Return to Longbourn: The Next Chapter in the Continuing Story of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, by Shannon Winslow – A Review

Image of the book cover of Return to Longbourn, by Shannon Winslow (2013) © Heather Ridge Arts 2013From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder: 

Ever since Shannon Winslow debuted with The Darcys of Pemberley (DoP) in 2011, she’s been an Austen fan-fiction author that I’ve kept on my radar. In the two years since she published DoP I’ve not only read everything else she’s written, For Myself Alone (2012) and Mr. Collins’s Last Supper (2012), but have shared countless conversations with her about life, Austen, and everything in between. She is a woman that truly understands people and deep feelings. It’s easy to understand this without knowing her when you read her latest novel Return to Longbourn. The depth of feeling that the characters go through by the end of the novel is nothing short of astounding.

Mary Bennet is happily ensconced at Netherfield Park as the governess for the Farnsworth family. All is well in her life until her father suddenly passes away. Back at home in mourning with her family she realizes how alone she feels. Her sisters Elizabeth and Jane have their husbands to turn to, while Kitty has Lydia. She feels that her only value is to remain stoic and take care of the household while the rest of her sisters fall apart emotionally. It’s this event that triggers a sudden heaviness in her life. When it’s announced that her cousin Tristan Collins (the heir to Longbourn) will be notified of Mr. Bennet’s death, well, that’s when her life turns a bit hectic. Mrs. Bennet announces her plan to have Kitty marry Mr. Collins so that they can remain at Longbourn, while Kitty confides to Mary that she is planning her escape to Pemberley. Mary understands Kitty’s reluctance to enter a marriage without love and agrees to keep their new cousin occupied until Kitty is summoned back to Longbourn. Much to everyone’s surprise, Tristan Collins arrives and is the complete opposite of his odious older brother William in every way. Mary feels herself beginning to fall in love with him and internally questions her decision to live her life without the love of a man. Add to all of this the bipolar friendship she maintains with her employer, the widowed Mr. Farnsworth, and you have the makings of much soul searching. Will Mr. Collins return her feelings? How will Mr. Farnsworth deal with her possible leaving Netherfield Park?

Upon first glance, many readers will find this to be a story about love, and in some aspects, redemption.  The deeper, more beautiful story to take away from this novel is that of a young woman trying desperately to find her place in a world where she begins to feel valueless. Winslow’s Mary (and Austen’s too) is a stoic individual, not much taken with the fancies of romance, men, balls, or fine clothes. She much prefers to toil her hours away with books and reading. She can at times be a woman of unyielding character, but deep down past this hardened exterior is a woman just like any other. She wants to have a purpose, she wants friendship, and yes, she even longs for love. In Return to Longbourn, we see a Mary who is beginning to question the way she has lived her life emotionally. Add to that the grief from her father’s death and the relationships of her sisters and brothers-in-law, and you find a very lost woman indeed. All of this coupled together makes Mary a very relatable character. For who among us can claim to never have felt lost in their own skin and unable to make sense of a multitude of new and unusual emotions? Continue reading “Return to Longbourn: The Next Chapter in the Continuing Story of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, by Shannon Winslow – A Review”

Return to Longbourn Book Tour with Author Shannon Winslow

Return to Longbourn, by Shannon Winslow (2013)It is always a red letter day when one of my favorite Austenesque authors releases a new book – so I am so pleased to share this guest blog with you today from Shannon Winslow. Her new “darling child” has arrived and it is a treat.

Return to Longbourn is her second installment after her popular The Darcys of Pemberley was published in 2011. Please help me welcome Shannon by leaving a comment to enter a chance to win one of three copies of her new novel available.

GUEST BLOG

Thanks, Laurel, for having me here today. It’s always a pleasure to visit Austenprose, especially when I have a new story to share! Continue reading “Return to Longbourn Book Tour with Author Shannon Winslow”

A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt of Return to Longbourn, by Shannon Winslow

Return to Longbourn, by Shannon Winslow (2013)Good morning, readers. Here is a special treat for you today. Author Shannon Winslow has graciously offered an exclusive sneak peek to Austenprose readers of an excerpt of her new Austen-inspired novel, Return to Longbourn, which releases on February 26th.

I have had the pleasure of reading an advance copy and I can share that Shannon is in peak form channeling Jane Austen characters and creating new ones too. This new sequel to her popular The Darcys of Pemberley is sure to please her many fans.

The passage that she has chosen for us also includes a letter from one Tristan Collins, the heir to Longbourn, the estate of the Bennet family in Pride and Prejudice. Some of you might recognize similarities in phrase and tone to his elder brother Mr. William Collins whose unexpected demise in The Darcys of Pemberley made Tristan the heir to the Longourn estate.

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT

“Now you shall see why I am in such a flutter,” Kitty said. She drew a packet of paper from her pocket and held it out to Mary…“It is from the heir to Longbourn – Mr. Tristan Collins! He has written from America, and it is a great secret because Mama has not yet read it. Nor must she! …Kitty held up a hand to forestall the anticipated protest. “I know you will say that I should not have taken it. But before you quote me a sermon, read the letter yourself and hear my proposal. Then, on the grounds of sisterly loyalty, you must come to my aid, else before Michaelmas Mama will have me engaged to this stranger and forever miserable.”

Mary looked grave, and yet she opened the letter.

Dear Madam,

I feel myself called upon by our relationship to condole with you on the grievous affliction you are now suffering under, of which I was only yesterday informed by a letter from your solicitor in London. I pray you will forgive me for introducing myself to your notice at this difficult time, and that you will not think my sympathy any less genuine for the awkwardness of our situation. I write chiefly to reassure you that I am very sensible of the severity of your loss, and that I mean to in no way add to your misery where it can be helped. Therefore, although I propose myself the satisfaction of coming to you without delay, I do not anticipate any need for you to vacate your comfortable abode at once. I ask only that you allow me to be a guest therein whilst we sort out between us what is best to be done… My intention is to follow this letter as soon as I am able to settle my business affairs, and I hope to arrive within three weeks of your receipt of the same. Until then, please convey my respectful compliments to all your family.

Tristan Collins, esquire

“Well? What do you think of it?” Kitty demanded.

“I think it is a very good letter – well composed and clearly expressed.”

“Is that all you can say on the subject?” cried Kitty in exasperation. “How can you be so tiresome, Mary?”

“Very well, then. Let me look again.”

Mary’s second appraisal was more comprehensive and more gratifying to her sister’s feelings.

“The content reveals nothing so very remarkable. It was always to be expected that he would come to inspect his property. This is only a little sooner than anticipated. As to the style of the letter, I must say that I am pleased with it. His generous sentiments do him credit, and they are elegantly conveyed.” Mary took a moment to consider before adding one more point. “There is a certain something in his way of expressing himself, however. It is rather reminiscent of a person we used to know.”

“Exactly! I can see this Mr. Tristan Collins now,” said Kitty, evincing horror at the specter before her mind’s eye. “The man is his brother to the very core, and he will be here in less than a month!”

AUTHOR BIO

Author Shannon Winslow (2011) 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. Her third novel Return to Longbourn is the next installment of her Pride and Prejudice series.

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.

© 2013, Shannon Winslow, Austenprose

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