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?

Laura: Several years ago Robin Helm and I talked about putting together an anthology – no small feat, as Laurel Ann knows (Jane Austen Made Me Do It) – and last Christmas we banded together with Wendi Sotis and Barbara Cornthwaite to release our first. Who knew that Jane Austen and Christmas would combine so well? Our readers, that’s who! We were overwhelmed by the response to A Very Austen Christmas. Next, we decided to take on Valentine’s Day. This holiday was not widely popular during the Regency, but when we found extant Valentine cards from the period, we were off and running. A Very Austen Valentine is the result.

We call our anthologies “books that friendship built” because, this is absolutely true. They are our way of introducing our writing friends to our reading friends – like you. We plan to include guest authors in each. Susan Kaye (Frederick Wentworth, Captain Series) and Mandy H. Cook (The Gifted) are with us for this one.

Do you agree or disagree that Jane Austen is the mother of the romance novel?

Robin: Yes, I agree that Jane Austen is the mother of the romance novel, but I more definitively think of Austen as the creator of a smaller genre: the novel of manners.

A novel of manners re-creates a social world, conveying the customs, values, and mores of a highly developed, complex society.

To me, this is the area in which Austen shines most brightly. She left a wonderful legacy of her time period – the behavior of the classes in early nineteenth century England.

Once you knew you were part of A Very Austen Valentine, how did you face the blank page and create your story?

Wendi: The first question for any story I write always is, “Where should I deviate from canon?”

I had already decided that the next variation I wrote would have the character Charles Bingley from Pride and Prejudice unconvinced that Jane Bennet didn’t love him and returning to Hertfordshire almost immediately after leaving it. Whether that was a main part of the story or not, it didn’t matter; that was set in stone.

I also knew right away that, for me, a Valentine’s Day theme had to involve valentine poems, so I researched what someone in that time period would write. Once I decided a good portion of it would take place in Kent at Hunsford parsonage and Rosings Park, I just had to include Anne de Bourgh and Colonel Fitzwilliam coming up with some kind of scheme. Everything else just filled in around that idea.

What is the biggest challenge for you in writing Austen-inspired fiction?

Laura: It might sound odd to confess that in addition to “classic” Regency authors like Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, my favorite genre as a reader is cozy mystery — especially the queens of mystery: Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, etc. I love the intrigue of a puzzler, and this plays into my Austen-inspired fiction. The challenge is to come up with a fresh story that delights readers and yet at the same time remains true to the characters we love from Jane Austen’s novels. A tall order! I often move her secondary characters to center stage (Mercy’s Embrace trilogy), or I cause fun and unexpected twists (Darcy By Any Other Name). Also, I dearly love bringing together people from various Austen novels, just to see what happens. “Sir Walter Takes a Wife,” my contribution to our Valentine anthology, does just that.

How do you feel about historical accuracy, period language, and continuity in the Austenesque genre?

Wendi: One thing I’m strict about with period language is that, although even Jane Austen used a few contractions in her novels, the gentry in my own Regency stories do not use contractions in their speech. For example, I would have a lady or gentleman say I have not instead of I haven’t. However, the lower the class of my characters, the more contractions that character will use. A shop owner might use haven’t. A scullery maid would drop the H as well, saying ’aven’t.

I do research a lot, especially about life in the Regency era. I own books, use the library, and search the internet (though I’m careful about what advice I consider “facts.”) I use old maps, paintings, and even contacted the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office once.

When I first started writing, I was more insistent about my stories being precisely period-correct, but over time, I’ve found there are a lot of things contemporary readers understand as fact because other authors have included it those situations in their books. Now, I weigh both sides into my decision: should I rely on the common misconception, or what I’ve found in my research? What matters more, my need for accuracy or the entertainment I hope to provide? It’s not always an easy decision to make.

What is up next for the Austen Anthologies series?

Robin: Laura Hile, Wendi Sotis, Barbara Cornthwaite, and I hope to do at least three more anthologies. The next will be A Very Austen Romance, to be released at the end of 2019. Various guest authors will join us in the different books of the series.

All of the stories in the anthologies will be Austen-based Regency sweet romance, but we allow prequels, sequels, mashups, variations, and humor, as well as “what ifs.” Each of us has a specialty of sorts, but all our stories are clean reads with happily-ever-after endings.

Thank you ladies for visiting with us today. A Very Austen Valentine would make the perfect gift for a friend or loved one who enjoys Austen-inspired books – or a special treat for yourself.

If this interview has not peaked your interest yet, here are more details about each novella in the anthology to tempt you:

“I Dream of You,” by Robin Helm
Newly-married Elizabeth Darcy has a plan: to charm her too-busy husband into desiring her company as much as he did when he was courting her. A series of romantic dreams gives her just the push she needs to put that plan into action.

“Sir Walter Takes a Wife,” by Laura Hile
Faced with a lonely future and finding himself strapped for cash, Persuasion’s Sir Walter Elliot manfully decides to marry again. But his careful plans go sadly awry! A lighthearted Valentine mash-up featuring two of Jane Austen’s worst snobs.

“My Forever Valentine,” by Wendi Sotis
Jane and Charles Bingley have married, even though Miss Elizabeth Bennet remains certain Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy gave his best effort to keep them apart. After Mr. Darcy refused to stand up with Bingley and did not attend the wedding, she despises the gentleman more than ever and finds his company intolerable. How will she endure her visit to Kent if Mr. Darcy turns up everywhere she goes?

“Pretence and Prejudice,” by Barbara Cornthwaite
A chance encounter with a handsome stranger forces Elizabeth Bennet to resort to subterfuge in order to discover his true intentions.

“My Valentine,” by Mandy H. Cook
Little Charlotte was always determined and independent, traits which served her well as she battled a serious childhood illness and later as she took on Polite Society. Will those traits now deprive her of true love? Or would her lifelong Valentine win her heart?

“The Lovers’ Ruse,” by Susan Kaye
In this Persuasion alteration, Anne is so altered by Wentworth’s love in the summer of 1806, she refuses to give him up when both her godmother and father try to persuade her. “The Lovers’ Ruse” follows Frederick and Anne through their whirlwind courtship and their secret engagement. When Wentworth returns for his Annie girl, the cat comes out of the bag.

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This is the last stop on the A Very Austen Valentine Blog Tour. You can enter the giveaway being offered by the publisher of one eBook (international) copy of A Very Austen Valentine: Austen Anthologies, Book 2 by leaving a comment below, and by also visiting the other blog stops on the tour. The giveaway is open through January 22, 2019. Here is the list of the blogs with direct links to the posts. Good luck!

A Very Austen Valentine Blog Tour Schedule

01/06 Just the Write Escape; Guest Post, Giveaway
01/07 Margie’s Must Reads; Review, Giveaway
01/08 So Little Time…; Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway
01/09 Babblings of a Bookworm; Author Interview/Character Interview, Giveaway
01/10 Half Agony, Half Hope; Review, Excerpt
01/11 Austenesque Reviews; Vignette, Giveaway
01/12 My Love for Jane Austen; Vignette, Giveaway
01/14 From Pemberley to Milton; Excerpt, Review or Vignette, Giveaway
01/15 My life journey; Review, Excerpt, Giveaway
01/16 My Vices and Weaknesses; Guest Post or Vignette. Excerpt, Giveaway
01/18 Diary of an Eccentric; Review, Giveaway
01/20 Darcyholic Diversions; Author Interview, Giveaway
01/21 Austenprose; Author Interview

A Very Austen Valentine: Austen Anthologies, Book 2, by Robin Helm, Laura Hile, Wendi Sotis, Barbara Cornthwaite, Susan Kaye and Mandy H. Cook
Independently published (2018)
Trade paperback & eBook (477) pages
ISBN: 978-1731382320

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository| Indiebound | Goodreads

Cover image courtesy of the publisher © 2018; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2019, Austenprose.com

 

My Favorite Books of 2018, by a Partial, Prejudiced and Ignorant Jane Austen Fan

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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.

In my very, very small way I hope that my reading experiences this past year will act as a catalyst to those seeking a curated list of books from the vantage of a Janeite. Enjoy!

BEST AUSTENESQUE FICTION

The Longbourn Letters x 150The Longbourn Letters, by Rose Servitova

Lo and behold. Mr. Bennet and Mr. Collins are pen pals! For those familiar with these two minor characters in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, you will not be disappointed in the full story of their relationship featuring Mr. Bennet’s dry sarcasm in all it’s glory  while he goads his cousin and heir in pursuit of amusement, and in return the Odious One’s (Mr. Collins) obsequious prosing and sermonizing right back at him. I enjoy Austenesque novels that expand upon Austen’s characters more than any other type in the genre. Servitova’s creative and reverent take on the Bennet & Collins relationship is an impressive debut novel that many Janeites will enjoy, if only they knew about this sharp sleeper. 5 Stars Continue reading

Giveaway Winner Announced for The Lure of the Moonflower

The Lure of the Moonflower, by Lauren Willig (2015)It’s time to announce the winner of the giveaway of one paperback copy of The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig. The lucky winner drawn at random is:

Lilyane Soltz, who left a comment on August 5, 2015.

Congratulations Lilyane! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by August 19, 2015 or you will forfeit your prize! Mail shipment to US addresses only.

Thanks to all who left comments, and to author Lauren Willig for the excerpt and her publisher NAL (Penguin Random House) for the giveaway.

Cover image courtesy of NAL © 2015, excerpt Lauren Willig © 2015, Austenprose.com

The Lure of the Moonflower: A Pink Carnation Novel, by Lauren Willig – Excerpt & Giveaway

The Lure of the Moonflower, by Lauren Willig (2015)It is release day for one of my favorite Regency-era series: The Pink Carnation, by Lauren Willig. Her latest and last installment is The Lure of the Moonflower. As you all gasp in shock over my last statement—yes—it is the last book in the series, now totaling 12 novels.

This week, we are honored to be among a group of select bloggers celebrating the release of The Lure of the Moonflower. Here is an excerpt and a chance at a giveaway of the novel. Details are listed at the bottom of the post. Just leave a comment to qualify.

DESCRIPTION (from the publisher)

In the final Pink Carnation novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla, Napoleon has occupied Lisbon, and Jane Wooliston, aka the Pink Carnation, teams up with a rogue agent to protect the escaped Queen of Portugal.

Portugal, December 1807. Jack Reid, the British agent known as the Moonflower (formerly the French agent known as the Moonflower), has been stationed in Portugal and is awaiting his new contact. He does not expect to be paired with a woman—especially not the legendary Pink Carnation.

All of Portugal believes that the royal family departed for Brazil just before the French troops marched into Lisbon. Only the English government knows that mad seventy-three-year-old Queen Maria was spirited away by a group of loyalists determined to rally a resistance. But as the French garrison scours the countryside, it’s only a matter of time before she’s found and taken.

It’s up to Jane to find her first and ensure her safety. But she has no knowledge of Portugal or the language. Though she is loath to admit it, she needs the Moonflower. Operating alone has taught her to respect her own limitations. But she knows better than to show weakness around the Moonflower—an agent with a reputation for brilliance, a tendency toward insubordination, and a history of going rogue.

Continue reading

Q&A with Patrice Kindl, Author of A School For Brides, & Giveaway

A School for Brides, by Patrice Kindl 2015It is a rare delight in reading to discover a new author that you feel could become one of your most cherished favorites. When “every feature works,” I am revved up and ready to share my excitement.

Such is the case with Patrice Kindl, who until a review copy of A School for Brides landed on my doorstep last month was entirely unknown to me. Further research revealed that this new release was a companion novel to her first in the Lesser Hoo series, Keeping the Castle. Set in the Regency period both novels share many of the same characters, paralleling the same time frame, but from a different perspective. Better and better.

Before diving into A School for Brides I decided to power through an audio recording of Keeping the Castle. It knocked my bonnet off. If I could describe Kindl’s writing in one sentence, I would say that it is a skillful blending of Jane Austen’s genius with social satire, Georgette Heyer’s exuberant humor and Dodie Smith’s poignant romance.

Here is a description of A School for Brides from the publisher:

The Winthrop Hopkins Female Academy of Lesser Hoo, Yorkshire, has one goal: to train its students in the feminine arts with an eye toward getting them married off. This year, there are five girls of marriageable age. There’s only one problem: the school is in the middle of nowhere, and there are no men. Set in the same English town as Keeping the Castle, and featuring a few of the same characters, here’s the kind of witty tribute to the classic Regency novel that could only come from the pen of Patrice Kindl!

Curious to learn more about Patrice Kindl and the inspiration for her Lesser Hoo novels I asked her if she would be game for a brief interview. Happily she agreed.

Welcome Patrice: Continue reading

Miss Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley, by Shannon Winslow — A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt

Miss Georgiana of Pemberley, by Shannon Winslow (2015)It is pleasure to welcome author Shannon Winslow to Austenprose today. Writer of several popular Austenesque novels, Shannon will be releasing her next book, Miss Georgian Darcy of Pemberley on July 21, 2015. A companion novel to her best-selling The Darcys of Pemberley, the story is told from the point of view of Mr. Darcy’s little sister Georgiana and parallels the events we experienced in the first novel. Here for your enjoyment is a preview and exclusive excerpt.

DESCRIPTION (from the publisher)

What’s Georgiana Darcy’s story? Jane Austen tells us so little in Pride and Prejudice that we’re left to wonder. How did the early loss of her parents shape Miss Darcy’s character? And what about her near-disastrous affair with Mr. Wickham? Is that the true source of her shyness? She adores her brother and his new wife Elizabeth, but will their guiding influence be enough to steer Georgiana clear of new trouble as she comes of age and falls in love again?

This work is intended as a companion of sorts to The Darcys of Pemberley (sequel to Pride and Prejudice), with the timelines of the two running parallel. Both novels are unique and complete in themselves, but together they supply a richer reading experience than either one alone. The earlier book focused primarily on Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship during their early married life. There was a third Darcy represented in the title, however. Now she and her courtship story take center stage in Miss Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley.

EXCERPT (from chapter 12)

Setup: Following a devastating disappointment on the romantic front (concerning a gentleman who shall remain nameless in this excerpt to avoid spoilers), Georgiana hears some good news – her brother and his wife are expecting their first child.

Perhaps if I had not been so fully occupied with my own situation, I might have noticed the change in my sister’s state of health sooner. I might have marked the alteration in her appetite. I might have likewise detected her especial glow of spirits and the more tender care my brother suddenly took of her. But all these clues were lost on me. As I wrote to Andrea, the news took me completely by surprise. When Elizabeth told me, I reacted just as I reacted to nearly everything else at the time; I promptly burst into tears. Continue reading

Ross Poldark & Demelza, by Winston Graham – Preview & Giveaway of New Sourcebooks Editions

     Ross Poldark A Novel of Cornwall, 1783 to1787 2015 x 200         Demelza A Novel of Cornwall, 1788-1790 by Winston Graham 2015

It’s always a red-letter day to bibliophiles when books originally published eons ago get a new life and a new audience. It usually takes a major television series or movie for this to happen. In the case of Jane Austen, we have seen new tie-in editions for Pride and Prejudice in 1995 & 2005 and Sense and Sensibility in 1996. Just the other day I saw a beautiful new movie tie-in cover for Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd in my bookstore. A good story is a good story no matter what generation it is introduced to.

Now the Poldark Saga, one of my favorite historical fiction series, is up for a remake. Some of you might remember the wildly popular television adaptation entitled Poldark on the BBC and Masterpiece Theatre in the mid 1970’s. Robin Ellis stared as dashing Captain Ross Poldark and Angharad Rees as his fiery Demelza. The two season and twenty-nine episode series was based on the first sevens novels in Winston Graham’s multi-generational saga. Now the BBC and Masterpiece have created a new production of Poldark. It aired in the UK in March and April to critical and public acclaim, garnering up to 7 million viewers an episode. Happily, US audiences will spend this summer in Cornwall swashing and buckling with dishy hero Ross Poldark when Poldark begins on Masterpiece Classic on June 21. Continue reading