Giveaway Winners Announced for Wickham’s Diary

Wickham's Diary, by Amanda Grange (2011)35 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win one of three copies of Wickham’s Diary, by Amanda Grange. The winners drawn at random are:

  • Elenatinil, who left a comment on April 1
  • Valerie R., who left a comment on April 2
  • Jen, who left a comment on April 12

Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by April 20th, 2011. Shipment is to US and Canadian addresses only.

Thanks to all who left comments, and to author Amanda Grange for her great replies to my interview questions!

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Wickham’s Diary, by Amanda Grange – A Review

Wickham's Diary, by Amanda Grange (2011)Austen’s bad boy George Wickham gets top billing in this prequel to Pride and Prejudice that will surprise readers for more reasons than one first imagines.

Anyone who has read Jane Austen’s original novel or seen one of the many movie adaptations knows that Wickham is a bad man: a charming rogue, a gamester and an infamous eloper. But what influences molded his character and what forces drove him to his choices? Wickham’s Diary presents some interesting options for us to ponder. Was it nature or nurture that corrupted his soul? After knowing his story, will we be sympathetic, or ready to string him up? Here’s a case study:

Early Childhood:

George is the son of an attorney working as a steward at the grand country estate of Pemberley in Derbyshire. At twelve, he is the companion of the heir Fitzwilliam Darcy. He has everything going for him: good looks, affable manners and a stage mother. On her urgent request, he ingratiates himself to the family and wins the heart of old Mr. Darcy who sends him to Eton to be educated with his son. He is also promised a future living as a clergyman on the estate. He thinks that the only difference between the respect and admiration that his friend Darcy commands is his money. To attain the wealth, power and social position that he craves, his mother advises him to marry an heiress. Casting his eye on the wealthy young women he knows, Georgiana Darcy and her cousin Anne de Bourgh are his first targets. Calculating and contrived, his life is solely driven to find a rich wife.

Young Adulthood:

He is sent to Cambridge at the expense of Mr. Darcy to be educated as a gentleman. Seeing the advantages of social connections, he continues to search for a rich sister within his fellow classmates. He is not a good student, and soon falls in with the wrong people: drinking, carousing and gambling his way into debt. Fitzwilliam attempts to save him. He promises to reform, but soon slides back. His mother dies. He drinks, gambles and carouses some more. His dreams of marrying an heiress are fading away. No proper mother will let their daughters near him. Old Mr. Darcy dies leaving him the promised living. He and Darcy have a falling out over his lifestyle, loosing his friends good opinion forever. He is in serious debt and asks him to pay him a lump sum, accepting £3,000 instead of the church living. Fitzwilliam washes his hands of him while Wickham squanders his inheritance. We wait to see what forces drive him to later stalk Anne de Bourgh and scheme to elope with Georgiana.

Yes, George Wickham is a despicable scoundrel – and so fun to watch charm, scheme and fail in the original novel. We know that it is unkind to take pleasure from other’s misfortunes, but this is a morality tale that Jane Austen set up, so we give ourselves permission to enjoy it! Amanda Grange’s skill at relaying Wickham’s simple plan for a happy life: marry a rich wife, attain her social position, absorb her estate and spend her money, makes it all seem so logical. Being a male equivalent of a gold digger is very seemly. Especially since Regency men had freedoms that women would never aspire to. Wickham is depraved, he is dissipated and he is disgusting.  But we knew that already from Austen’s tale.

We do learn interesting new tidbits that formed his character: a selfish, thoughtless, frivolous mother disappointed in her lot teaches her son to obtain what she wanted out of life by unscrupulous means. This is the root of his evil beginnings. The early childhood scenes with mummy dearest are the most interesting insights in this novella. They were over too quickly. So was the rest of the story. It abruptly ends with the failed elopement at Ramsgate, leaving us dangling mid-air. We felt short sheeted. Just when the story gets rolling it stops. No insights into Wicky’s Meryton escapades: meeting Mr. Darcy again, his flirtation with Elizabeth Bennet, inside dirt on his pursuit of heiress Mary King, what went down in Brighton with Lydia, and why did he really elope with a young, frivolous woman who was as far from an heiress as could be? Why, why, why, kept rolling through my mind. Guess we won’t’ find out.

Being an account of his childhood, his friendship with Fitzwilliam Darcy, and his attempted elopement with Miss Georgian Darcy. Yep, the subtitle pretty much sums it up.  So be prepared gentle reader for the short ride, and not all what one might expect from the great Amanda Grange who has wowed us for years with her amazing Austen hero’s diaries series. I am setting my hopes on her next “real” novel, Henry Tilney’s Diary, to be released in the UK in May and the US in December of this year. That thought alone wipes away any deeply harbored regrets hereto.

3 out of 5 Regency Stars

Wickham’s Diary, by Amanda Grange
Sourcebooks (2011)
Trade paperback (208) pages
ISBN: 978-1402251863

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Wickham’s Diary Blog Tour: Chatting with author Amanda Grange, & a Giveaway!

Wickham's Diary, by Amanda Grange (2011)Please join us for the first stop on Austenesque author Amanda Grange’s blog tour of Wickham’s Diary, a new novella focusing on the early years of Jane Austen’s infamous ne’er-do-well from Pride and Prejudice, George Wickham, due out today from Sourcebooks.

LAN: Welcome Amanda. I am so excited that you have joined us today. You are renown in Austenesque fiction for your five (soon to be six) retellings of Jane Austen’s classic novels from the heroes perspective. Wickham’s Diary is your first foray into one of her bad boys. What was your inspiration for this new novella?

AG: Hi, Laurel Ann, thanks for having me!

The inspiration was this passage in Pride and Prejudice:

Mr. Wickham is the son of a very respectable man, who had for many years the management of all the Pemberley estates, and whose good conduct in the discharge of his trust naturally inclined my father to be of service to him; and on George Wickham, who was his godson, his kindness was therefore liberally bestowed. My father supported him at school, and afterwards at Cambridge; – most important assistance, as his own father, always poor from the extravagance of his wife, would have been unable to give him a gentleman’s education.”

I’ve read Pride and Prejudice many times but each time I seem to find something new in it, and on a recent re-reading those words leapt out at me. They conjured up images of Wickham’s home life: a respectable father, an extravagant mother, and a young boy whose best friend was set to inherit a fortune  . . . I sat down and started to write. As I did so, I saw life through Wickham’s eyes: Pemberley, the Darcys and the difference in status between the two families, and I began to see why Wickham turned out so badly. I found it very satisfying to imagine his early life and to work out why, when he was raised in such a similar way, he turned out to be the opposite of Darcy.

LAN: In Pride and Prejudice, George Wickham’s dissipated nature is revealed slowly. Even Lizzy Bennet, a great observer of the “follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies” of character, falls for his charms. What motivates Mr. Wickham and how did you put yourself in his tall, black, shiny Hessian boots?

AG: I’ll answer the second part first, because I have to put myself in the character’s shoes before I can work out what motivates them.

First of all I made notes of everything Austen tells us about Wickham, eg Darcy saying Wickham was the “companion of my youth, the acknowledged favourite of my father, a young man who had scarcely any other dependence than on our patronage, and who had been brought up to expect its exertion”. I thought of the things he does during the course of the novel and the things Austen tells us he does before and after the novel; I thought of the relationships in his life, and I used all this to build up a picture of him from which I could deduce the missing pieces. Then I thought myself into his character in the way an actor thinks themselves into character, and that led me to his motivation, which, to me, boils down to a desire for easy living. He’s been brought up in affluent surroundings, he’s been sent to a good school and a good university, and in all ways he’s been treated like the son of a wealthy man. But in fact he isn’t the son of a wealthy man, and at the end of his privileged childhood he’s expected to go out and work for a living. That doesn’t appeal to George, who is intelligent enough to see that marrying a wealthy wife will bring him everything he wants, and that all he has to do is to exert his ready charm to get it. The fact that, in attempting to elope with Georgiana, he will be revenged on Darcy is the icing on the cake, I think, but Georgiana’s fortune is the real draw. After all, he attempts to run off with other heiresses later on, but he doesn’t attempt to take any further revenge on Darcy.

LAN: You delve into events before the narrative in Pride and Prejudice begins, introducing us to Wickham’s childhood at Pemberley and his mother. Would you say that learning about his early life makes his character more sympathetic for readers or is forewarned, forearmed?

AG: I think that will depend on the reader! I wanted to portray him as a rounded person and he has his tragedies and his difficulties in life like everyone else. But anyone who forgets that a snake is still a snake, no matter how sympathetic he is, had better beware!

LAN: The highly anticipated Henry Tilney’s Diary arrives in the UK on May 31, 2011 and in the US on December 6. This will be your sixth novel based on one of Jane Austen’s heroes. Some would say that you have saved the best hero for last. Can you share anything with us today about Mr. Tilney and other projects you have in the queue?

AG: I adored writing Henry’s Diary. It was probably the most difficult diary to write because I needed to capture Henry’s light-heartedness, but at the same time I need to capture the gloomy and melodramatic flavour of the Gothic novel. Not an easy task!

I decided to start the book when Henry is sixteen because I wanted to write about his family before their mother died, and because I wanted to write more about Henry and his sister. I’ve always loved their relationship, which is such a close and happy one. Here’s a short taster, taken from early on in Henry Tilney’s Diary when Eleanor is thirteen:

Eleanor opened her book.

‘What is it this time?’ I asked her. ‘Milton, Pope, Prior? A paper from the Spectator, perhaps, or a chapter from Sterne? Or is it a copy of Fordyce’s Sermons?’

‘No,’ she said, laughing. ‘It is something much better. It is A Sicilian Romance.’

‘What? A novel?’ I asked, affecting horror.

‘A novel,’ she agreed.

‘And is it very horrid?’

‘I certainly hope so.’ She thrust it into my hands. ‘You may read to me as I sew. I have to finish hemming this handkerchief. Mama says she will deprive me of novels altogether if I do not pay more attention to my needlework.’

And out of her pocket she drew needle, thread, and the handkerchief.

‘It is a good thing you are still in your schoolgirl’s dresses, for such large pockets will be a thing of the past when you start wearing more fashionable clothes – which will not be too long now, I think. You are very nearly a young lady.’

‘Pooh!’ she said. ‘Now read to me, if you please!’

‘Very well. But I see you have already begun.’

‘Not really. I have only read the first few pages, where the narrator says that he came across the ruins of the  castle Mazzini whilst travelling in Sicily, and that a passing monk happened to lend him an ancient manuscript which related the castle’s history.’

‘A noble beginning. And who lives in this castle? The heroine, I presume?’

‘Yes. Her name is Julia.’

‘And does she have any brothers and sisters?’

‘A brother, Ferdinand, and a sister, Emilia.’

‘I am glad to hear it. Brothers are always useful.’

As for future projects, next up is a short story in the Jane Austen Made Me Do It anthology, which will be out in October. My contribution is the story of Mr. Bennet’s courtship. I’ve always wondered why he married Mrs. Bennet and now I know!

LAN: I understand that you recently visited the Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton with fellow Austenesque author Jane Odiwe. Can you share your experience with us?

AG: We had a wonderful day and I thoroughly recommend a visit to the museum for anyone who can get there – details here Jane Austen House Museum. It’s an amazing experience to stand where Jane stood, to look out at her garden and to wander round her house. There were echoes of her everywhere and as I stood by the door looking out onto the street I found myself thinking, “A mind lively and at ease, can do with seeing nothing, and can see nothing that does not answer.”

But there was also another side to the house because it reminded me just how hard her life was in many ways. When I went into the outhouse and saw the washing copper I realized how much I love my washing machine!

The museum is run by lovely, dedicated people and the icing on the cake for me was that they invited me to give a talk there about my heroes’ diaries, so if anyone would like to come along I would love to see you. It’s on June 4 and there are full details on the website.

LAN: Now for a bit of fun. If you could be introduced to any of Jane Austen’s colorful heroes or villains, who would it be, and what penetrating question would you ask them?

AG: I would be introduced to Mr. Darcy before he met Elizabeth, and my penetrating question would be, ‘Will you marry me?’ J

LAN: Thank you for joining us today Amanda. Best of luck with this new adventure with one of Austen’s villains. I am hoping that we will see another novel of the diary of one of Austen’s bad boys – how about Henry Crawford, Frank Churchill or John Willoughby?

AG: I don’t have any plans in that direction at the moment, but you never know, I might just be reading one of those books again and something might jump out and shout, Write me!

Amanda Grange at Chawton 2010

About the Author:

Amanda Grange was born in Yorkshire, in the north of England. She spent her teenage years reading Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer whilst also finding time to study music at Nottingham University. She went on to be a teacher and then managed to fulfill her ambition to become a published writer. Amanda has had eighteen novels published including five (soon to be six!) Jane Austen retellings, which look at events from the heroes’ points of view. Amanda Grange now lives in Cheshire, where she spends half her life in the twenty-first century and the other half in the early nineteenth century.

Giveaway of Wickham’s Diary

Enter a chance to win one of three copies of Wickham’s Diary, by leaving a comment answering what intrigues you most about reading the personal diary of one of Jane Austen’s bad boys, or which of Austen’s character you would like to see Amanda write about next, by midnight PT, Wednesday, April 13, 2011. Winner announced on Thursday, April 14, 2010. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

Wickham’s Diary Blog Tour Schedule

April 1st          Austenprose

April 4th         Jane Austen Sequel Examiner

April 6th         Austenesque Reviews

April 8th         Diary of an Eccentric

April 11th       The Burton Review

April 15th       Debs Book Bag

April 18th       Psychotic State Book Reviews

April 20th       Suite 101 Romance

April 29th       Historical Hussies

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Exclusive Preview and Excerpt from Wickham’s Diary, by Amanda Grange

Wickham's Diary, by Amanda Grange (2011)Launching on April 1st, Wickham’s Diary, Amanda Grange’s new novella inspired by Jane Austen’s bad boy enters this world on April Fools Day. We promise it is no joke, but indeed a treat. Renowned for her retellings of Austen’s classic stories from the heroes perspective: Mr. Darcy’s Diary (2007), Mr. Knightley’s Diary (2007), Captain Wentworth’s Diary (2008), Edmund Bertram’s Diary (2008), Colonel Brandon’s Diary (2009) and the soon to be released Henry Tilney’s Diary (31 May in the UK & 6 Dec in US), this is Grange’s first novel based on an Austen villain. It promises to be wickedly intriguing!

Jane Austen did not suffer fools gladly. We know by the end of Pride and Prejudice that her rakish cad George Wickham and the selfish, impetuous Lydia Bennet are married and shipped off to a Northumberland exile. Their eventual fate is quickly revealed in the concluding chapter of the novel.

Their manner of living, even when the restoration of peace dismissed them to a home, was unsettled in the extreme. They were always moving from place to place in quest of a cheap situation, and always spending more than they ought. His affection for her soon sunk into indifference: her’s lasted a little longer; and in spite of her youth and her manners, she retained all the claims to reputation which her marriage had given her.

Indeed a grim reward for such scandalous behavior. But how did Wickham, who was raised with the honorable Mr. Darcy, become so dissipated? Ms. Grange shares her insights into how she envisioned the events.

This prequel to Pride and Prejudice begins with George Wickham at age 12, handsome and charming but also acutely aware that his friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy, is rich, whilst he is poor. His mother encourages him to exercise his charm on the young Georgiana Darcy and Anne de Bourgh in the hopes of establishing a stable of wealthy social connections.

At university, Darcy and Wickham grow apart. Wickham is always drinking and wenching, whilst Darcy, who apparently has everything, is looking for something he cannot find. Wickham runs through the money Darcy gives him and then takes up with the scandalous Belle, a woman after Wickham’s own greedy, black heart.

Here is an exclusive excerpt from Wickham’s Diary selected by the author. Enjoy!

3rd July 1799

Whilst walking through the park today, who should I see but Belle! She was as delighted to see me as I was to see her and we went to an inn together. The day was so hot that we both ordered an ice.

‘And have you married your merchant?’ I asked her, as we began to eat. ‘You were going to find some rich husband and settle down the last time we met.’

‘No, I changed my mind. I couldn’t find any­one to suit me and in the end I decided that, anyway, it would not do. I am not cut out to be a wife. I have taken a salaried position instead.’

‘Ah, so you are some man’s mistress then. He is very lucky. I only wish I had more money, my dear, and I would snap you up myself.’

She laughed at me.

‘Pockets to let as usual, George?’

‘You know me too well,’ I said, turning them out so that she could see how empty they were.

She raised her eyebrows and went back to her ice, but after a minute or two she said seriously, ‘We’re both getting older, George, even you are not as young as you were. You ought to be thinking of settling down. Marriage is easier for a man, not as restraining. With your silver tongue you ought to be looking for an heiress to marry.’

‘I have been thinking in just the same way.’

She turned and looked at me appraisingly.

‘What is it?’ I asked.

‘Only this. That I am engaged to be a companion—’

‘A companion! I had no idea your salaried position would be so respectable,’ I said. ‘You will never keep it, Belle. You will not be able to hold your tongue when some old harridan starts telling you what to do.’

‘I’m not engaged to be a companion to an old harridan, but to a young girl—’

‘A young girl!’ I exclaimed. ‘You, Belle! Why, who would employ a woman like you to be a companion to a young girl—begging your par­don, but you know what I mean.’

‘Don’t worry, George, I know exactly what you mean. But you see my employer doesn’t know about my history, and who is going to tell him? You?’

‘No, of course not, but how did you come by such a post in the first place?’ I asked curi­ously, for I could not imagine any way in which it could happen.

She took another spoonful of ice and let it melt slowly on her tongue, then said, ‘I met an old school friend by chance in the circulating library. I went to an elegant seminary, you know, one of the best, a very respectable establishment it was, and frequented by some very good families. My family were respectable, God bless them, when they were alive. But when my parents died, shortly after I left the seminary, I had to fend for myself and—well, you know the rest. Well, I met this friend again, Amelia Campbell, and we exclaimed over the chance and then caught up on all the news, only my version of my history was, as you may well guess, a slightly altered one.’

‘Did she not suspect anything? Had she not heard anything of you in the meantime?’

‘No, not she. She had married a man in the diplomatic corps and so had spent many years abroad, and she and her husband had only just returned to this country. So she had heard nothing of my years in the demimonde. She saw what she expected to see: an old school friend, somewhat shabbily dressed but as respectable as ever. I quickly saw she could be of use to me, and so I spun her a tale about how I had mar­ried a wonderful man, how happy we had been until his tragic death in a carriage accident, my brave struggle to manage since his death, and my poor but respectable life. She, bless her, was full of sympathy and said she knew of an excellent position that might suit me, and before the week was out I was employed. So tomorrow I am to take up my new appointment and in a few weeks we are to go to Ramsgate, where my young lady is to spend the summer; her brother thinks it is too hot for her in London and he wants her to have the benefit of sea air.’

‘And you have a plan in mind?’ I asked her.

‘Yes, I have, George. This young woman is an heiress.’

I saw where her thoughts were tending and I began to take more interest in her story.

‘An heiress, under your influence,’ I said thoughtfully. ‘And she is to spend the sum­mer at a seaside resort, where she will not be watched very closely. She will be away from her family?’

‘She will. She will be there alone with me. She is an orphan,’ she said by way of explanation.

‘Better and better. If she is all alone in the world—’

‘Now, George, don’t be mean, I would rather have two.’

‘I will be the one running all the risks,’ I reminded her.

‘What risks?’ she said in derision. ‘There aren’t any risks.’

I pushed the ice away from me and leant forward.

‘Yes there are,’ I said. ‘If her brother finds out what I’m doing and calls me out, then it will be me looking down the wrong end of a pistol, not you, and if he is a good shot then it will be me taking the bullet.’

‘He will have to catch you first.’ She laughed and finished off her ice with one last lick of the spoon. ‘And how will he find out? By the time he learns that anything is amiss you will be half­way to Scotland.’

‘Scotland?’ The word brought me up short. ‘She is under age then?’

‘Yes. She is fifteen.’

‘That is very young,’ I said with a frown.

‘In England, yes, though in Scotland it is thought plenty old enough to be married and no parents’ or guardian’s consent needed, just two people who say they want to be wed. Then it’s a quick ceremony over the anvil and you’re legally man and wife—or perhaps I should say man and fortune!’ she added, laughing.

I joined in her laughter.

‘Man and fortune. I like that,’ I said. Then I became serious. ‘Now, how is the thing to be done?’

She thought. ‘You must meet us casually,’ she said at last. ‘A chance meeting, in the circulating library…’

‘No, not the library; there will be too many people there and too many curious glances. We should meet somewhere less crowded, whilst walking by the sea perhaps, somewhere well away from the main promenade, so that there will be very few people there. Then I can scrape an acquaintance—perhaps we have friends in common, or anyway I can at least pretend we have. What is her name?’

‘Darcy,’ she said.

© Amanda Grange, Wickham’s Diary, Sourcebooks (2011)

About the Author

Amanda Grange was born in Yorkshire, in the north of England. She spent her teenage years reading Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer whilst also finding time to study music at Nottingham University. She went on to be a teacher and then managed to fulfill her ambition to become a published writer. Amanda has had eighteen novels published including five (soon to be six!) Jane Austen retellings, which look at events from the heroes’ points of view. Amanda Grange now lives in Cheshire, where she spends half her life in the twenty-first century and the other half in the early nineteenth century.

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose