Giveaway Winners Announced for The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen Book Launch Party

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, by Syrie James (2012)152 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win one of the many prizes available during the book launch party for The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, by Syrie James.

The winners drawn at random are:

One box of Miss Lucy Steele tea from Bingley’s Teas

  • Beth Cohen who left a comment on December 30, 2012

One small box of 10 Lizzy and Darcy notes cards from JT Originals

  • Laura S. who left a comment on December 31, 2012

One Jane Austen charm bracelet by justbedesigns

  • Dana Huff who left a comment on December 30, 2012

Five print copies of The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen

  • Amanda M. who left a comment on December 30, 2012
  • Roselle N. who left a comment on December 30, 2012
  • Danielle C. who left a comment on January 09, 2013
  • Maggi G. who left a comment on December 30, 2012
  • Colleen Lane who left  a comment on December 30, 2012

Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by January 16, 2013.  Shipment is to US addresses only please.

Many thanks to author Syrie James for her fabulous guest blog and all the comments she left for the participants during her book launch. Also, a big round of applause to all of the kind giveaways from: Bingley’s Teas, JT Originals, Justbedesigns and Penguin USA! What a wonderful time we had and I hope everyone is inspired to read this superb new novel. Happy reading to the winners!

© 2013 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen Book Launch Party with Author Syrie James, & Giveaways

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen Book Launch GraphicPlease help us welcome today bestselling author Syrie James. She is joining us for a two-day book launch party in celebration of the debut of her new Austen-inspired novel, The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen.

I am so thrilled for the release of this new book. I was given the opportunity to read an early manuscript last winter and I must share that I was so impressed and excited about it that it was very difficult to keep the details a secret. It is structured as a novel within a novel—one of my favorite formats for fiction—revealing a contemporary story framing an historical novel. Samantha McDonough, a young American scholar is set on a quest to an ancient grand manor house in Devonshire to find the missing manuscript and meets the present owner Anthony Whitaker, who is at first reluctant to assist in her search until he realizes the possible financial gain. When they discover the missing manuscript they read it together, and so do we—a charming premise tying an historical novel together with a contemporary plot. The amazing thing about this book is that it was inspired by Jane Austen’s own short outline, A Plan of a Novel, a parody in which she comically describes characters and plot for a possible novel that was never written, or was it?

Our guest of honor today is the author herself, Syrie James, who will share insights with us on The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen. Welcome Syrie.

What was your inspiration to write The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen?

Like many of Jane Austen’s fans across the globe, the first time I read all her books, I finished the sixth one and said, “Is that it? Only six?” To continue feeding my Jane addiction, I read her juvenilia, her shorter works, her unfinished works, and all her preserved letters. Then I went back to the beginning and read her novels all over again. It still wasn’t enough. If only, I thought, she’d written a seventh novel!

Five years ago, I was at the JASNA AGM (Jane Austen Society of North America Annual General Meeting) in Chicago. It was my first time at a Jane Austen conference—a truly wonderful immersion experience that I like to call “Jane Austen heaven.” My novel The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austenhad been published the year before. I was nearly finished writing my Brontë book. I had researched both novels like crazy, felt like a walking Austen and Brontë encyclopedia, and was pondering what to write next.

While walking down Michigan Avenue, a title suddenly downloaded into my head: The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen. I felt a sudden tingle, a momentous feeling of excitement and impending change. I thought: what a great a title! What if Jane did write a manuscript that somehow went missing? As far as the world knows, she only wrote six full-length novels. Could I write the seventh? I knew it would be a Herculean task, just as surely as I knew that I was supposed to do it.

I pondered the idea for a while, seeking a storyline that would be truly “Jane.” One day, while perusing her minor works, I re-read a little piece Austen wrote a year before she died: Plan of a Novel. It’s a comedic outline for a book about a beautiful, accomplished heroine and her clergyman father, who’s driven from his curacy by a heartless man, forcing them to go forth on all sorts of adventures. Plan of a Novel pokes fun at the overly dramatic books of the time. Jane even added footnotes attributing various story elements to ‘hints’ or suggestions from well-meaning friends and relatives. I’d always thought it was hilarious.

An idea occurred to me: What if Jane’s Plan of a Novel wasn’t just a bit of silliness she dashed off as a parody? What if she wrote it in a mood of wit and wistfulness, making fun of a manuscript she’d written years earlier, but had lost and half-forgotten?

That’s how The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen was born. I was excited. I could write a novel based on an outline for a book that Jane Austen had written herself! Plan of a Novel is, on a cursory reading, very silly indeed; but I envisioned a way to delve beneath the surface and make it work on a serious level—as a story with characters we would care about—a tale with heart and meaning in true Jane Austen style.

I wrote an outline for the book, but was soon distracted by other projects. Several years went by. I wrote other novels. During this time, I continued to steep myself in Austen literature and lore until I felt that I knew her world, her work, and her life inside and out, well enough to attempt to write the Austen book that had been simmering in my brain. By now, I’d come up with a new approach that I thought would be even more interesting: to make it a novel with a novel, wrapping a modern day story around the missing manuscript, so that I could show the impact that find would have on their lives.

I developed the main characters in the Austen manuscript (all of whom remain nameless in Plan of a Novel) as per Austen’s description. My heroine, Rebecca Stanhope, is the daughter of a clergyman; she is beautiful, highly accomplished, plays the piano forte and harp, and sings “in the first stile.” Rebecca’s father, the Reverend William Stanhope, is (as in Austen’s Plan) an excellent man and a model parish priest. I gave him enough flaws to give the story some edge and mystery, and set it in motion.

I kept the best story elements of Jane Austen’s (very short) outline and tweaked others. Austen wrote that wherever the heroine goes, “somebody falls in love with her, and she receives repeated offers of marriage” and she is compelled to “support herself and her father by her talents.” These were fun scenes to write.

I created the rest of the characters and story on my own, following the path I believed Austen would have tread. Since Jane Austen often reused character names from her juvenilia in her mature novels, I did the same. I titled it The Stanhopes since most of her early titles were based on the names of her characters.

After I finished The Stanhopes, I wrote the modern day story around it. It was challenging to write the Austen part of the novel, but equally challenging to write Samantha and Anthony’s story—it took three drafts to get it right. Fortunately, Laurel Ann Nattress read an early draft and suggested ways to give the modern day story more edge and meaning—advice that was so brilliant and invaluable, I created a character based on her and put her into the book! J My editor, Jackie Cantor, also provided very insightful and helpful feedback. The whole book was a labor of love and a tribute to Jane. I hope readers enjoy the result!

Many thanks to author Syrie for her great guest blog and for allowing us to host her online book launch party for The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen here at Austenprose. I look forward to reading the reactions by Janeites and historical fiction fans to your fabulous new novel. I hope they will be as pleased as I was with your delightful fictional creation.

Author Syrie James (2012 )Author Bio:

Syrie James is the bestselling author of eight critically acclaimed novels, including The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë, Dracula My Love, Nocturne, Forbidden, and The Harrison Duet: Songbird and Propositions. Her books have been translated into eighteen foreign languages. In addition to her work as a novelist, Syrie is a screenwriter, a member of the Writers Guild of America, RWA, and a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. Syrie lives with her family in Los Angeles, California. Connect with her on her website, facebook, and Twitter.

A GRAND GIVEAWAY

Enter a chance to win one of these four amazing prizes being offered during our book launch party for The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by leaving a comment either asking author Syrie James a question about her new book or her writing career, or sharing what intrigues you about reading her new Austen-inspired novel, or which is your favorite Syrie James novel, so far? The contest is open to US residents and closes at 11:59 PT Wednesday, January 9, 2013. Winners to be announced on Thursday, January 10, 2013.  Good luck to all participants.

Miss Lucy Steele Tea from Bingley's Teas

Miss Lucy Steele tea from Bingley’s Teas

Country charm but not quite a peach! From the Jane Austen tea line at Bingley’s Tea, this lovely box of Miss Lucy Steele, black tea will win you over with its juicy country apricot, sunshine gold petals of marigold and overtly polite and sweet vanilla. * Tested and loved by fellow Janeites. A festival favorite!

Darcy and Lizzy cards by JT Originals (2012)

Jane Austen-Inspired Cards by JT Originals  

One small packet of 10 cards each of this lovely set of Darcy and Elizabeth greeting cards will go to two lucky winners, generously offered by designer and Janeite Janet Taylor. Printed on 100% recycled card stock, single fold, blank inside with square flap envelopes. A corresponding quote is on the front of each card with more of the quote on the back. All drawings and cards copyright Janet Taylor, JT originals.

Jane Austen Charm bracelet from justbedesigns

Jane Austen Lovely Charm Bracelet by justbedesigns

Designed by the talented Bianca Fleischman, this bracelet is quite unique. There are 5 handmade cameos featuring portraits of pretty Jane herself. In addition to the cameos are charms of a fine tip pen point, a book locket, a clock, a hand, a feather, a brown gem, a Victorian charm, and a silhouette of a head. The bracelet measures 8 inches and can be altered. From the Etsy shop of justbedesigns.

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, by Syrie James (2012)

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, by Syrie James

Syrie’s publisher Berkley Trade has generously offered one print copy of The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen to five lucky winners.

The party continues until December 31st, but comments left until January 9th, 2013 will qualify you for any of the prizes. (shipped to US addresses)

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, by Syrie James
Berkley Trade (2012)
Trade paperback (432) pages
ISBN: 978-0425253366

© 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress & Syrie James, Austenprose

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, by Syrie James – A Review

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, by Syrie James (2012)From the desk of Christina Boyd:

In such days as this, of on-line Jane Austen fan fiction, self-publishing, and perusing the stacks in traditional brick and mortar bookstores, it is incomprehensible to neglect reading the manifold of Jane Austen spin-offs, what-ifs and other such Austen-inspired musings. Those of us Austen addicts simply cannot get enough of her—and oftentimes inhale all we can in self-indulgent reading binges—in search of that same rush, that wonderful, satisfying moment we experienced upon discovering her for the first time. We all partake in the lamentation that she left this world but a handful of completed novels. And we all share in the unreserved, unrequited, whimsical dream to discover some misplaced work from our dear Jane. However, best-selling authoress, Syrie James has done just that! She has discovered the mythical, undiscovered novel in her soon to be released novel inside her novel, The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen.

Samantha McDonough, an American librarian and Austen scholar, is on an English holiday with her cardiologist boyfriend. Well actually, he is at a medical conference and she busies herself with sight seeing and visiting the shops. She purchases a 200-year-old poetry book during her wanderings and later discovers a letter tucked inside—that leads her to believe that it is in fact a letter from Jane Austen… “The minute I saw the letter, I knew it was hers. There was no mistaking it: the salutation, the tiny, precise handwriting, the date, the content itself, all confirmed its ancient status and authorship…” And now for the pudding—in it, this treasure refers to a missing manuscript Austen lost while visiting a country manor in Devonshire! “Even at a distance of fourteen years, I cannot help but think of it with a pang of fondness, sorrow and regret, as one would a lost child. Do you recall my theory as to how it came to be lost? I still maintain that it was all vanity, nonsense, and wounded pride. I should never have read it out loud to you that night during our stay but kept it safe with all the others- although we did have a good laugh!”

What Austen addict could resist such a temptation? Hence Samantha, after a phone call to her dear bookseller friend and fellow Austenite, Laurel Ann (yes! our very own Laurel Ann!!) follows the clues to said estate and meets the handsome yet frosty, Anthony Whitaker, Greenbriar’s present-day owner. After he realizes the monetary windfall such a discovery could bring him, he thaws and the two embark on a search of the mansion.

“’Let me try.’  Anthony wedged himself into the small, confined space beside me, until our faces were inches apart, and his lean muscled arm and the length of his torso were pressed against mine. My heart began pumping loudly in my ears – an effect, I told myself, that had nothing to do with his proximity but was due entirely to the excitement of the search and the anticipation of what we might find.”

It is this very cozy scene in which they discover the 340-page manuscript, a collection of 42 hand-sewn booklets! Lucky girl indeed, on all counts. Almost immediately they commence reading aloud The Stanhopes—the novel about a young woman whose clergyman father has fallen quite low under the specter of gambling parish monies. Cast out from all Rebecca Stanhope has ever known, they survive on wits and the charity of family amidst attempts to redeem her father.  “Mr. Stanhope was the picture of patience and delight through these many introductions, which Rebecca, although grateful, found more overwhelming than anything. While the gentlemen talked over the politics of the day and compared the accounts of the newspapers, the women gossiped about who had said and worn what at which party.” Like Austen’s canon, these Stanhopes are very much the people she would have known (or been), encountering friendemies, scoundrels, and even a handsome hero. Meanwhile, back in her real life, Samantha finds herself in unfamiliar terrain vis-à-vis her attraction to Anthony and what he might actually do with this secret Austen cache.

Ever since I heard the author of The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, Nocturne, Forbidden as well asa short story in Jane Austen Made Me Do It, had another novel in the works, I have been all anticipation. Syrie James luminously weaves an Austen-style plot within a charming contemporary love story. The real genius of this astonishing work is her use of Austen’s “Plan of a Novel,” the authentic notes for a book Jane Austen never wrote (that anyone knows about, of course…  says this ever hopeful fan girl.) By using Austen’s notes, Syrie James brought to life a tale that true Austen romantics and proficients (ie. Austen addicts) can only daydream but might pacify that gnawing want for more Austen—until a real missing manuscript is discovered. As expected, Syrie James’ latest offering, The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen is nothing short of masterful. This is a must buy—and should catapult to the top of your Must Read List for 2013.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, by Syrie James
Berkley Trade (2012)
Trade paperback (432) pages
ISBN: 978-0425253366

Cover image courtesy of Berkley Trade © 2012; text Christina Boyd © 2012, Austenprose.com

In Celebration of The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, by Syrie James

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen Book Launch GraphicPlease join us on December 30th & 31st, 2012 for a book launch party honoring the release of The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, a new Austen-inspired novel by best-selling author Syrie James.

Hailed as the queen of nineteenth century re-imaginings, Ms. James is renowned for her best-selling The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen and the intriguing The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte. She will be our very special guest for a two-day soiree contributing a blog on her inspiration to write her new book and participating in our reader discussion.

Based on Jane Austen’s comical short essay “A Plan of a Novel”, The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen is a novel within a novel; a contemporary story framing a previously unknown Jane Austen manuscript discovered by heroine Samantha McDonough at an English grand manor house in Devon. I have had the pleasure of reading The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen and I would like to briefly share my first impressions:

“For two hundred years Jane Austen fans have bemoaned the fact that six novels from their favorite author is just not enough. Syrie James rectifies this dilemma in The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, offering the ultimate Janeite fantasy: a novel within a novel honoring what we love most about Austen: her engaging stories, her rapier wit, and her swoon worthy romance. This pitch perfect novel might not truly be Austen’s undiscovered seventh book, but who cares? James’s brilliantly crafted prose will have you enchanted and in awe of her mastery until the very last page. 5 out of 5 Regency Stars!”

And, to add to the festivities there will be chances for great giveaways too!

I hope you can join us. We look forward to a very merry party.

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

© 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Giveaway Winners Announced for Jane Austen Birthday Soirée 2012

Austen Soirée

47 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win one copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It and one copy of The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen offered during the Jane Austen Birthday Soirée 2012. The winners drawn at random are:

Jane Austen Made Me Do It

  • Sofia Guerra who left a comment on December 16, 2012

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen

  • Bookfool, aka Nancy who left a comment on December 18, 2012

Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by December 27, 2012.  Shipment to US addresses only.

Many thanks to Maria of My Jane Austen Book Club for organizing the Jane Austen Birthday Soiree, and to author Syrie James and her publisher Berkley Trade for the giveaway copy of The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen. Happy reading to the winners!

© 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Jane Austen Birthday Soirée 2013: Celebrating A Plan of a Novel

Jane Austen Birthday Soirée (2012)Today, December 16th, is Jane Austen’s birthday. 237 years ago she was born at Steventon Rectory in Hampshire, England.

In celebration of my favorite author, I am participating in the Jane Austen Birthday Soiree being hosted by Maria at My Jane Austen Book Club blog. It is basically a blog hop with many great giveaways being offered. Each blog will feature a favorite passage from one of Austen’s works.

For your enjoyment, I have selected a short piece that exemplifies Austen’s humor, one her many talents that I am particularly fond of. A Plan of a Novel was written in 1816, probably in response to Austen’s visit to Carlton House in London with the Prince Regent’s librarian Rev. James Stanier Clarke and their subsequent correspondence in which he offers advice to the author on the subject of her next novel; and her family’s advice on the same subject! It is a parody, similar to her exuberant and fantastical Juvenilia, and her early novel Northanger Abbey, satirizing what was outrageous in the popular literature of her day. Interestingly, she also including notes in the margins indicating which of her family members made the suggestions!

The manuscript of Plan of a Novel now resides at The Morgan Library & Museum in New York City. You can view an image of the original document of A Plan of a Novel online at their website.

Plan of a Novel, according to hints from various quarters, by Jane Austen

Scene be in the Country, Heroine the Daughter of a Clergyman, one who after having lived much in the World had retired from it and settled in a Curacy, with a very small fortune of his own. — He, the most excellent Man that can be imagined, perfect in Character, Temper, and Manners — without the smallest drawback or peculiarity to prevent his being the most delightful companion to his Daughter from one year’s end to the other. — Heroine a faultless Character herself, — perfectly good, with much tenderness and sentiment, and not the least Wit — very highly accomplished, understanding modern Languages and (generally speaking) everything that the most accomplished young Women learn, but particularly excelling in Music —  her favourite pursuit —  and playing equally well on the PianoForte and Harp — and singing in the first stile. Her Person quite beautiful — dark eyes and plump cheeks. — Book to open with the description of Father and Daughter —  who are to converse in long speeches, elegant Language —  and a tone of high serious sentiment. — The Father to be induced, at his Daughter’s earnest request, to relate to her the past events of his Life. This Narrative will reach through the greatest part of the first volume — as besides all the circumstances of his attachment to her Mother and their Marriage, it will comprehend his going to sea as Chaplain to a distinguished naval character about the Court, his going afterwards to Court himself, which introduced him to a great variety of Characters and involved him in many interesting situations, concluding with his opinions on the Benefits to result from Tithes being done away, and his having buried his own Mother (Heroine’s lamented Grandmother) in consequence of the High Priest of the Parish in which she died refusing to pay her Remains the respect due to them. The Father to be of a very literary turn, an Enthusiast in Literature, nobody’s Enemy but his own — at the same time most zealous in discharge of his Pastoral Duties, the model of an exemplary Parish Priest. — The heroine’s friendship to be sought after by a young woman in the same Neighbourhood, of Talents and Shrewdness, with light eyes and a fair skin, but having a considerable degree of Wit, Heroine shall shrink from the acquaintance.

From this outset, the Story will proceed, and contain a striking variety of adventures. Heroine and her Father never above a fortnight together in one place, he being driven from his Curacy by the vile arts of some totally unprincipled and heart-less young Man, desperately in love with the Heroine, and pursuing her with unrelenting passion. — No sooner settled in one Country of Europe than they are necessitated to quit it and retire to another — always making new acquaintance, and always obliged to leave them. — This will of course exhibit a wide variety of Characters — but there will be no mixture; the scene will be for ever shifting from one Set of People to another — but All the Good will be unexceptionable in every respect — and there will be no foibles or weaknesses but with the Wicked, who will be completely depraved and infamous, hardly a resemblance of humanity left in them. — Early in her career, in the progress of her first removals, Heroine must meet with the Hero — all perfection of course — and only prevented from paying his addresses to her by some excess of refinement. — Wherever she goes, somebody falls in love with her, and she receives repeated offers of Marriage — which she refers wholly to her Father, exceedingly angry that he should not be first applied to. — Often carried away by the anti-hero, but rescued either by her Father or by the Hero — often reduced to support herself and her Father by her Talents and work for her Bread; continually cheated and defrauded of her hire, worn down to a Skeleton, and now and then starved to death. — At last, hunted out of civilized Society, denied the poor Shelter of the humblest Cottage, they are compelled to retreat into Kamschatka where the poor Father, quite worn down, finding his end approaching, throws himself on the Ground, and after 4 or 5 hours of tender advice and parental Admonition to his miserable Child, expires in a fine burst of Literary Enthusiasm, intermingled with Invectives against holders of Tithes. — Heroine inconsolable for some time — but afterwards crawls back towards her former Country — having at least 20 narrow escapes from falling into the hands of the Anti-hero — and at last in the very nick of time, turning a corner to avoid him, runs into the arms of the Hero himself, who having just shaken off the scruples which fetter’d him before, was at the very moment setting off in pursuit of her. — The Tenderest and completest Eclaircissement takes place, and they are happily united. — Throughout the whole work, Heroine to be in the most elegant Society and living in high style. The name of the work not to be Emma, but of the same sort as S. & S. and P. & P.

End

If this bit of joyful burlesque amusement made you smile, you might want to pre-order Syrie James’ new novel The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen to be released on December 31, 2012. This new novel was inspired by Jane Austen’s Plan of a Novel. You can read my preview here. I have read Ms. James’ new work and it is indeed a clever incorporation of Austen humor, romance and biting wit.

A GRAND GIVEAWAY

Now gentle readers, in celebration of our favorite author please leave a comment sharing your favorite Austen novel, novella, or minor work to qualify for a chance to win one copy each of Jane Austen Made Me Do It and The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen. The contest is open to US residents and ends on December 18th, 2012 at 11:59 pm Pacific time. Winner to be announced on Thursday, December 20th, 2012. Good luck to all, and Happy Birthday Jane!

Please visit the other participants in The Jane Austen Birthday Soirée 2013 by clicking on the links to their blogs listed below. Have fun!

© 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Preview & Excerpt of The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, by Syrie James

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, by Syrie James (2012)Gentle readers: Here is a special treat for you today. Author Syrie James has graciously offered an exclusive sneak peek to Austenprose readers of an excerpt of her new Austen-inspired novel, The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, which releases on December 31st.

I have had the pleasure of reading the entire novel and I can share with you that you have a great treat ahead of you. Here is a brief description of this exciting new book from the author of The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen and The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte.

Samantha McDonough cannot believe her eyes—or her luck. Tucked in an uncut page of a two-hundred-year old poetry book is a letter she believes was written by Jane Austen, mentioning with regret a manuscript that “went missing at Greenbriar in Devonshire.” Could there really be an undiscovered Jane Austen novel waiting to be found? Could anyone resist the temptation to go looking for it?

Making her way to the beautiful, centuries-old Greenbriar estate, Samantha finds it no easy task to sell its owner, the handsome yet uncompromising Anthony Whitaker, on her wild idea of searching for a lost Austen work—until she mentions its possible million dollar value.

After discovering the unattributed manuscript, Samantha and Anthony are immediately absorbed in the story of Rebecca Stanhope, daughter of a small town rector, who is about to encounter some bittersweet truths about life and love. As they continue to read the newly discovered tale from the past, a new one unfolds in the present—a story that just might change both of their lives forever.

We will also have the honor of hosting Syrie’s launch party for The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen right here on Austenprose.com on Monday, December 31, 2012. Syrie will be sharing her inspiration and insights into writing her new novel, discussing characters, and of course Jane Austen’s influence. So be sure to mark your calendars — there will be great giveaway prizes and fun conversation. It is the perfect way to ring in the New Year with one of our favorite Austenesque authors. Now, on to the excerpt. Enjoy!

How It Began

The minute I saw the letter, I knew it was hers.

There was no mistaking it: the salutation, the tiny, precise handwriting, the date, the content itself, all confirmed its ancient status and authorship.

I came upon it entirely by accident. It lay buried between the pages of a very old book of eighteenth-century British poetry that I’d found at a used bookstore in Oxford—an impulsive purchase I’d made to add to my library back home and to keep me company during a few days of sightseeing in England.

It was to be a quick trip—less than a week. When I’d learned that my boyfriend, Dr. Stephen Theodore, was attending a medical conference in London, I hadn’t been able to resist tagging along. Although I knew he’d be tied up almost the entire time, it was a great excuse to do some touring on my own. My first stop was Oxford, the site of my unfinished education. I still felt pangs about having to abandon my doctoral studies in English literature, and returning to the “city of dreaming spires” filled me with nostalgia. I’d spent a lovely June afternoon and evening exploring my favorite old haunts—wishing, every step of the way, that I could have shared them with Stephen—but we kept in constant touch via e-mail, phone, and text.

I’d found the book in a dusty pile on a shop’s back table, unappreciated and ignored. I could see why. It wasn’t the prettiest of volumes. It was still in its original, temporary binding—the pages hastily sewn together inside a cheap, cardboardlike cover, with the title printed on a tiny paper label pasted on the spine. The publication date was missing, but I judged the book to be at least two hundred years old.

I didn’t have a chance to really study my new treasure until the morning after I’d bought it. I awoke to grey and stormy skies, and after a leisurely English breakfast at my B&B, I decided to wait out the rain with a cup of coffee in my cozy little room. I sank down into a comfortable chair by the window, turned on the old-fashioned lamp, and carefully opened the aging volume.

The pages at the beginning were brown and soiled at the edges, but as I went further in they became clean and white, with only a light brown speckling in the margins. I slowly thumbed through the volume, smiling at the familiar, much-loved poems set in antique type. The edges of the pages were ragged where the original owner had used a knife to cut open the folds. Near the end of the book, I noticed that a few pages hadn’t been cut, but were still joined at the edge, creating a kind of pocket. I borrowed a letter opener from the B&B proprietor and gently sliced open the remaining pages. To my surprise, tucked in between the leaves of the last pocket, I discovered a single sheet of paper neatly folded into envelope shape and size.

I opened it. It was an unfinished letter. The paper was of substantial weight and bore a watermark and the distinctive ribbing from the paper molds of yesteryear. The ink was black-brown. The date and elegant cursive hand proclaimed that it had been written by quill. I read the greeting, and my heart jumped. With disbelieving eyes, I read it through.

Tuesday 3 September 1816

My dearest Cassandra,

Thank you for your Letter, which was truly welcome. I am much obliged to you for writing so soon after your arrival, and for sharing the particulars of your Lodgings, which I suspect provided far more entertainment for the reader, than for the writer.—Although your Bedroom sounds comfortable enough, I am sorry you had no fire, and am appalled that Mrs. Potter thinks to charge three Guineas a week for such a place! Cheltenham is clearly to be preferred in May! Your Pelisse is no doubt very happy it made the journey, for it will be much worn. I hope Mary gains more benefit from the waters than I did. Do let me know how she gets on. We are well here. The illness which I suffered at the time of your going has very kindly taken its leave, without so much as a good-bye, and I am happy to say that my back has given me very little pain the past few days. I am nursing myself into as beautiful a state as I can, so as to better enjoy Edward’s visit. He is a great pleasure to me. He is writing a Novel—We have all heard it, and it is very good and clever. I believe it could be a first-rate work, if only he can bring himself to finish it.

Listening to Edward’s composition has put me in something of a melancholy state and given rise to Feelings I had thought long got over, and of which I may give vent only to you. I promise to indulge for no more than five minutes.—It brings to mind that early Manuscript of my own, which went missing at Greenbriar in Devonshire. Even at a distance of fourteen years, I cannot help but think of it with a pang of fondness, sorrow, and regret, as one would a lost child.—Do you recall my theory as to how it came to be lost? I still maintain that it was all vanity, nonsense, and wounded pride. I should never have read it out to you that night during our stay but kept it safe with all the others—although we did have a good laugh! (What banner years for me—two Proposals!) It is tragic that I had only the one Copy.—And yet perhaps it was simply fate, and it was never meant to be seen. You did persuade me to tell no one about it while I was writing it, and you were right; it might indeed have troubled that most valued member of our family. Every time I thought of trying to write it out again, something happened to prevent it—all our travels—so difficult, you will recall, to work at Sydney Place—and then papa died, and it was quite impossible. To recall it now from memory would prove to be a task beyond my power. I have been inspired, however. Yesterday, I sat down and poked fun at my poor, lost creation with a piece of foolishness I call Plan Of A Novel. It is in part what I remember of that Story, embellished with hints from Fanny and others who have been kind enough to suggest what I ought to write next. I hope it will make you laugh.—Which reminds me. To-night, we are to drink tea with

It ended there—a fragment, unfinished, and unsigned.

Hands trembling, I read the letter a second time, and a third. There was only one person who could have written that letter; one person, and she happened to be one of the most famous and beloved authors of all time: Jane Austen. That she was my personal favorite author—that I had studied her life and work in detail, and that she had inspired the topic of my never-completed dissertation—only added to my astonishment and excitement.

If this was authentic—and I felt in my bones that it was—then I had come upon something extremely rare and valuable. Jane’s sister Cassandra, shortly before her death, had burned most of her correspondence with Jane, or expunged those parts she preferred to keep private, before giving them as mementos to her nieces and nephews. Some 161 letters survived and had been published—and I was certain this was not among them. This was something new.

End of excerpt. Be sure to join us on December 31 for all of the festivities!!!

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, by Syrie James
Berkley Trade (2012)
Trade paperback (432) pages
ISBN: 978-0425253366

© 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose