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

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

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

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

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

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

PREVIEW (from the publisher’s description)

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

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

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

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

EXCERPT (from chapter 10) 

How could anyone be expected to play such music?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END OF EXCERPT

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

AUTHOR BIO

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

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

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | GOODREADS

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

Giveaway Winner Announced for Love and Friendship and Other Youthful Writings

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

Lady Constance who left a comment of January 25, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Continue reading

25 Jane Austen-inspired Holiday Gifts for the Janeite in Your Life

 Jane Austen Christmas Card by Amanda White 2014

 Jane Austen Christmas Card by Amanda White Art on Etsy

Tis the season to shop and give and keep! Here is my annual Jane Austen wish list for Janeites. Enjoy!

GIFT ITEMS

  I's Rather be at Pemberley Mug x 250     Jane Austen Tattoos x 250

1. I’d Rather be at Pemberley Mug

I cannot think of a better way to start your day than with your very own Pemberley mug, can you?

2. Jane Austen Tattoos, by Accoutrements

A “nice” alternative to permanent ink.

   Jane Austen Action Figure x 250               Jane Austen Christmas Tree Ornament x 418 Continue reading

Jane Austen’s First Love, by Syrie James: Preview, Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway!

Jane Austen's First Love by Syrie James (2014 )Austenesque and historical fiction readers will be thrilled to learn that bestselling author Syrie James will be releasing her next novel, Jane Austen’s First Love, on August 5th. For those who have had the pleasure of reading her previous two Austen-inspired novels: The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen and The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, this will be welcome news indeed; and for those new to her writing, be sure to make room on your reading list immediately. You are in for a wonderful treat.

Lauded as “the queen of nineteenth century re-imaginings”, James has a special affinity to my favorite author, Jane Austen. She has studied her life and times extensively and is not only renowned for her historical accuracy, but for her skill at creating romantic stories, fascinating characters and witty dialogue. I am very excited to say that I have had the honor of reading an advance copy of Jane Austen’s First Love and am delighted to share a preview and exclusive excerpt for Austenprose readers.

Be sure to leave a comment to enter the GIVEAWAY chance for two Jane Austen-inspired note cards! 

PREVIEW (from the publisher’s description)

INSPIRED BY ACTUAL EVENTS

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

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

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Hot off the Presses!! ~ Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine, No. 68

Laurel Ann (Austenprose):

The new issue of Jane Austen’s Regency World is “out”!

Originally posted on Jane Austen in Vermont:

JARW68-cover

New issue of Jane Austen’s Regency World!

The March/April 2014 issue [No. 68] of Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine is now published and will be mailed to subscribers this week.  In it you can read about:

  • William Beckford, the remarkable author and architect who led a somewhat sordid life
  • Joanna Trollope on her rewriting of Sense & Sensibility for HarperCollins’s Austen Project
  • Mary Russell Mitford, the writer who sought to emulate Jane Austen
  • How Jane Austen supported her fellow writers by subscribing to their books
  • The story of Julie Klassen, marketing assistant turned best-selling Regency romance novelist

 ***********

Plus: News, Letters, Book Reviews and information from Jane Austen Societies in the US and the UK.

And: Test your knowledge with our exclusive Jane Austen quiz, and read about the shocking behaviour of our latest Regency Rogue

You should subscribe! Make sure that you are…

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Giveaway Winner Announced for The Complete Novels of Jane Austen

The Complete Novels of Jane Austen, Race Point Edition 2013It’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

Austenprose’s Top Jane Austen-inspired Books of 2013

Jane Austen Pop Art Banner

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: 

  1. Return to Longbourn, by Shannon Winslow (5 stars)
  2. One Thread Pulled: The Dance with Mr. Darcy, by Diana J. Oaks (5 stars)
  3. Loving Miss Darcy: The Brides of Pemberley, by Nancy Kelley (5 stars)
  4. The Pursuit of Mary Bennet: A Pride and Prejudice Novel, by Pamela Mingle (4 stars)
  5. Longbourn: A Novel, by Jo Baker (4 stars)
  6. The Passions of Dr. Darcy, by Sharon Lathan (4 stars)
  7. Falling For Mr. Darcy, by KaraLynne Mackrory (4 stars)
  8. Darcy’s Decision: Given Good Principles Volume 1, by Maria Grace (4 stars)
  9. When They Fall in Love: Darcy and Elizabeth in Italy, by Mary Simonsen (4 stars)
  10. Young Mr. Darcy in Love: Pride and Prejudice Continues (The Darcys and the Bingleys) (Volume 7) by Marsha Altman (4 stars)

Continue reading

Happy Birthday Jane Austen: A Celebration with Recommendations of the Best Books in My Personal Library and a Giveaway!

*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.

St Nicholas Church, Steventon Jane Austen Tour 2013

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. Continue reading