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

From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress: 

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

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

Add yours

  1. It’s exciting to see lesser known classics receive such lavish treatment. I confess I have only read one of the three. This is something I intend to rectify over these long winter evenings!

    Liked by 1 person

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