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.

EXCERPT (from Chapter 14)

“Good evening, ladies.” Mr Brook appeared behind their little group, and was immediately admitted to the circle by the girls.

Cecilia curtsied but did not echo their return greeting. She did not trust herself to look at him, let alone speak. She did not want to disappoint him by betraying her continued regard.

“Are you all enjoying the party?” William asked.

The Stockton girls began to speak all at once, and Cecilia began to back away, hoping no-one would notice if she slipped away to re-order her thoughts. She edged along the refreshment table away from everyone, pausing at the far corner and turning her back on the crowd. She attempted to still her spinning emotions, gripping the table top with both hands.

“I say, Miss Grant.”

Cecilia froze. She knew that voice. Her plan to escape had failed. Did he not realise how he was torturing her? How was she supposed to stop thinking about him when he was always there?

She jumped when something touched her arm, and she looked down to see William’s hand there. He removed it hastily. Still regarding her forearm, she barely managed to say, “Yes, Mr Brook?”

He cleared his throat. “I – I do hope our little… incident… will not hinder our friendship. I would still like to be… of service to you.”

Service? What did that mean? As much as she would dearly love to be his friend, she needed some distance in order to control her emotions. Still, he must have felt she was being uncivil, which was certainly not her intention.

“I am much obliged, Mr Brook. I apologise if I have been impolite.” She raised her eyes to meet his, willing herself not to flinch as his gaze set her heart to pounding.

***

Now William had her attention, he hardly knew what to say. His heart overflowed with all the things he longed to express, if only he would allow himself to love her.

His curiosity was brimming over – did Barrington behave as a gentleman during their game, and did she encourage him? Dressed as she was in a striking scarlet dress which seemed to accentuate the curves of her body to an unfair degree, he was certain she could have any man in the world if she only paid him some attention. He must speak.

“How are you liking the books I gave you?” Inwardly he cringed at such a trivial remark, however appropriate it may be.

She smiled, in such a way that her whole being seemed to radiate joy. “Very much, I thank you. I treasure them.”

“I am very pleased to hear it.” He was even more pleased that an action of his, however small, had made her so happy.

“I shall return them to you as soon as I can.”

Her manner was more formal again, although she seemed almost agitated as she appeared to study his waistcoat. Was she angry with him? In refusing her affections, had he made her heart turn bitter toward him?

“No,” he said, “please keep them as long as you like. Forever if that pleases you.”

“You are very good, sir.” She curtseyed quickly, and darted into the hallway.

Sir? His betraying feet took off after her. It was exactly what he had intended, was it not? For a measure of coolness between them, to ensure nothing improper could develop. He was safe now; she would not pursue his friendship any more than she would with any other fellow.

As he quickened his pace and leapt in front of her, he questioned his own sanity. Why was he so desperate to make things right between them… why did he feel an overwhelming sadness at the prospect of losing her friendship? It was only because he was lonely and she shared some of his interests, and he had an altruistic need to help her develop her talents, was it not? Surely it was nothing to do with the way her soft blond curls framed her face, her elegant long limbs, or the sweet mix of confusion and warmth in her expression.

“Is this not what you wanted, Mr Brook?” she whispered. “To prevent any possibility of attachment. I – I am doing my best to abide by your wishes.”

The earnest, haunted look in her eyes broke his heart. She was indeed acting on his instructions, and it was certainly for the best. But he could not endure the thought of being in Amberley with Cecilia so near, and to have her be a stranger. “It is my wish that we might learn to be friends,” he said carefully. “We cannot avoid each other entirely.”

She appeared to consider that, for a seemingly interminable length of time. “Well,” she said at last, “friends are honest with each other, are they not?”

He regarded her warily.

“Tell me, Mr Brook, what are you hiding? Is there something you are running from? Why are you so desperate to leave England… to leave Amberley?”

The questions shocked him like a blow to the gut, striking the familiar fear of vulnerability in his heart. His strange physical reaction was to laugh in an attempt to make her words absurd, but the sound was bizarre and choked. “Do not be ridiculous,” he sputtered. “What could I possibly be running from? I have – nothing.”

At his admission, he hung his head, defeated. Surely she would hear no more. But she did not leave him.

“If I may be so bold,” she said gently, “you do have an abundance of talents and kindness, and you could have all the delights this world has to offer… if you would let yourself.” She moved a little closer. “It is my opinion you need not go abroad to give of yourself fully.”

He studied her and shook his head. How did she manage to speak words right into his heart? How could he avoid telling her everything, or did he want to? He took a breath. “Miss Grant –”

“I apologise, Mr Brook.” She covered her face with her hand for a moment. “I have spoken out of turn. You must find me terribly inappropriate.” She stepped back again, and a blush crossed her cheeks. “I am sure you are used to ladies with more studied manners, who remain refined and only speak of the weather.”

He was not sure if he was relieved or disappointed to have the subject drop. “No indeed, Miss Grant,” he said, noticing how she looked even more beautiful when she was embarrassed. “It is refreshing to find a lady who has the courage to be herself.”

Cecilia laughed. “Call it not courage, Mr Brook. I assure you I do not act with any sort of intention. If my behaviour is out of the ordinary for gentlewomen, it is not due to any sort of studied rebellion.”

He offered her his arm. “And so it is all the more charming.”

As she took his elbow, a weight lifted from his shoulders. They began to walk back down the hallway, toward the sounds of dancing. “My mother despairs I will never find a man who will appreciate my foibles,” she said. “She is constantly telling me to keep quiet, to stay at home, and to train my thoughts on domestic matters.”

“Think of them not as foibles, Miss Grant,” he said, close to her ear. “I believe our unique quirks are to be celebrated, not exorcised.”

She turned to him just before they re-entered the salon, and the smile she gave him was one of shared appreciation and understanding.

He smiled back.

END OF EXCERPT

Discovering new authors is always so rewarding. But first I must share a secret. I am incredibly swayed by a beautiful cover, and The Vagabond Vicar just makes my heart sing. After many years as a book consumer and bookseller, if I could offer one word of wisdom to authors, after months of rewrites and fine tuning, give your book a jump start with a stunning cover. I commend Charlotte Brentwood for her choice and look forward to what she comes up with next. Check out The Vagabond Vicar. You won’t be disappointed. 

AUTHOR BIO

Charlotte Brentwood 2014 x 150Charlotte Brentwood developed serious crushes on a series of men from age fifteen: Darcy, Knightley, Wentworth and Brandon. A bookworm and scribbler for as long as she can remember, Charlotte always dreamed of sharing her stories with the world. The Vagabond Vicar is her debut novel.

Charlotte lives in beautiful Auckland, New Zealand. When she’s not toiling at her day job, writing or procrastinating on the Internet, Charlotte can be found snuggling with her cat Sophie, warbling at the piano, sipping a hot chocolate or enjoying the great outdoors.

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The Vagabond Vicar, by Charlotte Brentwood
Charlotte Brentwood (2014)
eBook (279) pages

KINDLE | NOOK | SMASHWORDS

Cover image courtesy of Charlotte Brentwood © 2014; excerpt text Charlotte Brentwood © 2014, Austenprose.com

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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Dying to Write: A Patrick Shea Mystery, by Mary Simonsen – Preview & Exclusive Excerpt

Dying to Write by Mary Simonsen 2014 x 20My loyal readers who have followed Austenprose for years know that in addition to Austenesque fiction, I love a good who-dun-it. There are some fabulous Regency-era mysteries featuring Jane Austen and her characters as sleuths including Stephanie Barron’s Being a Jane Austen Mystery Series (12 novels) and the Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mysteries by Carrie Bebris (6 novel and one in the oven). Besides the Elizabeth Parker Mysteries (4 novels) by Tracy Kiely there are very few contemporary mysteries inspired by Austen, so when one hits my radar I am a very happy Janeite.

Mary Lydon Simonsen, author of several fabulous Austenesque historical novels including: Searching for Pemberley, A Wife for Mr. Darcy and Becoming Elizabeth Darcy, also writes a detective series called The Patrick Shea Mysteries. In her latest installment, Dying to Write, she has cleverly blended both Austen-inspired and a contemporary mystery. Today, Mary has kindly offered an excerpt for our enjoyment. 

PREVIEW (from the description by the publisher)

In need of a break from his job at Scotland Yard, Detective Sergeant Patrick Shea of London’s Metropolitan Police, is looking forward to some quiet time at a timeshare in rural Devon in England’s West Country. However, when he arrives at The Woodlands, Patrick finds himself in the midst of a Jane Austen conference. Despite Regency-era dresses, bonnets, and parasols, a deep divide exists between the Jane Austen fan-fiction community, those who enjoy expanding on the author’s work by writing re-imaginings of her stories, and the Janeites, those devotees who think anyone who tampers with the original novels is committing a sacrilege. When one of the conference speakers is found dead in her condo, Patrick is back on the job trying to find out who murdered her. Is it possible that the victim was actually killed because of a book?

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Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas: Being a Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron – A Review

Jane and the Twleve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron 2014 x 200From the desk of Jenny Haggerty:

The holidays make me nostalgic for past times I’ve never actually experienced, so I leapt at the chance to spend the Yuletide season with Jane Austen. Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas is the twelfth installment in a series that features one of my favorite novelists as an amateur sleuth, but so far I hadn’t managed to read one of them. It seemed high time to rectify that lapse, especially since author Stephanie Barron studied European history in college and then worked as a CIA analyst, highly suitable credentials for writing a story of intrigue set in the past.

The book opens on a blizzardy, bitterly cold evening with Jane Austen, her mother, and her sister Cassandra traveling by coach to the home of Jane’s eldest brother James and his family in Hampshire. Unfortunately when they reach the end of the public line the women find that James has sent an unlighted open horse cart for the last few miles of their journey, even though it’s dark outside and blowing snow. Both Jane’s mother and sister have their heads bowed to prevent the snow from stinging their faces, so it’s only Jane who sees the rapidly approaching carriage heading straight for them. There’s a terrible crash and the ladies are thrown to the floor of the now ruined cart, but almost as shocking is the language of the gentleman in the carriage. Raphael West comes gallantly to their rescue and certainly acts with consideration and grace, but he proves he must be some kind of freethinker by swearing in front of them without reservation. Jane is intrigued. Continue reading

Jane Austen’s First Love Holiday Blog Tour

Jane Austen's First Love Holiday Blog Tour banner

Jane Austen, the holiday season and gifts go so well together that I am pleased to share the news that Austenesque author Syrie James is going on a holiday blog tour with her new novel Jane Austen’s First Love.

Readers will remember that Austenprose is a big fan of Syrie’s work and have reviewed many of her books here including:

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