Aerendgast: The Lost History of Jane Austen, by Rachel Berman – A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt

Aerendgast The Lost History Rachel Berman 2015 x 200Jane Austen inspired novels now number in the thousands. While many of these stories are sequels, continuations and what-if’s of her popular novels, very few are based her life. This type of Austenesque novel is called a fictional biography—a skillful blending of known facts, family lore and fiction into an original narrative. A few of my favorites in this sub-genre are Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas,  the twelfth in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery series by Stephanie Barron, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen and Jane Austen’s First Love, by Syrie James and The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen, by Shannon Winslow.

A new bio-fic inspired by Jane Austen’s life is in the queue this month from Meryton Press. Aerendgast: The Lost History of Jane Austen, by Rachel Berman is a literary mystery spanning contemporary and historical times with a bit of paranormal magic. The author has generously shared an excerpt with us today to give us a teaser. I hope you enjoy it. Continue reading

Follies Past: A Prequel to Pride and Prejudice, by Melanie Kerr – A Review

Follies Past, A Pride and Prejudice Prequel, by Melanie Kerr (2013)From the desk of Jenny Haggerty:

In Pride and Prejudice when Mr. Darcy wrote that post-proposal, world-altering letter to Elizabeth Bennet, telling her the truth about charming Mr. Wickham’s duplicity, I was as shocked and shaken as she was, but due to the discretion of the characters, readers get just a bare outline of what went on between Wickham and Darcy’s sister Georgiana. What exactly did happen and how did it come about? One can’t help being curious–or at least this one would like details–so when I discovered that Melanie Kerr’s novel Follies Past centers on that event I eagerly began the book, hoping it would be an Austen-worthy story with wit, appealing characters, and maybe even a wedding.

Follies Past has three heroines and opens with none other than Caroline Bingley. She and her brother are on their way to Pemberley, and while this will be her first time meeting Darcy, Caroline is already determined to marry him, even contriving things so their arrival coincides with the flattering light of early evening. By the end of the visit Caroline is sure she is well on the way to an engagement, but back in London she becomes distracted when she falls hard for another man. He has no title or estate, but he’s disarmingly handsome, they share a wicked wit, and he’s focused on her in a way she realizes Darcy never has. The power of their attraction gives her second thoughts about marrying a man she “loves” mainly for his wealth. Continue reading

Happy 201st Birthday Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice Brock illustrationYou must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” – Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice, Ch 34

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. Continue reading

Preview of A Dance with Jane Austen, by Susannah Fullerton

That the Miss Lucases and the Miss Bennets should meet to talk over a ball was absolutely necessary; and the morning after the assembly brought the former to Longbourn to hear and to communicate. – Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 5

A Dance with Jane Austen, by Susannah Fullerton (2012)A very special book is in the queue for fans of Jane Austen, Regency history, dancing and artwork from the era from publisher Frances Lincoln Limited of London. Fair warning: A Dance with Jane Austen: How A Novelist and Her Characters Went to a Ball will be released on October 1, 2012.

Take note gentle reader. This is not your average garden variety nonfiction reprint of images and commentary of the era that we already have in our “extensive libraries”. Written by Susannah Fullerton, the esteemed president of The Jane Austen Society of Australia, and featuring a foreword by preeminent Austen scholar Deirdre Le Faye, you will be agog with this beautifully designed, sumptuously illustrated and expertly crafted volume, wanting to give it “pride of place” in your front drawing room. Here is a description from the publisher:

Jane Austen loved to put on her satin slippers with shoe-roses, her white gloves and muslin gown, and go off for an evening of fun at Basingstoke assemblies. The Bennet girls share their creator’s delight and go off joyfully to dance, and of course to meet future husbands.

A Dance with Jane Austen image 2Drawing on contemporary accounts and illustrations, and a close reading of the novels as well as Austen’s own correspondence, Susannah Fullerton takes the reader through all the stages of a Regency Ball as Jane Austen and her characters would have known it. Her subjects learn their steps, dress in readiness, find transport to convey them to a ball, choose between public and private balls, worry over a shortage of men, prefer a cotillion to a quadrille, talk and flirt with their partners, sustain themselves with supper, fall in love, and then go home to talk it all over at the end.

