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

Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Covers, by Margret C. Sullivan – A Review

Jane Austen Cover to Cover Margaret Sullivan 2014 x 400

From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder:

In my opinion, the true sign of loving a book is owning multiple copies and versions of it. For example, I myself own six different copies of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. Over the years, I’ve found annotated versions, paperbacks, hardcovers, illustrated, vintage, and many other types of printings. I enjoy collecting different copies to compare covers, prefaces, introductions, and illustrations (if they have them.) I love finding new and used bookstores and scouring the shelves for new copies of my favorite books. As a collector will tell you, you can never have enough. I was therefore understandably excited to receive a copy of Jane Austen Cover to Cover by Margret Sullivan, which is a great companion for any Austen collector. Continue reading

The Vagabond Vicar, by Charlotte Brentwood – A Review

Vagabond Vicar Charlotte Brentwood 2014 x 200From the desk of Katie Patchell

A young vicar trapped in a country village, dreaming of exotic lands. A woman pressured to marry the next eligible gentleman that comes along, yet yearning for freedom and true love. Whether or not the hero and heroine attain their dreams can be discovered in Charlotte Brentwood’s 2014 debut, The Vagabond Vicar, a traditional Regency novel containing romance, danger, and just a little bit of small-town gossip.

William Brook dreams of experiencing adventure and saving lives as a missionary to lands far away from English shores. When he receives a summons from the Dean of St. Mary’s, William expects his dreams to be realized, but within five minutes all his hopes are dashed: rather than the difficult but meaningful life of a missionary, he has been given the title of vicar and a safe living in pastoral Shropshire, England. On arriving in the small village of Amberley, William views the peaceful fields, chattering busybodies, and pushy mothers of single daughters with dread. When he first meets the lovely Miss Grant, he expects her to be a husband-hunting gossip, but on closer acquaintance, William discovers that she is the most intriguing and perceptive woman he has ever met. But his past experiences of love and friendship have trained him to reject what is bound to only hurt him in the end. Continue reading

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

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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

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The Secret of Pembrooke Park, by Julie Klassen – A Review

The Secret at Pembrooke Park, by Julie Klassen 2014 x 200From the desk of Katie Patchell:

A manor filled with secrets, frozen in time. Rumors of hidden treasure. Whispers of murder. Stubbornly silent local residents. One newly arrived and extremely curious heroine, a young woman who will stop at nothing to discover the secrets of Pembrooke Park. Whether or not the heroine prevails can be discovered in Julie Klassen’s latest Regency novel, The Secret of Pembrooke Park, a novel which delves into the darkness that resides in all human souls.

At the age of twenty-two, Abigail Foster believes that her future is secure: after building the house that she and her childhood friend, Gilbert Scott, designed, he will propose, Abigail will say yes, and they will happily spend the rest of their lives together. But when Abigail witnesses a loving interaction between her younger sister, Louisa, and Gilbert, she realizes that her dreams may never become a reality. With her father’s shocking news of a failed investment and significant loss of wealth, Abigail begins her search for a small place in the country for her family to reside, and is stunned by the generous offer given by a mysterious solicitor on behalf of an unknown distant relation: to live in Pembrooke Park, a manor that has been uninhabited for eighteen years. When Abigail arrives at the large country manor house, she opens the front door to an eerie sight—everything inside had been left in a state of disarray, preserved as if the last residents had suddenly fled. Continue reading

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.

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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.  

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At Home with Jane Austen, by Kim Wilson – A Review

At Home with Jane Austen by Kim Wilson 2014 x 300From the desk of Tracy Hickman:

I have been a Kim Wilson fan since reading her books In the Garden with Jane Austen and Tea with Jane Austen. Her latest work At Home with Jane Austen, a luscious coffee table book, promises a virtual tour of the places Austen called home. Some of these homes were permanent residences and others were temporary: the sites of visits to wealthy relatives or seaside holidays with her family.

The chapter titles follow the course of Austen’s life. After introducing “The Author” in the first chapter, the remaining chapters are Steventon, Away at School, Bath, Travels and Tours, Stately Mansions, Southampton, By the Sea, Chawton, London, and Winchester. True to its genre, you could have a lovely experience of this book by merely turning the pages and looking at the illustrations and photographs. However, I found Kim Wilson’s narrative of Austen’s life, focused on her surroundings and travels in southern England, to be equally appealing and informative.  As Ms. Wilson points out:

Though Jane changed her residence many times, family and home remained the emotional center of her life. She expressed her love of home in her work, creating heroes and heroines who also cherish the idea of home, even when, like Fanny Price in Mansfield Park, they are uprooted and must learn to love a new one: “When [Fanny] had been coming to Portsmouth, she had loved to call it her home, had been fond of saying that she was going home; the word had been very dear to her; and so it still was, but it must be applied to Mansfield. That was now the home. Portsmouth was Portsmouth; Mansfield was home.” (10)

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Mr. Darcy’s Challenge: A Pride and Prejudice Variation (The Darcy Novels Book 2), by Monica Fairview – Preview & Exclusive Excerpt

Mr. Darcys Challenge by Monica Fairview 2014 x 200It is always a pleasure to introduce a new book by a treasured author. Many of Monica Fairview’s Pride and Prejudice sequels: The Other Mr. Darcy and The Darcy Cousins, are among my favorite Austenesque novels. Her latest, Mr. Darcy’s Challenge, is the second book in The Darcy Novels series of “what if” variations. Here is a preview and exclusive excerpt for your enjoyment.

PREVIEW (from publisher’s description)

In this humorous Pride and Prejudice Variation, Mr. Darcy is determined to win Elizabeth Bennet’s hand in spite of her rejection and he has a strategy worked out. He will rescue Lydia Bennet from Wickham and will return to Longbourn to convince Elizabeth to marry him. But when a chance encounter prompts Darcy to propose once again to Elizabeth before he has rescued Lydia, his plans go horribly wrong.

Broken hearted, disillusioned and bitterly regretting his impulsive action, Darcy sees no point in assisting Miss Bennet. After all, rescuing Lydia might save Elizabeth’s reputation, but why should he care when they have no future together? His code of gentlemanly conduct, however, demands that he fulfill the terms of his promise to her. Once again, Darcy finds himself faced with impossible choices: helping Elizabeth when she is certain to marry someone else, or holding onto his dignity by turning his back on the Bennets once and for all.

Pride and love are at loggerheads as he struggles to choose between his mind … and his heart.

Volume Two of The Darcy Novels continues the story began in Mr. Darcy’s Pledge but can be read as an independent book as well.

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Death Comes to London: A Kurland St. Mary Mystery #2, by Catherine Lloyd – Preview & Excerpt

Death Comes to London by Catherine Lloyd 2014 x 200I am so pleased to see Regency era mysteries becoming more and more popular. I love them. Top on my list are the twelve novels in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery series by Stephanie Barron and the fabulous Julian Kestral mysteries by Kate Ross. There is nothing as satisfying to me as sleuthing through a death at a country manor house or with the Ton in London where debutantes, dandies and dowager duchesses’ dwell. Wow. That was a long string of words beginning with D, wasn’t it? It might be because DEATH is on my mind prompted by the new book, Death Comes to London, the second novel in the Kurland St. Mary historical mystery series by Catherine Lloyd just released by Kensington Books.

I am always pleased to see a new Regency mystery author appear on the horizon. Catherine Lloyd made her debut in 2013 with Death Comes to the Village (Kurland St. Mary Mystery #1) receiving high praise:

  • “Lloyd’s delightful debut…Readers will hope that death returns soon to Kurland St. Mary.” – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
  • “A skillfully crafted mystery that combines a wounded war hero, an inquisitive rector’s daughter and a quaint peaceful village with some sinister secrets…a compelling picture of a young woman trying to find the courage to stand up for herself.” – RT Book Reviews, 4.5 Stars, TOP PICK!
  • “A Regency Rear Window whose chair-bound hero and the woman who civilizes him generate sparks worthy of Darcy and Elizabeth. – Kirkus Reviews

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