Aerendgast: The Lost History of Jane Austen, by Rachel Berman – A Review

Aerendgast The Lost History Rachel Berman 2015 x 200From the desk of Lisa Galek:

There’s so much we don’t know about Jane Austen. Her sister, Cassandra, burned many of Jane’s letters when she died leaving many details of her life lost to time. Is it possible that the author of many of the world’s most memorable stories on love and marriage never married or had children of her own? In Aerendgast, Rachel Berman imagines a new history for our favorite author in a mystery adventure that’s one part Austen biography and one part The Da Vinci Code.

Violet Desmond doesn’t know much about her past. She was raised by her grandmother who never mentioned the truth about Violet’s parents or the tragic accident that left her an orphan. But, when Violet’s grandmother dies and leaves her a beautiful cameo necklace and a trunk filled with papers, Violet finally realizes she’s found the tools she needs to hunt down the truth… which also may have something to do with her favorite author, Jane Austen. Continue reading

Aerendgast: The Lost History of Jane Austen Blog Tour with Author Rachel Berman

Aerendgast The Lost History Rachel Berman 2015 x 200Please help me welcome debut author Rachel Berman to Austenprose today on the first stop of her blog tour in celebration of the release of Aerendgast: The Lost History of Jane Austen published by Meryton Press. Inspired by actual events in Jane Austen’s life, Rachel has generously contributed a guest blog sharing her thoughts about her writing experience.

If you are as curious by the title of this novel as I was, you might want to read this preview and excerpt that we presented last month, and then join the blog tour as it continues through March 18. There will be reviews, interviews and giveaways along the way.   Continue reading

Aerendgast: The Lost History of Jane Austen, by Rachel Berman – A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt

Aerendgast The Lost History Rachel Berman 2015 x 200Jane Austen inspired novels now number in the thousands. While many of these stories are sequels, continuations and what-if’s of her popular novels, very few are based her life. This type of Austenesque novel is called a fictional biography—a skillful blending of known facts, family lore, and fiction into an original narrative. A few of my favorites in this sub-genre are Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas,  the twelfth in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery series by Stephanie Barron, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen and Jane Austen’s First Love, by Syrie James and The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen, by Shannon Winslow.

A new bio-fic inspired by Jane Austen’s life is in the queue this month from Meryton Press. Aerendgast: The Lost History of Jane Austen, by Rachel Berman is a literary mystery spanning contemporary and historical times with a bit of paranormal magic. The author has generously shared an excerpt with us today to give us a teaser. I hope you enjoy it. Continue reading

Q & A with Midnight in Austenland Author Shannon Hale, & a Giveaway!

Midnight in Austenland: A Novel, by Shannon Hale (2012)We have a special treat in store for you today. Please help us welcome New York Times best-selling author Shannon Hale. She has graciously fit us into her very busy promotional schedule and answered a few probing questions about her new Austen-inspired novel, Midnight in Austenland, and the new movie in production of her first novel in the series, Austenland.

LAN: Thanks Shannon for joining us today to chat about your new Austen-inspired novel, Midnight in Austenland. This is the second time you have taken readers to that special place, Pembrook Park, the Regency-era theme park in Kent, England designed for Janeites. What tempted you to return?

SH: I was writing a screenplay for Austenland with Jerusha Hess and really enjoying returning to the story and the characters. Then when I wrote up a character sheet for my co-writer, I stumbled upon a new story idea. That story became Midnight in Austenland. I was delighted! I’d never thought to return.

LAN: Do any of the original characters from Austenland make an appearance in Midnight in Austenland? If so, can you share who and why you chose them?

SH: Miss Charming, who was a guest in the first book, is still there. The idea made me laugh, so I had to do it. I love writing her dialog, and I felt like her character had more to explore. Mrs. Wattlesbrook, the proprietress, and her handsy husband are there, and Colonel Andrews, whose parlor mystery game created the story that I couldn’t wait to follow.

LAN: There are many interesting and entertaining new characters in Midnight in Austenland, but the standout for me was Mr. Mallery. Can you give us any insight into your inspiration for his character and a preview of your deliciously moody hero?

SH: Thank you! I was thinking about how Jane Austen was in many ways commenting on the gothic romances of her day in her stories, even with Mr. Darcy. I wanted Mallery to start at that place but mixed in a little more Rochester and Heathcliff–a dark hero with a bit more bite. He was fun. I want to say more, but I’m afraid I’d get spoilery!

LAN: Midnight in Austenland is not only a romantic comedy; it is a mystery, with spirited allusions to Jane Austen’s gothic parody, Northanger Abbey. Gothic fiction played an important part in Austen’s creation of Northanger Abbey. Were there any mystery novels or authors that inspired you? Continue reading

Giveaway Winners Announced for Murder Most Persuasive

Murder Most Persuasive, by Tracy Kiely (2011)30 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win one of three copies of Murder Most Persuasive, by Tracy Kiely. The winners drawn at random are:

  • Jenny the Librarian who left a comment on August 30, 2011.
  • Audra (Unabridged Chick) who left a comment on August 30, 2011
  • Mysterygirl87 who left a comment on September 01, 2011

Congratulations to the lucky winners To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by September 15, 2011. Shipment is to US and Canadian addresses only.

Many thanks to author Tracy Kiely for sharing her early poem writing !!!! and for creating such a fabulous new Austen-inspired murder mystery.

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Murder Most Persuasive Blog Tour with Author Tracy Kiely

Murder Most Persuasive: A Mystery, by Tracy Kiely (2011)Please join us today in welcoming author Tracy Kiely on her blog tour in celebration of the release of Murder Most Persuasive: A Mystery, a new Persuasion-inspired mystery novel published today by Minotaur Books.

Murder, Jane Austen, and Me  

I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was little. That’s not to say that I was one of those child prodigies who effortlessly create witty/insightful/touching tomes at a tender age, and land on the couch with Ophra. Far from it. In fact, here’s a little sample of one of my earliest works that proves my point quite nicely. It was my first (and, thankfully, only) attempt at poetry. Ready? Here goes:

The rain comes down

Upon the ground

Will it ever stop?

I’ll get the mop.

See, what I mean? But, despite my rather shaky start, I still loved the idea of being a writer. As the years went by, I narrowed that down to being a mystery writer. Growing up, I spent a great deal of time reading Agatha Christie, Jane Austen, and watching Alfred Hitchcock movies. I loved the twisty, deviously clever plots of Christie, the sublime wit of Austen, and the “average man caught in extraordinary circumstances” themes of Hitchcock.

Anyway, when I began to think of writing my own mystery, I realized it would have to include those elements. As I struggled to come up with something in the way of a viable storyline, the characters of Pride and Prejudice kept swirling around in my head. It dawned on me that while there is no murder in Pride and Prejudice, there are plenty of characters who certainly inspire murderous thoughts. I began to wonder, what, if after years of living with unbearably rude and condescending behavior, old Mrs. Jenkins up and strangled Lady Catherine? Or, if one day Charlotte snapped and poisoned Mr. Collins’ toast and jam? I realized that most likely no one would be surprised had Jane written these plot twists into follow-up versions of her books as these characters were exactly the sort of odious creatures that would be bumped of in a mystery novel.

But, I didn’t want to write a period piece, and I definitely didn’t want to take over existing characters and try and make them my own. It’s not that I don’t enjoy reading other authors who do exactly that. It’s just as Dirty Harry once said in one of his movies, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”  I know mine, and recreating Elizabeth and Darcy is not one of then.  So, I instead I tried to figure out a way to work in the themes and personality clashes of Pride and Prejudice into a modern-day mystery. Continue reading

Preview of Midnight in Austenland: A Novel, by Shannon Hale

Midnight at Austenland: A Novel, by Shannon Hale (2012)In 2007 bestselling young adult novelist Shannon Hale ventured into adult fiction and brought us the enchanting Austenland – a trip to a fantasy vacation resort in England with a Regency theme. The heroine Jane Hayes gets a chance to live her “secret addiction to the 1995 A&E television adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and all things Darcy.” It was a Janeite favorite. Now she is offering readers a chance to return to Pembroke Park for a new Regency inspired adventure with deep Austen overtones and a Gothic infused mystery to solve. Wouldn’t Austen’s heroine Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey be right at home in this novel? Here is the publisher’s description:

Beloved, bestselling author Shannon Hale returns to Austenland, where bonnets are in vogue and gentlemen can dance, where one might still find real love — and real murder!

In Midnight in Austenland, Shannon Hale takes us back to Pembrook Park, the lovely English resort where women can play out their Jane Austen fantasies. But this time things take a turn for the Gothic: a little Northanger Abbey infusing our Mansfield Park.

Charlotte Kinder of Ohio is consummately nice. Maybe too nice. Her teenage kids don’t appreciate her, and she lets her jerk ex-husband walk all over her. But she’s also clever. And when she treats herself to a two-week vacation in Austenland, it turns out that she’ll need her wits about her. With everyone at Pembrook Park playing a role, it can sometimes be difficult to discern what’s what. Is the brooding Mr. Mallery as sinister as he seems? What is the mysterious ailment from which Miss Gardenside suffers? Could the body Charlotte discovers during a parlor game be an actual corpse? And – perhaps of the most lasting import – could the stirrings in the heart of our crime-solving heroine be a sign of real-life love?

The sequel to reader favorite Austenland provides all the perfectly plotted pleasures of the first book, with a feisty new heroine and plenty of fresh twists. There’s romance, there’s humor, there’s intrigue, and at last – just as it always happens in Austen – everything turns out right in the end.

Continue reading

Murder on the Bride’s Side, by Tracy Kiely – A Review

An old Richmond, Virginia plantation, a festive wedding, and family disputes set the stage for murder in Tracy Kiely’s novel Murder on the Bride’s Side, the second novel in the Elizabeth Parker mystery series inspired by Jane Austen’s classic novels. A year ago, Kiely wowed me with her debut novel Murder at Longbourn loosely based on characters from Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. This time we follow the further adventures of her endearingly flawed, angst-ridden sleuth Elizabeth Parker as she draws strength and great quotes from Sense and Sensibility.

The story picks up eight months after Elizabeth solved a double murder at her aunt Winnie’s B&B in Cape Cod. She and her boyfriend Peter McGowan (who she reconnected with in Murder at Longbourn) are still an item, but the challenge of a long-distance relationship niggles at her insecurities. He is joining Elizabeth in Richmond, Virginia while she fulfills her maid-of-honor duties for her best friend Bridget Matthews whose wedding is at the family estate Barton Landing, a former tobacco plantation fronting the James River. It would not be a proper old southern family without an elderly potentate to wield their cane and pelt crosswords at their children, so Kiely has supplied us with Elsie Matthews, a meddling grand dame who likes to match make and foretell the future. Upon Elizabeth’s arrival, her ominous prediction of “death is coming” ultimately comes to pass the day after the wedding when the body of her daughter-in-law Roni is found brutally murder with a large kitchen knife in her chest. This is a tragic event, so why is no one grieving?

Elizabeth soon discovers that almost everyone in the Matthews clan wanted Roni dead. She is what Barbara Bush quipped “a noun beginning with b and rhyming with witch.” She was the much younger second wife of Elsie’s eldest son Avery, the heir presumptive and president of a thriving landscaping company whose recent stroke has left him in a wheelchair. His scheming wife (with a man-made figure) was determined that he sell in order to slow down and enjoy life. This news sends the family into a tailspin of anger and fear, so much so that someone commits murder to stop her.

Among Elsie’s three children and their families, the chief suspect is Bridget’s cousin Harry Matthew’s, a Willoughby-like playboy who is often in his cups but not at all the killing kind. Because of Elizabeth’s success with sleuthing out the murderer at her aunt’s B&B last January, she is called upon by Bridget to find the proof of the real murderer and free Harry. Could it be Roni’s browbeaten teenage daughter Megan, Avery’s starchy infatuated nurse Millicent McDaniel, womanizer and family leech David Cook, Avery’s jilted girlfriend Julia Fitzpatrick, or Elizabeth herself, who is found in possession of the valuable diamond necklace missing from Roni’s body? Add to this drama the coincidence of Peter’s former flame, wedding coordinator Chloe Jenkins, is on the prowl again and Elizabeth will need to channel the Dashwood sisters: Elinor’s inner strength and Marianne’s passionate determination to solve the crime.

Written from her heroine’s perspective, it was a delight to return to Kiely’s breezy, familiar, blog-like writing style. It drew me into Elizabeth’s anxious world as a singleton and struggles with confidence in her own abilities, building upon my desire for her to succeed. Like Austen, Kiely excels at endearing characterization supplying an array of odd, interesting, unique but somehow familiar characters. I particularly appreciated her descriptive use of metaphor and subtle humor. This mystery enthusiasts paid close attention to clues, had my predictions, but was still surprised at the final reveal. My major quibble is that this novel has even fewer connections to Austen than her previous outing. If you are going to claim that it has been drawn from Sense and Sensibility, you better deliver. Elizabeth’s ongoing relationship with Peter had its ups and downs – but really – how could anyone not be besotted by a man who can quote lines from Cary Grant movies by heart? Kudos to St. Martin’s for the beautiful cover. BIG improvement. I am looking forward to Tracy’s next murder mystery in the series inspired by Austen’s Persuasion. Yay! Men in blue. Go Wentworth.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Murder on the Bride’s Side, by Tracy Kiely
St. Martin’s Press (2010)
Hardcover (304) pages
ISBN: 978-0312537579

Cover image courtesy of St. Martin’s Press ©2010; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2010, Austenprose

Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for August 2010

The Jane Austen book sleuth is happy to inform Janeites that many Austen inspired books are heading our way in August, so keep your eyes open for these new titles.

Audio

The Convenient Marriage, by Georgette Heyer, read by Richard Armitage

In honor of historical romance novelist Georgette Heyer’s birthday this month, I am sure that Jane Austen will not mind if I place one of Heyer’s Regency romance novels first among the great selection of books available this month. If you hadn’t noticed, we are celebrating Heyer in a big way all month here on Austenprose, but this novel in particular of the 34 we will be discussing stands head and shoulders over the rest. Yes, the story is one of Heyer’s best with a strong hero and an endearingly flawed young heroine, but this audio edition really chases away any fit of the blue devils with its velvet-voiced reader, Richard Armitage. This is his third foray into reading Heyer for Naxos Audiobooks, and I cannot think of one actor more qualified to make half of the population of the world swoon. (Publishers description) Horatia Winwood is the youngest and the least attractive of the three Winwood sisters. She also has a stammer. But when the enigmatic and eminently eligible Earl of Rule offers for her oldest sister’s hand – a match that makes financial and social sense, but would break her heart – it is Horatia who takes matters into her own impetuous hands. Can she save her family’s fortune? Or is she courting disaster? Witty, charming, elegant and always delightful, Georgette Heyer – the undisputed Queen of Regency Romance – brings the whole period to life with deft precision and glorious characters. Naxos AudioBooks (2010), Abridged Audio CD, ISBN: 978-1843794417. Listen to a preview.

Fiction (prequels, sequels, retellings, variations, or Regency inspired)

Emma and the Vampires, by Wayne Josephson

More vampires in our Austen coming our way. This time, its Austen’s handsome, clever, and rich Emma Woodhouse, with a comfortable home and happy disposition with very little to distress or vex her except her vampire neighbors. (Publishers description) In this hilarious retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma, screenwriter Wayne Josephson casts Mr. Knightley as one of the most handsome and noble of the gentlemen village vampires. Blithely unaware of their presence, Emma, who imagines she has a special gift for matchmaking, attempts to arrange the affairs of her social circle with delightfully disastrous results. But when her dear friend Harriet Smith declares her love for Mr. Knightley, Emma realizes she’s the one who wants to stay up all night with him. Fortunately, Mr. Knightley has been hiding a secret deep within his unbeating heart-his (literal) undying love for her… A brilliant mash-up of Jane Austen and the undead. Sourcebooks Landmark (2010), Trade paperback, ISBN: 978-1402241345. Read the first chapter.

To Conquer Mr. Darcy, Abigail Reynolds

Originally published as Impulse and Initiative by Sourcebooks in 2008, this Pride and Prejudice variation asks “what if” after Mr. Darcy’s first proposal to Elizabeth Bennet he didn’t give up, but pursued her from Kent back to Longbourn? I reviewed the original edition if you would like to peruse my humble opinion. (Publishers description) What if…Instead of disappearing from Elizabeth Bennet’s life after she refused his offer of marriage, Mr. Darcy had stayed and tried to change her mind? What if…Lizzy, as she gets to know Darcy, finds him undeniably attractive and her impulses win out over her sense of propriety? What if…Madly in love and mutually on fire, their passion anticipates their wedding? In To Conquer Mr. Darcy, instead of avoiding Elizabeth after his ill-fated marriage proposal, Mr. Darcy follows her back to Hertfordshire to prove to her he is a changed man and worthy of her love. And little by little, Elizabeth begins to find the man she thought she despised, irresistible… Sourcebooks Casablanca (2010), Mass market paperback, ISBN: 978-1402237300. Read the first chapter.

Murder on the Bride’s Side: A Mystery, by Tracy Kiely

 

Last year debut author Tracy Kiely blew my bonnet off with her clever Pride and Prejudice inspired whodunit, Murder at Longbourn. Now her clever, but endearingly insecure sleuth Elizabeth Parker is back with a new mystery to solve that is inspired by Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. (Publishers description) Drawing from the classic Sense and Sensibility, Tracy Kiely continues the adventures of Elizabeth Parker, the likable Austen-quoting sleuth, in this witty and charming series. Elizabeth Parker suspected that fulfilling her duties as maid-of-honor for her best friend, Bridget, was going to be murder. And no sooner is the last grain of rice thrown than she finds herself staring into the dead eyes of Bridget’s Aunt Roni, a woman whose death is almost as universally celebrated as Bridget’s nuptials. The horror only increases when Harry, Bridget’s cousin, becomes the chief suspect. The idea is ludicrous to the family because Harry is one of the kindest, most compassionate people imaginable. To complicate matters, Elizabeth’s boyfriend, Peter, appears to be falling for an old flame, a gorgeous wedding planner. Determined to clear Harry of the crime, reign in Bridget’s impulsive brand of sleuthing, and figure out where Peter’s heart lies, Elizabeth sets her mind to work. Minotaur Books (2010), Hardcover, ISBN: 978-0312537579.  Read my preview and an excerpt here.

Austen’s Oeuvre

Emma (Blackstone Audio Classic), by Jane Austen, read by Nadia May

Since one can never have too many audio editions of Emma to break the monotony of the work commute,  pop this one into your car CD player and enjoy an unabridged recording of  Austen’s nonsensical girl. (Publishers description) Often considered Jane Austen’s finest work, Emma is the story of a charmingly self-deluded heroine whose injudicious matchmaking schemes often lead to substantial mortification. Emma, ”handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.” Her own great fortune has blinded Emma to the true feelings and motivations of others and leads her to some hilarious misjudgments. But it is through her mistakes that Emma finds humility, wisdom, and true love. Told with the shrewd wit and delicate irony which has made Jane Austen a master of the English novel, Emma is a comic masterpiece whose fanciful heroine has gained the affection of generations of readers. Blackstone Audio, Inc. (2010), Unabridged CD, ISBN: 978-1441755360

Nonfiction

The Jane Austen Pocket Bible: The Perfect Gift for a Literary Lover, by Holly Ivins

From the publisher’s description, this appears to be the be-all, end-all of Austen enlightenment. That is a lot of Austenology for this slim 192-page volume. (Publishers description) The perfect gift for a literary lover. Have you ever dreamt of Darcy? Wished for Wentworth? Or even envied the womanly wiles of Emma? Perhaps you want to know a bit more about the author who so accurately describes the ins and outs of courtship, and whose novels have never been out of print since they were first published nearly 200 years ago? If you’re nodding in excitement reading this then the Jane Austen Pocket Bible is one for you. This handy little book guides you through Austen’s beloved novels, explaining Regency manners, the class system, the importance of inheritance, and the delicate matter of landing a husband. Full of fascinating trivia about the world of Austen’s novels this book also contains details of Austen’s life, the writers who inspired her, the country estates which make up the settings for her romantic adventures, and details on the countless film and television adaptations which have been made. With facts on genteel dancing, a plan for an Austen dinner party and words of wisdom from the lady herself, it’s a must-have for every self-confessed Jane fan or those making their first foray into Austen’s carefully crafted world. Pocket Bibles (2010), Hardcover, ISBN: 978-1907087097

Austen’s Contemporaries & Beyond

Becoming Queen Victoria: The Tragic Death of Princess Charlotte and the Unexpected Rise of Britain’s Greatest Monarch, by Kate Williams

There are a ton of Victoria biographies on the market, so why do we need another one? Kate Williams is why. If any of you missed her 2006 bio of Emma Hamilton, England’s Mistress, it is well worth a trip to the library or that gift card you have been hoarding from last Christmas. Her next venture into fascinating women from the nineteenth-century is with Queen V. Her slant is the Princess Charlotte tragedy and how it made the Royal family scamper to conceive the next heir to the throne. (Publishers description) In her lauded biography England’s Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton, Kate Williams painted a vivid and intimate portrait of Emma Hamilton, the lover of English national hero Lord Horatio Nelson. Now, with the same keen insight and gift for telling detail, Williams provides a gripping account of Queen Victoria’s rise to the throne and her early years in power—as well as the tragic, little-known story of the princess whose demise made it all possible. Writing with a combination of novelistic flair and historical precision, Williams reveals an energetic and vibrant woman in the prime of her life, while chronicling the byzantine machinations behind Victoria’s struggle to occupy the throne—scheming that continued even after the crown was placed on her head. Ballantine Books (2010), Hardcover, ISBN: 978-0345461957. Read the first chapter.

Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, by Jennifer Kloester

Not just your average compendium of Regency-era historical facts and figures, this volume uses Georgette Heyer’s novels as a springboard and ties in social, cultural and political customs and events, explaining it all for you, clearly and concisely. Read my review for full details and insights. (Publishers description) The definitive guide for all fans of Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen, and the glittering Regency period. Immerse yourself in the resplendent glow of Regency England and the world of Georgette Heyer…From the fascinating slang, the elegant fashions, the precise ways the bon ton ate, drank, danced, and flirted, to the shocking real-life scandals of the day, Georgette Heyer’s Regency World takes you behind the scenes of Heyer’s captivating novels. As much fun to read as Heyer’s own novels, beautifully illustrated, and meticulously researched, Jennifer Kloester’s essential guide brings the world of the Regency to life for Heyer fans and Jane Austen fans alike. Sourcebooks (2010), Trade paperback, ISBN: 978-1402241369. Read the first chapter.

Shades of Milk and Honey, by Robinette Kowal

More fun with Jane. (sort of) This Regency-era novel has some similar Austenesque themes: two sisters with divergent personality seek love and happiness, but with Harry Potter magic thrown in the mix. It looks intriguing. Let’s hope the prose is light, bright and sparkly. (Publishers description) The fantasy novel you’ve always wished Jane Austen had written. Shades of Milk and Honey is exactly what we could expect from Jane Austen if she had been a fantasy writer: Pride and Prejudice meets Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It is an intimate portrait of a woman, Jane, and her quest for love in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality. Jane and her sister Melody vie for the attention of eligible men, and while Jane’s skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face. When Jane realizes that one of Melody’s suitors is set on taking advantage of her sister for the sake of her dowry, she pushes her skills to the limit of what her body can withstand in order to set things right—and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own. Tor Books, Hardcover, ISBN: 978-0765325563. Read the first chapter.

Until next month, happy reading!

Laurel Ann

Preview & Excerpt from Murder on the Bride’s Side, by Tracy Kiely

As regular readers of this blog well know, Jane Austen and murder mysteries are my genres of choice. Combine the two, and I’m as giddy as Lydia Bennet with an invitation to Brighton.

Last year I discovered a new author who blended both of my favorite flavors into an Austen inspired parfait. Murder at Longbourn introduced us to Elizabeth Parker, a young lady with the intelligence and wit of our favorite heroine Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice and the angst and insecurities of Bridget Jones from Bridget Jones’ Diary. Author Tracy Kiely even supplied us with an arrogant, standoffish hero in Peter McGowan. The results were a witty and intriguing cozy mystery that was surprisingly sophisticated for a debut novel.

Due out August 31st is the next book in the series, Murder on the Bride’s Side. This time the story is inspired by Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Here is the publisher’s description:

Drawing from the classic Sense and Sensibility, Tracy Kiely continues the adventures of Elizabeth Parker, the likable Austen-quoting sleuth, in this witty and charming series.

Elizabeth Parker suspected that fulfilling her duties as maid-of-honor for her best friend, Bridget, was going to be murder. And no sooner is the last grain of rice thrown than she finds herself staring into the dead eyes of Bridget’s Aunt Roni, a woman whose death is almost as universally celebrated as Bridget’s nuptials. The horror only increases when Harry, Bridget’s cousin, becomes the chief suspect. The idea is ludicrous to the family, because Harry is one of the kindest, most compassionate people imaginable. To complicate matters, Elizabeth’s boyfriend, Peter, appears to be falling for an old flame, a gorgeous wedding planner. Determined to clear Harry of the crime, reign in Bridget’s impulsive brand of sleuthing, and figure out where Peter’s heart lies, Elizabeth sets her mind to work.

Tracy Kiely has again brilliantly combined the wit and spunk of Austen’s protagonists with a contemporary, traditional mystery. With a vibrant cast of characters, the lush setting of a Virginia estate, and irresistible humor, she delivers on all counts.

Excerpt from chapter one:

“A death is coming,” Elsie remarked blandly, glancing upwards.

Looking up, I followed her gaze and saw three seagulls gliding on crisp September air. My left temple throbbed slightly at this news. Not, ironically, out of any fear that her prediction would come true, but rather at the explosive effect it might have on the people with me. Elsie is a sophisticated, educated woman, but she has a propensity for fortune telling that would try the most patient of souls. The year I turned twelve, she told me that I would grow up to “marry a rocker and live a life of international travel.”  I had a mad crush on Peter Gabriel at the time and immediately began practicing what I anticipated to be my married name, Elizabeth Gabriel. I even envisioned myself managing his world tours.  Obviously, I wasn’t the most perceptive child. I’m now twenty-seven, have never been married, and work as a fact checker for a local paper in Virginia. As for the international travel, I did once accidentally wander into the duty free shop at the airport, if that counts.

Elsie’s declaration hung in the air, much like the seagulls. Next to me, I was relieved to see that Blythe’s only response was a simple roll of the eyes.  Twenty-eight years as Elsie’s daughter-in-law has inured Blythe to Elsie’s fondness for predictions.  It still irks her, but she has learned to hold her tongue. Bridget, however, Blythe’s daughter and Elsie’s granddaughter, has not yet learned such restraint.

“Elsie!” she burst out. (No one in the family ever calls Elsie anything other than Elsie – the mere idea of calling her “Grandma” or “Nanny” is laughable). “For Christ’s sake! Don’t start this crap now.  The wedding is tomorrow and my nerves are shot as it is!”

Elsie and Blythe, polar opposites in most everything, were united in their response.  “Don’t swear, Bridget,” they said automatically. It was a refrain I had heard directed at Bridget many times over the years.  It had never had any effect, of course, but that didn’t stop her family from trying.

Elsie tilted her black Jackie-O sunglasses down an inch and gazed at Bridget with tranquil blue eyes.  “I am only stating what I see.  And what I see are three seagulls flying overhead — in a city. Which is,” she continued calmly, “a well-known sign that a death is coming.”

“You know what’s another well-known sign?” retorted Bridget with feigned politeness.

I grabbed Bridget’s hand before she could illustrate the gesture, hoping to prevent what would have been the twenty-sixth argument of the day, but Elsie only laughed.

Further reading

My Top 20 Favorite Austenesque Books of 2009

Another year – another plethora of Austen inspired sequels, re-tellings, mash-ups and nonfiction fare devoured!

In 2009 we saw zombies invade Pride and Prejudice hungry for more brains and ascending the bestseller lists for months, Mr. Darcy go paranormal in a way we could never have imagined before with Mr. Darcy Vampyre, and Jane Austen get some payback for everyone else making money off her name for close to 200 years in Jane Bites Back.

In retrospect, here are my top 20 favorite Austenesque books that I read in 2009, a year so diverse in Austen inspired reading adventures that Catherine Morland and Isabella Thorpe would have been delighted.

Prequel, sequel, re-telling or contemporary inspired:

  1. Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, by Laurie Viera Rigler
  2. Willoughby’s Return, by Jane Odiwe
  3. The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy, by Maya Slater
  4. Jane Austen Ruined my Life, by Beth Pattillo
  5. Mr. Darcy’s Dream, by Elizabeth Aston

Regency inspired:

  1. The Grand Sophy, by Georgette Heyer
  2. The Temptation of the Night Jasmine, by Lauren Willig
  3. Ransome’s Honor, by Kaye Dacus

Nonfiction:

  1. Jane Austen: An Illustrated Treasury, by Rebecca Dickson
  2. A Truth Universally Acknowledged, edited by Susannah Carson
  3. Remarkably Jane: Notable Quotations on Jane Austen, by Jennifer Adams
  4. All Things Austen, by Kristin Olsen

Paranormal:

  1. Jane Bites Back, by Michael Thomas Ford
  2. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
  3. Mr. Darcy Vampyre, by Amanda Grange

Debut authors:

  1. Monica Fairview – The Other Mr. Darcy
  2. Tracy Kiely – Murder at Longbourn
  3. Marilyn Brant – According to Jane
  4. Kathryn L. Nelson – Pemberley Manor
  5. Mandy Hubbard – Prada and Prejudice

Congrats to all of the author’s for a most entertaining and enjoyable year of reading, and I look forward to more great Austen inspired books in 2010.

Gentle Readers, I would love to hear which Austenesque books you enjoyed in 2009 and which new author really blew YOUR bonnet off, so please cast your vote. (multiple selections and write in nominations accepted)

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