Jane Austen’s First Love Virtual Book Launch Party & Blog Tour with Author Syrie James, & Giveaways

JAFL blog tour banner x 500

I am very pleased to welcome author Syrie James to Austenprose today to officially open her virtual book launch party and blog tour of Jane Austen’s First Love, published by Berkley Trade. This new Austenesque novel is a fascinating combination of fact and fiction, exploring the first romance of fifteen year-old Jane Austen with the handsome and sophisticated Edward Taylor. 

Syrie has generously offered a guest blog sharing her inspiration to write her new book—and to add to the festivities—we will be offering an amazing selection of giveaways including: trade paperback copies of Jane Austen’s First Love, a muslin tote bag stuffed with Jane Austen goodies, and a specially commissioned painting inspired by the novel. 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 Syrie James.

The inspiration for my novel Jane Austen’s First Love originated several years ago when I was re-reading Jane Austen’s letters. I was struck by three sweet and tender references Jane made to a young man she met as a teenager while visiting her brother Edward Austen in Kent.

Bifrons Park Kent Patrixbourne

Painting of Bifrons Park, near Patrixbourne, Kent, circa 1695

“We went by Bifrons, & I contemplated with a melancholy pleasure, the abode of Him, on whom I once fondly doated,” Jane wrote to her sister Cassandra in September 1796. The “him” she refers to is Edward Taylor, heir to Bifrons, a grand ancestral estate. Jane was twenty when she wrote that letter, and was looking back on a relationship that took place some years before. In two other letters, Jane joked affectionately about Edward Taylor’s inheritance, and, wistfully contemplating his possible marriage, hoped that another generation would be adorned by his “beautiful dark eyes.”

Who was this Edward Taylor, I wondered, upon whom a young Jane had “fondly doated ”? (“Doat” is a variant—now rare—spelling of “dote.”) The definition of “to dote” is “to express and demonstrate great love and fondness for somebody” or “to love to an excessive or foolish degree.” Great love and fondness! Excessive, foolish love! We know so little about Jane Austen’s romantic life, yet here was a solid clue, in her own words, about a young man with whom she was clearly besotted! I was stunned that no one had ever written about it before.

I quickly discovered why Jane’s relationship with Edward Taylor had thus far remained in the shadows: it seemed there was very little information available about him. He is mentioned only briefly in Austen biographies as Jane’s first crush, the earliest of her possible suitors. Determined to learn more about him, I spent many months combing through obscure files on the internet, searching for clues. Thankfully Edward Taylor was a member of the landed gentry. As such, I was able to gather valuable nuggets from a variety of sources regarding his ancestors, his ancestral estate, his parents, his siblings (he had four brothers and three sisters), and himself. I noted that he was a Member of Parliament; I learned the essential dates of his life: birth, marriage, death; I uncovered tantalizing facts about his education and time served in the army, which was puzzling—why had the eldest son and heir served in the army? It was a great start, but hardly enough—I wanted to know about Edward Taylor’s youth, who he was when Jane Austen met him.

Bifron Park, in Kent circa 1900

Georgian remodel of Bifrons Park, in Kent circa 1900  

One day, I struck gold. I discovered a priceless resource, The Taylor Papers, (1913), the candid memoirs and letters of Edward’s brother Lieutenant General Sir Herbert Taylor, compiled decades later by a descendant. These memoirs contain a detailed description of the Taylor children’s unusual and well-traveled childhood abroad and their many accomplishments. All were fluent in five languages, and each played a musical instrument so proficiently that the family gave concerts all over Europe. The Taylors were close friends with princes and princesses, dukes and duchesses, famous artists, and high-ranking religious, military, and government leaders in Europe. The more I read, the more awestruck I became. Edward Taylor was a remarkable young man who had led a fascinating life. No wonder Jane Austen fell in love with him! That he was a real person, and that I had in my possession so many little-known facts about him, was thrilling.

Edward Taylor

Meanwhile, I was intrigued by another Austen fact. In 1791, when Jane’s brother Edward Austen became engaged to Elizabeth Bridges of Goodnestone Park, two of Elizabeth’s sisters also became engaged. I thought it highly unusual that three sisters in the same family should marry almost simultaneously—and it couldn’t be a coincidence that Jane, at the same time, wrote her comedic short story The Three Sisters. I realized that Jane Austen was most likely introduced to Edward Taylor through his connection as both a cousin and neighbor of the Bridges family (Bifrons was only five miles from Goodnestone). It seemed likely to me that Jane visited Kent in the summer of 1791, where she not only met the young ladies who inspired that story, but also met and fell in love with Edward Taylor. And thus my novel was born. I hope that readers enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Author Syrie James (2012 )AUTHOR BIO Syrie James, hailed by Los Angeles Magazine as “the queen of nineteenth century re-imaginings,” is the bestselling author of nine critically acclaimed novels including The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen (“A literary feast for Anglophiles”—Publisher’s weekly), The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen (named one of the best first novels of the year by Library Journal), and The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë (Audie Award, Romance 2011; Great Group Read, Women’s National Book Association). Syrie’s books have been translated into eighteen languages. She is a member of the Writer’s Guild of America and a life member of JASNA. Follow Syrie on twitter, visit her on facebook, and learn more about her and her books at syriejames.com.

Many thanks Syrie, and best wishes with Jane Austen’s First Love. Be sure to return on Monday, August 4th for our review.

A GRAND GIVEAWAY 

In celebration of the release of Jane Austen’s First Love, we are offering four chances to win amazing prizes. Please leave a comment by 11:59 pm, Wednesday, August 06, 2014 stating what intrigues you about this new novel. Winners will be drawn at random from the comments and announced on Thursday, August 07, 2014. Shipment to US addresses. Good luck to all!

Jane Austen's First Love by Syrie James (2014 )

Prize 1 & 2: ONE TRADE PAPERBACK COPY OF JANE AUSTEN’S FIRST LOVE 

Tote bag for JAFL Book Launch

Prize 3: I HEART JANE AUSTEN TOTE BAG 

This fashionable muslin tote bag (size 15″W x 15-1/2″H) is lightweight, environmentally friendly, and the perfect way to express your love for Jane Austen while carrying all your whatnots!

The I HEART JANE AUSTEN TOTE BAG contains the following goodies:

  • One trade paperback edition of Jane Austen’s First Love
  • One trade paperback edition of The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen
  • 2 bookplates signed by Syrie James
  • Jane Austen keychain
  • Austenesque notecard from JASNA–Northern California region
  • Postcard featuring Jane Austen’s jewelry (from Jane Austen’s House Museum)
  • Postcard featuring Jane Austen’s desk (from Jane Austen’s House Museum)
  • Pride and Prejudice peacock edition commemoratory bookmark

At Goodnestone Park painting framed by Annmarie Thomas

“At Goodnestone Park” by Annmarie Thomas, framed

At Goodnestone Park painting by Annmarie Thomas

Prize 4: ORIGINAL ART PAINTING “AT GOODNESTONE PARK” BY ANNMARIE THOMAS 

One 8” x 10” original acrylic painting on panel, framed and ready to hang by Annmarie Thomas, inspired by the novel, Jane Austen’s First Love, featuring Edward Taylor, Jane Austen and Charlotte Payler.

ARTIST BIO Annmarie Thomas lives, reads, and paints in southern California where she is an active member of JASNA. She is currently designing the JASNA AGM 2017 logo. With a degree in design from UCLA, Annmarie worked as a graphic designer. Now, with three nearly grown sons, she’s returned to fine art painting with one subject being Jane Austen related images. To see Annmarie’s paintings that are not Jane-inspired, click here. Click here to see her Jane Austen art or go to JaneAustenFineArt.com.

Thank you for joining in the celebration of the upcoming release of Jane Austen’s First Love. Please visit more stops along the blog tour, July 28th – August 21, 2014, where you will find additional guest blogs by Syrie James, book reviews and giveaway chances.

JANE AUSTEN’S FIRST LOVE BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

Read an exclusive excerpt from Jane Austen’s First Love

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

Cover image courtesy of Berkley Trade © 2014; text Syrie James © 2014; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2014, Austenprose.com

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?

BOOK LAUNCH PARTY

I am happy to announce that Austenprose.com will be hosting the official online book launch party which kicks off the blog tour for Jane Austen’s First Love on Monday, July 28, 2014. The celebration will include a guest blog from the author and fabulous prizes, so please mark your calendar and return for the festivites!!!

EXCERPT (from Syrie James)

Jane Austen, lively, clever, and fifteen years of age, is traveling with her sister Cassandra and brother Charles from Godmersham to Goodnestone Park in Kent, to attend the festivities celebrating the engagement of her older brother Edward Austen. Their carriage is proceeding down a small incline, when it suddenly pitches to one side and sinks into a muddy rut.

The postillion picked up the reins and spoke sharply to the horses, urging them forward; but although they strained and pulled, the chaise did not move. A few minutes passed thus engaged, with no more promising outlook. I was feeling very discouraged, and wondering how we should ever be liberated from the mire, when I heard the sound of horses approaching.

Through the window of the chaise, I caught sight of two riders coming towards us across the empty fields. As they drew nearer, I became aware of their distinguishing features. They were young men, perhaps sixteen or seventeen years of age, and from the quality of their clothes, hats, and tall leather boots, and the way they held themselves in the saddle, I knew them to be the sons of gentlemen. The first had a ruddy countenance which, although pleasing, was not regular enough to be called handsome. My full attention, however, was directed at the young man riding beside him, who was so good-looking as to make it difficult to look away.

“Good morning,” said he to the postillion, drawing up beside our disabled carriage. “My cousin and I could not help but see your predicament. I hope no one is injured?”

“They are not, sir,” responded the postillion.

The young man had a long, oval face; dark eyes flashed beneath arched brows; his nose was perfectly straight; his lips were full and well shaped above a determined chin. His complexion was clear and a shade or two darker than my own, suggesting that he had recently spent time in sunnier, foreign climes, or spent a great deal of time out of doors. His hunter green coat and dark brown breeches were so perfectly tailored as to shew off his fine figure to great advantage; and contrary to fashion, he sported no wig or powder; rather his hair, which fell in a haphazard manner to just below his ears, was as sleek and silky as the mane of his magnificent horse, and in precisely the same shade of deep auburn.

Nimbly dismounting, and unheedful of the mud (his tall, sturdy boots giving him some protection), the young man walked around the vehicle, and bent to study the half-submerged wheels. “From what I can determine, the wheels are not broken, but only stuck in this quagmire. I have already sent a servant to fetch two dray-horses. They should be here momentarily, and can pull you out.”

“Why thank ye, Mr. Taylor, sir. We’d be most grateful, for surely otherwise we’ll be stuck here till nightfall and beyond.”

The young man inquired as to wither we were going and who was on board, to which the postillion replied, “I am taking Mr. Knight’s house guests to Goodnestone for a visit, sir. There are two young ladies, sisters as they are, and a lad.”

“Well, let us get them out. Even with our dray-horses, it will be a piece of work to pull this chaise from the mire, and harder still with three people weighing it down.”

Sam pulled down the steps and threw open the chaise door. “You’d best all step down.”

Charles moved dexterously to the opening and hesitated, frowning. I perceived the difficulty: the chaise was positioned at such an angle that the doorway partly faced the sky, and the steps led more to the side than down, complicating one’s descent; moreover, the road was deep in mud.

“I have got you,” said Mr. Taylor; without further ado, he picked up my little brother and carried him to the safety of the road-side.

Cassandra was next.

“Take my hand, miss,” said the postillion.

Mr. Taylor’s as yet nameless companion leapt from his horse and crossed to the carriage’s open door, silently offering his own assistance—an action no doubt prompted, I deduced, by my sister’s beauty.

Both men held out their gloved hands to Cassandra and helped her out, although so awkwardly as to result in her landing in a deep pocket of mud, which engulfed her feet to the ankles.

“Oh!” cried she in dismay, raising her skirts as she was assisted through the mud to the firmer bank immediately adjacent. While Cassandra’s rescuers quietly apologised at the road-side, I attempted to determine my best means of exit; but before I could proceed, Mr. Taylor walked back to the open doorway of the chaise and stopped before me. With an accent and inflection on the final appellation so flawless as to resemble (at least in my imagination) a native Italian speaker, he said, “May I help you down, signorina?”

I froze; I could not avert my gaze; Mr. Taylor’s handsome countenance was but a foot or two from mine, and his arrival, like a knight in shining armour, had been so unexpected, his eyes were so dark and sparkling, and the overall effect was so appealing, that for the space of a breath, I forgot where I was or that any action was required of me.

“Miss? Are you quite well?”

I nodded.

“May I help you descend?”

“Yes.” I cleared my throat. “Thank you.”

“I ought to carry you. Otherwise, you will ruin your shoes, as did your sister.”

“Carry me?” A picture formed in my mind, as I envisioned his proposal: my arms were wrapped around his neck, and my face was against his silken hair, as he swept me into his arms and brought me to the embankment. The notion caused my heart to beat with more rapidity than usual and a warmth to rise to my cheeks. Such familiarity would be most inappropriate. “I think,” replied I quickly, “I had rather climb down myself.”

He looked dubious. “Well then, if you want to avoid the mud, I only see one option. You must climb out past the back wheel and over the rear platform. From there I can jump you down to the bank.”

I stared at him in quiet disbelief. “A daring proposal, sir, and one which I imagine you could execute with ease. But it will be rather difficult to accomplish, wearing a gown.”

“I imagine you can find a way, mademoiselle. But it is up to you, and whether or not you wish to sacrifice your shoes.”

I paused, considering. His suggestion involved some risk, as the vehicle lay at a very marked pitch; but it was admittedly preferable to walking through the mire. Moreover, his tone, and the look on his countenance, seemed to me akin to the throwing of a gauntlet. “Very well. I shall try it.”

“Jane!” cried Cassandra from the embankment where she waited with Charles and the other gentleman. “Do not attempt it. You might fall.”

“I will not fall,” answered I, with more confidence than I truly felt.

Not wanting to soil my new gloves, I removed them and stowed them in my reticule; then, holding up my skirts, I placed my hands on either side of the carriage door, and propelled myself up and out. It was a precarious business; by supporting myself on the large, very muddy wheel, I managed to scramble from the steps onto the rear platform, but so precipitous was it, that I nearly slid off. Throughout my exertion, Mr. Taylor stood close by (I suppose to catch me if required); but with the greatest of efforts I was able to right myself, and from there to jump down as directed, onto the bank into his waiting hands.

I was vaguely sensible of a cheer (from Charles) and applause from Mr. Taylor’s cousin; but these sounds melted away, so overpowered was I by the circumstance in which, for an instant, I found myself. My hands were pressed against the soft wool of Mr. Taylor’s coat, and his large hands were firmly clasping my upper arms as he looked down at me. There was a fluttering in my heart and stomach such as I had never before felt or imagined, and my cheeks burned—from fear or exertion, I knew not which. Did he feel a similar emotion? I could not say; but during the brief interval in which he held me thus, as his dark eyes gazed down into mine, I imagined that they held a look of deep interest which matched my own.

Releasing me, he said, “There. That was not so hard, was it?”

“Not at all,” lied I, relieved that the exercise was completed, that I was safely on the ground, and that there was again some physical distance between us, so that I might regain some semblance of composure. It was ridiculous, a voice in my head cried, to swoon so over a total stranger, no matter how handsome he might be; but at the same time, another inner voice exulted over this unexpected meeting—for was it not exactly the sort of circumstance of which I had been dreaming for many years? These inner musings were instantly terminated when Cassandra, shaking her head, said:

“Thank goodness Mamma was not here to see that.”

Mr. Taylor now turned to her and Charles. “And how are you,Miss? I trust you both have suffered nothing worse in this misadventure than a pair of muddy—” (glancing down at Cassandra’s shoes with mock alarm) “very muddy—slippers?”

“We are quite well, sir. Thank you for stopping to assist us.”

“Yes! Thank you!” cried Charles, regarding our rescuer with undisguised gratitude, wonder, and veneration.

Mr. Taylor only shrugged his shoulders. “It was my duty. You broke down on the road passing my family’s estate. I could not ride by and do nothing. It is just lucky it occurred today, while I happened to be at Bifrons—I am not living here at present, but with my cousins at Ileden, a few miles distant—and a fortnight ago, I would have been out of the country.”

“From whence have you returned?” inquired Cassandra.

“From Italy. My family is still abroad.” He paused then, and with a smile, removed his hat. “Forgive me, here we are chatting away without a proper introduction. It is very awkward—but I trust that the necessity of the case will plead my excuse—it seems we have no choice but to circumvent convention. This fellow here—” (waving his hat towards his companion) “is my cousin Thomas Watkinson Payler, Esquire.”

Mr. Payler bowed, with a particular smile for my sister. “A pleasure to meet you,” said he quietly but elegantly.

With a bow of his own, our rescuer added: “I am Edward Taylor.”

END OF EXCERPT

Be one of the first Janeites to receive Jane Austen’s First Love by pre-ordering it today for week-of-release delivery. Please join us on July 28th for all the book launch festivities.

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

Author Syrie James (2012 )AUTHOR BIO

Syrie James is the bestselling author of the critically acclaimed novels The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë, Dracula My Love, Forbidden, Nocturne, Songbird, and Propositions. Her next novel, Jane Austen’s First Love, is due out from Berkeley on August 5, 2014. Follow Syrie on twitter, visit her on facebook, and learn more about her and her books at syriejames.com.

 

GIVEAWAY OF JANE AUSTEN NOTE CARDS

Enter a chance to win two beautiful Jane Austen-inspired note cards of scenes from her novels from the Jane Austen House Museum gift shop by leaving a comment about the excerpt from Jane Austen’s First Love before 11:59 pm, Wednesday, July 09, 2014. Winner to be announced on Thursday, July 10, 2014. Shipment to US addresses. Good luck to all!

Syrie Note cards

Cover image courtesy of Berkley Trade © 2014; excerpt Syrie James © 2014; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2014, Austenprose.com

That Summer: A Novel, by Lauren Willig – A Review

From the desk of Christina Boyd:That Summer, by Lauren Willig (2014 )

After a successful divergence from her Napoleonic spy romances of the Pink Carnation series with the post-Edwardian The Ashford Affair, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Willig again embarks on another stand-alone narrative. Entangling one generation with the past is Willig’s trademark, and That Summer is of modern day Julia Conley as well as her ancestors in 1849.

In 2009, motherless Julia inherits an old family house in England from a great Aunt Regina Ashe, a woman she cannot even recall. One of the recently unemployed in the recession, she travels from New York City to Herne Hill, a district south of London, to view her inheritance and unload it as quickly as possible. Upon arrival, she meets her exceedingly obliging and maybe even presumptuous cousin, Natalie, who eagerly volunteers to help sort the old mansion and later even brings along the fine Nicholas Dorrington, if somewhat taciturn antiques dealer, to value the lot. Although they jest concerning hidden treasures, Julia cannot but wonder if in fact there might be some sort of riches her relations hope to unearth beneath the years of dust, dank oddments and papers. But what she had not expected was to exhume memories of her childhood.

Julia’s hand was on the knob of the door before she realized that she had retreated, step by step, ready to duck out and shut the door. She laughed shakily. Great. Metaphor made action. Her English professors in college would have loved that. Shut the door and shut the door. Just like she had been shutting the door all these years. Julia’s knuckles were white against the old brass doorknob. This was insane. Insane. What was she so afraid of? What was she so afraid of remembering? Maybe she was just afraid she would miss her. Her mother.” (87)

In 1849, Imogene Grantham has been married to the much older Arthur, collector of antiquities and artifacts, for nearly a decade. And though she naively thought she was marrying for love, it was not long before she realized she was to be just another showpiece to adorn his home. Oddly, Arthur’s late wife’s sister, a Miss Jane Cooper, a bitter and suspicious woman, continues to manage the house. A lonely life to be sure, with Imogene’s only pleasure deriving from the adoration of Evie, her step-daughter. When three pre-Raphaelite artists come to admire Grantham’s collection, an unsuspecting Imogene is observed by the reticent Gavin Thorne.

Nor was Mrs. Grantham in Augustus’s style. He liked pink and white society beauties. If Miss Cooper was a Rembrandt sketch of a purse-lipped Dutch housewife and Miss Evangeline Grantham a Dresden shepherdess, all pink and white, and yellow curls, Mrs. Grantham was something else, entirely. In the candlelight she was ebony and ivory, the dark waves of her hair accentuating the strong bones of her face.” (59-60)

Nevertheless, Imogene was all too aware of the attentions Mr. Augustus Fotheringay-Vaughn bestowed upon the 16 year old Evangeline. (Vaughn? Vaughn! Surely not the “spawn of Vaughn”—from Willig’s The Pink Carnation series? Oh, heaven help the artless heiress.)

As Julia discovers a pre-Raphaelite painting concealed behind a false wall in an armoire—and as she and Nick sift through the house for more clues as to authenticity, why the piece was secreted away, and why the likeness between the woman in this Tristan and Isolde scene to that of the formal yet forlorn portrait prominently displayed in the drawing room—a developing magnetism between the two cannot be denied. Still, Nick is an art dealer and Natalie, who seems to have her eyes on Nick, puts Julia on her guard.

Lauren Willig has painted lush, colorful characters and layered historical details, touches of mystery and romance with a deft brush that made me yearn for more. A masterful work of art, That Summer is sure to become this summer’s Must Read in women’s fiction.

5 out of 5 Stars

That Summer: A Novel, by Lauren Willig
St. Martin’s Press (2014)
Hardcover (352) pages
ISBN: 978-1250014504

Cover image courtesy of St. Martin’s Press © 2014; text Christina Boyd © 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.”

Unequal Affections: A Pride and Prejudice Retelling, by Lara S. Ormiston – A Review

Unequal Affections, by Lara S. Ormiston (2014)From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:

Have you ever read a book that culminated in such a passionate love/hate relationship that you were compelled to read it again to understand what it was that evoked such a profound reaction? I have. Like failed love affairs, I can remember each of them without hesitation: Wuthering Heights, Tess of the D’Urberville’s, Mansfield Park, The Wings of a Dove and Anna Karenina. I am now adding Unequal Affections to my “bus accident” list.

While some may foresee this question as a polite warning of a negative review lurking in the shrubberies, I have no wish to influence you either way—yet—but rather keep you in suspense, “according to the usual practice of elegant females.” Bus accidents are terrible, tragic, things, and terribly hard to look way from.

This Pride and Prejudice “what if” starts out one third of the way into the original novel at the pivotal moment when Mr. Darcy proposes to our heroine Elizabeth Bennet. This scene contains some of Jane Austen’s most brilliant dialogue revealing two protagonists so totally at odds with each other that we cannot see how they could possibly end up as a loving couple by the end of the novel. Mr. Darcy begins…“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” He then proceeds to explain how he loves her against his will, against his reason, and even against his character. Insulted by his prejudice against her family, appalled by his injustice towards Mr. Wickham and angered by his part in separating her sister Jane from Mr. Bingley, she finalizes her refusal by proclaiming that he was “the last man in the world whom [she] could ever be prevailed on to marry.”

While Austen sets up the moral and romantic conflict firmly, Ormiston chooses an even more challenging path. Her Elizabeth has not made previous declarations about marrying only for love or exhibited her strength of mind by refusing the proposal of the odious Mr. Collins. The reader only knows her Elizabeth from this proposal scene forward. Though her Lizzy does not like Mr. Darcy any more than Austen’s, she will consider marrying without affection for the benefit of her family and chooses to delay her reply by asking for time to consider his offer. We now have an optimistic Darcy following her back to London where she is staying with her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner. Under pressure Elizabeth seeks the counsel of her aunt who of course points out the pros and cons of the alliance. Within two weeks she accepts his proposal. Darcy is ecstatic. Elizabeth is resolved. She will be the mistress of a grand estate and the wife of a proud and arrogant man. Can she learn to love him, and will her love humble him?

The majority of the narrative now unfolds back at Longbourn, her home in Hertfordshire. Darcy takes up residence nearby at his friend Bingley’s estate of Netherfield and visits Elizabeth under the close observation of the Bennet family, whose members he abhors. If anything will test his love, his resolve, and his willingness to change, it will be one month in the Bennet household. Each of the family members has their turn: Mrs. Bennet with her endless prattle, Mr. Bennet with his lack of guiding presence, Mary with her sermonizing, and Kitty and Lydia with their dangerous fixation on officers, resulting in a family conflict that may fracture his desire to marry Elizabeth forever.

Pride and Prejudice “what if’s” have dominated Austenesque sequels for the past several years. Starting with established characters and plot, they take a left turn in a new direction allowing for an intriguing fantasy. Readers of Austen’s classic can now experience beloved characters faced with new impediments before they earn their happily-ever-after. If you are comfortable with change, creativity and the possibility that they may act outside of Austen’s sphere, I highly recommend them.

Because there are now so many authors writing in this sub-genre, be prepared for crossover plots. They are inevitable, and readers who know of Abigail Reynolds’, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Last Man in the World, will be concerned that Unequal Affections may have been influenced by this novel. Be not alarmed, madam, on receiving this warning, “by the apprehension of its containing any repetition of those sentiments.” While the premise and launching point are identical, the remainder of the plot is wholly unconnected.

I was duly impressed with Ormiston’s command of Regency-era language and social context. They are her strongest accomplishments. She builds solid, endearing characterizations revealing an acute understanding of Austen’s characters. Some readers will be happy to know that the romantic tension was held in suspense almost until the last page. While I commend her extensive vocabulary, I found her pacing off. Scenes were too long at some points slowing down my interest, and her choice to play out two thirds of the book in the Bennet’s drawing room became as painful to Darcy as it did for me. As a debut novelist she shows bright promise that will develop with time and guidance.

Complex, intriguing and romantic, Unequal Affections will be one of those novels that you must read more than once to fully understand why it is so compelling. There are certain parts that will annoy you and others that will compel you to continue. Exhibiting these dualities is what makes for memorable fiction. You won’t forget this one for a long time.

4.5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Unequal Affections: A Pride and Prejudice Retelling, by Lara S. Ormiston
Skyhorse Publishing (2014)
Hardcover (352) pages
ISBN: 978-1626361003

Cover image courtesy of Skyhorse Publishing © 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.

Guest Blog & Giveaway of Haunting Mr. Darcy – A Spirited Courtship, by KaraLynne Mackrory

Haunting Mr. Darcy A Spirted Courtship by Karalynne Mackrory 2014 x 200Please join us in celebration of the release of author KaraLynne Mackrory’s new Austenesque novel, Haunting Mr. Darcy: A Spirited Courtship, published in March by Meryton Press. 

KaraLynne has joined us to chat about her inspiration to write her book, a paranormal “what if” of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Her publisher has generously offered a giveaway chance for a paperback or digital copy to three lucky winners. Just leave a comment with this blog post to enter. The contest details are listed below. Good luck to all. 

Welcome KaraLynne.

When I first begin formulating plans for my most recent work, Haunting Mr. Darcy, I started off by considering what elements I like when reading a Jane Austen-inspired book. The number one element I came up with was bunches of Darcy and Elizabeth page time. I love to read when our hero and heroine are together a lot. From the start, this desire led me to some roadblocks. Mostly the roadblock called propriety. Historically single men and women did not spend considerable amounts of time together alone.

While letting this problem stew in my mind, a plot bunny of lunatic proportions jumped into my mind. It solved the problem while also highlighting nicely my belief that our beloved characters, Darcy and Elizabeth were destined to be together. Jane Austen could not have conceived it any other way.

The plot that came to me was Haunting Mr. Darcy: A Spirited Courtship. In this book Elizabeth is in a horrible carriage accident just before midnight on New Year’s. At the same time in London, Darcy is struggling to forget his admiration for Elizabeth and just as he drifts off to sleep makes a wish to see her again. Elizabeth cannot die and leave the other half of her destined happily ever after alone!! So Fate jumps in and transports Elizabeth in spirit form to Darcy’s London residence. Her body is in a coma at Longbourn but her spirit is far from home. Together Darcy and Elizabeth, who fate has tethered together, cannot break this bond until they have learned to appreciate, understand and love each other. (Haha! Think of it as an otherworldly ‘get along shirt’)

This process is made difficult by our hot-stubborn hero who adamantly believes Elizabeth is just a hallucination of his overwrought mind while Elizabeth believes she is dreaming. Once Fate deems their futures secured (because finally those two quit knocking heads and fall in love) then the source of their bond is revealed. It is then possible and urgent that Darcy and Elizabeth endeavor to reunite her spirit with her slumbering body before it is too late.

The possibilities for lots of Darcy and Elizabeth page time were endless. The intimacy of being the only two able to know Elizabeth is there made for a charming spirited courtship with lots of swoon worthy moments and quite a few Jane-Austen-Would-Laugh-At-This scenes. Now many people have told me that the paranormal aspect of it made them hesitate. I wish I could tell them that it doesn’t feel paranormal at all. In fact, the first time a reviewer called it a “ghost story,” I thought “it is not a ghost story.” Although it is quite obvious that Elizabeth is a ghost for much of the book, it feels so natural to the scenes that you think nothing of it. The scenes are built around Darcy and Elizabeth regardless of their tangibility. Their bond is felt beyond their physical limitations and yet when those physical limitations are removed, the connection is pronounced.

Those same people who hesitated due to the paranormal aspect have come back to me to state how glad they were that they gave it a try. Because like I said – it isn’t really a ghost story. It is a story about a happily ever after that was supposed to happen no matter what; heedless of first impressions, regardless of personal pride and oblivious to prevailing prejudice.

Author Bio: KaraLynne Mackrory is the author of three Austenesque novels: Falling for Mr. Darcy (2012), Bluebells in the Morning (2013) and her latest release, Haunting Mr. Darcy (2014) all published by Meryton Press. You can visit her at her website, follow her on Twitter as @KAMackYah, and like her author page on Facebook.

A GRAND GIVEAWAY 

Enter a chance to win one of three copies available of Haunting Mr. Darcy, by KaraLynne Mackrory by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you about reading this paranormal Pride and Prejudice. The contest is open until 11:59 pm PT, May 28, 2014. Winners will be drawn at random from the comments and posted on Thursday, May 29, 2014. Paperback shipment to US addresses, digital edition internationally. Good luck to all.

Haunting Mr. Darcy – A Spirited Courtship, by KaraLynne Mackrory
Meryton Press (2014)
Trade paperback (286) pages
ISBN: 9781936009350

Cover image courtesy of Meryton Press © 2014; text KaraLynne Mackrory © 2014, Austenprose.com