Becoming Mary: A Pride and Prejudice Sequel, by Amy Street – Preview & Exclusive Excerpt

Becoming Mary A Pride and Prejudice Sequel by Amy Street 2014 x 200What is it about Mary Bennet—that pedantic, unromantic middle daughter in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice? She has less than a dozen lines of dialogue in the entire novel, but what an indelible impression she has made on centuries of readers. How could anyone forget such gems like these?

I admire the activity of your benevolence,” observed Mary, “but every impulse of feeling should be guided by reason; and, in my opinion, exertion should always be in proportion to what is required.” Chapter 7

Loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable; that one false step involves her in endless ruin; that her reputation is no less brittle than it is beautiful; and that she cannot be too much guarded in her behaviour towards the undeserving of the other sex.” Chapter 47

Priggish, sanctimonious and asexual, there is nothing like a big challenge to inspire modern writers into a major makeover for her character and create a happy ending. Over the past few years we have received a wide variety of Mary Bennet sequels, both good and bad. Pamela Mingle’s The Pursuit of Mary Bennet and Jennifer Paynter’s The Forgotten Sister land in the praise camp, while Colleen McCullough’s  The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet lies somewhere between awful and atrocious. (I apologize in advance to my Victorian grandmother for speaking ill of the dead if she happens to run into the author in the afterlife.)

There are many more Mary Bennet novels that I could expound upon (Return to Longbourn, Mary Bennet and the Bloomsbury Coven, The Unexpected Miss Bennet, A Match for Mary Bennet…) and may very well in another blog, but I must work my way back to the point of today’s post—a spotlight on the latest Mary Bennet novel worthy to enter the hallowed halls of the “what about Mary collection”, Becoming Mary. This debut novel by Amy Street was a delightful surprise and made me laugh out loud several times while reading it.

PREVIEW (from the publisher’s description)

Mary Bennet, plain and vain, has grown up in the shadow of her livelier, prettier sisters. Pompous and prickly, she is her own worst enemy as she tries and fails to win admiration and respect.

Invited to Pemberley one summer, she begins to blossom under the influence of new friends and family, and for the first time in her life experiences attention, kindness, and even the possibility of love.

Can she accept these bewildering new emotions, or will her stubbornness and pride lead to her downfall?

The novel takes the reader on a journey with Mary – it will make you laugh, wince in sympathy and ultimately hope. And for lovers of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, you will find yourself in the company of old friends.

EXCERPT (from chapter 10) 

How could anyone be expected to play such music?

I was so engrossed in puzzling my way through the piece that I did not notice Signor Moretti come in for some time. I did not know how long he had been standing there. I stopped playing immediately.

“Pray continue,” he said, “I see you are trying out the Pathétique.”

I looked at the music and noticed the title for the first time. “Pathétique? That is like the English, ‘pathetic’, I assume, full of feeling, of pathos?”

“Yes I think it must be,” he said, coming to stand at my shoulder.

“It certainly describes the opening passage,” I said. “I do not know anything else that is so startling and dramatic.”

He nodded, staring intently at the music. “Sometimes I think it is Beethoven’s wish to shock us all out of our complacency.”

“I did not know we were so complacent,” I said, rather nettled.

“One does not, I believe,” he murmured.

I was thoughtful for a moment. “I do not imagine that there are many young ladies who could master this style of music.”

“No, Beethoven does not really write for amateurs. He writes what he wishes to write.”

I said, “Miss Darcy could manage to play Beethoven, I suppose.”

“Yes, perhaps, but she has never learned this particular one. She was learning Beethoven’s first piano sonata: this, you see, is his eighth.”

At this moment a plan formed in my mind: I would learn the Pathétique sonata! I would learn it by the time of the Pemberley ball, and would astonish the company with my superior performance. Georgiana herself might be surprised to hear me. I became lost in thought as I imagined my triumph, the attention and the applause I should garner. Then I glanced up and saw that Signor Moretti was looking at me with a curious expression on his face that I did not know how to understand. His eyebrows were frowning but his face did not look severe, rather it was softened, and I suddenly felt that his eyes saw into my mind and he could read my thoughts. I turned away quickly. I realised that I had been talking to him about music for some minutes without even noticing it, when in fact my intention was to tell him that I did not require a teacher. Now he would think that we were to proceed as the Darcys had planned. I decided to speak immediately before this went any further.

“Signor Moretti, I have enjoyed our conversation but I should inform you that I do not need a teacher. I have always taught myself to play and a teacher might interfere with my methods.”

