The Earl Next Door, by Amanda Grange – A Review

The Earl Next Door by Amanda Grange 2012 x 200From the desk of Katie Patchell:  

A lesson learned from the works of Jane Austen is that the rake never saves the day and never gets the girl. Mr. Wickham, Willoughby, Henry Crawford, John Thorpe, and Mr. Elliot are all fine examples of this rule. While Mr. Darcy, Colonel Brandon, Edmund Bertram, Henry Tilney, and Captain Wentworth all perfectly fit their roles as heroes, I’ve lately experienced some niggling doubts about these so-called rakes. Was Willoughby really so horrible, or were his actions the result of a lack of maturity and guidance? Would Henry Crawford have been faithful if Fanny had given him encouragement? This leads to a deeper question–What would happen if the rake DID get the girl? And what if he really wasn’t a rake at all—what if he was the hero in disguise? Those questions are explored and answered in The Earl Next Door (originally published as Anything but a Gentleman) by Amanda Grange, the author of the well-known series of diaries from the perspectives of Jane Austen’s heroes.

When Marianne Travis’ older brother, Kit, runs away from home because of large gambling debts (caused by his friendship with a rogue named Luke Somerville), it falls on her shoulders to run the family estate. Everything runs smoothly (and boringly) until she discovers a wounded man in the woods on her new neighbor’s property—a neighbor who happens to be the most handsome and exasperating man she has ever met—Lord Ravensford. Their first meeting gives Marianne the distinct impression that the Earl is just an incorrigible rake (he has the audacity to think she’s a lightskirt!), but as they spend more time together she finds herself more and more drawn to him and the intelligence and concern she sees behind the mask of a rogue. When secrets come to light about who the earl’s true identity is and what really happened to Kit, can Marianne get past her presuppositions and trust in the earl before it’s too late? Continue reading

Mr. Darcy’s Diary: A Novel, by Amanda Grange – A Review

The Pride Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge (2013)This is my fourth selection for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013, our year-long event honoring Jane Austen’s second published novel. Please follow the link above to read all the details of this reading and viewing challenge. Sign up’s are open until July 1, 2013.

In 2005 author Amanda Grange gave Pride and Prejudice fans what they had been craving for centuries—Jane Austen’s classic story retold entirely from the perspective of its iconic romantic hero—Mr. Darcy. It was certainly not the first novel to explore this concept, but Mr. Darcy’s Diary remains, after many other attempts, the best in a very crowded field of Darcyiana.

I first read Darcy’s Diary eight years ago when it was released in the UK. I paid a fortune for the first edition to be shipped to the US. I did not regret it. My copy retains its place of honor on my Austen sequel bookshelf, along with the five other novels in her Austen Hero Diaries Series that Grange has since produced. She has a large international following for her work which she has earned through honest homage and clever craftsmanship.

Writing a first person narrative of a classic hero who is a bit of a prig in the original story has its challenges. In Pride and Prejudice the reader sympathizes with the heroine Elizabeth Bennet in her dislike of Mr. Darcy. We meet him and draw our conclusions of his personality from her perspective—he is a proud and disagreeable man—we see why she thinks so, but we do not know why.

Image of the book cover of Darcys Diary, by Amanda Grange, UK ed. © 2005 Robert Hale Ltd Seeing the same events unfold from his eyes does not absolve him of his bad behavior, but as the narrative progresses, we are more sympathetic to his reasons. As we discover his inner thoughts and outward actions, our second impressions countermand his arrogant noble mien: we learn details of his chance intervention of the elopement of his sixteen-year old sister Georgiana with his nemesis George Wickham; we see his management of his soft-hearted friend Charles Bingley and learn why he is guiding him by the manipulation of his confidence and Bingley’s sisters; we see his attraction to Elizabeth Bennet spark and grow from his original cool intolerance to his admiration of her “fine eyes” and saucy impertinence—and his puzzlement of her brusque behavior to him.

Oh,’ she said, ‘I heard you before; but could not immediately determine what to say in reply. You wanted me, I know, to say “Yes,” that you might have the pleasure of despising my taste; but I always delight in overthrowing those kind of schemes. I have therefore made up my mind to tell you, that I do not want to dance a reel at all – and now despise me if you dare.’

‘Did I really seem so perverse to her? I wondered. And yet I could not help smiling at her sally, and her bravery in uttering it.’ p. 40

Close readers of Pride and Prejudice will recognize lines of Austen’s original dialogue (like Elizabeth’s speech to Darcy quoted above) interlaced with Grange’s new text. This ingenious co-mingling is seamless and we partake in many of the important passages where Darcy interacts with Elizabeth in the original novel, and then his private reaction. This works for this reader because Grange does not try to write like Austen in Elizabeth head, but as Grange in Darcy’s.

For those who are a student of character (like our heroine Elizabeth) it is interesting to observe our hero Darcy’s view of events from a male perspective. The whole Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus theory plays out beautifully and Grange takes full advantage of the differences in the sexes and how they think and react to the same scene when Elizabeth arrives at the Netherfield Ball.

I continued walking towards her. ‘I am glad to see you here. I hope you had a pleasant journey?’ I asked. ‘This time, I hope you did not have to walk!’

‘No, I thank you,’ she said stiffly. ‘I came in a carriage.’

I wondered if I had offended her. Perhaps she felt I had meant my remark as a slight on her family’s inability to keep horses purely for their carriage. I tried to repair the damage of my first remark.’” p. 51

Image of the book cover of Mr. Darcys Diary, by Amanda Grange, US ed. © 2007 Sourcebooks Clueless! There is some hope of improvement. As Darcy’s admiration of Elizabeth grows, it begins to humble his pride. While he is in Kent visiting his aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh, we begin to see the change as he reacts to Elizabeth’s explanation to Darcy’s cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam of his behavior when they first met at the Meryton Assembly.

In her eyes, my refusal to dance became ridiculous, and I saw it so myself, for the first time. To stride about in all my pride, instead of enjoying myself as any well-regulated man would have done. Absurd! I would not ordinarily have tolerated any such teasing, and yet there was something in her manner that removed any sting, and instead made it a cause for laughter.” p. 78

Even though many will know the final outcome of the story, Grange keeps us in suspense by adding new scenes and inner thoughts that only Darcy would be privy too—and now we are too. What fan of Pride and Prejudice, and Mr. Darcy, could possibly resist reliving a cherished novel and walking in his shiny, black Hessian boots? I couldn’t.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Mr. Darcy’s Diary: A Novel, by Amanda Grange
Sourcebooks (2007)
Trade paperback (320) pages
ISBN: 978-1402208768

Cover images courtesy of © 2005 Robert Hale Ltd & © 2007 Sourcebooks; text ©2013 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Giveaway Winners Announced for Dear Mr. Darcy

Dear Mr. Darcy, by Amanda Grange (2012)39 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win one of three copies of Dear Mr. Darcy by Amanda Grange. The winners drawn at random are:

  • Jillian who left a comment on August 07, 2012
  • davepear who left a comment on August 08, 2012
  • Gina who left a comment on August 10, 2012

Congratulations ladies and gentleman! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by August 23, 2012. Shipment to US addresses only. Enjoy!

A big thank you to author Amanda Grange for her great guest blog and to her publisher Berkley Trade for offering the giveaway copies. Congrats to the winners. Enjoy!

© 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Dear Mr. Darcy: A Retelling of Pride and Prejudice, by Amanda Grange – A Review

Dear Mr. Darcy, by Amanda Grange (2012)Review by Christina Boyd

Bestselling authoress Amanda Grange’s latest offering, Dear Mr. Darcy, is a clever retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in the epistolary form. However, don’t be fooled by the title. This novel is so much more than just Mr. Darcy’s private correspondence, including many letters from several key players from the original novel as well as characters from Grange’s own invention to develop back story. She has also cleverly incorporated Austen’s canon Pride and Prejudice letters helping to solidify the timeline.

The novel begins five years prior to Pride and Prejudice, with the death of Mr. Darcy, Sr. and his final letter to his son detailing his hopes and dreams for him as well an introduction to Mr. Darcy’s cousin, compeer and confidant, Mr. Philip Darcy. The letters also unveil the dealings with The Living promised to George Wickham, as well as the near undoing of Darcy’s younger sister, Georgianna.

This Mr. Darcy remains true to Austen’s original: haughty, reserved and fastidious. Darcy wrote to Philip Darcy describing Bingley’s enthusiasm for his new home Netherfield Park and his own dread to attend that now infamous Meryton Assembly, “He did not care a bit that he might be mixing with the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker; he thought only to make himself agreeable to his neighbors. So now we must endure an evening of mortifications and punishment as the local burghers ogle our clothes and whisper about our fortunes.” (p. 134) And, we all know how well that turned out. It is particularly illuminating (and sometimes laugh out loud funny) as letters from different characters relate the same story – but with entirely different points of view.

In addition, the letters introduce us to the Sothertons, the former family of Netherfield Park who have retrenched to Bath, as well as further develop the characters of those we even now know so well such as Mary Bennet! In a letter to her noble friend, fellow Learned Woman and Sister in Athena, Miss Lucy Sotherton, Mary writes, “My sisters demanded a jig and I was forced to accede to their wishes, though as remarked to Mr. Shackleton afterwards, ‘A jig might feed the body but a concerto feeds the soul.’ He was much struck and begged for permission to copy it into his book of extracts.” (p. 147) I could hardly keep from laughing every time Mary mentioned her daily pursuits of rational application or her collection of maxims she adds in her book of extracts!

As the familiar story of Pride and Prejudice progresses, the letters prove remarkably insightful. Miss Charlotte Lucas writes to Miss Susan Sotherton about the very eligible, but very toady, Mr. Collins.  “…I see no reason why I should not be his third choice. He seems to have a comfortable home, Lady Catherine seems to be a sensible, if dictatorial, woman, and he has no vices.  He has no virtues either, it is true, but his parsonage has two sitting rooms, so he tells me, and it seems to me that a wife might have one whilst her husband has the other.” (p. 190) It would appear that Mrs. Bennet was right.  Those Lucases are very artful people, indeed.

Letters to and from Miss Susan Sotherton and Miss Elizabeth Bennet are timeless—just how any BFF would write: witty, intimate and gossipy. “Lizzy, you are trying me hard!  First I must mention nothing of your proposal, and now I can mention nothing about Mr. Wickham’s relations with Mr. Darcy… I eagerly await your next letter.  I fully expect to find that the Archbishop of Canterbury has proposed to you when you next write!” (p. 271)

Recently I saw a suitable extract (on facebook no less) that said something like, “Book hangover: Inability to start a new book because you’re still living in the last book’s world.” I confess, I am a great sufferer and Grange’s latest offering left me as such.   After closing the book, I had not yet gone beyond the words delightful and charming when some unlucky recollections intruded.  One, I was somewhat disappointed that one of Darcy’s dearest confidants, Mr. Philip Darcy, did not respond to Darcy’s engagement note. Not a congratulations, not even a damning letter! Nothing. Grange seemed to have forgotten him in the closing pages. It is a small criticism to be sure but it must be remarked upon as this omission simply leaves one puzzled as to how he took the news after holding such importance in Darcy’s life.  Hmmmmmm? Or, maybe his silence on the subject is more telling? Nothing to repine. Moreover, I am exceedingly diverted by the speed of mail in Georgian times, particularly a few letters needing only two days for a response from London whilst in Derbyshire or Yorkshire. Then again, I suppose Darcy could have sent all his letters by express… and, I was confounded that Darcy exchanged letters with Miss Caroline Bingley— especially since they are not engaged persons nor related.  But I digress.

Dear Mr. Darcy is delightful and charming. This latest retelling is fresh and true to the original masterpiece. Amanda Grange writes each letter with such an honest, elegant hand one readily recognizes the unmistakable voices of our beloved characters as they share their news. In an electronic age when the handwritten letter is all but extinct as text, email and voice mail are de rigueur, Grange’s epistolary retelling Austen’s masterpiece raises letter writing to a curious art form. Likening to Learned Woman Deidre Le Faye’s own non-fiction yet very academic, Jane Austen’s Letters, Grange’s fictional letters suggest a familiarity to even the most devout Austenite whilst driving the story to its anticipated and fulfilling conclusion. The effect is a captivating and agreeable narrative that will surely satisfy even the most astute Austen fan or Learned Woman.  Amanda Grange is at the top of her game!

4.5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Dear Mr. Darcy: A Retelling of Pride and Prejudice, by Amanda Grange
Berkley Trade (2012)
Trade paperback (400) pages
ISBN: 978-0425247815

Christina Boyd lives in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with her dear Mr. B, two youngish children and a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Bibi.  She studied Fine Art at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Salisbury University in Maryland. For the last nine years she has created and sold her own pottery line from her working studio. Albeit she read Jane Austen as a moody teenager, it wasn’t until Joe Wright’s 2005 movie of Pride & Prejudice that sparked her interest in all things Austen.  A life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, visiting Jane Austen’s England remains on her bucket list.

© 2007 – 2012 Christina Boyd, Austenprose

Dear Mr. Darcy Blog Tour with Author Amanda Grange & Giveaway!

Dear Mr. Darcy, by Amanda Grange (2012)Please join us today in welcoming author Amanda Grange on the launch of her blog tour of Dear Mr. Darcy, a new retelling of Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s perspective.

Wait! Didn’t Amanda already write Mr. Darcy’s Diary? Yep, she did, but this novel has a new slant that readers will find enchanting. Leave a comment to enter a chance to win one of three copies of the book available from Amanda’s publisher Berkley Trade.

Welcome Amanda

Hi, Laurel Ann, thanks for inviting me to guest blog. I’m very excited to be here to talk about my latest book, Dear Mr Darcy.

I’m sure people are wondering why I have written another retelling of Pride and Prejudice, and why I have used the epistolary form. The reason is very simple. As some of you will already know, Jane Austen rewrote Pride and Prejudice considerably between 1797, when it was begun, and 1813, when it was published. It was originally called First Impressions and it was probably written in the epistolary style.

I’ve often thought about the early version of Pride and Prejudice and wished we still had it to read. Over the years an urge started growing inside me to recreate it. Of course, my version is only my idea of how it might have been, and I’m not Jane Austen, but the idea gripped me. I thought it would be a fantastic way of providing another way into the story, and another way into Mr Darcy. I decided to start with the death of his father, because his relationship with his father was obviously very influential in turning him into the proud, haughty man of Pride and Prejudice.

Almost the first letter in Dear Mr Darcy is written by Mr Darcy’s father, when he is on his deathbed. He wants to give our Mr Darcy some advice for the future, including these words, which have a lasting effect:

Remember that the woman you favour with your hand will not only be a wife to you, she will also be a sister to Georgiana and the mistress of Pemberley. She will need to command the respect of the servants and the love of your family; she must reflect the greatness of the Darcys; she must be a gracious hostess and a model of feminine virtue; she must be a modest lady and she must be possessed of a refined taste and true decorum. And she must be a woman you can admire, respect and esteem, as well as love.

For advice on matters of this nature I refer you to my brother’s son, your cousin Philip.

Darcy’s cousin, Philip, is my own invention. He proves very useful throughout the book as his character is similar to Darcy’s, he is of the same social level and therefore Darcy feels he can confide in him.

The following extract is from one of Mr Darcy’s letters to Philip later in the book, written from Rosings, when he is tempted, against his will, to propose to Elizabeth – who is definitely not the sort of woman his father advised him to marry!

It would degrade me to marry her. I would be laughed at by all my friends, jeered at by my enemies and pitied by all. I could never possibly marry her. And yet – and yet I cannot keep away from her. The lightness of her spirits, her humour, her arch smile, her teasing, her eyes – oh! Philip, her eyes! which sparkle when she teases me and show she knows her power over me – all these things drive me to distraction.

I can tell no one but you. You know my character, you know how proud and disdainful I am, but against my better judgement I have been enraptured by her. It is out of the question for me to marry her; out of the question to make her my mistress.

I would leave if I could, but if I go now it will look particular and that is something I very much want to avoid. I do not know what to do.

Your beleaguered cousin,

Darcy

*******

Mr Philip Darcy to Mr Darcy

London, April 22

Darcy, leave at once. Make some excuse and go today, this minute, never mind if it looks particular, it will soon be forgotten. Do not linger another moment. This kind of fever is virulent and the only thing that can control it is a prolonged absence from its source. Have your valet pack your things and meet me in London straight away. If you stay you will regret it.

Philip

 *******

Mr Darcy to Mr Philip Darcy

Rosings Park, April 23

Dear Philip, you are too late. I have proposed.

This is just a sample of the letters, but Dear Mr Darcy is full of them! Letters from Elizabeth to her friend Susan (my own invention) as she talks about Mr Darcy’s arrival at Netherfield and her subsequent frustrating yet stimulating meetings with him; Caroline Bingley’s scheming as she persuades Charles to introduce her to his eligible friend Mr Darcy; Mary’s moralising and more. But at the heart of the book are the letters to and from Mr Darcy as he manages his estate, cares for his sister and fights a losing battle against his love for Elizabeth Bennet.

I love all my books, but every once in a while, I feel that one of them is extra special. I felt it when writing Mr Darcy’s Diary and I felt it when writing Dear Mr Darcy. I hope readers agree.

Author Bio:

Amanda Grange was born in Yorkshire, England, and spent her teenage years reading Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer whilst also finding time to study music at Nottingham University. She has had over twenty novels published including six Jane Austen retellings, which look at events from the heroes’ points of view. Woman said of Mr Darcy’s Diary: “Lots of fun, this is the tale behind the alpha male,” whilst  the Washington Post called Mr Knightley’s Diary “affectionate”. The Historical Novels Review made Captain Wentworth’s Diary an Editors’ Choice, remarking, “Amanda Grange has hit upon a winning formula.” Austenblog declared that Colonel Brandon’s Diary was “the best book yet in her series of heroes’ diaries.”

Amanda Grange now lives in Cheshire, England. You can find out more by visiting her website Amanda Grange. You can also find her on Facebook as Amanda Grange Author.

Grand Giveaway of Dear Mr. Darcy

Enter a chance to win one of three copies available of Dear Mr. Darcy, by Amanda Grange by leaving a comment revealing what intrigues you about reading Mr. Darcy’s personal correspondence by 11:59 pm Pacific time, Wednesday, August 15th, 2012. Winners will be announced on Thursday, August 16th, 2012. Shipment to US addresses only. Good luck!

Dear Mr. Darcy: A Retelling of Pride and Prejudice, by Amanda Grange
Berkley Trade (2012)
Trade paperback (400) pages
ISBN: 978-0425247815

© 2012 Amanda Grange, Austenprose

Pride & Pyramids: Mr. Darcy in Egypt, by Amanda Grange and Jacqueline Webb – A Review

Pride & Pyramids, by Amanda Grange and Jacqueline Webb (2012)Review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder

In the entire spectrum of Pride and Prejudice sequels, variations, retellings, and what-if’s I’ve seen Darcy as a vampire, werewolf, zombie, ranch owner, and rock star.  I’ve seen Elizabeth as a master zombie fighter, scientist, doctor, sleuth, and time traveler.  I’ve seen them in WWII England, Colonial America, Thailand, Texas, and Oxford, but never have we seen them the way Amanda Grange and Jacqueline Webb have envisioned them in Pride & Pyramids: Mr. Darcy in Egypt. Taking them down the Nile and into the sprawling deserts of Egypt, Grange and Webb turn our beloved couple into amateur archeologists on an expedition in the land of the pharaohs!

Pride & Pyramids begins approximately 15 years after the fairytale ending of Pride and Prejudice.  Elizabeth and Darcy are comfortably tending to their many children and leading a comfortable, happy life.  This changes with a visit from Edward, brother of their cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam.  Recently, Edward has been stricken with the latest craze in Regency England: Egyptology!  Begging for an adventure, Darcy gives in to Elizabeth and asks Edward if he can bring the family along with him to Egypt.  After months of preparation the whole clan heads out on an epic journey to Egypt.  What happens when they get there can only be described as Egyptian myth……

When I first heard that there were two authors writing this, I’ll admit that I was nervous.  Grange is already known for her excellent insight into the heads of Austen’s men with her diary series.  I was concerned that the book would read oddly with an Egyptologist as a co-author.  Webb has certainly made her mark in a wonderful way, helping weave her knowledge of Egyptian myths and beauty into the story.  The juxtaposition of Austen-styled writing with Egyptian myths is mesmerizing.  The story is effortlessly told, transporting the reader on this epic journey with the Darcy family.

While Elizabeth and Darcy are obviously important to the narrative, their children and their cousin Edward are the focal characters.  These new character creations make great additions to Austen’s cast of we know and love.  I was THRILLED that Mrs. Bennet was able to wheedle her way into the novel, as her “fluttering and spasms” made for great humorous fodder.

In all, this is a great new way to explore the Pride and Prejudice sequel JAFF genre!  It was entertaining to read this refreshing take on these familiar characters.  If I ever get the chance to go to Egypt I’ll be sure to remember all the sights and sounds that I read about in this work!

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Pride & Pyramids: Mr. Darcy in Egypt, by Amanda Grange and Jacqueline Webb
Sourcebooks (2012)
Trade paperback (320) pages
ISBN: 978-1402265341

Kimberly Denny-Ryder is the owner/moderator of Reflections of a Book Addict, a book blog dedicated to following her journey of reading 100 books a year, while attempting to keep a life! When not reading, Kim can be found volunteering as the co-chair of a 24hr cancer awareness event, as well as an active member of Quinnipiac University’s alumni association.  When not reading or volunteering, Kim can be found at her full-time job working in vehicle funding. She lives with her husband Todd and two cats, Belle and Sebastian, in Connecticut.

© 2012 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

Giveaway Winners Announced for Pride & Pyramids

Pride & Pyramids, by Amnada Grange and Jacqueline Webb (2012)53 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win one of three copies available of Pride & Pyramids by Amanda Grange & Jacqueline Webb. The winners drawn at random are:

  • Monica P. who left a comment on July 02, 2012
  • Amy B. who left a comment on July 11, 2012
  • Michelle Fidler who left a comment on July 05, 2012

Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by July 18, 2012 letting me know if you want a print copy or an ebook edition. Print copy shipment is to US and Canadian addresses only. Ebook shipment internationally.

Thanks to all who left comments, and to authors Amanda Grange and Jacqueline Wells for your great guest blog and to their publisher Sourcebooks for the giveaway copies. Enjoy!

© 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Pride and Pyramids Blog Tour with Authors Amanda Grange & Jacqueline Webb & Giveaway

Pride and Pyramids, by Amnada Grange and Jacqueline Webb (2012)Please join us today in welcoming authors Amanda Grange and Jacqueline Webb on their blog tour of Pride and Pyramids, a new Austenesque sequel to Pride and Prejudice that takes Elizabeth, Darcy and their family to Egypt. Leave a comment to enter a chance to win one of three copies of the book available.

Welcome Amanda and Jacqueline…

Amanda: I’d long wanted to write a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, but there were already a lot of sequels available and I didn’t want to repeat the usual story of Elizabeth and Darcy settling down at Pemberley. I didn’t want to write about the Darcys having marital problems either, since I firmly believe they live happily ever after, but a book needs incident in order to make it interesting, which created a dilemma. Then one day I was emailing Jackie, whose first book was set in Egypt, and something clicked, because it reminded me that Egyptology was a huge craze in the Regency era. The wealthy young men of the eighteenth century often extended their Grand Tour of Europe to include Greece, Turkey and Egypt, and interest was heightened in 1799 – when Jane Austen was writing Pride and Prejudice – because of the discovery of the Rosetta Stone. The Stone was brought to England and it was displayed in the British Museum from 1802 onwards. Interest continued to grow and Belzoni’s account of his adventures in Egypt, in 1815, (which was very useful for our research!) added more fuel to the fire. So it seemed a perfect setting for a sequel which would be new and fresh, but at the same time accurate for the period. I was very excited by the idea and suggested we write it together because Jackie had researched Egypt intensively for her previous book and had all the relevant research books at her fingertips.

Jacqueline: When Amanda suggested we collaborate on a Jane Austen sequel I was delighted. My first book The Scarlet Queen is based in Egypt about a young woman searching for an elusive cache of treasure in the Valley of the Kings, so I had already done a lot of research around this topic. My novel was set in the Edwardian era, about a hundred after Pride and Prejudice, but Egypt had been popular with the Europeans since Georgian times. Elizabeth, Darcy and their growing family were well-off and had enough leisure time to make the journey seem plausible and it was the kind of thing wealthy Europeans would do, although it would have been adventurous. However that aspect fit in well with the characters of Elizabeth and Darcy and allowed us to imagine them in a whole new environment, as well as meeting up with some old faces.

Amanda: Yes, we wanted to include some of the minor characters from Pride and Prejudice in Pride and Pyramids, as well as introducing some new ones.  As the book starts in London, then moves to Pemberley, before heading off to Egypt, we get a chance to catch up with Jane and Bingley. Then Lizzy and Darcy find they see rather more of Mrs Bennet than they intended! They have six lively children by this time, as the book is set fifteen years after their marriage. They’re still recognisably the characters from Pride and Prejudice, but we see them in their role of parents as well as in their interludes as a couple. And, of course, there are tombs and pyramids and an eerie little doll, which causes quite a bit of trouble! It was a lot of fun to write and I hope Pride and Pyramids will be just as much fun to read. It’s Elizabeth and Darcy as you’ve never seen them before!

Author Bios:

Amanda Grange was born in Yorkshire, England, and spent her teenage years reading Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer whilst also finding time to study music at Nottingham University. She has had over twenty novels published including six Jane Austen retellings, which look at events from the heroes’ points of view. Woman said of Mr Darcy’s Diary: “Lots of fun, this is the tale behind the alpha male,” whilst The Washington Post called Mr Knightley’s Diary “affectionate”. The Historical Novels Review made Captain Wentworth’s Diary an Editors’ Choice, remarking, “Amanda Grange has hit upon a winning formula.” Austenblog declared that Colonel Brandon’s Diary was “the best book yet in her series of heroes’ diaries.”

Amanda Grange now lives in Cheshire, England. You can find out more by visiting her website Amanda Grange. You can also find her on Facebook as Amanda Grange Author.

Jacqueline Webb lives on the Wirral, which is near to Liverpool, England, with her husband, two sons, two cats and one dog. She is a teacher of French and English and she has had two historical romances published by Robert Hale – The Scarlet Queen  and Dragonsheart. She has also just had a paranormal romance e-book published by Lyrical Press Sophronia and the Vampire, under the name Jacqueline Farrell. She has always enjoyed writing but didn’t get really serious about it until she was in her early forties. Her sons were very small and she was working part-time and feeling as though she was just rushing from work to babies without any time doing something she enjoyed. So she joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association and submitted a novel to their New Writers Scheme. Although she didn’t get anywhere with that submission she was given some great advice and wrote another novel which did get published.

Giveaway chance for Pride and Pyramids

Enter a chance to win one of three copies of Pride and Pyramids by asking either author about their research and writing experience, or, which of Jane Austen’s original characters from Pride and Prejudice you would like to fall victim to the mummy’s curse by midnight PT, Wednesday, July 11, 2012. Winners to be announced on Thursday, July 12, 2012. Print edition shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Ebook edition internationally. Good luck!

Pride and Pyramids, by Amanda Grange and Jacqueline Webb
Sourcebooks (2012)
Trade paperback (320) pages
ISBN: 978-1402265358

© 2012 Amanda Grange & Jacqueline Webb, Austenprose

Henry Tilney’s Diary: A Novel, by Amanda Grange – A Review

Henry Tilney's Diary, by Amanda Grange (2011)Guest review by Christina Boyd

Albeit Jane Austen first sold Northanger Abbey to a publisher in 1803 (at first entitled Susan), it did not appear in print until 1817 when it was published after her death as a four volume set with her final novel Persuasion. In Northanger Abbey, Miss Morland is a daughter of a well-to-do clergyman, unabashed Gothic novel reader, and heroine-in-the-making, “Something must happen and will happen to throw a hero in her way.” Northanger Abbey, Chapter 1. Upon leaving her family home in the quiet village of Fullerton for the excitement of the resort town of Bath, the good-hearted and suggestible Miss Morland is entangled in a plait of plausible falsehoods fabricated by more sophisticated people she encounters. Invited to Northanger Abbey, the country home of the Tilney family, Catherine lets her Gothic-infused imagination run wild during her visit there. She suspects something sinister — true, but as in all Austen’s major works, money is the real labyrinth. Cloaked in a black veil of parody, Jane Austen subtly mocks the Gothic novel with actual dangers, fears, anxieties and misfortunes that torment Catherine Morland, making it relevant to the age in which she lived.

Author Amanda Grange’s latest offering Henry Tilney’s Diary, mirrors Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, but from the male protagonist’s point of view. When the young clergyman Henry Tilney is to be the hero, as in so many of the Gothic novels that he so fond of reading, the perverseness of his upbringing in a medieval home with a choleric, militaristic father, an aggrieved, sickly mother, his burlesque lothario of an older brother and a kindly, pretty sister cannot prevent him. Grange has scripted a rich back-story, starting with Henry’s first entries in his diary at approximately age 15.  We are privy to his most private thoughts regarding his parents, his mother’s illness, his sister Eleanor and her secret amour, and of course, how his rake of a brother Frederick came to be.  I found Henry so unlike other Austen heroes. He takes nothing seriously unless required, yet, is so self-assured that he has ready opinions on everything from marriage, politics and even fine muslin!

As in Grange’s previous books in the Austen diaries series, the entries are dated which is helpful in keeping the timeline in focus. She masterfully writes our hero’s thoughts and recollections with a strong, clear voice, seasoned with his wit, charm and satirical eye as Tilney attempts to influence others to rationality, even while on his search to find his own heroine. “‘Papa says I am the cleverest girl he has ever met. Captain Dunston remarked upon it as well.  But I think he is a very stupid fellow.’ ‘He must be,’ I said; a remark which she did not understand, but which made her smile, for she liked to think of my sharing her opinion of the captain.’” p. 97.  Fortunately, this Miss Smith did not suit.

Negotiating through a world that is oftentimes mendacious, and a society that is characterized by guile and polite fabrication, when Henry does meet Miss Catherine Morland, a pretty, young lady of meager fortune, he can’t help but be enchanted by her fresh charm and glorious honesty. And to discover her love of reading, it would seem he had found his match! Amused by her description of the south of France, “I could not help smiling when she went on, ‘It always puts me in the mind of the country that Emily and her father traveled through, in The Mysteries of Udolpho.’  Eleanor and I looked at each other, delighted to have found another fellow admirer of Udolpho. Your heroine?  Eleanor mouthed silently to me.  I smiled, for Miss Morland certainly had all the hallmarks of a heroine.” p.115.

When General Tilney, who has pre-determined his children will make wealthy marital conquests, takes an unlikely interest in Catherine, even inviting her to visit their home, Henry is pleasantly surprised. Later after an indulgent evening of laughter with just the three young people, “‘This is how it will be when we are married,’ I said to Eleanor, when Catherine had retired for the night. ‘I am sorry for it, but there it is.  My wife will not secretly resent you, as you believed when we were children. She will not slowly poison you, or lock you in the attic.’  Eleanor gave a sigh. ‘We must all bear our disappointments in life, dear brother, and it seems that having a good and charming sister, who loves me as much as I love her, is destined to be one of mine.’” p. 191. While Henry admits to himself his affection for Catherine, he also discovers her suggestible imagination has led her to suspect that his mother was incarcerated and murdered by his father…  “Oh! I would not tell you” the rest “for the world!  Are you not wild to know?” Northanger Abbey, Chapter VI.

Amanda Grange continues to build a dedicated fan base with her warm, witty and informative diaries of Jane Austen’s male heroes (and even a villain) since her first Mr. Darcy’s Diary in 2007 to Mr. Wickham’s Dairy last April. I was too anxious to wait for the US release in December 2011 for Henry Tilney’s Diary so I impatiently paid a small fortune last May for the shipping and hardback copy published through Robert Hale in the UK. I recall that from the time UPS delivered the book until I finished it sometime in the wee hours of the morn, I was thoroughly engaged. I believe my money and my time, well spent; surely one of her best diaries to date! Austen fans may declare Mr. Darcy as their favorite, I dare say, Mr. Tilney improves on acquaintance. Even if you are not as familiar with Northanger Abbey as other Austen works, you will still find the tendency of Henry Tilney’s Diary to be altogether recommendable.  A must for your reading list.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Henry Tilney’s Diary: A Novel, by Amanda Grange
Berkley Trade (2011)
Trade paperback (288) pages
ISBN: 978-0425243923

Christina Boyd lives in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with her dear Mr. B, two youngish children and a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Bibi.  She studied Fine Art at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Salisbury University in Maryland. For the last nine years she has created and sold her own pottery line from her working studio. Albeit she read Jane Austen as a moody teenager, it wasn’t until Joe Wright’s 2005 movie of Pride & Prejudice that sparked her interest in all things Austen.  A life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, visiting Jane Austen’s England remains on her bucket list.

© 2007 – 2011 Christina Boyd, Austenprose

Giveaway Winners Announced for Wickham’s Diary

Wickham's Diary, by Amanda Grange (2011)35 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win one of three copies of Wickham’s Diary, by Amanda Grange. The winners drawn at random are:

  • Elenatinil, who left a comment on April 1
  • Valerie R., who left a comment on April 2
  • Jen, who left a comment on April 12

Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by April 20th, 2011. Shipment is to US and Canadian addresses only.

Thanks to all who left comments, and to author Amanda Grange for her great replies to my interview questions!

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Wickham’s Diary, by Amanda Grange – A Review

Wickham's Diary, by Amanda Grange (2011)Austen’s bad boy George Wickham gets top billing in this prequel to Pride and Prejudice that will surprise readers for more reasons than one first imagines.

Anyone who has read Jane Austen’s original novel or seen one of the many movie adaptations knows that Wickham is a bad man: a charming rogue, a gamester and an infamous eloper. But what influences molded his character and what forces drove him to his choices? Wickham’s Diary presents some interesting options for us to ponder. Was it nature or nurture that corrupted his soul? After knowing his story, will we be sympathetic, or ready to string him up? Here’s a case study:

Early Childhood:

George is the son of an attorney working as a steward at the grand country estate of Pemberley in Derbyshire. At twelve, he is the companion of the heir Fitzwilliam Darcy. He has everything going for him: good looks, affable manners and a stage mother. On her urgent request, he ingratiates himself to the family and wins the heart of old Mr. Darcy who sends him to Eton to be educated with his son. He is also promised a future living as a clergyman on the estate. He thinks that the only difference between the respect and admiration that his friend Darcy commands is his money. To attain the wealth, power and social position that he craves, his mother advises him to marry an heiress. Casting his eye on the wealthy young women he knows, Georgiana Darcy and her cousin Anne de Bourgh are his first targets. Calculating and contrived, his life is solely driven to find a rich wife.

Young Adulthood:

He is sent to Cambridge at the expense of Mr. Darcy to be educated as a gentleman. Seeing the advantages of social connections, he continues to search for a rich sister within his fellow classmates. He is not a good student, and soon falls in with the wrong people: drinking, carousing and gambling his way into debt. Fitzwilliam attempts to save him. He promises to reform, but soon slides back. His mother dies. He drinks, gambles and carouses some more. His dreams of marrying an heiress are fading away. No proper mother will let their daughters near him. Old Mr. Darcy dies leaving him the promised living. He and Darcy have a falling out over his lifestyle, loosing his friends good opinion forever. He is in serious debt and asks him to pay him a lump sum, accepting £3,000 instead of the church living. Fitzwilliam washes his hands of him while Wickham squanders his inheritance. We wait to see what forces drive him to later stalk Anne de Bourgh and scheme to elope with Georgiana.

Yes, George Wickham is a despicable scoundrel – and so fun to watch charm, scheme and fail in the original novel. We know that it is unkind to take pleasure from other’s misfortunes, but this is a morality tale that Jane Austen set up, so we give ourselves permission to enjoy it! Amanda Grange’s skill at relaying Wickham’s simple plan for a happy life: marry a rich wife, attain her social position, absorb her estate and spend her money, makes it all seem so logical. Being a male equivalent of a gold digger is very seemly. Especially since Regency men had freedoms that women would never aspire to. Wickham is depraved, he is dissipated and he is disgusting.  But we knew that already from Austen’s tale.

We do learn interesting new tidbits that formed his character: a selfish, thoughtless, frivolous mother disappointed in her lot teaches her son to obtain what she wanted out of life by unscrupulous means. This is the root of his evil beginnings. The early childhood scenes with mummy dearest are the most interesting insights in this novella. They were over too quickly. So was the rest of the story. It abruptly ends with the failed elopement at Ramsgate, leaving us dangling mid-air. We felt short sheeted. Just when the story gets rolling it stops. No insights into Wicky’s Meryton escapades: meeting Mr. Darcy again, his flirtation with Elizabeth Bennet, inside dirt on his pursuit of heiress Mary King, what went down in Brighton with Lydia, and why did he really elope with a young, frivolous woman who was as far from an heiress as could be? Why, why, why, kept rolling through my mind. Guess we won’t’ find out.

Being an account of his childhood, his friendship with Fitzwilliam Darcy, and his attempted elopement with Miss Georgian Darcy. Yep, the subtitle pretty much sums it up.  So be prepared gentle reader for the short ride, and not all what one might expect from the great Amanda Grange who has wowed us for years with her amazing Austen hero’s diaries series. I am setting my hopes on her next “real” novel, Henry Tilney’s Diary, to be released in the UK in May and the US in December of this year. That thought alone wipes away any deeply harbored regrets hereto.

3 out of 5 Regency Stars

Wickham’s Diary, by Amanda Grange
Sourcebooks (2011)
Trade paperback (208) pages
ISBN: 978-1402251863

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Wickham’s Diary Blog Tour: Chatting with author Amanda Grange, & a Giveaway!

Wickham's Diary, by Amanda Grange (2011)Please join us for the first stop on Austenesque author Amanda Grange’s blog tour of Wickham’s Diary, a new novella focusing on the early years of Jane Austen’s infamous ne’er-do-well from Pride and Prejudice, George Wickham, due out today from Sourcebooks.

LAN: Welcome Amanda. I am so excited that you have joined us today. You are renown in Austenesque fiction for your five (soon to be six) retellings of Jane Austen’s classic novels from the heroes perspective. Wickham’s Diary is your first foray into one of her bad boys. What was your inspiration for this new novella?

AG: Hi, Laurel Ann, thanks for having me!

The inspiration was this passage in Pride and Prejudice:

Mr. Wickham is the son of a very respectable man, who had for many years the management of all the Pemberley estates, and whose good conduct in the discharge of his trust naturally inclined my father to be of service to him; and on George Wickham, who was his godson, his kindness was therefore liberally bestowed. My father supported him at school, and afterwards at Cambridge; – most important assistance, as his own father, always poor from the extravagance of his wife, would have been unable to give him a gentleman’s education.”

I’ve read Pride and Prejudice many times but each time I seem to find something new in it, and on a recent re-reading those words leapt out at me. They conjured up images of Wickham’s home life: a respectable father, an extravagant mother, and a young boy whose best friend was set to inherit a fortune  . . . I sat down and started to write. As I did so, I saw life through Wickham’s eyes: Pemberley, the Darcys and the difference in status between the two families, and I began to see why Wickham turned out so badly. I found it very satisfying to imagine his early life and to work out why, when he was raised in such a similar way, he turned out to be the opposite of Darcy.

LAN: In Pride and Prejudice, George Wickham’s dissipated nature is revealed slowly. Even Lizzy Bennet, a great observer of the “follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies” of character, falls for his charms. What motivates Mr. Wickham and how did you put yourself in his tall, black, shiny Hessian boots?

AG: I’ll answer the second part first, because I have to put myself in the character’s shoes before I can work out what motivates them.

First of all I made notes of everything Austen tells us about Wickham, eg Darcy saying Wickham was the “companion of my youth, the acknowledged favourite of my father, a young man who had scarcely any other dependence than on our patronage, and who had been brought up to expect its exertion”. I thought of the things he does during the course of the novel and the things Austen tells us he does before and after the novel; I thought of the relationships in his life, and I used all this to build up a picture of him from which I could deduce the missing pieces. Then I thought myself into his character in the way an actor thinks themselves into character, and that led me to his motivation, which, to me, boils down to a desire for easy living. He’s been brought up in affluent surroundings, he’s been sent to a good school and a good university, and in all ways he’s been treated like the son of a wealthy man. But in fact he isn’t the son of a wealthy man, and at the end of his privileged childhood he’s expected to go out and work for a living. That doesn’t appeal to George, who is intelligent enough to see that marrying a wealthy wife will bring him everything he wants, and that all he has to do is to exert his ready charm to get it. The fact that, in attempting to elope with Georgiana, he will be revenged on Darcy is the icing on the cake, I think, but Georgiana’s fortune is the real draw. After all, he attempts to run off with other heiresses later on, but he doesn’t attempt to take any further revenge on Darcy.

