The new issue of Jane Austen’s Regency World is “out”!
Dear Mr. Frame:
I recently read Havisham, your prequel and retelling of Charles Dickens Great Expectations, one of my favorite Victorian novels. Your choice to expand the back story of minor character Miss Havisham, the most infamous misandry in literary history, was brilliant. Jilted at the altar she was humiliated and heartbroken, living the rest of her days in her tattered white wedding dress in the decaying family mansion, Satis House. Few female characters have left such a chilling impression on me. I was eager to discover your interpretation of how her early life formed her personality and set those tragic events into motion.
Dickens gave you a fabulous character to work with. (spoilers ahead) Born in Kent in the late eighteenth-century, Catherine’s mother died in childbirth leaving her father, a wealthy brewer, to dote upon his only child. Using his money to move her up the social ladder she is educated with aristocrats where she learns about literature, art, languages and the first disappointments of love. In London she meets and is wooed by the charismatic Charles Compeyson. Family secrets surface in the form of her dissipated half-brother Arthur, the child of a hidden marriage of her father to their cook. Her ailing father knows his son has no interest in his prospering business and trains his clever young daughter. After his death, the inevitable clash occurs between the siblings over money and power. Challenged as a young woman running a business in a man’s world, Catherine struggles until Charles reappears charming his way into her service and her heart. About two thirds of the way through the novel the events of Great Expectations surface. Charles abandons her on their wedding day and she sinks into depression.
I knew that the devastating jilting at the altar was coming! We all did. When it happened, I was anticipating a full-blown emotional Armageddon—like Jane Austen’s heroine Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility: bed-ridden crying jags, desperate letter writing to her lover, senseless walking in the rain, near-death illness, and miraculous survival. Some of that happened in Havisham, but not to the degree I anticipated. After all, we knew that Dickens’ Miss Havisham had taken this jilting business far beyond the depths of disappointed hopes that Marianne had plumbed. But why? Why did she choose not to move on—holding on to her anger and rage, becoming bitter and vengeful? It had to be something so startling that it would jar me to my core. I won’t reveal your choices, but when her tepid romance with Charles Compeyson and her reaction to his spurning were not what I expected, I was greatly disappointed. Readers had been waiting 150 years to know the story. Granted it was not Dickens’ narrative, but it could be the next best thing. You had gotten us to this point so admirably that I was inclined to close your book with an angry snap. If I had a white wedding dress, I would be wearing it right now in protest. You have jilted me at the altar of literature.
Do I regret reading your novel? No. Your prose was beautifully crafted and your characterizations entertaining. Would I like to give you some unsolicited advice on being brave enough to take your own narrative over the edge? Yes! After reading numerous Jane Austen-inspired sequels, you can’t play with classic archetypes and then not deliver the goods. While your plot slowly picked up momentum you missed the point. Catherine’s romance with Charles should have been the most compelling relationship in book, yet I was constantly on guard by his questionable behavior and never liked him, let alone loved him. I never understood why she did. That desperate passion between them should have consumed the pages, like Bronte’s Catherine and Heathcliff, making his final choice so shocking, so devastating, so heartbreaking, that we understood why she locked herself away from the world and enacted revenge on Pip through her daughter Estella. So close, yet miles away from the masters of human emotion, Dickens, Bronte and Austen. They would never have made that mistake.
I commend you for your attempt. It is a very tall order to write a prequel of a literary icon. Everyone who has read Great Expectations has their own great expectations for Miss Havisham. Your book exhibits many fine qualities, unfortunately your choices lacked the fire, passion, and emotional depth required to make her psychological tragedy the literary jackpot that we have been waiting for.
3 out of 5 Regency Stars
Havisham: A Novel, by Ronald Frame
Hardcover (368) pages
Cover image courtesy of Picador (Macmillan Publishing) © 2013; text Laurel Ann Nattress, © 2014, Austenprose.com
It’s time to announce the 3 winners of The Harrison Duet, giveaway. The lucky winners drawn at random are:
One digital copy of The Harrison Duet
- Diane who left a message on Feb 12, 2014
One Muslin Book Bag
- Schilds who left a comment on Feb 17, 2014
Two Jane Austen Note Cards
- Donna Holmberg who left a comment on Feb 14, 2014
Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by February 27, 2014 or you will forfeit your prize! Mail shipment to US addresses only.
Thanks to all who left comments, and to author Syrie James for her guest blog and great giveaways.
Cover image courtesy of Syrie James © 2014; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2014, Austenprose.com
Please help me welcome multi-talented author Syrie James. In addition to her best-selling The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, Syrie has written eight critically acclaimed novels in the historical fiction, romance, young adult, and paranormal genres. Renowned for her spirited heroines, swoon-worthy heroes and romantic plots, who better to chat with us during Valentine’s week, a time when cupid’s arrow is so acute! Her latest release is The Harrison Duet, a combination of two full-length contemporary romance novels which includes: Songbird and Propositions. Originally published years before Fifty Shades of Grey changed the way we think about love affairs, you will be intrigued by their similarities and mesmerized by the Harrison siblings who each find an unexpected love. Two sexy romances in one steamy volume!
Syrie has kindly shared a brief introduction to this new edition and offered a giveaway chance for three prizes: one digital copy of The Harrison Duet, two note cards from the Jane Austen House Museum at Chawton and one book bag resplendent with all the covers of her books to three lucky winners. The Contest details are listed below.
It’s February, the month of romance! To help you celebrate in style, I’ve combined two of my most romantic novels, Songbird and Propositions, into a single volume at a special introductory price. I’m thrilled to say that Christina Boyd of Austenprose gave each of the books in The Harrison Duet a five star rating, and said they kept her “turning pages well into the wee hours of the morning.” The Harrison Duet is available now for download in eReader editions (promo price ends Feb. 26) and the print edition will soon follow. As a bonus, the book also includes my short story, “Jane Austen’s Nightmare.”
These are very personal love stories. In looking over all the books I’ve written, I find that an immediate attraction between lovers and a whirlwind courtship is a recurring theme—and here’s why! From my great-grandparents to my parents to my own relationship with my husband, my family has many examples of couples who met, fell in love, and married within a matter of weeks—or months—all marriages which have stood the test of time and have been very happy.
The lovers in The Harrison Duet are similarly overwhelmed by a powerful romance. Both novels feature strong, intelligent, accomplished heroines who meet men who are every bit their equals, and who discover a love so deep and profound, it forces them to rethink their futures and the very meaning of romance.
In Songbird, when Southern California radio deejay Desiree Germain hosts a contest on the air, she is immediately taken by the voice of caller number twelve, Kyle Harrison, a handsome, wealthy entrepreneur from Seattle. They embark on a passionate love affair that plays havoc with the life Desiree has struggled so hard to control. It might take a Maserati, dozens of red roses, and a lot of airplane tickets…but can Kyle convince Desiree to risk her heart and her career for love?
“I loved it! A beautifully written, almost lyrically told story about two people overcoming their fears and the profound love they share.” —The Book Hookup
“Provocative, sultry romance! Songbird hits all the right notes…Syrie James’s realistic characterization of two strong personalities kept me turning pages well into the wee hours of the morning.” —Christina Boyd, Austenprose
Read an excerpt from Songbird here.
In book two in The Harrison Duet, Propositions, freelance advertising artist Kelli Ann Harrison can’t resist teaming up with ingenious Grant Pembroke to create an ad campaign for a casino account in beautiful Lake Tahoe. But a high-voltage charge sizzles between them from the start. They make a wonderful creative team—but can business and pleasure mix? If Kelli and Grant play their cards right, can a whirlwind love affair last forever?
“I loved, loved, loved this perfectly crafted, lush love story…This poignant, steamy romance will have you believing there can be love at first sight. 5 stars!” —Christina Boyd, Austenprose
Read an excerpt from Propositions here.
I hope The Harrison Duet will touch your heart and make you believe in love at first sight!
BONUS MATERIAL: “JANE AUSTEN’S NIGHTMARE”
This short story, originally published in the anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It, is a first person narrative by Austen herself, in which she unexpectedly meets some of her own characters—many of whom have a few choice words for her about how she portrayed them.
“A clever story which asks the question, what would happen if Jane Austen met her literary creations?…This story just proves why Syrie James is one of my favorite authors.” —For the Love of Austen
“It is only fitting that the collection begins with the woman who started my journey onward into the world of Jane Austen and subsequent retellings and inspired novels, Syrie James with ‘Jane Austen’s Nightmare.’… The short story personifies every writer’s nightmare – that the characters will not like how they have been drawn and will seek justice. From characters perceived as too perfect to those with a great number of flaws, Austen meets them all in her nightmare set in Bath.” — Savvy Verse and Wit
Win an ARC of JANE AUSTEN’S FIRST LOVE!
Post a review of The Harrison Duet, Songbird or Propositions on Amazon.com, bn.com or Goodreads, email the link(s) to firstname.lastname@example.org, and you’ll be entered into a contest to win one of several free advance copies of Syrie’s next book, Jane Austen’s First Love, due out August 5, 2014! For every review posted you will receive an additional chance to win! Reviews must be posted by April 15, 2014.
A GRAND GIVEAWAY
Enter a chance to win one of three prizes being offered:
- A digital copy of The Harrison Duet, by Syrie James
- A muslin book bag featuring images of all of the covers of Syrie’s books
- Two Jane Austen-inspired note cards from the Jane Austen House Museum at Chawton, England
To qualify for the giveaway, just leave a comment stating which one of Syrie’s books is your favorite and why, or what intrigues you about reading The Harrison Duet, by 11:59, February 20, 2014 PT. The winners will be drawn at random and announced on Friday, February 21, 2014. Shipment to US addresses only.
