbs, @VintageAnchor, @austenprose, @JanetRudolph. Just use the hashtag #PemberleyPBS in your favorite Twitter aggregater like Hootsuite or TweetDeck  to follow along and be included in the festivities.

Cheers, Laurel Ann

Image and video courtesy of Masterpiece PBS © 2014. Photographer: Robert Viglasky © 2013. Text Masterpiece PBS © 2014, Austenprose.com

Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon Jane Austen Style

Dewey's 24-hour read-a-thon (2014)

I am participating in a special celebration of reading today – Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon. And, of course I have a Jane Austen theme!

For those of you unfamiliar with this bi-annual event, a book blogger named Dewey started the tradition in 2007. Here is a description of the event from it’s website:

For 24 hours, we read books, post to our blogs about our reading, and visit other readers’ blogs. We also participate in mini-challenges throughout the day. It happens twice a year, in April and in October.

It is an all day and night total celebration of reading! The best thing about participating is that you can read as much or as little as you like. I chose to read the first few chapters of three new Austenesque novels (no spoilers) and live-tweet my reactions as I progress. Here are the novels that I have selected:

First Impressions A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen, by Charlie Lovett (2014 )FIRST IMPRESSIONS: A NOVEL OF OLD BOOKS, UNEXPECTED LOVE, AND JANE AUSTEN by, Charlie Lovett

(publisher’s description)

A thrilling literary mystery costarring Jane Austen from the New York Times bestselling author of The Bookman’s Tale

Charlie Lovett first delighted readers with his New York Times bestselling debut, The Bookman’s Tale. Now, Lovett weaves another brilliantly imagined mystery, this time featuring one of English literature’s most popular and beloved authors: Jane Austen.

Book lover and Austen enthusiast Sophie Collingwood has recently taken a job at an antiquarian bookshop in London when two different customers request a copy of the same obscure book: the second edition of Little Book of Allegories by Richard Mansfield. Their queries draw Sophie into a mystery that will cast doubt on the true
authorship of Pride and Prejudice—and ultimately threaten Sophie’s life.

In a dual narrative that alternates between Sophie’s quest to uncover the truth—while choosing between two suitors—and a young Jane Austen’s touching friendship with the aging cleric Richard Mansfield, Lovett weaves a romantic, suspenseful, and utterly compelling novel about love in all its forms and the joys of a life lived in books.

PLEASE JOIN the Virtual Book Launch Party for FIRST IMPRESSIONS on Monday, October 20th with author Charlie Lovett and enter a giveaway chance for one of three copies available of this exciting new Austen-inspired novel.

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron (2014)JANE AND THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS: BEING A JANE AUSTEN MYSTERY, by Stephanie Barron

(publishers description)

The twelfth installment in Stephanie Barron’s fan-favorite Being a Jane Austen Mystery series

Christmas Eve, 1814: Jane Austen has been invited to spend the holiday with family and friends at The Vyne, the gorgeous ancestral home of the wealthy and politically prominent Chute family. As the year fades and friends begin to gather beneath the mistletoe for the twelve days of Christmas festivities, Jane and her circle are in a celebratory mood: Mansfield Park is selling nicely; Napoleon has been banished to Elba; British forces have seized Washington, DC; and on Christmas Eve, John Quincy Adams signs the Treaty of Ghent, which will end a war nobody in England really wanted.

Jane, however, discovers holiday cheer is fleeting. One of the Yuletide revelers dies in a tragic accident, which Jane immediately views with suspicion. If the accident was in fact murder, the killer is one of Jane’s fellow snow-bound guests. With clues scattered amidst cleverly crafted charades, dark secrets coming to light during parlor games, and old friendships returning to haunt the Christmas parties, whom can Jane trust to help her discover the truth and stop the killer from striking again?

PLEASE JOIN the Virtual Book Launch Party for JANE AND THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS on Tuesday, October 28th with author Stephanie Barron and enter a giveaway chance for 1 of 3 copies available of the new mystery novel. 