LAN: You delve into events before the narrative in Pride and Prejudice begins, introducing us to Wickham’s childhood at Pemberley and his mother. Would you say that learning about his early life makes his character more sympathetic for readers or is forewarned, forearmed?

AG: I think that will depend on the reader! I wanted to portray him as a rounded person and he has his tragedies and his difficulties in life like everyone else. But anyone who forgets that a snake is still a snake, no matter how sympathetic he is, had better beware!

LAN: The highly anticipated Henry Tilney’s Diary arrives in the UK on May 31, 2011 and in the US on December 6. This will be your sixth novel based on one of Jane Austen’s heroes. Some would say that you have saved the best hero for last. Can you share anything with us today about Mr. Tilney and other projects you have in the queue?

AG: I adored writing Henry’s Diary. It was probably the most difficult diary to write because I needed to capture Henry’s light-heartedness, but at the same time I need to capture the gloomy and melodramatic flavour of the Gothic novel. Not an easy task!

I decided to start the book when Henry is sixteen because I wanted to write about his family before their mother died, and because I wanted to write more about Henry and his sister. I’ve always loved their relationship, which is such a close and happy one. Here’s a short taster, taken from early on in Henry Tilney’s Diary when Eleanor is thirteen:

 

Eleanor opened her book.

‘What is it this time?’ I asked her. ‘Milton, Pope, Prior? A paper from the Spectator, perhaps, or a chapter from Sterne? Or is it a copy of Fordyce’s Sermons?’

‘No,’ she said, laughing. ‘It is something much better. It is A Sicilian Romance.’

‘What? A novel?’ I asked, affecting horror.

‘A novel,’ she agreed.

‘And is it very horrid?’

‘I certainly hope so.’ She thrust it into my hands. ‘You may read to me as I sew. I have to finish hemming this handkerchief. Mama says she will deprive me of novels altogether if I do not pay more attention to my needlework.’

And out of her pocket she drew needle, thread, and the handkerchief.

‘It is a good thing you are still in your schoolgirl’s dresses, for such large pockets will be a thing of the past when you start wearing more fashionable clothes – which will not be too long now, I think. You are very nearly a young lady.’

‘Pooh!’ she said. ‘Now read to me, if you please!’

‘Very well. But I see you have already begun.’

‘Not really. I have only read the first few pages, where the narrator says that he came across the ruins of the  castle Mazzini whilst travelling in Sicily, and that a passing monk happened to lend him an ancient manuscript which related the castle’s history.’

‘A noble beginning. And who lives in this castle? The heroine, I presume?’

‘Yes. Her name is Julia.’

‘And does she have any brothers and sisters?’

‘A brother, Ferdinand, and a sister, Emilia.’

‘I am glad to hear it. Brothers are always useful.’

As for future projects, next up is a short story in the Jane Austen Made Me Do It anthology, which will be out in October. My contribution is the story of Mr. Bennet’s courtship. I’ve always wondered why he married Mrs. Bennet and now I know!

LAN: I understand that you recently visited the Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton with fellow Austenesque author Jane Odiwe. Can you share your experience with us?

AG: We had a wonderful day and I thoroughly recommend a visit to the museum for anyone who can get there – details here Jane Austen House Museum. It’s an amazing experience to stand where Jane stood, to look out at her garden and to wander round her house. There were echoes of her everywhere and as I stood by the door looking out onto the street I found myself thinking, “A mind lively and at ease, can do with seeing nothing, and can see nothing that does not answer.”

But there was also another side to the house because it reminded me just how hard her life was in many ways. When I went into the outhouse and saw the washing copper I realized how much I love my washing machine!

The museum is run by lovely, dedicated people and the icing on the cake for me was that they invited me to give a talk there about my heroes’ diaries, so if anyone would like to come along I would love to see you. It’s on June 4 and there are full details on the website.

LAN: Now for a bit of fun. If you could be introduced to any of Jane Austen’s colorful heroes or villains, who would it be, and what penetrating question would you ask them?

AG: I would be introduced to Mr. Darcy before he met Elizabeth, and my penetrating question would be, ‘Will you marry me?’ J

LAN: Thank you for joining us today Amanda. Best of luck with this new adventure with one of Austen’s villains. I am hoping that we will see another novel of the diary of one of Austen’s bad boys – how about Henry Crawford, Frank Churchill or John Willoughby?

AG: I don’t have any plans in that direction at the moment, but you never know, I might just be reading one of those books again and something might jump out and shout, Write me!

Amanda Grange at Chawton 2010

About the Author:

Amanda Grange was born in Yorkshire, in the north of England. She spent her teenage years reading Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer whilst also finding time to study music at Nottingham University. She went on to be a teacher and then managed to fulfill her ambition to become a published writer. Amanda has had eighteen novels published including five (soon to be six!) Jane Austen retellings, which look at events from the heroes’ points of view. Amanda Grange now lives in Cheshire, where she spends half her life in the twenty-first century and the other half in the early nineteenth century.

Giveaway of Wickham’s Diary

Enter a chance to win one of three copies of Wickham’s Diary, by leaving a comment answering what intrigues you most about reading the personal diary of one of Jane Austen’s bad boys, or which of Austen’s character you would like to see Amanda write about next, by midnight PT, Wednesday, April 13, 2011. Winner announced on Thursday, April 14, 2010. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

Wickham’s Diary Blog Tour Schedule

April 1st          Austenprose

April 4th         Jane Austen Sequel Examiner

April 6th         Austenesque Reviews

April 8th         Diary of an Eccentric

April 11th       The Burton Review

April 15th       Debs Book Bag

April 18th       Psychotic State Book Reviews

April 20th       Suite 101 Romance

April 29th       Historical Hussies

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose