From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:
Happy Friday, dear readers. There was a time when I could count the number of Northanger Abbey sequels on one hand. Admitting that may date me and my Austenesque reading terribly, however, it is true. Only in the last few years has there been an uptick of new books inspired by Jane Austen’s Gothic parody published in 1817. Since Northanger and its charming characters is one of my favorites of Austen’s novels, I jumped at the chance to feature Woodston, by Kate Westwood.
Some of you may be aware of Westwood’s other Austenesque novel: The Value of an Anne Elliot (2020) a sequel to Austen’s Persuasion, and her traditional Regency romances: A Scandal at Delford (2019), and A Bath Affair (2019). Woodston is her latest release, and honestly, who would not want to read a book full of Catherine and Henry Tilney? #TeamTilney. In addition to extending the Tilney’s story after their marriage, the novel includes nine charming pen and ink illustrations by Anung Prihantoko.
The publisher has generously offered an exclusive excerpt only for Austenprose readers. Enjoy!
Happy Holidays to one and all, Laurel Ann
When Catherine Morland married Henry Tilney, she was sure the seemingly cozy Woodston parsonage could not harbor any secrets such as she had imagined to lurk at Northanger Abbey. It is not long, however, before Catherine finds that there may be more skeletons in Woodston’s closets than she could ever wish for to occupy her imagination.
Meanwhile, determined to become a perfect wife, Catherine gets herself into one scrape after another, and it is not long before she gives up hope of ever gaining Henry’s respect. When temptation visits Woodston in the form of a charismatic drawing instructor, all seems lost, and Henry and Catherine seem parted forever.
Will Catherine be able to uncover the secrets which haunt Woodston and save her marriage?
Many of Northanger Abbey’s beloved characters, including the rapacious Captain Frederick Tilney, the dour General Tilney, Henry’s beloved sister Eleanor, and the despicable flirt, Isabella Thorpe, make appearances in the novel, bringing to the tale a feel of a real sequel to the stories begun in Austen’s novel.
Another incident which occurred the very next day also made her wish the housekeeper would give up her position, although it made her feel very evil indeed to wish for such a thing. Catherine had been wandering along the downstairs hallway which led to the kitchen, and she came again upon the door almost hidden in the dim hallway, which was locked on her last visit. Trying the handle guiltily, she reasoned thus: ‘I am the mistress of the house now. Surely, I can go into which ever rooms I wish, and as mistress I really ought to know what is behind this door!’ Then the door gave way to her will, and she was astonished to find a stairway which led down into the depths of the house.
A year earlier, when she had been invited to be a guest at Northanger Abbey, Catherine had allowed a vivid imagination to lead her down a path of shame and contrition. Allowing her reading to have had too great a power over her mind, she had come to expect all the horrors of The Monk, or The Mysteries of Udolpho to be found at Northanger. Indeed, she had even foolishly attributed violent acts to the General, believing him at one time capable of murder. After she had been severely set down by Henry, and suffered the wretchedness of humiliation and disgrace, she had from that moment sworn off the romantic novels of her youth and vowed to become a vastly more sensible girl.
However, for all Catherine’s resolve to never again be accused of folly and misguidedness as she had in the past, for all her determination never to let her fancies carry away her reason, she was helpless against the picture before her. Here was a stairwell, for all intents and purposed banned to her entry by a dour housekeeper, leading mysteriously downstairs, when she had had no inkling, no notion of any such thing existing at cheerful Woodston; even despite her resolve to reject the influences of Mrs Radcliffe, it was more than her imagination could resist. Suddenly the urge to explore was her first, most pressing object, but, alas for poor Catherine, who had not heard the footsteps behind her, the very person whom Catherine would have most wished not to meet with at that moment, was the very person whom she found standing behind her.
‘Mrs Poulter!’ exclaimed she, reddening at once, which must have served, she thought afterward, only to increase the appearance of guilt. ‘I—I only wanted to find out what was behind this door—I had not realized there was a lower floor—’
‘There is a basement, Ma’am, the wine cellar—and very dark and musty it is, I must say, and nothing at all down there of interest excepting the master’s liquor. You will only ruin your pretty white gown if you try to go below. I daresay you have better things to be doing at any rate, than getting grubby and banging your head on old beams and what not!’
‘I—yes, of course. I am quite sure I don’t need to go down there at all, I only wondered where it went to. Thankyou Mrs Poulter.’ She closed the door again and watched in dismay as Mrs Poulter stepped forward and turned the big silver key in the lock and pocketed it.
Perhaps her dismay was obvious for the housekeeper said coolly, ‘It is mostly kept locked, Ma’am, so that the servants don’t fall down the steps—them being old and perhaps not as safe as they ought to be.’
For a moment Catherine blinked. ‘Oh, you mean the stairs! I thought you meant Jane or Jenny! —but perhaps then we ought to make the stairs more secure?’ she added in some alarm. ‘I am sure Mr Tilney would wish it! —if that is the case, then please see that the steps are reinforced—or whatever it is they need, Mrs Poulter—if you will be so kind!’ she added almost apologetically and somewhat astonished at her own bravery in giving an actual order. ‘I would not like to hear of anybody falling down them!’
‘Certainly ma’am,’ replied Mrs Poulter blandly. She turned away, taking the key with her.
Catherine had informed Henry of the incident when he had come home, but he had taken Mrs Poulter’s side. ‘I couldn’t have you falling down any steps, my love, as curious a creature as you are. You must not on any account go down. It is only a musty old cellar, after all. Have you never heard that “God fashioned Hell for the Inquisitive”?’
Chapter 4, pages 23-25
- “An enjoyable, well written, light gothic regency romp!”— John Dory, Amazon Reviewer
- “Ms. Westwood has captured both Jane Austen’s style and her characters perfectly.”— Beverlee, Goodreads Reviewer
- “Kate Westwood is totally becoming my favorite Jane Austen fan fiction author. Her characters are so entertaining and her storylines so enthralling, I never want the book to end except that I am so anxious to read how it all turns out.”— Holly Whitebush, Goodreads Reviewer
Kate Westwood might have declared at age seven, that she wanted to be a writer, but it took her another forty-three years to get her act together. After completing a Masters in English literature and raising three sons and a fur-baby, she finally began her first novel when she was fifty…which just goes to show its never too late! Kate Westwood writes Regency Romance, with a focus on Jane Austen Fan Fiction. She has always been absolutely fascinated by the Georgians (1714 – 1830) and since she was a teen she has been besotted with Jane Austen and her contemporaries. So, it was a no-brainer for Kate to choose Jane Austen Fan Fiction as a writing genre. Kate lives in sunny Queensland, Australia, and when she is not writing she is walking and hiking the beautiful hinterlands, playing the piano, or sitting on a beach with her head buried in a novel!
- Woodston: A Sequel to Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, by Kate Westwood
- Indigoskies Pty (October 15, 2021
- Trade paperback & eBook (190) pages
- ISBN: 978-0645049428
- Genre: Austenesque, Regency Romance
Cover image courtesy of Indioskies Pty © 2021, text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2021, austenprose.com.