Polite Society: A Novel, by Mahesh Rao–A Review

Image of the cover of Polite Society, by Mahesh Rao (2019)From the desk of Katie Patchell:

I have loved Jane Austen’s Emma for as long as I can remember. Yes—I mean that literally. When I was six, my first introduction to the Regency and the magnificent world of Jane Austen began with a battered VHS copy (Gwyneth Paltrow/Jeremy Northam version) and, well, has never ended.

In fact, my first classic ever read was a neon yellow copy of Emma gifted for Christmas at the age of ten. It is now battered and torn, but will forever hold a place on my shelves. To me, the heroine Emma has always gone beyond the place of a lovable but mistaken fictional friend; she’s been in some ways, a mirror of myself. Perhaps this quality is why people love to hate her – she reflects how we all would be if given enough time, money, and influence. And that is: Sure that our way is the best way. Mahesh Rao’s Polite Society shows a world and cast of characters where this idea is everything.

Retellings can always be tricky – there’s a whole host of questions we ask ourselves. Will the modern setting give or detract something from the original? How much do morals connect to ethics, and Continue reading “Polite Society: A Novel, by Mahesh Rao–A Review”

Austenprose’s Favorite Books of 2018

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Dear readers:

Along with oodles of other media outlets and book bloggers, it’s time to reveal my own favorite books of 2018. It has been a serendipitous journey—full of adventure, comfort, and surprises—mostly generated from reading beloved authors and stepping outside my sphere.

Traditionally I gravitate toward classic or modern authors in the historical fiction genre, focusing on novels inspired by Jane Austen. My reading choices this year were diverse within historical and contemporary fiction, romance, mysteries, and nonfiction, exploring new tropes and themes. However, they all share a common thread—sharp writing, comprehensive research, compelling stories, and levity. Continue reading “Austenprose’s Favorite Books of 2018”

A Preview of Longbourn’s Songbird: A Novel, by Beau North

Just released this week is a new Jane Austen-inspired novel, Longbourn’s Songbird. Based on Austen’s iconic novel, Pride and Prejudice, author Beau North has transported the action to post WWII South Carolina.

While Pride and Prejudice has spawned the largest number of sequels in print, most of those are set during the same time period, the early nineteenth-century. Fewer still are set during contemporary times. Faithfully transferring the themes and social conflicts from a novel set in Regency times to modern times is a challenge that few authors have attempted, however some of my favorites have been: Pride and Prejudice and the Perfect Match, by Marilyn Brant, Unleashing Mr. Darcy, by Teri Wilson and Mr. Darcy Came to Dinner, by Jack Caldwell.

Readers of Jane Austen-inspired fiction can never have too many Pride and Prejudice-inspired stories, especially those focusing on their favorite iconic hero and heroine, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. I am Continue reading “A Preview of Longbourn’s Songbird: A Novel, by Beau North”

Sun-kissed: Effusions of Summer Blog Tour Launch Party — Featuring editor Christina Boyd

Sun-Kissed, edited by Christina Boyd (2015)It is a pleasure to welcome Austenprose reviewer Christina Boyd here today in celebration of the release of her first book, Sun-kissed, a summer-themed short story anthology. Christina has been a contributor here at Austenprose reviewing Jane Austen-inspired books for seven years. In fact, she was my first recruit to the staff in 2008. Christina has an eye for a great story and I always had a hunch that she would make a fabulous developmental editor.

In her first outing, she has whipped up an intriguing summer frappuccino for us. Sun-kissed: Effusions of Summer is a new anthology of eight original romantic short stories inspired by the summer season and even Jane Austen. Four of the stories are by popular Meryton Press authors, and four are selections from the short story contest they held this past winter. They are the perfect beach read: light, fun and romantic, and I hope you will give them a try.

WELCOME CHRISTINA BOYD

“So each had a private little sun for her soul to bask in; some dream, some affection, some hobby, or at least some remote and distant hope…” —Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D’Urberville Continue reading “Sun-kissed: Effusions of Summer Blog Tour Launch Party — Featuring editor Christina Boyd”

A Weekend with Mr. Darcy, by Victoria Connelly – A Review

A Weekend with Mr. Darcy, by Victoria Connelly (2011)I am amazed at how many Austenesque novels continue to have “Mr. Darcy” worked into the title. Recently there has been: A Wife for Mr. Darcy, by Mary Lydon Simonsen, The Trouble with Mr. Darcy, by Sharon Lathan, The Truth about Mr. Darcy, by Susan Adriani, Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman, by Maria Hamilton, Only Mr. Darcy Will Do, by Kara Louise, What Would Mr. Darcy Do?, by Abigail Reynolds and ironically Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard, by Belinda Roberts – and that is only in the last four months!!! Gentle readers, have we indeed gone overboard over Mr. Darcy? *shudder* Can there ever be too much Mr. Darcy?

As I opened A Weekend with Mr. Darcy, yet another new novel featuring Jane Austen’s romantic icon of Nonpareil in its title, it was difficult not to feel a rush of astonishment. What could Victoria Connelly possibly offer that has not already been said several times in historical, contemporary or Continue reading “A Weekend with Mr. Darcy, by Victoria Connelly – A Review”

A Weekend with Mr. Darcy Blog Tour with Author Victoria Connelly

A Weekend with Mr. Darcy, by Victoria Connelly (2011)Please join us today in welcoming Austenesque author Victoria Connelly for the official launch of her book blog tour of A Weekend with Mr. Darcy a new Pride and Prejudice-inspired contemporary novel that was released on July 1, 2011, by Sourcebooks.

Inspiration for my books can come from anywhere.  It always amazes me what can get the imagination going.  My first book published in the UK, Molly’s Millions, was inspired by junk mail – a very unlikely beginning for a romantic comedy!

But it was when I was visiting Chawton in Hampshire that I seriously began thinking about writing about Jane Austen fans.  I’d visited Lyme Regis – the gorgeous setting for Persuasion, and Bath which was also used in Persuasion as well as Northanger Abbey.  I kept thinking about these three very different and beautiful settings and soon came up with the idea for a trilogy about Jane Austen addicts – each book set in a different Austen location.

The first book, A Weekend with Mr. Darcy, is set in Hampshire at a Jane Austen conference and I knew I wanted a grand Georgian manor house to have the starring role.  I’d pictured Newby Hall in North Yorkshire as my ideal house.  It had starred as Mansfield Park in the recent TV adaptation, but Yorkshire was a bit too far away for a research trip and so started an Internet search and discovered a gorgeous Georgian manor called Ardington House in the depths of the Oxfordshire countryside.  It was the perfect Purley Hall for my book with is sweep of driveway, its great cedar tree, and its pretty gardens leading down to the river.

Visiting locations for a book is a pleasure and a privilege.  Not only is it nice to get away from the desk once in a while but it’s vital if you want to make a place come alive and help readers really visualize it.

So, I went back to Chawton because I knew I was going to have a couple of chapters set there.  I also visited the nearby hamlet of Steventon and sat in the little church where Jane Austen would once have sat and where my own heroine, Robyn, sits, contemplating heroes.

I also visited Winchester.  I wanted to end the book at Jane Austen’s resting place and managed to visit it on the very day when the scene is set – Jane Austen’s birthday on the 16th December.  The Christmas market was in full swing and there were ice-skaters in front of the cathedral and, inside, there was a giant Christmas tree covered in simple white lights.  I sat next to Jane Austen’s grave and quietly thought of the scene I wanted to set there.  It was a magical moment.

The second book in my Austen addicts trilogy is called Dreaming of Mr. Darcy (The Perfect Hero in the UK) and is set in Lyme Regis.  We were lucky enough to stay in Lyme for two separate weeks whilst I was writing the book – choosing an apartment in the heart of the town with the most incredible view of the Cobb.  I wanted to write as much of the book as possible in situ and spent a freezing afternoon on the beach at Charmouth where my heroine and hero, Kay and Adam, go fossil hunting.  My hands were so cold that I could barely hold my pen and yet I wrote a good amount for the scene I had in mind.  I also walked the length and breadth of Lyme Regis, really getting to know the place which is just as well because I’d written a scene in which my heroine looks out of her bed and breakfast on Marine Parade and the hero spots her from the Cobb and waves.  I quickly realized that he’d never ever see her from that distance and so revised my idea for the scene.

The third book in the series, Mr. Darcy Forever, is set during the Jane Austen Festival in Bath and I had the good fortune to spend a long weekend there – but more about that another time.

I feel very fortunate in my chosen profession.  Not only do I get to spend my days creating stories but I get to visit some truly inspiring and beautiful places.  Now, I really must think about setting a novel in the Seychelles one day …

Author Victoria Connelly (2011)About the author:

Victoria Connelly’s first novel was promoted in Germany to celebrate World Book Day and was adapted into a TV movie. Her second novel was published as a lead title in the UK and chosen as a “hot pick” in Closer magazine. Her new trilogy is her first foray into Jane Austen related fiction. Connelly lives in London with her artist husband, Springer spaniel and ex-battery chickens. Visit Victoria at her blog, on Facebook and as @VictoriaDarcy on Twitter.

Giveaway of  A Weekend with Mr. Darcy

Enter a chance to win one of three copies of A Weekend with Mr. Darcy by leaving a comment answering what intrigues you most about reading a Pride and Prejudice-inspired contemporary novel or what characters you would like to see Victoria write about next, by midnight PT, Wednesday, July 13, 2011. Winners to be announced on Thursday, July 14, 2011. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

A Weekend with Mr. Darcy, by Victoria Connelly
Sourcebooks (2011)
Trade paperback (352) pages
ISBN: 978-1402251320

2007 – 2011 Victoria Connelly, Austenprose

Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard Blog Tour with Author Belinda Roberts, and a Giveaway

Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard: A Tale of Tide and Prejudice, by Belinda Roberts (2011)Please join us today in welcoming Austenesque author Belinda Roberts for the official launch of her book blog tour of Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard: A Tale of Tide & Prejudice, a new Pride and Prejudice contemporary retelling that was released on June 1, 2011 by Sourcebooks.

GUEST BLOG

Salcombe is a lively, fashionable seaside town on the south west coast of England – the sort of busy place where you turn a corner and whoops!  Excuse me!  Sorry!  After you!  You have had an encounter with a young Mr. Darcy.  They are everywhere, mixed in with young Mr. Bingleys, anxious Mrs. Bennets and shrieking Kittys and Lydias making themselves heard from one end of Fore Street to Continue reading “Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard Blog Tour with Author Belinda Roberts, and a Giveaway”

Chatting with Beth Pattillo: Author of The Dashwood Sisters Tell All

The Dashwood Sisters Tell All, by Beth Pattillo (2011)Please welcome Austenesque author Beth Pattillo today to chat about her new novel.

LAN: Welcome Beth. Congratulations on the launch of The Dashwood Sisters Tell All on April 1st. Following Jane Austen Ruined My Life (2009) and Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart (2010), this is the third novel in your “Formidables Series,” inspired by the fictitious secret society of guardians of Jane Austen’s lost letters, manuscripts and diaries. I love this concept, especially since your heroines get to go on an adventure of Austen history and self-discovery. How were you inspired to write this new novel, and what did you learn while writing it?

BP: For a long time, I have wanted to write about Jane’s sister, Cassandra, who in my fictional world founded the Formidables. I knew that the book would need to be about sisters.  In my first book, I used the imagined existence of Jane Austen’s lost letters.  In the second book, it was a fictional early version of Pride and Prejudice.  For this book, I decided the next logical step would be diaries, and The Dashwood Sisters Tell All focuses on Cassandra’s diary.  I don’t have a sister, but I’ve heard enough tales of sisters reading each other’s diaries to know that the premise had a lot of potential! Continue reading “Chatting with Beth Pattillo: Author of The Dashwood Sisters Tell All”

My Jane Austen Summer Book Launch Tour: Chatting with Author Cindy Jones & a Giveaway!

My Jane Austen Summer: A Season of Mansfield Park, by Cindy Jones (2011)A new Austenesque book is being launched today, and after meeting Lily Berry, Cindy Jones’ unconventional heroine we may never look at Jane Austen’s novels in the same way again! Please welcome Cindy Jones on her first stop on the blog tour.

LAN: Congratulations Cindy! My Jane Austen Summer launches today. As a debut author that must be very heady. Can you share with us the premise of the book and what your inspiration was to write it?

CSJ: Thank you, Laurel Ann for hosting me on publication day.  My Jane Austen Summer is the story of a woman who believes she may finally realize her fantasy of living in a novel when she is invited to a Jane Austen Literary Festival in England.  The idea for My Jane Austen Summer developed after re-reading all six Jane Austen novels and feeling the pain of permanent separation at the last page.  I craved a book that would allow me Continue reading “My Jane Austen Summer Book Launch Tour: Chatting with Author Cindy Jones & a Giveaway!”

Echoes of Love: Jane Austen in 21st Century Book 5, by Rosie Rushton – A Review

Echoes of Love: Jane Austen in the 21st Century Book 5, by Rosie Rushton (2010)Guest review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder of Reflections of a Book Addict

Anna is the daughter of Walter Elliot, a washed up has-been TV personality. Walter has been out of work for over a year and has refused to curb his lifestyle, which has caused major financial difficulties for the Elliot’s. Family friend Marina has convinced Walter to move rent-free into an apartment near the marina where he can “house-sit” for her friends, while a nice couple pays to rent out the family estate. Marina begins telling Anna about the couple that is going to be renting out the house when Anna suddenly gets the feeling that she’s heard of them before. Turns out the couple renting the house are the aunt and uncle of Felix Wentworth, the love of Anna’s life. All would be well with their being there, except for the fact that Anna’s family came between her and Felix two years earlier, tearing them apart. Anna comes to learn that Felix is going to be visiting them for the summer while he is on leave from the military, and sees that she might have a chance to win him back if she can prove her love and remorse. Will she be able to convince him that there has never been anyone but him for her, and that her family will never make her decisions for her again? Continue reading “Echoes of Love: Jane Austen in 21st Century Book 5, by Rosie Rushton – A Review”

Friday Mornings at Nine, by Marilyn Brant – A Review

Friday Mornings at Nine, by Marilyn Brant (2010)From the desk of DeWees:

“Relationships are so complicated, and the path strewn with thorns, that everybody struggled somewhere down the line.  Early in the dating process. Those rough first years of marriage.  Later, when midlife crises and doubts rushed in.  Passion waxed and waned across the board, didn’t it?  And so many times, people who had dealt with hardships in the relationship at first, grew into mature adults who retained a warm appreciation for each other and their memories—even the challenges—they had shared.  Perhaps their initial fiery ardor evaporated over the years, but a tender respect was forged in its place.  Though both parties would have to want that.  To be willing to work to reinvent their couplehood.”

Continue reading “Friday Mornings at Nine, by Marilyn Brant – A Review”

Chatting with Beth Pattillo, author of Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart – and a Giveaway

Jane Austen is known for her finely drawn and memorable characterizations. Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice is undoubtedly her most famous hero, easily filling the literary romantic icon mantle. Our fascination with his haughty, arrogant noble mien has inspired many authors, screenwriters and even composers to try recreate that magic combination of enigmatic characteristics that Austen so skillfully introduced. The latest Austen inspired novel to feature a Mr. Darcy-like doppelganger is Beth Pattillo’s Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart. It follows a similar format to her previous novel Jane Austen Ruined My Life (2009) which was one of my Top 20 Favorite Austenesque Books of 2009. Set in contemporary times, young heroine Claire Prescott is at a crossroads in her life, travels to England, meets a handsome, haughty and wealthy young man and is thrown into the path of the ‘Formidables’, a secret sect of Janeites harboring Jane Austen letters, manuscripts and her reputation. Beth has kindly offered to chat with us today about her new book and her affinity to one of her favorite authors.

Welcome Beth, thanks for joining us:

When did you first discover Jane Austen and did she influence your reading choices and writing career?

I first discovered Jane Austen my junior year in college.  I was lucky enough to do a semester abroad at Westfield College, University of London.  It was a bitterly cold winter and I spent a lot of hours curled up beneath my down duvet, radiator blazing, reading those inexpensive Penguin Classic paperbacks.  I started with Pride and Prejudice and worked my way through the rest by the time spring arrived.

I love the Regency period and have read lots and lots of research books, so I feel as if it’s a time period I know well.  I started out writing Regency romance, spent some time with Southern women’s fiction and mystery, and then, after a trip to London, started to wonder about Austen’s lost letters.  That’s when the idea for Jane Austen Ruined My Life was born.  The new book, Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart, seemed the logical next step.  If I could fantasize about Austen’s lost letters, how much more fun would it be to play a game of “What If” with regards to the original draft of Pride and Prejudice?

Jane Austen is known for her astute observations of human nature and lively characterizations. Which heroes, heroines, rogues and flirts do you admire and or abhor in Austen’s novels and what do you think makes them so memorable?

I love all her heroines, with the possible exception of Fanny in Mansfield Park.  I think Elizabeth Bennet is memorable for her wit and complexity.  The Dashwood sisters in Sense and Sensibility set up a great ‘debate’ about just how much romanticism is too much romanticism.  I have to say, I’m much more an Elinor than a Marianne.  Anne Elliot may be my favorite heroine because she takes all the indignities her family foists upon her with good grace – plus, she triumphs magnificently in the end.  I also love Emma.  I know she rubs some people the wrong way, but I think her heart is in the right place.

As to the heroes, I’m particularly fond of Mr. Darcy, Colonel Brandon, and Captain Wentworth.  The first has to tame his own ego, the second has to persevere to gain his heart’s desire, and the third one has to learn how to forgive.  They all win our hearts because they prove themselves worthy of their heroines.

As to the rogues and flirts, I have to say I enjoy them all.  Austen has such a keen eye for describing human nature.  All her characters remind me of people whom I’ve met in my life.

In Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart, one of the main characters is James Beaufort, a wealthy and arrogant young man whose personality and social position are similar to Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy. Could you share your research process for the character and elaborate on the dynamics between him and your heroine Claire Prescott. 

I wanted to explore what would happen if Claire did indeed meet her own version of Mr. Darcy.  I think that’s a pretty common fantasy among women today!  I tried to give James enough of the Darcy elements to make him intriguing without making him a carbon copy.  And he had to be tied in to the mystery of the manuscript Claire finds, so I set him up as part of an old publishing family.  I think the central Darcy question is whether, in real life, the average woman could trust him, whether his wealth and privilege would keep him from engaging in a relationship of equals.  That’s the journey Claire has to take.

The novel is set at Oxford University and your descriptions of the campus and town are vivid and intriguing. Jane Austen’s father, two brothers and uncle attended Oxford and I loved how you tided the family connection into the novel. Did you travel to Oxford for research or are you an armchair admirer of some of the most beautiful eighteenth-century architecture in the world?

I was lucky enough to spend a week at Christ Church, Oxford several years ago as part of a program called The Oxford Experience.  (I highly recommend it.)  I very much enjoyed reliving in my mind the wonderful places that I experienced firsthand.  I do worry that I didn’t get all the details just right, since it’s been several years since I was there.  I spent the week I was there doing a writing course with a wonderful instructor, meeting some fascinating people, sweltering in the heat (just as Claire does in the book), and sitting for hours in the Masters Garden.  The character of Harriet Dalrymple was inspired (but not based on) a woman that I actually met along the Kings Walk on my first day.

After your success with Jane Austen Ruined My Life, you could have gone in any writing direction but chose another Austen inspired theme. I loved how you tie the two novels together with the ‘Formidables’ a group of Janeites protecting Jane Austen’s long, and thought to be lost letters and manuscripts. Where did the inspiration of this theme come from and do you plan to continue it in your next novel?

I’m not sure where the idea for the Formidables came from, other than that I’m always playing the “What If” game in my mind.  What if Cassandra Austen didn’t destroy her sister’s letters, as instructed?  Where would they be?  Who would have them?  And why wouldn’t they have been made public?

I chose the name “Formidables” because that’s how Jane and Cassandra Austen referred to themselves as the strong-but-loving maiden aunts in the family.  I hope to write someday about how the group was formed and more about their function.

My next novel from Guideposts will be The Truth About Jane Eyre (Winter 2011).  I’m switching to the Brontes for this one and it’s a nice change of pace.  I don’t think I’m done with Jane Austen quite yet, though, but it’s too soon to spill any beans.

If you could plan a tea with Jane Austen, who else would you include in your soiree?

If I could have tea with Jane Austen, I wouldn’t invite anyone else, because I wouldn’t want to share her!  I’d be terrified and ecstatic all at once.  I’d love to know what she would make of our fascination with/adoration of her work.  And I wouldn’t mind finding out a little more about how some of her famous couples spent the rest of their lives!

Thanks for chatting with us today Beth. I too would want Jane Austen all to myself if she came to tea. Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart will be released on February 1st, 2010. I highly recommend it.

GIVEAWAY CONTEST

UPDATE Feb 08: The giveaway contest has now concluded and the winners will be announced today.

UPDATE Feb 04: Because the outstanding response by readers to this giveaway, the publisher has kindly offered to double the number of books being offered to 6 copies of Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart and two sets of MDBMH and Jane Austen Ruined My Life. Huzzah!

Enter a chance to win one of three copies of Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart and one set combined with Jane Austen Ruined My Life by leaving a comment before midnight PT Sunday February 7th, 2010 stating who is your favorite Mr. Darcy in an Austen inspired book or movie. Winners will be announced on Monday, February 8th, 2010. Shipping to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

UPDATE 02/08/10: The contest has concluded. The winner was announced. Follow this link to discover if it was YOU!

Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart: A Novel, by Beth Pattillo
Guideposts Books (2010)
Trade paperback (272) pages
ISBN: 978-0824947934

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