A Preview of Fair Weather Enemies, by Sawyer North

Fair Weather Enemies by Sawyer North 2020I am dogged in my pursuit of new books. I subscribe to Publisher’s Marketplace. I read publishers quarterly catalogs. I read Advance magazine. However, the path to discovering a new book is sometimes fortuitous—by chance rather than by design. Such was the case with author Sawyer North. Our serendipitous introduction on Twitter makes his debut historical romance novel, Fair Weather Enemies, all the sweeter because of the journey.

Seriously, what Janeite would not want to follow @MrDarcyExplains? Check out his description of himself:

“I write Regency romance. I’m a man. Weird, I know. My wife is just happy we read the same stuff now. But she’s cooler. #ReadARegency

His tweets are witty and funny too.

With all of these intriguing attributes (thinks he is Mr. Darcy? a man writing Regency romance? and his wicked wit?) I had to read his book. I did not regret it and am still smiling.

Sawyer was kind enough to indulge this Janeite and historical romance lover with an excerpt for my readers. I hope you will give Fair Weather Enemies a try. Just think of a bantering Lizzy and Darcy (during the first proposal scene) on a treasure hunt through England, and X marks the spot.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

The Hancocks and Ashfords have had a long-standing feud between their families long before Miss Jane Hancock couldn’t stand the sight of gentleman farmer Adam Ashford. But after both families fall on hard times and an unscrupulous creditor forces Jane and Adam to sign a devil’s bargain, they’ll finally understand the true meaning of keeping your enemies close at hand.

The terms of this bargain? Locate a lost treasure shrouded in deception and mystery.

The catch? Only one can claim it to win…the loser is left to ruin.

As Jane and Adam embark on a trek throughout England, they plan to hate their adversary, no matter how attractive, generous, and kind they are.

Sometimes, plans change…

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT:

Like virtuous knights of old, Adam and Barlow stood guard between the moody brood sow and the ladies. Fortunately, the large pig seemed content to remain motionless while emitting periodic grunts. As the wagon bumped along toward evening, Adam shoved aside the snuffling nose of an inquisitive piglet to better view Jane. She sat near the front of the wagon engaged in low conversation with Hester. Sleeping piglets sprawled around her, and one lay nestled beneath her hand. He did not know what might be considered proper attire for traveling with swine, but Jane’s appearance transcended her situation. A well-worn riding habit of faded blue covered most of a sturdy cotton walking dress, illuminating the blue of her eyes. Her prominent cheekbones, narrow nose, and dimpled chin seemed appropriate to a miller’s daughter—delicately bold. Not unlike her general demeanor, he decided. He did not notice Jane’s gaze until she spoke to him.

“Do you wish to say something, sir?”

He cut his eyes away quickly to hide the fact that he had been staring. Her gentle laugh informed him that she already knew. He looked her way again. “Would you find my presence overly odious if I joined you for a bit of conversation? I have exhausted my discussion points with Mr. Barlow and the brood sow.”

He motioned toward the solicitor and the massive pig, both of whom were sleeping soundly. Jane blinked three times in rapid succession but retained the smile. Her hand patted the wagon bed next to her. He moved to her side and sat, with the blissful piglet as a buffer between them.

“Thank you,” he said.

“I believe I will rest now,” said Hester overly loudly. She rolled away to feign sleep. Jane peeked at her aunt and shook her head. She turned to regard Adam with a steady confident gaze that he found lacking in many women her age. He reluctantly commended her for that.

“So…what might we discuss?”

He glanced down at the sleeping piglet. “I suppose we should begin with your new friend. He seems a bit young for you.”

“Sir,” she said with mock umbrage. “I must begin by offering offense on behalf of the pig, as ‘he’ is a ‘she’.”

“My apologies to the pig, then. Perhaps the odor has dulled my powers of observation.”

She nodded. “On behalf of Lily, I accept.”

“Lily?”

“She has taken a particular liking to me, it seems. I cannot very well continue calling her ‘piglet’ as if her regard meant nothing.”

He laughed unexpectedly. “Of course. Very sensible. One should not slight a pig unnecessarily. Unfortunately for me, the sow seems rather disinterested in my friendship.”

“And this disappoints you?”

“Immensely. I crave nothing more than the sentimental regard of those in my company.”

She cocked her head and frowned. “Even those predisposed to despising the very ground on which you walk?”

“Especially those.”

“Why, may I ask? Is it not natural for opponents to maintain a healthy disdain for one another?”

Adam looked away, uncomfortable with the directness of her questions. “I suppose it is.” Then he cut his eyes toward her. “After all, how could we remain, enemies, if we ceased hating each other?”

His comment appeared to startle her. “We? I was speaking of piglets. Now, you talk of us. This all seems rather unexpected.”

“Right. But let us not speak of piglets. Let us instead discuss the merits of remaining enemies. After you, Jane.”

She placed a finger dramatically against her chin. “The prospect of despising you gets me out of bed in the morning. I rise each day thinking, ‘how might I ruin Adam Ashford today?’ Your turn, sir.”

He pursed his lips in thought. “My disdain for you serves as a good reference point. Having a reliable enemy allows me to see all others in a better light. It allows me to sort people into two convenient categories—my enemy and everyone else.”

“Should not your categories be more nuanced?”

“Such as?”

“Such as friend of your enemy, enemy of your enemy, enemy of your friend, and those you truly love? To name just a few?”

The sparkle of her eyes made clear her amusement with the discussion. This pleased him, though he did not know why. “I see your point. Perhaps I should reconsider my categories. But see here, we have identified only two merits of maintaining a healthy hatred for each other. Surely, there are others.”

She nodded agreement. “There is at least one more.”

“And that is?”

“Convenient scapegoating. Having an enemy tells me whom I might blame for all the ills of my life. For all the ills of the world, actually. Without a proper enemy, I might be forced to consider my own role in such unpleasant things. How terribly inconvenient.”

He chuckled again. “Well said. I, too, find comfort in having such a readily available scapegoat. Keeps me from the need for self-reflection. And everyone knows that gentlemen abhor such distressing and taxing thoughts.”

“Just as I suspected.” She giggled, much to his surprise. An awkward pause overcame them, as often happens when conversation trends perilously toward painful truths.

Chapter 8, pages 48 – 51

ADVANCE PRAISE:

  • “Superb comic timing and witty banter adds some of the best content to any historical romance I have read in a long time.”—Gwendalyn’s Books
  • “Wow, the detail in this story is great! Grab a copy of this one and settle in for a great read. I can’t wait for more from this author!”—The Reading Cafe
  • “I couldn’t put the book down until I had read the final page. The writing is well done and the plot moved along at a good pace.  I just sorry there aren’t any more novels from Mr. North. I definitely look forward to his next one.”—Debra Elizabeth, bestselling author of Love by Secrets
  • A fun, witty, romance. Sawyer North is a sparkling new talent in Regency romance.”—Laurel Ann Nattress, editor of Jane Austen Made Me Do It   

AUTHOR BIO:

After self-publishing science fiction novels over a period of years, Sawyer North made the truly unusual move into historical romance. Although romance is a strong thread in nearly all his works, he came to straight-up, nothing-but-romance only after turning fifty. Since then, he is plagued by the question, “What took me so long?” His awakening began rather innocuously when he casually watched the 2015 version of Poldark. Before he knew it, he was falling headlong into the abyss of historical romance and read fifteen such novels over a three-month span. However, no number could sufficiently scratch his itch for more, so he did what any writer would do and began constructing stories of his own. In April of 2019, he received his first contract with Entangled Publishing, and in February 2020, his debut historical romance, Fair Weather Enemies, was published.

Fair Weather Enemies, by Sawyer North
Entangled Publishing (February 10, 2020)
Trade paperback & eBook (270) pages
ISBN: 979-8601939171

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

Cover image, book description, excerpt, and author bio courtesy of Entangled Publishing © 2020; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2020, Austenprose.com

The Duke and I (Bridgertons Book 1), by Julia Quinn—A Review

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn Netflix coverFrom the desk of Pamela Mingle:

Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton novels were among the first Regency romance novels I ever read. Completely captivated by their charm, humor, and abundance of stomach quivering moments, I quickly devoured all eight. The Duke and I, published in 2000, is one of my favorites. It’s the story of the romance between Daphne Bridgerton and Simon Bassett, the Duke of Hastings.

For the uninitiated, the Bridgerton family consists of eight siblings, four brothers and an equal number of sisters. They’re named alphabetically: Anthony, Benedict, Colin, Daphne, Eloise, Francesca, Gregory, and Hyacinth. The books were not published in that order, however. Daphne’s story, The Duke and I, was first in the series.

As the book opens, Daphne is in her second season, attending a ball at Lady Danbury’s home (Lady D is a beloved recurring character in the Bridgerton books.). Daphne has had a few marriage proposals from men she’s not interested in. They’ve been either elderly or ridiculous. One of the latter is Nigel Berbrooke, who’s inebriated at the ball and follows her when she slips away from her mother, a relentless matchmaker. Simon happens by just as Daphne is discouraging Nigel’s advances. Simon decides he must intervene, only to see Daphne punch the man squarely in the jaw. A masterful scene, full of witty, flirtatious banter between Daphne and Simon, follows. But when Simon figures out she is Anthony Bridgerton’s sister, he’s on his guard. After all, one of the first rules of seduction is, “Thou shalt not lust after thy friend’s sister.”

Simon’s background is revealed in the Prologue. His mother dies in childbirth, and when Simon doesn’t speak until he’s four years old and then stutters, his cold father all but disowns him. With a loving nurse to help him, and his own perseverance and hard work, Simon overcomes his speech problems and eventually graduates from Cambridge with a first in mathematics. His father has since died without ever making things right with his son. To spite the man, Simon has vowed never to marry and produce and an heir. He wants the dukedom to go to another branch of the family or die out altogether. Hatred of his father has consumed Simon for most of his life. Continue reading

Two More Days at Netherfield, by Heather Moll—A Review

Two More Days at Netherfield by Heather Moll 2020From the desk of Debbie Brown:

Everybody familiar with the classic story of Pride and Prejudice knows that Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy don’t communicate to each other with total honestly until their meeting at Hunsford during his (horrible) marriage proposal, which he continues in his letter the following day. But what if circumstances lead them to do so much earlier in their relationship? That’s the premise for Two More Days at Netherfield, a Pride and Prejudice variation by Heather Moll.

While Jane Bennet is ill at Netherfield and Elizabeth is there to nurse her, early changes lay the foundation for those extra two days. First, Elizabeth learns Darcy actually admires her. Then, Darcy discovers Elizabeth overheard his insult at the Meryton assembly. His initial apology is half-hearted at best, and Elizabeth calls him on it, adding, “[Y]ou have been disagreeable and conceited from the moment of your arrival in Hertfordshire!” Interestingly, the conversation does not deteriorate. Darcy, recognizing he’s in the wrong, offers a more sincere apology.

“[N]ow that Mr Darcy had offered an acceptable apology, she could tolerate his company a little better.” Ergo, Elizabeth isn’t as disturbed when her mother refuses to send the Bennet carriage, and the sisters remain there two more days rather than borrowing Mr. Bingley’s and returning to Longbourn.

Events over these two days lead to a lot of self-examination by both Darcy and Elizabeth. He comes to recognizes that his behavior IS haughty and unmannerly, while she realizes that she forms judgments too quickly and harshly. Continue reading

A Preview of The Austen Girls, by Lucy Worsley

The Austen Girls by Lucy Worsley 2020I am always encouraged when new Jane Austen-inspired young adult novels hit my radar. The Austen Girls is a welcome addition to the Austenesque genre. Written by historian, television celebrity, and Janeite Lucy Worsley, it is the latest addition to her series of novels featuring young women from history. Following Lady Mary (2018), Eliza Rose (2018), and My Name is Victoria (2018), The Austen Girls is inspired by the lives of Jane Austen’s nieces–cousins Fanny and Anna Austen.

The novel is being released in the UK on April 2 by Bloomsbury Children’s Books and is aimed at girls ages 11 – 14. For those who subscribe to Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine, Worsley is featured on the cover and has the lead article in the March/April issue including an exclusive interview about the novel by editor Tim Bullamore. Besides the two heroines, Fanny and Anna, their aunt Jane plays an important part in the narrative and many other Austen family members support the story.

After a persistent pursuit of an excerpt for my readers, I was able to connect with the staff at Bloomsbury in London who generously sent a portion of the second chapter for our enjoyment. My review will follow next month. On an aside, please do not confuse this new title with a nonfiction book about Jane & Cassandra Austen, by Helen Amy with the same title. It is also delightful, but an entirely different genre and topic.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

What Might the Future Hold for Jane Austen’s Nieces?

Would she ever find a real-life husband?

Would she even find a partner to dance with at tonight’s ball? She just didn’t know.

Anna Austen has always been told she must marry rich. Her future depends upon it. While her dear cousin Fanny has a little more choice, she too is under pressure to find a suitor.

But how can either girl know what she wants? Is finding love even an option? The only person who seems to have answers is their Aunt Jane. She has never married. In fact, she’s perfectly happy, so surely being single can’t be such a bad thing?

The time will come for each of the Austen girls to become the heroines of their own stories. Will they follow in Jane’s footsteps?

In this witty, sparkling novel of choices, popular historian LUCY WORSLEY brings alive the delightful life of Jane Austen as you’ve never seen it before.

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Continue reading

A Preview of When Duty Calls: A Pride & Prejudice Variation, by Belén Paccagnella

When Duty Calls, by Belen Paccagnella (2020)Being a book geek, I am not ashamed to say that I get chills when I see a beautiful book cover. I am drawn to them like a moth to the flame. The mesmerizing design of When Duty Calls is by Janet Taylor. It is her best to date. Bar none. Forgive this indulgence. I just had to gush about it for a moment!

Okay, now on to the book that we are previewing here today by Belén Paccagnella. When Duty Calls was written close to twenty years ago and posted online as Jane Austen fanfiction. It has been resurrected and published as a book by Meryton Press. You don’t see that happen very often. Maybe, like never!

I am thinking back to 2000 and the state of Austen fanfiction at the time. Linda Berdoll’s The Bar Sinister was self-published in 1999 (and later reissued as Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife in 2004), and Pamela Aidan was posting her Fitzwilliam Darcy Gentleman trilogy on the Republic of Pemberley fanfic board. It takes me back to the early days of Jane Austen fanfiction. It says a lot for the story in When Duty Calls that it is still viable after all these years and I am intrigued to read it. How about you?

The author Belén Paccagnella has kindly offered an exclusive excerpt and her publisher is giving away eight eBook copies through Rafflecopter of When Duty Calls. The excerpt follows this introduction and the details of the giveaways are at the bottom of the post. Enjoy!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

The Netherfield ball brings about many changes for the population of Meryton, and more so for the female residents of Longbourn. Mr. Bingley’s departure leaves the eldest, Jane Bennet, heartbroken whilst Mr. Collins’s proposal induces Miss Elizabeth to make a hasty escape. During her flight, she happens upon Mr. Darcy, a gentleman she despises. A moment of solitude in the woods leads to rather improper behavior, and the couple departs with the promise they will tell no one about their minor indiscretion. When their secret is finally uncovered, marriage becomes the only solution to saving Elizabeth from social disgrace. Her other grudges against Mr. Darcy are amplified by resentment and the prospect of spending her life with a man she can never respect. Nonetheless, the marriage takes place, forcing the young couple to deal with their pride and prejudices as husband and wife.

Originally posted online almost twenty years ago, this Regency tale of redemption narrates the struggles of two people, their differences, and their rocky start. But will they succeed in overcoming lies, misunderstandings, and their own errors to finally find love?

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Continue reading

Costuming in the EMMA. Movie with Fashion Historian Hilary Davidson

Emma and Mr. Knightley dance at the Crown Inn, Focus Features © 2020

The new film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma starring Anya Taylor-Joy and Johnny Flynn opened in general release in the US on March 6th. This enchanting and visually stunning interpretation of Austen’s classic tale of Miss Emma Woodhouse as the misapplying matchmaker of Highbury has received raves from the press and viewers alike.

The costumes beautifully define the film, greatly adding to the characterization and the drama. Joining us here today is fashion historian Hilary Davidson who has generously contributed a guest blog to share her insights and impressions of the costumes made for the new film by Academy Award-winning designer Alexandra Byrne.

Welcome, Hilary. 

Emma. is the best-costumed screen adaptation of Austen ever made. Strong words but delighted ones from a dress historian who has recently written a book on Regency fashion and seen a lot of odd screen versions of the period’s dress. Costume designer Alexandra Byrne and her team studied many original garments in British historical collections and threw all their research into a gloriously realised vision of circa. 1815 dress.

Comfort (1796) colored etching from the nypl.digitalcollections

Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle, The New York Public Library. “Comfort” The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Director Autumn de Wilde clearly adores the details of dress and pays them great attention. Throughout the film, we are shown the components of women’s dress and how they were arranged, from the knee-high stockings to the chemise and stays that helped create the illusion of a natural body. Emma demonstrates that Regency women didn’t wear underpants in a pose taken straight from Comfort [image]. Mr. Knightley is dressed from the skin to coat in a sequence I’m going to use in teaching fashion history. Continue reading

A Cover Reveal and Preview of Gentleman Jim, by Mimi Matthews

A Cover Reveal and Preview of Gentleman Jim, by Mimi MatthewsI have great news to broadcast today. Bestselling historical romance author Mimi Matthews has a new book in the queue. We are thrilled to share with our readers everything we know about the novel and reveal the stunning cover!

Gentleman Jim arrives on November 3, 2020, continuing the author’s previous novels containing intriguing and endearing heroes and heroines set in Regency and Victorian England. This new novel was inspired by Mimi’s admiration of classic literature and the traditional Regency romance genre and features adventure, revenge, and of course romance. Here is a description of the book from the author, and then the big cover reveal.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

A swashbuckling, second chance Regency romance, inspired by the author’s love of Georgette Heyer romances, and of Henry Fielding’s eighteenth century novel Tom Jones.

She couldn’t forget…

Wealthy squire’s daughter Margaret Honeywell was always meant to marry her neighbor, Frederick Burton-Smythe, but it’s bastard-born Nicholas Seaton who has her heart. Raised alongside her on her father’s estate, Nick is the rumored son of notorious highwayman Gentleman Jim. When Fred frames him for theft, Nick escapes into the night, vowing to find his legendary sire. But Nick never returns. A decade later, he’s long been presumed dead.

He wouldn’t forgive…

After years spent on the continent, John Beresford, Viscount St. Clare has finally come home to England. Tall, blond, and dangerous, he’s on a mission to restore his family’s honor. If he can mete out a bit of revenge along the way, so much the better. But he hasn’t reckoned for Maggie Honeywell. She’s bold and beautiful—and entirely convinced he’s someone else.

As danger closes in, St. Clare is torn between love and vengeance. Will he sacrifice one to gain the other? Or with a little luck—and a lot of daring—will he find a way to have them both?

READ AN EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT OF GENTLEMAN JIM: Continue reading

A Preview of A Different Kind of Woman: A Variation on Mansfield Park (Mansfield Trilogy Book 3), by Lona Manning

A Different Kind of Woman by Lona Manning 2020I am happy to welcome author Lona Manning to Austenprose today. She has graciously offered to share her latest Austenesque novel, A Different Kind of Woman with us. Inspired by Mansfield Park, this is her third book in her Mansfield Trilogy, all of which are variations on Jane Austen’s original. 

Manning’s Mansfield Trilogy sets out to alter the original Regency-era story by pivoting the relationship of its main characters: Fanny Price and Edmund Bertram. There are also other changes that some will find beneficial and engaging. Are you as curious as I am if Fanny Price is no longer priggish? What is married life like for Edmund and his new wife?

If you are in the mood to experience a re-imagined Mansfield Park, then this is the series for you. Check out the book description and the exclusive excerpt supplied by the author. 

BOOK DESCRIPTION: 

In the exciting conclusion of the Mansfield Trilogy, the lives and destinies of Jane Austen’s well-known characters are deftly blended with dramatic historical events. Fanny Price is torn between her love for William Gibson and her duty to her family. In London, Fanny’s brother John meets his match in a feisty bookseller’s daughter. And Edmund Bertram’s wife Mary meets the charismatic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and risks everything to gain the power and influence she craves. Regency England comes alive in this tale of love, loss and second chances set against the real-life backdrop of political turmoil in England. 

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT:  Continue reading

And Dangerous to Know (Rosalind Thorne Mystery Book 3), by Darcie Wilde—A Review

And Dangerous to Know by Darcie Wilde 2020From the desk of Sophia Rose:

When a mystery series is introduced with such words as, “…inspired by the novels of Jane Austen,” you may be sure that I will be more than willing to delve right in with alacrity. Wilde created a capable heroine who was high born, fallen with her family’s disgrace, and risen by her own resolution and strength as a useful woman to those who were once her peers, and what began with curiosity continues to impress with a deep appreciation for her spirit and intelligence.

And Dangerous to Know is so titled to best suit one of the intriguing real historical elements of this third installment in the Rosalind Thorne series which works best read in order. In this latest, Rosalind is involved with ‘mad, bad, and dangerous to know’ Lord Byron, indirectly. While never actually present, he can be felt throughout the book.

Rosalind has recovered from her last encounter with murder and peacefully keeping up her prodigious amounts of correspondence, her household affairs, and trying to help her friend Alice figure out where Alice’s brother George has been disappearing to each evening. Meanwhile, she ponders the affairs of her conflicted heart—a duke or a detective?

This is all interrupted when an imperious summons brings her to the august doors of Melbourne House and she encounters its notorious mistress, Lady Melbourne, and her more notorious daughter in law, Lady Caroline Lamb. Lady Melbourne has letters written by Lord Byron that have gone missing and they are such that ruin for several will happen if they are ever published or the contents bandied about.  Rosalind has a bad feeling about the whole thing, but when Lady Jersey recommended her and another society queen wishes to hire her, there is only one answer to give. Continue reading