Book Previews, Editor's Picks, Historical Fantasy, Paranormal & Gothic Fiction, Holiday Gifts, Jane Austen's Lady Susan, Jane Austen's Works

A Preview of Plumleaf Press Vintage Classics: The Perfect Christmas Gift for the Discerning Reader

Happy Friday, dear readers. How is your holiday shopping going? I find that when there are so many gift editions of classic novels available, it is difficult to choose. Here’s my criteria for narrowing down the field:

  1. A beautifully designed cover and interior.
  2. Easy-to-read text.
  3. An author bio, and an insightful introduction.

This year my number one choice is the Plumleaf Vintage—Set of 3, which includes three lesser known classics written by women, and therefore much more cherished by the discerning reader. The collection features three epistolary novels: Lady Susan, by Jane Austen, The Grey Woman, by Elizabeth Gaskell, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Brontë.

Designed by Canadian independent publisher, Plumleaf Press, two of the stunning covers were created by Kay Widdowson, a UK illustrator. She has captured the Gothic tone of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and the sophisticated and mercurial quality of Lady Susan as a swan, perfectly. The design of the books with cardstock covers and elegant French flaps adds a polished quality to this gift book package.

The icing on the cake for me was the selection of authors for the introductions. Natalie Jenner, Molly Greeley, and Finola Austin were all debut novelists reviewed here on Austenprose.com in 2020 whose historical fiction novels were both critically acclaimed and embraced by readers. You will find their brief introductions energetic, and insightful.

Now, let me guide you even further down the literary garden path. The publisher has kindly supplied additional information about their new series and each book.

Lucky is the recipient of this amazing collection. Be sure to gift an additional set to yourself!

Happy Holidays to one and all!

Laurel Ann

ABOUT THE VINTAGE SERIES

Plumleaf Vintage is a series of beautifully designed novels by women authors — beloved classics that may be at risk of being forgotten or overlooked. The stories in Plumleaf Vintage eloquently reflect the complexity of being a woman in the time and culture portrayed. They speak to the challenges faced by women to define an individual identity separate from a man’s and explore the ways that women have always pushed against the boundaries imposed by the mores of the time. The first three books in this series are classic epistolary novels, a form that lends itself to great intimacy with the characters’ thoughts and feelings.

LADY SUSAN, by Jane Austen, introduction by Natalie Jenner

BOOK DESCRIPTION

One of Jane Austen’s earliest works, LADY SUSAN is an epistolary novel with a variety of narrative voices telling the story of Lady Susan Vernon, the title character. In Lady Susan, Austen creates an imaginative world filled with intrigue, betrayal, and gossip. Lady Susan is described by author Natalie Jenner as “one of the most duplicitous and manipulative characters” of all that Austen ever created.

With an introduction by Natalie Jenner, author of the international bestseller THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY. Plumleaf Vintage is a series of beautifully designed novels by women authors — beloved classics that may be at risk of being forgotten or overlooked. The stories in Plumleaf Vintage eloquently reflect the complexity of being a woman in the time and culture portrayed. They speak to the challenges faced by women to define an individual identity separate from a man’s and explore the ways that women have always pushed against the boundaries imposed by the mores of the time. The first three books in this series are classic epistolary novels, a form that lends itself to great intimacy with the characters’ thoughts and feelings.

AUTHOR BIO

JANE AUSTEN (1775–1817), a noted English novelist, was the seventh of eight children born to a minister and his wife in a small village in Hampshire, England. She was very close to her sister, Cassandra, the only other daughter in the family. Her first published novel was Sense and Sensibility, followed by Pride and PrejudiceMansfield Park, and EmmaNorthanger Abbey and Persuasion were published after her death, as was Lady Susan. Her novels vividly and wittily portrayed life among the middle and upper classes in 19th century England. All her novels were published anonymously. That she was a writer was known initially only by a few in her immediate family; soon, however, her brother Henry spread the word of her writing, and even though Austen had wished to remain anonymous, she did enjoy the public acknowledgement. Jane Austen’s work has had universal and enduring appeal, and her books, particularly Pride and Prejudice, are still very popular.

QUOTE FROM THE INTRODUCTION

“Austen displays in Lady Susan an entire world apiece with that of her later fiction: devious charmers, authentic heroines, self-deluded suitors, and misguided parents, all operating under the twin pressures of poverty and social ambition.”

NATALIE JENNER was born in England, raised in Canada, and graduated from the University of Toronto with consecutive degrees in English Literature and Law. She worked for decades in the legal industry and also founded the independent bookstore Archetype Books in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs. A lifelong devotee of all things Jane Austen, The Jane Austen Society is her first published novel. Find her online at NatalieJenner.com.

  • Lady Susan, by Jane Austen, introduction by Natalie Jenner
  • Rubicon Publishing Inc. (January 1, 2021)
  • Perfect Paperback (120) pages
  • ISBN: ‎ 978-1486936212

AMAZON | PLUMLEAF PRESS | GOODREADS

THE GREY WOMAN, by Elizabeth Gaskell, introduction by Molly Greeley

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Originally a three-part novella published in a literary journal by Charles Dickens, THE GREY WOMAN tells a powerful story of deception and distrust in an epistolary format from the perspective of the protagonist, Anna Scherer. Similar to other Gaskell works, a recurring theme is the oppression of women through marriage. This book is considered ahead of its time for its progressive feminist views. With an introduction by Molly Greeley, bestselling author of THE CLERGYMAN’S WIFE and THE HEIRESS.

AUHTOR BIO

ELIZABETH GASKELL (1810–1865) is a highly regarded Victorian novelist. Her father was a minister; her mother died when she was an infant, and she was raised by an aunt, to whom she was very close. At the age of 22, she married William Gaskell, a minister, and lived in Manchester. She had a very busy life as a wife and mother; as well, she was active in charity and social justice work. Much of Gaskell’s writing espoused social causes, such as Mary Barton, a story of a working-class family in late 1830s Manchester. Her most popular novel is Cranford, a story of the day-to-day life of inhabitants of a small village. Charlotte Brontë was a close friend of Gaskell, and Gaskell’s 1857 biography The Life of Charlotte Brontë was much admired. Gaskell’s final book, Wives and Daughters, unfinished upon her sudden death, is considered by some to be her finest work. Her writing fell out of favour in the early twentieth century but is enjoying renewed respect among academics and lovers of good books.

QUOTE FROM THE INTRODUCTION

“Too often, Gaskell’s books—like those of many women—were dismissed by critics as merely “charming.” But this overlooks the depths under the surface of her writing. Beneath The Grey Woman’s gothic exterior, with its dreary castle and the mysterious inhabitants within, seethe feminist themes that are still relevant today, 160 years after its writing, leaving no doubt as to the enduring quality of Gaskell’s work.”

MOLLY GREELEY is the author of The Clergyman’s Wife and The Heiress. ​She lives in northern Michigan with her husband and three children and can often be found with her laptop at local coffee shops. Find her online at MollyGreeley.com

  • The Grey Woman, by Elizabeth Gaskell, introduction by Molly Greeley
  • Rubicon Publishing Inc. (January 1, 2021)
  • Perfect Paperback (92) pages
  • ISBN:‎ 978-1486936229

AMAZON | PLUMLEAF PRESS | GOODREADS

THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL, by Anne Brontë, introduction by Finola Austin

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Anne Brontë’s second and final novel, THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL, is an epistolary novel that tells the story through letters and a diary. It explores the challenges faced by an independent woman as she struggles for freedom from a repressive and abusive marriage and encounters suspicion and gossip from the community to which she has fled. The novel was first published under a pseudonym and scandalized Victorian society. With an introduction by Finola Austin, author of the bestselling novel BRONTË’S MISTRESS.

AUTHOR BIO

ANNE BRONTË (1820–1849), pseudonym Acton Bell, was an English poet and novelist, the youngest daughter of the Reverend Patrick and Maria Brontë and younger sister of Charlotte and Emily. Because of family finances, Anne worked as a governess for several years and was a keen observer of the life of those with wealth and privilege, noting what she saw as the lack of morality they espoused. Anne never married and died at the age of 29 from tuberculosis.

Anne wrote two novels: Agnes Grey (1847) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848). Anne’s mission in her writing, as she said in the preface to the second edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, was “to tell the truth, for truth always conveys its own moral to those who are able to receive it … I would rather whisper a few wholesome truths therein than much soft nonsense.”

QUOTE FROM THE INTRODUCTION

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall hasn’t been history’s or Hollywood’s favourite Bronte book, just as it wasn’t Charlotte [Bronte]’s—but maybe, just maybe, you’ll find that it’s yours.”

FINOLA AUSTIN, also known as the Secret Victorianist on her award-winning blog, is an England-born, Northern Ireland-raised, Brooklyn-based historical novelist of Bronte’s Mistress and lover of the 19th century. By day, she works in digital advertising. Find her online at FinolaAustin.com.

  • The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Bronte, introduction by Finola Austin
  • Rubicon Publishing Inc. (January 1, 2021)
  • Perfect Paperback (492) pages
  • ISBN: 978-1486936571

AMAZON | PLUMLEAF PRESS | GOODREADS

All three novels can be ordered separately, or as the beautifully designed Plumleaf Vintage—Set of 3, through the publisher by following this link to the Plumleaf Press website.

Cover images, book descriptions, and author bios compliments of Rubicon Publishing, Inc. © 2021; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2021, Austenprose.com

Austenesque, Book Lists, Book Previews, Editor's Picks, Historical Romance, Holiday Reading, Regency Romance

My 15 Favorite Christmas Historical Romance Novels of 2021

Happy Friday, dear readers! ‘Tis the season to read Christmas-inspired stories, and this year there is an amazing line-up of new historical romance novels, novellas, and short stories to deck your halls or fill up your eReader.

Interestingly, the prevailing theme this year appears to be kissing brought on by standing under the mistletoe! I wonder what ambitious mother thought up that tradition to get her daughter married?

I always look forward to the research involved in curating my annual Christmas/Holiday “best of” list. I hope you give more than a few a try. You won’t be disappointed. Continue reading “My 15 Favorite Christmas Historical Romance Novels of 2021”

Book Reviews, Editor's Picks, Regency Romance

Love and Lavender: A Mayfield Family Romance (Book 4), by Josi S. Kilpack — A Review    

From the desk of Katie Patchell: 

Unconventional heroines are becoming more common in Regency-inspired fiction, which is something worthy of applause. Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the genre’s beloved originator. Jane Austen was the queen of unconventional heroines living in a conventional world; something Elizabeth Bennet, Catherine Morland, and company attest to. But I ask: how often do we Janeites discover an equally unconventional hero? Josi S. Kilpack shares just that in Love and Lavender, her recent addition to the Mayfield Family saga. Both a unique romance and a sympathetic study of physical limitations in the Regency world, Love and Lavender shines a spotlight on two very unconventional leads.

After her uncle makes the shocking announcement that he will give each of his young relatives an inheritance if they marry, Hazel Stillman doesn’t feel grateful. No—she feels hurt and betrayed. To Hazel, Uncle Elliott’s Continue reading “Love and Lavender: A Mayfield Family Romance (Book 4), by Josi S. Kilpack — A Review    “

Book Reviews, Contemporary Fiction, Editor's Picks, Historical Fiction

The London House: A Novel, by Katherine Reay — A Review  

From the desk of Tracy Hickman: 

I have been fascinated with history since I was a child. Learning about people and events from the past has helped me better understand my own life and the world around me. While there can be a temptation to look back at a period of history and think that issues were simpler or clearer, for the people living those events there was no 20/20 hindsight, only uncertainty and struggle. For this reason, I was curious to explore the lives, past and present, touched by Katherine Reay’s The London House. Because I enjoy dual-timeline historical fiction and epistolary narratives, this latest work by an author of literary-themed contemporary novels went to the top of my reading list

In present day Boston, Caroline Payne is contacted by a former college friend, Mat Hammond, who is preparing to publish an article about her great-aunt Caroline (Caro) Waite’s clandestine activities and subsequent betrayal of her country, defecting with her German lover and Continue reading “The London House: A Novel, by Katherine Reay — A Review  “

Austenesque, Book Lists, Contemporary Fantasy, Paranormal & Gothic Fiction, Editor's Picks, Historical Fantasy, Paranormal & Gothic Fiction, Holiday Reading, Jane Austen Sequels, Northanger Abbey Sequels

7 Spooky Jane Austen Inspired Novels to Read this Halloween Season

Happy Friday, dear readers. All Hallows Eve is this weekend. Have you chosen a costume and stocked up on candy yet? I don’t have trick or treaters visiting me in the country, however, that has never stopped me from celebrating the holiday by decorating with pumpkins and eating candy corn!

If you are seeking recommendations for great Jane Austen-inspired reading to put you in the mood for the spooky season, look no further. Here is a short list of six novels and one adaptation to help you become as addicted to Gothic fiction as heroine Catherine Morland in Austen’s Northanger Abbey.  Remember, it’s never too late to seek adventure abroad!