Jane Austen's First Love by Syrie James (2014 )JANE AUSTEN’S FIRST LOVE: A NOVEL, by Syrie James

(publishers description)

Inspired by actual events

Fifteen-year-old Jane Austen dreams of three things: doing something useful, writing something worthy, and falling madly in love. When she visits her brother in Kent to celebrate his engagement, she meets wealthy, devilishly handsome Edward Taylor—a fascinating young man who is truly worthy of her affections. Jane knows a match between her and Edward is unlikely, but every moment she spends with him makes her heart race—and he seems to return her interest. Much to her displeasure, however, there is another seeking his attention

Unsure of her budding relationship, Jane seeks distraction by attempting to correct the pairings of three other prospective couples. But when her matchmaking aspirations do not all turn out as anticipated, Jane discovers the danger of relying on first impressions. The human heart cannot be easily deciphered, nor can it be directed or managed. And if others must be left to their own devices in matters of love and matrimony, can Jane even hope to satisfy her own heart?

AUSTENESQUE GIVEAWAYS DURING DEWEY’S 24-HOUR READ-A-THON

ON OCTOBER 18, 2014

There are hundreds of books being offered as prizes to the participants in Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon. I have donated six Austenesque novels to be awarded during the event.

  • Signed finished paperback copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress
  • Finished paperback copy of Undressing Mr. Darcy, by Karen Doornesbos
  • ARC paperback copy of The Pursuit of Mary Bennet, by Pamela Mingle
  • ARC paperback of Dear Mr. Knightley, by Katherine Reay
  • Signed ARC paperback copy of Longbourn, by Jo Baker
  • Finished paperback copy of Jane Austen’s First Love, by Syrie James

To find out more about Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon please visit their website, Facebook page or follow all of the action on Twitter with hashtag #readathon.

Good luck to all who are participating.

Cheers, Laurel Ann

Cover images courtesy of Viking Adult © 2014, Soho Crime © 2014, Berkley Trade © 2914, text Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose.com

Mrs Darcy’s Diamonds: A Jane Austen Jewel Box Novella, by Jane Odiwe – A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt

Mrs Darcys Diamonds by Jane Odiwe x 200We are very happy to introduce you to Austenesque author Jane Odiwe’s new novella called Mrs. Darcy’s Diamonds, just published last month by White Soup Press. Jane tells me that she loves Georgian-era jewellery, and thought it might be fun to write a series of books with a jewellery theme, and have every piece different. She imagined there would be some family jewels at Pemberley, and that a ring given to Elizabeth by Mr. Darcy could help create much tension and drama for a wintry tale.

PREVIEW (from the publishers description)

Elizabeth is newly married to Fitzwilliam Darcy, the richest man in Derbyshire, owner of a vast estate, and master of Pemberley House. Her new role is daunting at first, and having to deal with Mr Darcy’s aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, is a daily challenge. But, Elizabeth is deeply in love and determined to rise to every test and trial she is forced to endure. When her husband presents her with a diamond ring, part of the precious and irreplaceable Darcy suite of jewels, she feels not only honoured and secure in her husband’s love, but also ready to accept her new responsibilities and position.

Mrs Darcy knows she will face exacting scrutiny at the approaching Christmas Ball, but it will be her chance to prove that she is a worthy mistress, and she is excited to be playing hostess to the Bennets, the Bingleys, and the gentry families of Derbyshire, as well as Mr Darcy’s French cousins. Antoine de Valois and his sister Louise have arrived at the invitation of Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Elizabeth is delighted that this young and lively couple are helping to bring Miss Georgiana Darcy out of her shell. However, when her ring goes missing before the ball, Elizabeth is distraught, and her dilemma further increased by the threat of a scandal that appears to involve the French cousins.

EXCERPT (from chapter four)

Mrs Reynolds gave Miss Georgiana Darcy the message her mistress had left as the latter was crossing the hallway after her morning ride. A striking girl, and tall for her tender years, her appearance was of an assured young woman, belying her true timidity and shy character. Her deep blue riding habit made the perfect foil for her fair hair, which was now tumbling in unruly curls from the top of her head, a result of the fresh breezes and a gallop across the fields combined.

Mr Darcy’s sister felt unequal to the duty, but put on her bravest expression. If Elizabeth trusted her to be left in sole charge of Pemberley in her absence, then she would do her very best.

‘Most guests will be arriving this afternoon, Miss Darcy, so I would not worry too much,’ said Mrs Reynolds reassuringly. ‘Mr and Mrs Darcy will be back by then – they’ll be here to greet their guests, I am certain.’

‘Oh, thank you, Mrs Reynolds,’ Georgiana replied, her voice betraying her nerves. ‘I must admit, I do not relish the idea of meeting our guests completely on my own, and without Elizabeth or Mrs Annesley, I am sure I should not know what to say to put them at their ease.’

‘Well, I am sure you would not deny Mrs Annesley some time visiting her family for Christmas. She would not have left you if she didn’t think you were making such great strides in confidence.’

‘Mrs Annesley has been such a wonderful companion, Mrs Reynolds, and I know it will do me good to learn to stand on my own two feet. And I am so lucky to have Mrs Darcy, too.’

‘I may be talking out of turn, Miss Darcy, but it was a very fortunate day when your brother met his spouse and brought her home to Derbyshire. Mrs Darcy has made such a wonderful addition to Pemberley; everyone has taken her to their hearts.

‘Oh, she has indeed, Mrs Reynolds, and I’m so overjoyed to hear you echo my very thoughts. My sister has such a way with people and I am learning all the time. Yet, although she has already taught me so much, I feel quite nervous at the prospect of introductions without her by my side. There are so many new people to be met with, and I shall be completely confused by so many names I have not heard before.’

‘Do not fret, Miss Darcy,’ said Mrs Reynolds, placing a hand on Georgiana’s arm. ‘I shall be there, and your aunt will, no doubt, offer her advice. Lady Catherine is in the saloon at this moment.’

Georgiana wanted to smile. She’d not missed Mrs Reynolds’ tone of voice when talking of her aunt, and although the stalwart retainer had uttered nothing untoward, Georgiana knew Mrs Reynolds disliked Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Reynolds was often on the receiving end of her ladyship’s ‘advice’ and despite Mrs Reynolds’ cheerful countenance on each occasion of having been scolded, it had not gone unnoticed by most of the family that the housekeeper enjoyed her own ways with words to soften the verbal blows.

‘Then I’d best join her,’ said Georgiana, ‘as soon as I have changed. Goodness, what a mess! My skirts are covered three inches in mud, but what fun I’ve had. I went the same way Elizabeth showed me yesterday. It’s a challenging ride, but once in my stride I felt I was flying. And I really must fix my hair or goodness knows what my aunt will have to say. It’s quite fallen down, but such freedom is pure joy!’

Just at that moment, the butler, Bramwell, appeared at the top of the steps leading from the front doors. Behind him stood two of the most elegant people Georgiana thought she’d ever seen. There was an air about them and a celebration of fashion not usually seen in the Derbyshire countryside. They exuded sophistication and more than a touch of the exotic. The dark-haired gentleman who was appraising Georgiana’s appearance with an expression of mild amusement wore a long cape over a navy coat, cut away to show his fine muscular legs in mustard breeches. He did not look like an Englishman with his olive complexion and black eyes that stared at Georgiana for so long and so searchingly, that she found she was soon studying the floor with great interest. His lady wore a pelisse of peacock blue with gold fastenings, trimmed at the throat in black velvet, and a contrasting bonnet in white satin with a jaunty ostrich feather.

‘Monsieur and Mademoiselle de Valois, Miss Darcy,’ Bramwell announced.

Good heavens, thought Georgiana, they’re French, and I am certain my conversation in that language is severely limited.

‘Bonjour, Monsieur et Mademoiselle de Valois,’ Georgiana stuttered, remembering to curtsey.

‘Good morning, Miss Darcy,’ said the gentleman in reply. ‘I assure you; it is not necessary to speak in French. We never have unless with our papa and he is buried these last four years.’

Georgiana met the easy expression of the young man standing before her holding out his hand. She took it, not knowing whether she should also offer condolences.

‘We have never met before,’ he continued, ‘but I am your distant cousin, Antoine, and this is my sister, Louise. I am afraid we are rather early to be met by the family. Forgive me, but our journey here was rather shorter than we’d anticipated. We came to the north from London the day before yesterday, and have been travelling round the countryside, but I could not wait to see Pemberley nor meet my relations.’

His companion held out her hand. ‘My brother is so very eager in everything, Miss Darcy, and though I insisted we would be better leaving our inn later this afternoon, he would not listen. I am very pleased to meet you. We have heard so much about you from our mother who corresponds regularly with your aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Our mother and your aunt grew up together … they are cousins on their mother’s side.’

It was impossible to feel ill at ease with this brother and sister who were so open and friendly that she stopped worrying about her appearance and almost forgot to be shy. Georgiana could not think that she’d heard of these French cousins before, or ever heard her aunt mention their name, but she shook hands warmly.

‘I do apologise that my brother is not here to greet you, but he is out on business this morning. He is not expected to be long and I know he will be looking forward to making your acquaintance so much. Do come in and make yourselves at home. I am sure my aunt will be so glad to hear you’ve arrived … I will take you to see her at once.’

Mrs Reynolds immediately saw Georgiana’s hesitation and took charge. ‘Miss Georgiana, if I may be so bold, might I suggest that I show our guests to their rooms so they can settle in. I am certain Lady Catherine can wait a little longer to be united with her family … I believe Miss Anne de Bourgh and Mrs Jenkinson are expected from Scotland within the hour and her ladyship will be much taken up with them and other matters.’

Georgiana heard the wise housekeeper’s words with relief and knew that the kind lady was thinking of her. She knew her state of dress and unruly hair would be the subject of much unwanted attention and disapproval from her aunt, leading to many questions she would not wish to answer. If Lady Catherine discovered she’d been out riding by herself, there would be trouble. She smiled to herself at the thought – goodness, how much things had changed since darling Lizzy had come to Pemberley. Not that she was very sure her new sister or her brother would be so pleased that she’d gone riding by herself, but filled with a sense of confidence returning, an assurance such as she’d enjoyed in former years, she’d followed her feelings. It was so long since she’d listened to her heart, and when the sparkling, crisp morning had beckoned with the idea of a ride across the fields, she’d given in to temptation.

‘Mrs Reynolds, what a perfectly splendid idea,’ said Antoine, turning to beam at his sister. ‘I would not like to disturb my cousin at this hour … we will meet at a more convivial time.’

His sister caught Georgiana’s eye and smirked. ‘Not to mention the fact that our cousin would be scandalised by our early arrival. Thank you, Mrs Reynolds, I know our late invitation must have caused you some extra work, but Lady Catherine insisted, as soon as she discovered how close we were to Pemberley. And your brother is so kind, Miss Darcy – such a generous gentleman in accepting us as if it had been his very own idea. We received a letter from him just this very morning.’

It was plain to see that Mrs Reynolds had taken to the young couple immediately. ‘There can never be too many young people at Pemberley, Miss de Valois, and there are rooms enough for many more. I’ve known Mr Darcy since he was a small boy and generosity is his middle name, if you understand me. Come along now, if you please, we’ll soon have you comfortable.’

Georgiana watched them ascend the staircase followed by Bramwell and the footman laden with luggage. She wasn’t quite sure whether she’d imagined it, but when they reached the top and before they turned off along the corridor, she saw Antoine turn to look back down at her. It was as if he’d known she’d be staring after him and she felt her countenance suffuse with crimson at his discovery, as he winked knowingly before disappearing from sight. 

END OF EXCERPT

Many thanks to author Jane Odiwe for sharing this passage from her new novella, Mrs. Darcy’s Diamonds. I am looking forward to the next two novella’s in the series: Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Calendar (November 4th) and Miss Darcy’s Parisian Pin.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Author Jane Odiwe (2013)Jane Odiwe is the author of five Austen-inspired novels, Searching for Captain Wentworth (2014), Project Darcy (2013), Mr. Darcy’s Secret (2011), Willoughby’s Return (2009), and Lydia Bennet’s Story (2008).

Jane was born in Sutton Coldfield, England, and gained an arts degree in Birmingham where she indulged her great loves of Fine Art, Literature, and History. After teaching in the midlands for some years, Jane moved to London to teach, until writing novels, and a growing obsession with all things Jane Austen, took over her life.

With her husband, children, and two cats, Jane now divides her time between North London, and Bath, England. Jane is a member of the Jane Austen Society and when she’s not writing, she enjoys painting and trying to capture the spirit of Jane Austen’s world.

Visit Jane on her blog Jane Austen Sequels, website Austen Effusions, Facebook as Jane Odiwe and follower her on Twitter as @JaneOdiwe. 

Mrs. Darcy’s Diamonds: A Jane Austen Jewel Box Novella, by Jane Odiwe
White Soup Press (2014)
eBook (138) pages
ASIN: B00MV57AXC

Cover image courtesy of White Soup Press © 2014, text Jane Odiwe © 2014, Austenprose.com

Prelude for a Lord: A Novel, by Camille Elliot – A Review

Prelude for a Lord Camille Elliot (2014)From the desk of Katie Patchell:

In the Regency era, the only acceptable musical instruments a woman was allowed to play were the harp and piano, and if she played any other, particularly a violin, she would be looked-down upon in society and considered unfeminine. But in Camille Elliot’s recent debut novel, Prelude for a Lord, the heroine defies conventions and plays this beautiful but forbidden instrument, which stirs her heart, makes her forget her past and society’s censure, and ultimately, entangles her in a web of romance, mystery, and danger.

At the age of twenty-eight, Lady Alethea Sutherton has accepted her fate: that she will never marry, and will always be looked down upon by society as an eccentric. With her height, striking (rather than classical) features, and her unconventional country ways, she is whispered about by the Bath gossips, but it is Alethea’s consuming passion for music and her skill at the extremely unfeminine instrument—the violin—that has her scorned by polite society.

When she meets Lord Bayard Dommick, the man who eleven years ago convinced her to pursue her violin playing with his offensive statement that it was “unfeminine for a woman to play the instrument” (53), Alethea plans to ignore him at all costs. But when Bayard offers to help her discover why her old violin has suddenly become the obsession of two shady individuals, Alethea has no choice but to accept this potential ally. As she spends more time with him and his two best friends, the remaining members of the famous string Quartet, Alethea discovers that Bayard is far from insufferable, and instead, one of the only people to understand her love of music and the violin.

When their search for answers as to the origin of her violin results in a dangerous pursuer and threats to their families, can they protect those they love and in the end, be able to solve the mystery of the violin? And will Alethea and Bayard be able to put aside society’s view of musicians—female and male—to play their own soaring music together in a new Quartet?

I loved Prelude for a Lord’s premise of a female violinist going against the societal norms in the Regency period in order to play a beautiful instrument. I’ve never come across this topic in Regency fiction, and I’ve never even considered the fact that some instruments were seen as inappropriate for either men or women to play (in the eyes of some, or most, of society). I also loved the three-dimensional and wildly entertaining supporting characters, specifically Alethea’s aunt, Ebena, Bayard’s sister, Clare, Ian and Raven (the remaining members of the Quartet), and the precocious Margaret. Something else that I loved about this novel was the picturesque and beautiful descriptions of music. The characters’ (and author’s) love of music was clearly evident and effectively translated to the reader.

Reading Prelude for a Lord gave me the feeling of sitting in an opera, seeing all the bright costumes, hearing the drastic rise and fall of the full-voiced dramatic soprano, and watching the sometimes shocking and unbelievable, but always fascinating, dramatic storyline unfold. This is the theatrical feel of the novel—it isn’t in the style, language, or customs of Jane Austen, and the drama and mixing of genres, (described by one Amazon reviewer as a blend of Jane Austen and Castle) made this novel less of a comedy of manners and more of a combination of a Regency setting with a modern perspective, rules (societal and courtship), and dialogue (including words like brat, ugly mug, and greedy guts). But while there were parts that were not period, those that were included were interesting, and shed light specifically on society’s view during the Regency in regards to female musicians.

Prelude for a Lord is full of action and drama, including (some small spoilers): kidnapping, someone sold (literally) into marriage, Bedlam, a man who killed his first wife, a marriage of convenience, larger-than-life villains, and two main characters with secret traumas in their pasts. As a lover of the ‘comedy of manners’ style of Regency fiction (with more under-the-surface elements than dramatic action), at times I grew tired of all the melodrama that tended to overshadow the characters and romance, which I admit, lessened my overall enjoyment of the novel. But this can (and should) be chalked up to personal preference, and should not dissuade any future reader from reading and enjoying this novel.

Overall, Prelude for a Lord was a light and entertaining read, and while the romance and story were not always true to the time period, this was still a dramatic, exciting story with a touching romance that will interest music-lovers and mystery-readers alike.

3.5 out of 5 Stars

Prelude for a Lord: A Novel, by Camille Elliot
Zondervan (2014)
Trade paperback & eBook (352) pages
ISBN:  978-0310320357

Additional Reviews:

Cover image courtesy of Zondervan © 2014; text Katie Patchell © 2014, Austenprose.com

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