From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:
Like touring Pemberley, discovering great new books is a hard business. I am a passionate subscriber to Publisher’s Marketplace for the latest book deals. I troll through publisher’s catalogs, scour Amazon for Indie books, and follow way too many authors newsletters than is humanly possible to read all in pursuit of the next great read to share with you all.
Lately, the new book landscape has been resplendent with authors eager to grab my attention with gorgeous covers, intriguing descriptions, and…the always fateful Jane Austen connection. My latest find in that category is Ladies of the House.
Written by debut author Lauren Edmondson it is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. YES. I heard you gasp. Not Pride and Prejudice. Huzzah. I am all for diversity from the Austen canon.
I could write a whole blog on how overlooked S&S is by contemporary Austenesque authors, but instead, I will let this new novel be your springboard. It is thoughtful, moving, and brilliantly crafted. My takeaway was that Edmondson emotionally delivers the payload that Austen was aiming for—the unbreakable bond between sisters.
The author and her publisher have generously supplied an exclusive excerpt for our readers. It will give you only a glimpse of what is in store for you in the novel. Be sure to return on February 8th for our full review.
Ladies of the House releases on February 9, 2021, so be sure to add it to your TBR pile. Marianne Dashwood passionately entreats you to do so.
In the vein of Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible, an irresistible contemporary retelling of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility about two sisters who must rebuild their lives and reputations in the aftermath of their family’s public scandal.
No surprise is a good surprise. At least according to thirty-four-year-old Daisy Richardson, a woman of routine, order, and careful thought. So when it’s revealed in dramatic fashion that her esteemed father had been involved in a public scandal before his untimely death, Daisy’s life becomes complicated—and fast.
For one, the Richardsons must now sell the family home in Georgetown they can no longer afford, and Daisy’s mother is holding on with an iron grip to this last vestige of their former life. Her younger sister, Wallis, is ready to move on to bigger and better things but falls fast and hard for the most inconvenient person possible, someone Daisy can’t bring herself to trust. And then there’s Atlas, Daisy’s best friend. She’s always wished they could be more, but now he’s writing an exposé on the one subject she’s been desperate to avoid: her father.
Daisy’s plan is to maintain a low profile as she works to keep her family intact amidst social exile, public shaming, and quickly dwindling savings. But the spotlight always seems to find the Richardsons, and when another twist in the scandal comes to light, Daisy must confront the consequences of her continued silence and summon the courage to stand up and accept the power of her own voice.
The heart attack was so strong that the paramedics didn’t even have time to get him to the hospital. This was the first thing Cricket had said when she’d called me three months ago. I’d been cozy in my club chair by the small bay window in my Corcoran Street apartment, looking forward to reading all my usual Sunday stuff: romance novels, pages of legislation that would never pass, drafts of speeches for Miles. They call this kind of attack a widow-maker, Cricket had said. My father had been at the lake, in the cottage Grandduff had left him. He was alone. He died alone.
Wallis had recently finished her teaching contract in South Korea, but she’d been planning to travel through the fall; when we’d gotten ahold of her, it was via a hostel’s landline somewhere south of Ho Chi Minh City. She landed at Dulles seventy-two hours later with barely enough time to splash water on her face and under her arms before we were off to Richmond to view our father lying in state, then back to DC, to the Capitol, where more mourners waited in line for hours to pay their respects to the distinguished yet down-to-earth senator who considered public service a higher calling, but never missed an opportunity to crack a disarming, cheesy joke or get on the dance floor with moves less embarrassing than one might expect. Even when you disagreed with him, the consensus around DC was you couldn’t help but think of him as a friend.
A month had passed by the time we organized his public funeral at the Cathedral, a massive see-and-be-seen kind of affair, a competition of—who was my father closest to? Who was the saddest? Who would miss him the most? People had networked in the pews. The Secret Service had been there, and so had the television cameras.
I’d already returned to work at that point—Cricket had considered it quick, my decision rash, but I had been determined to carry on my father’s legacy—and the planning involved in his send-off had become like a second job. We had to do all the important rituals, and then some, to honor his life, mark our loss, and publicly acknowledge our shift from one type of family to another. In the flood of flowers and tributes and personal notes and Did I wear this dress already?, I’d barely had time to process his death. So when Cricket and Wallis wept through the eulogy, given by a senior statesmen, I was too numbed to produce a single tear. As booming as the eulogist’s voice was, my father’s voice, in my head, had been louder: Jesus, Daisy, he said. You know how to cry on cue. I was the one to teach you. People will think you’re glad that I’m gone.
Now, two months later, in the middle of yet another church service in my father’s honor, as I studied the brass chandeliers hanging from the ceiling so at least it would appear I was blinking back tears, it occurred to me that in many ways the whole mourning experience had been a performance. Even though this was the smaller, invitation-only memorial for family and close friends, I still felt their gazes on my back, couldn’t avoid the stares coming from the pews on either side of us. And though there was nothing in their faces to signal anything but sincerity, I still thought of them as an audience with expectations for how Gregory’s elder daughter—the daughter, as the story went, he’d been closest to, who had followed him into politics and once upon a time even worked for him—should grieve. Sad, but not overcome. Staid, but not emotionless. Appreciative of the time I had with my father, but not celebratory.
By the time the service reached the Lord’s Prayer, I’d pretty much captured what I hoped was the right expression, the correct body language. But then the phones started.
First the small ting, coming from the back of the sanctuary, followed closely by more insistent buzzing from the row behind us. I was between my mother and sister and let them do the job of pointedly turning to shush, jaws set, eyes blazing.
Give us this day our daily bread…
More phones made music from purses and jacket pockets. I knew I shouldn’t—we were supposed to be praying, for God’s sake—but the suggestion I might be missing breaking news was too great. I shifted my folded hands ever so slowly and snuck a look at my own phone in my purse at my feet. The screen lit up with text after incoming text.
And forgive our debts, as we forgive those who debt against us…
“Let me just—” I whispered, bending to retrieve it. The sheer volume of notifications—whatever had just happened outside the church had to be very, very bad. Only anger and fear spread that quickly.
For thine is the kingdom…
“What is happening?” I heard Wallis ask, after someone a few rows back actually murmured, “Hello? Yes, I’m here…”
And the power, and the glory…
Seventeen missed calls, and a dozen texts from an editor I knew at the Times. “Shit,” I said, clutching my phone tighter.
Forever and ever…
“What?” Wallis and Cricket asked at precisely the same time.
No longer caring about propriety, I held up the phone so they could see the latest Times news alert on my screen. Gasps, perhaps from them, or from others, echoed in the room, one after the next.
Chapter 2, pages 9-10
- “A great choice for book groups, this fresh take on a somewhat overlooked Austen novel will please her fans as well as readers looking for an emotionally engaging and hopeful story.”— Booklist, STARRED review
- “[A] charming debut… The novel finds Austen’s themes alive and well in contemporary society… This retelling is a witty success.”— Publishers Weekly
- “Lauren Edmondson has nailed this smart and snappy update of SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. Strong women and contemporary hot topics make the always relevant work of Jane Austen even more pertinent for modern audiences. Humor, wisdom, and pathos make LADIES OF THE HOUSE a savvy choice for 2021 book clubs. Intelligent women are always in style.”— Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books
LAUREN EDMONDSON began writing angsty short stories at Williams College, where she graduated with a degree in History and English with honors. Later, at Sarah Lawrence College, she earned her M.F.A. and discovered she was much better at crafting novels. When it comes to writing, Lauren is obsessed with the fates of contemporary families and the mysteries of love; other obsessions include travel, the complete oeuvre of Bravo, and comedy podcasts. She lives slightly outside the beltway in Northern Virginia with her husband and incorrigible young daughter; she also teaches English at Northern Virginia Community College. Ladies of the House is her first novel.
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- Ladies of the House: A Modern Retelling of Sense and Sensibility, by Lauren Edmondson
- Graydon House (February 9, 2021)
- Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook (384) pages
- ISBN: 978-1525895968
- Genre: Austenesque, Contemporary Romance
ADDITIONAL INFO | ADD TO GOODREADS
Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Cover image, book description, excerpt, and author bio courtesy of Graydon House © 2021; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2021, austenprose.com.
I agree that Sense and Sensibilitiy is underutilized. It’s a terrific story but everything seems to be about P&P. However, this doesn’t really sound like S&S to me. If I didn’t know it was supposed to be a retelling, I would never guess, and that’s sort of a shame. I suspect I’ll skip it.
When you take a classic and modernize it, there will be big changes. The characters’ hardships and personalities are similar and certainly the theme of enduring sisterhood. I hope you will give it a try.
This was my take too. Also, as someone that’s come across a lot of lackluster modern Sense and Sensibility novels, I was a little sad to see it seems to be from “Elenor’s” pov, with no input from “Marianne”, and focuses more on the elder sister’s growth. I’ll probably give it a look, because we’re told there’s more than what we’re seeing from the excerpt, but this focus on Elinor over both sisters is a frustrating trend in a small subset of Austen inspirations.
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Amazing excerpt. I must read more.
I’m still in awe this was a debut effort. It came on strong with certain aspects, but there was such subtlety in others just where it was needed most. This excerpt humorous to me because of the juxtaposition of a prayer in a grand church as their social hell is breaking loose.
Thanks for sharing here. I will wait to read some of the other reviews before deciding to read it or not.