Syrie James is the bestselling author of the critically acclaimed novels The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë, Dracula My Love, Forbidden, Nocturne, Songbird, and Propositions. Her next novel, Jane Austen’s First Love, is due out from Berkeley on August 5, 2014. Follow Syrie on twitter, visit her on facebook, and learn more about her and her books at syriejames.com.
The Harrison Duet, by Syrie James
Amazon Digital Services, Inc. (2014)
- Our Review of The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen
- Our Review of The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte
- Our Review of Forbidden
- Our Review of Nocturne
- Our Review of The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen
Cover image courtesy of Amazon Digital Servies, Inc. © 2014; text Syrie James © 2014, Austenprose.com
Taking tea is so quintessentially British. You cannot think of that noble nation without envisioning its residents with a tea cup in one hand and a cucumber sandwich in the other. English novelist Jane Austen mentions tea no less than 49 times in her major works. The popularity of tea has grown even more since her Regency times, evolving during the Victorian era into a light meal served at four in the afternoon: resplendent with white linen, silver trays, scones and clotted cream. Today, in our fast-paced-world of takeout food and frozen dinners, attending a tea party at a friend’s home or tea room is an event to be cherished and savored. The calming ritual and lively conversation is the ultimate indulgence that has not changed for polished society for four hundred years.
The tale of tea is a captivating story revealed in A Social History of Tea, a new expanded second edition by British tea authority Jane Pettigrew and American tea historian Bruce Richardson. Originally published in 2001 by The National Trust, this new edition has been revised and expanded and includes the research of two tea authorities from both sides of the pond. We are so internationally bipartisan these days—I am sure that mad King George III must be rolling in his grave!
The Tea Garden, by George Morland 1790
Having long been a “tea advocate” I knew of Mr. Richardson from my cherished subscription to TeaTime magazine. I was thrilled to discover that he would be a speaker at the 2013 Jane Austen Society of North America’s Annual General Meeting in Minneapolis. I missed his talk, Society Steeped in Tea, but glowing reports piqued my interest in obtaining a copy of his new book with Pettigrew. I was not disappointed. Beautifully designed with 150 full color images, this tome on the evolution of tea through the last four centuries and its influence on society and world economics is fascinating. Broken down into an introduction, six major chapters, a select bibliography, a list of illustration credits and an index, readers can easily use A Social History of Tea as either an illustrated history, a reference book, or purely a pleasure read, depending on their mood. Being a Janeite, I jumped to the index and skimmed for Jane Austen’s name. Huzzah. There she is on page 127 in a featurette entitled Tea in Literature with Charles Dickens and Lewis Carroll, two other famous British authors from the 1800’s who show that taking tea was an excellent way to bring characters together in a prudential parlor or at a mad tea party. Several passages illustrating Austen’s use of “tea-things” by her characters are featured from her novels, and if we pay attention, the timing of when they are taking tea gives us a social insight into when it was drunk and what was served with it.
“The next opening of the door brought something more welcome: it was for the tea–things, which she had begun almost to despair of seeing that evening…Fanny was very thankful. She could not but own that she should be very glad of a little tea, and Susan immediately set about making it, as if pleased to have the employment all to herself…Fanny’s spirit was as much refreshed as her body; her head and heart were soon the better for such well–timed kindness.” – Mansfield Park, Chapter 38
The East India Company building in London, ca 1800
Richly detailed and agreeably accessible, A Social History of Tea is both enlightening and entertaining. Every important historical, economic and social aspect is covered. I particularly appreciated the details surrounding the forming and growth of The East India Trading Company, the Boston Tea Party of 1773 which sparked the American Revolution, and the rise of tea rooms suitable for respectable ladies to dine out at the end of the nineteenth century. We can also thank the Victorian’s for raising tea-time to an art form chock-full of the incredibly delicious fare we enjoy today.
Tea at the London Ritz Hotel 2014
In Jane Austen’s world “tea meant rest and pleasure, and its absence would be a severe disappointment.” (127) Pettigrew and Richardson have combined detailed history, social asides and beautiful illustrations covering the four centuries that we have enjoyed tea—its rise and fall in popularity—and rebirth. A Social History of Tea is the resource for those who would like to discover even more about this delectable beverage. There is a guaranteed abundance of rest and pleasure on every page. I recommend it highly.
5 out of 5 Regency Stars
A Social History of Tea: Expanded 2nd Edition, by Jane Pettigrew & Bruce Richardson
Benjamin Press Publishing (2013)
Paperback (248) pages
Cover image courtesy of Benjamin Press Publishing © 2013; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2014, Austenprose.com
It’s time to announce the 3 winners of a print or digital copy of The Forgotten Sister, by Jennifer Paynter. The lucky winners drawn at random are:
- Ruth Clapp who left a message of January 30, 2014
- Lynn S. who left a comment on February 4, 2014
- Carol Settlage who left a comment on January 31, 2014
Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by February 13, 2014 or you will forfeit your prize! Let me know if you want a print or digital copy. Mail shipment to US addresses only.
Thanks to all who left comments, to author Jennifer Paynter for her guest blog, and to her publisher Lake Union Publishing for the giveaways.
Cover image courtesy of Lake Union Publishing © 201; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2014, Austenprose.com
Jennifer has joined us to chat about her inspiration to write her book, a revealing look at one of Jane Austen’s most misunderstood characters from Pride and Prejudice, Mary Bennet. Her publisher has generously offered a giveaway chance for a paperback or Kindle digital edition of The Forgotten Sister to three lucky winners. Just leave a comment with this blog post to enter. The contest details are listed below. Good luck to all.
What first led me to think of Mary Bennet as a possible heroine was an observation by Jane Austen scholar, John Bayley. In his memoir of his wife, British novelist Iris Murdoch, Bayley wrote that ‘the unfortunate Mary is the only one among Jane Austen’s characters who never gets a fair deal from the author at all, any more than she does from her father.’
I immediately wondered what sort of story would emerge if Pride and Prejudice were to be retold from Mary’s point of view. How would Mary feel about her father, for instance? Wouldn’t she resent being constantly ridiculed by him? (When Mary first appears in Chapter 2 of Pride and Prejudice, she’s sarcastically framed by Mr Bennet as a ’young lady of deep reflection’ who reads ‘great books and makes extracts’.) And how would Mary view her two older sisters, Jane and Elizabeth, and their so-eligible suitors, Messrs. Bingley and Darcy? And would there be room in any retelling for Mary to have a life of her own? Could she find a friend for herself outside her immediate family, and even, eventually, a lover?
I’m much more at home writing dialogue than descriptive prose, and as an early exercise in getting to know Mary I noted down all her speeches in Pride and Prejudice—there are only half a dozen!—and afterwards used them as milestones in The Forgotten Sister. I figured it would be cheating to edit out Mary’s speeches. The challenge instead would be to place them in a newly imagined context: the world inside Mary’s head. For although I wanted to stick to Jane Austen’s script and not ignore Mary’s unattractive aspects—her moralizing and pedantry—I also wanted the reader to appreciate what a difficult hand she’d been dealt. She’s the only plain one of the five Bennet sisters, and as a middle child she’s isolated within her own family, having no confidante among her sisters. And neither of her parents favours her— Mrs Bennet spoils her youngest daughter, Lydia, while Mr Bennet favours his second daughter, Elizabeth.
I found the key to understanding Mary in her childhood—her birth-order as the third successive daughter of parents desperate for a male heir, her loneliness growing up between two pairs of closely bonded sisters, and—hardest of all perhaps—having to endure the brilliant unkindness of her capricious quick-witted father. In seeking to give Mary a ‘fair deal’ I used the childhood experience of the late Princess of Wales, Diana Spencer. Like Mary Bennet, Diana was the third successive daughter of parents desperate for a male heir. (Just as the Bennets needed a son to keep the Longbourn estate in the family, so the Spencers needed one to inherit the earldom.) Diana’s biographer, Sarah Bradford, describes how Diana convinced herself that she should have been a boy and that, being a girl, she was a disappointment and regarded as a lesser being.
In a further attempt to gain the reader’s sympathy for Mary, I farmed her out to a wet-nurse for the first two years of her life. This was a common enough practice at the time. Claire Tomalin in her biography Jane Austen: A Life describes how the Austen children, after being breast-fed by their mother for a few months, were handed over to a wet nurse until they were weaned. The family of Mary’s wet-nurse, the Bushell family, do not appear in Pride and Prejudice of course, although they’re important characters in my book, but after I’d made up names for them I was delighted to discover that a Dame Bushell had actually done the Austen family laundry! In a letter to her sister Cassandra dated October 1798 Jane Austen wrote:
‘Dame Bushell washes for us only one week more, as Sukey has got a place. John Steevens’ wife undertakes our purification. She does not look as if anything she touched would ever be clean, but who knows?’
For the rest, I stuck fairly closely to Austen’s characterization. My Mary works hard for knowledge and accomplishments. She’s equally eager to show off her singing voice and is just as deluded about her performance. I emphasized her religious enthusiasm by giving her a pious tutor, and I attributed her fondness for quoting other people’s words to a sort of social nervousness, a not-knowing what to say. To help her overcome this, the mother of her tutor encourages her to compile a so-called ‘Commonplace Book’ in which wise and witty sayings can be noted—and endlessly quoted. (I had great fun with Mary’s Commonplace Book!)
I found the hardest part of The Forgotten Sister to write was the ending when Mary arrives in the penal colony of New South Wales. Even though I was writing about Sydney, my own hometown, the setting was remote from Austen’s world of the famous ‘three or four families’ in an English country village. (And to find out why Mary Bennet would end up in a penal colony, you’ll just have to read the book!)
