When I’m With You (The Jane Austen Academy Series), by Cecilia Gray – A Review

When I'm with You, by Cecilia Gray (2013)From the desk of Lisa Galek:

I read a lot of young adult fiction and I notice that there’s often a tendency to feature a female main character who’s smart, sassy, and in control. Of course, these self-confident heroines are important and lots of real-life girls can relate to them. But, some girls are a little less sure of themselves. A little more naïve and a little too trusting. In fact, that’s something that many women struggle with long after they leave high school. No one knew this better than Jane Austen. Her heroines fit into a huge range of personalities and life experiences. In When I’m With You, Cecilia Gray gives us an update on one of Jane’s most underutilized, yet relatable teenage characters, Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey

Kat Morley just knows that one day she’s gonna be a famous actress. She’s been the lead in five different productions at her high school, the Jane Austen Academy, so it can’t be long until her name is up in lights. When Kat’s classmate (aspiring actor, Josh Wickham) asks her to travel with him to the set of a movie he’s starring in over Christmas break, it’s practically her dream come true! Things get even better once Kat arrives and starts rubbing elbows with the stars. Izzy Engel is not only beautiful and famous but she’s also decided to befriend Kat! And Henry Trenton (son of Hollywood legend, Tom Trenton) has invited her out for hot cocoa! Swoon!

But, it isn’t long before Kat starts to see the dark side of being famous. Constantly being stalked by the paparazzi. Lack of privacy. Having to act and dress a certain way to maintain your image. When Kat is invited to stay at Henry’s home in Los Angeles, she also uncovers some secrets about his famous dad and starts to have some doubts about her new celebrity friends. Maybe being a star really isn’t as wonderful as Kat always imagined? 

When I’m With You is the third in Cecilia Gray’s Jane Austen Academy series. Each of Austen’s six main heroines gets her own story and a transplant to a modern-day boarding school in California. The girls – Lizzie, Ellie, Kat, Fanny, Emma, and Anne – befriend each other over the course of the six books and, of course, get involved with lots of cute boys. I think Jane would be amused. Continue reading

Winner Announced in the Northanger Abbey (Naxos AudioBooks) Giveaway

It appears by your comments that Henry Tilney’s interest in muslin and charming demeanor are by far the most enjoyable aspect of Northanger Abbey! He is after all, Jane Austen’s most swoonable hero. Comments in favor of Catherine Morland were a close second, but what of one of my favs, the flippant Isabella Thorpe? 

The response to this giveaway of the Naxos AudioBooks edition of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey was fantastic. The lucky winner is in for 8 hours and 17 minutes of Juliet Stevenson reading one of Austen’s funniest novels. Here is the winner drawn at random: 

Corina

Congratulations to Corina. To claim your prize, please e-mail me at austenprose at verizon dot net by midnight PST on March 2nd, 2010. Shipment is to US and Canadian addresses only.

Get your very own official Henry Tilney thinks I’m nice t-shirt from Austenish’s Janeite Supply Shop at CafePress

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The Temptation of the Night Jasmine, by Lauren Willig – A Review

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine, by Lauren Willig (2009)In the fifth installment in her Pink Carnation Series, more Napoleonic espionage ensues as Lauren Willig spins her captivating tale of the exploits of Robert Lansdowne, the reluctant Duke of Dovedail, and his bookish young cousin Charlotte in The Temptation of the Night Jasmine. Set in England in 1803, Robert’s unexpected return to his ducal estate in Sussex after a decade in the Army in India rekindles Lady Charlotte’s idealistic fantasies. Fueled by her passion for romantic novels such as Evelina she is hopeful that Robert, her knight in shining amour, has come to rescue her from her from the embarrassment of three failed London seasons and her grandmother’s succession of unacceptable eligible bachelors. However, Robert’s main objective is not romance, but to track down the spy who murdered his mentor during the Battle of Assaye. Even though their reunion sparks a quick romance, Robert abruptly ends their relationship and departs for London in pursuit of the elusive spy whose signature scent is the heady and seductive night jasmine. Infiltrating the notorious Hells Fire Club, he is witness to opium induced orgies and the dissipation of London society – all in the name of duty and honor, mind you. Meanwhile, Charlotte acting as lady in waiting to Queen is witness to the madness of King George, or is she? With the aid of her friend Lady Henrietta Selwick, they undertake a bit of espionage of their own, uncovering a plot to kidnap the king. Robert and Charlotte must join forces to thwart the scheme, and learn to trust each again before they can catch a spy, and, re-fall in love. 

All of Willig’s stories in this series unfold as a parallel plot prompted by the investigation of contemporary scholar Eloise Kelly as she conducts her own historical research into the enigmatic British flower spies during the Napoleonic wars. The trail of research has led her to Colin Selwick the descendant of the Pink Carnation who holds the family archive, and her affections under his control. Having read all of the previous novels in the Pink Carnation series, I was uncertain if Willig could continue to pump out fresh and engaging stories to match the intrigue, humor, and suspense of her previous four efforts. In addition, the dubious claim in the publisher’s description of the book that “Pride and Prejudice lives on in Lauren Willig’s acclaimed Pink Carnation series” really shot up an eyebrow. Talk about hitching your star onto a bandwagon! This series is not a Jane Austen sequel, though she does amusingly nod at Austen through allusions to her characters and plot lines, especially in this novel in the early chapters with young, naïve and bookish Charlotte Lansdowne. Any reader of Northanger Abbey will immediately see the similarities to Catherine Morland and smile. But the rest of the characters and plotline is entirely Willig’s own skillful imaginings. 

Given my reservations upon reading this new release, I was happy to discover that I cherish it among the best in the series. Willig’s effervescent style in almost tongue-in-cheek in its playfulness. Her strength, however, lies in her rendering of her characters unique and endearing personalities. Like Austen, she chooses an array of foibles and follies in human nature illustrated in her secondary characters to frame her hero and heroine. Charlotte’s grandmother is a great example. 

“The Dowager Duchess of Dovedale, the woman who had launched a thousand ships—as their crews rowed for their lives in the opposite direction.  She inspired horses to rear, jaded roués to blanch beneath their rouge, and young fops to jump out of ballroom windows.  And she enjoyed every moment of it.” 

Even though I thoroughly enjoy her writing style, Willig does have a few weaknesses that I hope will improve with experience. She handles comedy, historical context, and dialogue beautifully, but like Austen’s complaint about her own darling child Pride and Prejudice, her plots lack the deep shade necessary to offset the light, bright, sparkly stuff. Not only would I like to see more romantic tension between her protagonists, a bit more dastardly doings in her villains would please me exceedingly. Just channel a bit of Dickens Lauren, and you will succeed. Furthermore, I enjoyed the historical plot line so much more than the contemporary fumbling of her Bridget Jones clone-ish Eloise, mostly due to the fact that I am just really tired of clueless young woman who are so insecure that a run in their nylons ruins their day. 

Reverently harkening to her predecessors Austen and Heyer, Willig is one talented author who I hope will enjoy a very long career. In addition to The Temptation of the Night Jasmine, the Pink Carnation series included The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, The Masque of the Black Tulip, The Deception of the Emerald Ring and The Seduction of the Crimson Rose. Her next novel in the series is The Betrayal of the Blood Lily is due out in January, 2010. If you are in the mood for a Regency era romantic spy comedy romp, I recommend this book highly. 

4 out of 5 Regency Stars 

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine, by Lauren Willig
Dutton Adult, New York (2009)
Hardcover (400) pages
ISBN: 978-0525950967

Visit Lauren Willig’s beautiful website

Northanger Abbey: Henry Tilney – so becomingly important!

Illustration from Costume Parisien (1818)in the course of a few minutes, she found herself with Henry in the curricle, as happy a being as ever existed. A very short trial convinced her that a curricle was the prettiest equipage in the world; the chaise and four wheeled off with some grandeur, to be sure, but it was a heavy and troublesome business, and she could not easily forget its having stopped two hours at Petty France. Half the time would have been enough for the curricle, and so nimbly were the light horses disposed to move, that, had not the general chosen to have his own carriage lead the way, they could have passed it with ease in half a minute. But the merit of the curricle did not all belong to the horses; Henry drove so well – so quietly – without making any disturbance, without parading to her, or swearing at them: so different from the only gentleman-coachman whom it was in her power to compare him with! And then his hat sat so well, and the innumerable capes of his greatcoat looked so becomingly important! To be driven by him, next to being dancing with him, was certainly the greatest happiness in the world. The Narrator on Catherine Morland, Northanger Abbey, Chapter 20 

Here’s the fangirl romantic tip of the week. Put a man in a greatcoat and half the room sighs. Jane Austen knew this and used it to her advantage, building Catherine Morland’s admiration and our confidence in her hero Henry Tilney. Yes, it was common for a Regency gentleman to own a greatcoat, but why talk about it so seductively?  “His greatcoat looked so becomingly important!” says it all. Authors and screenwriters take heed. Put your heroes in greatcoats whenever you need a romantic punch. Works for me every time.

*Illustration from Costume Parisien 1818

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Austen at Large: Catherine Morland is a delight!

Felicity Jones as Catherine Morland, Northanger Abbey (2007)In my Jane Austen Seminar this semester we had been talking about Austen’s juvenilia for a while but a now have shifted our focus to Northanger Abbey. It was very interesting looking at the transition between a story like Love and Friendship to Northanger because we can pretty clearly see Austen’s growth as a novelist. I fall in love with Northanger Abbey more and more each time I read it. It is such a wonderful coming of age story. Catherine Morland is a charming heroine though from the very beginning of the novel Austen tells us that “No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be a heroine. Her situation in life, the character of her father and mother, her own person and disposition, were all equally against her.” (Chapter 1).  I love that Austen takes Catherine’s normalcy and turns it around to make her a heroine. For me what is so endearing about Catherine is the fact that I see her as almost every young girl. Who in high school or as a teen was not blinded by a friend or just naïve in general? Maybe I was just a little more personally sheltered until I hit college but I can see where Austen is coming from with Catherine’s growth. She grows up and begins to see the world a little more realistically.

 Katharine Schlesinger as Catherine Morland, Northanger Abbey (1986)

Catherine Morland may at times get accused of being a goose by critics, but not this one! If she is a goose at all it is her goosey parts that I love the best. She is so easily teased by Mr. Tilney it is cute. One girl in my class pointed out that it was like being on a playground and a little boy was pulling your pigtails to get your attention. It is only when your mother tell you later that “he is doing that because he likes you” that it begins to make a little sense. I sometimes feel like Mr. Tilney is just pulling Catherine’s pigtails. He knows he is witty and clever so sometimes he talks over her head but he normally tries to explain it to her whether she gets it or not. A classic example of this is when they are dancing and Mr. Tilney makes the connection between Country dances and marriage. Mr. Tilney says,

“I consider a country-dance as an emblem of marriage. Fidelity and complaisance are the principal duties of both; and those men who do not choose to dance or marry themselves, have no business with the partners or wives of their neighbours.”

 “But they are such very different things!”

” – That you think they cannot be compared together.”

“To be sure not. People that marry can never part, but must go and keep house together. People that dance only stand opposite each other in a long room for half an hour.”

“And such is your definition of matrimony and dancing. Taken in that light certainly, their resemblance is not striking; but I think I could place them in such a view. You will allow, that in both, man has the advantage of choice, woman only the power of refusal; that in both, it is an engagement between man and woman, formed for the advantage of each; and that when once entered into, they belong exclusively to each other till the moment of its dissolution; that it is their duty, each to endeavour to give the other no cause for wishing that he or she had bestowed themselves elsewhere, and their best interest to keep their own imaginations from wandering towards the perfections of their neighbours, or fancying that they should have been better off with anyone else. You will allow all this?”

“Yes, to be sure, as you state it, all this sounds very well; but still they are so very different. I cannot look upon them at all in the same light, nor think the same duties belong to them.”

“In one respect, there certainly is a difference. In marriage, the man is supposed to provide for the support of the woman, the woman to make the home agreeable to the man; he is to purvey, and she is to smile. But in dancing, their duties are exactly changed; the agreeableness, the compliance are expected from him, while she furnishes the fan and the lavender water. That, I suppose, was the difference of duties which struck you, as rendering the conditions incapable of comparison.”

“No, indeed, I never thought of that.” (Chapter 10)

Illustration by C.E. Brock, Northanger Abbey, J.M. Dent & Sons, London (1908)This passage is rich with things to mention but what I want to point out is that Catherine does not really understand where Mr. Tilney is going with this. In fact it is hard of even the reader to understand but we can sort of see what he is getting at. Catherine’s misunderstanding of so many things around her can remind the reader (at least this reader) that the heroine is not so very different from herself. Catherine makes mistakes, misjudges people, is fooled by her supposed friends and can’t see things that are happening right in front of her and yet we still find her endearing, perhaps because Catherine seems so truly human and that’s what makes her a heroine. She is not a great beauty, or a great wit or anything really extraordinary and yet she seems delightful to us. My reason for falling in love with Catherine Morland is that though she is fooled she does has a strong resolution and can step up to the plate. When she is sent away from Northanger Abbey she is able to get herself home without any fainting fits, robberies or other calamities. Catherine is a fully competent heroine even if she is a little scatter brained at times…. But then again who isn’t?

Virginia Claire our Austen at Large roving reporter is a college student studying English literature and history who just returned from her time studying abroad in Bath England and working as an intern at the Jane Austen Centre. She is the Regional Coordinator of JASNA North Carolina and a lifelong Janeite. She will be sharing her thoughts on all things Austen this semester and remembering her travels in Austenland.

Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey Wrap Up: Giveaway Winners Announced!

“But now you love a hyacinth. So much the better. You have gained a new source of enjoyment, and it is well to have as many holds upon happiness as possible. Besides, a taste for flowers is always desirable in your sex, as a means of getting you out of doors, and tempting you to more frequent exercise than you would otherwise take. And though the love of a hyacinth may be rather domestic, who can tell, the sentiment once raised, but you may in time come to love a rose?” Henry Tilney, Chapter 22 

Ahh… Henry Tilney is so wise. It is well to have as many holds upon happiness as possible. As Catherine learned to love a hyacinth, I hope that readers have learned to love Northanger Abbey and gained a new source of enjoyment through the group read. For me, it was pure fun and a joy to write about. Jane Austen’s other major novels may get all the limelight, but I think it quite appropriate that it resides in a lower place like the spooky dungeons in the Gothic novels that it parodies. 

This is my second novel event here at Austenprose, and this time out I had some help from my friends with great guest blogs who added their expertise and humor to entertain us. A big thank you to all the guest bloggers. 

Amanda Grange: Henry Tilney’s Story

Diana Birchall: as Isabella Thorpe on Northanger movies

Margaret (Mags) Sullivan of AustenBlog: Henry Tilney the ultimate hero

Kali Pappas of Emma Adaptations & Strangegirl Designs: Fashion in the Northanger movies

James Jenkins of Valancourt Books: the ‘horrid novels’ of Northanger Abbey

Trina Robbins & Anne Timmons: Gothic Classics: Graphic Classics Volume 14 

An extra loud shout out to Ms Place (Vic) of Jane Austen’s World: for writing four blogs on Catherine Morland’s experience in Bath. Great job and thanks Vic. 

PRIZE WINNERS

And now for the fun stuff! Here are all the winners of the 16 prizes. Congratulations to all, and many thanks to all who participated. 

Day 01 – Oct 1             Northanger Abbey – OWC – Heather                      

Day 02 – Oct 2            Northanger Abbey – Penguin Classics – Ren

Day 04 – Oct 7            Northanger Abbey – Barnes & Noble Classics – Lucia

Day 06 – Oct 9            Northanger Abbey – Norton Critical Edition – Felicia  

Day 08 – Oct 14          Jane Austen in BathCourtney  

Day 10 – Oct 16          Jane Austen’s Guide to Good MannersEmily

Day 11 – Oct 19         Northanger Abbey Audio Unabridged – Janeen

Day 11 – Oct 19         Northanger Abbey Audio Abridged – Sylvia M.        

Day 12 – Oct 20         The Mysterious Warning – Valancourt Books – JaneFan  

Day 13 – Oct 21         Northanger Abbey Stage play – Carrie Oak Rise Cottage  

Day 15 – Oct 23         Jane Austen Entertains – Music CD – Joanna  

Day 16 – Oct 26         The Mysteries of Udolpho – OWC – Leah  

Day 17 – Oct 27         Gothic Classics: Graphic Classics Volume 14 Becky

Day 18 – Oct 28         Northanger Abbey – Broadview – Crazy_Spinster

Day 19 – Oct 29         The Mysteries of Udolpho – Penguin Classics – M

Day 20 – Oct 30         Jane Austen: Seven Novels – Barnes & Noble – Susan 

Winners – Your prompt reply is appreciated. You have one week to claim your prize! Please e-mail me, (austenprose at verizon dot net) before Saturday, November 8th, 2008. If I do not receive a response by a winner by that date, I will draw another name and continue until all of the prizes have a home to mail them to. Thanks again to everyone for your great contributions. Congrats to the winners, and enjoy! 

Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey is officially concluded!

 

 

If you don’t read Northanger Abbey, Henry will know!

 

THE END