The Jane Austen Society: A Novel, by Natalie Jenner—A Review

The Jane Austen Society, by Natalie Jenner (2020)From the desk of Tracy Hickman:

My go-to choice in times of uncertainty is a comfort read. While each person has their own ideas about what qualifies as comfort, I especially enjoy books by authors such as Miss Read (Dora Saint) and D.E. Stevenson. These books are set in a time and place distant enough from my own to divert, but still recognizable and familiar. When I learned that Natalie Jenner’s debut novel, The Jane Austen Society, was set largely in a rural English village in the years immediately following World War II, I hoped it would provide a welcome respite from current personal and collective anxieties.

The story opens in the village of Chawton in 1932, when a young and attractive American tourist, Mary Anne Harrison, asks a local farmer, Adam Berwick, for help locating Jane Austen’s house. He directs her to the cottage, telling her that he’s never read Austen and doesn’t understand “how a bunch of books about girls looking for husbands” (6) could qualify as great literature. Miss Harrison enthusiastically shares her love of reading Austen and presses Adam to start right away with Pride and Prejudice. Intrigued by the arresting stranger’s powerful emotional connection to Austen, Adam checks out a copy of P&P from the lending library and is quickly immersed in the story.

“He was becoming quite worried for Mr. Darcy.

It seemed to Adam that once a man notices a woman’s eyes to be fine, and tries to eavesdrop on her conversations, and finds himself overly affected by her bad opinion of him, then such a man is on the path to something uncharted, whether he admits it to himself or not.” (10)

But as much as it amused him, the book also confused him.

The Bennets, for all intents and purposes, simply didn’t like each other. He had not been expecting this at all from a lady writer with a commitment to happy endings. Yet, sadly, it felt more real to him than anything else he had ever read. (11)

In the chapters that follow, set during and immediately following WWII, we are introduced to other future members of the Jane Austen Society: Dr. Benjamin Gray, village doctor; Adeline Lewis, schoolteacher and war widow; Evie Stone, house girl at the Great House; Frances Knight, member of the Knight family; Andrew Forrester, Knight family solicitor; and Yardley Sinclair, assistant director of estate sales at Sotheby’s. Continue reading

A Preview of The London Restoration: A Novel, by Rachel McMillan

The London Restoration by Rachel McMillian 2020Hey-ho Janeites! Did you know that in historical fiction the fabulous fifties are the new forties? Yes, after years of WWII stories, novels set during the post-war years are now being published more frequently. I adore the Granchester mysteries series by James Runcie, and later this month The Jane Austen Society, by Natalie Jenner releases on May 26th. To add to the list, I am happy to introduce you to another forthcoming historical set in this time-frame releasing this summer. The London Restoration, by Rachel McMillan, is one of those atmospheric books that will take you away to another time and place, immerse you in history and wrap you in romance.

Set in post-World War II London, it features architectural historian Diana Somerville who is rebuilding her life and her marriage after five years of a devastating war. Blitzed London, Russian spies, and an ancient Roman artifact stir the plot.

If you are up for adventure, espionage, and romance, check out the book description and the exclusive excerpt that has been generously supplied by author Rachel McMillian. The London Restoration releases on August 18th, 2020, so be sure to add it to your TBR list.

Title Label Book Description Transparent x 300Determined to save their marriage and the city they love, two people divided by World War II’s secrets rebuild their lives, their love, and their world.

London, Fall 1945. Architectural historian Diana Somerville’s experience as a codebreaker at Bletchley Park and her knowledge of London’s churches intersect in MI6’s pursuit of a Russian agent named Eternity. Diana wants nothing more than to begin again with her husband Brent after their separation during the war, but her signing of the Official Secrets Act keeps him at a distance.

Brent Somerville, professor of theology at King’s College, hopes aiding his wife with her church consultations will help him better understand why she disappeared when he needed her most. But he must find a way to reconcile his traumatic experiences as a stretcher bearer on the European front with her obvious lies about her wartime activities and whereabouts.

Featuring a timeless love story bolstered by flashbacks and the excavation of a priceless Roman artifact, The London Restoration is a richly atmospheric look at post-war London as two people changed by war rebuild amidst the city’s reconstruction.

Title Label Excerpt Transparent x 300 Continue reading

A Preview of The Socialite, by J’nell Ciesielski

The Socialite by J'Nell Ciesielski 2020Fans of the bestselling World War II historical fiction novels such as The NightingaleThe Women in the Castle, and Lilac Girls have been eagerly waiting for The Socialite, by J’nell Ciesielski. Loosely based on the real-life Mitford sisters, this wartime novel is set in Paris, France, a city conquered by Nazi’s yet resilient and defiant.

I was intrigued by a plot including two sisters intertwined with history. A total escape vehicle during these troubling times, anyone familiar with the famous Mitford sisters will be further interested in this novel. Ciesielski has written several popular historical fiction novels, so she is a seasoned and skilled writer who deserves further attention and acclaim.

I have pulled together a brief preview of The Socialite for you all today. I am about half-way through the story and am really enjoying it. My thanks to TLC Book Tours and the publisher Thomas Nelson for a copy of the book. Many of you who enjoy history, romance, and intrigue will be enthralled.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Glamour, treachery, and espionage collide when an English socialite rushes to save her sister from the Nazis.

As the daughter of Sir Alfred Whitford, Kat has a certain set of responsibilities. But chasing her wayward sister, Ellie, to Nazi-occupied Paris was never supposed to be one of them. Now accustomed to the luxurious lifestyle that her Nazi boyfriend provides, Ellie has no intention of going back to the shackled life their parents dictate for them—but Kat will stop at nothing to bring her sister home.

Arrested for simply trying to defend himself against a drunken bully, Barrett Anderson is given the option of going to jail or serving out his sentence by training Resistance fighters in Paris. A bar owner serves as the perfect disguise to entertain Nazis at night while training fighters right below their jackboots during the day. Being assigned to watch over two English debutantes is the last thing he needs, but a payout from their father is too tempting to resist. Can Barrett and Kat trust each other long enough to survive, or will their hearts prove more traitorous than the dangers waiting around the corner?

ADVANCE PRAISE: Continue reading

A Preview of The Jane Austen Society: A Novel, by Natalie Jenner & Sweepstakes

The Jane Austen Society, by Natalie Jenner (2020)A year and a half ago I had the privilege of reading an early manuscript of The Jane Austen Society by debut novelist Natalie Jenner. It only took two chapters for me to be totally hooked. By the end of the book, I was weeping with joy. I just knew that my fellow historical fiction and Jane Austen fans would rejoice as I had in the endearing characters, compelling plot, and the heartfelt tribute to one of literature’s most beloved authors, Jane Austen.

If ever we needed an emotionally uplifting escape, it is during these turbulent times. The Jane Austen Society is a joyous antidote to help us through a pandemic.

Today, I am so thrilled to finally share this very special book with my readers. Natalie has kindly offered an exclusive excerpt that will give you an introduction to one of the five main characters, Adam Berwick, as he reads Pride and Prejudice.

And…gentle reader, I do hope you are sitting down. The audiobook of The Jane Austen Society was narrated by British actor Richard Armitage! The combination of Natalie’s enchanting prose and his velvet voice is nonpareil. I have included an audio excerpt from it as well. I hope your aromatic vinegars are close at hand.

Our full review of The Jane Austen Society will post on Monday, May 25th. Until its release, I hope you enjoy this excerpt and additional information.

Be sure to enter the sweepstakes offered by her publisher St. Martin’s Press for a chance to win an advance reader’s copy of the book. The details are included below. Enjoy!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.

A powerful and moving novel that explores the tragedies and triumphs of life, both large and small, and the universal humanity in us all, Natalie Jenner’s The Jane Austen Society is destined to resonate with readers for years to come.

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Continue reading

All the Ways We Said Goodbye, by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, & Karen White — A Review

All The Ways We Said Goodbye, by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White (2020)From the desk of Katie Patchell:  

Three Women. Three Decades. Two Wars. 

In All the Ways We Said Goodbye, Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, & Karen White take readers across two continents and through two World Wars to uncover spies and secrets. Each of the three heroines, Aurelie, Daisy, and Babs, fight to bring freedom of heart and country in this tale that spans fifty years. The drumbeat of war reaches to stately mansions and across war-ravaged fields, calling each of the unique heroines to right the wrong in their corners of the world. Despite their seemingly unconnected lives, the same glittering Ritz holds the answers to what they search for: Courage, love, and a final goodbye. So reader: welcome to Paris — welcome to the Ritz — welcome to All the Ways We Said Goodbye.

If there was one word to describe this novel, it would be “secrets.” Aurelie, Daisy, and Babs have many secrets that they hide from even those closest to them, and it’s the job of the reader to sniff them out. I cannot give a detailed description of the plot because of the twists and revelations that happen to start in the very first pages. What I can do without spoilers is to give a brief introduction to each of the heroines:

  • Aurelie – 1914. Aurelie lives in Paris and is the daughter of a French aristocrat and an American heiress. Her ancestors fought with Joan of Arc, and this hero inspires Aurelie to go off on her own daring quest to save lives as a second “Maid of Orleans.” Rebelling against the German soldiers comes naturally, as they’re the invaders of her country and home. But when she meets an old flame now dressed in the garb of a German officer, the clear lines between “Who is my enemy?” and “Who is my friend?” vanish.
  • Daisy – 1942. Another resident of Paris, Daisy struggles against life under Nazi occupation. Her grandmother, a wealthy American expatriate, encourages Daisy to join her spy ring. For Daisy, the cost is great–if caught, her two young children and beloved grandmother are put in terrible danger. With the aid of a mysterious English spy and his worn copy of The Scarlet Pimpernel, Daisy embarks on a path she never would have planned in order to protect her family and people.
  • Babs – 1964. Babs was always content in her role as wife, mother, and leader in her area of Devonshire, England. When her childhood sweetheart-turned-husband dies after World War II, she sinks under the loneliness of an empty home and heart. But when Babs finds out that her husband may have lied about everything — even his love for her — she starts out on a transformative journey to Paris that takes her through old letters and long-buried stories at the Hotel Ritz.

Continue reading

A Preview of Falling for Mr. Thornton: Tales of North and South, by Trudy Brasure, Et Al

Falling for Mr. Thornton Tales of North and South (2019)Good things come in small packages!

My regular readers will know that I adore a well-written short story and edited an anthology of them myself inspired by Jane Austen. Falling for Mr. Thornton is a new collection of “little gems” inspired by another classic author, Elizabeth Gaskell.

Based on her Victorian-era novel North and South, set during its industrial revolution— a turbulent time in British history when machinery was replacing manual labor— it also revolves around the spikey relationship between Margaret Hale and John Thornton, a love story that rivals Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.

This anthology includes a dozen stories by popular historical fiction authors in the Gaskellesque genre and is a mixture of historical, contemporary, variations, and continuations that are sure to thrill anyone who is a hooked as I am on the 2004 television adaptation North & South, starring Richard Armitage. Here is additional information on the anthology and an exclusive excerpt for your enjoyment.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Amidst the turbulent backdrop of a manufacturing town in the grips of the Industrial Revolution, Elizabeth Gaskell penned the timeless passion of Mr. Thornton and Margaret Hale. A mixing of contemporary and Victorian, this short story anthology by twelve beloved authors considers familiar scenes from new points of view or re-imagined entirely. Capturing all the poignancy, heartbreak, and romance of the original tale, Falling for Mr. Thornton is a collection of stories for all who love North and South.

STORIES AND AUTHORS:

  • “On the Island,” by Melanie Stanford
  • “Passages in Time,” by Kate Forrester
  • “The First Day of Spring,” by M. Liza Marte
  • “Loose Leaves from Milton,” by Damaris Osborne
  • “Reeducating Mr. Thornton,” by Evy Journey
  • “Mistakes and Remedies,” by Julia Daniels
  • “Her Father’s Last Wish,” by Rose Fairbanks
  • “The Best Medicine,” by Elaine Owen
  • “Cinders and Smoke,” by Don Jacobson
  • “Mischances,” by Nicole Clarkston
  • “Looking to the Future,” by Nancy Klein
  • “Once Again,” by Trudy Brasure

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Continue reading

A Preview of The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen, Volume III, by Collins Hemingway

The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen Vol III by Collins Hemingway (2017)There are hundreds of Austenesque books inspired by Jane Austen’s characters; namely featuring Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy who really dominate the field. Interestingly, there are few inspired by the authoress herself. Bestselling author Syrie James has written two: The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen (2007) and Jane Austen’s First Love (2014); and Shannon Winslow gave us The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen (2014). There have been others over the years including Stephanie Barron’s excellent Being a Jane Austen Mystery series. Recently, Collins Hemingway added to this subgenre of Austenesque fiction with the publication of his third book in his The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen series.

Jane Austen as a fictional character is a challenging concept. Since we know only about her life from her remaining letters and family biographies, creating a novel around her life can ask the reader to take a leap of faith and join the author on a journey that they imagine for Austen. This is what Hemingway has done. He has taken known facts of her life and the history of the Regency era and fictionalized her into being the heroine of her own story. I rather like the concept of turning a writer who creates characters and stories into one who lives her own adventures. Here is a description of The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen, Volume III from the publisher and an exclusive excerpt for your enjoyment.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

In the moving conclusion to The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen, Austen and her husband struggle with the serious illness of their son, confront a bitter relationship with the aristocratic family who were once their friends, and face the horrific prospect of war when the British Army falters on the continent. The momentous events of the Napoleonic wars and the agonizing trials of their personal lives take the family to a decision that will decide their fate—and Jane’s future—once and for all.

Critics and readers alike have praised The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen for its insightful inner portrait of Jane Austen as well as for the sweeping canvas it presents of the Regency Era and Napoleonic wars. The trilogy spans the full arc of a mature relationship. Volume I is a courtship novel told with Austenian charm. Volume II is a deep psychological portrait of a woman’s experience in the first year of marriage. Volume III is the climax that will test Austen’s physical courage and moral convictions. Historically accurate and dovetailing with what little we know of Austen’s life in her late twenties, the novels provide a thoughtful, emotionally satisfying look at life for women in the early 1800s.

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Continue reading

The #Janeite Blog Tour of The Watsons, by Rose Servitova and Jane Austen Begins on November 18th

The Watsons, by Rose Servitova and Jane Austen (2019)There is something intriguing to readers and writers about an unfinished work by an author that they admire. Everyone wants closure in their life, and certainly in their fiction! Therefore, I was very excited to learn that there would be a new novel completing Jane Austen’s unfinished fragment The Watsons, by Rose Servitova.

I had read and enjoyed Servitova’s debut novel, The Longbourn Letters, and was very impressed by her ability to neatly turn an Austenesque phrase—and it also just made me laugh. It was on my Best of 2018 list for Austenesque novels and I highly recommend it.

Following in the wake of a successful first novel is always a challenge to authors, so I was curious to know what she would write about next. Choosing to complete The Watsons was not what I expected, but a welcome surprise. It takes a confident and capable writer to complete an Austen novel. I was eager to see if she could pull it off.

In celebration of its release, The Watsons is going on a blog tour. Here is additional information about the book and the tour running November 18th—29th, 2019.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  

Can she honour her family and stay true to herself?

Emma Watson returns to her family home after fourteen years with her wealthy and indulgent aunt. Now more refined than her siblings, Emma is shocked by her sisters’ flagrant and desperate attempts to ensnare a husband. To the surprise of the neighbourhood, Emma immediately attracts the attention of eligible suitors – notably the socially awkward Lord Osborne, heir to Osborne Castle – who could provide her with a home and high status if she is left with neither after her father’s death. Soon Emma finds herself navigating a world of unfamiliar social mores, making missteps that could affect the rest of her life. How can she make amends for the wrongs she is seen to have committed without betraying her own sense of what is right?

Jane Austen commenced writing The Watsons over two hundred years ago, putting it aside unfinished, never to return and complete it. Now, Rose Servitova, author of acclaimed humour title, The Longbourn Letters: The Correspondence between Mr Collins and Mr Bennet has finished Austen’s manuscript in a manner true to Austen’s style and wit.

EARLY PRAISE: Continue reading

A Preview of The Unexpected Past of Miss Jane Austen, by Ada Bright and Cass Grafton

TThe Unexpected Past of Miss Jane Austen, by Ada Bright and Cass Grafton (2019)oday is the official launch day for the second fantasy novel in the Austen Adventures series, The Unexpected Past of Miss Jane Austen, by Ada Bright and Cass Grafton. Congratulations to the authors.

This novel includes heroine Rose Wallace and her beau Aiden Trevellyan who we were introduced to in book one, The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen. As time-travelers, they are sent back to Regency-era England to be reunited with Jane Austen.

Jane Austen and time travel. What Janeite has not dreamed of having a personal conversation with the author herself? What would you ask her? What would she be like? What would it be like to be in nineteenth-century England? The possibilities of learning insights into her life, family, and friends are fascinating.

I am pleased to share additional information on the book and an exclusive excerpt to give you a bit of a peek inside the story.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Rose Wallace thought her time-traveling adventures were over. Jane Austen is about to prove her wrong.

After becoming trapped in present-day Bath due to a mishap with her time-traveling charm, Jane Austen is safe and sound back in the 1800s thanks to Rose’s help. Now, Rose is ready to focus on her fledgling romance with dreamy Dr. Aiden Trevellyan.

But when Jane reappears in the present, it looks like Rose and Aiden have no choice but to follow her back to 1813…

Staying in the Austen household, Rose and Aiden are introduced to a number of interesting figures from the past, including Jane’s eccentric – and surprisingly modern – neighbour. Suddenly it looks like Rose’s life is in need of a re-write as she discovers some unexpected ties to Jane Austen’s world and her past.

The sequel to The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen is perfect for fans of Victoria Connelly’s Austen Addicts series and The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler.

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Continue reading