The Watsons, by Rose Servitova and Jane Austen — A Review

The Watsons, by Rose Servitova and Jane Austen (2019)

From the desk of Debra E. Marvin:

Author of The Longbourn Letters, Rose Servitova’s candid preface in The Watsons intrigued me as much as the concept of someone taking on an incomplete Austen manuscript. It’s believed Miss Austen began the story around 1803, but it was no more than a partial manuscript at the time of her death. Published in that form by her nephew in 1871, the original document is safely archived ‘as is’ with her edits and revisions. Once I began Ms. Servitova’s novel, I immediately trusted her efforts—dare I say chutzpah—to be the latest to co-author with Jane Austen. What delicate kid slippers to fill!

You’ll not be surprised to learn the story centers on a particular family of a kind, well-read, possibly dying gentleman lax in providing for his adult daughters. Around them, a circle of friends and acquaintances carries on with the business of gossip and country balls. Our protagonist is nineteen-year-old Emma Watson who’s returned home unexpectantly after being a long-time ward of her wealthy aunt and uncle. Because of this, both her family and their neighbors are practically strangers to her.

“Yes. Single women have a dreadful propensity for being poor- which is one very strong argument in favour of matrimony. She must marry, and I pray that it will happen soon,” said Elizabeth, “that she may rob a gentleman of his fortune and us of her company.”

Emma’s fourteen years away have produced a well-spoken and well-mannered young woman now surprised by the rather rough edges of two manipulative sisters, and the novelty of being the newest single female in want of a husband. Continue reading

The Janeite Blog Tour of Love & Friendship Begins June 13

Love & Friendship (2016) poster 2016 x 200A new Jane Austen-inspired movie released on May 13th. Love & Friendship has received rave reviews from critics and Jane Austen fans alike.

  • “FLAT-OUT-HILARIOUS. Jane Austen has never been funnier.” – The Telegraph
  • “Whit Stillman and English novelist Jane Austen make for a delightful pairing in this comedy of manners.” – The Star.com
  • “Kate Beckinsale magnetizes the screen.” – Variety

Written and directed by renowned independent filmmaker Whit Stillman, (a big friend of Jane Austen with his previous movies Metropolitan and Last Day of Disco), the movie has been adapted from Austen’s comic gem, Lady Susan, and features an all-star cast reuniting Kate Beckinsale and Chloë Sevigny and featuring a string of British period drama acting royalty: Steven Fry, James Fleet and Jemma Redgrave. I saw it on Sunday. I was astounded to discover there were actually people in the theater laughing louder than me, inspired by Tim Bennet’s performance as the rattle, Sir James Martin, and the all-around witty banter and comedic timing!

Love and Friendship Wit Stillman 2016 x 200In addition, Stillman has written a companion novel to the film also entitled Love & Friendship with the added subtitle: In Which Jane Austen’s Lady Susan Vernon Is Entirely Vindicated. For those who have read Austen’s original novella, you will remember that Lady Susan Vernon is described by Reginald De Courcy as “the most accomplished coquette in England.” and by others as devious, wicked and “with a happy command of language, which is too often used, I believe, to make black appear white.” To vindicate her scurrilous behavior is an intriguing premise indeed!

Love & Friendship, the novel, is told from the perspective of a new character, Rufus Martin-Colonna de Cesari-Rocca, Lady Susan’s nephew. His voice throughout the book is very Austenesque, with tongue-in-cheek humor and inside Austen jokes that will delight Janeites. Continue reading

Progressive Blog Tour for Julian Fellowes’ Belgravia Begins April 14

Belgravia Julian Fellowes 2016 x 200Downton Abbey may have ended but its creator/writer Julian Fellowes has not missed a beat. The multiple award-winning screenwriter, playwright, and TV show creator has a new novel called Belgravia to fill that huge whole in our hearts when the sixth and final season of Downton concluded in the US last March. Breaking new ground in the digital age, the book will be released in 11 serialized installment beginning Thursday, April 14 by Grand Central Publishing followed by hardcover release on July 05, 2016.

Julian Fellowes’ Belgtavia is the story of a secret. A secret that unravels behind the porticoed doors of London’s grandest postcode. Set in the 1840s when the upper echelons of society began to rub shoulders with the emerging industrial nouveau riche, Belgravia is people by a rich cast of characters. But the story begins on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. At the Duchess of Richmond’s new legendary ball, one family’s life will change forever.

The serialized novel is hardly a new concept. Victorian authors such as Dickens, Gaskell, Collins and Conan Doyle became famous through their weekly newspaper installments popular because of their addictive episodic format of twists and cliff hangers. Belgravia will embrace the same concept but with new technology. An app available for download from the official website will send the weekly file to reader’s phones, tablets or computers. Additional annotation and historical detail will also be available to embellish the narrative while readers can jump between the digital text and the audio recording by acclaimed British actress Juliet Stevenson. Continue reading

The Secret of Pembrooke Park Blog Tour

Secret of Pembrooke blog tour horizontal banner

Award-winning historical romance author Julie Klassen tours the blogosphere February 16 through March 2, 2015, to share her latest release, The Secret of Pembrooke Park. 

Klassen’s eighth novel is a Gothic romance, a “gem for Regency and inspirational readers alike.” — Bookpage, introducing us to Miss Abigail Foster, a heroine in the making who travels to an ancestral manor where she discovers a past tainted by family secrets, rumors of hidden treasure and the surprise of an unexpected romance. Continue reading

Jane Austen’s First Love Virtual Book Launch Party & Blog Tour with Author Syrie James, & Giveaways

JAFL blog tour banner x 500

I am very pleased to welcome author Syrie James to Austenprose today to officially open her virtual book launch party and blog tour of Jane Austen’s First Love, published by Berkley Trade. This new Austenesque novel is a fascinating combination of fact and fiction, exploring the first romance of fifteen year-old Jane Austen with the handsome and sophisticated Edward Taylor. 

Syrie has generously offered a guest blog sharing her inspiration to write her new book—and to add to the festivities—we will be offering an amazing selection of giveaways including: trade paperback copies of Jane Austen’s First Love, a muslin tote bag stuffed with Jane Austen goodies, and a specially commissioned painting inspired by the novel. Just leave a comment following this blog post to enter. The contest details are listed below. Good luck to all. 

Please join us in welcoming Syrie James.

The inspiration for my novel Jane Austen’s First Love originated several years ago when I was re-reading Jane Austen’s letters. I was struck by three sweet and tender references Jane made to a young man she met as a teenager while visiting her brother Edward Austen in Kent.

Bifrons Park Kent Patrixbourne

Painting of Bifrons Park, near Patrixbourne, Kent, circa 1695

“We went by Bifrons, & I contemplated with a melancholy pleasure, the abode of Him, on whom I once fondly doated,” Jane wrote to her sister Cassandra in September 1796. The “him” she refers to is Edward Taylor, heir to Bifrons, a grand ancestral estate. Jane was twenty when she wrote that letter, and was looking back on a relationship that took place some years before. In two other letters, Jane joked affectionately about Edward Taylor’s inheritance, and, wistfully contemplating his possible marriage, hoped that another generation would be adorned by his “beautiful dark eyes.”

Who was this Edward Taylor, I wondered, upon whom a young Jane had “fondly doated ”? (“Doat” is a variant—now rare—spelling of “dote.”) The definition of “to dote” is “to express and demonstrate great love and fondness for somebody” or “to love to an excessive or foolish degree.” Great love and fondness! Excessive, foolish love! We know so little about Jane Austen’s romantic life, yet here was a solid clue, in her own words, about a young man with whom she was clearly besotted! I was stunned that no one had ever written about it before.

I quickly discovered why Jane’s relationship with Edward Taylor had thus far remained in the shadows: it seemed there was very little information available about him. He is mentioned only briefly in Austen biographies as Jane’s first crush, the earliest of her possible suitors. Determined to learn more about him, I spent many months combing through obscure files on the internet, searching for clues. Thankfully Edward Taylor was a member of the landed gentry. As such, I was able to gather valuable nuggets from a variety of sources regarding his ancestors, his ancestral estate, his parents, his siblings (he had four brothers and three sisters), and himself. I noted that he was a Member of Parliament; I learned the essential dates of his life: birth, marriage, death; I uncovered tantalizing facts about his education and time served in the army, which was puzzling—why had the eldest son and heir served in the army? It was a great start, but hardly enough—I wanted to know about Edward Taylor’s youth, who he was when Jane Austen met him.

Bifron Park, in Kent circa 1900

Georgian remodel of Bifrons Park, in Kent circa 1900  

One day, I struck gold. I discovered a priceless resource, The Taylor Papers, (1913), the candid memoirs and letters of Edward’s brother Lieutenant General Sir Herbert Taylor, compiled decades later by a descendant. These memoirs contain a detailed description of the Taylor children’s unusual and well-traveled childhood abroad and their many accomplishments. All were fluent in five languages, and each played a musical instrument so proficiently that the family gave concerts all over Europe. The Taylors were close friends with princes and princesses, dukes and duchesses, famous artists, and high-ranking religious, military, and government leaders in Europe. The more I read, the more awestruck I became. Edward Taylor was a remarkable young man who had led a fascinating life. No wonder Jane Austen fell in love with him! That he was a real person, and that I had in my possession so many little-known facts about him, was thrilling.

Edward Taylor

Meanwhile, I was intrigued by another Austen fact. In 1791, when Jane’s brother Edward Austen became engaged to Elizabeth Bridges of Goodnestone Park, two of Elizabeth’s sisters also became engaged. I thought it highly unusual that three sisters in the same family should marry almost simultaneously—and it couldn’t be a coincidence that Jane, at the same time, wrote her comedic short story The Three Sisters. I realized that Jane Austen was most likely introduced to Edward Taylor through his connection as both a cousin and neighbor of the Bridges family (Bifrons was only five miles from Goodnestone). It seemed likely to me that Jane visited Kent in the summer of 1791, where she not only met the young ladies who inspired that story, but also met and fell in love with Edward Taylor. And thus my novel was born. I hope that readers enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Author Syrie James (2012 )AUTHOR BIO Syrie James, hailed by Los Angeles Magazine as “the queen of nineteenth century re-imaginings,” is the bestselling author of nine critically acclaimed novels including The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen (“A literary feast for Anglophiles”—Publisher’s weekly), The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen (named one of the best first novels of the year by Library Journal), and The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë (Audie Award, Romance 2011; Great Group Read, Women’s National Book Association). Syrie’s books have been translated into eighteen languages. She is a member of the Writer’s Guild of America and a life member of JASNA. Follow Syrie on twitter, visit her on facebook, and learn more about her and her books at syriejames.com.

Many thanks Syrie, and best wishes with Jane Austen’s First Love. Be sure to return on Monday, August 4th for our review.

A GRAND GIVEAWAY 

In celebration of the release of Jane Austen’s First Love, we are offering four chances to win amazing prizes. Please leave a comment by 11:59 pm, Wednesday, August 06, 2014 stating what intrigues you about this new novel. Winners will be drawn at random from the comments and announced on Thursday, August 07, 2014. Shipment to US addresses. Good luck to all!

Jane Austen's First Love by Syrie James (2014 )

Prize 1 & 2: ONE TRADE PAPERBACK COPY OF JANE AUSTEN’S FIRST LOVE 

Tote bag for JAFL Book Launch

Prize 3: I HEART JANE AUSTEN TOTE BAG 

This fashionable muslin tote bag (size 15″W x 15-1/2″H) is lightweight, environmentally friendly, and the perfect way to express your love for Jane Austen while carrying all your whatnots!

The I HEART JANE AUSTEN TOTE BAG contains the following goodies:

  • One trade paperback edition of Jane Austen’s First Love
  • One trade paperback edition of The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen
  • 2 bookplates signed by Syrie James
  • Jane Austen keychain
  • Austenesque notecard from JASNA–Northern California region
  • Postcard featuring Jane Austen’s jewelry (from Jane Austen’s House Museum)
  • Postcard featuring Jane Austen’s desk (from Jane Austen’s House Museum)
  • Pride and Prejudice peacock edition commemoratory bookmark

At Goodnestone Park painting framed by Annmarie Thomas

“At Goodnestone Park” by Annmarie Thomas, framed

At Goodnestone Park painting by Annmarie Thomas

Prize 4: ORIGINAL ART PAINTING “AT GOODNESTONE PARK” BY ANNMARIE THOMAS 

One 8” x 10” original acrylic painting on panel, framed and ready to hang by Annmarie Thomas, inspired by the novel, Jane Austen’s First Love, featuring Edward Taylor, Jane Austen and Charlotte Payler.

ARTIST BIO Annmarie Thomas lives, reads, and paints in southern California where she is an active member of JASNA. She is currently designing the JASNA AGM 2017 logo. With a degree in design from UCLA, Annmarie worked as a graphic designer. Now, with three nearly grown sons, she’s returned to fine art painting with one subject being Jane Austen related images. To see Annmarie’s paintings that are not Jane-inspired, click here. Click here to see her Jane Austen art or go to JaneAustenFineArt.com.

Thank you for joining in the celebration of the upcoming release of Jane Austen’s First Love. Please visit more stops along the blog tour, July 28th – August 21, 2014, where you will find additional guest blogs by Syrie James, book reviews and giveaway chances.

JANE AUSTEN’S FIRST LOVE BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

Read an exclusive excerpt from Jane Austen’s First Love

Jane Austen’s First Love: A Novel, by Syrie James
Berkley Trade (August 5th, 2014), 400 pages
Trade paperback ISBN: 978-0425271353
Digital eBook ASIN: B00G3L7VES

Cover image courtesy of Berkley Trade © 2014; text Syrie James © 2014; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2014, Austenprose.com

The Truth About Mr. Darcy Blog Tour with Author Susan Adriani & a Giveaway!

The Truth About Mr. Darcy, by Susan Adriani (2011)Please join us today in welcoming Austenesque author Susan Adriani for the official launch of her blog tour of The Truth About Mr. Darcy, a new Pride and Prejudice variation that was released on May 1, 2011, by Sourcebooks.

If someone had told me I would end up writing a novel someday (never mind that it would actually be published) I would have laughed at them. As a matter of fact, I’m laughing right now. I can’t help it—the entire experience has been completely surreal.

I never set out to be an author. I was a freelance illustrator turned stir-crazy stay-at-home mom; and I’d discovered early on it was nearly impossible to lay down a watercolor wash and work on a commission when there was a very determined little person clinging to my arm, trying to “help” me all the time. As much as I appreciated my daughter’s assistance (she meant well and was ridiculously cute), it soon became apparent that I needed to find an alternative outlet for my creativity, or completely sacrifice my sanity.

The quick fix was to submerse myself in Jane Austen’s world. During that time, I read Pride and Prejudice repeatedly, all the while wondering what happened to Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet after the story ended. To my very great pleasure, I found Helen Halstead and Pamela Aiden in my local Borders, and later, Abigail Reynolds online. I quickly fell in love with Abigail’s writing, but even more than that, I was awed by her ability to ask “what if…” and captivated by her talented storytelling. It didn’t take long for my head to become flooded with ideas and possibilities of my own.

The end result was my first book, The Truth About Mr. Darcy (formerly titled Affinity and Affection). Based on the premise of Mr. Darcy actually getting off his high horse (both figuratively and literally) to warn Elizabeth Bennet about George Wickham’s dissolute character. It is the story of a very different journey for our couple. With Darcy’s honesty, Elizabeth is able to see him with a new perspective, and Darcy, because he recognizes Elizabeth’s value earlier in their acquaintance, is far more willing to swallow his pride and attempt to win her good opinion. And of course, there is passion!

I’ve included an excerpt from the first chapter, and hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed being here today. Continue reading