Book Previews, Editor's Picks, Historical Fantasy, Paranormal & Gothic Fiction, Holiday Gifts, Jane Austen's Lady Susan, Jane Austen's Works

A Preview of Plumleaf Press Vintage Classics: The Perfect Christmas Gift for the Discerning Reader

Happy Friday, dear readers. How is your holiday shopping going? I find that when there are so many gift editions of classic novels available, it is difficult to choose. Here’s my criteria for narrowing down the field:

  1. A beautifully designed cover and interior.
  2. Easy-to-read text.
  3. An author bio, and an insightful introduction.

This year my number one choice is the Plumleaf Vintage—Set of 3, which includes three lesser known classics written by women, and therefore much more cherished by the discerning reader. The collection features three epistolary novels: Lady Susan, by Jane Austen, The Grey Woman, by Elizabeth Gaskell, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Brontë.

Designed by Canadian independent publisher, Plumleaf Press, two of the stunning covers were created by Kay Widdowson, a UK illustrator. She has captured the Gothic tone of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and the sophisticated and mercurial quality of Lady Susan as a swan, perfectly. The design of the books with cardstock covers and elegant French flaps adds a polished quality to this gift book package.

The icing on the cake for me was the selection of authors for the introductions. Natalie Jenner, Molly Greeley, and Finola Austin were all debut novelists reviewed here on Austenprose.com in 2020 whose historical fiction novels were both critically acclaimed and embraced by readers. You will find their brief introductions energetic, and insightful.

Now, let me guide you even further down the literary garden path. The publisher has kindly supplied additional information about their new series and each book.

Lucky is the recipient of this amazing collection. Be sure to gift an additional set to yourself!

Happy Holidays to one and all!

Laurel Ann

ABOUT THE VINTAGE SERIES

Plumleaf Vintage is a series of beautifully designed novels by women authors — beloved classics that may be at risk of being forgotten or overlooked. The stories in Plumleaf Vintage eloquently reflect the complexity of being a woman in the time and culture portrayed. They speak to the challenges faced by women to define an individual identity separate from a man’s and explore the ways that women have always pushed against the boundaries imposed by the mores of the time. The first three books in this series are classic epistolary novels, a form that lends itself to great intimacy with the characters’ thoughts and feelings.

LADY SUSAN, by Jane Austen, introduction by Natalie Jenner

BOOK DESCRIPTION

One of Jane Austen’s earliest works, LADY SUSAN is an epistolary novel with a variety of narrative voices telling the story of Lady Susan Vernon, the title character. In Lady Susan, Austen creates an imaginative world filled with intrigue, betrayal, and gossip. Lady Susan is described by author Natalie Jenner as “one of the most duplicitous and manipulative characters” of all that Austen ever created.

With an introduction by Natalie Jenner, author of the international bestseller THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY. Plumleaf Vintage is a series of beautifully designed novels by women authors — beloved classics that may be at risk of being forgotten or overlooked. The stories in Plumleaf Vintage eloquently reflect the complexity of being a woman in the time and culture portrayed. They speak to the challenges faced by women to define an individual identity separate from a man’s and explore the ways that women have always pushed against the boundaries imposed by the mores of the time. The first three books in this series are classic epistolary novels, a form that lends itself to great intimacy with the characters’ thoughts and feelings.

AUTHOR BIO

JANE AUSTEN (1775–1817), a noted English novelist, was the seventh of eight children born to a minister and his wife in a small village in Hampshire, England. She was very close to her sister, Cassandra, the only other daughter in the family. Her first published novel was Sense and Sensibility, followed by Pride and PrejudiceMansfield Park, and EmmaNorthanger Abbey and Persuasion were published after her death, as was Lady Susan. Her novels vividly and wittily portrayed life among the middle and upper classes in 19th century England. All her novels were published anonymously. That she was a writer was known initially only by a few in her immediate family; soon, however, her brother Henry spread the word of her writing, and even though Austen had wished to remain anonymous, she did enjoy the public acknowledgement. Jane Austen’s work has had universal and enduring appeal, and her books, particularly Pride and Prejudice, are still very popular.

QUOTE FROM THE INTRODUCTION

“Austen displays in Lady Susan an entire world apiece with that of her later fiction: devious charmers, authentic heroines, self-deluded suitors, and misguided parents, all operating under the twin pressures of poverty and social ambition.”

