Q&A and Giveaway with Historical Romance Author Nicole Clarkston

Tempted by Nicole Clarkston 2020I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend. I am happy to report that I am making progress in the Weed War in my garden now that the weather is cooperating.

Today I am thrilled to welcome a popular Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell variations author to Austenprose. Nicole Clarkston has published sixteen novels and short fiction stories in the last five years. That is a phenomenal number. She certainly knows how to keep her many fans happy.

I have read several of Nicole’s books and listened to many of them on audiobook, my preferred way to experience a story. My favorites of her many offerings are the prequel, The Courtship of Edward Gardiner, inspired by a minor character in Pride and Prejudice, and her short story, “Mischances,” in the Falling for Thornton anthology. Clarkston is a superb historical romance author with a real talent for creating surprising plots, and tension-filled romance.

Nicole’s latest novel Tempted, a Pride and Prejudice variation, just released last week. Here is a book description and an interview with the author who has kindly offered a fabulous giveaway chance for three lucky readers to win a copy of Tempted and two additional copies of her books. Just check out the details of the giveaway chance at the end of the post. Enjoy!

Running from her past, stumbling into the unknown, and drawn to a future she cannot have.

Elizabeth Bennet left all she loved behind when she accepted Colonel Fitzwilliam’s hand. Dragging her sister Jane, her cousin Billy Collins, and a horrible secret along with her, she leaves her home and family in the United States and sets sail for England… and safety. Expecting to meet her new husband when he returns from the Boer front, she is shocked to learn that not only does his family not believe her, but Richard has gone missing.

Fitzwilliam Darcy is only doing his duty. Trying to learn the truth of what happened to his cousin, while sheltering the woman who claims to be Richard Fitzwilliam’s wife, he encounters more than he bargained for. She is ill-prepared for life in his world, and her independent ways threaten to defeat her before she has even begun. Unfortunately, she is close to defeating him, as well. Pledged to marry another, but honor-bound to do all he can for Fitzwilliam’s wife, his equanimity and fortitude are tested whenever she is near.

When news of Fitzwilliam finally comes, it brings both grief and complications. Surprises, possibilities, and agonizing choices… Will Darcy and Elizabeth find a path to love? Or will new revelations and the shadows of the past tear them apart before they are even together?

From the author of These Dreams and NefariousTempted is a deliciously nuanced tale of longing and trust. With good people in impossible places, close-knit families, and secrets working in the dark, Darcy and Elizabeth have to fight every step for their future.

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You have written several novels and shorter works inspired by Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell. What intrigued you about their writing, characters, or plot to prompt you to write in these sub-genres?

My very first book was actually an Elizabeth Gaskell spin-off, No Such Thing as Luck. I followed it three months later with Rumours and Recklessness, which is the one everyone thinks of as my first. I couldn’t sleep until I started getting these men down on paper, and I blame both John Thornton and Darcy for my sufferings.

You just released a new Pride and Prejudice variation entitled, Tempted. Can you tell us about your inspiration and the writing process for it?

I started this book back in April of 2018, and I think the idea was lurking in the cobwebs for some while before that. Since it has been a while, I honestly can’t remember what started it, other than the idea of writing an American Elizabeth and writing a love triangle.

I knew about how the British cavalry used to buy American horses, and that was a natural reason to bring Fitzwilliam to America to meet our girl. Getting her to England was a bit of a fraught journey because a girl such as her… well, not only is she unlikely to leave everything she loves on a whim, but she’s also prone to biting off more than she can chew. Things got ugly for our girl, but she survived, and she went on to steal the heart of Derbyshire’s Most Eligible Bachelor.

Can you share with us something about the story that is not in the book description that might surprise us?

There is no Lady Catherine, but her daughter Anne fills her shoes in the strong-willed department. Anne is not a sickly, retiring woman in Tempted, but an independent creature who knows her own mind and is a little set in her ways. I imagined her as a woman of means, of a mature (but still marriageable) age, who really didn’t have much family of her own. She is not Darcy’s cousin in this book, because the sensibilities of the day might have been slightly more uncomfortable with cousin marriages, even in that level of society. She is, however, a close friend of the family, and Darcy actually enjoys her company. Sort of. Really, I had fun developing Anne’s character in this new age.

Choose your favorite character in Tempted and put us in their shoes. What are their greatest assets and weaknesses?

Well, that’s a tough one. My knee-jerk is Elizabeth, so I’ll go with her because I empathize the most with her personality. In this book, she is no English country girl, but very much a product of the American West. That doesn’t mean she’s a yokel—she’s well-read, intelligent, refined in character and morality, but she’s a firebrand who is determined to do as she believes is right, and (ahem) darn the consequences.

Darcy and Thornton are literary icons that you included in several of your variations. Do they share any similarities? Why do you think they continue to be so popular with readers?

Both were the older brother of an irresponsible younger sister, both were thrust into manhood and given charge of the family at tender ages, and both were soul-numbingly bored and lonely by the time their angels stumbled into their lives.

If I had to answer with which character, I admired the most—well, I hate to say this, but it would be Thornton. He overcame so much more than Darcy ever dreamed of. That is not to minimize in any way the sufferings and duties that Darcy has had to endure. Thornton had all those, and then some when his father’s suicide forced the family into destitution and shame.

Additionally, Elizabeth Bennet and Margaret Hale are both fascinating heroines in Pride and Prejudice and North and South. What is it about their personalities that inspired you to continue or vary their stories?

Their inner strength and intelligence is their common thread. They both have a strong sense of right and wrong that dictates their actions, and they’re both prone to snap judgments that they’re pretty confident in. That is where the surface similarities end.

Elizabeth is the girl we all want to be. Margaret is the girl that many of us actually are. Elizabeth is funny, always has the clever thing to say, seems to have boundless energy, and is (until Darcy messes with her head) perpetually a happy, sunny person. Margaret is a serious girl, quiet in public (although she draws notice because of her grace), and she suffers much grief and burdens that render her exhausted through much of the story.

As a writer of variations of classic stories, how do you feel about staying close to canon, or really mixing it up?

Well, obviously I “like” veering wildly off cannon for the circumstances, even though when I’m picking up a book to read, I tend to be a weenie who likes the safe and comfortable route.

Character, however, is something different. They should feel like Darcy and Elizabeth, or like John and Margaret. Their character should be the same and should act in ways consistent with who they are in response to the situation.

Recently you revealed that you have been writing under the pen name, Alix James. Why did you choose to use a nom de plume, and why reveal it to your readers now?

I chose to reveal the connection now because I had two stories ready to go at the same time, and I thought, “why not?” A few of my closest friends and readers did know the secret and they guarded it very well for me, but that sort of thing doesn’t stay secret forever. It was a good time.

What was your most recent favorable read? Why did you enjoy it?

I don’t read when I’m on a writing jag. I don’t want any chance of another story tangling with mine because it would be far too easy to accidentally infuse my story with someone else’s ideas, and that’s not fair to anyone.

Now that I have a little break, I’ll name  Matrimonial Advertisement by Mimi Matthews. I just finished it last night. I loved the mystery behind the characters, the instant chemistry, and the strong desire the hero had to protect the heroine. He reminded me of a Wentworth/Brandon/Thornton hybrid, with his deep sense of honor, the failures and regrets of his past, and his doubts about his worthiness of being loved. Just a beautiful story.

Can you share any news about your next book or short fiction that you are planning/writing?

I’m in the plotting phase of two stories. The next Alix James story will, naturally, be light-hearted, but more sentimental than humorous. The other project is more ambitious, and I’m keeping my lips sealed for a little while. I don’t expect to have much to say on that for a few months, except that I am stupidly excited about it.

Nicole Clarkston is a book lover and a happily married mom of three. Originally from Idaho, she now lives in Oregon with her own romantic hero, several horses, and one very fat dog. She has loved crafting alternate stories and sequels since she was a child watching Disney’s Robin Hood and is never found sitting quietly without a book of some sort.

Nicole discovered Jane Austen rather by guilt in her early thirties—how does any book worm really live that long without a little P&P? She has never looked back. A year or so later, during a major house renovation project (undertaken when her husband unsuspectingly left town for a few days) she discovered Elizabeth Gaskell and fell completely in love. Nicole’s books are her pitiful homage to two authors who have so deeply inspired her.

Nicole also writes sweet novellas under the pen name Alix James.

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In celebration of the release of Tempted, author Nicole Clarkston is offering a very generous giveaway chance exclusively to Austenprose readers. Three lucky winners will be offered one Kindle digital copy of Tempted and two other digital books or audiobooks of their choice from Nicole’s novels.

To enter, please leave a comment with this post sharing what intrigues you about Tempted or ask Nicole a question about one of her books or characters. The deadline to comment is 11:59 on Monday, July 13, 2020, Pacific Time. The winners will be chosen at random from the comments on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. We will contact the winners by email and the prizes will be sent via email. International readers welcome. Good luck to all!

Tempted: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Nicole Clarkston
White Soup Press (June 29, 2020)
eBook (593) pages
ASIN: B08C24C2VR

AMAZON | GOODREADS

Cover images compliments of White Soup Press © 2020; interview compliments of Nicole Clarkston © 2020; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2020, Austenprose.com

Murder at Northanger Abbey: Sequel to Jane Austen’s Spoof on the Gothic Novel, by Shannon Winslow—A Review

Murder at Northanger Abbey by Shannon Winslow 2020From the desk of Sophia Rose:

Do you ever read a book and enjoy it to such an extent that your mind continues to dwell on the characters, and you imagine your own continuation of the story? If that story is Northanger Abbey, then it is no stretch to imagine that the heroine, Catherine Morland, must have her dream of living inside one of her delicious gothic novels fulfilled even while reveling in the happiness of being married to her Henry. Oh, not as the gullible young girl who conjured up ghouls and mystery where it did not exist, but a heroine worthy of adventure when the adventure finds her. If you perked up at this possibility, then, like me, dear reader, you are primed for Shannon Winslow’s Murder at Northanger Abbey.

The story opens with Catherine and Henry Tilney, newlywed and living in bliss at Woodston Cottage. Catherine is still settling in as mistress and exalting in the tender and passionate love of her husband. She has learned from her earlier adventures and set aside the impressionable girl who saw a bloody skeleton in every locked trunk or a villain in every frown. She is sensible now and seeks to be a credit as a vicar’s wife.

Into this idyllic life, an invitation arrives from General Tilney for them to attend an All Hallows Eve Masquerade Ball at Northanger Abbey. Henry is dubious and still has strong feelings about his father’s previous treatment of Catherine, but if this means an olive branch, he should accept. Catherine is thrilled about the ball and revels in the chills she feels about spending All Hallows Eve at a house she once thought haunted.

Their arrival reunites all the Tilneys including Elinor and her husband. Catherine also meets a pretty, young, but ineligible woman whom Frederick brought to annoy the General, though she is startled to notice a soft spot in the cruel Captain. The General also has a young pretty woman on his arm and she is very much eligible as the daughter of a Marquess. He is bursting with some sort of inner glee over what is to come later in the evening, and she can only take heart that he welcomed them if a tad coolly. Continue reading

A Timely Elopement: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Joana Starnes—A Review

From the desk of Katie Jackson:

For a Pride and Prejudice enthusiast, there is nothing quite like an unusually talkative and passionate Mr. Darcy to pique one’s interest. And it becomes particularly intriguing when the story is told almost exclusively from his perspective. Ironically, it is perhaps his most blundering speech that is mercifully interrupted in this variation, A Timely Elopement, from master storyteller Joana Starnes.

The tale begins in the parlor at Hunsford Parsonage near Rosings Park in Kent with the only two occupants; a visibly agitated Mr. Darcy and a startled and wary Elizabeth Bennet. Darcy has been at Rosings with his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam to visit their aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh and their cousin Anne, while Elizabeth visits her friend Charlotte Lucas, newly married to Elizabeth’s cousin and one-time suitor, Mr. Collins, Lady Catherine’s parson.

Darcy’s unexpected and ardent marriage proposal to Elizabeth is fortunately interrupted just before he manages to insult her with his ungentlemanlike manner, although she cannot forget that morning’s revelation from an unwitting Colonel Fitzwilliam that Darcy’s intervention had ruined her sister Jane’s chances for happiness with his friend Charles Bingley. Colonel Fitzwilliam barges in at that fortuitous moment to announce, “We have reason to fear that Anne has eloped. To own the truth, with Wickham.” (Kindle 82) Shock settles over the group as they consider the dire situation of Anne de Bourgh, known only as a sickly but wealthy heiress, possibly eloping with George Wickham. Lady Catherine later exclaims, “All saints preserve us! A steward’s son! What was the girl thinking?” (Kindle 496) Unbeknownst to her, he was the same fiend who had attempted to elope with Darcy’s sister Georgiana, also a wealthy heiress, from Ramsgate the previous summer. Thus, Darcy ceases his proposal just after confessing his love for Elizabeth. He briefly apprises her of the previous situation between his sister and Wickham before hurrying off to search for Anne, unaware that his aunt is about to summon his ladylove to accompany her to London for the same purpose. Continue reading

A Preview & Giveaway of So This Is Love: An Austen-Inspired Regency, by Laura Hile

So This is Love by Laura Hile 2020I am so happy to welcome author Laura Hile back to Austenprose today. Laura is the writer of several Jane Austen-inspired novels and short stories, notably the Mercy’s Embrace trilogy featuring none other than the peevish Miss Elizabeth Elliot from Persuasion, and her humorous fantasy, Darcy by Any Other Name.

Laura has two new books releasing in quickstep: So This Is Love, and A Very Austen Romance: Austen Anthologies, Book 3. Today we are featuring So This Is Love, a Pride and Prejudice-inspired variation involving Charlotte Lucas whose re-imagined story many readers will find much more rewarding than what was originally devised by Jane Austen.

Laura has generously offered a guest blog, an exclusive excerpt, and a giveaway chance! That is the trifecta in book promotion! Enjoy! Please return on August 10th for our review of A Very Austen Romance.

“I am not romantic, you know. I never was.”

Newly escaped from a loathsome engagement of convenience, Charlotte Lucas has no interest in romance. More than ever, she is convinced that no man would—or could—love her. As a companion to an aging aunt, Charlotte’s new life is as predictable as it is circumspect.

But then she is rescued from a robbery by her uncle’s heir, a masterful man who is disastrously handsome. Why has he remained as a guest in the house? Why is he so determined to draw Charlotte out and make her talk? And what of his invitation to visit his home by the sea?

Romance is not on the chart for Captain Jack Blunt. Never again will he be played for that kind of fool! He is ashore only to heal from an injury and see to business, nothing more. And yet the pointed disinterest of his cousin’s pert niece is intriguing. She is forthright, refreshingly honest—and altogether lovely.  She will make a fine wife for one of his officers. But not, of course, for him.

So This Is Love is a joyride of a Regency, bringing whirlwind romance and happily-ever-after to Jane Austen’s staid and practical Charlotte Lucas. Continue reading

A Preview of The Memory House: A Love Story in Two Acts, by Jenetta James

The Memory House by Jenetta James 2020Hey-ho Janeites. Summer is finally here, and I am enjoying beautiful weather whilst gardening away, finally. I am conducting war with the weeds, but sadly, they are still winning! How are you doing?

I am incredibly happy to host a book blast for Jenetta James’ new historical romance, The Memory House. Many of you will recognize her name as a popular Austenesque author of novels and short stories. The Memory House has a dual timeline and revolves around a house in London over a one-hundred and sixty-year time span. Check out the book description and the exclusive excerpt that the author generously shared. The book is available for pre-order with an August release date.

Also, of interest, three of Jenetta’s previously published novels are being re-issued on June 30, 2020, with beautiful new covers by Quills & Quartos:

So, happy days! There is plenty of summer reading ahead for James’ fans.

A house in one of London’s most exclusive neighborhoods is home to secrets, mysteries, and two love stories spanning two centuries.

In 1859, independent-minded Kitty Cathcart dreams of escaping Veronica Gardens but her father’s determination to marry her off to a rich man of his choosing forces her to seek happiness and find her own voice by other means. And then the handsome but poor Alex Faraday walks through the front doors.

In 2019, Oxford-educated Josie Minton never dreamt of living in a house as grand as Veronica Gardens, but the nanny’s quarters are a perfect fit for a young woman in need of a job. Wealthy financier James Cavendish and his twin girls quickly find her indispensable to their happiness, but Josie is still searching for her future.

Then the great house reveals the first of its secrets, and the tragedy and romance of one era are brought into sharp relief with another.

Continue reading

The Jane Austen Society: A Novel, by Natalie Jenner—A Review

The Jane Austen Society, by Natalie Jenner (2020)From the desk of Tracy Hickman:

My go-to choice in times of uncertainty is a comfort read. While each person has their own ideas about what qualifies as comfort, I especially enjoy books by authors such as Miss Read (Dora Saint) and D.E. Stevenson. These books are set in a time and place distant enough from my own to divert, but still recognizable and familiar. When I learned that Natalie Jenner’s debut novel, The Jane Austen Society, was set largely in a rural English village in the years immediately following World War II, I hoped it would provide a welcome respite from current personal and collective anxieties.

The story opens in the village of Chawton in 1932, when a young and attractive American tourist, Mary Anne Harrison, asks a local farmer, Adam Berwick, for help locating Jane Austen’s house. He directs her to the cottage, telling her that he’s never read Austen and doesn’t understand “how a bunch of books about girls looking for husbands” (6) could qualify as great literature. Miss Harrison enthusiastically shares her love of reading Austen and presses Adam to start right away with Pride and Prejudice. Intrigued by the arresting stranger’s powerful emotional connection to Austen, Adam checks out a copy of P&P from the lending library and is quickly immersed in the story.

“He was becoming quite worried for Mr. Darcy.

It seemed to Adam that once a man notices a woman’s eyes to be fine, and tries to eavesdrop on her conversations, and finds himself overly affected by her bad opinion of him, then such a man is on the path to something uncharted, whether he admits it to himself or not.” (10)

But as much as it amused him, the book also confused him.

The Bennets, for all intents and purposes, simply didn’t like each other. He had not been expecting this at all from a lady writer with a commitment to happy endings. Yet, sadly, it felt more real to him than anything else he had ever read. (11)

In the chapters that follow, set during and immediately following WWII, we are introduced to other future members of the Jane Austen Society: Dr. Benjamin Gray, village doctor; Adeline Lewis, schoolteacher and war widow; Evie Stone, house girl at the Great House; Frances Knight, member of the Knight family; Andrew Forrester, Knight family solicitor; and Yardley Sinclair, assistant director of estate sales at Sotheby’s. Continue reading

A Preview of Rebellion at Longbourn: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Victoria Kincaid

Rebellion at Longbourn by Victoria Kincaid 2020Hey-ho Janeites. I am happy to welcome bestselling Austenesque author Victoria Kincaid to Austenprose today to share her fifteenth Pride and Prejudice variation, Rebellion at Longbourn.

Variations have become the driving force in Jane Austen fiction for several years now. The creativity of the authors who imagine new stories for major and minor characters is unfathomable. Kincaid spins an interesting new plot for Austen’s iconic romantic couple, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Just imagine that Mr. Collins has inherited Longbourn after the death of Elizabeth’s father and that the Bennet women are now dependent on the charity of their cousin who has gone off the rails and becomes an irrational spendthrift. That has interesting possibilities.

Victoria and her publisher have generously offered a preview of Rebellion at Longbourn for your enjoyment.Title Label Book Description Transparent x 300A Pride and Prejudice Variation

Elizabeth Bennet’s father died two years ago, and her odious cousin Mr. Collins has taken possession of the Longbourn estate. Although Collins and his wife Charlotte have allowed the Bennet sisters and their mother to continue living at Longbourn, the situation is difficult. Viewing Elizabeth and her sisters as little more than unpaid servants, Collins also mistreats the tenants, spends the estate’s money with abandon, and rejects any suggestions about improving or modernizing Longbourn. After one particularly egregious incident, Elizabeth decides she must organize a covert resistance among her sisters and the tenants, secretly using more modern agricultural methods to help the estate thrive. Her scheme is just getting underway when Mr. Darcy appears in Meryton.

Upon returning from a long international voyage, Darcy is forced to admit he cannot forget his love for Elizabeth. When he learns of the Bennet family’s plight, he hurries to Hertfordshire, hoping he can provide assistance. Sinking into poverty, Elizabeth is further out of Darcy’s reach than ever; still, he cannot help falling even more deeply in love. But what will he do when he discovers her covert rebellion against Longbourn’s rightful owner?

Falling in love with Mr. Darcy was not part of Elizabeth’s plan, but it cannot be denied.  Darcy struggles to separate his love for her from his abhorrence for deception.  Will their feelings for each other help or hinder the Rebellion at Longbourn?

Title Label Excerpt Transparent x 300 Continue reading

Marry in Scarlet: Marriage of Convenience Series (Book 4), by Anne Gracie—A Review

Marry in Scarlet by Anne Gracie 2020From the desk of Pamela Mingle:

Every good Regency romance deserves a manipulative old dowager. In this book, it’s Great Aunt Agatha. She tells the Duke of Everingham, called Hart, that her niece would “…rather live with dogs and horses than marry.” Likewise, she tells her niece that the duke would never consider her for a wife, “…ill-trained, boyish, impertinent hoyden” that she is. Of course, this serves to pique the interest of both. Anne Gracie’s Marry in Scarlet, book four in the “Marriage of Convenience” series, is a delightful romp portraying the gradual coming together of a pompous duke and a reluctant lady.

The heroine, named Georgiana but called George, finds Aunt Agatha’s machinations annoying in the extreme. She’s acquainted with the duke and he has “…irritated her with his cold, hard gaze, so indifferent and superior and I-rule-the-world.”

George and Hart see each other frequently, mainly because he wants it that way. When he catches a glimpse of George riding her horse, he’s impressed. Hart makes an offer—for the horse, not George, who immediately refuses. Her horse is not for sale, to anyone. Hart thinks the selling/breeding of horses should not be a woman’s business.

The two meet at the opera, where she shushes him and his friends. He’s fascinated with how enraptured she is with the singing. Despite the fact that she insults him, calling him an arrogant boor, Hart is enchanted. And aroused.

At a London ball, George hides in the conservatory to get away from Lord Towsett, a man whose numerous proposals of marriage continue despite her staunch refusals. Unexpectedly, Hart sneaks into her hiding place because he too is escaping from marriage-minded pursuers. Later, Hart confronts Towsett and forces him to leave the ball, extracting a promise that he’ll never bother George again. Continue reading

Recipe for Persuasion: A Novel, by Sonali Dev—A Review

Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev 2020From the desk of Sophia Rose:

Jane Austen’s Persuasion gets a modern facelift Desi-style in this standalone sequel to Sonali Dev’s 2019, Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors, as Indian American chef, Ashna Raje, and Brazilian footballer, Rico Silva, encounter each other once again as acrimonious cooking partners on a reality TV show. I love that the author has cooked up a series of modern retellings of Jane Austen’s classic works by giving members of the Raje family their chances at romance.

In Recipe for Persuasion Ashna’s family is convinced a reality cooking show is just the jumpstart her dying restaurant needs and she is willing to do anything to preserve this last bit of her father who opened the restaurant.

As a pro footballer at the top of his game, Rico thought he had moved on from Ashna’s rejection. That is until he is injured badly and yet another relationship didn’t work out.  He decides he has to do something about not being over his teenage love so signs onto the show to be Ashna’s partner. He vents his long-smoldering anger, but also understands as an adult what his teenage self couldn’t when he learns the true state of Ashna’s affairs. Understanding her leads to an understanding of the past.

Ashna had a difficult childhood. Her father, a prince, was forced out of India for some trouble he got into and lost the lifestyle he was accustomed to making him a bitter, angry man. Her parents were stuck in a loveless marriage where abuse and alcoholism were rife and Ashna was physically abandoned by her mother while the remaining parent’s issues were just as unhealthy for her so that, even after his death, she works to please a father who was never going to be pleased.

It was his dream to go to Paris and become a superb chef which she did for him and she now can’t even create her own dishes without bringing on an anxiety attack. She can only keep his restaurant just as he had it and cook only his dishes which is why the restaurant is failing. Others see it and she refuses to heed them because honoring her father is all she has left. Into this situation steps the boy become man from her past and she hasn’t gotten over him. Continue reading