JANE AUSTEN’S NORTHANGER ABBEY (MARVEL COMICS), adapted by Nancy Butler

Continue reading “7 Spooky Jane Austen Inspired Novels to Read this Halloween Season”

Book Reviews, Editor's Picks, Historical Fantasy, Paranormal & Gothic Fiction

The Curse of Morton Abbey, by Clarissa Harwood — A Review

From the desk of Sophia Rose:

What would the Frances Hodgson Burnett classic, The Secret Garden, look like if all the main players were adults? That is what author Clarissa Harwood asked herself and a lush, atmospheric, and romantic historical suspense was born. A book from a new to me author and a set up I could not resist brought early tingles of excitement.

Vaughan Springthorpe finished settling her deceased solicitor father’s affairs and must now face an uncertain future. He trained her to copy and review legal documents and it is her dream to become a solicitor, herself. Facing resistance from her surviving family, because she is a woman and has a disability, she ignores this and takes the first step toward her dream by way of placing an advertisement for employment. A reply comes and she is hired by absentee estate owner, Sir Peter Spencer, to get the estate papers in order so he can sell. Continue reading “The Curse of Morton Abbey, by Clarissa Harwood — A Review”

Book Lists, Editor's Picks, Historical Fantasy, Paranormal & Gothic Fiction, Holiday Reading, Regency Romance

7 Historic Romantic Suspense Novels with a Gothic Twist

As All Hallows Eve approaches on October 31st, tis the season to discover new and recent Gothic fiction in the historical suspense, romance, and mystery genres.

We can thank English writer, art historian, and politician Horace Walpole (1717-1797) for creating the Gothic fiction genre. After having a terrifying nightmare, Walpole was inspired to write The Castle of Otranto. Published in 1764, it combines many of the elements we see in Gothic novels today: an atmospheric isolated estate, a puzzling family mystery, and a heroine in peril from evil forces. Other classic authors of the genre include Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Lewis, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, the Bronte sisters, and Daphne du Maurier. Continue reading “7 Historic Romantic Suspense Novels with a Gothic Twist”

Book Reviews, Editor's Picks, Regency Romance

With Love, Louisa: A Regency Romance (Larkhall Letters Book 3), by Ashtyn Newbold — A Review  

From the desk of Katie Patchell:

When I was younger, I hated Jane Eyre. Charlotte Bronte’s tale of passion and self-discovery seemed a wasteland to my teenage self—bleak in Yorkshire moor and stark in romantic love. I watched every adaptation and read the novel countless times, but the results were the same. Until one day, in the midst of 2021, I was stunned to encounter colorful beauty where once I saw only monochrome. Evil cousins and madness in attics no longer reigned. What captivated me as never before was the magnetism of Rochester and Jane’s equal meeting of heart and mind. Enter With Love, Louisa, Ashtyn Newbold’s latest Regency novel. A tale set in the open skied Yorkshire moors that Charlotte Bronte loved. This novel champions another couple who stand side by side as equals.

When her sister marries and moves away, leaving her as the sole guest of a bachelor friend, Louisa Rosemeyer knows the time has come to leave Larkhall. Her two options are to marry without love or to request the status of ‘companion’ to her unknown elderly relative. Louisa votes for love and family. Continue reading “With Love, Louisa: A Regency Romance (Larkhall Letters Book 3), by Ashtyn Newbold — A Review  “

Austenesque, Book Reviews, Editor's Picks, Pride and Prejudice Sequels

Faults of Understanding: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Jennifer Altman — A Review

From the desk of Katie Jackson:

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet impertinently tells Mr. Darcy that his “defect is a propensity to hate everybody” to which he replies that hers “is willfully to misunderstand them.” Austen enthusiasts everywhere delight in this flirtatious battle of wits over the topic of natural defects. With a title inspired by Mr. Darcy— “I have faults enough, but they are not, I hope, of understanding”—Jennifer Altman’s second Pride and Prejudice-inspired novel, Faults of Understanding, follows Elizabeth and Darcy as they become better acquainted with each other through unforeseen trials.

At the Netherfield ball, Mr. Darcy is informed that Mr. Collins—a distant cousin of the Bennet family and heir to neighboring estate Longbourn—expects to receive a favorable reply to his planned marriage proposal to the second-eldest Bennet daughter at Longbourn. Darcy is shocked and dismayed by the revelation. “It could not be true. Elizabeth Bennet—his Elizabeth!—married to such a man?” (132) He wants to Continue reading “Faults of Understanding: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Jennifer Altman — A Review”