Susannah Fullerton is President of the Jane Austen Society of Australia and has lectured extensively around the world on Jane Austen’s life and novels. She is the author of Jane Austen and Crime, a book described by Claire Tomalin as “essential reading for every Janeite.” Deirdre Le Faye is an expert on Jane Austen, and the author of several books about her, including Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels and the new edition of Jane Austen’s letters for Oxford University Press.

“Susannah Fullerton leads us at a sprightly pace through the pleasure and anxieties attendant on every ball… This is a book to enrich our understanding of Jane Austen’s world, and even to make us feel invited to the ball ourselves.” – Maggie Lane, author of Jane Austen’s World

A Dance with Jane Austen image 5

Click on the image above to read an excerpt

I don’t think that I have anticipated a new Austen-inspired nonfiction book as keenly as A Dance with Jane Austen. I feel quite giddy and hope to be all Lydia Bennetish when my copy arrives by post.

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

A Dance with Jane Austen image 3

A Dance with Jane Austen: How a Novelist and Her Characters Went to a Ball, by Susannah Fullerton, foreword by Deirdre Le Faye
Frances Lincoln Limited, London (2012)
Hardcover (144) pages, color and black white illustrations
ISBN: 978-0711232457

All images and text © 2012 Susannah Fullerton and Frances Lincoln Publishers, Ltd. A Dance With Jane Austen, Austenprose

Enter a Giveaway Chance to Win a Complete Set of Penguin Hardcover Classics by Jane Austen

Penguin Hardcover Classics: Jane Austen

UPDATE 04/26/12:

Since the Penguin sweepstakes has closed as of April 24, 2012, they have generously offered Austenprose readers a chance to win a signed copy by the designer Coralie Bickford-Smith of the Penguin Hardcover Classics edition of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey! Just leave a comment  voicing your opinion on if their was a hero throw down between Henry Tilney from Northanger or Captain Wentworth from Persuasion, who would win, and why, or if you have not read either of the novels yet, what you would like to know about them from the Janeites on this blog by 11:59 PT, Wednesday, May 09, 2012. Winner announced on Thursday, May 10, 2012. Shipment of print copies to US addresses only. Good luck!

Happy dance in the book world today. With the release of Coralie Bickford-Smith’s new cover designs of Persuasion, Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey, all six of Jane Austen’s major novels are now complete for the Penguin Hardcover Classics set.

Since Pride and Prejudice, the first book in series was introduced in 2009, book designer Bickford Smith has completed over 20 new covers of classic novels. Beside Austen, the series includes books by authors Charles Dickens, F. Scott Fitzgerald, George Elliot, William Shakespeare, Wilkie Collins, Emily Bronte, Elizabeth Gaskell and others. The covers are inspired by the style of design from the early twentieth-century with motifs indicative of the stories in the novels. The three new Austen titles released today include designs of a chain on the front for Mansfield Park, a feather for Persuasion and a skeleton key for Northanger Abbey.  I can guess all of the associations to the stories. Can you?

Penguin Hardcover Classics: Jane Austen

Penguin Hardcover Classics is offering a generous chance to win the complete Jane Austen set. Just click on this link and it will take you to the Penguin Group Facebook sweepstakes. Good luck to all! (The Penguin sweepstakes has ended, but your comment here still qualifies you for the giveaway of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey.)

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

© 2007 – 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Everybody’s Jane: Austen in the Popular Imagination, by Juliette Wells – A Review

Everybody’s Jane: Austen in the Popular Imagination, by Juliette Wells (2012)Review by Aia A. Hussein

The epigraph to chapter 3 of Juliette Wells’ new book Everybody’s Jane: Austen in the Popular Imagination is taken from Michael Chabon’s “The Amateur Family” in Manhood for Amateurs (2010) and is one of the most interesting, almost poetic, descriptions of amateurs that I have ever read (it is quite long but worth reproducing in its entirety):

Perhaps there is no perfect word for the kind of people I have raised my children to be: a word that encompasses obsessive scholarship, passionate curiosity, curatorial tenderness, and an irrepressible desire to join in the game, to inhabit in some manner – through writing, drawing, dressing up, or endless conversational trifling and Talmudic debate – the world for the endlessly inviting, endlessly inhabitable work of popular art.  The closest I have ever come for myself is amateur, in all the original best sense of the word: a lover; a devotee; a person drive by passion and obsession to do it – to explore the imaginary world – oneself.

Admittedly, the word amateur has negative connotations but not so in Wells’ book.

An amateur is simply someone who is passionate about books and pursues that passion as a hobby rather than a scholarly profession, she argues.  In the last couple of decades, Wells, an Associate Professor of English at Manhattanville College and features editor for the Penguin Classics enhanced e-book edition of Pride and Prejudice (2008), has noted the rise in Austen tributes – the countless fiction, nonfiction, biographies, films, merchandise, and so forth, inspired by Austen’s novels.  Wells offers through her new book what could arguably be thought of as a tribute to the tributes, a critical examination of Austen-mania that acknowledges the important role it has played in keeping Jane Austen culturally relevant.

Everybody’s Jane, released this month by Continuum, takes into account scholarly work on fan cultures and fictions to explore Austen appreciation and appropriation, particularly its appreciation and appropriation in the United States.  After introducing the book in chapter 1, Wells begins her study by looking back to the early twentieth-century to introduce Alberta H. Burke, an American collector and self-confessed Janeite who Wells argues can be thought of as a direct forerunner to modern fans.  Later chapters explore such topics as literary tourism, Austen images, and Austen hybrids where, in addition to exploring hybrids such as Austen-paranormal fiction, Wells also takes a look at the little-studied phenomenon of Austen fan fiction aimed at evangelical Christians.

One of her most fascinating chapters, titled Reading Like an Amateur, explores the sometimes sticky subject of amateur reading versus professional reading or, in other words, the enthusiast versus the scholar. Striking a conciliatory tone, Wells suggests that there is room for both and that, perhaps, the two reading practices that the amateur and scholar are thought to adopt are not so very different.  Quoting scholar Roger Sales, Everybody’s Jane suggests that:

…popular modern texts are relevant to the academic study of Austen since readers constructs an idea of the author, and therefore of her works and their historical period, from the materials that are readily available within a particular culture at a particular time.  It would be very arrogant indeed to assume that all those who teach and study Austen are necessarily exempt from, rather than implicated in, this cultural process. (10)

Wells examines such topics as why and how amateurs read Austen, the reading experience of the amateur, and the juxtaposition of amateur reading with professional reading in this very important chapter.

In the book’s last chapter, aptly titled Coming Together Through Austen, Wells shares her belief that a deep appreciation for Austen can bring together amateurs and scholars and that the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA), since its inception in 1979, has auspiciously offered a home to a broad spectrum of Austen lovers.  An examination of the organization and a call to arms to continue exploring the works and influence of Austen conclude the book.

Wells uses novels, scholarly materials, sites of importance to Austen studies and fans, images, and films to beautifully illustrate her points in a way that is accessible to the ordinary reader but also valuable to the more professional one.  Each chapter begins with a clear and concise overview which helps give structure and order to an extremely comprehensive account of Austen in the popular culture.  It’s impossible to know if Austen will continue to remain a point of fascination for modern writers and fans in the decades to come but, nevertheless, the explosion of Austen-related materials over the last two decades makes this a phenomenon worth documenting and, thankfully, scholars like Wells agree.  This is a fascinating study.  I highly recommend this book.

5 out of 5 Stars

Everybody’s Jane: Austen in the Popular Imagination, by Juliette Wells
Continuum International Publishing Group (2012)
Trade paperback (256) pages
ISBN: 978-1441145543
Kindle: ASIN: B0071GVQRC

Aia A. Hussein, a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and American University, pursued Literature degrees in order to have an official excuse to spend all her time reading.  She lives in the DC area.

© 2007 – 2012, Aia A. Hussein, Austenprose

Echoes of Pemberley, by Cynthia Ingram Hensley – A Review

Echoes of Pemberley, by Cynthia Ingram Hensley (2011)Review by Christina Boyd

Debut author Cynthia Ingram Hensley presents Echoes of Pemberley, a contemporary Pride and Prejudice spin-off for young adults.

The modern day residents of Pemberley estate are the descendants of Jane Austen’s very own Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy.  A fatal plane crash eight years previous orphaned Catherine Elizabeth Darcy and left her in the guardianship of her older brother, Bennet.  Returning home from boarding school for summer vacation, sixteen year old Catie, having lived a sheltered life since the death of her parents, is ripe for a melodrama of her own.  Although she expects her break to be occupied with nothing more than riding her bicycle about her ancestral home and daydreaming in her romance novels, she finds her brother has employed a young, handsome Irish riding instructor to improve her equestrian skills.  And – her summer soon turns anything but dull.

Catie grudgingly accepts such high-handed management from Bennet but is irked by “Mister” Sean Kelley’s intolerable, no nonsense manners towards his spoiled student. “…she had resolved to be only as civil as necessary, and under no bloody circumstances was she going to stare at him like a moon-eyed, immature, fourth former again.  God, being sixteen must be purgatory.” p.53. While brooding at her bedroom window seat, Catie discovers a WWI-era diary and is swept away by the mystery and real life romance of her great Aunt.  “2 August, 1918.  He was waiting by the river again today.  He smiled when he saw me.  My heart is Arthur’s.  Taking my hand, he led me into the woods and kissed me tenderly, then harder… I would have run all the way to Scotland had he asked me.  ‘All the way to Scotland… how romantic.’ p.57.   But what she has unwittingly discovered may be the missing piece to save her brother and their inheritance from a modern day conspiracy of their own.

Buying into the fact that her fictional characters, Darcy and Elizabeth, were real, was not a difficult reach for this unabashed Austenesque fan.  Hensley cleverly mimics Austen’s original Darcy’s with her own new characters by assuming some of their essence without making them a parody.  As Catie is but an immature sixteen year old, she often bashes heads with her older, rather over protective sibling – sending both to retreat to their own corners and not communicating for the greater good. And we all must remember those vexatious teenage years, when we are no longer a child but not quite an adult? Hence much of their trouble.  “’Damn it, Catie, enough with the drama!’ slapping his hand hard against the door frame. “I can’t protect you if you don’t do as I say.  Now for once in your life behave prudently!’ ‘You’re not my father!’ She squared her shoulders, intending to strike a nerve. It appeared she succeeded, for Ben stared hard at her a moment, his mouth pressed into a thin line. He replied evenly, ‘No.  No I’m not, but I’m all the father you’ve got.’” p.113.

Echoes of Pemberley, a 2011 IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Awards) nominee, is an entirely original offshoot of Austen’s masterpiece.  Progressing at a leisurely pace until about page 200, it is peppered with the right amount of youthful angst, family drama and teenage romance. Pitch-perfect for young Austen enthusiasts, one need not have read Pride and Prejudice to relish this tale, but for those who have, they will discover an even greater enjoyment finding our beloved Darcys and Pemberley cleverly woven throughout this modern spin-off.

4 out of 5 Stars

Echoes of Pemberley, by Cynthia Ingram Hensley
Meryton Press (2011)
Trade paperback (286) pages
ISBN: 978-1936009190

Christina Boyd lives in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with her dear Mr. B, two youngish children and a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Bibi.  She studied Fine Art at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Salisbury University in Maryland. For the last nine years she has created and sold her own pottery line from her working studio. Albeit she read Jane Austen as a moody teenager, it wasn’t until Joe Wright’s 2005 movie of Pride & Prejudice that sparked her interest in all things Austen.  A life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, visiting Jane Austen’s England remains on her bucket list.

© 2007 – 2012 Christina Boyd, Austenprose

A Crimson Warning (Lady Emily Series #6), by Tasha Alexander – A Review

Crimson Warning, by Alexandra Tudor (2011)Guest review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder

Jane Austen spoiled us.  She wrote novels about amazing women who oftentimes bucked society’s norms.  Nowadays, it’s difficult to find heroines like Elizabeth Bennet that have us rooting for them page after page.  Luckily, author Tasha Alexander decided to gift the world with a tenacious woman Austen herself would be proud of: Lady Emily Hargreaves.  In A Crimson Warning, the sixth novel in the Lady Emily mystery series, we are again thrown into a mystery that seems to have no clear ending.  It is up to Lady Emily’s wit and cunning to save the day and keep the forces of evil at bay for yet another day.

Lady Emily has been busy.  From barely escaping with her life in Constantinople and Normandy, she hopes to finally wind things down and come home to Mayfair and enjoy the normal comforts of being happily married and finally settled.  For a while, she actually accomplishes this.  Lady Emily even gets to join the Women’s Liberal Federation and work towards obtaining the right to vote for women.  Unfortunately, this ideal world is shattered in A Crimson Warning, when Lady Emily learns that an unknown person has been splashing red paint onto the fronts of many of the wealthier homes in London.  These are no ordinary homes, however, as their owners possess secrets that are potentially damaging and are hidden for one reason or another.  Soon enough, all of the upper class in London fear that they too could be the target of this criminal, and that he or she may be involved in more sinister acts than simply painting the front of a home with a red slash.  Can Lady Emily and Colin find this evil individual before it is too late and people start disappearing?  What are the secrets that these wealthy Londoners go to such lengths to protect?

Less than a month ago I had never heard of the Lady Emily series.  Shame on me!  I’ve now read all six novels in the series and am eagerly awaiting Death in the Floating City, the seventh in the series, which is scheduled for release this October.  When I reviewed the first Lady Emily novel, And Only To Deceive, my thoughts on Alexander’s writing was that it was a hybrid between Jane Austen and Agatha Christie.  Six novels later, those feelings remain unchanged.  Alexander is an amazing mystery writer.  I still had no idea whodunit 40 pages from the end.  Sure, I had my guesses regarding the culprit, but her writing is so precise and clean that it is not until the antagonist is finally revealed that you realize all the clues that were left for you to follow.

As I said above, Lady Emily is a woman that Austen herself would be proud of.  She completely disregards what society expects of women.  She refuses to be an idle wife, staying home with nothing to do but plan balls and dinners and make social calls.  Instead, she uses her mind to explore literature, art, and languages, much to the delight of her husband, Colin.  Colin works as an agent for the crown and is fully supportive of her “crimes against society”.  In A Crimson Warning we get to see a more political side of Emily, as she gets involved with the Women’s Liberal Federation.  It’s through all of her side interests (i.e art, literature) that we learn about that time period.  Alexander uses Emily’s “hobbies” to inform us about what was going on back then.  It’s obviously meticulously researched and has oftentimes led me to want to read and research certain time periods further.

I have to say of all six novels I think that A Crimson Warning is my favorite to date.  We really get a sense of Alexander’s witty and playful side here.  Her scavenger hunt through the British Museum and whiskey drinking scene between Emily and her good friend Jeremy were the best parts of the novel in my opinion.  Although we don’t normally see this side of Alexander, I’m really glad that we got to in this novel.  It added an extra touch to an already wonderful novel that I heartily recommend to everyone.  Fast paced and full of wit and terrifying danger, A Crimson Warning (and the entire Lady Emily series) is not one you want to miss.  Add it to your to-read pile as soon as possible, you won’t be disappointed.

5 out of 5 Stars

A Crimson Warning (Lady Emily Series #6), by Tasha Alexander
St. Martin’s Press (2011)
Hardcover (336) pages
ISBN: 978-0312661755

Kimberly Denny-Ryderis the owner/moderator of Reflections of a Book Addict, a book blog dedicated to following her journey of reading 100 books a year, while attempting to keep a life! When not reading, Kim can be found volunteering as the co-chair of a 24hr cancer awareness event, as well as an active member of Quinnipiac University’s alumni association.  When not reading or volunteering, Kim can be found at her full-time job working in vehicle funding. She lives with her husband Todd and two cats, Belle and Sebastian, in Connecticut.

© 2007 – 2012 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

Giveaway Winner Announced for Suspense and Sensibility

Suspense and Sensibility, by Carrie Bebris (2005)17 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win a copy of, Suspense and Sensibility, by Carrie Bebris. The winner drawn at random is Melinda M. who left a comment on August 29, 2011.

Congratulations Melinda! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by September 15, 2011. Shipment is to US and Canadian addresses only.

Thanks to all who left comments, and for all those participating in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Reading Challenge 2011. We are reading S&S, Jane Austen’s first published novel, and the many offshoots that it has inspired. The challenge continues until December 31, 2011.

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Preview and Excerpt of Pride and Prejudice: The Jewess and the Gentile, by Lev Raphael

Pride and Prejudice: The Jewess and the Gentile, by Lev Raphael (2011)I am continually amazed by how writers are inspired by Jane Austen’s characters from Pride and Prejudice. There are so many retellings and “what if’s,” recounting and elaborating on the relationship of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, our favorite romantic couple, that it makes my head swim — but — this may be a first! Pride and Prejudice: The Jewess and the Gentile, by Lev Raphael has just been release in eBook. It is a literary mash-up of our favorite novel with an interesting twist! Here is the publisher’s description and an excerpt for your enjoyment.

Get ready for Pride and Prejudice with brisket! Lizzy Bennet’s an Anglo-Jew with a Jewish mother, some Jewish attitude, and lots to say about Mr. Darcy, who has some serious attitude problems of his own when it comes to “Hebrews.” When these two proud people meet, is it still love at first…slight? Will prejudice keep them from bridging the gap between Jew and Gentile? Austen’s beloved novel gains new layers of comedy and drama in this ingenious mash-up.

“Hilarious and charming, genuinely delightful. An audacious reinterpretation of the divine Miss A which has one laughing out loud from the first page.” —Lauren Henderson, author of Jane Austen’s Guide to Dating

“Lev Raphael’s version of Pride and Prejudice develops a whole new dimension and Austen’s plot neatly accommodates the Jewish elements in this mash-up hand-made by a maven.” —Rachel Brownstein, author of Why Jane Austen?

“With a sly wit and deft hand, Raphael infiltrates the world of Austen’s most popular novel and plays a game of What If? that simultaneously creates something fresh and reveals anew the genius of the original prose. Never have the human foibles of pride and prejudice been exposed in such a delightful way.” —Michael Thomas Ford, author of Jane Bites Back

Excerpt

It is a truth universally acknowledged, not least by a Jewish mother, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?”

Mr. Bennet replied that he had not heard.

“But it is,” returned  she; “for Mrs. Long  has just been here, and she told me all about it.”

Mr. Bennet made no answer but a sigh.

“Do you not want to know who has taken it?” cried his wife impatiently, for Mrs. Bennet (née Goldsmid) was a yenteh.

Mr. Bennet shrugged with all the energy his aged shoulders could muster.  “You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it.”

This was invitation enough.

“Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it, that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next week.”

“What is his name?”

“Bingley.”

“Is this Bingley married or single?”

“Oh! Single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year.  What a fine thing for our girls!”

“How so?  How can it affect them?”

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” replied his wife, “how can you be so tiresome! You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them.”

“Is that his design in settling here?”

“Design! Nonsense,  how can you talk so! But it is very likely that he may fall in love with one of them.”

“Indeed?  Is he known to have a fondness for daughters of Israel?”

“Mr. Bennett!  How could you!  One should not ask such questions. We do not live in the Dark Ages.”

“But we live in Hertfordshire, and the differences are not altogether marked ones.”

“Never you mind, you must visit him as soon as he comes.”  Mrs. Bennet had long despaired of Jewish husbands for her girls,  given their rural situation, and seeing each girl settled with any man of means whatsoever was her deepest desire.

“I see no occasion for such a visit. You and the girls may go, or you may send them by themselves, which perhaps will be still better, for as you are as handsome as any of them, Mr. Bingley may like you the best of the party.”  Mr. Bennet enjoyed kibbitzing, not least because his wife seemed ever oblivious to his meaning.

Mr. Bennet, whose grandfather was a Ben-David from Amsterdam, was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three-and-twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character.  He was oil to his wife’s water.

Her mind was less difficult to develop. She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented, she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting, news, and kugel.

Author Bio:

Lev Raphael is a former academic, radio talk show host, and newspaper columnist who’s published twenty books in genres from memoir to mystery with publishers like Doubleday, St. Martin’s, Faber and Walker.  His fiction and creative nonfiction appears in dozens of anthologies In the US and in Great Britain, and he has taught in colleges and universities around the country.

A world traveler and lecturer, his next adventure will be his second German book tour for his memoir My Germany this fall, sponsored by the American Consulate in Frankfurt, and will also be reading from his novel Rosedale in Love at the Edith Wharton in Florence conference next June (Austen and Wharton were major influences in his career). Visit Lev at his website Lev Raphael, on Twitter as @LevRaphael, and on Facebook as Lev Raphael.

Pride and Prejudice: The Jewess and the Gentile, by Lev Raphael
eBook: Kindle & Nook

© 2007 – 2011 Lev Raphael, Austenprose

Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman, by Maria Hamilton – A Review

Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman, by Maria Hamilton (2011)Guest review by Christina Boyd

You are mistaken Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way than it spared me the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner.” Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice, Chapter XXXIV

The tragedy of Fitzwilliam Darcy’s ill-stated proposal in the Hunsford parlor is one of the most notable exhibitions in Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, allowing generations of readers to ponder how it all might have been different had his behavior and delivery more agreeable. As in Austen’s masterpiece, Darcy is angered and shocked when Elizabeth refuses his hand in marriage… but in debut author Maria Hamilton’s Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman, Darcy quickly realizes how poorly he acted and decides how he must make amends.

In this alternative story, Darcy goes back to Hertfordshire and calls on the ladies at Longbourn, specifically Miss Bennet, Elizabeth’s older sister Jane, to confess his interference in persuading Mr. Bingley against her… and to discover if she might still harbour feelings for Bingley and welcome his renewal of attentions to her.  But of course, Mrs. Bennet  (and Elizabeth!) misinterprets Mr. Darcy’s visit, blunders in communication between Bingley & Darcy/Darcy & Elizabeth/ Darcy & the whole of Meryton, and even a rival for Elizabeth’s affections, nearly throw Darcy’s honorable plan off course.  Fortunately, the Bennet’s, and even the good people of Meryton, benefit from this more retrospective Darcy as he “practices” his social skills… and by this grace, slowly becomes a man worthy of Elizabeth’s affections.

Much in the writing style of romance author Abigail Reynold’s, Maria Hamilton clearly has a handle on the ruminations and passions of both Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet.

As she leaned over the map to look for herself, she felt him by her side, his breath brushing her ear as he continued to explain the boundary dispute.  His rich voice seemed to have a hypnotic effect on her as she struggled to listen.  As he leaned ever closer to trace the line for her on the map, she felt her pulse quicken and hoped it was not obvious to him.  Equally caught up by her proximity to him, his narration temporarily faltered.  As they both stood there, looking down at his hand on the map and hers inches away, he swallowed hard and then unconsciously leaned even closer toward her.” page 241

Swoonworthy, indeed.  But I must include one of my all-time favorite romantic fan-fiction scenes when Elizabeth and Darcy, at a Longbourne family dinner, are overcoming one of those communication blunders aforementioned, She suddenly understood his position.  Impulsively she brought her hand to her lap and then slowly it moved toward Mr. Darcy’s chair where his hand sat by his side.  With a surge of determination, she reached over, took his hand, laced her fingers in his, and squeezed his hand to express her reassurance…  His eyes flew open.” page 264  Shocking but delicious, is it not?

I first read Hamilton’s story when posted on line years ago under the title, By Every Civility in His Power… and was delighted to learn it was to be published by Sourcebooks.  The story has been tightened somewhat by deleting and, or revising some of the interaction with Caroline Bingley, as well as regrettably reworking an amusing, provocative riding lesson– but in essence, the story remains the same.  Fair warning however: after a very long speech by Elizabeth, explaining to Darcy why she already feels she is his wife, and why she does not feel the need to wait to be truly “man and wife,” Darcy and Elizabeth do indeed anticipate their vows. By the by, if Sourcebooks was going to chop anything from Hamilton’s original, I would have preferred the three letters Darcy writes Elizabeth the morning after their faire l’amour.  They were a little over the top.  That said, all 446 pages of Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman will certainly keep you entertained. Congratulations to Maria Hamilton!

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman, by Maria Hamilton
Sourcebooks (2011)
Trade paperback (528) pages
ISBN: 978-1402244186

Milestone! Christina’s review is the 200th book review posted on Austenprose! Congratulations, and thank you to all who have contributed reviews.

© 2007 – 2011 Christina Boyd, Austenprose

Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor, Being the First Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron – A Review

Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor, by Stephanie Barron (1996)Imagine being present when Jane Austen’s unknown personal journals are discovered in an outbuilding on an ancient Maryland estate, Dunready Manor. Your friends the Westmoreland’s are distantly related to the authoress, and after restoration they place the manuscripts in your care before they are donated to a major library. They recount years of Jane Austen’s life and personal experiences that we know little of, the lost years after 1801 when she, her sister Cassandra and her parents move from their lifelong home at Steventon rectory in Hampshire to Bath. Filling in gaps in life events, missing letters thought destroyed by her sister after her death, and mysteries that she encountered and solved in her lifetime, you are mesmerized. You are allowed to study, edit and transcribe the journals. What unfolds is an intimate and highly intelligent account, blending Jane’s personal life and criminal observations as an amateur detective.

In 1802, fleeing a broken engagement with Harris Bigg-Wither of Manydown Park, Jane seeks to forget her troubles in a ‘whirlwind of frivolity’ accepting an invitation to visit her newly married friend Isobel Payne, Countess of Scargrave. Isobel has recently returned from her wedding trip to the Continent with her husband Frederick, Earl of Scargrave, a gentleman of mature years. To celebrate their recent nuptials the Earl is throwing a bridal Ball in his wife’s honor at their estate in Hertfordshire. In attendance is the Earl’s nephew and heir Fitzroy, Viscount Payne, the only son of his younger brother. Jane observes, ‘As a single man in possession of a good fortune, he must be want of a wife.’ Decidedly handsome, but proud and aloof, she instead spends a good deal of the evening dancing with a young cavalry officer, Lieutenant Thomas Hearst, the second son of the Earl’s deceased sister. Jane learns from a young lady, Miss Fanny Delahoussaye, that Hearst has a bit of reputation having recently killed a man in a duel of honor. She also reveals that Hearst is also a rake, prompting Jane to proceed cautiously. ‘My wordless confession made him hesitate to utter a syllable; and thus laboured in profound stupidity, for fully half a dance’s span. But all things detestable, I most detest a silent partner – and thrusting aside my horror of pistols at dawn, I took refuge in a lady’s light banter. “I have profited from your absence, Lieutenant, to inquire of your character,”’ and so begins and tête à tête between the Lieutenant that must have inspired Jane in her later writing. ;-)

Even though this is a festive and joyful event, trouble is brewing. Jane is concerned for her friend when Isobel is alarmed by the uninvited arrival of Lord Harold Trowbridge who is pressing her to purchase Crosswinds, her father’s troubled estate in Barbados. She also overhears an argument involving George Hearst, Thomas’ elder brother, and the Earl over a woman. Within minutes after the heated discussion, the Earl toasts his bride to his guests, downs his drink and doubles over in acute pain. He would never recover. Isobel is a now widow. A cruel twist of fate for a young bride, however, bereavement is the least of her worries after she receives cryptic missives accusing her and the Earl’s heir, Viscount Payne, of adultery and murder. Terrified of scandal Isobel entreats her dear friend Jane for help. Top on Jane’s list of suspects are the many guests in attendance at the Ball, a collection of characters that all seem to benefit from the Earl’s death. Like any good detective, Jane follows the clues which lead to Isobel’s former maid, Marguerite. Soon, she too is dead, her neck cut in one of the outbuildings on the Scargrave estate. With a second death, most definitely a murder, the authorities are also involved and Isobel is facing murder charges. The investigation will call upon all of Jane’s perceptive acumen leading her to the House of Lords and Newgate Prison, a place fit for no clergyman’s daughter, unless it is in pursuit of the real murderer to free her dear friend.

It has been fifteen years since I first was introduced to Jane Austen detective when this novel took me quite unawares in 1996. The notion of “my” Jane as a sleuth is still surprising, even after reading ten novels in the series, but it only takes a page or two before I am smiling and in total awe of Barron’s skill at channeling my favorite author. And channel she does. I know of no other that can rival her skill at early nineteenth-century language and humor. Blending events from Jane Austen’s actual life with fictional narrative, this detective story is in itself a mystery as I hunt for clues to known facts from Jane’s life and allusions to her future characters in her novels. Anyone with a passing knowledge of Austen’s famous romantic icon Mr. Darcy will recognize Barron’s gentle nod to him in Viscount Fitzroy Payne. Possessed of aloof pride and haughty silence, ‘Everyone wants to know him, but few truly like him.’ Barron has Jane play her future heroine Elizabeth Bennet by taunting her Darcy-like character. “I detect a similarity in the turn of our minds, Viscount Payne,” I persisted, in some exasperation. “We are both of a taciturn, ungenerous nature and would rather be silent until we may say what is certain to astonish all the world.” There are several passages of dialogue that will send a spark of recognition with other characters too, but the story is entirely Barron’s own darling child. This is after all, an homage, a pastiche to Austen, her life and her works. In total respect and with perfect pitch, Barron blends our Jane with a cleverly crafted mystery, infused with historical detail and cutting wit. Jane Austen may have only written six major novels in her short life, but Barron can certainly be credited as the next best thing to perfection.

6 out of 5 Regency Stars

Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor: Being the First Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron
Random House (1996)
Mass market paperback (318) pages
ISBN: 978-0553575934

This is my first selection in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011. You can still join the reading challenge in progress until July 1, 2011. Participants, please leave comments and or place links to your reviews on the official reading challenge page by following this link.

Grand Giveaway

Author Stephanie Barron has generously offered a signed hardcover copy of Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor to one lucky winner. Leave a comment stating what intrigues you about this novel, or if you have read it, who your favorite character is by midnight PT, Wednesday, January 26, 2011. Winner to be announced on Thursday, January 27, 2011. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

Further reading

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose