The Vagabond Vicar, by Charlotte Brentwood – Preview & Exclusive Excerpt

Vagabond Vicar Charlotte Brentwood 2014 x 200Heyday! Traditional Regency romances are back in vogue. I see more and more being published and authors like Julie Klassen, Sarah M. Eden and Julianne Donaldson winning awards and having incredible success. This is great news considering publishers wrote off the genre in 2005. 

For those of you who do not know what a traditional Regency romance novel is, just think Jane Austen and her descendants: Georgette Heyer, Carla Kelley, Candice Hern and Mary Balogh all write novels set in the Regency era (1811-1820) featuring a comedy of manners, social commentary and sweet romance. When new authors appear on the scene, I am always eager to check them out and see if they are up to snuff. I am happy to introduce debut novelist Charlotte Brentwood’s The Vagabond Vicar to you today with this preview and exclusive excerpt.

PREVIEW (from the publisher’s description) 

William Brook is an idealistic young cleric, desperate to escape dreary England for a mission adventure in exotic lands. It’s his worst nightmare come true when he is posted to a parish in a small backwater village, populated with small-minded people and husband-hunting mamas. He’s determined not to form any ties and to escape the country as an independent single man.

A free spirit, Cecilia Grant is perfectly content to remain in her family home in Amberley village – when she’s not wandering the countryside at all hours painting. Marriage options are few, but that won’t stop her mother from engineering a match with one of the ruling family’s sons. Cecilia attempts to win the man, but what is it about the new vicar and his brooding ways that is so appealing? Could he be the only one who has ever really understood her, and can she discover what he is running away from?

As William struggles not to fall in love with the lady’s intoxicating beauty and mysterious eccentricity, he finds himself drawn into the lives of the villagers, despite their best efforts to alienate the newcomer. When he makes it clear he’s not sticking around, Cecilia strives to restrain her blossoming feelings for him. Just when it seems love may triumph, dark secrets are revealed in Amberley and a scandal from William’s past may see the end of not only his career, but his chance at finding an everlasting love.

EXCERPT (from Chapter 14)

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

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

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

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

“I say, Miss Grant.”

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He regarded her warily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He smiled back.

END OF EXCERPT

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

AUTHOR BIO

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

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

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

KINDLE | NOOK | SMASHWORDS

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

Mr. Darcy’s Challenge: A Pride and Prejudice Variation (The Darcy Novels Book 2), by Monica Fairview – Preview & Exclusive Excerpt

Mr. Darcys Challenge by Monica Fairview 2014 x 200It is always a pleasure to introduce a new book by a treasured author. Many of Monica Fairview’s Pride and Prejudice sequels: The Other Mr. Darcy and The Darcy Cousins, are among my favorite Austenesque novels. Her latest, Mr. Darcy’s Challenge, is the second book in The Darcy Novels series of “what if” variations. Here is a preview and exclusive excerpt for your enjoyment.

PREVIEW (from publisher’s description)

In this humorous Pride and Prejudice Variation, Mr. Darcy is determined to win Elizabeth Bennet’s hand in spite of her rejection and he has a strategy worked out. He will rescue Lydia Bennet from Wickham and will return to Longbourn to convince Elizabeth to marry him. But when a chance encounter prompts Darcy to propose once again to Elizabeth before he has rescued Lydia, his plans go horribly wrong.

Broken hearted, disillusioned and bitterly regretting his impulsive action, Darcy sees no point in assisting Miss Bennet. After all, rescuing Lydia might save Elizabeth’s reputation, but why should he care when they have no future together? His code of gentlemanly conduct, however, demands that he fulfill the terms of his promise to her. Once again, Darcy finds himself faced with impossible choices: helping Elizabeth when she is certain to marry someone else, or holding onto his dignity by turning his back on the Bennets once and for all.

Pride and love are at loggerheads as he struggles to choose between his mind … and his heart.

Volume Two of The Darcy Novels continues the story began in Mr. Darcy’s Pledge but can be read as an independent book as well.

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Jane Austen’s First Love Holiday Blog Tour

Jane Austen's First Love Holiday Blog Tour banner

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

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

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Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Calendar, by Jane Odiwe – Preview & Exclusive Excerpt

Mr Darcys Christmas Calendar by Jane Odiwe 2014 x 200I have often thought of Pride and Prejudice as the ultimate fairy tale. While it does not have the traditional folkloric fantasy figures such as dwarves, fairies or giants, Jane Austen did create iconic romantic characters that have become prototypes for modern writers and a plot that includes the perfect happily-ever-after ending. It is easy to see why we want to return to that fantasy and live in the era with her characters again and again through new stories.

Austenesque author Jane Odiwe has written two Austen-inspired novels with strong fantasy elements: Project Darcy and Searching for Captain Wentworth. She has a particular talent for time-slip novels where a modern heroine, like her fairy tale compatriots—Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella or Belle in Beauty and the Beast—are touched by a magic that changes their lives, setting them on a course of discovery and romance. Her latest is a novella, Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Calendar, is set during the holiday season in modern day and Regency England. Jane has generously supplied an exclusive excerpt of her new work. I hope you enjoy it.

PREVIEW (from the publisher’s description)

A novella for the Christmas holidays – Lizzy Benson visits Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, and buys a special advent calendar in the gift shop, but strange things start to happen when she opens up the first door and finds herself back in time with all the beloved characters from her favourite book, Pride and Prejudice. As she finds herself increasingly drawn into an alternate reality, Lizzy discovers not only is Mr Darcy missing from the plot, but Jane Austen has never heard of him. All Lizzy can hope is that she can help to get the story and her own complicated love life back on track before Christmas is over!

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Giveaway Winners Announced for First Impressions by Charlie Lovett

First Impressions A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen, by Charlie Lovett (2014 )It’s time to announce the 3 winners of hardcover copies of First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen, by Charlie Lovett. The lucky winners drawn at random are:

  • Missyisms who left a comment on Oct 21, 2014
  • Ladysusanpdx who left a comment on Oct 20, 2014
  • Cozynookbks who left a comment on Oct 21, 2014

Congratulations to the winners! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by November 5, 2014 or you will forfeit your prize! Shipment to US addresses only. One winner per IP address.

Thanks to all who left comments, to author Charlie Lovett for his guest blog, and to his publisher Viking (Penguin Group USA) for the giveaways.

Cover image courtesy of Viking (Penguin Group USA) © 2014; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2014, Austenprose.com

First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen Virtual Book Launch Party with Author Charlie Lovett

First Impressions A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen, by Charlie Lovett (2014 )We are thrilled to welcome bestselling author Charlie Lovett to Austenprose today as guest of honor for the virtual book launch party of his new book, First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen, just released by Viking (Penguin Group USA).

This intriguing new novel combines two of my favorite genres – historical romance and contemporary mystery. It features dual heroines: English author Jane Austen while she is writing her first draft of Elinor and Marianne (later entitled Sense and Sensibility) in 1796 Hampshire and Sophie Collingwood, an antiquarian bookseller in modern day London who stumbles upon a literary mystery that casts doubt upon the true authorship of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s second published novel and her most famous work.

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR FIRST IMPRESSIONS

  • “[An] ingenious novel….Ardent fans of Jane Austen and lovers of gripping stories will enjoy following Sophie’s pursuit of the truth.” — Publishers Weekly
  • “[An] appealing combination of mystery, romance, and bibliophilism….An absolute must for Austen fans, a pleasure for others.” — Booklist
  • “A delightful read that Janeites will love….[Lovett] adds bookish intrigue to the life of another luminary of English literature.” — Library Journal

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Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon Jane Austen Style

Dewey's 24-hour read-a-thon (2014)

I am participating in a special celebration of reading today – Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon. And, of course I have a Jane Austen theme!

For those of you unfamiliar with this bi-annual event, a book blogger named Dewey started the tradition in 2007. Here is a description of the event from it’s website:

For 24 hours, we read books, post to our blogs about our reading, and visit other readers’ blogs. We also participate in mini-challenges throughout the day. It happens twice a year, in April and in October.

It is an all day and night total celebration of reading! The best thing about participating is that you can read as much or as little as you like. I chose to read the first few chapters of three new Austenesque novels (no spoilers) and live-tweet my reactions as I progress. Here are the novels that I have selected: Continue reading

Mrs Darcy’s Diamonds: A Jane Austen Jewel Box Novella, by Jane Odiwe – A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt

Mrs Darcys Diamonds by Jane Odiwe x 200We are very happy to introduce you to Austenesque author Jane Odiwe’s new novella called Mrs. Darcy’s Diamonds, just published last month by White Soup Press. Jane tells me that she loves Georgian-era jewellery, and thought it might be fun to write a series of books with a jewellery theme, and have every piece different. She imagined there would be some family jewels at Pemberley, and that a ring given to Elizabeth by Mr. Darcy could help create much tension and drama for a wintry tale.

PREVIEW (from the publishers description)

Elizabeth is newly married to Fitzwilliam Darcy, the richest man in Derbyshire, owner of a vast estate, and master of Pemberley House. Her new role is daunting at first, and having to deal with Mr Darcy’s aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, is a daily challenge. But, Elizabeth is deeply in love and determined to rise to every test and trial she is forced to endure. When her husband presents her with a diamond ring, part of the precious and irreplaceable Darcy suite of jewels, she feels not only honoured and secure in her husband’s love, but also ready to accept her new responsibilities and position.

Mrs Darcy knows she will face exacting scrutiny at the approaching Christmas Ball, but it will be her chance to prove that she is a worthy mistress, and she is excited to be playing hostess to the Bennets, the Bingleys, and the gentry families of Derbyshire, as well as Mr Darcy’s French cousins. Antoine de Valois and his sister Louise have arrived at the invitation of Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Elizabeth is delighted that this young and lively couple are helping to bring Miss Georgiana Darcy out of her shell. However, when her ring goes missing before the ball, Elizabeth is distraught, and her dilemma further increased by the threat of a scandal that appears to involve the French cousins.

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