Jennifer Paynter was born and educated in Sydney. She has previously written two stage plays and several anthologized short stories, and is a member of the Jane Austen Society of Australia. The Forgotten Sister is Jennifer’s first novel. Visit Jennifer on her website jenniferpaynter.com.
Enter a chance to win one of three paperback or Kindle digital copies available (winner’s choice) of The Forgotten Sister, by Jennifer Paytner by sharing your favorite Mary Bennet quote from Pride and Prejudice or stating your decided opinion of Mary Bennet, and what intrigues you about this novel! The contest is open until 11:59 pm PT, February 06, 2014. Winners will be drawn at random from the comments and posted on Friday, February 07, 2014. Paperback shipment to US addresses, digital edition internationally. Good luck to all.
The Forgotten Sister: Mary Bennet’s Pride and Prejudice, by Jennifer Paynter
Lake Union Publishing (2014)
Trade paperback (440) pages
Book cover courtesy of Lake Union Publishing © 2014; Text Jennifer Paytner © 2014, Austenprose.com
Today we celebrate another anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice on 28 January 1813 in London. It’s hard to top last year’s incredible, world-wide, over the top festivities, elevating Jane Austen and her most popular novel to mega-media darlings of 2013. Who will ever forget the giant statue of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy rising dripping wet from The Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, or the announcement that Jane Austen would be featured on the UK £10.00 pound note in 2017?
I will always remember this anniversary as the year that I visited Jane Austen’s England for the first time and walked in her footsteps through gardens, stately homes, and her last residence, Chawton Cottage in Hampshire. It was quite a year for this Janeite.
I was also very happy to see an increased interest in reading Pride and Prejudice and the many spinoffs that it has generated. Over 400 fans signed up for our own year-long Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge here on Austenprose and over of a quarter of a million visitors landed on our Pride and Prejudice Archives, detailing the novel’s characters, plot summary and significant quotes. If you have not visited our archives yet, the links to each page are listed below.
We have another significant 200th anniversary coming up on the 9th of May for Mansfield Park. I have always been very fond of Jane Austen’s less popular novel, especially her prudential heroine Fanny Price and anti-heroine Mary Crawford. I look forward to re-reading it this year.
Happy Birthday Pride and Prejudice! I ardently admire and love you too!
Pride and Prejudice
- Pride and Prejudice: Introduction
- Pride and Prejudice: List of Characters
- Pride and Prejudice: Plot Summary by Chapter
- Pride and Prejudice: Plot Summary Chapters 1 – 7
- Pride and Prejudice: Plot Summary Chapters 8 – 14
- Pride and Prejudice: Plot Summary Chapters 15 – 21
- Pride and Prejudice: Plot Summary Chapters 22 – 28
- Pride and Prejudice: Plot Summary Chapters 29 – 35
- Pride and Prejudice: Plot Summary Chapters 36 – 42
- Pride and Prejudice: Plot Summary Chapters 43 – 49
- Pride and Prejudice: Plot Summary Chapters 50 – 56
- Pride and Prejudice: Plot Summary Chapters 57 – 61
- Pride and Prejudice: Quotes & Quips by Chapter
- Pride and Prejudice: Quotes & Quips Chapters 1 – 7
- Pride and Prejudice: Quotes & Quips Chapters 8 – 14
- Pride and Prejudice: Quotes & Quips Chapters 15 – 21
- Pride and Prejudice: Quotes & Quips Chapters 22 – 28
- Pride and Prejudice: Quotes & Quips Chapters 29 – 35
- Pride and Prejudice: Quotes & Quips Chapters 36 – 42
- Pride and Prejudice: Quotes & Quips Chapters 43 – 49
- Pride and Prejudice: Quotes & Quips Chapters 50 – 56
- Pride and Prejudice: Quotes & Quips Chapters 57 – 61
- Pride and Prejudice: Additional Resources
© 2014, Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose.com
Imagine eating white soup with Mr. Darcy, roast pork with Miss Bates, or scones with Mr. Collins! Just thinking of those dishes transports me back into the scenes in Jane Austen’s novels and makes me smile. In Dinner with Mr. Darcy, food historian Pen Vogler examines Austen’s use of food in her writing, researches ancient Georgian recipes, converting them for the modern cook.
Even though Austen is not known for her descriptive writing, food is an important theme in her stories, speaking for her if you know how to listen. Every time we dine with characters, or food is mentioned, it relays an important fact that Austen wants us to note: wealth and station, poverty and charity, and of course comedy. While poor Mr. Woodhouse frets over wedding cake in Emma, Mr. Bingley offers white soup to his guests at Netherfield Park in Pride and Prejudice, and Aunt Norris lifts the supernumerary jellies after the ball in Mansfield Park, we are offered insights into their characters and their social station.
In Austen’s letter she writes to her sister Cassandra about many domestic matters: clothes, social gatherings and food. When she mentions orange wine, apple pie and sponge cake we know it is of importance to her.
“I hope you had not a disagreeable evening with Miss Austen and her niece. You know how interesting the purchase of a sponge-cake is to me.” – Jane Austen in a letter to her sister Cassandra, 15 June 1808
Vogler has combed Austen’s novels, letters and juvenilia pulling out dishes and researching them in contemporary cookbooks from the Georgian era. The sections are cleverly arranged: Breakfast with General Tilney; Mrs. Bennet’s Dinner to Impress; Pork and Apples: An Autumn Dinner with the Bateses; Jane’s Family Favorites; The Picnic Parade; Tea and Cake; The Ball at Netherfield; An Old-fashioned Supper for Mr. Woodhouse; Christmas with the Musgroves and Other Celebrations; Gifts, Drinks, and Preserves for Friends and the Sick at Heart. The recipes have been converted for the modern cook and look sumptuous from the numerous full-color pictures. I am dying to try Sally Lunn Cakes, a recipe from the famous bakery and tea shop in Bath, everlasting syllabub, ragout veal, Mrs. Austen’s pudding, rout cakes, white soup, flummery and many others. Several of the recipes have been adapted from Martha Lloyds household cookbook, Jane’s dear friend and confidante, who lived with the widowed Mrs. Austen and her daughters from 1807 until her marriage to Jane’s widowed elder brother Sir Francis Austen in 1823 at the age of 62! The bibliography in the back is also a great resource for those interested in Georgian cooking and its history.
While there are other scholarly books devoted to Georgian cooking focusing on Jane Austen such as The Jane Austen Cookbook, by Maggie Black and Deidre Le Faye (1995) and Jane Austen and Food, by Maggie Lane (1995), which we will be reviewing next month, Dinner with Mr. Darcy will appeal to the average cook who wants to experience what Austen and her characters ate and enjoyed, and discover why Austen’s choice of food and dining was so important to the plot development. The recipes are both simple and elaborate and the ingredients are available to most, even in the colonies! So if you are ready for your own picnic at Box Hill or supper at Pemberley, bon appetite!
5 out of 5 Regency Stars
Dinner with Mr. Darcy: Recipes Inspired by the Novels and Letters of Jane Austen, by Pen Vogler
Cico Books (2013)
Hardcover (160) pages
Note: My copy of Dinner with Mr. Darcy was in US measurements, but the publisher also makes a UK edition. Which version you receive depends upon the point of origin.
Cover image courtesy of Cico Books © 2013; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2014, Austenprose.com
Starting with the third book in any series is certainly a challenge. One feels rather late to the party when one has missed out on major events and character development in two previous novels, so why would I attempt it? Add to the fact that they were Pride and Prejudice “what if” stories changing the plot of Jane Austen’s classic tale, and the problems intensify. What could possibly tempt me to move beyond my prejudices and give, Lady Harriette: Fitzwilliam’s Heart and Soul, a chance? The plot appeared to be focused on the married life of Colonel Fitzwilliam and his new bride Lady Harriet Middleton. His cousin Fitzwilliam Darcy is married to Elizabeth Bennet already too? What? No courtship? Where was this going? I was intrigued.
The book’s description and first few chapters truly peaked my curiosity. Lady Harriette was a beautiful young heiress twelve years younger than her husband, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, the second son of an earl with no fortune. How had he snagged HER, and what did the families think of this misalliance? We learn that he was a rake with a long standing history of dalliance. I wondered if he had married for love or for money? The elephant in the room was how he will he ever keep his privileged and spoiled bride happy? Pressure mounts on Fitzwilliam after he discovers the ancestral property is near bankruptcy. Trying to keep this startling fact from his wife and family, while he and Darcy attempt to catch the thief, seemed wise, but later backfires. Even close friends Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy, whose happy life at Pemberley appeared untouchable, are faced with a ghost from the past when a young woman working as a housemaid at the Fitzwilliam estate has a painful connection to both Darcy and Fitzwilliam. Why is she there? Blackmail, or the evil workings of a disgruntled relative? The possibilities for conflict were mounting with every chapter.
Only a creative and skilled writer could truly pull all of these conflicts and challenges together. Author P. O. Dixon, known for her Pride and Prejudice variations, succeeded triumphantly. I was amazed at how she began the story after the marriage of the Fitzwilliam’s and then proceeded to fill in the backstory quite seamlessly. Having not read the first two novels in the series I did not know if she was back peddling or showing off her storytelling skills. It mattered not. Either way it resulted in a page turning plot. There were times when I found myself at a loss when characters like Jane Bennet, elder sister of Elizabeth, where not married to whom Austen paired them off with, or other sisters like Lydia had died. For the benefit of readers who are not familiar with the new twists taken from Austen’s plot that had transpired in previous novels, an author’s forward or a character list in the back would have answered those nagging questions that left me hanging. The character development of Col. Fitzwilliam and Lady Harriette was quite absorbing. I was skeptical that she would truly change, or that he really loved her. I knew that I would like the Col. from the start, and did, but Lady Harriette was another matter. She was a spoiled, rich girl who I could not connect with and wondered why the Colonel loved her beyond her youth, beauty and money. You will have to read the novel to find out if they have their happy-ever-after.
