Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for June 2010

The Jane Austen book sleuth is happy to inform Janeites that many Austen inspired books are heading our way in June, so keep your eyes open for these new titles.

Austen’s Oeuvre

Pride and Prejudice (Fine Edition), Jane Austen

How many editions of Pride and Prejudice do YOU own? I won’t even begin to give you a hint as to how many are in my library. I’d be embarrassed to tell you. A dear friend recently gifted me another new hardcover edition by White’s Books out of London released in the UK exactly a year ago sporting an incredibly intriguing cover design by Kazuko Nomoto. It is even more stunning in person as the design actually wraps around the spine and continues on the back. I was so impressed I listed as one of my top ten favorite Pride and Prejudice covers to date. But what’s inside you ask? More decorative end papers, colored page tops, marker ribbon, elegant typeface, a text based on the first edition with minor emendations (R.W. Chapman or Kathryn Sutherland?) and thick, acid-free paper. Unique to the fine editions series is an “unusual text setting method rarely seen in the last hundred years. Each right-hand page sports what is known as a ‘catchword’: a hanging word that provides the opening of the following page. This aids the flow of reading, especially when using a larger, heavy page with a slow turning rate.” (Hmm? Not sure I buy into that last bit.) Weighing in at a hefty one pound nine ounces, this is not the edition you want to buy if you have carpal-tunnel syndrome, but it is the most distinctive edition available to enjoy prominently displayed on your bookshelf.  White’s Books, London. Hardcover, (416) pages. ISBN: 978-0955881862

Emma (Fine Edition), by Jane Austen, foreword by Andrew Lycett

Also in White’s Fine Editions series is this new hardcover edition of Emma with a foreword by Andrew Lycett and cover illustration by Amy Gibson. This cover does not give me goose bumps like the P&P edition does, mostly because it is too generic and offers no visual connection to the novel that I can think of. If anyone can help me out here, please have your say. I guess I am a book cover traditionalist. It should relate and enhance its content. Anyway, it is part of the set and will sit nicely with P&P and the other classics by the Bronte’s, Stevenson and Dickens offered by White’s Books. Publisher’s description: Emma, the comic and sharply observed story of young Emma Woodhouse’s education in life, is regarded by many as Jane Austen’s most perfect novel. Introduced to the reader as “handsome, clever, and rich,” Emma Woodhouse is also a spoiled, meddling matchmaker—Austen’s most flawed, and possibly most endearing heroine. Her fourth published novel, and the last to appear before her death, this lively comedy of manners is the work of an incisive writer at the height of her powers. Jane Austen is a renowned Regency novelist. Her other works include Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. Andrew Lycett is the author of Dylan Thomas: A New Life, Ian Fleming, and The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes. White’s Books, London. Hardcover, (384) pages. ISBN: 978-0955881886

Fiction (prequels, sequels, retellings, variations, or Regency inspired)

Northanger Alibi: The Austen Diaries, by Jenni James

A new author on the Austen sequelsphere is Jenni James, whose debut novel to be published in her new Austen Diaries series will be Northanger Alibi. Combining Austen’s early nineteenth-century Gothic parody Northanger Abbey with a modern vampire twist a la Stephenie Myers’ Twilight series, it  should raise a few eyebrows and our spirits just in time for summer light reading fare. The premise sounds like great fun, but as a professional bookseller I wish the cover was more appealing to the young adult (and young adult at heart) crowd that it is targeting. Publisher’s description: This modern Gothic remake of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, with a nod to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, will leave you in stitches. Seattle Washington, and the Russo family, are no match for Claire Hart and her savvy knowledge of all things vampire-related. Thanks to her obsession with the Twilight series – if there is anyone who would know a vampire when she saw one, it’s Claire. She’s positive that the totally hot Tony Russo is a vampire, and she just has to prove it! Follow Claire’s hilarious journey on her first summer adventure away from home, where she learns that everything isn’t what it seems, and in some instances, reality is way better than anything she’d ever find in a book. Valor Publishing Group. Hardcover, (310) pages. ISBN: 978-1935546153

A Woman of Influence: The acclaimed Pride and Prejudice sequel series, by Rebecca Collins

The ninth book in Ms. Collins’ Pemberley Chronicles series takes us well into Victorian-era England of 1868 continuing the story of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice characters with Collins’ new tribe of children, grandchildren, aunts, uncles and cousins filling out the bill-o-fare. The further that Collins has progressed into the nineteenth-century, her writing style and the logic of this series has grown on me. Like a cherry on top of the cake, the cover design is one of the most stunning of the season. Publisher’s description: Acclaimed author Rebecca Ann Collins once again turns to the rich tapestry of Pride and Prejudice, moving the beloved characters forward and introducing new characters into a complex social history of an evolving period in English history. Contrary, opinionated, and headstrong, Becky Collins – daughter of Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins – has always defied her staid upbringing with a determination not to submit to the pressures of Victorian domesticity and class distinction. She marries Anthony Tate, a man of wealth and power, believing it will enhance her opportunities to make something significant of a hitherto ordinary life, but quickly discovers that it brings her neither happiness nor contentment. Becky’s story is a glimpse behind the scenes of the complicated struggles that often lay behind the seemingly calm exterior of Victorian womanhood. Sourcebooks Landmark. Trade paperback, (336) pages. ISBN: 978-1402224515

Ransome’s Crossing (Ransome Trilogy), by Kaye Dacus

Last summer I read Ransome’s Honor, the first book in this series and was smitten. I am such a sucker for a Royal Navy man in a blue uniform a la Captain Wentworth from Jane Austen’s Persuasion or C.S. Forester’s Captain Horatio Hornblower that I am totally ready to nail my colours to the mast for this one. Publisher’s description: Set in the early 1800s, this captivating, romantic second book of the Ransome Trilogy from author Kaye Dacus unfolds with the grace, power, and excitement of an ocean storm. Charlotte Ransome, desperate to reach Jamaica to see her secret fiancé, disguises herself as a midshipman for a convoy led by her brother, Captain William Ransome. Meanwhile, William and his new bride, Julia, face the rough swells of the sea and of marriage as they try to adjust to life together. When yellow fever befalls Charlotte and her identity is discovered, she begs first officer, Ned Cochran, and Julia to keep her presence and illness from her brother. But could this secret create insurmountable waves between Julia and William? And will Ned’s tender care of Charlotte change the tide of her affections forever? This smart, engaging tale is about holding on to faith during the journey to love and be loved. Harvest House Publishers. Trade paperback, (336) pages. ISBN: 978-0736927543

Until next month, happy reading!

Laurel Ann

Ransome’s Honor, by Kaye Dacus – A Review

Ransome's Honor, by Kaye Dacus (2009)Men in blue. Need I say more? 

If Lydia Bennet was condemned as the most determined flirt to make her family ridiculous in Pride and Prejudice for her fixation on any officer in a red coat, then I am as guilty as changed for a Royal Navy man in blue. Besides pictures of my father in his uniform, my earliest memories of a naval hero was of watching Gregory Peck in the 1951 movie Captain Horatio Hornblower on TV as a teenager. *swoon* Extend that memory into a new story of a dashing naval officer set in post Napoleonic war Portsmouth inspired by the author’s love of Jane Austen and Hornblower, and, I fall in, salute attention, take orders, and read Ransome’s Honor

Seventeen year old Julia Witherington will never forgive Lieutenant William Ransome for not proposing to her in 1802 when she and all of Portsmouth society expected it. She is the daughter of a Royal Navy captain who made a fortune in prize-money during the war with France and ready to bestow a thirty-thousand pound dowry on the lucky man to win his trust and her affections. He is a promising young naval officer from humble beginnings who has earned his advancement but little money. Fearing being tagged a fortune-hunter with no title or money, at the last moment his pride and honor will not allow him to propose. Heartbroken and humiliated, Julia leaves England believing he didn’t really love her, having only courted her to cozy up to her father and his Navy connections. 

Twelve years pass and the war with France has ended with Napoleon’s final surrender. Julia returns to Portsmouth still single and the belle of the social season. A beautiful, confident, and accomplished businesswoman, she has spent the last several years running her family sugar plantation in Jamaica. An only child since the loss of her brother at sea, she joins her widowed father Admiral Sir Edward Witherington and her Aunt Lady Pembroke, now acting as her chaperone since her mother’s death the following year. Among those officers and seamen returning to Portsmouth after the war is also one Captain William Ransome, eager for a new assignment for his ship Alexandra and anxious to be land locked for six weeks while she is refitted. Their inventible reunion after so many years is wrought with tension – she still holding on to her resentment – he regretting his decision. When Julia is pressured into an engagement with her ne’er-do-well cousin Sir Drake Pembroke desperate for her fortune to pay off his debts, she enters into a bargain with Captain Ransome for a one year marriage in exchange for her dowry. He is not interested in her money, but is honor bound by his promise to her father his commanding officer, and his own heart to assist her. Will Ransome’s honor prevail and soften Julia’s resolve and rekindle her affections? 

Kaye Dacus has delivered a moving Regency era romance infused with naval lore and engaging characters. Her heroine Julia, intelligent and proud must move beyond her resentment and depend on the one man she vowed never to forgive. Her hero Captain Ransome, well, he had me at the first salute. From Julia’s chatty and energetic friend Susan Yates, to her husband Colin, William’s best friend and fellow officer, we form important impressions of our hero and heroine, discovering their character strengths and flaws. The villains, Sir Drake Pembroke and his mother Lady Augusta slither and scheme dubiously supplying the request evil to thwart the happiness of our protagonists. I smirked and grinned at their wicked doings and rooted for honor and good to prevail in all the right places. Above all, it was refreshing and rewarding to spend a delightful engagement with Captain William Ransome, an honorable and distinguished navy man reminiscent of Jane Austen’s Captain Wentworth, and evoking fond memories of actor Ioan Grufudd’s interpretation of Horatio Hornblower. 

An overall enjoyable read, Dacus’ writing style is very spare and could have benefited from a bit more clarity in the dialogue and more detail in her description of settings and action. The begining of the book moved rather slowly but picked up considerably by the second half. In addition, I was puzzled by the character inconsistency in spirited Julia succumbing to the demands and constrictions of her aunt after her father’s departure to London. The Julia that she had set up to that point would not let others run her over so easily. A sweet romance, this novel is actually classified as Christian fiction, but I did not find the religious vein overly preachy or imposing. A most delightful voyage with the distinguished and dishy Captain Ransome, I am all anticipation for his further adventures in romance, and the sea, when the next installment of the Ransome Trilogy, Ransome’s Crossing makes port next July. Until then I shall feel like a Navy sweetheart patiently waiting for her man to return from the sea! 

4 out of 5 Regency Stars 

Ransome’s Honor, by Kaye Dacus
Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR (2009)
Trade paperback (342) pages
ISBN: 978-0736927536

Jane Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for July

The Grand Sophy, by Georgette Heyer (2009)The Jane Austen book sleuth is happy to inform Janeites that many Austen inspired books are heading our way in July, so keep your eyes open for these new titles.  

Fiction (prequels, sequels, retellings, variations, or Regency inspired) 

The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer 

July is The Grand Sophy month at Jane Austen Today in celebration of this very special Georgette Heyer Regency era novel. Its publisher Sourcebooks has made a serious commitment to reissue many of her beloved novels and we could not be happier. Like Jane Austen, Heyer’s style is often emulated but rarely matched. There is no subsitute for the original. The Grand Sophy is one of her most popular stories. Heroine Sophy Stanton-Lacy has the self assurance of Austen’s character Emma Woodhouse and the spirit of Eliza Bennet – a dynamic combo – leading to trouble and hilarity. (Publisher’s description) Sophy sets everything right for her desperate family in one of Georgette Heyer’s most popular Regency romances. When Lady Ombersley agrees to take in her young niece, no one expects Sophy, who sweeps in and immediately takes the ton by storm. Sophy discovers that her aunt’s family is in desperate need of her talent for setting everything right: Ceclia is in love with a poet, Charles has tyrannical tendencies that are being aggravated by his grim fiancee, her uncle is of no use at all, and the younger children are in desperate need of some fun and freedom. By the time she’s done, Sophy has commandeered Charles’s horses, his household, and finally, his heart. Sourcebooks, ISBN: 978-1402218941 

Colonel Brandon's Diary, by Amanda Grange (2009)Colonel Brandon’s Diary, by Amanda Grange 

In her fifth novel in the Austen Hero’s Series, Amanda Grange has actually succeeded in improving upon Austen’s character Colonel Brandon; — at least for me! He is not one of my favorite characters in Sense and Sensibility, though he certainly has his fangirls. I appreciated learning more about his back story – his days in India and his failed romance with his first love Eliza Williams. As always, Grange is one of the most gifted writers in the Austen subgenre, giving us a touching inside story that is hard to put down. (Publisher’s description) At the age of eighteen, James Brandon’s world is shattered when the girl he loves, Eliza, is forced to marry his brother. In despair, he joins the army and leaves England for the East Indies for the next several years. Upon his return, he finds Eliza in a debtor’s prison. He rescues her from her terrible situation, but she is dying of consumption and he can do nothing but watch and wait. Heartbroken at her death, he takes some consolation in her illegitimate daughter, who he raises as his ward. But at the age of fifteen, his ward goes missing. Devastated by the thought of what could have happened to her, he is surprised to find himself falling in love with Marianne Dashwood. But Marianne is falling in love with the charismatic Willoughby. Berkley Trade, ISBN: ISBN: 978-0425227794 

Ransome's Honor, by Kaye Dacus (2009)Ransome’s Honor (The Ransome Trilogy ),  by Kaye Dacus 

I love supporting emerging authors, and am happy to feature this new release with Austen undertones. Just think of the themes of lost opportunity and renewed romance from Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion, and throw in a dashing Naval hero like Horatio Hornblower, and you’ll understand Dacus’ inspiration for her first book in the trilogy. I am such a sucker for a man in a blue uniform. (Publisher’s description) The war with France has ended, and Captain William Ransome, known for never letting women aboard his ship, has returned to Portsmouth, England. Julia Witherington, considered an old-maid at 29, discovers that she must marry immediately to receive a large dowry. Julia knows that the only man she doesn’t want to marry is William Ransome. And the only man her father will approve of is…William Ransome. When the couple strikes a financial deal to feign marriage for one year, the adventure begins. These stubborn people face humorous and hard situations that reveal what else they have in common—a growing affection for one another. This intriguing tale of faith and loyalty is a wonderful new offering for readers of all genres. Harvest House Publishers, ISBN: 978-0736927536 

Nonfiction 

Jane Austen and Marriage, by Hazel Jones (2009)Jane Austen and Marriage, by Hazel Jones 

A well connected Marriage. What every Regency Miss dreamed of, and every parent schemed for. An advantageous alliance could elevate social position, increase wealth and expand property; all critical elements in Regency society. Jane Austen was keenly aware of the importance of marriage through family, friends and her own life. Her novels are driven by it. Author Hazel Jones presents this important topic with aplomb and energy. (Publisher’s description) With original research, this book offers a new insight into Jane Austen’s life and writing. The question of marriage lies at the centre of Jane Austen’s novels. The issues bound up in the pursuit of love, happiness, money and status were those of her day and informed the plots and morals of her work. In this fascinating book, Hazel Jones explores the ways in which these themes manifest themselves in Jane Austen’s life and fiction, against the backdrop of contemporary conduct manuals, letters, diaries, journals and newspapers. Drawing on original research, this entertaining and detailed study provides a charming and profound insight into the world of Jane Austen. Continuum International Publishing Group, ISBN: 978-1847252180 

Jane Austen's Sewing Box, by Jennifer Forest (2009)Jane Austen’s Sewing Box: Craft Projects and Stories from Jane Austen’s Novels, by Jennifer Forest 

All well-bred Regency ladies aspired to be highly accomplished. What is that you ask? Well, they painted tables, covered screens, and netted purses as Austen’s character Charles Bingley matter-of-factly describes in Pride and Prejudice (among other talents), all to allure and secure husband. Women of this era were great at handiwork – sewing, drawing and trimming bonnets. Author Jennifer Forest has researched Regency crafts compiling this lovely volume of projects to turn you into the accomplished woman that even Mr. Darcy might admire. (Publisher’s description) Jane Austen’s Sewing Box opens a window into the lives of Regency women during a beautiful period in arts, crafts and design. Jennifer Forest examines Jane Austen’s novels and letters to reveal a world where women are gripped by crazes for painting on glass and netting purses, economise by trimming an old bonnet, or eagerly turn to their sewing to avoid an uncomfortable conversation. Based on Jane Austen’s novels and with illustrated step-by-step instructions for eighteen craft projects, this beautifully presented book will delight Jane Austen fans, lovers of history and literature and craft enthusiasts alike. Murdoch Books, ISBN: 978-1741963748 

Austen’s Contemporaries & Regency era 

Camilla (Oxford World's Classics), by Fanny Burney (2009)Camilla (Oxford World’s Classics), by, Fanny Burney 

“I was thinking of that other stupid book, written by that woman they make such a fuss about, she who married the French emigrant.” “I suppose you mean Camilla?” “Yes, that’s the book; such unnatural stuff! An old man playing at see–saw, I took up the first volume once and looked it over, but I soon found it would not do; indeed I guessed what sort of stuff it must be before I saw it: as soon as I heard she had married an emigrant, I was sure I should never be able to get through it.” John Thorpe and Catherine Morland, Northanger Abbey 

Only one of Jane Austen’s horridly uncouth characters like John Thorpe would have the audacity to call Camilla a stupid book. Austen uses one of the most famous novels of her time as an example to defend novel writing. ‘”It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda”; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best–chosen language.’ No doubt that she valued its merits highly. (Publisher’s description) First published in 1796, Camilla deals with the matrimonial concerns of a group of young people – Camilla Tyrold and her sisters, the daughters of a country parson, and their cousin Indiana Lynmere – and, in particular, with the love affair between Camilla herself and her eligible suitor, Edgar Mandlebert. The path of true love, however, is strewn with intrigue, contretemps and misunderstanding. An enormously popular eighteenth-century novel, Camilla is touched at many points by the advancing spirit of romanticism. As in Evelina, Fanny Burney weaves into her novel strands of light and dark, comic episodes and gothic shudders, and creates a pattern of social and moral dilemmas which emphasize and illuminate the gap between generations. Oxford University Press, USA, ISBN: 978-0199555741 

Vanity Fair (Oxford World's Classics), by W. M. Thacheray (2009)Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero (Oxford World’s Classics), by W. M. Thackeray (Author), John Sutherland (Editor) 

Weighing in at a hefty one and a half pounds and numbering 1008 pages, this literary classic is a shining jewel, and well worth the patience to read its winding plot and numerous pages. From the title, you know right off the bat that Thackeray has a wry sense of humor. Of course the novel has heroes! the main one Rawdon Crawley is a charming wastrel, and the second, William Dobbin, is a bit of a namby pamby, taking his time to show his colors. Adapted unsuccessfully into numerous movies since the 1930’s, I am still waiting for the ultimate Rawdon and Becky on screen, though Miriam Hopkins’ interpretation of Becky Sharp is quite slipery and snarky in the 1935 film of the same name. (Publisher’s description) Set during the Napoleonic wars, Vanity Fair (1847-8) famously satirizes worldly society. The novel revolves around the exploits of the impoverished but beautiful and devious Becky Sharp, and Amelia Sedley, pampered child of a rich City merchant. Despite the differences in their fortunes and characters, they find their lives entangled from childhood. As Becky’s maneuvering ingratiates her with high society, the financial ruin of Amelia’s father forces Amelia into poverty. Destiny, of course, has further adventures in store for both women, whose lives Thackeray (1811-63) uses as theatres for the whims and foibles of their contemporaries. — This edition of one of the greatest social satires of the English language reproduces the text of the Oxford Thackeray and includes all of Thackeray’s own illustrations. Oxford University Press, USA; Reissue edition, ISBN: 978-0199537624 

Austen Ephemera 

British Library Jane Austen Desk Diary 2010British Library Jane Austen Desk Diary 2010, edited by by Freydis Welland, James Edward Austen-Leigh (Illustrator), Jane Austen (Contributor) 

Keep your journaling going in style with this beautiful desk diary from the British Library filled with images of silhouettes created by Jane Austen’s nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh and compiled by his descendant Freydis Welland. These images were also included in the recently published book, Life in the Country with Quotations by Jane Austen, which I reviewed last December. Lovely book, so no doubt this diary will not disappoint. (Publisher’s description) Jane Austen wrote of her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh: “We were happy to see Edward, it was an unexpected pleasure, and he makes himself as agreeable as ever, sitting in such a quiet comfortable way making his delightful sketches.” Edward brought the fine art of silhouettes to perfection, creating evocative images of landscapes and the creatures that lived in them. This appealing diary lets readers organize their thoughts and express their own artistry with the inspiration of Austen and her artist nephew. Frances Lincoln; Desk edition, ISBN: 978-0711230071 

British Library Jane Austen Pocket Diary 2010British Library Jane Austen Pocket Diary 2010, Edited by Freydis Welland, James Edward Austen-Leigh (Illustrator), Jane Austen (Contributor) 

Another variation of the before mentioned desk diary, this version is of a compact pocket diary. For every writer in the making, you can pop this in your purse, briefcase or backpack and scribble your thoughts and inspirations as they hit you on the go. (Publisher’s description) Like the desk diary, this pocket diary is based on the popular book Life in the Country, a celebration of Regency England published by the British Library in 2008. This book has the added advantage of being portable, allowing would-be writers and artists to take it anywhere to record their thoughts, compile a to-do list, sketch their surroundings, or any of a number of other activities — all in the stimulating presence of the brilliant English writer and her talented nephew. Frances Lincoln, ISBN: 978-0711230088 

Jane Austen Jigsaw Puzzle, by Potter Style (2009)Jane Austen Puzzle: 500-Piece Puzzle, by Potter Style 

The good people at Potter Style, who have brought us other great Jane Austen inspired ephemera such as note cards, address books and journals, now enter into the Jane Austen entertainment/games arena with this 500 piece jigsaw puzzle in a boxed shaped like a book, ready to sit right next to your collection of Jane Austen novels and reference books in your library. The main image is from Hugh Thomson’s 1894 illustration of Pride and Prejudice and depicts a scene of Mr. Darcy’s first failed marriage proposal. Good choice designers! Also included are quotes from Austen’s novels, images of a Regency era estates and a cameo of the Bardess of Basingstoke herself, Jane Austen. This looks like great fun, but what next? Jane Austen Game Boy?  Potter Style; Puzzle edition, ISBN: 978-0307453839 

Until next month, happy reading! 

Laurel Ann