Austenesque, Book Previews, Regency Era

A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt of Back to the Bonnet: The Secret Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Miss Mary Bennet, by Jennifer Duke  

Back to the Bonnet, by Jennifer Duke 2020Happy Friday Gentle Readers. I hope that you are ready for Halloween. I understand that it will be the first night since 1944 that all three time zones in the US will have a full moon. How appropriate.

To put you in the mood for the season, I am happy to welcome debut author Jennifer Duke to Austenprose today in celebration of her first novel, Back to the Bonnet. This new novel is a time-travel reimaging of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice featuring middle sister Mary Bennet as the primary character. Mary Inherits a bonnet from a Bennet family member that has special time-travel powers that give her the advantage of moving back and forth within the story of Pride and Prejudice. Will her abilities affect the outcome of the relationships and events within the story?

Please check out the complete book description and exclusive excerpt compliments of the author. Enjoy! Continue reading “A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt of Back to the Bonnet: The Secret Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Miss Mary Bennet, by Jennifer Duke  “

Austenesque, Book Reviews, Regency Era

The Other Bennet Sister: A Novel, by Janice Hadlow—A Review

The Other Bennet Sister, by Janice Hadlow 2020From the desk of Sophia Rose:

The oft-forgotten of the five Bennet sisters who may have been a reader’s source of amusement or irritation, engendered pity or magnanimous sympathy comes endearingly alive in Janice Hadlow’s gentle opus to Mary, the other sister who must follow a very different path to happiness.

The Other Bennet Sister opens when Mary Bennet is a young girl happy and content with herself and her life until slowly, she becomes aware of a miserable truth. She’s plain and unattractive. Jane the pretty sister and Lizzy the witty favorite of their father’s pair off as they all get older, her father is entrenched in his library sanctum, and her mother laments Mary’s looks and hurls painful remarks to her and about her. Even her younger sisters take their cue from this to draw together and tease her when they do notice her. Mary searches for ways to please and be noticed though she works hard to avoid her mother who twits her on her looks or quiet manners.

In short, Mary is miserable and is willing to try anything even securing the interest of the bumbling and bothersome cousin Collins who has come to Longbourn in search of a wife. If she thought her homelife was misery, being overlooked by Mr. Collins even after she put her best foot forward and made a horrid spectacle of herself at the Netherfield Ball teaches her that being invisible is even worse.

Her sisters’ triumphs in being wed, a family death, and feeling at a loss sends Mary on a journey of self-discovery.

The Other Bennet Sister worked hard to be true to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Mary’s childhood and her debut on society along with the story flowing on parallel lines fit hand in glove with the P&P story. It had a broodier Jane Eyre feel to it, but this works since it is Mary’s story. It was intriguing to see that by focusing on Mary the author shows all the familiar characters in a slightly different light. Some even get more of a stronger role like Mrs. Hill the Longbourn housekeeper who has a soft spot for neglected Mary and by Charlotte Lucas who sees Mary as sharing a similar personality and needs since they are both plain. I will offer the warning that the usual sparkling favorite characters in Pride and Prejudice to not always appear in a favorable light so be prepared to see a different interpretation to many familiar characters. Continue reading “The Other Bennet Sister: A Novel, by Janice Hadlow—A Review”

Austenesque, Book Previews, Regency Era

Becoming Mary: A Pride and Prejudice Sequel, by Amy Street – Preview & Exclusive Excerpt

Becoming Mary A Pride and Prejudice Sequel by Amy Street 2014 x 200What is it about Mary Bennet—that pedantic, unromantic middle daughter in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice? She has less than a dozen lines of dialogue in the entire novel, but what an indelible impression she has made on centuries of readers. How could anyone forget such gems like these?

I admire the activity of your benevolence,” observed Mary, “but every impulse of feeling should be guided by reason; and, in my opinion, exertion should always be in proportion to what is required.” Chapter 7

Loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable; that one false step involves her in endless ruin; that her reputation is no less brittle than it is beautiful; and that she cannot be too much guarded in her behaviour towards the undeserving of the other sex.” Chapter 47

Priggish, sanctimonious and asexual, there is nothing like a big challenge to inspire modern writers into a major makeover for her character and create a happy ending. Over the past few years, we have received a wide variety of Mary Bennet sequels, both good and bad. Pamela Mingle’s The Pursuit of Mary Bennet and Jennifer Paynter’s The Forgotten Sister land in the praise camp, while Colleen McCullough’s  The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet lies somewhere between awful and atrocious. (I apologize in advance to my Victorian grandmother for speaking ill of the dead if she happens to run into the author in the afterlife.) Continue reading “Becoming Mary: A Pride and Prejudice Sequel, by Amy Street – Preview & Exclusive Excerpt”

Austenesque, Book Reviews, Regency Era

The Forgotten Sister: Mary Bennet’s Pride and Prejudice, by Jennifer Paynter – A Review

The Forgotten Sister: Mary Bennet's Pride and Prejudice, by Jennifer Paynter (2014 )From the desk of Jenny Haggerty:

With only half a dozen speeches in Pride and Prejudice Mary Bennet still manages to make an impression. Bookish, socially awkward, and prone to moralizing, it’s hard to picture her as the heroine of a romance novel. Though I’d laugh along at her cluelessness Mary has always had my sympathy, so when I discovered Jennifer Paynter’s The Forgotten Sister: Mary Bennet’s Pride and Prejudice I couldn’t wait to read it. Would this book rescue Mary from the shadows of Pride and Prejudice? I hoped so.

The Forgotten Sister opens before the events of Pride and Prejudice, with Mary recounting her story in her own words. She begins with an admission of early worries, “For the best part of nine years–from the age of four until just before I turned thirteen–I prayed for a brother every night.” (8)  By then family life is strained, but early on Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are carefree and happy. Young Jane and Elizabeth are doted on by their parents, who are optimistic there is still time to produce a male heir and secure their entailed estate. Everything changes though when Mary, a third daughter, is born. Worries set in. The Bennets begin bickering. About a month after Mary’s birth Mrs. Bennet has an attack of nerves so acute that Mary is sent away to a wet-nurse, Mrs. Bushell, with whom she stays for several years.  From then on, neglect by and separation from her family become recurring patterns in Mary’s life. Continue reading “The Forgotten Sister: Mary Bennet’s Pride and Prejudice, by Jennifer Paynter – A Review”

Austenesque, Blog Tours, Giveaways, Guest Blog, Regency Era

The Forgotten Sister: Mary Bennet’s Pride and Prejudice Book Tour with Author Jennifer Paynter & Giveaway!

The Forgotten Sister: Mary Bennet's Pride and Prejudice, by Jennifer Paynter (2014 )Please join us in celebration of the new release of author Jennifer Paynter’s debut novel, The Forgotten Sister: Mary Bennet’s Pride and Prejudice, published this month by Lake Union Publishing. 

Jennifer has joined us to chat about her inspiration to write her book, a revealing look at one of Jane Austen’s most misunderstood characters from Pride and Prejudice, Mary Bennet. Her publisher has generously offered a giveaway chance for a paperback or Kindle digital edition of The Forgotten Sister to three lucky winners. Just leave a comment with this blog post to enter. The contest details are listed below. Good luck to all. 

Welcome Jennifer.

What first led me to think of Mary Bennet as a possible heroine was an observation by Jane Austen scholar, John Bayley. In his memoir of his wife, British novelist Iris Murdoch, Bayley wrote that ‘the unfortunate Mary is the only one among Jane Austen’s characters who never gets a fair deal from the author at all, any more than she does from her father.’  Continue reading “The Forgotten Sister: Mary Bennet’s Pride and Prejudice Book Tour with Author Jennifer Paynter & Giveaway!”

Regency Era

The Pursuit of Mary Bennet: A Pride and Prejudice Novel, Virtual Book Launch Party with Author Pamela Mingle & Giveaways

The Pursuit of Mary Bennet: A Pride and Prejudice Novel, by Pamela Mingle (2013 )It is a pleasure to welcome author Pamela Mingle here today at Austenprose. I had the pleasure of reading her new novel The Pursuit of Mary Bennet: A Pride and Prejudice Novel months ago and was very pleased to supply the blurb in praise of this great novel. I felt it is the best continuation of Jane Austen’s character Mary Bennet so far, and I hope you will add it to must read list. Pamela has joined us today to talk about social awkwardness, something that some characters in Pride and Prejudice exhibit. Enter a chance to win a copy of this fabulous new Austenesque novel by leaving a comment. Details are listed below. Good luck to all, and congratulations to Pamela! 

Welcome Pamela!

At the JASNA AGM in Minneapolis, the phrase “socially awkward” was used several times in reference to a character in Pride and Prejudice. Mary Bennet, much on my mind these days, was surely the only person in the book who could justifiably be called socially awkward. She’s the clueless sister who frequently embarrasses her family with her actions as well as her words. Mary’s smug moralizing on the difference between pride and vanity may be why Jane Austen describes her as “pedantic” and “conceited.” And we cringe as Mary lectures Elizabeth about the dangers of a lady sullying her reputation. Continue reading “The Pursuit of Mary Bennet: A Pride and Prejudice Novel, Virtual Book Launch Party with Author Pamela Mingle & Giveaways”

Book Reviews, Jane Austen Sequels Book Reviews

The Unexpected Miss Bennet, by Patrice Sarath – A Review

The Unexpected Miss Bennet, by Patrice Sarath (2011)Guest review by Jeffrey Ward

Mary Bennet, that plain, pedantic, priggish, middle sister from Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice, who gave us deadpan lines such as, “I admire the activity of your benevolence…but every impulse of feeling should be guided by reason; and, in my opinion, exertion should always be in proportion to what is required.” (Chapter 7), is explored in this new sequel by Patrice Sarath. How Mary could be made into a heroine the caliber of her elder sister Elizabeth, we shall soon discover.

Her intimate story is a sojourn from Longbourn, to Pemberley, to Rosings, back to Longbourn and finally to_____?  Feeling betrayed by all of her favorite pursuits that formerly brought meaning to her life, nothing is spared from her frustrated scrutiny: not the pianoforte, not her singing, and not even her book of sermons. “Perhaps she should not rest all of her hopes on Fordyce.  He had been a good a good guide, but a narrow one, and she had begun, if not to walk a different path, then to at least question the mapmaker.” (p. 27)

It’s been a year since the other Bennet daughters have married.  Kitty has “come out” and will spend the summer with the Bingleys.  Will “plain” Mary ever attract a suitor or just become an old maid?  Jane and Lizzy plot to bring her to Pemberley for the summer to “improve” her.   Lizzy tells Darcy of the plan: “You have the look of mischief about you,” Mr Darcy said. “Much as when we first met and exchanged words.  Have I need to fear?”  “Not at all” she said. “I merely came to warn you that I am my mother’s daughter after all.  Jane and I are prepared to make a match for Mary.” (p. 9) However, has Mary already encountered a “match?” Perhaps…..

Poor Mary despairs of anyone ever sincerely paying attention to her.  Prior to her Pemberley visit, she plays the pianoforte at a dance.  Mary, who has zero experience with men, is asked to dance by a young gentleman named Tom Aikens. Ms. Sarath has brilliantly fashioned a most unforgettable and loveable hero, much in the mold of another popular hero nicknamed “Turnip,” in Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series. Mr. Aikens is everything Mary is not:  vigorous, outgoing, brash, unkempt, unread, and most-often found on horseback. Shy, bookish Mary is a magnet to Mr. Aikens who pursues her from Pemberley to Rosings and back to Longbourn.  But, is he destined to lose interest, due to her own self-doubting confusion over how he could possibly like her?

The principals eventually all show up at Rosings: Mary, the Darcys (including Georgiana), the Collins’s and even Mr. and Mrs. Bennet arrive to deliver Mary’s trunk.  Mary finally meets the enigmatic Anne.  At first, Mary thinks Anne to be intellectually deficient. “Understanding pierced her and she felt a great and sudden sorrow.  She had been right.  Anne De Bourgh was simple, and all of Lady Catherine’s bluster, all of her posturing and praise on behalf of daughter, was to deny herself the knowledge.” (p. 85)  It turns out that Anne is not all that simple but overly protected and sequestered away.  Becoming friends, they improve each other to the point that Lady Catherine asks Mary to become Anne’s companion and stay at Rosings. But the grand lady continually seeks to discover a breech in Mary’s behavior that will bring social condemnation on the entire Bennet family.  Alas, the inevitable blunder in propriety finally occurs.  Will this end Mary’s friendship, destroy her budding self-esteem, banish her from Rosings and ostracize her from polite society forever?  Further, there is an ironic and shocking surprise near the conclusion.

I can explain my love for this story in a single word: AUTHENTICITY. Ms. Sarath faithfully renders all of our favorite P&P characters, vividly accentuates the dangerous social pitfalls for women of that time, and delivers the Regency style “lingo” that we all crave.  In contrast to Miss Austen’s exquisitely long sentences is this author’s style which occasionally links a series of short sentences together which impart drama, action, and clarity to the story. The author also sprinkles gems of charming humor throughout, especially in Mary’s secret thoughts which show her innate intelligence, despite her lack of social awareness.  Where Lizzy talks with complete candor, Mary converses politely and appropriately, but the author simultaneously reveals Mary’s very contrary private opinions which are highly amusing.

Author Patrice Sarath’s The Unexpected Miss Bennet, has cleaved me from my objectivity!  Why? The story exactly and uncannily fulfills my daydreaming heart’s projected future for this most unappreciated and neglected Bennet sister.  In the face of such a coincidental affirmation, how could I not pronounce this delightful little 224 page story one of the very best Austen sequels I have ever read?

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

The Unexpected Miss Bennet, by Patrice Sarath
Penguin Group (2011)
Trade paperback (304) pages
ISBN: 978-0425244210

Jeffrey Ward, 65, native San Franciscan living near Atlanta, married 40 years, two adult children, six grandchildren, Vietnam Veteran, degree in Communications from the University of Washington, and presently a Facilitator/designer for the world’s largest regional airline.  His love affair with Miss Austen began about 3 years ago when, out of boredom, he picked up his daughter’s dusty college copy of Emma and he was “off to the races.”

© 2007 – 2011 Jeffrey Ward, Austenprose