I listened to an audio recording of Lady Harriette: Fitzwilliam’s Heart and Soul, read by Pearl Hewitt. The fast paced story lent itself to a theatrical reading enhanced by Hewitt’s characterizations. This is truly a romance novel with some steamy love scenes, so please take heed. You are forewarned and forearmed for a great read. I highly recommend it.
4.5 out of 5 Regency Stars
Lady Harriette: Fitzwilliam’s Heart and Soul (Pride and Prejudice Untold), by P. O. Dixon (audio recording) read by Pearl Hewitt
Digital audio recording (6 hours and 13 minutes)
Cover image courtesy of P. O. Dixon © 2013; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2014, Austenprose.com
It’s time to announce the winner of the hardcover copy of The Complete Novels of Jane Austen. The lucky winner drawn at random is:
- TracyH who left a message of December 17, 2013
Congratulations TracyH! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by January 02, 2014 or you will forfeit your prize! Shipment to US addresses only.
Thanks to all who left comments and to Race Point Publishing for the giveaway copy.
Happy Birthday Jane Austen!
Cover image of The Complete Novels of Jane Austen courtesy of Race Point Publishing © 2013; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2013, Austenprose.com
Huzzah! It has been a banner year for Jane Austen-inspired books in 2013. The bicentenary of Pride and Prejudice motivated many authors to take up their pens in celebration resulting in a fabulous selection of new titles. From historical and contemporary novels to non-fiction and scholarly, Austen-inspired books were present in several genres making our favorite author even more popular than ever.
We reviewed 76 books and short stories in 2013. Here is our annual list of top favorites .
Top 10 Austenesque Historical Novels:
- Return to Longbourn, by Shannon Winslow (5 stars)
- One Thread Pulled: The Dance with Mr. Darcy, by Diana J. Oaks (5 stars)
- Loving Miss Darcy: The Brides of Pemberley, by Nancy Kelley (5 stars)
- The Pursuit of Mary Bennet: A Pride and Prejudice Novel, by Pamela Mingle (4 stars)
- Longbourn: A Novel, by Jo Baker (4 stars)
- The Passions of Dr. Darcy, by Sharon Lathan (4 stars)
- Falling For Mr. Darcy, by KaraLynne Mackrory (4 stars)
- Darcy’s Decision: Given Good Principles Volume 1, by Maria Grace (4 stars)
- When They Fall in Love: Darcy and Elizabeth in Italy, by Mary Simonsen (4 stars)
- Young Mr. Darcy in Love: Pride and Prejudice Continues (The Darcys and the Bingleys) (Volume 7) by Marsha Altman (4 stars)
Top 5 Austenesque Contemporary Novels:
- Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Match, by Marilyn Brant (5 stars)
- Undressing Mr. Darcy, by Karen Doornebos (5 stars)
- My Own Mr. Darcy, by Karey White (4 stars)
- Sense & Sensibility (Austen Project), by Joanna Trollope (3.5 stars)
- Finding Colin Firth: A Novel, by Mia March (3.5 stars)
Top 5 Austenesque Paranormal/Fantasy Novels:
- Jane, Actually, by Jennifer Petkus (5 stars)
- Project Darcy, by Jane Odiwe (4 stars)
- Austensibly Ordinary, by Alyssa Goodnight (4 stars)
- Attempting Elizabeth, by Jessica Grey (4 stars)
- A Jane Austen Daydream, by Scott Southard (4 stars)
Top 5 Austen-inspired Nonfiction Books:
- Among the Janeites: A Journey Through the World of Jane Austen Fandom, by Deborah Jaffe (6 stars)
- The Annotated Northanger Abbey, edited by David Shapard (5 stars)
- Walking Jane Austen’s London, by Louise Allen (5 stars)
- Mr. Darcy’s Guide to Courtship: The Secrets of Seduction from Jane Austen’s Most Eligible Bachelor, by Fitzwilliam Darcy (5 stars)
- The List Lover’s Guide to Jane Austen, by Joan Strasbaugh (4.5 stars)
Top 5 Austen-inspired Scholarly Books:
- The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, by Paula Byrne (5 stars)
- Jane Austen’s England, by Roy and Lesley Adkins (5 stars)
- Sense and Sensibility: An Annotated Edition, edited by Patricia Meyer Spacks (4 stars)
- Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity, by Janine Barchas (4 stars)
- What Matters in Jane Austen: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved, by John Mullan (4 stars)
Top 3 Austenesque Young Adult Novels:
- The Trouble with Flirting, by Claire LaZebnick (4.5 stars)
- Emmalee (Austen Diaries), by Jenni James (4 stars)
- For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund (4 stars)
Top 3 Austenesque Self-published Novels:
- Return to Longbourn, by Shannon Winslow (5 stars)
- One Thread Pulled: The Dance with Mr. Darcy, by Diana J. Oaks (5 stars)
- Loving Miss Darcy: The Brides of Pemberley, by Nancy Kelley (5 stars)
Top 3 Austen or Austenesque Audio Books:
- Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, read by Emilia Fox (5 stars)
- Mr. Darcy’s Diary, by Maya Slater, read by David Rintoul (5 stars)
- Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World (A Pride and Prejudice Variation), by Abigail Reynolds, read by Rachel E. Hurley (4 stars)
Top 3 Regency Romance Novels:
- The Tutor’s Daughter, by Julie Klassen (5 stars)
- The Passion of the Purple Plumeria: A Pink Carnation Novel, by Lauren Willig (5 stars)
- Blackmoore: A Proper Romance, by Julianne Donaldson (5 stars)
Debut Austenesque Author:
- Diana J. Oaks, One Thread Pulled: The Dance with Mr. Darcy (5 stars)
Our thanks and congratulations go out to all of the authors and their publishers, whose endeavors entertained us so aptly. A very grateful thank you to all of our loyal readers.
The Austenprose review staff
- Top 20 Jane Austen Books for 2009
- Top 20 Jane Austen Books for 2010
- Top 20 Jane Austen Books for 2011
- Top Jane Austen-inspired Books of 2012
Laurel Ann Nattress © 2013, Austenprose.com
*throws confetti in air* It’s Jane Austen’s 238th birthday today! Let the party begin by entering a chance to win a beautiful collector’s edition of The Complete Novels of Jane Austen, published by Race Point (2013). Details are listed below.
The festivities are especially poignant to me this year after visiting Jane Austen’s birthplace and home for twenty-five years on our tour of Jane Austen’s England last fall. Our stop at the former site of Steventon Rectory, and St. Nicholas Church, were my favorite sites along the tour. The original rectory was demolished in 1823, however the site is still viewable as an empty field where cattle now graze. Just up the road is St. Nicholas’ Church where Austen’s father, Rev. George Austen, was rector for forty years (1761-1800). The church is a small, simple, Norman building which was originally constructed around 1200. It has had a series of revisions over the 800 of years that it has been in existence, including the addition of the prominent spire in the mid nineteenth century.
Of all the many Austen related sites that we visited on our 10-day tour, my visit to St. Nicholas Church was the most moving. The neighborhood is very isolated and rural with large oak trees lining the narrow roads and other mature trees, including the huge 900-year-old yew tree, spanning 50 feet, at the front the church property. When we departed the coach, I was immediately struck by the quiet, unassuming, and uncommercial atmosphere we were privileged to enter. The church is surrounded on three sides by a graveyard and many of the local family names Jane mentions in her letters appear on the stones, including the Digweeds and LeFroys. The graves of her elder brother James Austen, who followed her father as rector of the parish, and his two wives are situated there; and inside is a plaque in their memory.
It would not be Jane Austen’s birthday if I did not talk about my favorite Austen books in my personal library. Here is a list of my top-ten favorite biographies, historical bio-ficts and nonfiction books that I have enjoyed over the years. Just click on the links to read a review or to learn more about them.
Jane Austen Biographies:
(the life of Jane Austen)
- The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, by Paula Byrne (2013)
- Jane Austen: A Life, by Claire Tomalin (1997)
- Jane Austen: A Life Revealed, by Catherine Reef (2011)
- Jane Austen (Christian Encounters Series), by Peter Leithart (2010)
- Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World, by Claire Harman (2009)
- Jane Austen: A Family Record, by William Austen-Leigh and Richard Austen-Leigh, and revised and enlarged by Deirdre Le Faye (2003)
- Jane Austen: A Life, by David Nokes (1997)
- Jane Austen’s World: the Life and Times of England’s Most Popular Author, by Maggie Lane (1996)
- A Memoir of Jane Austen by Her Nephew, by James Edward Austen-Leigh (1870)
- Jane Austen’s Letters, edited by Deirdre Le Faye (1997
Jane Austen Bio-Fict:
(Jane Austen as a fictional character)
- The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, by Syrie James (2007)
- The Mysterious Death of Miss Jane Austen, by Lindsay Ashford (2011)
- Jane Bites Back, by Michael Thomas Ford (2009)
The entire Being a Jane Austen Mystery series by Stephanie Barron
- Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor(1996)
- Jane and the Man of the Cloth (1997)
- Jane and the Wandering Eye (1998)
- Jane and the Genius of the Place (1999)
- Jane and the Stillroom Maid (2000)
- Jane and the Prisoner of the Wool House (2001)
- Jane and the Ghosts of Netley (2003)
- Jane and His Lordship’s Legacy (2005)
- Jane and the Barque of Frailty (2006)
- Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron (2010)
- Jane and the Canterbury Tale (2011)
- Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Times, Her Novels, by Janet Todd (2013)
- In the Garden with Jane Austen, by Kim Wilson
- Tea with Jane Austen, by Kim Wilson
- All Things Austen: A Concise Encyclopedia of Austen’s World, by Kirstin Olsen (2008)
- What Matters in Jane Austen: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved, by John Mullan (2013)
- Jane Austen’s England, by Roy and Lesley Adkins (2013)
- Among the Janeites: A Journey Through the World of Jane Austen Fandom, by Deborah Yaffe (2013)
- Jane Austen’s Cults and Cultures, by Claudia L. Johnson (2012)
- Everybody’s Jane: Austen in the Popular Imagination, by Juliette Wells (2012)
- A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me about Love, Friendship, and the Things that Really Matter, by William Deresiewicz (2011)
A GRAND GIVEAWAY
Enter a chance to win a hardcover copy of The Complete Novels of Jane Austen (Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion and Lady Susan) in one volume with a slip case. Just leave a comment with your favorite Jane Austen quote by 11:59 pm, Wednesday, December 25. 2013. Winner to be announced on Thursday, December 26, 2013. Shipment to US addresses only. Good luck to all!
Happy Birthday Jane!
Cover image of The Complete Novels of Jane Austen courtesy of Race Point Publishing © 2013; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2013, Austenprose.com
It’s time to announce the 3 winners of print copies of Undressing Mr. Darcy, by Karen Doornebos. The lucky winners drawn at random are:
- June7 who left a message of December 04, 2013
- Ellen Heckler who left a comment on December 03, 2013
- Marsha Saenz-Jones who left a comment on December 03, 2013
Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by December 18, 2013 or you will forfeit your prize! Shipment to US addresses only.
Thanks to all who left comments, to author Karen Doornebos for her guest blog, and to her publisher Berkley (Penguin Group) for the giveaways.
Cover image courtesy of Berkley (Penguin Group) © 2013; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2013, Austenprose.com
Happy Holidays Janeites!
Tis the season to go shopping, and Janeite family and friends always need suggestions to fill the reticules, stockings, and gifts under the tree for those whose special interest is everything Austen. I have several categories to select from – and I would happily be the recipient of any of these fabulous items!
Jane Austen Book Marks from TheCastleOnTheHill
Created by London painter Jess Purser, this pack of six bookmarks, features a print of one of her Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, paintings on vintage book pages. There are the five Bennet sisters and Mr. Darcy too. Can you pick out which sister is which?
Professionally printed onto silky smooth card stock at 350gsm weight they each measure 1.6″ (4cm) in width by 6.3″ (16cm) in height.
Your bookmarks will come packaged in a cello sleeve so they stay nice and safe for their journey to you.
Visit Jess at her Etsy Shop, CastleOnTheHill to order.
Lizzy & Darcy note cards by Janet Taylor
From the very talented artist Janet Taylor, these beautiful notecards capture a unique moment in the 1995 miniseries, Pride and Prejudice. Select from a variety of sizes and images.
Visit Janet at her website J.T. Originals to order.
Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Times, Her Novels, by Janet Todd
I discovered this enchanting book at The British Library bookshop during my trip to England last fall. It is packed full of great text from Austen scholar Janet Todd, images, pull out copies of original documents and other delights. Here is the publisher’s description:
Over the last 200 years, the novels of Jane Austen have been loved and celebrated across a diverse international readership. As a result, there is a bottomless appetite for detail about the woman behind the writing. Jane Austen traces her life and times; her relationships with family and friends; the attitudes and customs of the time that shaped her and were in turn shaped by her work; and the places where she lived, worked and set her novels, from rural Hampshire to fashionable Bath Spa. Chapters on each of her novels run throughout the book and place them in the context of her life. For such a renowned novelist, there is remarkably little direct material available, but this volume draws on archives for a truly insightful view.
Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Times, Her Novels, is currently available in the UK and in the US in April, but you can order it through Book Depository with free international shipping!
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen (Pulp! The Classics)
In this celebratory year of the bicentenary publication of Pride and Prejudice, there have been oodles of new covers of our cherished classic, but none reaches the unique irony, nor embraces the pop-culture frenzy that we have witnessed this year better than the Pulp! The Classics cover illustrated by David Mann. This series is a new imprint from Oldcastle Books that “gives the nation’s favourite classic novels original retro covers in a pulp fiction style – with a dash of wry humour. Redesigned and reset, using the original unabridged text from some of the best writers that have ever lived, Pulp! The Classics promises readers their favourite books with stunning and highly original jackets.” No kidding. Any Janeite will recognize actor Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy on the cover! Ha!
Pick up this perfect stocking stuffer at Amazon.com
The Beau Monde: Fashionable Society in Georgian London,
by Hannah Greig
*sigh* The title and cover had me at hello. For those who are not as impulsive as I am, here is the complete description from Oxford University Press:
Caricatured for extravagance, vanity, glamorous celebrity and, all too often, embroiled in scandal and gossip, 18th-century London’s fashionable society had a well-deserved reputation for frivolity. But to be fashionable in 1700s London meant more than simply being well dressed. Fashion denoted membership of a new type of society – the beau monde, a world where status was no longer determined by coronets and countryseats alone but by the more nebulous qualification of metropolitan ‘fashion’. Conspicuous consumption and display were crucial; the right address, the right dinner guests, the right possessions, the right jewels, the right seat at the opera.
The Beau Monde leads us on a tour of this exciting new world, from court and parliament to London’s parks, pleasure grounds, and private homes. From brash displays of diamond jewelry to the subtle complexities of political intrigue, we see how membership of the new elite was won, maintained – and sometimes lost. On the way, we meet a rich and colorful cast of characters, from the newly ennobled peer learning the ropes and the imposter trying to gain entry by means of clever fakery, to the exile banned for sexual indiscretion.
Above all, as the story unfolds, we learn that being a Fashionable was about far more than simply being ‘modish’. By the end of the century, it had become nothing less than the key to power and exclusivity in a changed world.
This new Regency-era nonfiction book topped my wish list at number one. I could not wait. I bought the digital edition. Buy the print edition if you want to be able to see the illustrations.
Take a peek inside this must read for Regency-era authors, history lovers and Jane Austen fans at Amazon.com.
Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey, by Emma Rowley
This book has nothing what-so-ever to do with Jane Austen, the Georgian or Regency eras, but what-the-heck, we love this period drama series and many other Janeites do too!
The fourth season of Downton Abbey will soon air this side of the pond on Masterpiece Classic PBS on January 5th. This is the perfect gift for those addicted to the Crawley family saga which spans Edwardian, WWI, and now the post war Roaring Twenties England. We live for Violet, the Dowager Countess of Grantham’s, acerbic comments. Don’t you? Here is the publisher’s description:
Gain unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to Downton Abbey in this official Season 4 tie-in book, complete with never-before-seen photos giving fans insight into the making of the runaway hit.
Expertly crafted with generous inside knowledge and facts, this book will delve into the inspiration behind the details seen on screen, the choice of locations, the music and much more. Step inside the props cupboard or the hair and make-up truck and catch a glimpse of the secret backstage world. In-depth interviews and exclusive photos give insight into the actors’ experiences on set as well as the celebrated creative team behind the award-winning drama. Straight from the director’s chair, this is the inside track on all aspects of the making of the show.
Jane Austen Mansfield Park Calendar 2014
from The Republic of Pemberley
My Austen year would not be complete without my calendar from the good folks at The Republic of Pemberley. This year they have two to choose from: the classic Jane Austen 2014 Rancor Vertical Wall Calendar and Jane Austen Mansfield Park Calendar 2014 in honor of the bicentenary of the publication. It is very hard to decide if you want to chortle over Austen’s witty quotes from her letters or spend the year in a love triangle between Fanny Price, Mary Crawford and Edmund Bertram. Decisions!
Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy Ornaments
from The Jane Austen Centre Gift Shop
I first discovered this adorable Mr. Darcy ornament during my visit to The British Library, when harkened from across the large gift shop floor I heard a cry of joy from fellow traveler, and Austenesque author Nancy Kelley, “MR. DARCY”. Tallyho! It was only my second hour in England, but it was the first thing I bought. I was delighted to find the matching Elizabeth at Winchester Cathedral gift shop, AND a Mr. Knightley and Emma at the Roman Bath’s gift shop. They all now proudly hang in pride of place, from my Jane Austen book case of course. Get your very own Mr. Darcy and Lizzy from The Jane Austen Centre online gift shop, though we wish they would spell Elizabeth’s name as Austen intended: Lizzy not Lizzie.
Happy Holidays to all, and may all your Austen wishes come true.
© 2013 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose.com
It’s time to announce the 3 winners of print copies of The Pursuit of Mary Bennet, by Pamela Mingle. The winners drawn at random are:
- schilds who left a message of November 26, 2013
- Becky C. who left a comment on December 1, 2013
- Ann W. who left a comment on November 26, 2013
Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by December 13, 2013 or you will forfeit your prize! Shipment to US addresses only.
Thanks to all who left comments, to author Pamela Mingle for her guest blog, and to her publisher William Morrow for the giveaways.
Cover image courtesy William Morrow © 2013; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2013, Austenprose.com
Karen has joined us to chat about her inspiration to write her new book, a humorous contemporary romance inspired by the chemistry between Jane Austen’s characters Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Her publisher, Berkley, has also generously offered a giveaway chance for a paperback copy of Undressing Mr. Darcy to three lucky winners. Just leave a comment with this blog post to enter. The contest details are listed below. Good luck to all.
Thank you for joining us Karen.
Inspiration for Undressing – shall we say – a flame?
Laurel Ann asked me to talk a bit about my inspiration for Undressing Mr. Darcy. Full disclosure: when I was researching Regency male clothing for my first novel, Definitely Not Mr. Darcy, I hit upon an English website called The History Wardrobe that did a show called Undressing Mr. Darcy. It seems a “Mr. Darcy” would disrobe down to his drawers while a woman lectured about his articles of clothing.
Wow. What more could a Darcy fangirl ask for?! I never saw the show and it’s now defunct, but my imagination started clicking and it wasn’t long until I came up with:
He’s an old-fashioned, hardcover book reader from England who writes with a quill pen. She’s a modern American career woman, hooked on her social media. Can he find his way into her heart without so much as a GPS?!
So, undressing caused the cognitive wheels to turn. ;) But, going deeper than that, what else inspires?
It’s cliché, but: sparks flying.
There is no better way to describe the air between Darcy and Elizabeth than: flammable in a good way. And I love that! I loved it at 16 years old when I read Pride and Prejudice and I love it now. There isn’t any sex in Austen, but P&P is especially rife with sexual tension, and the entire book feels ready to ignite at the inevitable union of Darcy and Elizabeth.
In Undressing Mr. Darcy I haven’t tried to recreate Darcy and Elizabeth, but rather, bring a similar kind of energy to Julian, who has been called “adorably old-fashioned” by RT Book Reviews, and Vanessa, my thoroughly modern Millie.
I also think the eternal appeal of Darcy and Elizabeth happens to be the fact that they need to learn something from each other. They came into each other’s lives to be educated, so to speak, by each other. They need to calibrate and recalibrate. Likewise, my flawed characters need to learn a thing or two from each other—but do they? Who learns and who doesn’t?
When, back in 2011, I stumbled across the Undressing Mr. Darcy idea, what I didn’t know was that a pirate would get into the mix. To say this character was inspired by Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow would be…true! Does he bear any resemblance to Wickham? You’ll have to read and find out!
Yet, as much as I enjoy the romance, the teasing, the push and pull, I like learning something as I read (back to that learning thing again)! That’s why I think Austenprose readers will especially enjoy Undressing. Aside from the Jane Austen Society of North America gatherings and Jane Austen Festivals, I delve into Jane Austen’s life, weaving into the story a bright colored ribbon of biography to follow along with (but not in a lecturing, pedantic way)!
To educate myself, I reread Austen’s letters to her sister Cassandra. I traveled to Bath, Chawton and London to see what she saw and experience for myself her cottage, especially juxtaposed with her brother Edward’s massive inherited estate. One of the most poignant moments and certainly a highlight of my trip was seeing Austen’s writing desk at The British Library in London. I incorporated all of this into the book: a modern American woman’s perspective of Austen. Yet, when we analyze Austen, we analyze ourselves, do we not?
Austenprose readers, check out the first chapter of Undressing Mr. Darcy here!
So much more to say, but I have to thank Laurel Ann again for hosting me on this special day! So great to be here.
A * wave * from the top of Bath Abbey!
On each leg of the Undressing Mr. Darcy Blog Tour, I’m taking you along for a ride to England, where I traveled during the summer of 2012 to do some research for my new book. Where am I on this stop? I climbed the 212 steps to the top of Bath Abbey for the panoramic views of the hills and crescents. Afterwards I promptly treated myself to a fluffy Bath bun at the famous Sally Lunn’s, established in 1680 in a house built in 1482… The bun arrived smothered in butter and strawberry jam, but the real topper was enjoying that and peppermint tea in Sally Lunn’s Jane Austen Room!
JOIN THE BLOG TOUR OF UNDRESSING MR. DARCY:
12/2: The Penguin Blog
Launch! 12/3: Austenprose
12/5 Chick Lit Plus – Review
12/6 Austen Authors
12/9 Fresh Fiction
12/10 Writings & Ramblings
12/12 Risky Regencies Q&A
12/13 Books by Banister
Jane Austen’s 238th Birthday! 12/16 Jane Austen in Vermont,
Author Exposure Q&A
12/17 Literally Jen
12/18 Savvy Verse & Wit – Review
12/19 Kritters Ramblings
12/20 Booking with Manic- Review
12/26 My 5 Monkeys – Review
12/27 All Grown Up – Review
12/30 Silver’s Reviews
1/2 Dew on the Kudzu
Mr. Darcy’s Stripping Off…
His gloves. At each stop on the Undressing Mr. Darcy Blog Tour, Mr. Darcy will strip off another piece of clothing. Keep track of each item in chronological order and at the end of the tour you can enter to win a GRAND PRIZE of the book’s, “DO NOT DISTURB I’m Undressing Mr. Darcy” door hangers for you and your friends, tea, and a bottle of wine (assuming I can legally ship it to your state). US entries only, please.
Thank you Karen for joining us today on Austenprose. Best wishes on the success of your new book.
Please visit us on December 11 for our review of Undressing Mr. Darcy.
Author Bio: Karen Doornebos is the author of Undressing Mr. Darcy published by Berkley, Penguin. Her first novel, Definitely Not Mr. Darcy, has been published in three countries and was granted a starred review by Publisher’s Weekly. Karen lived and worked in London for a short time, but is now happy just being a lifelong member of the Jane Austen Society of North America and living in the Chicagoland area with her husband, two teenagers and various pets—including a bird. Speaking of birds, follow her on Twitter and Facebook! She hopes to see you there, on her website www.karendoornebos.com and her group blog Austen Authors.
A GRAND GIVEAWAY
Enter a chance to win one of three copies available of Undressing Mr. Darcy, by Karen Doornebos by leaving a comment including your favorite Mr. Darcy quote from Pride and Prejudice, or by asking Karen a question about her writing process or the characters in her new book. The contest is open until 11:59 pm PT, December 11, 2013. Winners will be drawn at random from the comments and posted on Thursday, December 12, 2013. Shipment to US addresses only. Good luck to all.
Undressing Mr. Darcy, by Karen Doornebos
Berkley Trade (2013)
Trade paperback (368) pages
Cover image courtesy of Berkley Trade © 2013; text Karen Doornebos © 2013, Austenprose.com
It is Thanksgiving day here at Woodston Cottage and we are very grateful for many things in our life: friends, family and Janeites. I would like to thank the following:
Our fabulous reviewers: Christina Boyd, Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Lisa Galek, Katie P., Sarah Emsely, Br. Paul Byrd, and Virginia Clare Tharrington, who freely contribute their time and passion for Jane Austen.
Our wonderful authors: I cannot name you all individually, but we are so glad that you write and we can benefit with hours of reading enjoyment.
Masterpiece Classic PBS: for years of incredible television adaptations of our favorite novels including all of Jane Austen’s major works and new series such as The Paradise and Downton Abbey. All we can say is WOW!
Friends: Syrie James, Diana Birchall, Jane Odiwe, Deborah Holloway, Deborah Barnum, Vic Sanborn and many more. You are the best!
“Arguments are too much like disputes. If you and Miss Bennet will defer yours till I am out of the room I shall be very thankful;” — Pride and Prejudice
It is a pleasure to welcome author Pamela Mingle here today at Austenprose. I had the pleasure of reading her new novel The Pursuit of Mary Bennet: A Pride and Prejudice Novel months ago and was very pleased to supply the blurb in praise of this great novel. I felt it is the best continuation of Jane Austen’s character Mary Bennet so far, and I hope you will add it to must read list. Pamela has joined us today to talk about social awkwardness, something that some characters in Pride and Prejudice exhibit. Enter a chance to win a copy of this fabulous new Austenesque novel by leaving a comment. Details are listed below. Good luck to all, and congratulations to Pamela!
At the JASNA AGM in Minneapolis, the phrase “socially awkward” was used several times in reference to a character in Pride and Prejudice. Mary Bennet, much on my mind these days, was surely the only person in the book who could justifiably be called socially awkward. She’s the clueless sister who frequently embarrasses her family with her actions as well as her words. Mary’s smug moralizing on the difference between pride and vanity may be why Jane Austen describes her as “pedantic” and “conceited.” And we cringe as Mary lectures Elizabeth about the dangers of a lady sullying her reputation.
I was surprised, then, that the character everyone was referring to was none other than Mr. Darcy! Arrogant, reserved, disdainful—these are all terms I would have used to describe him, but never socially awkward. He’s too refined to be termed that. Isn’t he? Early in the novel he offends Elizabeth at the assembly, and his manner continues to be insulting, even when he proposes to her. Later in the book he admits that he does not have “…the talent which some people possess…of conversing easily with those I have never seen before…” Elizabeth famously tells him he should do what she herself does in these situations. Practice.
But perhaps it was time for me to re-think Mr. Darcy. I had always believed he knew how to behave, but it suited him to play the role of wealthy, snobbish gentleman when in society. Could it be that he simply lacked some of the social graces, like Mary Bennet? Their unease manifests differently, of course, but in many ways he is as “socially awkward” as she. Mr. Darcy, afraid of meeting new people, is haughty and reserved; Mary, held up to ridicule by her family, unwittingly makes herself ludicrous through her attempts to gain attention.
Jane Austen gave Mr. Darcy his chance to redeem himself, at least in Elizabeth’s eyes. He took her criticisms to heart, and because of the power of his love for her, he changed. This is most obvious when they unexpectedly encounter each other at Pemberley. It’s as if his social muse is standing on his shoulder telling him what to say, but he can’t quite get it right. He stumbles over his words and repeats himself. There is much at stake. He knows that to win Elizabeth, he has to go beyond his comfort zone, and he finally proves, with his deft handling of Lydia’s affair, that he’s capable of doing so.
In The Pursuit of Mary Bennet, I wanted to give Mary the opportunity to change. How would her life be different if she could see herself clearly and set herself a new course? She is on her way to a different, more independent life, when she’s thrown back into self-doubt by a suitor. Like Mr. Darcy, she stumbles along the way, but perseveres. The story is as much about Mary’s pursuit of a new identity as it is a lover’s pursuit of her affections.
Thank you for visiting today Pamela. I hope that readers will enjoy this great new Mary Bennet continuation as much as I did!
Pamela Mingle, a former teacher and librarian, lives in Lakewood, Colorado. She is the author of Kissing Shakespeare, a time travel romance for young adults set in Elizabethan England (Delacorte Press, 2012). Pamela is a member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Pikes Peak Writers, Romance Writers of America, and the Jane Austen Society of North America. She and her husband are frequent visitors to the United Kingdom, where they enjoy walking and visiting historical sites. Visit Pam at her website pammingle.com; on Facebook as Pam Mingle Author, and Twitter as @PamMingle.
A GRAND GIVEAWAY
Enter a chance to win one of three copies available of The Pursuit of Mary Bennet, by Pamela Mingle by leaving a comment asking Pamela a question about her inspiration, writing process or by leaving your favorite Mary Bennet quote from Pride and Prejudice. The contest is open until 11:59 pm PT, Wednesday, December 04, 2013. Winners will be announced on Thursday, December 05, 2013. Shipment to US addresses only. Good luck to all.
The Pursuit of Mary Bennet: A Pride and Prejudice Novel, by Pamela Mingle
William Morrow (2013)
Trade paperback (320) pages
Cover image courtesy of William Morrow © 2013; text Pamela Mingle © 2013, Austenprose.com
It’s time to announce the 3 winners of print copies of Dear Mr. Knightley, by Katherine Reay. The winners drawn at random are:
- Monica P. who left a comment of November 18, 2013
- Danielle C. who left a comment on November 14, 2013
- Anne Smittle who left a comment on November 12, 2013
Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by November 27, 2013 or you will forfeit your prize! Shipment to US addresses only.
Thanks to all who left comments, to author Katherine Reay for her guest blog, and to her publisher Thomas Nelson, Inc. for the giveaways.
Cover image courtesy Thomas Nelson, Inc. © 2013; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2013, Austenprose.com
Does anyone remember Daddy-Long-Legs, the enchanting 1955 movie in which Fred Astaire is the benevolent, mysterious, rich sponsor who sends the exquisite young French girl Leslie Caron, to college? It was a favorite musical of my childhood, along with a string of other Caron and Audrey Hepburn films. Daddy-Long-Legs actually started life, however, as long ago as 1912, as a bright, effervescent, epistolary novel by Jean Webster. It enjoyed a huge success as a Broadway play and was filmed several times, including a Japanese anime version.
Now new author Katherine Reay, instead of penning yet another in a lengthy backlist of Jane Austen updates, has cleverly chosen to write a modern retelling of Daddy-Long-Legs. Her Dear Mr. Knightley has a thoughtful literary setting, with enough Austen and Bronte references to provide intellectual mind candy for the reading woman. She also bestows an unusually satisfying romance upon her heroine, and succeeds in creating a portrait of a young writer that is so poignantly fresh and full of growing pains and uncertainties, that you question why she ever needed to lean on somebody else’s old classic at all.
In Jean Webster’s original version, the heroine, Jerusha Abbot, was fifteen and still working in the orphan asylum where she was raised, when her rich benefactor sends her to a posh college. In her version, Katherine Reay advances her orphan’s age to twenty-three, and this constitutes my main problem with the novel, and the reason I wish she’d left the Daddy-Long-Legs template behind her. Samantha Moore has already graduated from college and failed in her first job, when she is offered a full tuition grant to the master’s program of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, by a wealthy philanthropist. The only stipulation is that she write him personal progress letters, which he will not answer. His assistant suggests she address him as “Mr. George Knightley,” in tribute to Samantha’s own love for Jane Austen and Emma.
So the letters begin, with Samantha explaining herself and her ambitions to her benefactor. She has lived at Grace House, a Catholic institution, since she was fifteen, where her mentor, Father John, early recognized and encouraged her writing and journalistic talents. Samantha is hooked on books from mysteries to the Victorian classics; they are her passion and her escape. With a difficult life, owing to the death of neglectful, abusive parents, and bouncing from one foster home to another, she has understandably grown up feeling safer in fiction than reality. She relates to Fanny Price and Anne Elliot better than to her troubled roommates at Grace House. She’s not even sure she wants to be a journalist – fiction is her thing – but Medill would help her achieve her great dream, to write for a living. So she accepts Mr. Knightley’s offer.
Trouble is, she doesn’t get into Medill first round; she’s wait-listed, and in disappointment retreats to her part time jobs. She also develops an unlikely friendship with a black 13-year-old orphan named Kyle, who shares her passion for running. He rejects her kindness at first, but soon comes to like and trust Samantha, and encourages her in her dreams as she does him. Then she is finally accepted at Medill, and her great adventure in education begins.
It isn’t easy. Her rigorous professor is tough on her, saying that she’s not connecting in her writing, and will be bounced from the program if she doesn’t put her soul into her stories. Samantha is discouraged and struggles with plenty of problems – her disappointment in herself, her trauma when she is beaten by an attacker at night, her dates with a superficial young man named Josh who doesn’t understand her background, and her friendship with a brilliant best-selling novelist, Alex, who treats her like an equal and introduces her to a lovely older couple who become surrogate parents. Samantha has a lot to sort out, and her journey to self-knowledge, achievement, and love, is what’s most natural and compelling about this novel. It’s the framework that’s ultimately distracting and less successful. The updating, whether from 1912 or 1955, often doesn’t ring true; there are too many discrepancies with the modern world and its economic realities. In what universe does a journalism grad student get such a free ride with all the trimmings, connections, and the assurance of a career? In these circumstances Samantha’s writerly whining and angst can border on the naïve and annoying. Despite such cavils, it’s possible to see beyond the book’s implausibilities because it also possesses heart, mind, and a heroine whose awkwardness, uncertainty, and longing for affirmation make her so endearingly likeable that the reader will be swept into her touching emotional journey.
4 out of 5 Stars
Dear Mr. Knightley: A Novel, by Katherine Reay
Thomas Nelson, Inc. (2013)
Trade paperback (336) pages
Diana Birchall, is a story analyst who reads novels for Warner Bros Studios. She is the author of the Jane Austen-related novels Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma and Mrs. Elton in America, and also a scholarly biography of her grandmother, Onoto Watanna, the first Asian American novelist. Her story “Jane Austen’s Cat” appears in the Random House anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It, and her Austen-related plays have had readings around the country and in Canada.
Cover image courtesy Thomas Nelson © 2013; text Diana Birchall © 2013, Austenprose.com
80 comments were left qualifying those who participated in the giveaway of the two gift packs from author Jane Odiwe in celebration of the release of Project Darcy. The winners drawn at random are:
Gift Pack 1 (one print copy of Project Darcy and one 16.5” x 11.7” signed, original art pint by Jane Odiwe of Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy dancing at Ashe Rectory)
- Tess Q. who left a message of November 5, 2013
Gift Pack 2 (one 16.5” x 11.7” signed, original art print by Jane Odiwe of Steventon Rectory and one pack of 6 holiday cards in two designs)
- Joanna Y. who left a comment on November 12, 2013
Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by November 20, 2013 or you will forfeit your prize! Shipment internationally.
Thanks to all who left comments, to Jane Odiwe for sharing an excerpt of her novel and for the gift packs for giveaway.
Cover image courtesy of Paintbox Publishing © 2013; text Jane Odiwe © 2013, Austenprose.com
This is my eleventh selection for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013, our year-long event honoring Jane Austen’s second published novel. Please follow the link above to read all the details of this reading and viewing challenge. Sign up’s are now closed but you can read the reviews and comment through 31 December 2013.
I vividly remember sitting in the theatre in 2005 waiting for the curtain to rise on the new Pride & Prejudice movie starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfayden. I was excited that one of my favorite Jane Austen novels was being trotted out as a major motion picture. It had been 65 years since MGM released their theatrical version of Pride and Prejudice and I was looking forward to two hours of sumptuous costumes and eye-popping settings that were not set in the Victorian era! I had been reading about the Focus Features production for months on the Internet, especially at Austenblog, where the editrix Mags had been following the media promotional machine very closely. I had no idea who the British actor slated to portray the iconic romantic hero Mr. Darcy was. My sympathy for him was already acute. How could he possibly fill those big, black, shiny Hessian boots that Colin Firth’s strode about in so effortlessly in 1995? Queue fanfare music and red velvet curtain rising at the theater.
Since this movie was released eight years ago and has been available on DVD since February 2006, is there anyone left in the world who has not seen it? Just in case you don’t know what it is about here is the blurb and cast from the production notes:
Sparks fly when spirited Elizabeth Bennet meets single, rich, and proud Mr. Darcy. But Mr. Darcy reluctantly finds himself falling in love with a woman beneath his class. Can each overcome their own pride and prejudice?
- Mr. Bennet — Donald Sutherland
- Mrs. Bennet — Brenda Blethyn
- Jane Bennet — Roasamund Pike
- Elizabeth Bennet — Keira Knightley
- Mary Bennet — Talulah Riley
- Kitty Bennet — Carey Mulligan
- Lydia Bennet — Jena Malone
- Sir William Lucas — Sylvester Morand
- Charlotte Lucas — Claudie Blakley
- Mr. Bingley — Simon Woods
- Caroline Bingley — Kelly Reilly
- Mr. Darcy — Matthew Macfadyen
- Mr. Wickham — Rupert Friend
- Mr. Collins — Tom Hollander
- Lady Catherine de Bourg — Judi Dench
- Colonel Fitzwilliam — Cornelius Booth
- Mrs. Gardiner — Penelope Wilton
- Mr. Gardiner — Peter Wight
- Georgiana Darcy — Tamzin Merchant
Adapted from Jane Austen’s classic novel by Deborah Moggach, with a spit polish on the dialogue by Emma Thompson (un-credited), director Joe Wright had a definite vision of what his movie version of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice would be—and it is entirely different from what we had seen on screen or television before. Even though he assembled a fine cast of British actors, and a talented production team to relay concept, my first impressions were ill favored. However, the movie was appreciated by many and received four Academy Award nominations, including best actress for Knightley. Some Austen fans absolutely adored it—others not so much. I remained in the grey zone. Even after many years and several viewings, I was ambivalent, and that is the problem. The good stuff seemed to cancel out the bad stuff and left me in Switzerland.
Comparing it to its predecessors is unfair, but it is inevitable. This movie is only two hours and nine minutes long, versus the five hours plus 1995 BBC/A&E miniseries. For those who enjoyed the Colin Firth version, which attentively followed much of Austen’s plot and included many lines of her dialogue, the transition to a shorter length will seem truncated—and rightly so. Wright’s version is set in the late eighteenth century and not in the prettified early nineteenth century of the 1995 miniseries. Honestly, the fashions in the late eighteenth century are not as striking as the Regency era. Are we swayed by pretty things? Heck yes! The most disturbing difference in the two versions is in the social distinction between the two Bennet families. The 2005 version’s clothing, furnishing, attitudes and manners are decidedly lower in station, bordering upon peasant class. This stark contrast makes the chasm between the heroine Elizabeth Bennet’s lower-class landed gentry upbringing and the very wealthy and refined upper-class Mr. Darcy very wide indeed, and all the more amazing that he chooses her as his bride. Love truly wins the day. Austen still has the final say on many social issues she was chiding in her novel, but the Byronic depths that screenwriter Moggach and director Wright use to achieve their vision of the story were disappointing. Of note: Austen would have cringed during the first proposal scene with Elizabeth and Darcy. Her hero was never meant to be a wet, sad-eyed puppy, nor her heroine tempted to kiss him.
At the risk of sounding like sour grapes, I will say that there were changes and interpretations that I did like. The family dynamics were interesting to watch in both the Bennet and the Bingley household. The Bennet sisters seemed more in tune with each other and concerned for their welfare. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are more affectionate and logical. While this seemed more agreeable over-all, it made the dynamics rather bland and countered what Austen achieved in her characterizations. There were a few performances that held the dictum. Simon Woods as Charles Bingley really gave the standout performance of the film adding an empty-headed and open-hearted suitor that was truly endearing. Judi Dench is by far the most imposing and imperious Lady Catherine de Bourgh to date. Her hot laser stare sent chills up the back of my neck during the scene at Longbourn when she asks Elizabeth to deny an engagement to her nephew, Mr. Darcy. Matthew Macfadyen as the proud hero had a fabulous speaking voice which was really a plus, but what the director made his character do really canceled out his finer qualities. Keira Knightley as the decidedly impertinent Lizzy Bennet did have her moments of spark and fire, but an Oscar nomination? Hardly. I understand the “you have bewitched me body and soul” ending was added for the benefit of American audiences. One assumes by this addition that we did not like how Austen had written it? We were not amused. The music by Dario Marianelli saved the entire film for me. Happily it is the last thing we hear as the credits roll.
This review would not be complete if I did not mention the pig in the kitchen scene. Honestly, it was the low point in the movie for me. Why it was added I shall never understand. May I speak for Austen fans everywhere and say we are appalled? Now the tomato throwing may commence.
There is an excellent blog devoted to the 2005 Pride & Prejudice that contains more information than I could ever begin to relate here. Be sure to visit and vent your spleen or sing its praises. You will not be alone in either of your opinions.
3.5 out of 5 Regency Stars
Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Universal Studios (2006)
DVD (129) minutes
Cover image courtesy of Universal Studios © 2006; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2013, Austenprose.com
I am pleased to introduce you to a bright new talent on the horizon—Katherine Reay. Her first novel, Dear Mr. Knightley, was released on November 5th by Thomas Nelson. I had the pleasure of reading an advanced copy and personally meeting the author. She was delightful, and so is her novel. Katherine has joined us today for a virtual book launch in celebration of the release of Dear Mr. Knightley. Enter a chance to win one of three copies available as a giveaway by her publisher. Just leave a comment. The details for the contest are at the end of this blog. The lucky winners will not be disappointed.
I’m so delighted to be here and to share a bit about Dear Mr. Knightley. This story is the compilation of Samantha Moore’s letters to an anonymous sponsor (Mr. Knightley) who has awarded her a grant to journalism graduate school. And while Sam studies fact, she must lay down fiction – her hiding place.
While we love reading Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Jane Eyre, Daddy Long Legs and other favorite classics, Sam lives within them. Growing up in the foster care system, Sam learned to avoid pain, strife and loneliness by “hiding” behind her best friends – Elizabeth Bennet, Charlotte Lucas, Jane Eyre… But now this habit begins to hurt her and others (as all hiding does), including another young foster kid, Kyle. And that shocks Sam – that she could be an adult who hurts a child.
So the journey begins… And we are invited along through Sam’s increasingly private letters to Mr. Knightley. And believe me, these letters take us on quite a ride. Nothing comes easily to Sam. She struggles to find her own voice, sometimes wondering if she has one at all. And the letters almost make us believe we’ve got a first person view to into her world, but we don’t. It’s even better. There’s a delicious layer we see that Sam can’t – there is what she is willing to tell Mr. Knightley, what she tries to withhold and how she interprets events – any or all of which can look to different to us than to her. The epistolary format allowed me to really explore Sam’s limited perspective and twist it about occasionally. I especially loved playing with Mr. Knightley’s anonymity, Josh’s subtle selfishness and Professor Muir’s feistiness.
Letters also allowed me to incorporate my love for Jane Austen in an organic way – as we see Sam hide, even when she doesn’t recognize it, and we watch her discover and recognize the pain it and she causes. Adding this homage to Austen was fun and meaningful because our favorite movies and books play such an important role in our lives. I, at least, can relate to Sam in this to some degree – some days I’d like to live within my favorite storylines too. Can I be Emma? I would LOVE to believe that I cannot really change for the better.
But we can’t live within fiction and that’s part of the point too. I purposely made Sam’s life bigger, tougher, and more challenging than many of us face so that we could more easily sneak into her emotional world and realize her struggles parallel our own. In this fast-moving, crazy world, I think we all strive to define ourselves, face insecurity and fear, seek a place to stand and belong, and search for a family to love. I’d love readers to resonate with Sam’s “coming of age” journey and feel emotional camaraderie with her. And I hope they find themselves wrapped up in an amazing story.
As for other characters in the story, I adore Professor Muir and, I must say, young Kyle Baines is my favorite. This tough fourteen-year-old, hurting, angry foster kid stole my heart. I also loved that he was willing to sacrifice his story, his very self, to help Sam. I’d like courage like that.
So that is Dear Mr. Knightley…
I started the manuscript in 2009 as I was recovering from an injury and reading tons of Austen, Dickens, Webster, Brontes, Lewis, Gaskell… And as Sam developed, I started to push her past in order to see how it could and would change her future. Soon all the other characters joined in – Ashley with her debutante aura, Debbie with her steady practicality, Mrs. Muir with unconditional love – and story filled out.
Now it’s fully formed and available in Barnes & Noble and on Amazon. And that is unbelievably wonderful and crazy for me.
Again, thank you so much for inviting me here and please keep in touch.
Many thanks to Katherine for sharing a bit about her new novel Dear Mr. Knightley with us today. I wish you great success.
Katherine Reay has enjoyed a life-long affair with the works of Jane Austen and her contemporaries and can’t seem to leave them out of anything she writes.
Katherine did leave them behind for a bit in college and studied history and sociology at Northwestern University and earned a Master’s degree in marketing from there as well. After a few years working in marketing and a few moves, including stops in England and Ireland, Katherine and her family now reside in Seattle, WA, where she spends her days running, writing, cooking and trying to clean the house and keep up with the laundry.
Visit Katherine at her website www.katherinereay.com, on Twitter @katherine_reay or on Facebook at /katherinereaybooks. She’s also lurking somewhere within the pages of her first novel, Dear Mr. Knightley – and her second, Lizzy and Jane, but you won’t find her there until November 2014.
A GRAND GIVEAWAY
Enter a chance to win one of three paperback copies available of Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay by leaving a comment asking Katherine about her writing experience or characters, or telling us which epistolary novels you have read recently by 11:59 pm PT Wednesday, November 20, 2013. Winners will be chosen at random from comments and announced on Thursday, November 21, 2013. Shipment is to US addresses only. Good luck to all.
Dear Mr. Knightley, by Katherine Reay
Thomas Nelson, Inc. (2013)
Trade paperback (336) pages
Cover image courtesy Thomas Nelson © 2013; text Katherine Reay © 2013, Austenprose.com
112 comments were left qualifying those who participated in the giveaway of two (2) paperback copies and four (4) Kindle digital copies of Steampunk Darcy. The winners drawn at random are:
2 paperback copies
- Carol Settlage who left a comment on Oct 27, 2013
- Maggie Griscom who left a comment on Oct 15, 2013
4 digital copies
- Jenny who left a comment on Oct 20, 2013
- Irene who left a comment on Oct 16, 2013
- Eenayray who left a comment on Oct 15, 2013
- Jo Clare who left a comment on Oct 27, 2013
Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by November 13, 2013 or you will forfeit your prize! Shipment of print books to US and UK addresses only; digital copies internationally.
Thanks to all who left comments and to author Monica Fairview for her guest blog and the giveaway copies.
Cover image courtesy of White Soup Press © 2013; text Monica Fairview © 2013, Austenprose.com