An Exclusive Interview with Tessa Arlen, Author of A Dress of Violet Taffeta

From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress: 

Happy Friday, dear readers. Spring is finally here in my neck of the woods. It is time of renewal, flowers, and new books!

I am pleased to have a special guest with us today. Author Tessa Arlen has a new historical fiction novel arriving in July that immediately caught my eye, A Dress of Violet Taffeta. Arlen is a favorite author of mine. I have enjoyed her Lady Montfort mystery series, and recently adored her In Royal Service to the Queen. Continue reading “An Exclusive Interview with Tessa Arlen, Author of A Dress of Violet Taffeta”

Interview & Giveaway with the Author of The Jane Austen Society, Natalie Jenner

From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress: 

In anticipation of the paperback release of one of my favorite novels of 2020, I have re-read The Jane Austen Society, by Natalie Jenner. Like Austen’s novels, I have picked up on new insights into the characters and themes and see the story in a new light. I highly recommend a re-read and envy those who will be discovering the story for the first time.

The paperback edition released this week on July 6th and it is packed with exciting extras: Continue reading “Interview & Giveaway with the Author of The Jane Austen Society, Natalie Jenner”

Q&A with Rachel McMillan, Historical Fiction Author of The London Restoration

The London Restoration by Rachel McMillian 2020From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress: 

Hello readers. Summer is in full swing here at Woodston Cottage. My hydrangeas, anemones, and roses are blooming. We had a heatwave over the weekend that sent this hot weather wimp inside and under a fan!

Today I am so happy to welcome bestselling author Rachel McMillian to Austenprose for an exclusive interview in celebration of her latest historical fiction novel, The London Restoration, which just released this week.

Rachel is a multitalented writer who is happiest when she is lost in history researching her latest novel. She has written two historical mystery series: the Herringford and Watts mysteries set in 1910 in Toronto, Continue reading “Q&A with Rachel McMillan, Historical Fiction Author of The London Restoration”

Q&A with Mimi Matthews, Historical Romance Author of Fair as a Star

From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress: 

I am happy to welcome bestselling author Mimi Matthews to Austenprose today for an exclusive interview in celebration of her latest Victorian romance, Fair as a Star, which just released this week.

Readers of this blog will be familiar with many of Mimi’s novel’s that we have reviewed in the past—all 5 Star reviews! Continue reading “Q&A with Mimi Matthews, Historical Romance Author of Fair as a Star”

Q&A with Historical Romance Author Nicole Clarkston

Tempted by Nicole Clarkston 2020From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress: 

I 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 Continue reading “Q&A with Historical Romance Author Nicole Clarkston”

An Exclusive Q&A with Jennifer Kloester, Georgette Heyer’s Biographer

From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress: 

My regular readers and friends will remember how much I admire and enjoy reading the Queen of Regency Romance, Georgette Heyer. We reviewed all her historical novels during a month-long celebration here on Austenprose in 2011.

While I continue to work through the long list of her books, there are scholars who have read them all and studied her life and work. The first among them is Dr. Jennifer Kloester. Austenprose reviewed her Georgette Heyer: A Biography of a Bestseller when it released in 2011 and have followed her career ever Continue reading “An Exclusive Q&A with Jennifer Kloester, Georgette Heyer’s Biographer”

Q&A with The Bridge to Belle Island Author Julie Klassen

The Bridge to Belle Island, by Julie Klassen (2019)

From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress: 

Happy Holidays Dear Readers. Today, I am so pleased to present an exclusive interview with bestselling and award-winning author Julie Klassen who has just released her latest historical romance mystery, The Belle to Bridge Island. Set in Regency-era London and an island on the River Thames, it is her return to historical suspense after writing her trilogy The Tales of Ivy Hill. Julie has generously answered my questions about the book and a few other intriguing topics as well.


Congratulation Julie! You have just released your 14th Historical romance novel, The Bridge to Belle Island. Can you share your inspiration for this new work?

Thank you! It’s always difficult to trace an idea back to one “aha” moment, but for this book, I would say I was inspired by learning of all the smaller islands that exist within the island of Great Britain, especially in the Lake District and on the Thames River. I enjoyed researching several of these tiny, fascinating places with intriguing names like Eel Pie Island, Pharaoh’s Island, Monkey Island, and others. Some of them have fine homes on them, others are uninhabited. Some are reachable by bridge, others only by boat. Many have colorful histories.

How do you select a title, and is there any significance in your choice of The Bridge to Belle Island?

Actually, The Bridge to Belle Island wasn’t my original working title. Determining titles is a group effort between me and my editors. They ask me for several ideas and we go back and forth until we all agree on a winning title. I felt strongly about having “island” in the title since that was part of my original inspiration, plus an island setting is so appealing for a mystery. (And Then There Were None, anyone?) I suggested this title, because the bridge plays an important role in the novel (the main character is unable to cross it at the beginning) and “bridge” also hints at one of the themes of the book. I LOVE that the designer featured a bridge on the cover.

After your trilogy, The Tales of Ivy Hill, you have returned to Regency mystery/suspense. What intrigued you do so?

I thoroughly enjoyed writing a series and remaining in one village and among (primarily) the same characters for three novels. But I was also ready for something new and different. Plus, I love a mind-challenging mystery. Two of my former novels, The Tutor’s Daughter and The Secret of Pembrooke Park have strong mystery elements, but The Bridge to Belle Island is my most mysterious to date, with the characteristics of a classic Whodunit blended with romance.

The plot is set in Regency-era London and on an island on the Thames River. What research did you conduct to understand the two environments during this time?

A lot! Thankfully, my husband and I were able to visit several islands on the Thames River. For the London and legal aspects of the novel, I had some help with research. An intern helped me figure out how investigations were carried out during the era of Bow Street Runners, before the Metropolitan Police (aka Scotland Yard) was founded, and before the age of private detectives like fictional Sherlock Holmes. I based the opening court case on transcripts from the Old Bailey. And finally, I was grateful to have a lawyer and Austen scholar review the manuscript to help me avoid any glaring mistakes.

Your hero, Benjamin Booker, is a London lawyer who is compelled to investigate the death of a business associate who was the trustee of the estate of your heroine Isabelle Wilder. This trio of the living and the dead is what brings your characters together. How did you put yourself in their shoes and visualize their scenes?

That’s one of the fun things about writing: watching a movie of your own creation in your mind! To help me visualize the setting, we commissioned a British cartographer to create a map of Belle Island—a fictional place, but one based on a real island on the Thames. Also, I read first-person accounts of what it is like to experience vertigo and agoraphobia, which play roles in the novel.

What are the most endearing character traits of your hero and heroine? What are their weaknesses?

Benjamin suffers from anxiety-related vertigo. And even though he suspects Isabelle is hiding something, he longs to protect her. Isabelle, meanwhile, is everything warm and gracious within the safety of her island home, but deep-seated fears keep her trapped there. I have not suffered from either of these specific issues, but as a mom (and human) I know a thing or two about fear and worry, and enjoyed weaving these challenges into the novel. I do think Benjamin and Isabelle are likable, especially perhaps because of their weaknesses, and hope readers will find them relatable.

What did you enjoy most about writing The Bridge to Belle Island? What was the most challenging?

Writing a whodunit was a new challenge, but one I enjoyed. I loved creating an intriguing puzzle for readers to solve. Finding the right balance of clues and red-herrings was definitely difficult. Thanks to my beta readers and editors, I think (hope!) we got it right.

There is a long history of Gothic romance and historical mystery set during the Regency-era. Can you share any books or authors that you have read and enjoyed?

I have not read many mysteries set in the Regency era, though I have enjoyed several Gothic Regency novels by my friend Michelle Griep, and several Victorian-era mysteries by Anne Perry as well as Elizabeth Peters.

Have you ever drawn personalities or characteristics from people you know and applied them to the characters in your novels?  

In general, I don’t write about people I know, but I believe writers are influenced by everything we take in, including everyone we meet, so, indirectly, yes!

What do you like to read when you’re not researching your next book?

Like many people, I read books that are strongly recommended to me. When someone I trust says, “You have to read this book!” I am likely to give it a try. I read in many genres, from contemporary romance to historical fiction, to mystery. Lately, my husband and I have been enjoying many Agatha Christie mysteries both in audiobook and television versions. But you’re right—mostly what I read are research books.

Are you planning another research trip to England soon?

Yes, my husband and I are tentatively planning to return to Cornwall, England in 2020 to do more research for my next full-length novel.

I am curious if you can share anything about your next book? Even a mere hint would be intriguing.

Next up from me is a novella called An Ivy Hill Christmas (September 2020). In the story, unexpected surprises and romance work their magic in a prodigal’s heart.

Thank you so much for your time and insights, Julie! Best, LA

You are very welcome, Laurel Ann! Julie

The Bridge to Belle Island


In this page-turning standalone, an island estate with hidden secrets and a cast of characters with motives for murder will keep you up late into the night to find out what happens next.

As lawyer Benjamin Booker investigates the mysterious death of an old friend, evidence takes him to a remote island on the Thames, shrouded in mist and mystery. There, Isabelle Wilder is trapped by fear and a recurring dream about a man’s death. Or is it a memory? When a second death brings her admirer, friends, and family under suspicion, and the search for the truth brings secrets to light, she realizes her island sanctuary will never be the same.


The Klassens-in Bath_EnflandBestselling and award-winning author Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, she worked in publishing for sixteen years and now write full time. Three of her books, The Silent Governess, The Girl in the Gatehouse, and The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. The Secret of Pembrooke Park won the Minnesota Book Award, and The Silent Governess was a finalist in Romance Writers of America’s RITA awards. She has also been honored with the Midwest Book Award and Christian Retailing’s BEST Award. She enjoys travel, research, BBC period dramas, long hikes, short naps, and coffee with friends. She and her husband have two sons and live near St. Paul, Minnesota.

Read our 5 Star review of The Bridge to Belle Island


  • The Bridge to Belle Island by Julie Klassen
  • Bethany House Publishers (2019)
  • Hardcover, trade paperback, eBook, and audiobook (400) pages
  • ISBN-13: 978-0764218194
  • Genre: Historical Suspense, Regency Romance, Inspirational Fiction


Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Cover image courtesy of Bethany House Publishers © 2019; text Julie Klassen & Laurel Ann Nattress © 2019,

In Conversation with Janet Todd, Editor, and Essayist of Jane Austen’s Sanditon

Jane Austen's Sanditon, edited by Janet Todd (2019)I recently read and reviewed the delightful Jane Austen’s Sanditon, an excellent new edition in the crowded Austen book market whose timely release, along with the new ITV/PBS eight-part television adaptation/continuation inspired by the unfinished novel, has brought Jane Austen’s last work into the limelight. I have long followed the career of its editor, Janet Todd, and own several of her books, including the soon to be re-issued Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Times, Her Novels (February 4, 2020).

For years I have been reading about Janet’s friendship with a mutual Janeite, Diana Birchall, who was also one of my contributors on Jane Austen Made Me Do It. There is so much serendipity in this triangle of friends that I knew that I needed to get Diana and Janet together for an interview regarding her new book.

Diana tells me that she and Janet first met “in 1983, at an early Jane Austen conference at St. Hilda’s College, Oxford, and chatted away during a lovely side trip to Stoneleigh Abbey.” Okay, I wasn’t there for that one, but wish I had been. “Their conversation continued over the years between visits back and forth to California Continue reading “In Conversation with Janet Todd, Editor, and Essayist of Jane Austen’s Sanditon”

A Very Austen Valentine Blog Tour: Author Interview with Robin Helm, Laura Hile, and Wendi Sotis

a very austen valentine book 2 x 200Just in time for Valentine’s Day on February fourteenth, a new Jane Austen-inspired anthology has been published to fill our romantic hearts with Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet and many other characters from Austen’s beloved novels. A Very Austen Valentine contains six novellas by popular Austenesque authors: Robin Helm, Laura Hile, Wendi Sotis, Barbara Cornthwaite, Susan Kaye and Mandy H. Cook and includes stories inspired by Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and Sense and Sensibility. Featuring many of our favorite characters, readers will find sequels, adaptations, and spin-offs of Austen’s works in this new book.

I am very happy to welcome three of the A Very Austen Valentine authors to Austenprose today. They have kindly agreed to an interview.

Welcome ladies. Here are a few questions to introduce us to your new anthology, your writing process and philosophies, and an opportunity to tell us about your next project.

Can you share your inspiration for this Austen-inspired anthology? Continue reading “A Very Austen Valentine Blog Tour: Author Interview with Robin Helm, Laura Hile, and Wendi Sotis”

Q&A with Love & Friendship Writer/Director/Author Whit Stillman

Love and Friendship Wit Stillman 2016 x 200Austen scholar Devoney Looser joins us today during the Love & Friendship Janeite Blog Tour to interview ‘Friend of Jane,’ writer/director/author Whit Stillman, whose new hit movie Love & Friendship, and its companion novel, are on the radar of every Janeite.

Welcome, Ms. Looser and Mr. Stillman to

Devoney Looser: We Janeites know that you go way back as a Janeite yourself. (Would you label yourself that? I see you’ve copped elsewhere to “Jane Austen nut.”) You’ve admitted you were once dismissive of Austen’s novels as a young man—telling everyone you hated them—but that after college you did a 180, thanks to your sister. Anything more you’d like to tell us about that?

Whit Stillman: I prefer Austenite and I consider myself among the most fervent. Yes, there was a contretemps with Northanger Abbey when I was a depressed college-sophomore entirely unfamiliar with the gothic novels she was mocking — but I was set straight not many years later. Continue reading “Q&A with Love & Friendship Writer/Director/Author Whit Stillman”

Q & A with Tessa Arlen – Author of Death Sits Down to Dinner

Death Sits Down to Dinner by Tessa Arlen x 200Please help me welcome historical mystery author Tessa Arlen to Austenprose today during her blog tour of her new novel, Death Sits Down to Dinner, the second book in her Lady Monfort series.

Firstly, I want to congratulate Tessa on her recent nomination for the Agatha Award for her debut novel, Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman. I enjoyed it tremendously, and obvious others did as well. Set at an Edwardian era English country manor house, it is the first novel in the Lady Montfort series. Death Sits Down to Dinner was released on March 29th, 2016 and is set in London. The two novels are now Town and Country bookends!

Welcome Tessa!

Comparisons of your novels to Downton Abbey were inevitable. When were you first inspired to write a mystery novel, and why did you select Edwardian era English aristocrats and their servants as your main characters? Continue reading “Q & A with Tessa Arlen – Author of Death Sits Down to Dinner”

Q&A with Juliette Wells, Editor of Emma: 200th Anniversary Annotated Edition, by Jane Austen

Emma 200th Anniversary Edition edited by Juliette Wells 2015 x 200We hit another publication milestone this year with the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s most lauded novel, Emma. I have previously reviewed the novel and the 2010 film adaptation extensively, so I thought for this new 200th Anniversary Annotated Edition by Penguin Deluxe Classics that you might enjoy hearing from another source—someone who is an Austen scholar, college professor and all-around-friend of Jane—editor Juliette Wells. Here is an informative interview with her publisher that I am happy to share.

When we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Emma, what in particular are we celebrating? What’s new about this edition? 

We’re celebrating the 200th anniversary of Emma’s original publication, in London in December 1815. The date of publication is a little confusing because “1816” was printed on the title page of the first edition of the novel, but it was actually released in December 1815. I think this gives us the right to celebrate for a whole year! Continue reading “Q&A with Juliette Wells, Editor of Emma: 200th Anniversary Annotated Edition, by Jane Austen”

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