Q&A and Blog Tour with Mimi Matthews, Historical Romance Author of Fair as a Star

Fair as a Star by Mimi Matthews 2020I am happy to welcome bestselling author Mimi Matthews to Austenprose today for an exclusive interview in celebration of her latest Victorian romance, Fair as a Star, which just released this week.

Readers of this blog will be familiar with many of Mimi’s novel’s that we have reviewed in the past—all 5 Star reviews!

Fair as a Star is a novella in a new series, the Victorian Romantics, set in the English countryside in the 1860s. I was curious about the book’s origins and what else we can look forward to from this talented historical romance author.

I hope you enjoy our interview and read Fair as a Star, which in true Matthews’s style, takes you away to a different time and place, and wraps us up in a lovely love story.

A Secret Burden…

After a mysterious sojourn in Paris, Beryl Burnham has returned home to the village of Shepton Worthy ready to resume the life she left behind. Betrothed to the wealthy Sir Henry Rivenhall, she has no reason to be unhappy—or so people keep reminding her. But Beryl’s life isn’t as perfect as everyone believes.

A Longstanding Love…

As village curate, Mark Rivenhall is known for his compassionate understanding. When his older brother’s intended needs a shoulder to lean on, Mark’s more than willing to provide one. There’s no danger of losing his heart. He already lost that to Beryl a long time ago.

During an idyllic Victorian summer, friends and family gather in anticipation of Beryl and Sir Henry’s wedding. But in her darkest moment, it’s Mark who comes to Beryl’s aid. Can he help her without revealing his feelings—or betraying his brother?

Continue reading

Q&A and Giveaway with Historical Romance Author Nicole Clarkston

Tempted by Nicole Clarkston 2020I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend. I am happy to report that I am making progress in the Weed War in my garden now that the weather is cooperating.

Today I am thrilled to welcome a popular Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell variations author to Austenprose. Nicole Clarkston has published sixteen novels and short fiction stories in the last five years. That is a phenomenal number. She certainly knows how to keep her many fans happy.

I have read several of Nicole’s books and listened to many of them on audiobook, my preferred way to experience a story. My favorites of her many offerings are the prequel, The Courtship of Edward Gardiner, inspired by a minor character in Pride and Prejudice, and her short story, “Mischances,” in the Falling for Thornton anthology. Clarkston is a superb historical romance author with a real talent for creating surprising plots, and tension-filled romance.

Nicole’s latest novel Tempted, a Pride and Prejudice variation, just released last week. Here is a book description and an interview with the author who has kindly offered a fabulous giveaway chance for three lucky readers to win a copy of Tempted and two additional copies of her books. Just check out the details of the giveaway chance at the end of the post. Enjoy!

Running from her past, stumbling into the unknown, and drawn to a future she cannot have.

Elizabeth Bennet left all she loved behind when she accepted Colonel Fitzwilliam’s hand. Dragging her sister Jane, her cousin Billy Collins, and a horrible secret along with her, she leaves her home and family in the United States and sets sail for England… and safety. Expecting to meet her new husband when he returns from the Boer front, she is shocked to learn that not only does his family not believe her, but Richard has gone missing.

Fitzwilliam Darcy is only doing his duty. Trying to learn the truth of what happened to his cousin, while sheltering the woman who claims to be Richard Fitzwilliam’s wife, he encounters more than he bargained for. She is ill-prepared for life in his world, and her independent ways threaten to defeat her before she has even begun. Unfortunately, she is close to defeating him, as well. Pledged to marry another, but honor-bound to do all he can for Fitzwilliam’s wife, his equanimity and fortitude are tested whenever she is near.

When news of Fitzwilliam finally comes, it brings both grief and complications. Surprises, possibilities, and agonizing choices… Will Darcy and Elizabeth find a path to love? Or will new revelations and the shadows of the past tear them apart before they are even together?

From the author of These Dreams and NefariousTempted is a deliciously nuanced tale of longing and trust. With good people in impossible places, close-knit families, and secrets working in the dark, Darcy and Elizabeth have to fight every step for their future. Continue reading

Q&A with The Bridge to Belle Island Author Julie Klassen

The Bridge to Belle Island

Happy Holidays Janeites. Today, I am so pleased to present an exclusive interview with bestselling and award-winning author Julie Klassen who has just released her latest historical romance mystery, The Belle to Bridge Island. Set in Regency-era London and an island on the River Thames, it is her return to historical suspense after writing her trilogy The Tales of Ivy Hill. Julie has generously answered my questions about the book and a few other intriguing topics as well.

Welcome, Julie:

Congratulation Julie! You have just released your 14th Historical romance novel, The Bridge to Belle Island. Can you share your inspiration for this new work?

Thank you! It’s always difficult to trace an idea back to one “aha” moment, but for this book, I would say I was inspired by learning of all the smaller islands that exist within the island of Great Britain, especially in the Lake District and on the Thames River. I enjoyed researching several of these tiny, fascinating places with intriguing names like Eel Pie Island, Pharaoh’s Island, Monkey Island, and others. Some of them have fine homes on them, others are uninhabited. Some are reachable by bridge, others only by boat. Many have colorful histories.

How do you select a title, and is there any significance in your choice of The Bridge to Belle Island?

Actually, The Bridge to Belle Island wasn’t my original working title. Determining titles is a group effort between me and my editors. They ask me for several ideas and we go back and forth until we all agree on a winning title. I felt strongly about having “island” in the title since that was part of my original inspiration, plus an island setting is so appealing for a mystery. (And Then There Were None, anyone?) I suggested this title, because the bridge plays an important role in the novel (the main character is unable to cross it at the beginning) and “bridge” also hints at one of the themes of the book. I LOVE that the designer featured a bridge on the cover.

After your trilogy, The Tales of Ivy Hill, you have returned to Regency mystery/suspense. What intrigued you do so? Continue reading

In Conversation with Janet Todd, Editor, and Essayist of Jane Austen’s Sanditon

Jane Austen's Sanditon, edited by Janet Todd (2019)I recently read and reviewed the delightful Jane Austen’s Sanditon, an excellent new edition in the crowded Austen book market whose timely release, along with the new ITV/PBS eight-part television adaptation/continuation inspired by the unfinished novel, has brought Jane Austen’s last work into the limelight. I have long followed the career of its editor, Janet Todd, and own several of her books, including the soon to be re-issued Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Times, Her Novels (February 4, 2020).

For years I have been reading about Janet’s friendship with a mutual Janeite, Diana Birchall, who was also one of my contributors on Jane Austen Made Me Do It. There is so much serendipity in this triangle of friends that I knew that I needed to get Diana and Janet together for an interview regarding her new book.

Diana tells me that she and Janet first met “in 1983, at an early Jane Austen conference at St. Hilda’s College, Oxford, and chatted away during a lovely side trip to Stoneleigh Abbey.” Okay, I wasn’t there for that one, but wish I had been. “Their conversation continued over the years between visits back and forth to California (Diana’s home) and Cambridge (Janet’s) as well as myriad hiking trips and holidays in places ranging from Rum and Eigg in the Hebrides, the Scilly Isles, Sequoia, and Venice.” Here is the result of their tete-a-tete on Janet’s new book, Jane Austen’s Sanditon, for our enjoyment.

WELCOME TO AUSTENPROSE LADIES:

Diana Birchall: You write that in Austen’s works you encounter political and social opinions sometimes gratifyingly liberal, at others sternly alien to our way of thinking. Can you give an example or two?

Janet Todd: The importance of religion. Jane Austen was a rector’s daughter; her eldest brother was a clergyman and the speculating brother Henry took Holy Orders while she was writing Sanditon. Mr Parker seeks a doctor for his resort but makes no mention of a clergyman. I think this is significant.

Like other heroines, Charlotte isn’t overtly pious but she’s firm in ethical judgments. We now praise someone for being ‘passionate’ about what they do, but Charlotte is repeatedly called ‘sober-minded’. She doesn’t admire enthusiasm and activity uncoupled from moral purpose. She can’t approve Robert Burns’ poetry, however appealing, because of his unprincipled life where we forgive celebrities almost any excess.

On the other side Jane Austen often seems modern in her liberal take on feminism and in her subordination of class and birth to merit and integrity.

DB: Do you think Charlotte and Clara are shaping up to be an Emma/Jane Fairfax sort of relationship? Continue reading

An Interview with Regina Jeffers – Author of Vampire Darcy’s Desire

Yes, Darcy is now a vampire! Well actually a Dhampir. Do I sound skeptical or just cynical?

Vampires are hot in the media these days after the Twilight phenomenon. Moreover, everyone knows that a young “lady’s imagination is very rapid;” it jumps from the nouveau hottie on the block Edward Cullen to the ultimate one, Mr. Darcy, in a moment. So Darcy becoming a vampire was not a big stretch. Like death and taxes it was inevitable.

I must admit I am intrigued by the concept and more than willing to see what an author could do with “turning” the most iconic romantic hero in literature. It would certainly explain some of Darcy’s superior and enigmatic behavior in Pride and Prejudice. We have already seen one author’s interpretation of Jane Austen’s most famous character struggling with his dark family secret this last summer with Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange. Now Vampire Darcy’s Desire by Regina Jeffers has just been released. I was interested to know from the author’s perspective what inspired her take on such a challenging transformation and what direction she would take in integrating the vampire lore. Ms. Jeffers kindly agreed to answer my questions and granted me this thoughtful and engaging interview. It might surprise you. It has certainly tempted me to read the book.

What was your inspiration to transform Pride and Prejudice into a vampire-themed novel?

Truthfully, the initial concept came from the publisher Ulysses Press. When one of the editors approached me on the project, my rankles immediately rose because, to me, Pride and Prejudice is the most perfect novel ever written, and the thoughts of someone abusing that storyline sent me into a state of amusement mixed with irritation. However, after discussing the idea with close friends and with my editor, I realized I could maintain integrity in the storyline because of my love for and knowledge of the Austen oeuvre.

I could not abide by conceptualizing Darcy as the vampire who seduces Elizabeth. If vampirism was to be added to the tale, I wanted Darcy portrayed as a poetic tragic hero rather than as an embodiment of evil. I also wanted to control the representation of sexuality, the combination of horror and lust. As in Austen’s work, Darcy would desire Elizabeth and would be willing to put aside his beliefs and lifestyle in order to earn her love.

Do you see any similarities from the Vampire genre and Jane Austen’s novels?

Vampire literature springs from the early Gothic tales, which ironically peppered the literature of Jane Austen’s time. In early vampire tales, a respectable and virtuous woman rejects a man’s love. The woman is under the influence of a tyrannical and powerful male, from whom the “hero” must save her, and that “hero” possesses a highly developed intelligence and exceptional charisma and charm. A “seduction” of sorts occurs. Are those elements not also present in each of Austen’s pieces?

After all, Austen herself parodied the Gothic novel with her Northanger Abbey, even mocking Anne Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho. She used the stereotypes of the abbey, the mysterious murder, and the evil seducer; yet, Austen kept the theme of the individual’s worth, found in all vampiric literature.

Vampire novels can be scary and gory. Could you elaborate on the tone and direction you have chosen for Vampire Darcy’s Desire and how you have handled the Gothic parts?

Anne Radcliffe said, “Terror and Horror are so far opposite that the first expands the soul and awakens the faculties to a high degree of life; the other contracts, freezes, and nearly annihilates them . . .. And where lies the difference between horror and terror, but in the uncertainty and obscurity that accompany the first, respecting the dreading evil?”

Some elements of the Gothic are apparent in Vampire Darcy’s Desire: an ancient prophecy, dream visions, supernatural powers, characters suffering from impending doom, women threatened by a powerful, domineering male, and the quick shorthand of the metonymy to set the scenes. Yet, essentials of romance are just as prominent: a powerful love, with elements of uncertainty about the love being returned, the lovers separated by outside forces, and a young woman becoming the target of an evil schemer.

Darcy voluntarily isolates himself because of the family curse; Wickham is the epitome of evil. As in many Gothic tales, supernatural phenomena and prevalent fears (murder, seduction, and perversion) are incorporated, but the underlying theme of a fallen hero centralizes the storyline. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick claims (“The Structure of the Gothic Convention,” The Coherence of Gothic Conventions, 1980) a person’s suppressed emotions are compared in the extended metaphor of the protagonist’s struggle against nightmarish forces. Vampire Darcy’s Desire combines terror with horror and mystery, set within the framework of a love story.

Can you briefly describe Darcy the Dhampir? How is he different from Jane Austen’s Darcy?

A Dhampir, the product of the union between a vampire and a human, probably finds its origin in Serbian folklore. Modern fiction holds many examples: Blade (a Marvel comic brought to life by Wesley Snipes on the screen), the character Connor in the TV series Angel (the show’s male equivalent of a Slayer), and Renesmee (the daughter of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen from Stephanie Meyer’s Breaking Dawn). Traditionally, a Dhampir has the ability to see vampires, even when they are cloaked with the power of invisibility. They generally have similar vampire powers with only a few complications.

This new Darcy possesses many of the qualities the reader notes in Austen’s character. He is “withdrawn” from society, is generous to those he affects, is protective of his sister and his estate, and has a sharp wit. He is amused by Elizabeth’s verbal battles and is attracted to her physically. Darcy denies this attraction initially and then makes changes in his life to win and to keep Elizabeth’s regard.

In order to end the curse of vampirism passed on to the first-born son of each generation, Darcy the Dhampir has decided he will never marry. He considers it to be an honorable action. No previous generation has ever succeeded in defeating George Wickham, but this Fitzwilliam Darcy is less likely to succumb to the temptation of eternal life, so Wickham must resort to different tactics to exact revenge.

Austen’s Darcy says, “I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit . . .. I was spoiled by my parents . . . allowed, encouraged, almost taught to be selfish and overbearing . . ..”  This characteristic plays well in the Dhampir Darcy’s pursuit of Elizabeth. He more aggressively persists in winning her affection in this book.

Thank you for joining us today Regina. Vampire Darcy’s Desire is now available from Ulysses Press.

Author’s Biography

Regina Jeffers currently is a teacher in the North Carolina public schools, but previously she taught in both West Virginia and Ohio. Nearly forty years in the classroom gives her insights into what makes a good story. A self-confessed Jane Austen “freak,” she began her writing career two years ago with the encouragement of her Advanced Placement students. Her next Austen inspired novel Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion: Jane Austen’s Classic Retold Through His Eyes will be released by Ulysses Press in March 2010.

Cover image courtesy of Ulysses Press © 2009; text Regina Jeffers & Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose.com

Interview with Monica Fairview: Author of The Other Mr. Darcy

The Other Mr. Darcy, by Monica Fairview (2009)A new Pride and Prejudice spinoff, The Other Mr. Darcy was released this month to positive fanfare. Focusing on Caroline Bingley, a secondary character in Jane Austen’s origial novel, I truly enjoyed her transformation and romance. You can read my review to get all the details of the plot and my impressions.

Please welcome author Monica Fairview who stops by on her Grand Blog Tour. Thanks for joining us today Monica to chat about your new book The Other Mr. Darcy, a new Austenesque novel.

While many Austen sequel writers have focused on Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy the main characters in Austen’s original novel, you have chosen to spotlight the minor but very memorable Caroline Bingley. Known for her snooty behavior and snide remarks, she is not exactly likable heroine material for a novel. What inspired you to select one of Austen’s most famous Mean Girls for your heroine?

Not all Mean Girls are Mean all the way through. I felt Jane Austen herself wanted to tell us that. Chapter 45 of Pride and Prejudice starts: “Convinced as Elizabeth now was that Miss Bingley’s dislike of her had originated in jealousy, she could not help feeling how very unwelcome her appearance at Pemberley must be to her.” I read that as an insight into Caroline’s behavior, and a recognition on Elizabeth’s part that Caroline was just trying to keep Mr. Darcy to herself. Jealousy is a very strong emotion, and it tends to bring out the mean streak in everyone. After all, wouldn’t you fight to keep Darcy if you thought you had a chance?

I read this sentence as Jane Austen providing us with Caroline’s motivation, and took it from there. If Caroline is in love with Mr. Darcy, of course she’s going to try and represent Elizabeth in the worst possible light to him. Hence her snide remarks.

When I originally read the advance publicity on The Other Mr. Darcy before it was released in the UK last summer, I was intrigued with the creative title. To many readers, Mr. Darcy is the ultimate romantic icon. Who could this other Mr. Darcy be? Like most young ladies, (or not so nearly young), my imagination is very rapid; it jumped from a twin separated at birth, to a multiple personality disorder, to an imposter in a moment! Your Mr. Darcy is of course none of those possibilities, but turns out to be his American cousin. What was your inspiration for Robert Darcy and how is he similar and differ to his English cousin Fitzwilliam Darcy?

The title was the first thing I thought of, before I even started writing. Originally, I wanted to shadow Mr. Darcy, to create a character that was the other side of him in a way. What came out was Robert Darcy. That’s why if you go through the novel, you’ll find a lot of shadows associated with him. But as he developed, he turned out to be very sunny, and he seemed to prefer open spaces and sunshine. He went his own way.

Robert is different from Fitzwilliam Darcy because he likes talking about things, he insists on being open and putting his cards on the table. His manners are easygoing and he likes to laugh. To all appearances, he has nothing in common with his cousin Fitzwilliam. But as the novel progresses, they become more similar. There’s a point in the plot where Robert is the one who is earnest and reserved, while Fitzwilliam is – well, I don’t want to give away anything in the plot, but let’s say they’re more similar than one would have thought.

Let’s delve deeper into the personality of that jealous, manipulative and scheming Caroline Bingley! In Pride and Prejudice she uses all her charms and allurements to entice Mr. Darcy into marriage. When he selects Elizabeth Bennet, of inferior birth and no consequence, her dream of being Mrs. Darcy is thwarted. In The Other Mr. Darcy your Caroline is still devastated by Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth’s marriage hiding her emotions behind propriety. Since you put yourself in her shoes so-to-speak to write the character, can you share with us your thoughts on Caroline’s personality, what you liked and disliked about her, and what you hoped to achieve in telling her own story?

Caroline used every trick she knew to get Mr. Darcy’s attention. But wouldn’t you? He was a good catch in every possible way. Because we’re on Eliza’s side, we only see Eliza’s perspective. We’ve got to remember that Eliza despises both Mr. Darcy and Caroline when she’s describing the way Caroline toadies to him. Later, she learns more about Mr. Darcy, so she comes to appreciate him. But we don’t get to know Caroline, so that initial impression remains. I felt there was a story there, particularly since Caroline is from a lower social class, and I wanted to know how she really felt about that.

The other issue that puzzles me about Mr. Darcy’s relationship with Caroline is that he chooses to spend time with her. He’s perfectly happy staying with them in Netherfield, and spends days if not weeks in the company of Caroline. Then, as if it isn’t enough, he later invites her to Pemberley to stay with him there. And of course, he dances with her at that first ball. There must be something good about her, if he’s willing to spend so much time with her. It’s not as if the Bingleys are the only friends he has (one hopes!).

In The Other Mr. Darcy you’ll find there’s a lot that’s good about her, once she realizes it’s useless to try and keep up the social pretences. It takes quite a few blows to recognize that, but once she does, and the real Caroline emerges, we can see why Fitzwilliam Darcy liked to spend time with her.

I don’t want to say more about Caroline, because the novel’s partly about her process of self discovery, so I don’t want to spoil the experience for the reader. But I do want to remind people that Caroline, who is younger than Charles Bingley, couldn’t have been more than twenty one. She’s young and inexperienced, One of her redeeming features is that she’s willing to learn from her mistakes. I think of her, in some ways, as resembling Emma, who also arrogantly blunders along and has to learn along the way, except that Emma perhaps is more confident, as she never had to prove herself to anybody.

Your first novel An Improper Suitor was also a historical romance set in the  Georgian/Regency times. Your historical references and knowledge of the era are quite impressive. In The Other Mr. Darcy, Caroline travels from Netherfield Park in Hertfordshire by carriage to Pemberley in Derbyshire. Your descriptions of the towns and countryside along the route were remarkable. How do you research your novels? Did you actually reconstruct the rout in the early 1800’s to inspire your writing?

It took me a long time to work out the details of the journey north. I consulted strip maps of the time (literally, maps that are strips. They cover one particular section of the route in detail), I researched each of the places they passed through, and I used only real historic inns of the time. It was a lot of fun, but it took ages. I’m planning to take the route myself one of those days, just to see the actual places. A bit after the fact!

I’ve visited the places I mention in my next novel, though, so I know exactly what the places look like. It doesn’t make me very popular with my family, I can tell you, because I spend hours taking pictures of every nook and cranny, while they stand around being bored to tears!

Jane Austen has obviously influenced your writing. You have also mentioned your admiration for author Georgette Heyer when you wrote about her novel The Grand Sophy last summer on Jane Austen Today. What other writers have inspired, influenced, or cajoled you into becoming a writer? Who are you reading right now?

Speaking of Georgette Heyer, now that’s one writer who’s absolutely amazing with historical detail, because she’d know the routes and the distances between towns and villages at the blink of an eye. Her books are an encyclopedia of information. I remember once painstakingly doing research about some of the famous boxers of the time, and then I picked up one of her books, and in one scene she gave us more information than all the research I’d done!

I can’t say which writers influenced me most. There are so many. Virginia Woolf was important to me because through her I discovered stream of consciousness writing, and I fell under her spell for a while, until I discovered she was really too melancholy. I’ve loved Oscar Wilde, too, since I was a teen, and I would give anything to be as witty as he is (I haven’t seen Dorian Gray, yet, though I wouldn’t say wit is the strong point in that piece). Another writer I love is Toni Morrison. Perhaps at the back of my mind when I wrote The Other Mr. Darcy I had Jean Rhys’ Wild Sargasso Sea, which gives voice to the madwoman in the attic in Jane Eyre. I’ve read so many types of books, from science fiction to fantasy to postmodern, I can’t begin to say who influenced me. But I’m grateful to them all.

The only sad thing about writing is that you don’t have as much time to read.

I read many Jane Austen inspired books over a course of a year, but only a few authors really surprise and delight me as much as you did with The Other Mr. Darcy. Do you have another Austen inspired novel in the queue, or will you take a new direction?

Thank you for saying that, Laurel Ann. I’ll treasure those words. My next novel, The Darcy Cousins, is coming out in the spring, which is lovely really, because it starts in the springtime. The Darcy Cousins deals with Robert’s sister Clarissa. Meanwhile I’m working on a third book related to Pride and Prejudice, but I can’t reveal more than that.

Thank you for joining us today Monica. I am looking forward to reading The Darcy Cousins when it is released in the UK (Robert Hale) in March 2010 and in the US (Sourcebooks) in April 2010.

Author Monica FairviewAbout the Author

As a literature professor, Monica Fairview enjoyed teaching students to love reading. But after years of postponing the urge, she finally realized what she really wanted was to write books herself. She lived in Illinois, Los Angeles, Seattle, Texas, Colorado, Oregon and Boston as a student and professor, and now lives in London. To find out more, please visit her webite Monica Fairview or her blog Monica Fairview, Author.

Giveaway Contest: Win one of two copies of The Other Mr. Darcy by leaving a comment or question for Monica, or by stating what your favorite Caroline Bingley quote is from Pride and Prejudice.  Contest runs from October 7th – 14th and closes on midnight ET. Contest open to US and Candian residents only. Winners announced on October 15th. Good luck!

And .. yet there is more! Here are even more chances for you to win one of five copies of The Other Mr. Darcy, plus a grand prize winner gets chocolates too. Visit Monica’s blog during the month of October and answer a daily question about Pride and Prejudice to enter the drawing. Then, follow Monica on her Grand Tour of the book blogosphere to enter additional giveaway contests. Here is her blog tour schedule.

Good luck to all!