Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Bet, by Marilyn Brant – A Review

Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Bet, by Marilyn Brant (2014)From the desk of Katie Patchell: 

Why is it that Jane Austen’s novels, particularly Pride and Prejudice, have had so many continuations, sequels, and contemporary versions based off of the originals? It’s not just the fact that her books are classics—after all, you don’t see many contemporary versions of Jane Eyre. Or Dickens. How many modern versions of Oliver Twist have you read lately? Don’t get me wrong—the brooding hero, quiet governess, gothic mystery, and melodrama are characters and themes loved by many fans, but there’s just something about Jane Austen’s wit, happy endings, realistic romance, and down-to-earth heroes and heroines that transcends space and time. Whereas Jane Eyre and Oliver Twist (and countless other classics) can only be updated with difficulty because of their two-dimensional characters and highly improbable circumstances, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Persuasion, etc. have complex characters facing realistic issues, and can be updated to virtually any situation, generation, or social class.

In Marilyn Brant’s latest contemporary reimagining, Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Bet, the story focuses not on Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, but rather on the often-overlooked secondary characters in Austen’s original, Jane Bennet and Mr. Bingley, as they participate in the perfect bet—the bet of true love!

Bingley McNamara has only known one female who hasn’t fallen for his charming front, and he has the current misfortune to be constantly thrown together with her as the Best Man and Maid of Honor at his cousin’s wedding. Ever since his kiss with Jane Henderson at Beth Ann Bennet and Will Darcy’s engagement party, the Maid of Honor’s been giving him the silent treatment. With a hatred of being ignored almost as high as his hatred of being disliked, Bingley sets out to exploit the one chink in her perfect armor—her temper. Everyone else seems taken in by her nice front, but he’s convinced—with teasing, irritation, and of course, betting—that he can draw out her angry side.

Jane hates Bingley McNamara with a passion. He refuses to be serious, always manages to appear calm and in control, and is a complete flirt. Not to mention the fact that he’s the only person who has a problem with her niceness! It’s bad enough that she has to relive their kiss (and the subsequent betrayal she experienced on overhearing the bet he made about her), but she also has to spend the entire wedding and reception with him as well.

Just as the bride and groom drive away and Bingley and Jane breathe sighs of relief that they’ll never have to see each other again, they get recruited to help take care of Charlie, Beth’s son, while the Darcy’s are on their honeymoon. When their hatred turns into friendship and their truce turns into trust, will they both be able to stop hiding behind their masks and admit their growing feelings for each other?

At the end of Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Bet there is a blurb (media quote) saying that Marilyn Brant is known for her “complex, intelligent” heroines, and while I haven’t read any of her other books, I definitely agree with this for Jane. She was a multifaceted character whose realistic dilemmas and feelings made it very easy to empathize with her. This also applies to Bingley—he was a complicated and imperfect character who had his own issues to work out, which made his strengths all the more endearing.

While based on Austen’s original characters, Brant’s Jane and Bingley have some key differences that may disappoint Jane Austen purists. Bingley is Mr. Darcy’s cousin, and a bachelor playboy who is much more forthright (and has more depth) than Jane Austen’s Mr. Bingley, and Jane is Beth’s best friend–a woman who covers her true emotions by always acting nice, but who has a temperament more like the original Elizabeth Bennet. While these differences (and others) can be seen as a negative, Marilyn Brant added enough of a twist to Jane and Bingley that they stand out as both a tribute to Jane Austen’s originals and an entirely new literary creation.

Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Bet is a light read—but I don’t say that to trivialize it. This book has emotional depth, and the insight found in its pages both entertains and teaches the reader. But like Jane Austen’s novels, which focus on characters in realistic situations, Perfect Bet doesn’t use melodramatic surprises like an insane woman locked in the attic, or an evil Fagan villain tormenting children. As with the original Pride and Prejudice, it ends happily, and is a touching, funny, romantic, and entirely enjoyable read.

4.5 out of 5 Stars

Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Bet, by Marilyn Brant
White Soup Press (2014)
Trade paperback (236) pages
ISBN: 978-1500473907

Read our review of Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Match

Cover image courtesy of White Soup Press © 2014; text Katie Patchell © 2014, Austenprose.com 

Disclosure of Material Connection: We received one review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. We only review or recommend products we have read or used and believe will be a good match for our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla: A Pink Carnation Novel, by Lauren Willig – A Review

The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla by Lauren Willig 2014 From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:

A new Pink Carnation novel is always the highlight of my reading season, though the anticipation for The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla was stifling. How could Lauren Willig’s eleventh addition equal or surpass her previous highly-successful novels seeped in Napoleonic spies, romance and burlesque comedy? Yes, comedy. They say “dying is easy; comedy is hard” and it is so true. There are few authors in the genre who will even attempt it. Willig excels.

One of the main reasons I enjoy the “Pink” series so much (besides the humor) is that they take me back to Regency England, and the characters are SO original. Willig started the series in 2004 with The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. Each successive novel features a new set of protagonists: a romantic couple thrown together by mystery, espionage and love. After ten novels I have never been disappointed.

Set in 1806 London, The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla re-introduces us to the three young Misses from Miss Climpson’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies in Bath, brought together in the seventh novel, The Mischief of the Mistletoe: Miss Sally Fitzhugh, Miss Agnes Wooliston and Miss Lizzy Reid. They are in Town for the Season, chaperoned by Lord and Lady Vaughn whose next door neighbor is reported to be a vampire. Yes, vampires are all the rage in London at the moment due to Lizzy Reid’s step-mother’s best-selling novel The Convent of Orsino. No one is above suspicion, especially aristocrats.

Bored by the soiree in progress, Sally takes up the challenge and enters the creepy, un-kept garden of the purported vampire next-door and immediately meets a tall, dark, pale stranger, Lucien, Duke of Belliston. Eeeek! Curiosity and sparks fly for the enigmatic duke and the adventurous Miss. After some witty repartee, Sally returns to her friends without any loss of blood or ego, determined to learn more about him. Her chance presents itself at the next ball, a coming out party for Lucien’s younger sister, who has been raised by their aunt and uncle at the family estate in England while Lucien escaped to his mother’s family in Louisiana. Their parent’s had died twelves year prior under a cloud of mystery. Was their death by poison an accident or murder? Haunted by scandal and his past, Lucien has returned to England to discover the truth. When Sally and Lucien re-connect at the party a mysterious note calls them to a midnight meeting in the garden only to discover a young woman dead on a marble bench—the blood drained from her throat. Shocked and horrified, Lucien and Sally are quick to notice that this is a staged murder in attempt to implicate Lucien. Lucien and Sally join forces to stop the so-called vampire slayings and uncover a decade-old murder of his parents.

Vampires? Really? I was skeptical. Haven’t vampires been done to death in novels lately? It didn’t take long for me to realize that this plot device was great fun – a way to bridge Gwendolyn Reid’s (nee Miss Gwendolyn Meadows) novel The Convent of Orsino, introduced in in The Passion of the Purple Plumeria and connect Sally Fitzhugh, sister of the famous Reginald “Turnip” Fitzhugh. Connections and creativity are what Willig is all about as a writer. Her historical research is also Nonpareil. Readers will be wowed by references to Gothic Fiction that Jane Austen’s heroine Catherine Morland was addicted to in Northanger Abbey and all other manner of social context to the era and modern times including Monty Python Flying Circus jokes and Stephenie Meyer’s sparkly vampire Edward Cullen.

What sets this novel apart in the series is its new direction away from its roots: historical romance/spy/comedy/ adventure. There is still all the Willig style of high-burlesque comedy, witty banter and suspenseful adventure, but those dead set on a Napoleonic vs. British spy espionage will be thwarted. Refreshingly, this is a Regency-era mystery with undertones of spy themes. We still have the tepid modern day story of Eloise and Colin popping in to delay the historical action, but her hunky hero Lucien is one of her most swoon-worthy and her spunky heroine Sally is down-right adorable. Vampire plot not-with-standing, I was totally glamoured and entranced by every word.

★★★★★ 5 out of 5 Stars

The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla: A Pink Carnation Novel, by Lauren Willig
NAL Penguin (2014)
Trade paperback (496) pages
ISBN: 978-0451414731

Additional Reviews:

Cover image courtesy of NAL Penguin © 2014; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2014, Austenprose.com

Disclosure of Material Connection: We received one review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. We only review or recommend products we have read or used and believe will be a good match for our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen Virtual Book Launch Party and Blog Tour with Author Shannon Winslow & Giveaways! 

The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen banner x 500

I am very pleased to welcome author Shannon Winslow to Austenprose today to officially open her virtual book launch party and blog tour of The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen, published today by Heather Ridge Arts. This new Austenesque novel is a fascinating combination of fact and fiction, exploring Jane Austen’s unknown personal journal— revealing her secret romance with a Royal Navy officer, Captain Devereaux, who was the inspiration for her final novel, Persuasion. 

Shannon has generously offered a guest blog sharing her inspiration to write her new novel—and to add to the festivities—we will be offering an amazing selection of giveaways including: trade paperback and digital eBook copies of The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen, a tote bag bundle stuffed with a print copy of the book and Jane Austen-inspired merchandise, and an original pastel drawing “By the Seaside at Lyme” inspired by the 1995 movie, Persuasion, created by Shannon. Just leave a comment following this blog post to enter. The contest details are listed below. Good luck to all. 

Please join us in welcoming Shannon Winslow.

What inspired me to write The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen?

I can’t quite put my finger on when the concept for this book first occurred to me. It was more of a slowly germinating seed rather than a bolt out of the blue, something that needed to ruminate in my brain a while before emerging onto the page. But this will give you an idea how my thoughts about the book evolved.

First, I am no different than any other fan. Which of us hasn’t at some point wished Jane Austen had met with a better fate? She, who has given pleasure to countless thousands through her novels, surely deserved to have experienced the same romance and happy ending she carefully crafted for each of her heroines. That’s what motivated me.

But perhaps there was more to her story than is generally known, I considered. Since most authors draw heavily from people and situations in their own lives, it didn’t seem unreasonable to me that Jane Austen had more real-life experience in the field of romance than the official record suggests—obviously, not a married-her-sweetheart-at-twenty-and-lived-happily-ever-after kind of affair. But what about a bitter-sweet romance marked by grand passion, misfortune, and long separation? That would be a better fit. Perhaps, something on the order of her novel Persuasion.

Persuasion by Jane Austen banner

Ah, Persuasion—her last and most poignant novel. Yes, that was the model! A young couple falls rapidly and deeply in love. They are soon cruelly parted again, however – so soon that few people, even in their own families, ever know about it. When fate brings the two together again, years later, it should be their second chance at happiness. But pride and resentment get in the way, keeping them estranged. Only surprising, near-miraculous events serve to reunite them in the end.

So, Persuasion became the basis for my novel about Jane Austen’s secret romance.

No. It’s the other way round, really, for it’s my contention that Jane’s secret romance with a navy captain of her own actually inspired her to write Persuasion in the first place. Doing so allowed her to pay public homage to the man who was the love of her life, whilst at the same time keeping their true story strictly private in a journal she wrote alongside the novel. The two run parallel, the events of one reflected in the other, and together forming a fuller picture then either one alone… which reminds me of a passage in The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen. Jane, having just completed the novel and her journal, writes:

These two now lie alongside one another before me. Their pages are written in the same hand. Their stories merge as almost to form one body. Indeed, they are so fiercely intertwined as to be impossible to cleanly divide. When one is wounded, does not the other bleed? 

But why the secrecy, you ask? If Jane Austen truly lived and loved more largely than we’ve been led to believe, why did she and her family keep the story so tightly under wraps? That was the difficult puzzle I had to solve before I could even begin. Then it all became clear. But it’s Jane’s secret, and I’d best leave it for her to explain in her own way and her own time. She begins her personal journal by writing…

What people may hereafter say about my life, I cannot control. My biographers, if any, must do the best they can with the sources available to them. It is necessary that this, my own account, shall remain for some time to come concealed from their eyes. For now, the story belongs to me alone – to me and to that one other.

And so it has remained for nearly two hundred years, until there is no longer any need for concealment. This new novel represents Jane Austen’s account of her life-long romance with a gentleman by the name of Captain Devereaux.

Captain Peter Parker (1785-1814) by John Hoppner

Captain Peter Parker (1785-1814), by John Hoppner

So what makes this different from other books, delightful novels that have portrayed augmentations to the famous authoress’ love life before? I took it one audacious step further. I wasn’t content with Jane finding romance. I desperately wanted it all for her, including the happy ending. I didn’t know if it would be possible, but that was my goal at the outset—to find a plausible and more pleasing alternative outcome for her, something that would fit within the framework of what we know (or think we know) about her life.

You can decide for yourself if I have succeeded, but I shall be satisfied thinking Jane Austen might have approved—of my motives at the very least. Borrowing a phrase from the end of the novel Atonement by Ian McEwan, I mean it as a final act of kindness to her, in partial repayment for all she has done for me.

Author Shannon Winslow (2013)AUTHOR BIO: Shannon Winslow specializes in fiction for fans of Jane Austen. Her popular debut novel, The Darcys of Pemberley, immediately established her place in the genre, being particularly praised for the author’s authentic Austenesque style and faithfulness to the original characters. For Myself Alone(a stand-alone Austen-inspired story) followed. Then last year Return to Longbourn wrapped up Winslow’s Pride and Prejudice saga, forming a trilogy when added to the original novel and her previous sequel. Now she has given us a “what if” story starring Jane Austen herself. In The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen, that famous author tells her own tale of lost love, second chances, and finding her happy ending.

Her two sons grown, Ms. Winslow lives with her husband in the log home they built in the countryside south of Seattle, where she writes and paints in her studio facing Mt. Rainier. Learn more at Shannon’s website/blog (www.shannonwinslow.com). Follow her on Twitter (as JaneAustenSays) and on Facebook.

Many thanks Shannon, and best wishes with The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen. Be sure to return on Monday, September 1st for our review.

A GRAND GIVEAWAY 

In celebration of the release of The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen, we are offering five chances to win amazing prizes. Please leave a comment by 11:59 pm, Wednesday, August 20, 2014 stating what intrigues you about this new novel. Winners will be drawn at random from the comments and announced on Thursday, August 21, 2014. Print books, tote bag bundle and pastel drawing shipment to US addresses. Digital eBook shipment internationally. Good luck to all!

The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen: A Novel, by Shannon Winslow (2014)

PRIZES 1 – 3: ONE TRADE PAPERBACK AND TWO DIGITAL COPIES OF

THE PERSUASION OF MISS JANE AUSTEN

The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen tote bag giveaway

PRIZE 4: COTTON TOTE BAG WITH JANE AUSTEN-INSPIRED MERCHANDISE

  • One 14” X 14” cotton duck tote bag
  • One trade paperback edition of The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen
  • One box of Jane Austen note cards by Potter Style
  • One box of Jane Austen Bandages with re-usable tin
  • One “I believe in Jane” pin

By the Seaside at Lyme pastel by Shannon Winslow

PRIZE 5: ORIGINAL PASTEL DRAWING “BY THE SEASIDE AT LYME”

One 7” X 10” original pastel drawing matted to 11” X 14”, entitled “By the Seaside at Lyme” by Shannon Winslowinspired by the 1995 movie, Persuasion.

Thank you for joining in the celebration of the release of The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen. Please visit other stops along the blog tour, August 11 – September 15, 2014, where you will find additional guest blogs by Shannon Winslow, book reviews and giveaway chances.

THE PERSUASION OF MISS JANE AUSTEN BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

Read an exclusive excerpt of The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen

The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen: A Novel, by Shannon Winslow
Heather Ridge Arts (2014)
Trade paperback (266) pages
ISBN: 978-1500624736

Cover image courtesy of Heather Ridge Arts © 2014; text Shannon Winslow © 2014, Austenprose.com

A Fair Prospect: Disappointed Hopes, A Tale of Elizabeth and Darcy, Volume I, by Cassandra Grafton – A Review

A Fair Prospect: Disappointed Hopes, Vol I by Cassandra Grafton 2013 From the desk of Kimberly Denny Ryder:

To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of open-ended endings in movies and books. Just ask my husband, who has seen me yell after reading a book or seeing a movie that ends with the reader/viewer not knowing what has happened to the main characters. One example that comes to mind is Pride and Prejudice itself! I’ve always wondered what happened after the wedding (maybe that’s why I read so many Pride and Prejudice sequels!) So, when I heard that A Fair Prospect: Disappointed Hopes by Cassandra Grafton was actually the first in a three-part series and it wouldn’t actually have a proper ending, I was a bit skeptical.

In volume I of the A Fair Prospect trilogy, Disappointed Hopes, we find Fitzwilliam Darcy back in London after his failed engagement proposal to Elizabeth, obviously upset by her refusal of such a beneficial match. Elizabeth, on the other hand, finds herself on the way to London, the result of a request by an old family friend to meet in town. Already emotional after her encounter with Darcy, she finds comfort when finally reaching London and meeting this friend, Nicholas Harington. The son of a wealthy family not unlike the Darcy family in both holdings and standing, Nicholas’ family provides a formidable opponent to Darcy’s in the matters of Elizabeth’s heart. Darcy and Elizabeth’s paths cross unexpectedly in London when Bingley begins courting Jane again. Darcy is introduced to Harington, who seems by all to be the perfect suitor for Elizabeth now that Darcy has failed. Or, has he?

I’ll be honest; this first volume was definitely quite dense. A vast majority of the plot was inner turmoil; there really wasn’t much external conflict to keep the plot moving forward. I’m no stranger to inner turmoil and self-reflection; in fact I love when a character overcomes emotional obstacles and discover something new about him/herself. I think it’s a great plot device and it really helps to flesh out a story. However, as this story was mainly composed of inner turmoil, there wasn’t much else for the plot to fall back on when I got tired of hearing about Elizabeth and Darcy’s inner musings.

Col. Fitzwilliam was a wonderfully embellished addition to this work. Darcy and Elizabeth’s thoughts at times can be dark as they both begin to realize their own faults. Col. Fitzwilliam’s comedic presence was a great counterweight to this mood, and it provided moments of brevity that I really enjoyed. I also loved watching him work his way through Darcy’s bad moods. Knowing Darcy as intimately as he does, it was funny to see him cut to the heart of his issues and be his confident, whether he actually wanted this or not, (Georgiana too).

Finally, seeing the depth of Elizabeth’s feelings for Darcy change has been super rewarding (I’m currently reading volume 3). Watching her discover her love for him makes me just as happy as when I first read Pride and Prejudice. Introspective, detailed, and well-written, this clean Pride and Prejudice retelling is a great primer to what’s sure to be a rewarding trilogy.

3.5 out of 5 Regency Stars

A Fair Prospect: Disappointed Hopes, A Tale of Elizabeth and Darcy, Volume I, by Cassandra Grafton
White Soup Press; 1 edition (2013)
Trade paperback (260) pages
ISBN: 978-1482098358

Cover image courtesy of White Soup Press © 2014; text Kimberly Denny Ryder © 2014, Austenprose.com

Disclosure of Material Connection: We received one review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. We only review or recommend products we have read or used and believe will be a good match for our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Winners Announced for Jane Austen’s First Love Book Launch Giveaways

Jane Austen's First Love by Syrie James (2014 )We are happy to announce the winners of the fabulous giveaways during the book launch party for Jane Austen’s First Love, by Syrie James.

Without further ado, the lucky winners are:

A print copy of Jane Austen’s First Love 

  • Carrie Turansky who left a comment on July 31, 2014
  • blesso2013 who left a comment on July 28, 2014

A Jane Austen-themed tote bag

  • Poofbooks who left a comment on July 28, 2014

An original painting “At Goodnestone Park” by Annmarie Thomas 

  • Tresha who left a comment on July 30, 2014

Congratulations to all the winners! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by 11:59 pm PT, Wednesday, August 13, 2014. Shipment to US addresses only.

Many thanks to all who participated, to author Syrie James for the beautiful Austen-themed tote bag, to artist Annmarie Thomas for creating the original painting, and to publisher Berkley Trade for the books. It was a fabulous event and a great send off for Jane Austen’s First Love.

Early reviews are amazing, so don’t miss this wonderful new novel about teen-age Jane Austen’s first romance.

“Wonderful, charming, and lively…simply a lovely novel!”— Romantic Times

“Riveting!”— Editor’s Pick, Library Journal

“This masterwork feels like a real memoir. Highly recommended.” — Historical Novel Society

“A quite delightful romance…funny, eventful, and entertaining.” — Regency World Magazine

Jane Austen’s First Love: A Novel, by Syrie James
Berkley Trade (August 5th, 2014), 400 pages
Trade paperback ISBN: 978-0425271353
Digital eBook ASIN: B00G3L7VES

Book image courtesy of Berkley Trade © 2014; text laurel Ann Nattress © 2013, Austenprose.com