Return to Longbourn: The Next Chapter in the Continuing Story of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, by Shannon Winslow – A Review

Image of the book cover of Return to Longbourn, by Shannon Winslow (2013) © Heather Ridge Arts 2013From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder: 

Ever since Shannon Winslow debuted with The Darcys of Pemberley (DoP) in 2011, she’s been an Austen fan-fiction author that I’ve kept on my radar. In the two years since she published DoP I’ve not only read everything else she’s written, For Myself Alone (2012) and Mr. Collins’s Last Supper (2012), but have shared countless conversations with her about life, Austen, and everything in between. She is a woman that truly understands people and deep feelings. It’s easy to understand this without knowing her when you read her latest novel Return to Longbourn. The depth of feeling that the characters go through by the end of the novel is nothing short of astounding.

Mary Bennet is happily ensconced at Netherfield Park as the governess for the Farnsworth family. All is well in her life until her father suddenly passes away. Back at home in mourning with her family she realizes how alone she feels. Her sisters Elizabeth and Jane have their husbands to turn to, while Kitty has Lydia. She feels that her only value is to remain stoic and take care of the household while the rest of her sisters fall apart emotionally. It’s this event that triggers a sudden heaviness in her life. When it’s announced that her cousin Tristan Collins (the heir to Longbourn) will be notified of Mr. Bennet’s death, well, that’s when her life turns a bit hectic. Mrs. Bennet announces her plan to have Kitty marry Mr. Collins so that they can remain at Longbourn, while Kitty confides to Mary that she is planning her escape to Pemberley. Mary understands Kitty’s reluctance to enter a marriage without love and agrees to keep their new cousin occupied until Kitty is summoned back to Longbourn. Much to everyone’s surprise, Tristan Collins arrives and is the complete opposite of his odious older brother William in every way. Mary feels herself beginning to fall in love with him and internally questions her decision to live her life without the love of a man. Add to all of this the bipolar friendship she maintains with her employer, the widowed Mr. Farnsworth, and you have the makings of much soul searching. Will Mr. Collins return her feelings? How will Mr. Farnsworth deal with her possible leaving Netherfield Park?

Upon first glance, many readers will find this to be a story about love, and in some aspects, redemption.  The deeper, more beautiful story to take away from this novel is that of a young woman trying desperately to find her place in a world where she begins to feel valueless. Winslow’s Mary (and Austen’s too) is a stoic individual, not much taken with the fancies of romance, men, balls, or fine clothes. She much prefers to toil her hours away with books and reading. She can at times be a woman of unyielding character, but deep down past this hardened exterior is a woman just like any other. She wants to have a purpose, she wants friendship, and yes, she even longs for love. In Return to Longbourn, we see a Mary who is beginning to question the way she has lived her life emotionally. Add to that the grief from her father’s death and the relationships of her sisters and brothers-in-law, and you find a very lost woman indeed. All of this coupled together makes Mary a very relatable character. For who among us can claim to never have felt lost in their own skin and unable to make sense of a multitude of new and unusual emotions? Continue reading

Return to Longbourn Blog Tour with Author Shannon Winslow & Giveaway!

Return to Longbourn, by Shannon Winslow (2013)It is always a red letter day when one of my favorite Austenesque authors releases a new book – so I am so pleased to share this guest blog with you today from Shannon Winslow. Her new “darling child” has arrived and it is a treat.

Return to Longbourn is her second installment after her popular The Darcys of Pemberley was published in 2011. Please help me welcome Shannon by leaving a comment to enter a chance to win one of three copies of her new novel available.  

Thanks, Laurel, for having me here today. It’s always a pleasure to visit Austenprose, especially when I have a new story to share!

Following last year’s publication of For Myself Alone, I longed to return to my first love, to the world of Pride and Prejudice. Even after tying up lots of loose ends in The Darcys of Pemberley, there were interesting avenues left to explore.

Yes, Elizabeth and Jane are well settled, and it would be pleasant to visit them again. As for Lydia… well, that’s another story. But I was chiefly intrigued by what lay ahead for the other two Bennet daughters. With her expiration date quickly approaching, Kitty is desperately looking for a husband.

She fretted over being already almost twenty with no prospects for marriage immediately apparent…(The Darcys of Pemberley, epilogue)

Mary, however, has pragmatically moved on with her life, putting her hard-won skills to good use as governess to the new family at Netherfield.

Thus, well seasoned by time, practice, and renewed dedication, she made great strides toward the standard of the truly accomplished young woman she had always aspired to be…(The Darcys of Pemberley, epilogue)

Then disaster strikes; Mr. Bennet dies. So, what will become of the Bennet ladies?

If you remember, Mr. Collins met a premature end in The Darcys of Pemberley. What you may not recall is that he had a younger brother (as revealed in that book and in the preview post for RTL here at Austenprose). You will find Mr. Tristan Collins far more agreeable (and swoon worthy) than his brother. And, to Mrs. Bennet’s delight, he turns out to be single. We first meet him in the prologue:

The letter from London was a true Godsend. He knew it the instant it arrived, and just as quickly determined what he must do. Now the fertile Shenandoah Valley of Virginia – which until so recently had encompassed all aspects of his life and every hope for the future – lay half an ocean behind him, the distance widening with each passing day.

As the creaking timbers of the deck dipped and rolled beneath his feet, Mr. Tristan Collins kept one gloved hand ready on the rail. He had long since overcome his initial discomfort with being at sea, to the point where his legs had learnt to compensate for the perpetual movement without any conscious effort.

“Mr. Collins, sir,” said the cabin boy, coming up behind him. “Capt’n says won’t you take supper with him?”

The distinguished young gentleman with sandy hair turned into the chill wind to answer the lad. “Thank you, Patrick,” he said with a wan smile. “Tell the captain I shall be along directly.”

Pulling his great coat more tightly about his person, he turned his gaze aft once more, to where the sun had recently sunk below the western horizon. He had no idea what he expected to see. There was nothing there, other than a fading glimmer of daylight and three thousand miles of cold, roiling brine – an impenetrable barrier, seemingly. But would only half an ocean be enough to keep the ghosts he left behind in America at bay… or to keep his own thoughts from forever flying back, like pigeons returning to their roost?

No, he would not feel truly secure until he once more set foot on the reassuring ground of his native country. In England, he would start again.

Hmm. I wonder what – or who – he has left behind in America. I wonder what he’ll think of Longbourn… and of its female occupants. Will he turn them out of the house, or obligingly fall in love with Kitty… or Mary?

The book is called Return to Longbourn, but I could just as easily have been named Netherfield or Pemberley in the title instead. I hope you’ll come along as we revisit all our favorite P&P places and people, come alive again between the pages.

Author Shannon Winslow (2013)Author Bio:

Shannon Winslow specializes in writing fiction for fans of Jane Austen. She first garnered attention as a finalist in the Jane Austen Made Me Do It short story contest, with her entry titled Mr. Collins’s Last Supper. The 2011 publication of her popular debut novel, The Darcys of Pemberley, further cemented her place in the genre, being particularly praised for the author’s authentic Austenesque style and faithfulness to the original characters. A stand-alone Austen-inspired story, For Myself Alone, followed in 2012. Now Return to Longbourn continues Winslow’s Pride and Prejudice saga, serving as the sequel to her own sequel.

Her two sons grown, Ms. Winslow lives with her husband in the log home they built in the countryside south of Seattle, where she writes and paints in her studio facing Mt. Rainier.

Learn more about Shannon on her website/blog. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Giveaway chance for Return to Longbourn

Enter a chance to win one of three copies available of Return to Longbourn, by Shannon Winslow, by leaving comment about what intrigues you about reading a sequel to Pride and Prejudice by 11:59 pm, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Winners to be announced on Thursday, March 14, 2013. Print copies shipped to US addresses and ebook internationally. Winners choice. Good luck!

Return to Longbourn: The Next Chapter in the Continuing Story of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, by Shannon Winslow
Heather Ridge Arts (2013)
Trade paperback (270) pages
ISBN: 978-0989025904

© 2012 Shannon Winslow, Austenprose

Giveaway winners announced for For Myself Alone

For Myself Alone, by Shannon Winslow (2012)54 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win one of three copies available of For Myself Alone, by Shannon Winslow. The winners drawn at random are:

  • Agnes Gawne who left a comment on April, 20, 2012
  • lovesjaneausten who left a comment on April 30, 2012
  • Katie P. who left a comment on April 20, 2012

Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by May 10, 2012. Print edition shipment to US addresses only, eBook internationally. Please let me know which version you prefer.

A big thank you to author Shannon Winslow for her great guest blog, and to her publisher Heather Ridge Arts for offering the giveaway copies. Congrats to the winners. Enjoy!

© 2007 – 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

For Myself Alone: A Jane Austen Inspired Novel, by Shannon Winslow – A Review

For Myself Alone: A Jane Austen Inspired Novel, by Shannon Winslow (2012Review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder

Gossip.  It has the power to create larger than life reputations, but also has the ability to destroy said reputations.  Within Jane Austen’s novels we’ve seen just what gossip can do; Mr. Darcy’s reputation and person are vilified by Wickham, John Thorpe gossips about the true size of Catherine Morland’s dowry to a displeased General Tilney, and Captain Wentworth hears gossip that shares the good tidings of Anne Elliot’s non-existent engagement to her cousin William.  It should come as no surprise then that Austen fan fiction writer Shannon Winslow should write an Austen-inspired novel that focuses on just what can happen with gossip!

For Myself Alone takes place in Bath and Hampshire in the 1800’s.  Winslow tells the story of Josephine Walker, the recent recipient of a large inheritance totaling almost twenty-thousand pounds, an unimaginably large sum at the time.  While Josephine is grateful for the inheritance from her Uncle, she also is concerned that people will now view her as a walking pile of money instead of the sweet and caring girl that she normally is.  What’s more, the suitors that come courting her can’t be trusted, and the only man in her life that she feels she can trust is Arthur, who also unfortunately happens to be the betrothed of her best friend, Agnes.  Engaged herself, Josephine begins to lose trust in her own fiancé, Richard, after she overhears a conversation between him and his father.  With all of these events happening to poor Josephine, how will she cope?  Will she be able to find comfort in Arthur despite their inability to be together?  What will she do with all of that money?

When I reviewed Winslow’s first novel The Darcys of Pemberley, I put in my review that Winslow was sure to be around the JAFF world for a while.  For Myself Alone cements that thought in my opinion.  Winslow has a fantastic ability to not only create a story that could be a long lost Austen novel, but to write it with the same wit and vivacity we’d expect from Austen herself.  Told in a completely first person narrative (which may I add is refreshing in this genre) it opened up the doors to allow us into the mind of our heroine.  We know exactly what she is feeling throughout, affording us the opportunity to really connect with her.  I find the more you can connect with your heroine/hero the bigger the enjoyment of the work becomes.

The prologue of the novel did a fabulous job at grabbing my attention and making me eager to learn about Josephine’s story and why she was the sudden target of the local gossips.  While the beginning of the novel moved slightly slowly, events in Bath pick up at heart-racing fast pace that doesn’t stop until the last page!   For those who want a fresh story with a definite Austen flair, For Myself Alone is the way to go.  I’m so glad that Winslow is back with another great work.  I can’t wait to see what she can do in the JAFF world!

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

For Myself Alone: A Jane Austen Inspired Novel, by Shannon Winslow
Heather Ridge Arts (2012)
Trade paperback (262) pages
ISBN: 978-0615619941
Kindle: B007PWINR8
NOOK: 2940014192712

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.

© 2007 – 2012 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose