For Myself Alone: A Jane Austen Inspired Novel, by Shannon Winslow – A Review

For Myself Alone: A Jane Austen Inspired Novel, by Shannon Winslow (2012Review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder

Gossip.  It has the power to create larger than life reputations, but also has the ability to destroy said reputations.  Within Jane Austen’s novels we’ve seen just what gossip can do; Mr. Darcy’s reputation and person are vilified by Wickham, John Thorpe gossips about the true size of Catherine Morland’s dowry to a displeased General Tilney, and Captain Wentworth hears gossip that shares the good tidings of Anne Elliot’s non-existent engagement to her cousin William.  It should come as no surprise then that Austen fan fiction writer Shannon Winslow should write an Austen-inspired novel that focuses on just what can happen with gossip!

For Myself Alone takes place in Bath and Hampshire in the 1800’s.  Winslow tells the story of Josephine Walker, the recent recipient of a large inheritance totaling almost twenty-thousand pounds, an unimaginably large sum at the time.  While Josephine is grateful for the inheritance from her Uncle, she also is concerned that people will now view her as a walking pile of money instead of the sweet and caring girl that she normally is.  What’s more, the suitors that come courting her can’t be trusted, and the only man in her life that she feels she can trust is Arthur, who also unfortunately happens to be the betrothed of her best friend, Agnes.  Engaged herself, Josephine begins to lose trust in her own fiancé, Richard, after she overhears a conversation between him and his father.  With all of these events happening to poor Josephine, how will she cope?  Will she be able to find comfort in Arthur despite their inability to be together?  What will she do with all of that money?

When I reviewed Winslow’s first novel The Darcys of Pemberley, I put in my review that Winslow was sure to be around the JAFF world for a while.  For Myself Alone cements that thought in my opinion.  Winslow has a fantastic ability to not only create a story that could be a long lost Austen novel, but to write it with the same wit and vivacity we’d expect from Austen herself.  Told in a completely first person narrative (which may I add is refreshing in this genre) it opened up the doors to allow us into the mind of our heroine.  We know exactly what she is feeling throughout, affording us the opportunity to really connect with her.  I find the more you can connect with your heroine/hero the bigger the enjoyment of the work becomes.

The prologue of the novel did a fabulous job at grabbing my attention and making me eager to learn about Josephine’s story and why she was the sudden target of the local gossips.  While the beginning of the novel moved slightly slowly, events in Bath pick up at heart-racing fast pace that doesn’t stop until the last page!   For those who want a fresh story with a definite Austen flair, For Myself Alone is the way to go.  I’m so glad that Winslow is back with another great work.  I can’t wait to see what she can do in the JAFF world!

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

For Myself Alone: A Jane Austen Inspired Novel, by Shannon Winslow
Heather Ridge Arts (2012)
Trade paperback (262) pages
ISBN: 978-0615619941
Kindle: B007PWINR8
NOOK: 2940014192712

Kimberly Denny-Ryder is the owner/moderator of Reflections of a Book Addict, a book blog dedicated to following her journey of reading 100 books a year, while attempting to keep a life! When not reading, Kim can be found volunteering as the co-chair of a 24hr cancer awareness event, as well as an active member of Quinnipiac University’s alumni association.  When not reading or volunteering, Kim can be found at her full-time job working in vehicle funding. She lives with her husband Todd and two cats, Belle and Sebastian, in Connecticut.

© 2007 – 2012 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

My Particular Friend: A Charlotte House Affair (Volume 1), by Jennifer Petkus – A Review

My Particular Friend, by Jennifer Petkus (2012)From the desk of Jeffrey Ward:

In her fledgling foray into the growing field of Austenesque fan fiction, author Jennifer Petkus takes an entirely new direction from her first novel, Good Cop, Dead Cop, with My Particular Friend, mixing up Regency matchmaking and mystery, which some may argue are one and the same. My attempts to further sub-categorize it utterly fail. But, let’s try a recipe: Combine the crime-solving of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the location and dialogue of Jane Austen, the humor and romance of Frances Burney, mash-up thoroughly and you get something like “Matrimonial private investigators, Inc.”

The adventure is set in Bath, England during the Napoleonic Wars and showcases three totally un-alike heroines: The first is the mastermind, Miss Charlotte House, who is one of the most fascinating fictional personalities this reader has yet come across.  She is stately tall; her elegance turns heads all over Bath; her presence commands awe and respect; her enigmatic mind is near-genius in its capabilities; nothing in Bath of any consequence escapes her notice.  She is relentless and unconventional.  Neither is she above thievery or deception in order to accomplish her mission.  Mercurial and unpredictable, she can be fiercely loyal, generous with her wealth, and often kind to everyone.  Or, she can be mercilessly uncompromising in the demands on her partners and clients.  The second is Miss Jane Woodsen, the first-person narrator of the tale.  She is young and naïve but shows the potential analytical skills that Miss House seeks.  The third is Mrs. Margaret Fitzhugh, the mother-figure whose relationship to the leader is a closely-held secret.

Miss Woodsen is in desperate straits since her gentleman father committed suicide over losing his fortune and his property has been entailed away.  Miss House rescues destitute Jane off the streets of Bath and offers her a situation.  In exchange for shelter, raiment, and a living, all Miss House desires of Jane is for her to become a “particular friend” and protégé’.  She is thus welcomed into Charlotte’s home as a respected “gentlewoman.”

What is Miss House’s “living?” In her own words: (Charlotte conversing with Jane) “I suppose you could say I’m an intermediary. Mothers come to me and ask my aid in the matter of their daughter’s matrimonial prospects.”  “I see,” I said, puzzled.  “And of this service….”  “I am NOT in trade, my dear.”

Within this affair are five matrimonial episodes that defy solving until the parties seek Miss House for assistance.  The episodes tax the ladies and their informants to the limits of their abilities.  Each episode contains its own distinct mood from the sinister to the wildly funny to the deceitful to the romantic.

The prime cargo is the suspense generated within these romantic mysteries but the engine that drives that cargo along is the exquisitely entertaining dialogue between the three ladies, their friends, acquaintances, and clients. In true Austen style, the author just nails the quaint civility and manners that predominated that time period without any overt sexuality, profanity, or unnecessary violence.

A sample quote from the clever wit of the author had me laughing out loud in its ridiculousness: (Jane speaking to Charlotte) “I often wondered aloud how troublesome it would be to retain so much knowledge, but she always said when information no longer was useful she promptly forgot it. I found difficulty believing her statement and asked her to give me an example of knowledge she no longer found useful.  She countered that she could not because she had forgotten any examples.  I countered that she could not cite an example because knowledge never becomes useless.  She merely looked at me, blinked twice and said ‘I’m sorry, what were we talking about?’”

Two significant threads woven through the entire affair bind the episodes together.  A tantalizing romance slowly blossoms between Miss Woodsen and one Mr. Wallace, an erstwhile military field physician who assists Miss House in her tasks. And, what is the source of the tragic sorrow of Miss House that surfaces at times but remains a mystery for the entire affair?  Why does this oh-so eligible lady, with such beauty, wealth, and brilliance remain single into her late twenties?

The conclusion of the affair is enticingly open-ended as the ladies plan a season in London. Will there be new romantic tangles to solve? Will Mr. Wallace follow them?  Will Charlotte find love?  These questions BEG for a sequel! Or, will author Jennifer Petkus take an entirely different direction? Perhaps the author’s fertile imagination will prove to be as unpredictable as Miss Charlotte House herself.  Whatever the outcome, I sense we have uncovered an emerging literary talent here of considerable promise.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

My Particular Friend: A Charlotte House Affair (Volume 1), by Jennifer Petkus
Mallard Classics (2012)
Trade paperback (302) pages
ISBN: 978-0615597461
Kindle: ASIN: B005UF4Z6U

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 – 2012 Jeffrey Ward, Austenprose

For Myself Alone Blog Tour with Author Shannon Winslow & Giveaway

For Myself Alone: A Jane Austen Inspired Novel, by Shannon Winslow (2012Please join us today in welcoming author Shannon Winslow on her blog tour in celebration of the publication of For Myself Alone: A Jane Austen Inspired Novel, released last month by Heather Ridge Arts. Shannon has generously shared with us some insights on her inspiration for writing her second novel and offered a giveaway to three lucky readers.

Thank you, Laurel Ann, for inviting me back for another visit with all your lovely readers at Austenprose. I’m delighted for the opportunity to announce the debut of my second Austen-esque novel, For Myself Alone, and to share my inspiration for writing it.

First, I should say that I might never have authored one word were it not for Jane Austen and my desire to spend more time in her world. I adore her subtle stories of love triumphant, and her witty, elegant prose suits my taste exactly. I longed for more, though, and so decided to write the sequel to Pride and Prejudice that I envisioned. I had the time of my life creating The Darcys of Pemberley, and I was totally hooked on writing after that.

On to the next challenge! Not a sequel or tie-in this time, but a new story – one I imagined Miss Austen might have written next. But what would that have been? Well, she was very progressive for her time and would, I believed, have looked for a new angle or a different way of telling a story. So I didn’t feel forced to confine myself to ground she’d covered before. How about giving the heroine a lot of money for a change? And the problems that come with it? That opened up all kinds of possibilities!

Set in nineteenth century Hampshire and Bath, For Myself Alone is the tale of Josephine Walker, a bright, young woman whose quiet life is turned upside-down by an unexpected inheritance. With a tempting fortune of twenty thousand pounds, she’s suddenly the most popular girl in town. Yet Jo longs to be valued for who she is, not for her bank balance.  She cannot respect the men who pursue her for her money, and the only one she does admire is considered the rightful property of her best friend.

A sojourn in Bath, for treatment of her father’s gout, gives Jo a chance for a fresh start in a place where no one will know about her monetary attractions. But, as you might guess, even there the path to true love and a Jane-Austen-style happy ending does not run smoothly.

When I began For Myself Alone, I didn’t have in mind any direct reference to Jane Austen’s existing work, only a compliment to her style. With her words so deeply entrenched in my mind, however, I often found myself thinking of and alluding to various passages from her books as I went along. Rather than fight the temptation to borrow some of her expertly turned phrases, I decided to go with it, making kind of a game out of tucking these little gems between the pages for Austen aficionados to find. What fun!

Jo parrots Marianne Dashwood’s immortal words, “Will you not shake hands with me?” saying them to boy-next-door Arthur Evensong instead of the attractive but dangerous Willoughby. And in another place she asks her father about his gout, saying, “Is there nothing you can take to give you present relief?”  You get the idea.

This wouldn’t work if my own writing style was too modern or different from the original, making the insertion painfully obvious and interrupting the flow of the story. But I flatter myself (as Mr. Collins would say) that I have enough flare for Austen-style language to allow the borrowed lines to blend fairly seamlessly in with my own. Here’s a sample from the prologue. Be sure to read it with your best British accent!

Mr. Pigeon recapitulated the account to his wife. “They say the mother is to blame. But mark my words, Agatha, it is the money at the heart of the matter,” he concluded with irrefutable sagacity. “By heaven! A woman should never be trusted with money. No doubt it has completely gone to her head. She would have done much better never to have been given it the first place. Bad judgment on the part of the uncle; bad judgment indeed.”

This excerpt features a rather obscure reference from The Watsons fragment, making it more difficult to detect. But could you tell what part was Jane Austen’s and what was mine? Hope not.

All this goes to illustrate my purpose in writing For Myself Alone, which was to give the reader an experience much like reading a brand new – or possibly long lost and just rediscovered? – Jane Austen novel. How close I came to achieving that goal, you will have to be the judge.

Author Shannon Winslow (2011)Author Bio: Shannon Winslow, her two sons now grown, devotes much of her time to her diverse interests in music, literature, and the visual arts – writing claiming the lion’s share of her creative energies in recent years.

In addition to three short stories (one a finalist in the Jane Austen Made Me Do It contest), Ms. Winslow has published two novels to date. The Darcys of Pemberley, a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, was her debut. For Myself Alone, a stand-alone Austenesque story, now follows. She is currently working on the next installment of her Pride and Prejudice series entitled Return to Longbourn.

Shannon lives with her husband in the log home they built in the countryside south of Seattle, where she writes and paints in her studio facing Mt. Rainier. Visit Shannon at her website/blog Shannon Winslow’s Jane Austen Says, follow her on Twitter as @JaneAustenSays, and on Facebook as Shannon Winslow.

Giveaway of For Myself Alone: A Jane Austen Inspired Novel

Enter a chance to win one of three copies (print or eBook) available of For Myself Alone: A Jane Austen Inspired Novel, by Shannon Winslow by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you about reading this new Jane Austen-inspired novel by 11:59 PT, Wednesday, May 02, 2012. Winner announced on Thursday, May 03, 2012. Shipment of print copies to US addresses only, eBook internationally. Good luck!

Many thanks to Shannon for her delightful guest blog, and to her publisher Heather Ridge Arts for the generous giveaways. We must chime in and reveal that Shannon is also a talented artist and created the image for her book cover. Brava!

For Myself Alone: A Jane Austen Inspired Novel, by Shannon Winslow
Heather Ridge Arts (2012)
Trade paperback (262) pages
ISBN: 978-0615619941
Kindle: B007PWINR8
NOOK: 2940014192712

© 2007 – 2012 Shannon Winslow, Austenprose

Glamour in Glass, by Mary Robinette Kowal – A Review

Glamour in Glass, Mary Robinette Kowal (2012)Review by Shelley DeWees – The Uprising

“Accustomed as she was to the more retiring life on her father’s estate, Jane had not looked for any honors when she married Mr. Vincent.  The few months of their marriage had been filled with work and the joy of learning to shape their lives together.”

It’s a sequel!  To Shades of Milk and Honey!  Are you excited?  After the resounding success of that, Mary Robinette Kowal’s first book, you probably should be.  But beware as you peruse this, gentle readers, for I have written it under the assumption that you’ve read and enjoyed the lovely first novel.  Spoilers abound!

The end of Shades of Milk and Honey brought an explosive duel, the victory of a suitor, and, as all Regency-era novels tend to do, a wedding.  Vincent and Jane are as happy as they’ve ever been, enjoying life not only as a romantic pair, gazing into each other’s eyes and invoking pet names at every opportunity, but also as a creative partnership.  They effectively go into business together as England’s Best Glamourists and are swiftly snapped up by the Prince Regent and his cohort.  Jane soon finds herself rubbing elbows with the aristocracy, and feels a certain apprehension at the new attention.  Any mistake in her creations now affect her partnership, her place in the world…everything!  Needless to say, she’s always the first one to leave the party and go upstairs.

Not that she’s unproductive.  Much of the story is taken up by the discovery and implementation of Jane’s transport theories for magic, something she discovers by accident as she’s bouncing around Belgium on a working vacation/honeymoon.  She explores, experiments, figures a few interesting things out…a few, uh, remarkable surprises.  One is highly predictable.  One is not.  Another is utterly absurd. Blowing the cover on all of them now would be unkind, suffice to say that Jane’s life is again thrown into turmoil and she’s forced to call upon all her knowledge and expertise (and call in a few favors) to get everything to settle down again.

All of this is superimposed over Ms. Kowal’s elegant magic system, “glamour” as she calls it.  Using the language of textiles, glamourists pull sheets and strands of glamour out of the “ether” and manipulate them in the way a master weaver would.  Folding, braiding, knotting, and tying-off are all common acts with glamour, but it’s in the doing where creativity and deftness of hand where Jane really shines.  She’s totally devoted to her craft, her confidence having grown exponentially as she took her first timid steps away from her father’s home.  Yes, it’s a lovely arrangement, yet it still remains as mysterious and under-explained as it was in Shades of Milk and Honey.  The only moderate salvation to the magic-curious people who take up Glamour in Glass is in a 2-page Glamour Glossary, tucked into the back of the book almost as an afterthought.  Now, to be fair, Ms. Kowal does make the attempt to showcase the logistics of the magic with Jane’s stay at a school for glamourists, an innovative move but one that still left me guessing.  For an author who’s so widely known for her fantasy and science fiction work, I’m still wishing for more!  Certainly more than a glossary.  Please?

But in general, the story bounds along in an elegant way.  Kowal’s writing style is beautiful and engrossing, not to Regency-y but still conforming to the canon of the time.  It’s a noble effort for a second novel, and displays a lot of growth and maturation for her second attempt.  Her characters are still a little shallow, her pace a bit too quick, but a trip through Glamour in Glass shouldn’t leave you disappointed.  If you enjoyed Shades of Milk and Honey, give this one a shot!

4.5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Glamour in Glass, by Mary Robinette Kowal
Tor Books (2012)
Hardcover (336) pages
ISBN: 978-0765325570
NOOK: ISBN: 9781429987288
Kindle: ASIN: B006OLOUQY

© 2007 – 2012 Shelley DeWees, Austenprose

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