Austenesque, Author Interviews, Book Previews

Interview & Giveaway with the Author of The Jane Austen Society, Natalie Jenner

Cover of the paperback edition of The Jane Austen Society (2021)Happy Friday, dear readers! In anticipation of the paperback release of one of my favorite novels of 2020, I have re-read The Jane Austen Society, by Natalie Jenner. Like Austen’s novels, I have picked up on new insights into the characters and themes and see the story in a new light. I highly recommend a re-read and envy those who will be discovering the story for the first time.

The paperback edition released this week on July 6th and it is packed with exciting extras:

  • A map illustrating the town of Chawton and the homes of the characters
  • A Reader’s Guide which includes:
  • A Conversation with Natalie Jenner,
  • An Exclusive Author Essay: Prescribing Jane Austen for Difficult Times
  • Recommended Reading
  • Reading Group Questions

For those unfamiliar with the novel here is a description from the publisher and a link to our review.

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Continue reading “Interview & Giveaway with the Author of The Jane Austen Society, Natalie Jenner”

Book Reviews, Historical Romance

Duke Darcy’s Castle: A Dare to Defy Novel (Book 3), by Syrie James—A Review

Duke Darcy Castle by Syrie James 2020From the desk of Pamela Mingle:

A castle in Cornwall overlooking the sea. A dashing, though reluctant, duke who’s just taken over the dukedom. And a heroine who desperately wants to have a career as an architect rather than a love affair. Taken together, a perfect catalyst for a romance that has more than its share of obstacles. Syrie James’s latest novel, Duke Darcy’s Castle, is the third entry in the “Dare to Defy” series set in the Victorian period.

From the moment they meet, an irresistible attraction ignites between the tenth Duke of Darcy, Lance Granville, and Kathryn Atherton, New York heiress. When she arrives at St. Gabriel’s Mount with a proposal to redesign the castle, Lance mistakes her for the village school teacher, and she puzzles over why a duke would answer his own door. They stare at one another, each mesmerized by the other. After a moment, Lance comes to his senses and invites her in.

Kathryn is desperate to show what she can achieve as an architect, a profession exclusively the domain of men during the Victorian period. When a skeptical Lance is about to turn her away, she tries one more time to Continue reading “Duke Darcy’s Castle: A Dare to Defy Novel (Book 3), by Syrie James—A Review”

Austenesque, Book Previews, Jane Austen Sequels

Jane Austen’s First Love Holiday Blog Tour Begins Nov 17th

Jane Austen, the holiday season, and gifts go so well together that I am pleased to share the news that Austenesque author Syrie James is going on a holiday blog tour with her new novel Jane Austen’s First Love.

Readers will remember that Austenprose is a big fan of Syrie’s work and have reviewed many of her books here including:

In celebration of the holiday season and the release of Jane Austen’s First Love there will be over 40 stops on the virtual blog tour featuring an assortment of fun, including interviews with Syrie, excerpts from the novel, reviews, spotlights, and unique guest post by Syrie on a variety of topics–such as the true story of the remarkable Edward Taylor (who stole Jane’s heart), Jane at fifteen, wacky parlor games in the Georgian era, the research for and challenges of writing Jane Austen’s First Love.

TOUR SCHEDULE

© 2014 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose.com

Austenesque, Book Reviews, Editor's Picks, Jane Austen Sequels

Jane Austen’s First Love: A Novel, by Syrie James – A Review

Jane Austen's First Love by Syrie James (2014 )From the desk of Christina Boyd:

Everyone in my world knows of Jane Austen. Alas, I can speculate that there are those who might not recognize the name. If they look her up on Wikipedia they would learn that:

Biographical information concerning Jane Austen is “famously scarce”… Only some personal and family letters remain (by one estimate only 160 out of Austen’s 3,000 letters are extant), and her sister Cassandra (to whom most of the letters were originally addressed) burned “the greater part” of the ones she kept and censored those she did not destroy. Other letters were destroyed by the heirs of Admiral Francis Austen, Jane’s brother. Most of the biographical material produced for fifty years after Austen’s death was written by her relatives and reflects the family’s biases in favour of “good quiet Aunt Jane”.’

Continue reading “Jane Austen’s First Love: A Novel, by Syrie James – A Review”

Austenesque, Book Previews, Jane Austen Sequels

Jane Austen’s First Love Virtual Book Launch Party with Author Syrie James

I am very pleased to welcome author Syrie James to Austenprose today to officially open her virtual book launch party and blog tour of Jane Austen’s First Love, published by Berkley Trade. This new Austenesque novel is a fascinating combination of fact and fiction, exploring the first romance of fifteen year-old Jane Austen with the handsome and sophisticated Edward Taylor.

Syrie has generously offered a guest blog sharing her inspiration to write her new book.

GUEST BLOG

The inspiration for my novel Jane Austen’s First Love originated several years ago when I was re-reading Jane Austen’s letters. I was struck by three sweet and tender references Jane made to a young man she met as a teenager while visiting her brother Edward Austen in Kent.

Bifrons Park Kent Patrixbourne

Painting of Bifrons Park, near Patrixbourne, Kent, circa 1695

“We went by Bifrons, & I contemplated with a melancholy pleasure, the abode of Him, on whom I once fondly doated,” Jane wrote to her sister Cassandra in September 1796. The “him” she refers to is Edward Taylor, heir to Bifrons, a grand ancestral estate. Jane was twenty when she wrote that letter, and was looking back on a relationship that took place some years before. In two other letters, Jane joked affectionately about Edward Taylor’s inheritance, and, wistfully contemplating his possible marriage, hoped that another generation would be adorned by his “beautiful dark eyes.”

Who was this Edward Taylor, I wondered, upon whom a young Jane had “fondly doated ”? (“Doat” is a variant—now rare—spelling of “dote.”) The definition of “to dote” is “to express and demonstrate great love and fondness for somebody” or “to love to an excessive or foolish degree.” Great love and fondness! Excessive, foolish love! We know so little about Jane Austen’s romantic life, yet here was a solid clue, in her own words, about a young man with whom she was clearly besotted! I was stunned that no one had ever written about it before.

I quickly discovered why Jane’s relationship with Edward Taylor had thus far remained in the shadows: it seemed there was very little information available about him. He is mentioned only briefly in Austen biographies as Jane’s first crush, the earliest of her possible suitors. Determined to learn more about him, I spent many months combing through obscure files on the internet, searching for clues. Thankfully Edward Taylor was a member of the landed gentry. As such, I was able to gather valuable nuggets from a variety of sources regarding his ancestors, his ancestral estate, his parents, his siblings (he had four brothers and three sisters), and himself. I noted that he was a Member of Parliament; I learned the essential dates of his life: birth, marriage, death; I uncovered tantalizing facts about his education and time served in the army, which was puzzling—why had the eldest son and heir served in the army? It was a great start, but hardly enough—I wanted to know about Edward Taylor’s youth, who he was when Jane Austen met him.

Bifron Park, in Kent circa 1900

Georgian remodel of Bifrons Park, in Kent circa 1900

One day, I struck gold. I discovered a priceless resource, The Taylor Papers, (1913), the candid memoirs and letters of Edward’s brother Lieutenant General Sir Herbert Taylor, compiled decades later by a descendant. These memoirs contain a detailed description of the Taylor children’s unusual and well-traveled childhood abroad and their many accomplishments. All were fluent in five languages, and each played a musical instrument so proficiently that the family gave concerts all over Europe. The Taylors were close friends with princes and princesses, dukes and duchesses, famous artists, and high-ranking religious, military, and government leaders in Europe. The more I read, the more awestruck I became. Edward Taylor was a remarkable young man who had led a fascinating life. No wonder Jane Austen fell in love with him! That he was a real person, and that I had in my possession so many little-known facts about him, was thrilling.

Edward Taylor

Meanwhile, I was intrigued by another Austen fact. In 1791, when Jane’s brother Edward Austen became engaged to Elizabeth Bridges of Goodnestone Park, two of Elizabeth’s sisters also became engaged. I thought it highly unusual that three sisters in the same family should marry almost simultaneously—and it couldn’t be a coincidence that Jane, at the same time, wrote her comedic short story The Three Sisters. I realized that Jane Austen was most likely introduced to Edward Taylor through his connection as both a cousin and neighbor of the Bridges family (Bifrons was only five miles from Goodnestone). It seemed likely to me that Jane visited Kent in the summer of 1791, where she not only met the young ladies who inspired that story, but also met and fell in love with Edward Taylor. And thus my novel was born. I hope that readers enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

AUTHOR BIO

Author Syrie James (2012 )Syrie James, hailed by Los Angeles Magazine as “the queen of nineteenth century re-imaginings,” is the bestselling author of nine critically acclaimed novels including The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen (“A literary feast for Anglophiles”—Publisher’s weekly), The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen (named one of the best first novels of the year by Library Journal), and The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë (Audie Award, Romance 2011; Great Group Read, Women’s National Book Association). Syrie’s books have been translated into eighteen languages. She is a member of the Writer’s Guild of America and a life member of JASNA. Follow Syrie on twitter, visit her on facebook, and learn more about her and her books at syriejames.com.

TOUR SCHEDULE

Read an exclusive excerpt from Jane Austen’s First Love

Jane Austen’s First Love: A Novel, by Syrie James
Berkley Trade (August 5th, 2014), 400 pages
Trade paperback ISBN: 978-0425271353
Digital eBook ASIN: B00G3L7VES

Cover image courtesy of Berkley Trade © 2014; text Syrie James © 2014; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2014, Austenprose.com

Austenesque, Book Previews, Jane Austen Sequels

A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt of Jane Austen’s First Love, by Syrie James

Jane Austen's First Love by Syrie James (2014 )Austenesque and historical fiction readers will be thrilled to learn that bestselling author Syrie James will be releasing her next novel, Jane Austen’s First Love, on August 5th. For those who have had the pleasure of reading her previous two Austen-inspired novels: The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen and The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, this will be welcome news indeed; and for those new to her writing, be sure to make room on your reading list immediately. You are in for a wonderful treat.

Lauded as “the queen of nineteenth century re-imaginings”, James has a special affinity to my favorite author, Jane Austen. She has studied her life and times extensively and is not only renowned for her historical accuracy, but for her skill at creating romantic stories, fascinating characters and witty dialogue. I am very excited to say that I have had the honor of reading an advance copy of Jane Austen’s First Love and am delighted to share a preview and exclusive excerpt for Austenprose readers. Continue reading “A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt of Jane Austen’s First Love, by Syrie James”

Book Previews, Contemporary Fiction

A Romantic Valentine’s Day Celebration with Author Syrie James: The Harrison Duet

syrie valentines banner

Please help me welcome multi-talented author Syrie James. In addition to her best-selling The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, Syrie has written eight critically acclaimed novels in the historical fiction, romance, young adult, and paranormal genres. Renowned for her spirited heroines, swoon-worthy heroes and romantic plots, who better to chat with us during Valentine’s week, a time when cupid’s arrow is so acute!

Her latest release is The Harrison Duet, a combination of two full-length contemporary romance novels which includes: Songbird and Propositions. Originally published years before Fifty Shades of Grey changed the way we think about love affairs, you will be intrigued by their similarities and mesmerized by the Harrison siblings who each find an unexpected love. Two sexy romances in one steamy volume!  Continue reading “A Romantic Valentine’s Day Celebration with Author Syrie James: The Harrison Duet”

Austenesque, Book Reviews, Pride and Prejudice Sequels

Longbourn: A Novel, by Jo Baker – A Review

Longbourn: A Novel, by Jo Baker (2013)From the desk of Syrie James:

What was happening below stairs in Pride and Prejudice? Who were the ghostly figures that kept both the storyline and the Bennet household going behind the scenes? That is the premise of Jo Baker’s engrossing novel Longbourn, which takes Jane Austen’s famous work, turns it upside down, and shakes out a fully realized and utterly convincing tale of life and romance among the servants.

Although Longbourn begins slightly before Pride and Prejudice and continues beyond Austen’s ending, for the most part, it matches the action of that novel, focusing almost exclusively on the domestic staff. The protagonist is the young, pretty, feisty, overworked housemaid Sarah, an orphan who turns to books to escape from the menial daily duties which repel and exhaust her. Continue reading “Longbourn: A Novel, by Jo Baker – A Review”

Jane Austen Tours

A Jane Austen Tour with authors Syrie James and Laurel Ann Nattress

Chawton Cottage, Hampshire, England

Imagine being offered the opportunity to create your own dream excursion to Jane Austen’s England? What would you choose to see? Her home at Chawton, the cob at Lyme Regis and the pump room in Bath of course—but what other family estates, seaside villages and country escapes would be on your list? This was the question that author Syrie James and I were presented after we were approached by Ingenious Travel to create the ultimate dream Jane Austen tour—and boy did we have fun brain storming on this topic. We hope that you will be as excited by our choices as we are to be part of this fabulous eight day tour to Jane Austen’s Seascapes and Landscapes.

Here is our itinerary:

7 Sept (Saturday): Fly USA to London.

8 Sept (Sunday): Arrival at London Airport, welcome by the accompanying Jane Austen specialist guide, transfer by private coach to London. Visit the British Library, walk through the Covent Garden area to see places where Jane Austen stayed. Continue to Kent, check into the hotel. Welcome dinner.

Godmersham Park, Kent

9 Sept (Monday): Full breakfast (included daily). Visit Ramsgate and Goodnestone, lunch here; continue to Godmersham House and village. Visit Canterbury Cathedral if time permits. Return to the hotel for overnight.  (Lunch included)

10 Sept (Tuesday): Travel northwards to Oxford, visit the University and especially St. John’s College, which Jane Austen’s father and two of her brothers attended. Then to Steventon, the village where she was born: see the site of the old Parsonage, visit St. Nicholas’ Church where her father and eldest brother were Rectors. Continue to Winchester, check into the hotel. Evening social meeting after dinner with local Austen experts.  (Breakfast and Dinner included)

Winchester Cathedral

11 Sept (Wednesday): Touring in the lovely city of Winchester, visit the Cathedral, short ceremony at Jane Austen’s grave. View the house where she died. Then to Chawton, visit the Jane Austen House Museum: special meeting at Chawton House to see the Library, informal talk by the Director and (subject to permission) tea at Chawton House. Return via Alton, the charming country town which the Austen ladies frequented. Stay in Winchester.  (Breakfast and tea included)

12 Sept (Thursday): To the coast today – visit Cadland House, overlooking Southampton Water, to meet the Drummond family and see their fine display of maritime paintings and memorabilia. Then to Portsmouth, tour the historic Royal Naval Dockyard including HMS Victory, and see the former Naval College where Jane Austen’s naval brothers Frank and Charles received their training.  (Breakfast included)

The Cobb Stairs at Lyme Regis

13 Sept (Friday): Travel west to the pretty port town of Lyme Regis, walk the Cobb (scene of Louisa’s fall in ‘Persuasion’), meet Patrick Stokes and Diana Shervington, Austen descendants. Then to Bath, check in for 3 nights – the Jane Austen Festival begins this day. (Breakfast and Dinner included)

14 Sept (Saturday): Tour Bath, seeing houses where the Austens lived, also St Swithin’s Church, where Jane’s parents were married and her father is buried. Visit the Jane Austen Centre, 1 Royal Crescent, and the Assembly Rooms. Participate in the Festival Parade. (Breakfast included)

Assembly Rooms interior Bath

15 Sept (Sunday): To the nearby village of Lacock, film location for ‘Meryton’ in the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice – as well as many other fictional places in various writers’ works. Return to Bath for a free afternoon – or a chance to attend other Festival events. Evening, private dinner party and entertainment in an elegant Bath townhouse.   (Breakfast and dinner included)

16 Sept (Monday): Transfer to London Airport for the return flight – opportunity for optional tour extension(s) in Bath (for more Festival participation) or London.  (Breakfast included)

As you can see, we are visiting all the special places in Jane Austen’s life and novels. Syrie and I are so excited to be part of this fabulous opportunity to share our admiration and knowledge of our favorite author Jane Austen and her world. We hope you can join us!

Additional information on the A Jane Austen Tour: Seascapes and Landscapes official website.

Cheers, Laurel Ann & Syrie

© 2013, Laurel Ann Nattress, Syrie James and Ingenious Tours