NATALIE JENNER was born in England, raised in Canada, and graduated from the University of Toronto with consecutive degrees in English Literature and Law. She worked for decades in the legal industry and also founded the independent bookstore Archetype Books in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs. A lifelong devotee of all things Jane Austen, The Jane Austen Society is her first published novel. Find her online at NatalieJenner.com.

  • Lady Susan, by Jane Austen, introduction by Natalie Jenner
  • Rubicon Publishing Inc. (January 1, 2021)
  • Perfect Paperback (120) pages
  • ISBN: ‎ 978-1486936212

AMAZON | PLUMLEAF PRESS | GOODREADS

THE GREY WOMAN, by Elizabeth Gaskell, introduction by Molly Greeley

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Originally a three-part novella published in a literary journal by Charles Dickens, THE GREY WOMAN tells a powerful story of deception and distrust in an epistolary format from the perspective of the protagonist, Anna Scherer. Similar to other Gaskell works, a recurring theme is the oppression of women through marriage. This book is considered ahead of its time for its progressive feminist views. With an introduction by Molly Greeley, bestselling author of THE CLERGYMAN’S WIFE and THE HEIRESS.

AUHTOR BIO

ELIZABETH GASKELL (1810–1865) is a highly regarded Victorian novelist. Her father was a minister; her mother died when she was an infant, and she was raised by an aunt, to whom she was very close. At the age of 22, she married William Gaskell, a minister, and lived in Manchester. She had a very busy life as a wife and mother; as well, she was active in charity and social justice work. Much of Gaskell’s writing espoused social causes, such as Mary Barton, a story of a working-class family in late 1830s Manchester. Her most popular novel is Cranford, a story of the day-to-day life of inhabitants of a small village. Charlotte Brontë was a close friend of Gaskell, and Gaskell’s 1857 biography The Life of Charlotte Brontë was much admired. Gaskell’s final book, Wives and Daughters, unfinished upon her sudden death, is considered by some to be her finest work. Her writing fell out of favour in the early twentieth century but is enjoying renewed respect among academics and lovers of good books.

QUOTE FROM THE INTRODUCTION

“Too often, Gaskell’s books—like those of many women—were dismissed by critics as merely “charming.” But this overlooks the depths under the surface of her writing. Beneath The Grey Woman’s gothic exterior, with its dreary castle and the mysterious inhabitants within, seethe feminist themes that are still relevant today, 160 years after its writing, leaving no doubt as to the enduring quality of Gaskell’s work.”

MOLLY GREELEY is the author of The Clergyman’s Wife and The Heiress. ​She lives in northern Michigan with her husband and three children and can often be found with her laptop at local coffee shops. Find her online at MollyGreeley.com

  • The Grey Woman, by Elizabeth Gaskell, introduction by Molly Greeley
  • Rubicon Publishing Inc. (January 1, 2021)
  • Perfect Paperback (92) pages
  • ISBN:‎ 978-1486936229

AMAZON | PLUMLEAF PRESS | GOODREADS

THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL, by Anne Brontë, introduction by Finola Austin

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Anne Brontë’s second and final novel, THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL, is an epistolary novel that tells the story through letters and a diary. It explores the challenges faced by an independent woman as she struggles for freedom from a repressive and abusive marriage and encounters suspicion and gossip from the community to which she has fled. The novel was first published under a pseudonym and scandalized Victorian society. With an introduction by Finola Austin, author of the bestselling novel BRONTË’S MISTRESS.

AUTHOR BIO

ANNE BRONTË (1820–1849), pseudonym Acton Bell, was an English poet and novelist, the youngest daughter of the Reverend Patrick and Maria Brontë and younger sister of Charlotte and Emily. Because of family finances, Anne worked as a governess for several years and was a keen observer of the life of those with wealth and privilege, noting what she saw as the lack of morality they espoused. Anne never married and died at the age of 29 from tuberculosis.

Anne wrote two novels: Agnes Grey (1847) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848). Anne’s mission in her writing, as she said in the preface to the second edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, was “to tell the truth, for truth always conveys its own moral to those who are able to receive it … I would rather whisper a few wholesome truths therein than much soft nonsense.”

QUOTE FROM THE INTRODUCTION

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall hasn’t been history’s or Hollywood’s favourite Bronte book, just as it wasn’t Charlotte [Bronte]’s—but maybe, just maybe, you’ll find that it’s yours.”

FINOLA AUSTIN, also known as the Secret Victorianist on her award-winning blog, is an England-born, Northern Ireland-raised, Brooklyn-based historical novelist of Bronte’s Mistress and lover of the 19th century. By day, she works in digital advertising. Find her online at FinolaAustin.com.

  • The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Bronte, introduction by Finola Austin
  • Rubicon Publishing Inc. (January 1, 2021)
  • Perfect Paperback (492) pages
  • ISBN: 978-1486936571

AMAZON | PLUMLEAF PRESS | GOODREADS

All three novels can be ordered separately, or as the beautifully designed Plumleaf Vintage—Set of 3, through the publisher by following this link to the Plumleaf Press website.

Cover images, book descriptions, and author bios compliments of Rubicon Publishing, Inc. © 2021; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2021, Austenprose.com

Austenesque, Book Reviews, Holiday Reading, Pride and Prejudice Sequels

A Hopeful Holiday: A Pride and Prejudice Novella, by Heather Moll — A Review 

From the desk of Sophia Rose: 

What if Lady Catherine never makes her infamous visit at Longbourn? What if Mr. Darcy never returns to the neighborhood? Can Jane Austen’s most iconic pair still discover a way to ‘only remember the past’ with pleasure together? It might take a bit of yuletide mischief and interference orchestrated by a talented writer, Heather Moll, whose tales I have enjoyed in the past.

A Hopeful Holiday opens with Elizabeth Bennet looking forward to the holiday season with a tired, dreary spirit. Her family has noticed and happily encourage her to accept Charlotte Collins’ invitation to visit Hunsford. Elizabeth accepts and is full of regrets over the outcome of her last visit and the heated speech she delivered to Mr. Darcy having no idea at the time that her feelings would be quite the opposite a half year Continue reading “A Hopeful Holiday: A Pride and Prejudice Novella, by Heather Moll — A Review “

Austenesque, Book Previews, Pride and Prejudice Sequels

A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt of Charlotte’s Story: A Novel from the World of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, by Carolyn Korsmeyer

Happy Black Friday, dear readers! Here is a new Austenesque book to pull you away from your online holiday shopping featuring one of Jane Austen’s most pragmatic minor characters from Pride and Prejudice, Charlotte Lucas.

Author Carolyn Korsmeyer’s new novel, Charlotte’s Story, was released last month by TouchPoint Press. It gives us an insider’s view of Pride and Prejudice from the perspective of the Charlotte Lucas. An unmarried spinster at the beginning of the novel, she soon after agrees to marry the Bennet’s odious cousin Mr. Collins. Along with heroine Elizabeth Bennet, we cringe at her choice of husband and don’t have much hope for her. It will be interesting to see how Korsmeyer continues her life, and hopefully gives her some happiness.

The author has kindly offered an exclusive excerpt to give our readers a peek inside the story. Enjoy!

I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving and are enjoying the leftovers from your turkey dinner! Continue reading “A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt of Charlotte’s Story: A Novel from the World of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, by Carolyn Korsmeyer”

Austenesque, Book Reviews, Holiday Reading, Pride and Prejudice Sequels

His Perfect Gift, by L.L. Diamond — A Review

From the desk of Katie Jackson:

Sometimes all that is required to convince a person to pursue their heart’s desire is to present evidence that it is not, in fact, an impossible achievement. In His Perfect Gift—the latest Pride and Prejudice variation from prolific Austenesque author L.L. Diamond—our hero considers the possibility of becoming the kind of man who is capable of pleasing a woman worthy of being pleased and earning her esteem.

Fitzwilliam Darcy has escaped Hertfordshire with great haste, along with his friend Bingley, following the ball at Netherfield, keenly feeling the danger he’d been in and hoping to soon forget the cause: the enchanting Miss Elizabeth Bennet. “Was there nothing that would spare him the torment of her memory?” (Loc 84) In an attempt to lighten Darcy’s dismal disposition, his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam persuades him to journey to Cheapside for Continue reading “His Perfect Gift, by L.L. Diamond — A Review”

Book Reviews, Historical Romance, Holiday Reading

The Mistletoe Countess, by Pepper Basham — A Review  

From the desk of Katie Patchell: 

‘Tis the season. This is the time of year that especially prompts me to curl up with my cat in a window seat, sipping tea, and breaking into my TBR pile.

Just in time for a Thanksgiving Day read, let me introduce you to a new Edwardian romance, The Mistletoe Countess, by Pepper Basham. Combining electric romance with mysterious adventures, this novel is sure to kick off this winter season with a bang. 

Gracelynn Ferguson – In the wealthy Ferguson household, rank and value follows birth order. Lillias, the firstborn, is silver tongued, secretive, and trained to marry a lord. Grace, the second born, is a wildling in love with books, adventure, and truth-telling. Continue reading “The Mistletoe Countess, by Pepper Basham — A Review  “

Book Previews, Regency Romance

A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt of Kingscastle: A Classic Regency Romance in the Tradition of Georgette Heyer, by Sophia Holloway

Happy Friday, dear readers. Fall is an exciting time for book lovers with so many new titles being released before the holiday season. It’s always a challenge to narrow down our options. I was struck by the gorgeous cover of Kingscastle, a new Regency romance by Sophia Holloway. Yes, I am shallow and freely admit to being swayed by a beautiful book cover.

Kingscastle was released yesterday by British publisher Allison & Busby. Holloway is the author of two previous historical novels set during the same time: The Devil You Know, & Bless Thine Inheritance. The subtitle of Kingscastle states that it was written in the tradition of Regency romance queen, Georgette Heyer, meanwhile, the book description proclaims that Bridgerton fans will take it to heart. I found this marketing pitch and mixing of styles within the genre interesting and I had to check it out for myself. If you are curious to learn more, please return on December 27, 2021, for our full review.

The publisher has kindly offered an exclusive excerpt for our readers. I hope it gives you a feel for the author’s style and the tone of the novel. Continue reading “A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt of Kingscastle: A Classic Regency Romance in the Tradition of Georgette Heyer, by Sophia Holloway”

Book Reviews, Historical Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Fiction, Regency Romance

The Debutante’s Code: Thorndike and Swann (Book 1), by Erica Vetsch — A Review

From the desk of Sophia Rose: 

“If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, then she must seek them abroad.” Jane Austen says of Catherine Morland in the beginning pages of Northanger Abbey. However, what is true for Catherine is decidedly not true for Lady Juliette Thorndike or the young Bow Street Runner trying to solve his first big case. Erica Vetsch introduces a sparkling new mystery series set in Regency London featuring an intrepid and unlikely detecting pair and a cunning mystery.

Lady Juliette has been away seven years to a ladies’ seminary in Switzerland honing genteel accomplishments and studies while looking forward to the day she is to return home to the parents she is not embarrassed to miss terribly. After a harrowing journey home by way of Italy with Continue reading “The Debutante’s Code: Thorndike and Swann (Book 1), by Erica Vetsch — A Review”

Austenesque, Book Lists, Book Previews, Editor's Picks, Historical Romance, Holiday Reading, Regency Romance

My 15 Favorite Christmas Historical Romance Novels of 2021

Happy Friday, dear readers! ‘Tis the season to read Christmas-inspired stories, and this year there is an amazing line-up of new historical romance novels, novellas, and short stories to deck your halls or fill up your eReader.

Interestingly, the prevailing theme this year appears to be kissing brought on by standing under the mistletoe! I wonder what ambitious mother thought up that tradition to get her daughter married?

I always look forward to the research involved in curating my annual Christmas/Holiday “best of” list. I hope you give more than a few a try. You won’t be disappointed. Continue reading “My 15 Favorite Christmas Historical Romance Novels of 2021”

Book Previews, Historical Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Fiction

A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt of Down a Dark River: An Inspector Corravan Mystery (Book 1), by Karen Odden

Happy Wednesday, dear readers. Please help me welcome bestselling author Karen Odden to Austenprose today. Her new Victorian murder mystery, Down a Dark River, released yesterday.

I have been hearing wonderful things about this book for months. Isn’t the cover gorgeous? I am rather partial to detective mysteries. Since it is the first in the series, I will be starting at the beginning of the Scotland Yard detective’s journey.

Inspector Michael Corravan is an interesting character. As a former bare-knuckle boxer he is ready for anything that the streets of 1878 London can throw at him. This mystery has been accurately written to reveal fascinating details about the times. Readers who appreciate beautiful prose and twisty plots with enjoy it.

Karen has generously shared an exclusive excerpt with us. She is on tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours this month, so be sure to check out the reviews, interviews, guest posts, and additional excerpts through the list of tour participants at the end of this post. Continue reading “A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt of Down a Dark River: An Inspector Corravan Mystery (Book 1), by Karen Odden”