A Preview of The Knight Before Christmas, by Marilyn Brant

The Knight Before Christmas, by Marilyn Brant (2019)Hey-ho-ho Jane Austen fans. How are your holiday festivities and shopping shaping up? My neighborhood has decked their houses with lights and a few Santa’s on the rooves. One even sports a giant green Grinch. Ouch! They could use a good dose of holiday cheer, like watching one of the billion Hallmark Holiday movies airing on TV right now or reading The Knight Before Christmas, Marilyn Brant’s new holiday-themed contemporary romance. We have reviewed several of Marilyn’s previous novels here in the past with glowing results. Her Jane Austen-inspired According to Jane, and Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Match are worthy of adding to your shelves.

However, today we are introducing you to her latest release, The Knight Before Christmas. Inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma, she takes the essence of Austen’s nonsensical heroine Miss Emma Woodhouse and her older, wiser neighbor George Knightley and gives them a modern spin. Here is the book description from the publisher and an exclusive excerpt from the author herself for your enjoyment.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

When successful building contractor Austin Knightley returns to his hometown of Crystal Corners, Minnesota, after a decade away, he vows to avoid pampered and popular types like his old high-school crush Emma Westwood—the town’s biggest queen bee and self-appointed matchmaker—only to get swept into a community Christmas project she’s now organizing.

With nods to Jane Austen’s classic novel Emma, this modern heroine may be a little “clueless” in the Midwest, but she’s got gifts to share and plenty to learn from the boy next door, who’s all grown up and handsomer than ever. Even when a snowstorm threatens to derail her plans, she’s determined to figure out how to set things right and save The Knight Before Christmas. This sweet and heartwarming holiday romance is a story that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT:

Emma checked the calendar. Friday the thirteenth. Oh, goody.

It was the Yuletide of course, not Halloween, but maybe the date explained why she was having her own personal nightmare before Christmas.

She’d been trying for hours to reach a woodworker, a manager, a receptionist, anybody at Don’s Fine Furnishings—but no one was answering. The voice message was a standard “we’re not available now but will get back to you soon” kind of thing, but they still hadn’t returned her calls from yesterday, let alone her urgent inquiries today.

Her emails had also gone unanswered, which surprised her even more since everyone at the company had replied so promptly to her messages in the past.

Emma wasn’t inclined toward being superstitious, but maybe the bizarre goings-on today were on account of the inauspicious date. All she needed was to cross paths with a black cat or walk under a ladder to cement her bad luck.

Of course, it was too cold outside for the average housecat to be running around, and no one with sense would set up a ladder on an icy sidewalk. So, Emma was fairly confident she wouldn’t come upon any additionally unlucky entities during her morning errands in town.

Until she ran into Austin Knightley.

Literally.

“Oooph,” he said as she slid into him with a thud at the corner of Main Street and Second Avenue.

“Oh! I’m so sorry!” she exclaimed as he steadied her and then quickly stepped away from her body as if she had a virus. “I-I wasn’t looking. My apologies.”

Despite the cold, she could feel her cheeks heating up. How embarrassing. She’d been looking at Santa standing out in front of Nick’s Toy Shoppe and returning his friendly wave when she’d rounded the corner. Of course, of all the people in Crystal Corners she could possibly run into, it just had to be Austin.

Friday the thirteenth strikes again.

“No worries,” he said with a small smile that cracked the otherwise impervious mask of his face. “This jacket is thick enough to protect me from a boulder crashing into me. You didn’t leave a dent.”

Emma swallowed, unable to keep from noticing how well he wore that jacket. Dark gray suited him. “Um, good,” she murmured. Then she paused, waiting for him to comment again. He was studying her strangely, and she couldn’t help but feel he found her wanting somehow.

Eventually, he kind of shook his head, as if dismissing her, and simply said, “Well, have a nice day, Emma,” before he stepped past her and continued on his journey.

She watched him leave and caught sight of the same store Santa waving at Austin—an extra gleam, perhaps, in the older gentleman’s bright eyes.

Austin returned the wave to the man in red, but he didn’t look back at her.

She let out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding and tried to think through the action plan she had for the rest of the morning.

It was only eleven fifteen but, seriously, could this day get any worse?

~*~

Austin was pretty sure bad things came in threes…and that had to be triply true on Friday the thirteenth.

First, his dad had taken a spill at physical therapy this morning. He was fine, overall, but a little bruised and in need of an ice pack.

Then, the candidate Austin had been most interested in hiring to manage the Twin Cities branch of his company withdrew his application because he’d accepted a position elsewhere. That left him having to go back to the drawing board and rethink the merits of the remaining applicants.

And, finally, just when he thought the day couldn’t go any further downhill, he’d run smack into Emma Westwood.

A woman who looked absolutely ridiculous on this frigid December morning.

What kind of birdbrain wore a lightweight designer cloak-like thing in the midst of a Minnesotan winter? Or a scarf that thin? (There were weird patterns on it, and he could’ve sworn it had sparkles.) Or “boots,” for want of a better word, with heels that spiked and lacked any real tread? A strong gust of wind could have toppled her over or sent her flying across the road.

But, he had to confess, she made a pretty picture surrounded by the snow-covered evergreen bushes that lined the sidewalk and all of those downtown holiday decorations.

He shook his head. Don’t go there, man, he told himself. It’s not worth it. 

ADVANCE PRAISE: 

  • “This was a warm, feel-good sweet romance that was perfect for getting one in the mood for the holidays.” — Sophia Rose, Night Owl Book Café
  • “Austen fans, romance fans, and fans of holiday Hallmark movies will love this lighthearted tale.” — Debbie, The Reading Frenzy
  • The Knight Before Christmas is everything you need to get into the Christmas spirit or as a Christmas present.” — Obsessed with Mr. Darcy.com

AUTHOR BIO:

Marilyn Brant is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of over 20 books in the genres of contemporary women’s fiction, romantic comedy, and mystery. Her debut novel about Jane Austen won the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart Award® (2007), and she was named Author of the Year (2013) by the Illinois Association of Teachers of English. She’s a travel addict, a music junkie, and an insatiable book collector, who loves to discuss story structure and periodically contributes novel beat sheets to the popular screenwriting website, SaveTheCat.com. Marilyn’s family believes she’s lost unquantifiable hours to the allure of “Tasty” videos on Facebook, but she refuses to substantiate this claim. For more about her writing, visit Marilyn’s website: http://www.marilynbrant.com

SUMMARY:

Just a friendly head’s up. Don’t confuse this delightful new holiday novel with the Netflix holiday movie that premiered this season. They may share the same title, but they were written by two totally different authors. The only thing they have in common is that they are both set during Christmas and there is snow.

I look forward to reading The Knight Before Christmas this holiday season and send a big thank you to Marilyn for generously sharing an excerpt today with our readers. Doesn’t it look great?

The Knight Before Christmas, by Marilyn Brant
Twelfth Night Publishing (2019)
Trade paperback, & eBook (252) pages
ISBN: 978-0998396491 

PURCHASE LINKS: 

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY | INDIEBOUND | GOODREADS 

Cover image, book description, and exclusive excerpt courtesy of Twelfth Night Publishing © 2019; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2019, Austenprose.com

A Preview of Yuletide: A Jane Austen Inspired Collection of Stories (Audiobook), Narrated by Harry Frost

Yuletide: A Jane Austen-Inspired Collection of Stories (Audiobook), edited by Christina Boyd, read by Harry Frost (2019)Hey-ho gentle readers!

The holiday season is quickly approaching with all of its delights. My local radio station started playing Christmas music the day after Veterans Day. Retailers are hanging garland and stocking their tables with gift-giving fare. A friend told me that they are finished with their shopping and have already mailed their gifts. It’s not even Thanksgiving and I am behind!

Desperate to get myself in the seasonal mood I coincidently learned of the new release of the audiobook of Yuletide: A Jane Austen Inspired Collection of Stories. I had read the book last year, so this was a nice surprise. It contains seven Pride and Prejudice-inspired stories set during the holiday season in Regency and modern-day. You can read my review of Yuletide for a summary of the stories and my impressions. Here are the book description and audio excerpts from the publisher.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

I went up to the Great House between three and four, and dawdled away an hour very comfortably….” — Jane Austen

A holiday short story anthology with some favorite Austenesque authors, Yuletide is inspired by Jane Austen, Pride and prejudice, and the spirit of the season. Regency and contemporary alike, each romance was dreamt to spark love, humor, and wonder while you dawdle over a hot cup of tea this Christmas.

  • Chapter 1: Opening Credits
  • Chapter 2: “The Forfeit” by Caitlin Williams
  • Chapter 3: “And Evermore Be Merry” by Joana Starnes
  • Chapter 4: “The Wishing Ball” by Amy D’Orazio
  • Chapter 5: “By a Lady” by Lona Manning
  • Chapter 6: “Homespun for the Holidays” by J. Marie Croft
  • Chapter 7: “The Season for Friendly Meetings” by Anngela Schroeder
  • Chapter 8: “Mistletoe Management” by Elizabeth Adams
  • Chapter 9: Closing Credits

AUDIO EXCERPT: Continue reading

A Holiday by Gaslight: A Victorian Christmas Novella, by Mimi Matthews – A Review

Holiday by Gaslight Matthews 2018 x 200What better way to get yourself into the holiday spirit than with a Victorian-themed Christmas romance. Set in the Dickensian London of the 1860s, and in Mr. Darcy territory of Derbyshire, A Holiday by Gaslight, by Mimi Matthews offers everything that a Victorian-era Christmas love story should. A snowy Palladian country manor house to set the idyllic scene: holiday traditions of bringing family and friends together to celebrate by decking the halls, sleigh rides, and yule logs—all culminating in a Christmas ball. Mix in a dutiful daughter of a baronet whose ill-founded assumptions of her suitor result in her rejection of their courtship, and you have a second chance love story reminiscent of North and South (1855). Like Elizabeth Gaskell’s classic tale of social division and misconception, the hero and heroine of this novella have both pride and prejudice.

Pressed by her family’s sinking finances into courting a prosperous cotton merchant below her social standing, Sophie Appersett and Edward “Ned” Sharpe’s relationship was doomed from the start. She does not want to marry, and he, after being raised in an austere household does not know how to woo a lady, relying on a stuffy etiquette manual for advice. No matter how much it would please her father to marry him, she thinks him too taciturn and dull and does not suit her expectations of a future husband. He, on the other hand, overlooks her family’s grasping need for her to marry money and only sees her fine character. When she calls it off, he seems unmoved at the loss. She is relieved. Her father is furious.

Placing her doubts and her pride in her pocket, Sophie ventures out to his Fleet Street business attempting to offer an olive branch of reconciliation. Would he, his family, and his business partner attend the Appersett Christmas holidays at the family estate in Derbyshire? She reasons that they could be honest with each other and give the courtship a second chance. Ned is doubtful, and his judgmental mother even more so – yet how could they pass up the opportunity of ten days in the country at the home of a baronet? Continue reading

A Jane Austen Christmas: Celebrating the Season of Romance, Ribbons & Mistletoe, by Carlo DeVito – A Review

A Jane Austen Christmas by Carlo DeVito 2015 x 200From the desk of Lisa Galek:

If you’ve ever wondered how your favorite author celebrated Christmas in the 18th century—or just know someone who has—A Jane Austen Christmas: Celebrating the Season of Romance, Ribbons, and Mistletoe by Carlo DeVito is the perfect package to place under the tree this holiday.

A Jane Austen Christmas takes us through Jane’s life story but focuses only on events that happened around Christmastime. We begin with the holiday season of 1786, when Jane is only 11-years-old and spends time with her visiting cousin, Eliza, and ends with the Christmas of 1815 when Emma is published for the first time. On the way, we get to know more about Jane Austen and her family, read about holiday traditions in 18th-century England, and learn to make some delicious, Regency-era Christmas treats. Yum!

At first, I thought there might not be much to say about Jane Austen at Christmastime. Though all her novels mention Christmas, the season isn’t a big focus, except perhaps as a backdrop for Mr. Elton’s unwelcome proposal in Emma. But, the narrow seasonal scope of this book really makes it an easy-to-read guide to some of the important moments in Jane Austen’s life. Because the author is just touching on Christmas memories, the reader isn’t overwhelmed with tons of details about the author’s life story. We just get to focus on key events in her journey. Continue reading

A Jane Austen Christmas: Regency Christmas Traditions, by Maria Grace – Preview & Exclusive Excerpt

Regeny Christmas by Maria Grace 2014 x 200Austenesque author Maria Grace has written five Regency-era novels inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, notably the Given Good Principles series and Remember the Past: …only as it gives you pleasure. Writing period accurate novels requires extensive research, so it seems only logical that Maria should turn her hand to nonfiction. Her latest book, A Jane Austen Christmas, focuses on Regency-era holiday traditions. Here is a preview and exclusive excerpt for your enjoyment.   

PREVIEW (from the publisher’s description) 

Many Christmas traditions and images of ‘old fashioned’ holidays are based on Victorian celebrations. Going back just a little further, to the beginning of the 19th century, the holiday Jane Austen knew would have looked distinctly odd to modern sensibilities.

How odd? Families rarely decorated Christmas trees. Festivities centered on socializing instead of gift-giving. Festivities focused on adults, with children largely consigned to the nursery.  Holiday events, including balls, parties, dinners, and even weddings celebrations, started a week before Advent and extended all the way through to Twelfth Night in January.

Take a step into history with Maria Grace as she explores the traditions, celebrations, games and foods that made up Christmastide in Jane Austen’s era. Packed with information and rich with detail from period authors, Maria Grace transports the reader to a longed-for old fashioned Christmas.  

Continue reading

Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Calendar, by Jane Odiwe – Preview & Exclusive Excerpt

Mr Darcys Christmas Calendar by Jane Odiwe 2014 x 200I have often thought of Pride and Prejudice as the ultimate fairy tale. While it does not have the traditional folkloric fantasy figures such as dwarves, fairies or giants, Jane Austen did create iconic romantic characters that have become prototypes for modern writers and a plot that includes the perfect happily-ever-after ending. It is easy to see why we want to return to that fantasy and live in the era with her characters again and again through new stories.

Austenesque author Jane Odiwe has written two Austen-inspired novels with strong fantasy elements: Project Darcy and Searching for Captain Wentworth. She has a particular talent for time-slip novels where a modern heroine, like her fairy tale compatriots—Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella or Belle in Beauty and the Beast—are touched by a magic that changes their lives, setting them on a course of discovery and romance. Her latest is a novella, Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Calendar, is set during the holiday season in modern day and Regency England. Jane has generously supplied an exclusive excerpt of her new work. I hope you enjoy it.

PREVIEW (from the publisher’s description)

A novella for the Christmas holidays – Lizzy Benson visits Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, and buys a special advent calendar in the gift shop, but strange things start to happen when she opens up the first door and finds herself back in time with all the beloved characters from her favourite book, Pride and Prejudice. As she finds herself increasingly drawn into an alternate reality, Lizzy discovers not only is Mr Darcy missing from the plot, but Jane Austen has never heard of him. All Lizzy can hope is that she can help to get the story and her own complicated love life back on track before Christmas is over!

Continue reading

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas: Being a Jane Austen Mystery – Virtual Book Launch Party with Author Stephanie Barron

Jane and the Twleve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron 2014 x 200We are very excited to welcome Austenesque author Stephanie Barron to Austenprose today for the virtual book launch party of her new novel, Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas, the twelfth installment in the fan-favorite Being a Jane Austen Mystery series.

Ardent readers of Austenprose will remember that I am a huge fan of this fabulous series featuring Jane Austen as a sleuth – so much so that we celebrated  2011 with the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge, including all eleven novels in the series to date. It was great fun only dampened by the possibility that the eleventh mystery, Jane and the Canterbury Tale, might be the last in the series. Imagine my delight when I heard the news that Soho Press would be publishing the next mystery!

The three year wait was torture, but now Stephanie Barron’s darling child has arrived in grand style. We are so thrilled that she has honored us with this fabulous guest blog revealing her inspiration to write the novel based on actual history, and Jane Austen of course.

DESCRIPTION (from the publisher)

Christmas Eve, 1814: Jane Austen has been invited to spend the holiday with family and friends at The Vyne, the gorgeous ancestral home of the wealthy and politically prominent Chute family. As the year fades and friends begin to gather beneath the mistletoe for the twelve days of Christmas festivities, Jane and her circle are in a celebratory mood: Mansfield Park is selling nicely; Napoleon has been banished to Elba; British forces have seized Washington, DC; and on Christmas Eve, John Quincy Adams signs the Treaty of Ghent, which will end a war nobody in England really wanted.

Jane, however, discovers holiday cheer is fleeting. One of the Yuletide revelers dies in a tragic accident, which Jane immediately views with suspicion. If the accident was in fact murder, the killer is one of Jane’s fellow snow-bound guests. With clues scattered amidst cleverly crafted charades, dark secrets coming to light during parlor games, and old friendships returning to haunt the Christmas parties, whom can Jane trust to help her discover the truth and stop the killer from striking again?

Continue reading

Mr. Darcy’s Christmas, by Elizabeth Aston – A Review

Mr. Darcy's Christmas, by Elizabeth Aston (2012)The holiday season is greatly anticipated in my home. I love decorating my tree with my collection of glass ornaments and baking my favorite treats such as my golden fruit cake.

To add to the festivities there are always new Christmas themed books available for those who love to escape into another holiday wonderland. If, that happens to be a Jane Austen-inspired Christmas, then so much the better.

In the past, we have been treated to a holiday escape at Pemberley with Mr. & Mrs. Darcy with: A Darcy Christmas; A Christmas at Pemberley; and recently Christmas with Mr. Darcy. Imagine my delight when I learned last week that the renowned Austenesque author Elizabeth Aston had released her own Pride and Prejudice-inspired novella, Mr. Darcy’s Christmas! It only took me 15 seconds to purchase and download it to my NOOK and I was reading it. And—what a treat it is…

As the newly engaged Georgiana Darcy travels home with her brother by carriage from London to Pemberley to celebrate the holiday with his family, she reflects upon her safe choice of a fiancé, Mr. Moresby, and the man that she passed by, the dashing but dangerous Captain Daunton. Safe is a place that she craves to be after her near-fatal elopement five years ago with George Wickham, the son of her deceased father’s steward. Wickham had later proved that he was indeed a scheming cad when he had eloped with Mr. Darcy’s wife Elizabeth’s younger sister Lydia. Mr. Moresby’s prudential views might be stifling, but he was a man of rank and high regard, enough of a catch to attract the attention of Caroline Bingley, who is bitter over his choice of bride. When she learns from her maid of Georgiana’s almost elopement from Ramsgate at age fifteen, she uses this scandalous information to drive a wedge between Mr. Moresby and his new fiancé. Continue reading

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

Christmas with Mr. Darcy, by Victoria Connelly (2012)From the desk of Jeffrey Ward: 

I’m going to tell on myself.  I’m a sniveling, sentimental sucker for a good Christmas story.  It is only October and I’ve only devoured two of them so I’m way behind my normal seasonal curve.  Thank heavens for author Victoria Connelly, who sensing a good thing, has smartly thrown together ALL of the heroes and heroines from her Austen Addicts trilogy:  A Weekend with Mr. Darcy, Dreaming of Mr. Darcy, and Mr. Darcy Forever.

Thus, her follow-up novella, Christmas with Mr. Darcy, is like a recipe for a classic Christmas pudding:  combine growing romances, friends, family, a spectacularly decorated manor house, a sudden snowstorm, mysterious criminal activity, full-throttle Jane Austen trivia, and then sit back and savor a large helping.  Catch up with Katherine and Warwick, Kay and Adam, Dan and Robyn, Mia and Gabe, Sarah and Lloyd, et al, as they are invited to the hostess and distinguished actress Dame Pamela Harcourt’s inaugural Jane Austen Christmas conference.

Along the way, we meet Higgins, Dame Pamela’s endearing and watchful butler, Benedict, Dan’s ‘neer-do-well’ older brother, (who invites himself) Mrs. Soames, (“Oh dear, who invited her?”) sweet Doris Norris,  sisters Roberta and Rose, adorable Cassandra, (Dan and Robyn’s infant daughter) and a mustachioed gentleman who none of the invitees can seem to quite recognize.  The author even manages to insert references to her own brood of beloved hens!

Victoria Connelly paints the holiday-decorated splendor of Dame Pamela’s grand Purley Hall while she builds anticipation by bouncing from one guest to another as they excitedly prepare for the journey to the conference.

In spite of a blinding snowstorm, all of the guests arrive safely at Purley Hall and Dame Pamela welcomes the crowd with her trademark warmth, charm, glittering jewels, and stunning gowns.  As the guests settle in, certain valuables begin to disappear without any trace.  At first, most who have suffered loss merely attribute it to forgetfulness or failing to pack correctly for the trip. Continue reading