Dress in the Age of Jane Austen: Regency Fashion, by Hilary Davidson — A Review

Dress in the Age of Jane Austen, by Hilary Davidson (2019)“Fashions come and go; bad taste is timeless.” — Beau Brummell

So saith the arbiter of style in the Regency era when all of Jane Austen’s books were published and she and her characters dwelled. Since fashion is mentioned sparingly in her novels how is one to know, two hundred years after the fact, what is fashionable and what is in bad taste? Is that actress in the current period drama wearing clothing appropriate to the era, her age, and her social status? Is the hero wearing a top hat that Victorian author Charles Dickens would have worn? Is that pelisse polyester, and is a half “updo” hairstyle totally inappropriate? Dress in the Age of Jane Austen, by Hilary Davidson explores these dilemmas for modern readers of Austen’s fiction, the adaptations of her works, and those set during the same timeframe.

When I first opened this book and skimmed its pages, I was overcome by its beauty. Page after page of eye-popping images of Regency clothing, portraits, landscapes, fashion plates, and cartoons by famous artists and illustrators of Austen’s day. The publisher states that the book boasts 180 full-color illustrations, and I do not doubt it. Here is a slide show of a few that I found especially significant to give you a glimpse of the extensive research that the author conducted to bring the book to life.

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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.

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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.

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Blog Tour Launch of There’s Something About Darcy, by Gabrielle Malcolm

There's Something About Darcy, by Gabrielle Mallcom (2019)For over two hundred years, Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy has been an enigma and an idol—prompting Pride and Prejudice fans to re-visit the novel, create books and movies, and inspire writers to model their own heroes after his noble mien to relive their time with him in the original novel.

What is it about Darcy that makes him so admired, igniting passionate debates? Is he an arrogant snob, or a shy introvert? Why does his character arc in the novel move some so deeply, and anger others? Why do some actors excel in their portrayal of the iconic hero on screen, and others fail? While the discussions continue, Dr. Gabrielle Malcolm offers insights on all these questions, and more, in her forthcoming There’s Something About Darcy, publishing on November 11, 2019, from Endeavour Quill.

Like Mr. Darcy, this new literary criticism is much more than what appears on first acquaintance. We will not proclaim it tolerable (as he did when he first met Elizabeth Bennet), but declare it as tempting as his £10,000 a year income to any grasping Regency era mother. Here is a description from the publisher and an exclusive excerpt from the author. 

BOOK DESCRIPTION: 

For some, Colin Firth emerging from a lake in that clinging wet shirt is one of the most iconic moments in television. What is it about the two-hundred-year-old hero that we so ardently admire and love?

Dr. Malcolm examines Jane Austen’s influences in creating Darcy’s potent mix of brooding Gothic hero, aristocratic elitist and romantic Regency man of action. She investigates how he paved the way for later characters like Heathcliff, Rochester and even Dracula, and what his impact has been on popular culture over the past two centuries. For twenty-first-century readers the world over have their idea of the ‘perfect’ Darcy in mind when they read the novel and will defend their choice passionately.

In this insightful and entertaining study, every variety of Darcy jostles for attention: vampire Darcy, digital Darcy, Mormon Darcy, and gay Darcy. Who does it best and how did a clergyman’s daughter from Hampshire create such an enduring character?

A must-read for every Darcy and Jane Austen fan.

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The Bride of Northanger: A Jane Austen Variation, by Diana Birchall — A Review

The Bride of Northanger: A Jane Austen Variation, by Diana Birchall (2019)From the desk of Debbie Brown:

Soon, All Hallow’s Eve will be upon us, when restless spirits of the dead are said to roam. What better time to pick up a gothic Austenesque novel centered around an ancestral family curse that continues to claim its victims? Beware, brave readers: this tome is not for the faint of heart. Several characters will not survive until the end of the story. (Cue creepy organ music, a bolt of lightning, and evil laughter!)

Diana Birchall’s latest, The Bride of Northanger, is a sequel to Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. In this case, General Tilney’s estate is the setting for melodramatic goings-on that are NOT the products of anyone’s imagination.

Catherine Morland – who becomes Catherine Tilney in the early pages here – is a year older and wiser. She has put aside silly gothic romances and instead reads more scholarly works. (There’s an interesting subtext here: her husband Henry is happy to see how educated she is becoming but, since she is a woman, there are limits on how much education is desirable in a wife.) Our more mature heroine is determined to control her imagination, though she still retains curiosity that must be satisfied. As she says, “I am no longer a fanciful girl, given to fears.” Her resolve is sorely tested throughout the book.

As the book opens, Henry reluctantly explains the superstitious rumor that the Tilney family is cursed. “…the race of Tilney might survive, but its fruitfulness be blighted forevermore. The wife of each firstborn son would die, either in terror or in madness, early in her life…” That doesn’t apply to Catherine since Henry isn’t the firstborn – his older brother Frederick is. But she’s no longer superstitious, so she’s not dissuaded anyway. Continue reading

A Preview of Jane Austen’s Ghost, by Jennifer Kloester

Jane Austen's Ghost, by Jennifer Kloester (2019)There has been a steady parade of Jane Austen-inspired fantasy/paranormal books published over the last several years. We have reviewed quite a few of them here on Austenprose in the Historical Fantasy/Paranormal and Contemporary Fantasy/Paranormal categories. They infuse zombies, vampires, witches, dragons, werewolves, and angels into Jane Austen’s plots in very creative ways. If you are open to having some fun with her characters, or Austen herself, and do not have a problem with disarming reproof, they can be very entertaining.

There have also been a few books featuring Jane Austen as a ghost. The thought of talking with her directly is intriguing to me. What would I ask her if I could? What would we do together? What intriguing insights would she share? Some of my questions were answered in the new book, Jane Austen’s Ghost, by Jennifer Kloester, in which a modern-day heroine, a magical spell, and the Bardess of Basingstoke make for an enchanting, paranormal experience. Here is a description of the book from the publisher and an exclusive excerpt from the author for your enjoyment. 

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

A masterpiece of wit, ingenuity and impeccable style, Regency maven Jennifer Kloester brings the great Jane Austen into the modern world in this enchanting, exhilarating adventure of love, literature and life everlasting…

With her life a mess, Cassandra Austin seeks refuge in Winchester with her eccentric great-aunt – but Aunty B has problems of her own. Ghost problems.

Cassie doesn’t believe in ghosts, but she’ll do anything to help the only person who’s ever loved her. Besides, a simple spell in the cathedral crypt couldn’t do any harm, could it? Well, except for the two-hundred-year-old curse on Jane Austen, that is.

Overnight, life is suddenly a whole lot weirder and it’s up to Cassie to save the day with the help of a dour Bishop, two literary geniuses, a couple of wise-cracking geriatrics and the enigmatic Oliver Carling.

Magic and mystery abound in this genre-bending contemporary-historical paranormal romance with a Regency twist.

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Pride and Prometheus, by John Kessel — A Review

Pride and Prometheus, by John Kessel (2018)Honestly, to be a fly on the dining room wall of author John Kessel when in between passing the potatoes he announced to his family that his next book would be an amalgamation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. What a mischievous rogue he is. I was intrigued to discover if he could pull it off.

The story begins thirteen years after the close of Pride and Prejudice. Mrs. Bennet and her two middle daughters, Mary and Kitty, both well on their way to spinsterhood, are on holiday in Lyme Regis—that famous Dorset seaside village renowned for its large stone Cobb seawall and its deposits of ancient fossils. Mary has matured quite a bit since her sanctimonious and mortifying youth. Her interests have shifted from the pious study of doctrinal extracts and observations of thread-bare morality to a more scientific vein of natural philosophy. Her mother is still determined to see her last two daughters advantageously married and is delighted when Mary beings an acquaintance with a fellow fossil hunter, Mr. Woodleigh, who she met at the local Assembly Rooms.

Kitty, on the other hand, is bored to tears with their small social circle in Lyme and dreams of dancing in London again. On their way to meet Woodleigh for dinner, the Bennets learn that a young woman has fallen from the Cobb and seriously injured herself. Never one to suffer fools, Mrs. Bennet is quick to point out that, “No well-bred young lady should trust a man to catch her if she goes leaping from public landmarks.” Put off by Mrs. Bennet’s judgments, Mr. Woodleigh soon announces his departure. Realizing that no offer of marriage for Mary is forthcoming, Mrs. Bennet caves to Kitty’s pleas to leave, and the party soon departs for London.

Across the channel on the Continent, a Creature is in pursuit of his creator. Stowing away on a cattle boat, he crosses the ocean and arrives in London without any knowledge of the language or customs, connections or the means to find the one man who has promised to create a companion for him. Continue reading

The #Janeite Blog Tour of The Bride of Northanger Begins on October 28th

The Bride of Northanger: A Jane Austen Variation, by Diana Birchall (2019)Those of you who are fans of Austenprose know how much I enjoy Jane Austen’s lively, burlesque comedy, Northanger Abbey. In 2008 I hosted a month-long event here called, Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey, where we read the novel and explored its history, characters, locations, and legacy. I am a big #TeamTilney fan.

Sadly, there are not many Northanger Abbey-inspired novels in print. Margaret Sullivan, who is also a great admirer of Austen’s lesser-known work, wrote There Must Be Murder in 2010. There is also Henry Tilney’s Diary, by Amanda Grange, and Searching for Mr. Tilney, by Jane Odiwe, and a few others.

Imagine my delight when I discovered that Diana Birchall was publishing a Northanger Abbey continuation, The Bride of Northanger and that her new novel was going on a celebratory book release tour across the blogosphere, just in time for the Halloween reading season!

Here is information on the book, and the tour.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  

A happier heroine than Catherine Morland does not exist in England, for she is about to marry her beloved, the handsome, witty Henry Tilney. The night before the wedding, Henry reluctantly tells Catherine and her horrified parents a secret he has dreaded to share – that there is a terrible curse on his family and their home, Northanger Abbey. Henry is a clergyman, educated and rational, and after her year’s engagement Catherine is no longer the silly young girl who delighted in reading “horrid novels”; she has improved in both reading and rationality. This sensible young couple cannot believe curses are real…until a murder at the Abbey triggers events as horrid and Gothic as Jane Austen ever parodied – events that shake the young Tilneys’ certainties, but never their love for each other…

EARLY PRAISE: Continue reading

In Conversation with Janet Todd, Editor, and Essayist of Jane Austen’s Sanditon

Jane Austen's Sanditon, edited by Janet Todd (2019)I recently read and reviewed the delightful Jane Austen’s Sanditon, an excellent new edition in the crowded Austen book market whose timely release, along with the new ITV/PBS eight-part television adaptation/continuation inspired by the unfinished novel, has brought Jane Austen’s last work into the limelight. I have long followed the career of its editor, Janet Todd, and own several of her books, including the soon to be re-issued Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Times, Her Novels (February 4, 2020).

For years I have been reading about Janet’s friendship with a mutual Janeite, Diana Birchall, who was also one of my contributors on Jane Austen Made Me Do It. There is so much serendipity in this triangle of friends that I knew that I needed to get Diana and Janet together for an interview regarding her new book.

Diana tells me that she and Janet first met “in 1983, at an early Jane Austen conference at St. Hilda’s College, Oxford, and chatted away during a lovely side trip to Stoneleigh Abbey.” Okay, I wasn’t there for that one, but wish I had been. “Their conversation continued over the years between visits back and forth to California (Diana’s home) and Cambridge (Janet’s) as well as myriad hiking trips and holidays in places ranging from Rum and Eigg in the Hebrides, the Scilly Isles, Sequoia, and Venice.” Here is the result of their tete-a-tete on Janet’s new book, Jane Austen’s Sanditon, for our enjoyment.

WELCOME TO AUSTENPROSE LADIES:

Diana Birchall: You write that in Austen’s works you encounter political and social opinions sometimes gratifyingly liberal, at others sternly alien to our way of thinking. Can you give an example or two?

Janet Todd: The importance of religion. Jane Austen was a rector’s daughter; her eldest brother was a clergyman and the speculating brother Henry took Holy Orders while she was writing Sanditon. Mr Parker seeks a doctor for his resort but makes no mention of a clergyman. I think this is significant.

Like other heroines, Charlotte isn’t overtly pious but she’s firm in ethical judgments. We now praise someone for being ‘passionate’ about what they do, but Charlotte is repeatedly called ‘sober-minded’. She doesn’t admire enthusiasm and activity uncoupled from moral purpose. She can’t approve Robert Burns’ poetry, however appealing, because of his unprincipled life where we forgive celebrities almost any excess.

On the other side Jane Austen often seems modern in her liberal take on feminism and in her subordination of class and birth to merit and integrity.

DB: Do you think Charlotte and Clara are shaping up to be an Emma/Jane Fairfax sort of relationship? Continue reading