A Very Plain Young Man: Book Two of The Hapgoods of Bramleigh, by Christina Dudley – A Review

A Very Plain Young Man by Christina Dudley 2014 x 200From the desk of Katie P.:

In most novels, the heroine has some kind of quirk, trait, flaw, or unique quality—physical or otherwise–which the hero (and the reader) falls in love with. She could have a temper (Serena, Bath Tangle) or a limp (Sorrel, Friends and Foes). She might stutter (Horry, The Convenient Marriage) or make judgments too quickly (Elizabeth, Pride and Prejudice). She could love to twirl (Marianne, Edenbrooke) or love to take charge (Sophy, The Grand Sophy). She might be stubborn (Margaret Hale, North and South) or love matchmaking (Emma, Emma). She might love to read novels (Catherine, Northanger Abbey) or collect insects and plants (Alice, The Naturalist). The list could go on and on. But the one characteristic not often seen (or ever seen) in a Regency heroine is shortsightedness. In Christina Dudley’s latest continuation of the Hapgoods of Bramleigh series, A Very Plain Young Man, readers meet a rake in need of a bride…and a heroine in need of spectacles.

Frederick Tierney is three things: the heir to two estates, a rake, and an extremely handsome man (which he is very much aware). While in London, he breaks off his relationship with his latest conquest, for the first time getting tired of living the life of a profligate (which disappoints his family), saying false ‘I love you’s’ and being chased after by shallow women. He travels to Somerset for his younger brother’s wedding, and to escape his ex-lover’s clutches, he sends her a letter saying he’s soon to be married.

At the Midsummer Ball, Frederick overhears his sister-in-law’s eldest sister, Miss Elfrida Hapgood, commenting on his looks, but is shocked to hear her analysis that he is a very plain young man. Reluctantly intrigued by her, the only single woman of his acquaintance to have no interest in his opinion or attention, he decides that he has three goals concerning Elfrida: 1. Break her reserve by any means possible 2. Make her find him attractive and 3. Persuade her to become his fiancée.

Elfrida Hapgood is known by her family to be beautiful, calm, stubborn, and near-sighted. Everything farther than a few feet in front of her is blurry, and when she spots the supposedly attractive Frederick Tierney at a distance all she sees is a (very plain) blur. When he volunteers to sit for her sister’s painting and Elfrida gets roped into being another model, she discovers in their close contact that he is the very opposite of a plain young man and not her presupposed idea of a rake. She is mystified as to why he chooses to ignore all the beautiful women throwing themselves at him, instead choosing to spend his days with the Hapgoods.

Frederick’s bright taste in coats and inability to remain serious for any length of time irritates Elfrida, but when he makes it his mission to ruffle Elfrida’s usually unruffled feathers, she discovers that, for good or bad, her feelings for him are much stronger than she thought. When a woman from Frederick’s not so distant past returns, can he convince Elfrida that his life as a rake is over and that he loves only her? And when Elfrida’s cousin offers for her, will she choose security or will she choose love?

A Very Plain Young Man was such a delightful read. While I enjoyed The Naturalist with Alice and Joseph, the second in the series (and especially Elfrida and Frederick) stole my heart. The story and characters were far from predictable, and by the time I read the last page I had filled my Kindle copy with so much highlighting (223 highlighted sections to be exact) that it’s impossible to pick just one favorite quote or section. While this novel can be read by itself I suggest reading The Naturalist first, not because A Very Plain Young Man is not a strong enough novel to stand on its own, but because The Naturalist provides back story and gives the reader more time with the entertaining Hapgoods and Co.

One of my favorite things about A Very Plain Young Man was Christina Dudley’s take on the reformed rake archetype of Regency hero. While staying true to the historical time period’s view of male indiscretions, she created a hero who doesn’t fit the stereotypical “rake” mold. High society accepted affairs and indiscretions (as long as they were handled fairly discreetly), and while Frederick lived this life initially, he felt guilty not only because of Elfrida, but also (and what stands out to me) because of his family.

The two best words I can use to describe Frederick Tierney, Elfrida Hapgood, and the entire novel are ‘enchanting’ and ‘sparkling’. The characters were unique and had depth, and the novel overall was both a witty comedy of manners and a beautiful love story. While considering the pros and cons of A Very Plain Young Man (“Think, Katie, surely there must be at least one negative!”) I can honestly say that I found nothing I disliked about this novel. I highly recommend both books in The Hapgoods of Bramleigh series and look forward to any future Regency romances by Christina Dudley!

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

A Very Plain Young Man: Book Two of The Hapgoods of Bramleigh, by Christina Dudley
BellaVita Press (2014)
Trade paperback (380) pages
ISBN: 978-0983072140

Cover image courtesy of BellaVita Press © 2014; text Katie P. © 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.”

Jane Austen and Names, by Maggie Lane – A Review

Jane Austen and Names, by Maggie Lane (2014 )From the desk of Tracy Hickman:

It seems only natural that an author would be interested in names. My writer friends collect interesting names for future characters and are constantly putting together different combinations. A young Jane Austen playfully tried out a selection of husband names for herself in her father’s parish register of marriages. Expectant parents pour over lists of baby names and struggle to find just the right one. As Maggie Lane points out in the introduction, “The pleasure of choosing names for progeny is one that maiden aunts normally forfeit. But not Jane Austen.” Jane Austen and Names explores her choice of character names and what these choices reveal about the culture she lived in. We also learn about Austen’s personal likes and dislikes through excerpts from her letters.

Ms. Lane begins with a chapter titled, “A Brief History of Names” in which she outlines the changing “common stock” of English Christian names. Names are drawn from a variety of sources and each name has an origin and meaning. The author asserts that these are much less important to most name choosers (parents and authors) than the cyclical rise and fall of names on the social scale. The following describes the cycle that applies as much to our current-day name choices as it did to Regency England.

“Typically, a name or set of names will be taken up at the top of the social hierarchy, being found alien, even absurd, by the majority. Eventually, through familiarity, it will become acceptable to a broad range of people; and by the time it has percolated to the very base of the pyramid, it will have long been shunned by the trend-setters, who are now looking elsewhere. Elsewhere might be a new set of imports, or more likely the revival of an old set of names.”

The next chapters examine the social status of various categories of names as well as naming patterns and practices at the time Austen’s novels were written. Jane’s own name is used to illustrate the trend away from diminutive forms (Sally, Nanny, Betty) very soon after her birth. Her father wrote to relatives in 1775 to announce her birth, declaring, “She is to be Jenny.” However, she was never known by this name, presumably because Jenny began to seem dated, a name for old ladies or servants.

In the last three chapters, the book comes into its full power, examining the use of Christian names to mark the level of intimacy in a social relationship and Austen’s “Feeling for Names.” In our much more casual society, we may miss the full meaning of referring to someone as Catherine rather than Miss Morland. But, as Maggie Lane points out:

“To use a person’s Christian name was a mark of intimacy. Well-bred people with feelings of delicacy towards others did not presume on this intimacy until it was clear that an acquaintance was becoming a real friendship. Most acquaintance, of course, never progressed this far, and people would remain on formal terms for as long as they knew each other.”

Here the author contrasts the friendships between Catherine Morland, Isabella Thorpe and Eleanor Tilney in Northanger Abbey. Where Isabella rushes Catherine into premature intimacy “with no foundation in real feeling” and the two are quickly calling each other by their Christian names, Eleanor and Catherine’s friendship progresses much more slowly and is based on “secure knowledge of one another’s character and values.” Examples from Jane Austen’s other works are included in this chapter, and I look forward to re-reading each novel while paying special attention to the use of names.

The book concludes with an alphabetical index of the names used in Jane Austen’s novels. Ms. Lane’s research is impressively detailed and even includes characters referred to in other people’s conversation. I found only one minor error, referring to “Admiral Crawford” in Persuasion rather than “Admiral Croft” under the listing for the name Stephen. Thanks to Ms. Lane, I now know that Stephen was rarely used by the gentry in Jane Austen’s day, and that she used this name for two servants, one of whom was the Admiral’s man in Persuasion and the other was a groom or postilion in Mansfield Park.

Originally published in print format by Blaise Books in 2002, this digital eBook was recently re-issued by Endeavour Press Ltd. Well-written and engaging in its tone, Jane Austen and Names provides a wealth of information about Jane Austen’s time and a greater understanding of her works. It would make a wonderful addition to any Janeite’s bookshelf.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Jane Austen and Names, by Maggie Lane
Endeavour Press Ltd. (2014)
Digital eBook (91) pages
ASIN: B00JYJ0WWO

Cover image courtesy of Endeavour Press Ltd. © 2014; text Tracy Hickman © 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.”

Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Book Covers, by Margaret C. Sullivan: Cover Reveal & Preview

Jane Austen Cover to Cover, by Margaret Sullivan 2014

I am very pleased to have the ironic honor of officially revealing the cover of a new book about Austen-inspired book covers, Jane Austen: Cover to Cover, by Margaret Sullivan. I think it rather handsome myself. My background in design gives it two big thumbs up to the artist commissioned by Quirk Books and to the author for having the good taste of approving it.

Cover design is a tricky thing that I am quite opinionated about. Over the years there have been many good, bad and down-right ugly Jane Austen book covers and I am so excited to see what Margaret has selected illustrating our favorite author’s novels, nonfiction and more. Here is a brief preview of the book from the publisher and the author.

Congratulations to Margaret.  Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Book Covers releases on 11 November, 2014. Pre-orders are available through Quirk Books and many online and brick and mortar booksellers.

DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER: 

Jane Austen’s six novels are true classics, still immensely popular some 200 years after their first publication.

But although the celebrated stories never change, the covers are always different. Jane Austen Cover to Cover compiles two centuries of design, from elegant Victorian hardcovers and the famed 1894 “Peacock” edition to 1950s pulp, movie tie-in editions, graphic novels, foreign-language translations, and many, many others. Filled with beautiful artwork and insightful commentary, this fascinating and visually intriguing collection is a must for Janeites, design geeks, and book lovers of every stripe.

FROM THE AUTHOR:

In the past few years, I’ve become increasingly interested in the aspect of Jane Austen’s life as a professional author. There is ample evidence that Austen took a very pragmatic and careful approach to the business of being an author. She sounds like any modern author, complaining about the slowness of the printers and the business practices of her publishers. When Quirk Books approached me to write Jane Austen Cover to Cover, it was probably my interest in this subject that made me want to write it.

The other reason I wanted to write it was the splendid opportunity to snark funny book covers! I’ve been doing that for years on my blog and among friends online and off, and even had a modest collection of Austen novels with amusing covers. There is certainly a representation of silly covers in the book, but as it developed I was really thrilled to find out how many truly beautiful covers and designs I found, particularly from recent years. Designers are doing some great work for our favorite author.

I’ve read and written extensively on Jane Austen’s novels and the time in which they occur, and Jane Austen Cover to Cover is a different look at the novels–the actual production of the objects that we read. It’s a two-century journey from handmade paper and handset type through everything digital, and the lodestar is the novels themselves–those gorgeous, wonderful stories that never change, and are always there to delight us.

GIVEAWAY CHANCE FOR

JANE AUSTEN COVER TO COVER 

Enter a chance to win one of thirty print copies available of Jane Austen Cover to Cover by Margaret C. Sullivan offered through goodreads until 01 August 2014. Just follow this link and click on the “enter to win” button to be qualified. shipment to US addresses. Good luck to all!

margaretcsullivan2014x150AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY:

Margaret C. Sullivan is the founder of AustenBlog.com and the author of The Jane Austen Handbook and There Must Be Murder, and contributed the story “Heard of You” to the anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It. Her favorite Austen novel is Persuasion. She Tweets as @mcsullivan and hangs out on Facebook. By day she is a web content coordinator for a large international law firm, and by night attempts to convince the world that Henry Tilney really is the best Austen hero.

Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Book Covers, by Margaret C. Sullivan
Quirk Books (11 November 2014), 224 pages
eBook: ASIN: B00KEOF6LU
Hardcover: ISBN: 978-1594747250

Cover image courtesy of Quirk Books © 2014; text Margaret C. Sullivan © 2014, Austenprose.com

The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen: A Novel, by Shannon Winslow: Preview and Exclusive Excerpt

The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen, by Shannon Winslow (2014)We are very happy to share the exciting news of the upcoming publication of Shannon Winslow’s next book, The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen, to be released on August 11, 2014. Those who are familiar with her bestselling The Darcy’s of Pemberley and Return to Longbourn will be thrilled to learn about this new “what if” story focusing on Jane Austen’s personal inspiration to write her final novel, Persuasion. Here is a brief preview and exclusive excerpt to peak your curiosity.

PREVIEW (from the publisher’s description)

For every fan who has wished Jane Austen herself might have enjoyed the romance and happy ending she so carefully crafted for all her heroines… 

What if the tale Jane Austen told in her last, most poignant novel was actually inspired by momentous events in her own life? Author Shannon Winslow theorizes that Austen did in fact write Persuasion in homage to her one true love – a sea captain of her own – and that she might also have recorded the details of that romance in a private journal, written alongside the progressing manuscript. In The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen, Winslow weaves the two together, and we finally hear Jane’s own parallel story of lost love, second chances, and finding her happy ending.

EXCERPT (from Shannon Winslow)

Here is a never-before-seen excerpt of how Jane first met her Captain Devereaux. She was just twenty-two at the time, and the date was December 31, 1797.

“Jane, do allow me to introduce to you a very good friend of mine,” said my cousin Eliza (newly made my sister-in-law) at the breakfast following her wedding to my brother Henry. “This is Captain Philippe Devereaux.”

I looked up and there he was. The second before, I had been laughing and rattling on with someone else – who, I really cannot remember – in a most frivolous fashion. But my chatter died instantly away when I saw the dashing gentleman in naval uniform before me. He was tall, and, as I have now written of Captain Wentworth, a remarkably fine young man. My breath caught in my throat as he reached out his confident hand for mine, and I stood frozen for a moment, unable to do anything more than stare at him.

I had beheld plenty of handsome men before, of course, none of whom had demonstrated any ability to deprive me of my considerable powers of speech. This was different, however; I knew it at once, even before Captain Devereaux opened his mouth. Perhaps it was the soulful way he returned my gaze with those searching, dark eyes of his. Or perhaps I had a certain sense, even then, that my life would be forever changed because of the stranger before me.

The gentleman bowed deeply over my hand. “Enchanted,” he said in a low rumble. I believe I murmured something unintelligible in response, and then Eliza, looking at me archly, got on with the business of making us acquainted.

“Captain Devereaux has been a friend to me – as he was to my first husband – for many years. He did me a great service at the beginning of the Revolution, seeing to it that my son, my mother, and I came safely away from France.” Then, addressing the gentleman, she added, “Dear Jane is by far my most favourite cousin, sir, and it is my considered opinion that two such charming people ought to know one another.” With no more than that, she left us together.

We continued to stare at one another until finally the captain said, “I am very happy to make your acquaintance at last, Miss Austen. In truth, it was all my own idea. So highly has your cousin spoken of you that I insisted on receiving an introduction.”

His English was flawless. His elegant accent, however, although faint, was decidedly French like his name. A French expatriate in the British navy? My quick curiosity demanded satisfaction. But first, I nodded, acknowledging his compliment, and I managed to say, “I am pleased that you did, sir.”

This is when I should by rights have smiled coyly. Here was my opening for trying my powers of flirtation on a new and very appealing subject. Yet I was too much overcome by the strength of the man’s mere presence to attempt it. His nearness made my every nerve come alive. It excited an almost painful mingling of attraction and agitation. Ordinary flirting was out of the question. How could I hope to be clever when I could neither think clearly nor still the violent flutterings inside my breast? Besides, some inner voice told me that this was not a person to be taken lightly.

So instead, I did my best to swallow my discomposure as I said in earnest, “Eliza has the most remarkable friends. I am already intrigued by what she says about you, Captain, that you helped her to escape from France. I can only suppose that there must have been considerable danger involved.”

He dropped his eyes for a moment. “Some, yes, but I would not wish to excite ideas of heroism. It was my own life I was saving as well as hers when we sailed for England.”

This surprising humility impressed me. “I am sure you are too modest,” I said. “May I know more about how it happened?”

A shadow crossed his face. “Oh, no. Reciting my sad history can be of no use on a day meant for celebration. Let us find a more suitable topic. Your cousin has told me that you possess a very keen interest in literature, Miss Austen. Pray tell me, what is the kind of thing you most like to read?”

As disappointed as I was to have been turned aside from the first subject, the second was equally compelling. “All kinds, Captain, or very nearly all. How could I chuse only one food when there is a banquet spread before me?”

One side of his mouth pulled up into a half smile. “That is well expressed, mademoiselle. I myself take my reading pretty equally from biographies, plays, poetry, and the papers. For moral extracts, I like Dr. Johnson. Have you read Dr. Johnson, Miss Austen?”

“I have indeed! He is a great favourite with me as well.”

“Excellent. We have already found one thing we have in common. I very much look forward to discovering many more.”

By this time, my initial unease was fading, nearly done away with by growing exhilaration. Abandoning my last scruple, I plunged ahead. “Then, at the risk of offending you, sir, I will be so bold as to ask you this. Do you admit to reading novels?”

“I do! And furthermore, I am not ashamed of saying so. Although novels may not yet enjoy the respect they deserve, I believe nowhere else is the excellence of the human mind and imagination so well displayed. I have novels to thank for taking me on some very fine adventures – to the far corners of the world as well as to the hidden reaches of the soul.”

I could not trust myself to speak at this, so deeply were my already-excited feelings gratified by the captain’s warm commendation of that art form which meant the world to me. It seemed there could be no better proof of our compatibility.

“You smile, Miss Austen, and yet I cannot judge what you are thinking. Do not leave me in suspense. What do you say to my confession that I esteem the novel?”

I gathered my wits together again. “I could not agree with you more, Captain, I assure you.”

We pursued this happy line for several minutes longer, comparing lists of our preferred novels and discussing in further detail those we had read in common. Nothing could have been more satisfying or more thrilling. It was not that our opinions, Captain Devereaux’s and mine, always coincided; they did not, in truth. But here at last was an attractive gentleman – a very attractive gentleman – with excellent manners, a well-informed mind, and a wealth of intelligent conversation. I had nearly despaired of finding one such; now he stood before me. And, of equal importance, he appeared to be as taken with me as I was with him.

I saw and heard nothing beyond ourselves. For the moment, my world had contracted to that one conversation, and yet it had at the same time immeasurably expanded to encompass all the pleasurable possibilities as to where it might lead…

END OF EXCERPT

The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen: A Novel, by Shannon Winslow will be available from Heather Ridge Arts on August 11, 2014 in trade paperback and digital eBook. 

BOOK LAUNCH PARTY

I am also happy to announce that Austenprose.com will be hosting the official online book launch party kicking off the release of The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen on Monday, August 11, 2014. The celebration will include a guest blog from the author and fabulous prizes, so please mark your calendar and return for the festivities!!!

Author Shannon Winslow (2013)AUTHOR BIO

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

Her two sons grown, Ms. Winslow lives with her husband in the log home they built in the countryside south of Seattle, where she writes and paints in her studio facing Mt. Rainier.

Learn more at Shannon’s website/blog (www.shannonwinslow.com). Follow her on Twitter (as JaneAustenSays) and on Facebook.

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

Winner Announced of Two Jane Austen Note Cards

Syrie Notecards. x 200jpg

We have a winner of the two Jane Austen-inspired note cards offered with the excerpt of Jane Austen’s First Love, by Syrie James. Drawn from the comments, our lucky recipient is…

  • Patricia Finnegan who left a comment on July 01, 2014

Congratulations Patricia. Please contact me with your address by July 16, 2014. Shipment to US address.

A big thank you to all who left comments and to author Syrie James for contributing the cards that she purchased at the Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton, England. The sneak peek of her new novel Jane Austen’s First Love was fabulous. I look forward to its release on August 5, 2014 from Berkley Trade.

BOOK LAUNCH PARTY

Be sure to mark your calendars for the official online book launch party on July 28, 2014 for Jane Austen’s First Love right here on Austenprose.com. Syrie will be contributing a blog about her inspiration to write her new novel and will be revealing the back story of Edward Taylor, the dishy young man who the teenage Jane Austen fondly admired.

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