He looked thoughtful. “I understand you perfectly. It can be extremely confusing to have a new person come in and unsettle a method which is working well.” He paused, then continued. “But if, while you are studying this sonata you come across any problems to which you do not have the answer, you may come to me for help at any time.”

I doubted whether I would need to do that, but I thanked him all the same. But then it occurred to me that I did not know how to play the left hand in the allegro. It was a strange way of writing that I had never seen before.

“Perhaps, before you go,” I said, “you could tell me what this means.” I pointed at the relevant bar.

“Ah yes, that is a reduction – it is a quick way of telling you to repeat the octaves from the bar before so that the copyist or the printer does not have to write out the same notes again and again.”

“Oh, I see.” I tried the first few bars of the left hand. “Yes, that makes sense.”

I saw him looking frowningly at my hand as I played, as though he were about to say something, and unexpectedly I felt extremely upset.

“Signor Moretti, I do not wish – ” and I ran out of the room, nearly colliding with Georgiana’s harp as I went.

I went to my bedchamber and threw myself down on the enormous canopy bed, tears starting from my eyes. I did not know why I should be so upset. I was accustomed to slights and insults and I never cried then, so why should an insignificant conversation with an insignificant teacher of music bring me to this condition?

I wished I had never come to Pemberley! I had been much more content at home with Mama, with nobody to bother me or have schemes about me which were supposedly for my benefit but in fact made me exceedingly uncomfortable and put out. I did not like to have anyone observing me or trying to tell me things.

It was all Lizzy’s doing! Why must she be so interfering? What gave her the right to tell me that I needed piano lessons, when out of all the Bennet girls I was well known for my proficiency on the instrument and my wide-ranging repertoire? She had become so puffed up with her own importance she thought she could order the lives of others as she pleased. I was sure that Mr Darcy would never have come up with such a scheme. He was a truly gentleman-like man, with dignity and consideration for the feelings of others.

I started to recover myself. I would not let Elizabeth upset me with her high-handed ways. And I would show her. I would show them all. The Beethoven sonata was very difficult, but I knew I could manage it if I practised hard and that I would do. There would be no need for teachers: I would learn it myself and perform at the ball.

END OF EXCERPT

I must share that I love a big character arc in a novel. Mary Bennet, as Austen wrote her 200 years ago, is perfect material for a makeover. Street has honoured Austen’s character traits, foibles and follies giving Mary emotional struggles and a personal transformation that was thoughtfully revealed and a few surprises too.

AUTHOR BIO

Amy Street has loved the works of Jane Austen ever since her life was ruined at the age of 13 by reading Pride and Prejudice. Being a middle child and a struggling pianist herself, she has always had a sneaking sympathy for Mary Bennet, so it was just a matter of time before she wrote her first novel, Becoming Mary.

Amy has two grown-up children and lives with Motorbike Man in Bristol, UK. Her hobbies include Drop 7, Beethoven, nail-biting, guilt and doodling. Amy is also working on a crime series set in an northern British town in the 1980s. The Advice Lady will be coming to a Kindle near you very soon.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Becoming Mary: A Pride and Prejudice Sequel, by Amy Street
Amy Street (2014)
Digital eBook (355) pages

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | GOODREADS

Cover image and excerpt courtesy of Amy Street © 2014; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2015, Austenprose.com

Giveaway Winner Announced for Love and Friendship and Other Youthful Writings

Love and Freindship Penguin 2015 x 200It’s time to announce the winner of the cloth bound edition of Love and Freindship and Other Youthful Writings (Penguin Hardcover Classics). The lucky winner drawn at random is:

Lady Constance who left a comment of January 25, 2015

Congratulations Lady Constance! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by February 4, 2015 or you will forfeit your prize! Mail shipment is to US addresses only.

Thanks to all who left comments and to Penguin Classics for the giveaway.

Cover image courtesy of Penguin Classics © 2015; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2015, Austenprose.com

Love and Freindship and Other Youthful Writings (Penguin Classics Hardcover), by Jane Austen, Spotlight & Giveaway

Love and Freindship Penguin 2015 x 200Collectors of Jane Austen books know that there have been hundreds of different editions of her classic novels created since their original publication (1811-1817). So many, in fact, that only a few of the beautiful and outrageous ones could be featured in the new book Jane Austen Cover to Cover, by Margaret C. Sullivan.

The recently published Penguin Hardcover Classics series is one of the possibilities to chose from. I am happy to share that after publishing all of Austen’s six major novels in the series, her juvenilia, Love and Freindship and Other Youthful Writings,  is now available for purchase.

With only four novels published during her short life and two posthumously, her popularity continued to grow through the decades of the nineteenth century.  It was only a matter of time before her family allowed publication of her juvenilia: a set of three volumes of her youthful writings. Composed c. 1787-1792, Austen’s Juvenilia consists of twenty seven items—sketches, parodies & short stories of comical, nonsensical, outrageous and sometimes dark imaginings by a writer in the making—all engaging amusements written for her family and friends. Continue reading

Austenprose’s Best Austenesque/Jane Austen-inspired Books of 2014

Jane Austen Pop Art Banner

Another fabulous year of reading has passed with many memorable books for Janeites to devour. We reviewed 68 of them this past year and would like to share our list of what we feel were the Best Austenesque Books of 2014. 

Best Austenesque Historical Novels 2014: 

  1. Consequences: A Cautionary Pride and Prejudice Variation, by C. P. Odom (5 stars)
  2. Jane Austen’s First Love, by Syrie James (5 stars)
  3. The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen, by Shannon Winslow (5 stars)
  4. The Forgotten Sister: Mary Bennet’s Pride and Prejudice, by Jennifer Paynter (5 stars)
  5. The Secret Betrothal: A Pride and Prejudice Alternate Path, by Jan Hahn (5 stars)
  6. Pirates and Prejudice, by Kara Louise (5 stars)
  7. Emma and Elizabeth: A story based on The Watsons, by Jane Austen, by Ann Mychal (5 stars)
  8. Mr. Darcy Came to Dinner, by Jack Caldwell (5 stars)
  9. Follies Past, by Melanie Kerr (5 stars)
  10. First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen, by Charlie Lovett (4.5 stars

Continue reading

Merry Christmas Janeites! Giveaway Winner Announced for Jane Austen: Seven Novels

Holly 7 bell x 450

Tis the season of giving, and in honor of Jane Austen’s birthday on December 16th, we hosted a giveaway contest for one copy of Jane Austen: Seven Novels (Barnes & Noble Leatherbound Classics Edition). We are happy to announce that the lucky winner drawn at random is:

  • Raquel M. who left a comment and this quote on 19 December 2014 at 2:28 pm 

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” ― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen Seven Novels 2007 x 300 

Congratulations Raquel! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by December 31st, 2014 or you will forfeit your prize! Shipment to US addresses only.

Thanks to all who left so many fabulous Jane Austen quotes with your comments. The selection was amazing and very creative.

Wishing you and yours a very merry holiday season.

Happy Holidays!

Laurel Ann

Cover image courtesy of Barnes & Noble © 2097; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2014, Austenprose.com

The Vagabond Vicar, by Charlotte Brentwood – Preview & Exclusive Excerpt

Vagabond Vicar Charlotte Brentwood 2014 x 200Heyday! Traditional Regency romances are back in vogue. I see more and more being published and authors like Julie Klassen, Sarah M. Eden and Julianne Donaldson winning awards and having incredible success. This is great news considering publishers wrote off the genre in 2005. 

For those of you who do not know what a traditional Regency romance novel is, just think Jane Austen and her descendants: Georgette Heyer, Carla Kelley, Candice Hern and Mary Balogh all write novels set in the Regency era (1811-1820) featuring a comedy of manners, social commentary and sweet romance. When new authors appear on the scene, I am always eager to check them out and see if they are up to snuff. I am happy to introduce debut novelist Charlotte Brentwood’s The Vagabond Vicar to you today with this preview and exclusive excerpt.

PREVIEW (from the publisher’s description) 

William Brook is an idealistic young cleric, desperate to escape dreary England for a mission adventure in exotic lands. It’s his worst nightmare come true when he is posted to a parish in a small backwater village, populated with small-minded people and husband-hunting mamas. He’s determined not to form any ties and to escape the country as an independent single man.

A free spirit, Cecilia Grant is perfectly content to remain in her family home in Amberley village – when she’s not wandering the countryside at all hours painting. Marriage options are few, but that won’t stop her mother from engineering a match with one of the ruling family’s sons. Cecilia attempts to win the man, but what is it about the new vicar and his brooding ways that is so appealing? Could he be the only one who has ever really understood her, and can she discover what he is running away from?

As William struggles not to fall in love with the lady’s intoxicating beauty and mysterious eccentricity, he finds himself drawn into the lives of the villagers, despite their best efforts to alienate the newcomer. When he makes it clear he’s not sticking around, Cecilia strives to restrain her blossoming feelings for him. Just when it seems love may triumph, dark secrets are revealed in Amberley and a scandal from William’s past may see the end of not only his career, but his chance at finding an everlasting love.

Continue reading

Celebrating Jane Austen Day 2014 with 75 Sensational Quotes That Every Janeite Should Not Live Without

Sprinklebakes Jane Austin 12th night cake sprinklebakes.com x 350

Jane Austen-themed Twelfth Night Cake by Sprinkles Bakes

Today is Jane Austen 239th birthday. Born on 16 December 1775 at Steventon Rectory in Hampshire, England, her many admirers have proclaimed her birthday as Jane Austen Day and are celebrating around the world in creative and diverse ways.

Please join us and the Jane Austen Centre Facebook Group in the festivities. In honor of the amazing talent of my favorite author, I have chosen 75 witty quips and quotes from her six major novels for your enjoyment.

Which are your favorite? Join the celebration by sharing with us in the comments below and enter a contest to win one copy of Jane Austen: Seven Novels (Barnes & Noble Collectible Editions). Details of the giveaway are listed below. Good Luck. Continue reading

A Jane Austen Christmas: Regency Christmas Traditions, by Maria Grace – Preview & Exclusive Excerpt

Regeny Christmas by Maria Grace 2014 x 200Austenesque author Maria Grace has written five Regency-era novels inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, notably the Given Good Principles series and Remember the Past: …only as it gives you pleasure. Writing period accurate novels requires extensive research, so it seems only logical that Maria should turn her hand to nonfiction. Her latest book, A Jane Austen Christmas, focuses on Regency-era holiday traditions. Here is a preview and exclusive excerpt for your enjoyment.   

PREVIEW (from the publisher’s description) 

Many Christmas traditions and images of ‘old fashioned’ holidays are based on Victorian celebrations. Going back just a little further, to the beginning of the 19th century, the holiday Jane Austen knew would have looked distinctly odd to modern sensibilities.

How odd? Families rarely decorated Christmas trees. Festivities centered on socializing instead of gift-giving. Festivities focused on adults, with children largely consigned to the nursery.  Holiday events, including balls, parties, dinners, and even weddings celebrations, started a week before Advent and extended all the way through to Twelfth Night in January.

Take a step into history with Maria Grace as she explores the traditions, celebrations, games and foods that made up Christmastide in Jane Austen’s era. Packed with information and rich with detail from period authors, Maria Grace transports the reader to a longed-for old fashioned Christmas.  

Continue reading

25 Downton Abbey-inspired Holiday Gifts for the Downtonite in Your Life

 Downton Abbey Season 5 poster

Acclaimed by critics and cherished by fans, Downton Abbey is the most popular period drama ever. North America is all anticipation of the premier of Season 5 on January 4, 2015 on Masterpiece Classic PBS. Until then, feed your Downtonite with these great holiday gifts.

GIFTS

     What is a Weekend Mug x 250     Countess Grantham Bear x 250

 1. What Is A Weekend Coffee Mug

When the Dowager Countess of Grantham asked “What is a weekend?” in season one of Downton Abbey, I was totally addicted to this fabulous period drama. That line summed up the classification of “aristocrat” as an endangered species and foreshadowed all the laughter to come. I now start my morning as an anachronistic aristocrat with this clever coffee (or tea) mug.

 2. Lady Cora Teddy Bear

Teddy bears became the rage during the American Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, so it seems only fitting that the American heiress Lady Cora Crawley should be featured as a Teddy Bear doll. This 14″ stuffed bear is soft and plush with old-fashioned felt paw pads, is fully-jointed and dressed to the nines in beautifully styled period costume. Continue reading

Presenting “Austen Spoilers” Cartoon by John Atkinson

Austen Spoilers graphic by John of Wrong Hands

Isn’t it charming? And too true!

We had a hand in its creation. We loved this “Shakespeare Spoilers” cartoon so much when we saw it on Facebook recently. It made us laugh out loud. But wait. The Bard is just as clever, witty and engaging as our favorite English author Jane Austen. Shouldn’t she get equal billing?

We contacted the cartoonist John Atkinson and pitched another famous English author for his artistic consideration. He was game—and we are delighted with the results.

Continue reading