There Must be Murder, by Margaret C. Sullivan – A Review

There Must Be Murder, by Margaret C. Sullivan (2010)I was once told by an academic that Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey was the least read of her six major novels. Shocking. I can’t think why; or why we even need to rank masterpieces among masterpieces. I adore it. I will admit that it was the last of her major novels that I read, so I may be proof to her pudding. Yes, the academic shall remain unnamed and duly forgotten; but Northanger Abbey should not.

I sincerely regretted waiting so long to read it. I laughed and rolled my eyes at the incredible skill of Austen at parodying Gothic romances, and for creating a hero, unlike any of her others, whose sense of humor and endearing charm make the über romantic icon Mr. Darcy dull in comparison to Mr. Tilney’s sparkling wit. Who, pray tell, could not love a man who loves a woman who thinks she cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible, or who thinks people who have no pleasure in a good novel are intolerably stupid? *swoon*

Northanger Abbey sequels are as scarce as a comely heiress. I can count them on one hand. There Must Be Murder, by Margaret C. Sullivan is a welcome addition to the slim collection. At 118 pages and twelve chapters it qualifies as a novella. I am not complaining. At all. I will take a Jane Austen sequel continuing the story after the wedding of our heroine in the making Catherine Morland and Austen’s most underrated hero Henry Tilney without hesitation, but with a wary eye. The story has a promising beginning. The tone is pleasing and the reverence to canon characters a relief.

We find Catherine and Henry comfortably settled as newlyweds at Woodston parsonage in Gloucestershire. Ever the thoughtful romantic, Henry proposes that they celebrate the anniversary of their first meeting in Bath with a visit to the city. Once there they are reunited with Henry’s sister Eleanor and introduced to her new husband Lord Whiting. Also in attendance at the Lower Rooms is Henry’s father the dour autocrat General Tilney, his recently widowed wealthy neighbor Lady Beauclerk, her twenty-seven year-old unmarried daughter Judith, and her husband’s nephew and heir Sir Philip Beauclerk. Catherine is happy to dance the night away, while family differences bubble and stew.

Illustration by Cassandra Chouinard in There Must Be Murder, by Margaret C. Sullivan (2010)As Henry and Catherine continue to enjoy the delights of Bath attractions, they begin to learn that there are suspicious circumstances involving the death of General Tilney’s neighbor Sir Arthur Beauclerk brought forward by his widowed sister Fanny Findlay. She believes his death had not been natural – and it appears that many in this unhappy family would benefit from his early demise. The suspects stack up like winter cordwood ready for the fire. Is it the wife, Lady Beauclerk, eager to be free of his miserly pocketbook?  The daughter, Miss Judith, squashed by parental oppression? The dissipated nephew, Sir Philip, prohibiting his uncle from changing the will? Or the sister, Mrs. Findlay, ready to bump off all the heirs in line before her to regain the family fortune? Catherine’s Gothic inspired imagination may serve her well as a detective, if Henry can temper her impulses and guide them to a logical conclusion.

There Must Be Murder had me hooked at Henry reading Udolpho, Anne Radcliffe’s classic Gothic novel, to his young bride in bed. Brilliant. It is exactly how I envisioned their marriage would continue: Henry romantically feeding his wife’s passion for a horrid novel and Catherine finding new insights from the text from his patient and humorous explanations. The story cleverly builds, slowly layering in new characters, revealing family conflicts, planting evidence. Along the way we revisit Milsom-street, Beechen Cliff, the Pump-room, Laura Place and all the highlights of Catherine’s first adventure in the beautiful Georgian-era city. Sullivan has captured the charm and endearing delight of Austen’s characters beautifully, added new ones rich in folly and nonsense, and a Newfoundland dog named MacGuffin who steals every scene. The numerous illustrations by Cassandra Chouinard are enchanting. My only disappointment was in the length. It was over much too quickly. Austen’s Henry Tilney would have been annoyed, claiming this shortcoming was “nice.”  We will agree.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

There Must Be Murder, by Margaret C. Sullivan, illustrations by Cassandra Chouinard
LibriFiles Publishing (2010)
Trade paperback (118) pages
ISBN: 978-0615425870

© 2007 – 2010 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Upcoming Reading & Writing Challenges, & Literary Blog Events in 2011

Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Celebration at My Jane Austen Book ClubThere are great reading and writing challenges, and  literary events in the queue around the blogosphere that have come to my attention. So many in fact, that I decided to combine the announcements into one grand post, so here goes.

Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Celebration

Maria Grazia at My Jane Austen Book Club is celebrating the bicentenary of the publication of Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility by hosting a year-long blog event. Each month will feature a blog on a topic inspired by S&S from Austen enthusiasts and authors. I will be contributing as the final leg in December with my essay, Marianne Dashwood: A Passion for Dead Leaves and Other Sensibilities. You can check out the full list of bloggers participating and all of the prizes offered each month at Maria’s great Jane Austen inspired blog.

Jane Austen Twitter Project

Author of Murder at Mansfield Park, Lynn Shepherd asks if you would like to be part of a Jane Austen story project? If you are on Twitter, you can participate in a new multi-author story in the works.

She has been developing the idea with Adam Spunberg (@AdamSpunberg on Twitter) and they plan to run a storytelling session one day every week for about three months this year. Each week’s chapter will be posted online and on www.AustenAuthors.com on Sunday. You don’t have to be a published writer to join in – you just have to love your Jane! If you are ready to get your creative juices jumping, then check it out.

The Gaskell Reading Challenge

Katherine at GaskellBlog is hosting a six month reading challenge, January to June, 2011 of Mrs. Gaskell’s works. It’s as easy as selecting two to read and leaving a comment to commit. I have selected Moorland Cottage and will be participating also in her reading group event on the book February 1st to the 15th, 2011 to fulfill one of my challenge commitments. We shall see what my second book is as the year develops. Wives and Daughters? Ruth? Sylvia’s Lovers? I’m undecided. Any suggestions?

The Classics Reading Challenge 2011

Courtney at Stiletto Storytime is hosting a classics reading challenge in 2011. What is a classic you ask? To Courtney, a classic is a “book that has in some way become bigger than itself. It’s become part of culture, society or the bigger picture. It’s the book you know about even if you have not read it. It’s the book you feel like you should have read.” I heartily concur. There are four levels of commitment from 5 books to 40 for those seriously addicted classics readers. I have committed to the Student level at 5 books and will be reading Sense and Sensibility, a Gaskell novel, and three Georgette Heyer novels, because I consider her a classic of the Regency romance genre.

Heroine Love

Yes. We can never have enough love! It makes the world go around. Erin Blakemore, author of that great celebration of our favorite heroines, The Heroine’s Bookshelf: Life Lessons from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder is hosting a blog event February 1st – 18th, 2011 featuring 12 book bloggers writing on their favorite heroine’s and how they changed their lives. Yours truly will be participating on February 18th, (Last again. I know!) honoring one of my favorite heroines Elizabeth Bennet. In addition to the great gush of love for the literary ladies in our lives, there will be tons of swag, yes, great giveaways to reinforce the love all around!

Well gentle readers, get motivated and join in the literary love of writing, reading and books. My two challenges for 2011 are still open: The Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge and the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Challenge 2011. So…take the leap, and join the celebrations.

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy: Author Mary Lydon Simonsen’s Blog Tour

The Perfect Bride for Mr Darcy, by Mary Lydon Simonsen (2011)Please welcome Austenesque author Mary Lydon Simonsen on the first stop on her official blog tour today for her new Pride and Prejudice variation, The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy. This new novel released on New Year’s Day, and my review was posted yesterday. After reading it, I was curious about Mary’s inspiration and choices that she made in expanding characters and changes to the original Austen story line. She offers this blog in celebration of her book’s release, elaborating on her creative choices and insights that readers will find quite helpful.

Thank you, Laurel Ann, for inviting me to join you today to talk about my new book. As a long-time reader of your blog, I consider it to be an honor.

The first failed proposal – second thoughts and explanations…

The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy begins shortly after Darcy’s awful proposal to Elizabeth at Hunsford Lodge.  After parsing Darcy’s letter, Lizzy begins to have second thoughts about rejecting so worthy a suitor. As for Darcy, he quickly realizes that such a self-righteous, unfeeling response to Lizzy’s refusal probably closes the door to any renewal of his attentions. Between the letter and Lizzy’s harsh words, both parties leave Kent feeling that they will never come together. So that’s that. Right?

Fortunately, for our favorite couple, there are those who disagree. First, Anne De Bourgh, after realizing that Elizabeth is perfect for her cousin, sets a plan in motion to bring the two together at Pemberley. Along the way, she enlists the aid of an eager Georgiana Darcy.

When I first read Pride and Prejudice many years ago, I was about the age of Georgiana, and although I would have preferred to be more like the spunky Elizabeth Bennet, I was quiet and shy like Darcy’s sixteen year-old sister. Because of that, I wanted to know more about her. I also thought that Anne de Bourgh got the short end of Austen’s pen. After all, she had to live with Lady Catherine and had to accept the fact that her mother had decided that she was destined to marry Mr. Darcy without having any say in the matter. Wasn’t that punishment enough? Little did I know that more than three decades later I would have an opportunity to stage an intervention with these characters.

My first goal in writing the novel was to give Anne a personality. Other than being identified as “sickly and cross,” we know nothing about her. So I painted her as quiet and reserved, but a woman with steel in her spine, and because of her determination to see Darcy and Elizabeth together, it was necessary for her to step outside the comfortable world of Rosings Park in order to initiate a plan to bring the lovers together. As for Georgiana, I wanted this young lady to act like a teenager: curious, nosy, chatty, and someone who gets her romantic notions from reading Gothic and romance novels and even has aspirations to write her own.

In addition to fleshing out Anne and Georgiana, I also wanted to show a softer, more vulnerable Mr. Darcy, someone who, despite his best efforts to hide his feelings, wears his heart on his sleeve. This is the first time Darcy has ever been in love, and he doesn’t know how to handle it. As a result, he fumbles more than once. On the other hand, I think Austen nailed Lizzy’s character, and I was faithful to her wit, intelligence, and sense of self.

All Pride and Prejudice’s prized characters are present and accounted for: a conniving Caroline Bingley, Jane Bennet and her weak-willed suitor, Charles Bingley, the evil George Wickham and his prey, Lydia Bennet, and a handsome Colonel Fitzwilliam who joins with Anne and Georgiana in the plot to bring Darcy and Elizabeth together. But there are a few new characters who have been added for comedic effect: Antony, Lord Fitzwilliam, Darcy’s aristocratic cousin and brother to Colonel Fitzwilliam, who is a total rascal. Then there is Mr. Nesbitt. After accepting the finality of Mr. Bingley’s move to London, Jane allows the man to call on her, only to find that he is very much entwined in his mother’s apron strings.

After completing my first Austen tie-in, Searching for Pemberley, a complex historical novel that is set in post World War II England, I wanted to write something less serious, a book that would guarantee to put a smile on my readers’ faces. Although The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy is written with a light hand, I am hoping that when my readers reach the last page that they will have a better understanding of Mr. Darcy, his sister, and his cousins.

Thank you again Laurel Ann. It’s been a pleasure.

Author Mary Lydon SimonsenAuthor Bio: Mary Lydon Simonsen has been captivated by the novels of Jane Austen since she first read Pride and Prejudice in English class in high school many years ago. Following a career as a legal secretary and a second career as a special education assistant, she turned her attention to writing a novel that had been swirling around in her head for years. That story was Searching for Pemberley, published by Sourcebooks in 2010. Her second Austen re-imagining is her newly released, self-published novel, Anne Elliot: A New Beginning, a humorous retelling of Austen’s Persuasion, which is available exclusively on Amazon. Her next novel, A Wife for Mr. Darcy, is due out in July, 2011 from Sourcebooks. She currently lives in Peoria, Arizona.

Glorious Giveaway of The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy

Enter a chance to win one of three copies of The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy by leaving a comment on which of Austen’s novels or characters you would like Mary to write about in her next novel by midnight Pacific time, Monday, January 10, 2011. Winners announced on Tuesday, January 11, 2011. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

Mary Lydon Simonsen’s blog tour

  • Jan 03 – Austenprose
  • Jan 05 – Savvy Verse & Wit
  • Jan 06 – My Jane Austen Book Club
  • Jan 07 – Romance Fiction on Suite 101
  • Jan 10 – Debbie’s Book Bag
  • Jan 12 – Jenny Loves to Read
  • Jan 14 – Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell
  • Jan 17 – Jane Austen Sequel Examiner
  • Jan 18 – Diary of an Eccentric
  • Jan 19 – One Writer Skidding in Sideways
  • Jan 20 – Laura’s Reviews
  • Jan 24 – Historical Hussies
  • Jan 26 – Austenesque Reviews
  • Jan 27 – Love Romance Passion
  • Jan 31 – Psychotic State

Further reading

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy, by Mary Lydon Simonsen – A Review

The Perfect Bride for Mr Darcy, by Mary Lydon Simonsen (2011)I don’t think I would be exaggerating if I labeled Pride and Prejudice as Jane Austen’s most popular work. In fact, I will take it one step further and proclaim it one of the most beloved novels of all time. It is no surprise to me, at all, that readers want to revisit this tale, and movie makers and writers keep pumping out P&P inspired fare. In the past fifteen years, we have seen a plethora of Mr. Darcy and Lizzy Bennet prequels, sequels, retellings, variations and inspired books. Mary Lydon Simonsen’s new offering The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy falls into the variation category. She has reworked the classic love story of misconceptions and misunderstandings offering her own unique take. Purist, fair warning if you are easily “put out” by tampering with your cherished classic. Be advised to make haste and head back to the unadulterated original, now! You will not find faithful adherence to Austen’s characterizations here. But if you are liberal in approach and tempered for a good lark, there are abundant amusements to be had in this new novel.

The plot line runs parallel to Jane Austen’s original. Mr. Darcy, an arrogant, wealthy young man snubs Elizabeth Bennet, a spirited, overly confident gentleman’s daughter at a local assembly Ball. Her sister Jane and his best friend Charles Bingley fall in love but are separated by him. She is convinced that Darcy has spitefully withheld a promised living to her new flirtation Mr. Wickham. Mesmerized by her impertinence and fine eyes, he is compelled to propose despite his own objections to her family. She flatly rejects him. He writes the “Be not alarmed madam letter” of explanation then promptly departs. How will they reunite and find love? Austen’s narrative and denouement is famous for its plot twists and gradual reversal of his pride and her prejudice. Simonsen walks the same path, but her characters react differently changing the outcome requiring other minor characters to be developed to facilitate their eventual love match. Enter Mr. Darcy’s sickly cousin Anne de Bourgh and his shy younger sister Georgiana Darcy. Both ladies have had major character make-overs. Anne is now a dear friend and adviser to her cousin; Georgiana, a spunky and adventurous kid sister. Both heavily advocate and plan their reunion.

After Darcy returned to his room for the night, Anne thought about all that had happened between Will and Elizabeth and recognized that her cousin had got himself into a real mess. But Fitzwilliam Darcy was in love with Elizabeth Bennet, and Anne had seen real interest on Elizabeth’s part during their evenings together at Rosings Park, so something had to be done. Before retiring, she had settled on a course of action. It was as complicated as any battle plan, and it would take luck and timing to make it work. But her cousin’s happiness was at stake, and so she began to work out the details of her scheme. Page 37

Through expansion of other minor characters and introduction of new one’s we begin to see the back story to Austen’s masterpiece as Simonsen envisions it. Even the servants, who receive only a passing mention in the original, get some great lines. Hill, the housekeeper at Longbourn spreads all sorts of town tittle-tattle and pertinent tidbits to the Bennet family. More holes filled. And, Simonsen even ventures to mention the two affairs that Darcy had before he met Lizzy. Well, he is a Regency gentleman after all. One of the biggest changes in temperament is in Lizzy’s sister, the gentle and biddable Jane Bennet. She sees no fault with anyone in the original, which is in itself a fault, but not in this version. Jane sees through the Bingley sisters fake friendship, calls her father to account for his lack of guidance to his wife and three younger daughters, and believes the only reason why her sister rejected Mr. Darcy’s marriage proposal was in her defense. Yes. It’s not about Darcy being the last man in the world that Lizzy could be prevailed upon to marry (because he is a snob and a jerk at that point) but because Lizzy was so angry at him for separating her beloved sister from her beau Mr. Bingley.

It was true that Lizzy’s dislike for Mr. Darcy was based on his unkind words and haughty behavior at the assembly, but that would not have been enough for her to reject out of hand a proposal from a man of such consequence. And as sympathetic as Lizzy was to Mr. Wickham being denied a promised living, Lizzy had not known Mr. Wickham well enough to become so angry as to be dismissive of Mr. Darcy’s offer. The intensity of Lizzy’s rejection could come only as the result of someone she loved being hurt, and that someone was Jane. Page 117

If you are chuffed by my mention of some of the changes, take heed. This is true fanfiction where you “[S]uppose as much as you chuse; give a loose to your fancy, indulge your imagination in every possible flight which the subject will afford.” Simonsen has played the game well, though I struggled with the opening set-up and some who have not read the original novel nor seen one of the many movies may be lost as she leaps through the first third of the original book’s plot to the first proposal scene of Lizzy and Darcy at Hunsford. After that point she settles in and develops her slant more evenly.

Creative, well-paced and definitely diverting, The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy will surprise you, repeatedly, as you compare the original to this variation. I will concede that it is always difficult for me to warm to big changes in beloved characters, especially Lizzy and Darcy, who we all know so well. I can’t say that I enjoyed all the vicissitudes, but I admire the author’s creativity. Where this novel excelled at expanding upon minor characters and introducing new ones, it foundered in reverence to Austen’s hero and heroine, which is pretty much why many are drawn to read a Pride and Prejudice sequel with Mr. Darcy in the title in the first place. After her success with the historically driven Searching for Pemberley, this is Simonsen’s first attempt at pure fanfiction. It was a great start that promises an even greater future.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy, by Mary Lydon Simonsen
Sourcebooks Landmark (2011)
Trade paperback (400) pages
ISBN: 978-1402240256

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

The Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011

The Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 20112011 is a celebratory year for Jane Austen and her legion of fans. It marks the bicentenary of her first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. Since 1811, we have been enjoying her romantic, dramatic and witty story filled with divergent characters – the Dashwood sisters: cool, practical Elinor and emotional, impulsive Marianne, and the men in their lives: stoic Edward Ferrars, staid Colonel Brandon and rakish Willoughby. There is much to praise in this novel which has inspired many movie adaptations, book sequels and spinoffs.

The Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011

We are very pleased to announce the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011. If you have not read Jane Austen’s masterpiece or would like to revisit it in honor of its significant anniversary, seen all of the movies or read all of the sequels and spinoffs, this is the year to join the challenge along with other Janeites, historical fiction readers and period drama movie lovers.

Challenge Details

Time-line: The Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011 runs January 1, through December 31, 2011.

Levels of participation: Neophyte: 1 – 4 selections, Disciple: 5 – 8 selections, Aficionada: 9 – 12 selections.

Enrollment: Sign up’s are open until March 1, 2011. First, select your level of participation.  Second, copy the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011 graphic and include it in your blog post detailing the novels or movies that you commit to reading and watching in 2011. Third, leave a comment linking back to your blog post in the comments of this announcement post. If you do not have a blog you can still participate. Just leave your commitment to the challenge in the comments below.

Check Back Monthly: The Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011 officially begins on Wednesday, January 26, 2010 with my review of the novel The Three Weismanns of Westport. Check back on the 4th Wednesday of each month for my next review in the challenge.

Your Participation: Once the challenge starts you will see a tab included at the top of Austenprose called Reading Challenges. Click on the tab and select the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011. Leave a comment including the name of the book or movie read or viewed and a link to your blog review. If you do not have a blog, just leave a comment about your selection that you finished with a brief reaction or remark. It’s that easy.

The Prizes

Oh, of course there are prizes! There will be giveaways each month of the book or movie that I review in the challenge here on Austenprose to be drawn from comments left with each post, and one lucky Grand Prize Winner of all 12 titles tucked into a Jane Austen tote bag ($200.00 value) to be drawn from comments left at any and all of the reviews left on this blog or yours. Yes, that means that your readers who comment on your challenge reviews have a chance to win too. Winners will be announced monthly two weeks after each blog post, and the Grand Prize winner will be announced on January 05, 2012. Shipment to US or Canadian addresses only.

So, make haste and join the challenge today. I am so looking forward to revisiting Jane Austen’s classic tale through her eyes and others. Here is a list of possibilities for your reading and viewing selections:

Books

Movies

My reading & viewing schedule

  1. Jan 26 – The Three Weissmanns of Westport
  2. Feb 23 –  Sense and Sensibility 1981
  3. Mar 23 – The Dashwood Sisters Tell All
  4. Apr 27 –   Sense and Sensibility: The Screenplay and Diaries
  5. May 25 – The Annotated Sense and Sensibility
  6. Jun 22 – Sense and Sensibility 1995
  7. Jul 27 – Sass and Serendipity
  8. Aug 24 – Suspense and Sensibility
  9. Sept 28 – Sense and Sensibility (Naxos Audiobooks)
  10. Oct 26 – Expectations of Happiness
  11. Nov 23 – √ Sense and Sensibility (The Jane Austen Bicentenary Library)
  12. Dec 28 – Willoughby’s Return

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

Participants:

  1. Laurel Ann – Austenprose
  2. Bella
  3. Adriana Zardini – Jane Austen in Brazil
  4. Nicole
  5. Elsie
  6. Meredith – Austenesque Reviews
  7. Meredith – The Librarian Next Door
  8. Raquel – Jane Austen in Portuguese
  9. RegencyRomantic
  10. Jennrenee
  11. Karen Field
  12. Brittanie – A Book Lover
  13. Katherine – November’s Autumn
  14. Luthien84 – My Love For Jane Austen
  15. Wallace – Unputdownables
  16. Joanna Y.
  17. Whitney – She Is Too Fond of Books
  18. Lauren Cartelli – The Literary Gothamite
  19. Trai – Tutor Girl Reads
  20. Brooke – Bluestocking Guide
  21. C. Allyn Pierson
  22. Dana Huff – Much Madness is Divinest Sense
  23. Jillian
  24. Angie – Attentively Attentive to All Things
  25. Sue
  26. Renate – Literary Scribbles
  27. kswortzel
  28. JJ – Citivolus Sus
  29. Kerri
  30. Lisa – Lit and Life
  31. Courtney – Stiletto Storytime
  32. Miss Sneyd  – Mansfield Park
  33. Ruth – Book Talk and More
  34. Alexa Adams – First Impressions
  35. Emilee Turner – Another Binkley Sister Blog
  36. Sara – Notes in the Margins
  37. Leslie
  38. Kimberly – Reflections of a Book Addict
  39. Mags – AustenBlog
  40. K – Books, Movies and TV
  41. Patricia – Impedance of Locomotion
  42. Elizzy B. – Salon Jane Austen
  43. Marg – Adventures of an Intrepid Reader
  44. LynnS
  45. Kaye – The Road Goes Ever Ever On
  46. Alice – Jane Austen is my Wonderland
  47. Becky Roode – This I Know
  48. Deborah – By the Book
  49. Missy
  50. Anna – Diary of an Eccentric
  51. Kira
  52. Laura – Laura’s Reviews
  53. Else T. – Bellasarte
  54. Melissa – Swamp of Boredom
  55. Sam – Sam Still Reading
  56. Heather – The Duchess of Devonshire’s Gossip Guide
  57. Nancy Kelly – Austen Inspiration
  58. Becca
  59. Jenny the Librarian
  60. Kelli
  61. Rivkabelle – A Word’s Worth
  62. Diane
  63. Andrea – Custard Kisses
  64. Nadia – A Bookish Way of Life
  65. In My Book Ag
  66. Vonna Viglione
  67. Diana I C
  68. Lynn Sherick
  69. Maria Grazia – My Jane Austen Book Club
  70. Lynnae – The Little White Attic
  71. Kassie Freeman
  72. Tarina – Doodle Bugs and Sweet Peas
  73. Svea – Muse in the Fog
  74. Lit~Lass – Frigate to Utopia
  75. Alison – Threads
  76. Lady Doc – Tilting at Windmills
  77. Debera
  78. Grace 2302 – Old South Part Two
  79. Marina Barrie – Mariners Compass
  80. Faith Hope & Cherry Tea
  81. Pascale M. – Pascale Maret Author
  82. Cassia – Bonjour Mademoiselle
  83. Raquel
  84. You’re Next!

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

The Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011 Graphic by Katherine Cox of November’s Autumn

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2011

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2011 graphicWe are adding the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2011 to our “to do” list for next year. Their won’t really be much more effort on our part since we will be reading many Regency-era books anyway, and we do like the notion of amalgamating all our reading for next year into multiple reading challenges. It may sound nuts, but it is the best way to keep us on track and connected with other book bloggers.

The fine ladies at Historical Tapestry are sponsoring the challenge and we are happy to give them a “shout out” for all of their organizational magic.

Alex’s – Le Canapé
Ana’s – Aneca’s World
Kailana’s – The Written World
Marg’s – Reading Adventures
Teddy’s – So Many Precious Books, So Little Time”

You can read the full Historical Fiction Reading Challenge details and jump on the bandwagon if you are planning to be reading Jane Austen sequels, prequels, retelling and Regency inspired novels next year. They dovetail quite neatly into this challenge.

We have committed to the full-on Severe Bookaholism: 20 books category. Yep. We know. You read it here first. Laurel Ann admits that she is a bookaholic. *burp*

Here is my tentative list of my 20 titles for the year:

  1. The Orchid Affair, by Lauren Willig
  2. There Must Be Murder, by Margaret C. Sullivan
  3. Twixt Two Equal Armies, by Gail McEwen and Tina Moncton
  4. The Prefect Bride for Mr. Darcy, by Mary Lydon Simonsen
  5. The Diary of Henry Tilney, by Amanda Grange
  6. Mr. Darcy’s Secret, by Jane Odiwe
  7. Wickham’s Diary, by Amanda Grange
  8. The Scandal of Lady Eleanor, by Regina Jeffers
  9. Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen
  10. Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor, by Stephanie Barron
  11. Jane and the Man of the Cloth, by Stephanie Barron
  12. Jane and the Wandering Eye, by Stephanie Barron
  13. Jane and the Genius of the Place, by Stephanie Barron
  14. √ Jane and the Stillroom Maid, by Stephanie Barron
  15. Jane and the Prisoner of the Wool House, by Stephanie Barron
  16. Jane and the Ghosts of Netley, by Stephanie Barron
  17. Jane and His Lordship’s Legacy, by Stephanie Barron
  18. Jane and the Barque of Frailty, by Stephanie Barron
  19. Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron, by Stephanie Barron
  20. Jane and the Canterbury Tale, by Stephanie Barron

We know that is 20, but we are being really thorough.

The challenge runs from 1 January to 31 December 2011. So..go to it!

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

© 2007 – 2010 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Merry Christmas! Winners Announced in The Mischief of the Mistletoe Grand Giveaway

Santa has arrived and selected two winners of The Mischief of the Mistletoe Grand Giveaway and a special ornament from the author Lauren Willig! And the lucky winners are…

Jen X & Ruth!

Congratulations ladies. You are in for a treat. Please contact me with your full name and address by January 01, 2011 to claim you prize. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only.

Merry Christmas and enjoy your novel & ornament & Christmas pudding.

Cheers, Laurel Ann

Author Lauren Willig filmed during a reading of The Mischief of the Mistletoe at Lady Jane’s Salon. December 2010

© 2007-2010 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

The Legacy of Pemberley: The Pemberley Chronicles No 10, by Rebecca Ann Collins – A Review

The Legacy of Pemberley, by Rebecca Collins (2010)Guest review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder of Reflections of a Book Addict

The Legacy of Pemberley is the tenth and final novel in the acclaimed Pride and Prejudice sequel series by Rebecca Ann Collins.  The ten novels in the series cover the fifty years following the wedding of Elizabeth Bennet to Fitzwilliam Darcy.  It is by far the most complete series of sequels that I’ve had the pleasure of reading.

Beginning with a controversial engagement similar to Elizabeth and Darcy’s, we are thrust back into the lives of the Darcy, Bingley, and Gardiner families.  Continuing fifty years after the Darcy’s marriage we delve deeper into the lives of their children and grandchildren through marriage, death, friendship, love, conflict, etc.  As their childrens lives take center stage in the narrative Lizzie and Darcy make the difficult decision to travel to Europe with Jane and Charles Bingley in the hopes that it will restore Charles and Lizzie’s health.

“As you know, Richard, Charles, and Jane Bingley leave for Europe next week.  Bingley has leased a villa in the south of Italy where they will spend the Winter, and he has on more than one occasion invited us to join them.  Would it help Mrs. Darcy, too?  Would you recommend it?…Without any reservation , sir; it would be the very thing, since it would provide all those essential ingredients I have just mentioned.  In the company of Mr. and Mrs. Bingley, you would enjoy the benefits of travelling overseas without any of the aggravation of being with a party of strangers.”

With their departure as main characters, Collins is afforded the opportunity to focus on the characters she created and complete their storylines.  Character mysteries are solved, new romances begin budding, deaths are grieved, and much more.  This is only a sliver of the storylines that exist within The Legacy of Pemberley.

If this book was given to me without an author, I can honestly say that I might think that Austen herself wrote it.  Collins is without a doubt the only author I’ve read that has not strayed far from Austen’s style.  She is a true gem in the world of Jane Austen fan fiction, and it’s sad to see her Pemberley Chronicles series conclude.  They have afforded many Jane Austen purists an escape back in to the Regency world of Pemberley and into the Victorian-era.  Yes, the genre of Jane Austen fan fiction affords one the pleasure of exploring other characters and situations that would have definitely not existed in Austen’s original works, but Collins’ writing seems to transcend that.  Although it is an extrapolation of Darcy and Lizzie’s life it doesn’t feel like it.  We can grow along with them and feel as if we are there with them watching their children grow.

The series not only offers the reader the chance to feel like one of the family, but it gives insight into the social, political, and historical England of the period.  The Legacy of Pemberley takes place during the middle of the Victorian Era, where we can see the beginnings of the Christmas tree tradition that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert started making popular, as well as the beginning of trains and coal.

I personally have to state that I have not had the opportunity to read the books that fall in the middle of this series.  I did however read the first in the series a long time ago and remember being impressed with how rich the story and characters were.  Missing out on the middle books however did create some confusion for me in the characters.  Collins has created such rich lives for the characters that over the course of 50 years they’ve had children who have gotten married and have had their own children.  There are so many characters and so many storylines that I do have to warn you: if you haven’t read the other novels you might want to wait and read them in order.  It will definitely enrich the novels having knowledge of the characters from start to finish.

While all good things must come to an end, they do sometimes leave a “legacy” behind.  In the case of The Legacy of Pemberley and Collins’ entire Pemberley series, the legacy they inherit is a story with rich characters who teach love, family, friendship, honor, humility, courage, and much more.  If Austen were alive today, I think she would be proud that the themes so prevalent in her own novels continue to thrive in the works that emulate her own.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

The Legacy of Pemberley: The Pemberley Chronicles No 10, by Rebecca Ann Collins
Sourcebooks (2010)
Trade paperback (352) pages
ISBN: 978-1402224522

© 2007 -2010 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

Yuletide Interview with Lauren Willig, Author of The Mischief of the Mistletoe – and A Grand Giveaway

The Mischief of the Mistletoe: A Pink Carnation Christmas, by Lauren Willig (2010)Lauren Willig, one of my favorite historical romance novelists has just released The Mischief of the Mistletoe, her seventh novel in The Pink Carnation series. Set in Regency-era Bath she has elevated Reginald “Turnip” Fitzhugh, one of her very popular comedic characters from the series, and given him his own spy adventure and a romance. One of the supporting characters is our very own Jane Austen and the storyline parallels her unfinished novel The Watsons. It is rollicking great romantic adventure and I recommend The Mischief of the Mistletoe highly.

Please join me in welcoming Lauren Willig today to chat with us about her new novel and its Jane Austen connections.

LAN: Welcome Lauren. Many of your male characters in the Pink Carnation series are iconic romantic heroes, rivaling Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy or Captain Wentworth in honor, bravery and integrity. Only one is a lovable bumbler – Reginald “Turnip” Fitzhugh. He is endearingly flawed, and because I dearly love to laugh, one of my favorite characters. Turnip is a very unusual name. Can you share his back-story and why you decided to spotlight this un-conventional hero in The Mischief of the Mistletoe?

LJW:  I hadn’t intended to write a book about Turnip.  I threw him in there purely for comic relief.  Ever notice how any group of guys seems to contain the one slightly clueless friend who acts as a foil for the rest of them?  (Extra points if that guy is named Bertie, Bunty or Gussy Finknottle.)  Turnip was that guy.  But as the series continued, emails started pouring in, asking when Turnip was going to get some lovin’.  And I began to wonder if there might not be more to my lovable vegetable than I had previously imagined.

There was a school of thought that posited that Turnip was another Percy Blakeney, hiding a cunning intelligence beneath a foppish façade.  I didn’t want to go that route, partly because Baroness Orczy already had, and partly because it seemed too easy.  I wanted to make Turnip heroic despite his lack of endowment in the brainbox.  The more I explored Turnip’s character the clearer it became that he really did have one thing going for him, hidden beneath those gaudy waistcoats: an enormous heart.

Side note: several people have asked me how Turnip came to be called Turnip.  As followers of the series know, his real name is Reginald and his doting (ahem) sister calls him “Reggie”.  At least, she does when she wants something from him.  When I wrote the early books in the series, I was on the tail end of a massive Blackadder obsession.  As anyone who has watched Blackadder knows, just as sheep are inherently amusing animals, turnips are inherently amusing vegetables.  When I wanted a silly name for a character, what better than the sheep of the vegetable kingdom?

LAN: In 1803 Bath, your impoverished heroine Arabella Dempsey has returned to her family and friends after several years as a companion to a wealthy aunt in London. Her neighbor and best friend Jane Austen is a supporting character in your story. What research did you undergo to prepare for her character? Was it a challenge to write about the famous Regency-era authoress?

LJW: Wow, this was really my book of “I never intended….”  But I do mean it when I say I originally didn’t intend to go near Austen with a ten foot pole.  People have very firm idea about Austen and the era of Austen.  My books deal with zany French spies and improbable historical episodes (many of which actually occurred—there’s nothing quite so improbable as the actual, and nothing quite so strange as truth).  This is not the orderly world of Austen’s drawing rooms.

Except that this book was occurring in Austen’s drawing room. Well, almost.  I knew I wanted to set Turnip’s book in Bath in 1803, revolving largely around a faux all girls’ school across the street from the Sydney Gardens.  In winter of 1803, guess who was living at #4 Sydney Place?  Yes, Jane Austen.  I bowed to the inevitable and spent a great deal of time reading Austen’s letters, her juvenilia, the annoying biographies written by her near and dear ones, and more useful biographies written by less near and dear ones in the hopes of getting her tone as right as I could.

Getting the right balance of Austen-time and Austen-tone was tough.  I didn’t want to fall into the trap of making Austen sound too oracular, which, I think, so often happens in these Austen cameos.  I also didn’t want her to take over too much of the story.  This, after all, was Arabella and Turnip’s tale, not hers, and, in 1803, she wasn’t the authoress who would be later admired by Prinny himself, but just an unmarried twenty-seven year old living with her parents in rented rooms, waiting to see if that publisher would ever do anything with “Susan” (he didn’t) and whether she could buy some cheap trim for that old bonnet.  I wanted her to be what she would have been—someone’s slightly snarky friend, on the sidelines of the main action.

LAN: You cleverly incorporated characters and plot elements that parallel Jane Austen’s unfinished novel The Watsons into The Mischief of the Mistletoe. I can see strong similarities and differences. Some might consider your new novel a variation and completion of Austen’s unfinished novel. I view it as a gentle homage. What intrigued you about the often overlooked The Watsons to include resemblances in your novel?

LJW: There was an almost uncanny symbiosis at work.  It all began with timing.  My novel was set in 1803, just when Austen was beginning The Watsons, the one thing she wrote during a long, dry spell in between her early works and her later ones.  What was it that had inspired The Watsons?  And why had she dropped it?  No one seemed to know.  What author can resist a challenge like that?

When I opened The Watsons, one exchange jumped out at me.  Emma Watson declares:

“Poverty is a great evil; but to a woman of education and feeling it ought not, it cannot be the greatest. I would rather be teacher at a school (and I can think of nothing worse) than marry a man I did not like.”

“I would rather do anything than be teacher at a school,” said her sister. “I have been at school, Emma, and know what a life they lead; you never have.”

I already knew that my heroine, Arabella, was seeking a position at a girls’ school.  This hit eerily close to home.  That’s when the “what if” hit.  What if it was my heroine who inspired this exchange?  What if, like Emma Watson, she had been tossed out of the home of a wealthy relation when that relation imprudently remarried?  What if, unlike Emma Watson, she actually took that position at a school—over the advice of her friend, Jane?  Like that, my plot came together, and facts I hadn’t realized I’d known about my heroine became clear.

Of course, with the addition of mysterious messages wrapped around Christmas pudding, Arabella’s story takes a turn Austen could never have anticipated….  And now we know why Austen never finished The Watsons!

LAN: The highly anticipated eighth novel in your Pink Carnation series, The Orchid Affair, will be released on January 20, 2010. As you continue the “Pink” franchise, how did this new story come to you, and can you share with readers one of your favorite new characters?

LJW: Picture it.  Spring 2008.  I’d just finished writing The Temptation of the Night Jasmine and was rewarding myself by indulging in a little domesticity before plunging into the next book in the series, The Betrayal of the Blood Lily.  I’d made a large, complicated quiche that involved a lot of frying and chopping, and I was plopped on the couch, flipping channels as it baked.  I wound up idly watching a World War II drama starring, among others, Michael Douglas, Melanie Griffith, and Liam Neeson.  Griffith’s character goes undercover in Nazi Germany, planted in the household of high-ranking something-or-other Neeson as a governess.

There was one problem.  The Liam Neeson character was meant to be evil (I mean, he was a Nazi, ergo), but he was still Liam Neeson.  As I watched, I kept waiting for that plot twist that would make him not evil, i.e. secretly working for the other side or something like that.  It didn’t happen.  I wandered off to the oven to retrieve slightly burnt quiche in one of those hazes unique to authors and other spaced-out types, thinking, hmm, I can use this….  And I did.

The Orchid Affair features a graduate of the Selwick Spy school, a long-term career governess desperate to get away from governessing, planted in the household of Napoleonic bigwig Andre Jaouen—as a governess.  Jaouen is a card-carrying member of the revolutionary regime.  He’s second in command at the Prefecture of Paris and right hand man to Napoleon’s sinister Minister of Police, Joseph Fouche.

Through Andre Jaouen, I got to explore the failed hopes of the Revolution, to look at the course of events, not through the eyes of an aristocratic Englishman, but through those of a child of the Enlightenment, someone who believed in the early dreams and ideals of the Revolution and is forced to come to terms with the way it all turned out.  And did I mention that he looks oddly like Liam Neeson?

LAN: In addition to your next installment in the “Pink” series, your original short story “A Night at Northanger” will be featured in my anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It to be released by Ballantine Books in October, 2011. Do share a bit of your storyline and inspiration for your contemporary homage to Austen’s burlesque comedy Northanger Abbey. Was it any easy step from novel to short story? Are there any surprises in store for readers?

LJW: As you may have noticed from this interview, brevity is not one of my strengths.  The last time I’d written short fiction was for a short story class back in college—and even then I’d found it hard to confine my enthusiasm to the proscribed page length.  But I had a fabulous time writing “A Night at Northanger”.

Northanger Abbey, with its broad comedy (and a genuinely sweet hero in Henry Tilton) has always been my favorite Austen.  I’m not quite sure where I came up with the idea of combining Northanger Abbey with a low-budget ghost hunting show.  Too much SyFy channel on an empty stomach?

Here’s the plot in a nutshell:  Things go horribly wrong for Cate Kartowski and the rest of the cast of Ghost Trackers when they elect to spend a night at Northanger.  (No one expects the ghost of Jane Austen!)

LAN: On his deathbed, famous playwright George Bernard Shaw said “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.” I could not agree more. You excel at high comedy, sharing a rare sense of the ridiculous with fellow authors Georgette Heyer, P.G. Wodehouse and Oscar Wilde. How did you develop your sense of humor and who inspires you?

LJW: Thank you so much!  That is a high compliment, indeed.  My college roommate, who has an equal facility for the appreciation of the ridiculous, refers to it as having a well-developed sense of the absurd.  I’m not sure how that sort of thing comes about.  Part of it, I’m guessing, comes from having been steeped in eccentricity from an early age.  I grew up watching Wodehouse (back before Hugh Laurie became a grumpy American doctor) and Rumpole of the Bailey, Blackadder and Allo, Allo.   And then there were the real life characters (hopefully none of whom are reading this interview, but best not to be too specific, just to be on the safe side).

From those beginnings, it was an easy step to Elizabeth Peters’ mystery novels, with their wry humor, the social satire of Nancy Mitford and Angela Thirkell, and Judith Merkle Riley’s delightfully batty historical fiction.  Other icons include George MacDonald Fraser (one word: Pyrates), L.M. Montgomery (boy, can she skewer them!), and Stella Gibbons, author of Cold Comfort Farm.

LAN: What is next for Lauren Willig? What are you working on now, and what is your dream project that you have simmering on the back burner? Personally, I think it is time to write that Pink Carnation Compendium that I am craving. Hint, hint!

LJW: Right now, I’m on revisions for Pink IX, still cleverly called Pink IX.  Speaking of the absurd….  Pink IX, which comes out in January 2012, features that melodramatic poet, Augustus Whittlesby, writing a court masque in conjunction with an upstart American friend of Napoleon’s stepdaughter.  Let’s just say it’s an interesting collaboration.  And that their masque isn’t going to be winning any awards for Best Script.

As for dream projects… I’d tell you about them, but that would probably jinx them!

Thanks so much for having me here, Laurel Ann!  It’s been such fun.

Thanks Lauren. It was a pleasure!

A Grand Giveaway

The Mischief of the Mistletoe Ornament  2010Enter a chance to win one of two copies of The Mischief of the Mistletoe: A Pink Carnation Christmas paired with a holiday inspired ornament inscribed “Tis the season for Mischief” and at the bottom “A Pink Carnation Christmas.”  Just leave a comment stating what intrigues you about this new novel or who your favorite couple in Lauren’s Pink Carnation series is and why, by 11:59 pm PT, Friday, December 24, 2010. Winners will be announced on Saturday, December 25, 2010. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck and Merry Christmas to one and all.

© 2010 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Jane Austen 101: Fan Fiction Web Sites

Jane Austen Fan Club

Today, there are literally 100’s of Jane Austen prequels, sequels, re-tellings, re-imaginings and inspired by published books. Prior to 1995, there were just a few dozen in print. Why the explosion? Blame it on the incredible popularity of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice mini-series and the availability in our own homes of the Internet. The time and temperament were ripe for Jane Austen mania to sweep in and motivate budding authors to write stories inspired by our witty muse of the modern novel, Jane Austen.

Wondering what Jane Austen fan fiction or JAFF is? Generally, they are fictional stories written by fans of a movie, TV series or book that are either published on the Internet or are developed into a novel in a printed or digital book. If they are on the Internet they are published at fan fiction web sites (JAFF, or Jane Austen Fan Fiction web sites) by chapter installments. Readers can add comments as the story progresses and the writer can continue the story until they choose to end it.

There are generally two levels of engagement for authors of fan fiction: pleasure writers or aspiring novelist. Sometimes they are one-in-the same as budding writers discover that others greatly enjoy their stories and then choose to self-publish as a novel, or submit their story to a publisher for publication. Granted that the road to traditional publication can be quite long and arduous for an aspiring novelist, they can continue to write and publish fan fiction on the Internet to develop their readership. I have also seen some published authors post stories for feedback, or for their online fans. OK, this is getting complicated. An author writes fan fiction of their favorite author and then writes fan fiction of the fan fiction for their fans. Oh my!

Many of our popular Austenesque authors got their start at fan fiction web sites. Off the top of my head I can think of Abigail Reynolds of the Pride and Prejudice Variations series, Pamela Aidan of the Fitzwilliam Darcy Gentleman series, Marsha Altman of the Darcys and Bingleys series and Sharon Lathan of the Darcy Saga series, to name a few. Lately, I have noticed that more and more Jane Austen fan fiction writers are moving from Internet fan boards to the self-publishing medium. This is encouragement enough to opine that the fan fiction boards are producing quality work with great potential.

If you would like to check out current stories by Jane Austen fan fiction authors, I highly recommend these web sites.

Jane Austen Fan Fiction Internet Sites:

Further reading on Jane Austen fan fiction and sequels:

Illustration “The Two Camps of Jane Austen Devotees” by Carl Rose, 1949, New York Times

© 2010 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Pemberley Ranch Author Jack Caldwell’s Whistle-stop Blog Tour

Pemberley Ranch, by Jack Caldwell (2010)Pemberley Ranch, the latest re-imagining of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice officially hits books stores this week. Transporting Austen’s classic Regency-era romance to the American West of post-Civil War Texas is an intriguing notion that I could not pass up. My co-reviewer Christina Boyd and I were so inspired by the ole Wild West spirit we offered a double barrel review of Pemberley Ranch for your consideration. As you will read, it was a heart pounding, rip-roaring, sure-fire page-turner.

Joining us today on the first leg of his whistle-stop blog tour is author Jack Caldwell. I was curious about his take on Mr. Darcy as a romantic icon in any century. Did he see parallels between the Regency gentleman and the American cowboy icon? How do the traits and characteristics from the Regency apply to the American West? Welcome Jack!

FITZWILLIAM DARCY AS A COWBOY? REALLY?

Greetings, everyone. I’m Jack Caldwell, author of Pemberley Ranch, a western-themed re-imagining of Pride & Prejudice. I hope all of you in the United States had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I’d like to thank Laurel Ann and Austenprose for this opportunity to talk to you about that great paragon of masculinity, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Esq.

Man, what we guys have to live up to.

Darcy—Jane Austen’s perfect man.  Rich, handsome, honorable, intelligent, generous, reasonable, modest, and romantic. Yet with just enough flaws—pride, lack of liveliness, and incivility—to make him “real” and “fixable.”  Yes, fixable.  Darcy’s far more interesting than Henry Tilney, isn’t he?

Let’s face it, ladies, you do like to civilize us animals.  Whether it is our manners, our dress, or our language, we men are often a life-long “work in progress.” And you ladies don’t have to succeed. If your improvements stick, all the better, but if they don’t, it gives you something to talk about with your girlfriends.

Anyhow, for the reasons above, Austen’s Darcy is one of literature’s great romantic icons. He is made to see his flaws and he labors to improve himself, all in the name of his unrequited love for a woman. Of course, his object cannot resist him—his efforts prove his devotion, and she accepts him.

It helps that Darcy is placed in the English Regency era, a rather romanticized period. The international interest in all things Austen shows that this is not a mere British obsession. Readers world-wide love Darcy and Elizabeth and their Regency world.

There is another romanticized period of time that has caught the attention of the world, and that is the American West in the years between the end of the US Civil War and the turn of the century.  The story of the great migrations of settlers into the wilderness of America has captured the imagination of millions for over a century.  The tales are endless: the miners panning for gold in the mountains, cowboys riding the range, long wagon trains of farmers looking for new land, and soldiers in blue and natives in feathered headdresses conducting epic battles on horseback.  They have become part of the soul of the United States. Americans are often considered “cowboys” by our foreign friends (and enemies), and while it is not always meant to be a compliment, we are proud of that heritage.

Consider the cowboy. Hard-working, honest, soft-spoken, independent, loyal, and competent. He loves quietly but intently. He respects others’ privacy and minds his own business until he, his friends, or his way of life is threatened. Then he is a man of action. He thirsts for justice, and if no one will protect him and his, he will do it, no matter the price.

Sounds like someone we know, doesn’t it?

There are some parallels between the Regency gentleman and the western cowboy, even though Austen’s Fitzwilliam Darcy would surely consider my William Darcy a brute, and Will would dismiss Fitzwilliam as a dandy.  Both lived in a time of iron-clad rules of propriety and behavior. A man’s word was his bond. Ladies were to be protected and honored (tavern maids and dancehall girls were a different matter). There were rules of courtship. Strong language before ladies and children was condemned. The penalty for breaking those rules was to be labeled by society as “un-gentlemanly” or “a no-good scoundrel.”

Read the works of Zane Grey, Louis L’Amour, and Larry McMurtry.  See the great movies, like Stagecoach, High Noon, Shane, The Outlaw Josie Wales, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. This is the great American mythology. It is how we American see ourselves—independent, self-reliant, honorable, and courageous. We can overcome anything and everything.

It is also how lovers of Austen see Fitzwilliam Darcy. So it is not too far-fetched to see him in a cowboy hat and chaps, is it?

Okay, ladies, you can stop drooling now.

Thank you for taking the time to read this little entry. What do you think? Do you think there are parallels between the Regency and the American West? Who else from Austen’s canon would make a great cowboy?

I want to wish Laurel Ann and all of you the very best during this Christmas Season.

It takes a real man to write historical romance, so let me tell you a story.

Author Jack CaldwellAuthor Bio: Jack Caldwell is an author, amateur historian, professional economic developer, playwright, and like many Cajuns, a darn good cook. Born and raised in the Bayou County of Louisiana, Jack and his wife, Barbara, are Hurricane Katrina victims, and now make the upper Midwest their home. Always a history buff, Jack found and fell in love with Jane Austen in his twenties, struck by her innate understanding of the human condition.

Jack uses his work to share his knowledge of history. Through his characters, he hopes the reader gains a better understanding of what went on before, developing an appreciation for our ancestors’ trials and tribulations. A devout convert to Roman Catholicism, Jack is married with three grown sons.

Thanks for joining us today Jack. Happy trails.

Glorious Pemberley Ranch Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one of five copies of Pemberley Ranch by leaving a comment answering Jack’s question regarding cultural parallels between the Regency-era and the American West, or which bothersome character from Pride and Prejudice deserves to be thrown from their horse into a water trough, by midnight Pacific time, Monday, December 13, 2010. Winners announced on Tuesday, December 14, 2010. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

Jack Caldwell’s blog tour

  • 11/29   Austenprose
  • 12/1     Austenesque Reviews
  • 12/3     Diary of an Eccentric
  • 12/6     The Royal Reviews
  • 12/8     Psychotic State
  • 12/10   Library of Clean Reads
  • 12/13   My Overstuffed Bookshelf
  • 12/15   A Moment with Mystee
  • 12/16   Laura’s Reviews
  • 12/20   Romance Fiction on Suite 101
  • 12/21   Thoughts In Progress
  • 12/28   Debbie’s Book Bag
  • 12/29   History Undressed

Further reading

Pemberley Ranch, by Jack Caldwell – A Review

Pemberley Ranch, by Jack Caldwell (2010)In the spirit of the ole Wild West, Christina and Laurel Ann have agreed to a double barrel review!

Review by Christina Boyd

The latest re-imagining of Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice is Jack Caldwell’s debut novel, Pemberley Ranch, a tale of fancy in a style entirely new. Set in the post-Civil War Era on the plains of Texas, ardent Union supporter Beth Bennet and family must retrench from Meryton, Ohio to the wilds of Rosings, Texas. When Beth encounters the handsome, rich yet unfortunately arrogant owner of Pemberley Ranch, Will Darcy, an attraction ensues. Rich or not, however, Beth cannot overlook his Confederate past and coupled with the town gossip and tales shared by carpetbagger George Whitehead, Darcy doesn’t stand a chance when he presses his suit. But as bullets start to fly, Darcy is the only one who can settle the dust and save the Bennet’s from ruin.

In this Wild West incarnation of Pride & Prejudice, Caldwell uses many familiar (or similar rather) names from Jane Austen’s canon in entirely original plot devices – as well as many newcomers, like the former slave family, the Washington’s. Like the Bennet’s, they too have come to Rosings for a fresh start. They buy land from Cate Burroughs, Darcy’s cousin, but encounter deadly prejudices along the way that prove all is not what it may seem. The railroad is coming to town and if the greedy, dangerous faction of Kid Denny, George Whitehead and Billy Collins have any say, nothing will stand in their way of becoming the new masters of the west.

This sure-fire page-turner with Jack Caldwell’s heart pounding standoffs and heart racing romantic moments is bested only by his real gift in the clever nuances and subtle references, ie.  Lizzy’s horse, a “paint,” named Turner (more than a nod to the famous Regency Era painter, J.M.W. Turner.) As an unabashed reader of this Louisiana native since his early Cajun ramblings at various fan-fiction sites, I must humbly admit to being “a partial, prejudiced, & ignorant historian.” His masterful handling of the historical action and colloquialisms authenticates this fictitious musing and the footnotes are quite helpful to one such as myself, who is rather uniformed regarding the particulars of this Reconstruction Period. To pinch a line or two from Daniel Decatur Emmett’s rallying song, Dixie, Caldwell takes his stand and triumphs in his debut novel retelling “old times there are not forgotten… Hooray! Hooray!” The slated Spring 2012 release of his next offering, The Three Colonels, really is too long a wait. *sigh*

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Review by Laurel Ann

I have been patiently awaiting a Wild West rendition of Pride and Prejudice for some time, so when Pemberley Ranch rode into town, I was all anticipation. The blending of the two genres seemed like a natural to me; especially concerning two romantic archetypes – the Regency gentleman and the American cowboy. *swoon*

It’s really not surprising that so many elements from the Regency-era have transitioned neatly into Caldwell’s new adaption of Jane Austen classic story set in post-Civil War Texas. Lizzy and Darcy are as spirited and arrogant as ever in any century, transformed into Beth Bennet, a poor Yankee farmer’s daughter from Ohio relocated to Rosings, Texas where rich Johnny Reb William Darcy has a large cattle spread, Pemberley Ranch, and the local Darcy Bank. Caldwell does a great job of melding the plot to fit a western theme, changing enough of the story to make it original, yet harkening to all of the plot points that readers will recollect from the original narrative. There are some important exceptions. Given that this is a tall tale from the Wild, Wild West, Cate Burroughs (Lady Catherine de Bourgh), George Whitehead (George Wickham) and Lily Bennet (Lydia Bennet) can be “really” officious, dastardly and loose! Well maybe they were already, but in this setting the writer does not have to be as proprietous as Austen was obliged to be in the early nineteenth-century.

Pemberley Ranch had some surprises. The Team Tilney fan-girls will be happy to know that Henry himself makes an appearance as a very “likable” high plains rector in a supporting role. Even pedantic Mary Bennet is under his charms. The dialogue is lacking Austen’s wit and snappy retorts, but shucks, this is the Wild West where outlaws and lawmen talk with their guns. The story builds beautifully in the western theme of shoot-outs over the land as opposed to Austen’s conflict of social decorum with witty words. However, some things never change as both plots have money struggles in common, and, the eventual humbling of Darcy’s pride and dissolution of Beth’s prejudice – culminating in a great romance as they ride off into the sunset. Yippy ki-aye.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Pemberley Ranch, by Jack Caldwell
Sourcebooks, Landmark (2010)
Trade paperback (363) pages
ISBN: 978-1402241284

Glorious Pemberley Ranch Giveaway

Want to enter a chance to win one of five copies of Pemberley Ranch? Follow this link to Jack Caldwell’s whistle-stop blog tour and leave a comment there before December 13, 2010. Good luck!

© 2010 Austenprose