Q&A with Patrice Kindl, Author of A School For Brides, & Giveaway

A School for Brides, by Patrice Kindl 2015It is a rare delight in reading to discover a new author that you feel could become one of your most cherished favorites. When “every feature works,” I am revved up and ready to share my excitement.

Such is the case with Patrice Kindl, who until a review copy of A School for Brides landed on my doorstep last month was entirely unknown to me. Further research revealed that this new release was a companion novel to her first in the Lesser Hoo series, Keeping the Castle. Set in the Regency period both novels share many of the same characters, paralleling the same time frame, but from a different perspective. Better and better.

Before diving into A School for Brides I decided to power through an audio recording of Keeping the Castle. It knocked my bonnet off. If I could describe Kindl’s writing in one sentence, I would say that it is a skillful blending of Jane Austen’s genius with social satire, Georgette Heyer’s exuberant humor and Dodie Smith’s poignant romance.

Here is a description of A School for Brides from the publisher:

The Winthrop Hopkins Female Academy of Lesser Hoo, Yorkshire, has one goal: to train its students in the feminine arts with an eye toward getting them married off. This year, there are five girls of marriageable age. There’s only one problem: the school is in the middle of nowhere, and there are no men. Set in the same English town as Keeping the Castle, and featuring a few of the same characters, here’s the kind of witty tribute to the classic Regency novel that could only come from the pen of Patrice Kindl!

Curious to learn more about Patrice Kindl and the inspiration for her Lesser Hoo novels I asked her if she would be game for a brief interview. Happily, she agreed.

Welcome, Patrice: Continue reading

Pistols for Two, by Georgette Heyer – A Review

Pistols for Two, by Georgette Heyer (2012)Guest review by Laura A. Wallace: 

Pistols for Two is a collection of eleven short stories first published in 1960.  Throughout her writing career, Heyer published her novels in serial form in various periodicals and published short stories in them as well.  This is the only collection published as a book; otherwise, her short stories exist only in old copies of the various magazines.  In researching her biography of Heyer, Jennifer Kloester tracked down bibliographic information on as many stories as she could find, and lists them in an appendix, but she states that there are probably more still undiscovered.  This corrects a general and long-held impression that Heyer only wrote a few short stories, and that nearly all of them were included in Pistols for Two.  But Heyer did choose the stories in this collection herself, so she must have considered them among her best.

These stories are delightful microcosms of Heyer’s work.  They all feature the deft characterizations that Heyer always provides:  she excels in summarizing a character in a few brief sentences.  What is lacking, of course, is the layering that provides depth in a full-length novel.  Each also necessarily features a very compressed timeline of action, often covering only a few scenes and a few hours, and since they mostly are love stories, several of them feature love at first sight.  In short, their only real defects are the limitations of the short story form itself.  For this reason, I strongly recommend the reader to resist the urge to gobble them up all at once:  space them out instead, with something else in between to leaven them. Continue reading

April Lady, by Georgette Heyer – A Review

April Lady, by Georgette Heyer (2012)Guest Review by Laura A. Wallace

Georgette Heyer’s April Lady is the last re-issue by Sourcebooks of Heyer’s novels.  (The very last is Pistols for Two, a collection of short stories.)  Originally published in 1957, it is comfortably set within the Regency period that she had made her own.  The setting is London, and the plot involves money, love, misunderstanding, gambling, debt, and, ultimately, a famous heirloom, the Cardross necklace.

Lady Helen Irvine, the daughter of an improvident peer who has wasted most of his patrimony through addiction to gambling and high living, has been fortunate enough to marry the Earl of Cardross, an extremely wealthy nobleman some dozen years older than she is.  A very dutiful daughter, she had previously faced the unappetizing prospect of being married off to a wealthy city merchant in order to repair the family fortunes, but the unexpected offer from Lord Cardross saved her from this fate.

Nell did not know just what Cardross had done to earn her parents’ gratitude.  It all came under the vague title of Settlements, and she was not to bother her pretty head over it, but to take care always to conduct herself with dignity and discretion.  Mama, declaring herself to be deeply thankful, had made it quite plain to her what her duty henceforward would be.  It included such things as always showing my lord an amiable countenance, and never embarrassing him by asking ill-bred questions, or appearing to be aware of it if (perhaps) he was found to have formed a Connection outside the walls of that splendid house of his in Grosvenor Square.  ‘One thing I am sure of,’ had said Mama, fondly patting Nell’s hand, ‘and that is that he will treat you with the greatest consideration!  His manners, too, are so particuarly good that I am persuaded you will never have cause to complain of the sort of neglect, or — or indifferent civility, which is the lot of so many females in your situation.  I assure you, my love, there is nothing more mortifying than to be married to a man who lets it be seen that his affections are elsewhere engaged.’ Continue reading

Sprig Muslin, by Georgette Heyer – A Review

Sprig Muslin, by Georgette Heyer (2011)Guest review by Laura A. Wallace: 

Georgette Heyer’s Sprig Muslin is one of her most entertaining Regency novels.  It is a “road book,” full of adventures, comical situations, and fun characters.

At the outset, I must beg anyone who leaves a comment to avoid spoilers.  New readers should have the pleasure of discovering Amanda’s antics, their consequences, and who feels what for whom, on their own.

Sir Gareth Ludlow is one of society’s best-loved bachelors.  We first meet him calling upon his sister, whose offspring consider his visit to be a high treat:

Watching him, as he contrived, while displaying over and over again for the edification of little Philip the magical properties of his repeating watch, to lend an ear to the particular problem exercising Leigh’s mind, Mrs Wetherby thought that you would be hard put to it to find a more attractive man, and wished, as she had done a thousand times before, that she could discover some bride for him lovely enough to drive out of his heart the memory of his dead love. . . but she had never been able to detect in his gray eyes so much as a flicker of the look that had warmed them when they had rested on Clarissa Lincombe.

Continue reading

A Civil Contract, by Georgette Heyer – A Review

A Civil Contract, by Georgette Heyer (2011)Guest review by Laura A. Wallace

A Civil Contract is an atypical Georgette Heyer novel.  While the setting is firmly Regency, beginning at the time of the Battle of Orthez (February 1814) and ending with that of Waterloo (June 1815), it is neither lively nor witty.  It is a quiet book, with a love story that grows gradually, without any sparkle or adventure.  The eponymous contract is a marriage contract between an impoverished, newly-acceded peer and a wealthy “Cit” (Citizen of the City of London)’s daughter.  It is an inauspicious beginning:  the aristocrat is in love with someone else, the bride is homely, and the Cit is vulgar.

However, what follows is a sensitive, nuanced exploration of human relationships that from today’s perspective may seem almost quaint:  commitment, respect, duty, honor, fidelity, civility, resentment, and generosity.  I say “quaint” because the most cursory glance at current divorce and familial statistics show an absence of almost all of these qualities (saving resentment) to such an extent that a marriage and family where they prevail seems almost naïve, or even alien.  Imagine a marriage where commitment, civility, and respect are more important than passion and romance, even at its inception, yet fidelity and appreciation are also central.  This isn’t a “romance” novel:  it’s an “intimacy” novel, in a non-sexual way.  (The couple does have sex, though the only way you know this for certain is that they have a baby:  Heyer almost never writes about sex directly.)

Money plays a big role in the novel, and a feminist reading would no doubt analyze the connection between money and sex.  But I think that to reduce it to money and sex would fail to do it justice in almost every respect.  Yes, of course, the contract is an exchange of money for a social position that is literally consummated on the body of the woman, but that is the least important aspect of the situation.  The real story is how they grow together and create something new:  a lifetime together based not on physical urges but in common goals and a determination to make it work and find contentment.  When money comes to the fore, it is more usually (though certainly not always) a point of contention between the hero and his father-in-law rather than his wife:  it highlights the differences of class and the meaning of nobility (which, in Heyer’s world, is not always exclusively associated with a character’s station at birth).   With more time and space, I could take it a step further, and analyze the tension between money and power being played out over the pregnancy.

Despite the serious overtones, the novel does not lack for the comic relief or the masterfully-drawn secondary characters at which Heyer excels.  The most notable is the Cit (the father-in-law), who is hopelessly vulgar, but also shrewd, generous, and kind.  (In her new biography of Heyer, Jennifer Kloester describes him as “one of [Heyer]’s comic triumphs” and quotes her as saying that he continually “tried to steal the whole book, & had to be firmly pushed off the stage.”)  The recently-widowed dowager peeress, on the other hand, is languishing but selfishly manipulative, and when these two strong-willed persons encounter one another, she is completely nonplussed, while her elder daughter cannot help but “regard him with much the same nervous surprise as she would have felt at being addressed by an aboriginal.”  Even more entertaining is the clash of titans between the Cit and the hero’s aunt, who presents the bride at court.  She routs him completely, leaving him in the unfamiliar circumstance of having nothing to say.   Further amusement comes from the hero’s second sister, an irrepressible damsel not yet out who initially conceives the idea of saving the family fortunes by becoming a famous comedic actress, an ambition that survives (even after her brother’s marriage) until she encounters Kean’s performance in Hamlet, when she decides that she must become a tragic actress instead, in order to play opposite him.

Many Heyer fans name A Civil Contract as their favorite Heyer novel.  I personally have found that my appreciation of it has grown over the years, and I did not always like it so well as I do now.  I once thought it was a sad book, but I no longer think so:  it is a hopeful book, and ultimately a very positive one.

The Sourcebooks edition is typical:  a lovely (though Victorian) cover, good paper, and an easy-to-read typeface, with only a few “scannos,” one of which is “Playoff” for General Platoff.

4.5 out of 5 Regency Stars

A Civil Contract, by Georgette Heyer
Sourcebooks (2011)
Trade paperback (432) pages
ISBN: 978-1402238772

Laura A. Wallace a musician, attorney, and writer living in Southeast Texas.  She is a devotee of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer and is the author of British Titles of Nobility:  An Introduction and Primer to the Peerage (1998).

© 2007 – 2011 Laura A. Wallace, Austenprose

Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller, by Jennifer Kloester – A Review

Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller, by Jennifer Koelster (2011)Guest review by Laura A. Wallace

I must acknowledge that it is well-nigh impossible for me to be objective when it comes to reviewing Jennifer Kloester’s new biography of Georgette Heyer which was released this month in the UK.  Rarely have I looked forward so much to reading a biography.  But be assured, gentle reader, that had I found it sub-standard, I would tell you so.  Instead, I am delighted to report that it met or exceeded almost all of my expectations.

This is a more traditional biography than Hodge’s, which discusses each work Heyer wrote in some detail, creating a dual focus on the events of Heyer’s life and her works, occasionally feeling as though the biographical material is merely a bridge until the next novel.  Kloester’s treatment of Heyer’s workplaces them firmly in the context of the events of her life, with emphasis most definitely on her life.

Kloester had access to more of Heyer’s letters than Hodge (and Hodge generously gave Kloester all of her Heyer research notes).  The bibliography is divided into two:  published sources and archival sources, and the latter is extensive, with letter collections located all over the English-speaking world.  (Oklahoma?  New Zealand?  Who knew?)  Heyer didn’t keep her own manuscripts, and very few letters, but private archives such as the Frere families provided Kloester with dozens of frequent, chatty letters over several decades that reveal Heyer’s personality clearly, as well as some of the more mundane details of her life.

Kloester reveals more details about the incidents of plagiarism that Hodge mentioned.  The first copier was indeed, as Heyer fans have long agreed amongst themselves, Barbara Cartland.  The second, some years later, was Kathleen Lindsay.

One point I found particularly interesting is Kloester’s treatment of Penhallow.  Hodge reported that this was intended as a contract-breaking book.  Kloester’s research revealed that this notion was, in fact, a family legend built up after the fact.  At the time, Heyer had the highest expectations of the novel and hoped it would be well-received in the literary world— and in fact, it was, garnering several positive reviews, but never high enough to satisfy her.  She always yearned for more serious literary recognition, and never felt that she received it.

This biography is interesting (to me, at least) on so many levels, especially placing Heyer’s life in a chronological context.  The Regency setting of her later novels was less than a century before her own birth in 1902.  She personally experienced the transition of the world from Edwardian times— when carriages and servants and indeed much of social and even some technological norms of the Regency were still an ordinary part of life for the upper-middle class of which she was a part— to the new world “after the war” (i.e., World War I) of the twentieth century.  Numerous small details of Heyer’s early life, and even of her antecedents, inform incidents in her novels.  For example, Felix’s obsession with steam engines and his trip up and down the Thames in a steam-boat (Frederica) comes directly from Heyer’s grandfather’s successful tugboat fleet.

Like other biographies of authors, including Hodge’s, this work provides insights into the author’s creative process that other writers will find interesting and informative.

The only minor criticism I have is that some of Kloester’s examples and quotations are the same as Hodge’s.  This is completely understandable as they are perfect choices to illustrate certain points, but I found myself slightly (and unfairly) resenting any duplicate quotations, as I wanted more and new quotations!  (Perhaps Kloester will publish an edition of Heyer’s letters!)

The book itself is produced beautifully.  The pages are stitched, the paper is substantial, and the photographic plates are well-chosen and well-described.  The cover is stunning:  I literally gasped when I opened it, not having seen it online first.  This is a fine book that is aesthetically an admirable complement to the most fastidious collector of Heyer’s first editions or uniform editions.   And substantively it is just as pleasing.  Congratulations, Ms. Kloester, on a job exceptionally well done and worthy of its subject.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller, by Jennifer Kloester
William Heinemann (2011)
Hardcover (464) pages
ISBN: 978-0434020713

Laura A. Wallace a musician, attorney, and writer living in Southeast Texas.  She is a devotee of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer and is the author of British Titles of Nobility:  An Introduction and Primer to the Peerage (1998).

© 2007 – 2011 Laura A. Wallace, Austenprose

The Toll-Gate, by Georgette Heyer – A Review

The Toll-Gate,  by Georgette Heyer (2011)Guest review by Laura A. Wallace:

Georgette Heyer’s novel The Toll Gate is a little different from her typical Regencies.  It is more of a mystery than a romance and is told primarily from the point of view of the hero.

The hero, Captain John Staple, shares several characteristics with Hugo Darracott of The Unknown Ajax.  Like Hugo, John is a former army officer who sold out after Napoleon’s defeat—though, in John’s case, he sold out after Leipzig, and when Napoleon escaped from Elba and began the Hundred Days, he rejoined and thus (like Hugo) was present at Waterloo.  Like Hugo, John is a large man, six-foot-four, with a gentle manner, a sense of humor, and a great deal of intelligence that he sometimes hides behind an intentionally bovine manner.  And like Hugo, John prefers to travel cross-country on horseback rather than in a chaise with a servant and piles of baggage.

If you haven’t read this novel before, there is one thing you definitely should know before reading it.  The first chapter seems not to fit. It is a large family dinner party where John’s cousin, the Earl of Saltash, has called his relations together to meet his fiancé.  Thus the first few pages are full of characters that are hardly thought of again after John escapes the party in Chapter Two.  The reason for this is that Heyer initially planned to develop the mystery to involve John’s status as his cousin’s heir presumptive.  Instead, she went in quite a different direction.  So when you read it, don’t worry about keeping any of the characters straight except John, and enjoy the rest as vignettes of Regency life. Continue reading

The Unknown Ajax, by Georgette Heyer – A Review

The Unknown Ajax, by Georgette Heyer (2011)Guest review by Laura A. Wallace: 

The Unknown Ajax is one of Georgette Heyer’s funniest Regencies.  It is populated with some of her more memorable characters and ends with a protracted scene reminiscent of comic opera, with a dozen people coming in and fading out in a seamless composition that builds to a climax as funny as a Heyer fan could wish for.  It might even be funnier than the ending scene in The Grand Sophy.

The setup for The Unknown Ajax is reminiscent of Downton Abbey—only the former came first, so it would be more proper to say that Downton Abbey is reminiscent of The Unknown Ajax.  The heir to a peerage and a large estate has drowned in a boating accident, along with his only son.  Everyone in the family thinks, therefore, the new heir is my lord’s youngest son, who has two grown sons of his own, but it turns out that this isn’t true.  Unbeknownst to anyone except the old lord himself, his second son, who had made a shocking misalliance with a ‘weaver’s daughter in Yorkshire, and been cast off, managed to procreate before his untimely death in Holland (in the quagmire which occasioned “The Grand Old Duke of York”).  So the story opens with Lord Darracott’s informing those of his relations who live with him that he has sent for his son and grandsons—and his heir as well.  He had informed no one until now because he had hoped that the new heir—son of the despised weaver’s daughter—was already dead, or that there might be some way to sequester the estate to prevent his inheriting when Lord Darracott dies.

What ensues when the heir arrives is a comedy, not of errors but of pride and prejudice, to coin a phrase.  Add in a set of Heyer’s wonderfully drawn secondary characters and you have a recipe for some highly entertaining scenes and dialogue. Continue reading

Stephanie Barron Featured on NPR

Statue of King George III in Weymouth, England

Author, and friend of Austenprose, Stephanie Barron has contributed an online article in the “Three Books” series on NPR. Which books did she choose? Why Regency-era of course.

In Three Books, Two Centuries And One English Regency, Barron highlights: Seize the Fire: Heroism, Duty, And Nelson’s Battle of Trafalgar,  by Adam Nicolson; The Battle: A New History of Waterloo, by Alessandro Barbero; and Persuasion, by Jane Austen.

Stephanie is famous for her Being a Jane Austen Mystery series of ten (soon to be eleven) novels featuring Jane Austen as a sleuth. We are reading the entire series this year in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 right here on Austenprose. You can check out my reviews through the 8th book and other participants reviews posted here. Stephanie’s next book in the series, Jane and the Canterbury Tale, arrives next Tuesday, August 30th, 2011! We are presently reading it and are enchanted.

Stephanie’s three books are all very interesting choices to highlight an era that we all love so dearly — but, Gentle Reader, what would you have selected? Mine would have been…

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose