A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt of The Austen Girls, by Lucy Worsley

The Austen Girls by Lucy Worsley 2020I am always encouraged when new Jane Austen-inspired young adult novels hit my radar. The Austen Girls is a welcome addition to the Austenesque genre. Written by historian, television celebrity, and Janeite Lucy Worsley, it is the latest addition to her series of novels featuring young women from history. Following Lady Mary (2018), Eliza Rose (2018), and My Name is Victoria (2018), The Austen Girls is inspired by the lives of Jane Austen’s nieces–cousins Fanny and Anna Austen.

The novel is being released in the UK on April 2 by Bloomsbury Children’s Books and is aimed at girls ages 11 – 14. For those who subscribe to Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine, Worsley is featured on the cover and has the lead article in the March/April issue including an exclusive interview about the novel by editor Tim Bullamore. Besides the two heroines, Fanny and Anna, their aunt Jane plays an important part in the narrative and many other Austen family members support the story. Continue reading “A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt of The Austen Girls, by Lucy Worsley”

Wentworth Hall, by Abby Grahame – A Review

Wentworth Hall, by Abby Grahame (2012)Review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder

If you enjoy Persuasion, Downton Abbey, or even Gossip Girl, you’re going to want to pay attention to this review.  Abby Grahame’s debut novel, Wentworth Hall, is a combination of all of the above and more.  Filled with themes and story lines that involve the mixing of social classes, lies, deceit, unrequited/lost loves, gossip and more, this book is jam packed from start to finish.

The Darlington family is one of the most powerful families in all of England in the beginning of the twentieth-century.  Under their massive estate, Wentworth Hall, all the intricate daily goings-on of all the family members coincide with each other and secret and scandal run amok.  Maggie Darlington, the elder sister, has always been known to be more raucous and carefree, yet she is now much more reserved and secretive since returning from her year away.  Although her secret is not revealed until the end of the novel, its effects on all the other members of the household are immediate, as the Darlington family fights to save its polished image as it begins to crack amongst whispers in the local media.  A series of newspaper articles that are supposedly satirical on the surface seem to be all too similar to the actual lives of the Darlingtons, and soon everyone begins to speculate as to the fate of this famed family.  Will they be able to uphold the noble status of their estate?  What is Maggie’s secret?

Wentworth Hall can be summed up in one word – glamorous.  While the hall itself isn’t, Grahame’s rich writing and fascinating storylines can 100% be described in this way.  (For a perfect example of her glamorous writing style, check out the guest post she posted last week here on Austenprose)  I’m still surprised that this is Grahame’s debut novel.  Her understanding of the culture, most specifically the social aspects, is captivating.  Similar to Persuasion and even Downton Abbey, Grahame explores the mixing of social classes using a love story as her plot device.  Using the Edwardian Era as the backdrop for her sweeping drama allows her to use the upstairs/downstairs and master/servant mentality to clearly demonstrate her narrative style.

I really enjoyed all of characters different secrets and how they were revealed and unraveled, merging together in the end.  It wasn’t difficult for me to figure out what each person was hiding, but I think it’ll be less obvious for the younger crowds that pick this up to read.

My major disappointment was the vagueness of the ending.  This young adult novel builds and builds and does resolve itself, but with few details.  It’s like going from point A to Z with nothing in the middle.  It left me wondering if this was going to be part of a series.  If it is in fact scheduled to be part of a series, then the vagueness sets up the plot for future books nicely.  Despite this, the splendor of Grahame’s writing combined with the excitement of the plot made me into a big fan of Wentworth Hall.  I humbly suggest that it becomes the next addition to your “to read” pile.

4 out of 5 Stars

Wentworth Hall, by Abby Grahame
Simon & Schuster (2012)
Hardcover (228) pages
ISBN: 978-1442451964

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

Sass & Serendipity Blog Tour with Author Jennifer Ziegler

Sass and Serendipity, by Jennifer Ziegler (2011)Please join us today in welcoming young adult fiction author Jennifer Ziegler for the official launch of her book blog tour of Sass & Serendipity a new Sense and Sensibility-inspired YA novel that is releasing tomorrow, Tuesday, July 12, 2011, by Delacorte Books for Young Readers (Random House).

Growing up, I found great comfort in reading Jane Austen.  I can’t remember exactly when I discovered her, but it was sometime during my high school years.  From a purely literary standpoint I would have to say that Pride and Prejudice is her masterwork, but Sense and Sensibility has always been my favorite.

I adored the characters of Elinor and Marianne, and, being a sister myself, I could really relate to their relationship – especially the way they were so different and yet still fiercely devoted to each other.  I realized that sisterhood today wasn’t all that different from sisterhood two centuries ago, and I started to wonder when somebody would do a modern retelling – something that would stay true to the themes and moods of the book.

And here is where I make a confession:  I think, in some ways, Jane Austen wrote YA.  Before anyone tosses tomatoes at me, please allow me to explain…

Austen’s books centered around young women on the verge of adulthood.  They are nearly ready to leave the nest and take their spot in the world – and in the Regency era, the best landing of all would be that of a happy marriage to a good and prosperous man.  Standing on this threshold of life is the emotional setting for all young adult novels.  Teens are caught between the insular world of the childhood home and that of society at large.  Even if they don’t strike out on their own at the end, they have surely become more “adult” by the final page.

Austen never makes the search for a proper husband the point of her stories.  In every case the main character needs to go through some significant growth first.  Whether it’s Elinor learning to trust her feelings as much as her intellect, Marianne coming out of her fantasies and into her senses, Elizabeth learning not to judge too prematurely, Emma learning not to meddle in other people’s lives, and so on, Austen makes sure her heroines recognize and overcome character flaws in order to earn their happy-ever-afters.  Such maturation is central to young adult literature, as it is with all good character-based fiction.  However, in YA, the age of the protagonists is key.  Teens and early twenties don’t know as much about the world or themselves quite yet.  Because of this, the problems they face are brand new, but also – and this is critical – their emotions are brand new.  This is first love, first heartbreak, first crushing disillusionment.

Thus, when I really stopped to consider it, I realized that any retelling of an Austen novel would almost have to be a young adult book in order to stay true to these themes and arcs.  At that point it was a quick hop from “Someone should do an update of Sense and Sensibility” to “Yes … and why not me?”

Of course, it was a daunting suggestion.  Me update Austen?  Would I give the original source material the proper care and reverence?  The answer was no.  I mean, I knew I would do my best, but I also knew that I couldn’t duplicate Austen’s prose.  My writing style is just too different.  I also knew that the scope of the book would have to be changed – favorite scenes and characters would have to go.  An exact retelling, with faithful character match-ups and plot recreations would be impossible.  Any attempt would end up a mess.

So, to avoid disappointing Austen fans, my fans, and myself, I decided early on that my novel would pay homage to Sense and Sensibility without being a strict retelling.  It was the feel of the book – the themes of sisterly bonds, romance, and identity – that inspired me to update it in the first place, so that is where I would start.

Ironically, to be true to the tone and premise of her book, I had to stay far away from it.  In fact, I avoided all things Austen while drafting the novel (a huge sacrifice for me).  I didn’t want to be tempted toward replication, so instead, I worked from memory – the storylines, moods, and ideas that had made an indelible impression on me.

The result was Sass & Serendipity, a story of two sisters living in modern, small-town Texas, and their run-ins with romance, economic hardships, societal pressures, and each other.  It was tough to write – but fun.  I really enjoyed getting to “play Austen.”

And now that the book is out, I’ve gotten the best endorsement ever:  my sister, Amanda, loves it.  I hope others will, too.

Author Jennifer ZieglerAuthor Bio:

Jennifer Ziegler is the author of Alpha Dog and How Not to be Popular. Born in Temple, Texas, as a child she also lived in Anchorage, Alaska and then returned to the Lone Star state to attend the University of Texas, where she earned degrees in journalism and English. While there she fell in love with Austin and its many cool hangouts, music venues, swimming holes, and hip people. Upon graduation, she decided to settle there, working as a freelance reporter, editorial assistant, and middle school language arts teacher. Jennifer also met a cute musician guy named Carl and the two got married. Visit Jennifer at her website, or Facebook, and follow her on Twitter as @ZieglerJennifer.

Giveaway of Sass & Serendipity

Enter a chance to win one of three copies of Sass & Serendipity by leaving a comment answering what intrigues you most about reading a Sense and Sensibility-inspired young adult novel or which character in the original novel is your favorite, by midnight PT, Wednesday, July 20, 2011. Winners to be announced on Thursday, July 21, 2010. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

Sass & Serendipity, by Jennifer Ziegler
Delacorte Books (2011)
Hardcover (384) pages
ISBN: 978-0385738989

© 2007 – 2011 Jennifer Ziegler, Austenprose

Echoes of Love: Jane Austen in 21st Century Book 5, by Rosie Rushton – A Review

Echoes of Love: Jane Austen in the 21st Century Book 5, by Rosie Rushton (2010)Guest review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder of Reflections of a Book Addict

Anna is the daughter of Walter Elliot, a washed up has-been TV personality. Walter has been out of work for over a year and has refused to curb his lifestyle, which has caused major financial difficulties for the Elliot’s. Family friend Marina has convinced Walter to move rent-free into an apartment near the marina where he can “house-sit” for her friends, while a nice couple pays to rent out the family estate. Marina begins telling Anna about the couple that is going to be renting out the house when Anna suddenly gets the feeling that she’s heard of them before. Turns out the couple renting the house are the aunt and uncle of Felix Wentworth, the love of Anna’s life. All would be well with their being there, except for the fact that Anna’s family came between her and Felix two years earlier, tearing them apart. Anna comes to learn that Felix is going to be visiting them for the summer while he is on leave from the military, and sees that she might have a chance to win him back if she can prove her love and remorse. Will she be able to convince him that there has never been anyone but him for her, and that her family will never make her decisions for her again? Continue reading “Echoes of Love: Jane Austen in 21st Century Book 5, by Rosie Rushton – A Review”

Prada & Prejudice, by Mandy Hubbard – A Review

Prada and Prejudice, by Mandy Hubbard (2009)When fifteen year old heroine Callie Montgomery purchases a pair of red Prada pumps with sky-high heels she thinks her life will change from high school geek to A-list fashionista in one smooth step. She’s out to impress her savvy classmates while traveling on a school trip in London. Not only is Callie socially awkward, she is an admitted klutz. It only takes her three steps out of the Prada shop in her new shoes to trip and hit her head. When she wakes up, her surroundings have changed from city street, to country lane. She is taken in at Harksbury, a palatial country manor house where she is mistaken for an American cousin Rebecca Vaughn. Rebecca’s first visit to England is highly anticipated by Emily Thorton-Hawke, who warmly greets the cousin she has never met with open arms, and in full Regency era attire. Thinking that British people are very odd, Callie asks to use the telephone, but only gets blank looks. She plays along with impersonating Cousin Rebecca and gradually begins to realize that somehow she has traveled back in time to 1815. Her twenty-first century manners and memory of Regency history hamper her ruse, especially with the arrogant but dishy Lord Alexander Thorton-Hawke, Duke of Harksbury.  He thinks she is outspoken and ill-mannered; she thinks if he wasn’t such a complete jerk, he’d be a great catch. 

A high-concept time travel fantasy, Mandy Hubbard’s debut novel Prada & Prejudice reminds us how far we have evolved socially pitting twenty-first century personal freedoms against early nineteenth-century social stricture. Hubbard’s first person writing style is direct and engaging. Her heroine Callie/Rebecca is endearingly angst ridden and insecure, struggling to find herself in a teenage world flooded with designer clothes and confusing priorities. She cleverly contrasts her heroine’s modern sensibilities against the double standard for women in Regency times. By Callie/Rebecca’s motivation to help Emily break her engagement to a man thirty years her senior she does not love, and influencing Alex, the Duke of Harksbury to change his views on out of wedlock children, arranged marriages, and of course being an arrogant aristocrat, she directly addresses issues like primogeniture and feminism without even knowing it. She is just being herself, outspoken and direct. In addition, being Rebecca changes Callie’s perspective as she gradually realizes that by traveling thousands of miles to England, or back two hundred years into the past, she can not escape who she is. Wherever you go there you are! Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, her red shoes are not her ticket to happiness. It was there all along, waiting to be discovered, in herself. 

Light, bright, and sparkly, Prada & Prejudice has made a grand entrance into the emerging Young Adult fiction genre. It is not a Jane Austen sequel per se, but gently nods with reverence at Pride and Prejudice, presenting a hero and heroine whose relationship and characteristics readers will recognize from Austen’s famous literary couple Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. With Austen being the grandmother of chick-lit, we have seen this premise used many times before in modern novels; Bridget Jones’ Diary, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Twilight, and in the movies You’ve Got Mail and Lost in Austen to name a few. If Prada & Prejudice represents the next generation in Austen inspired fiction geared for young readers (and those young at heart) we are on very good footing indeed. Well done. I recommend it highly for those in need of a quick escape, and a hearty laugh. 

4 out of 5 Regency Stars 

Prada & Prejudice, by Mandy Hubbard
Razorbill (Penguin Group), New York (2009)
Trade paperback, (238) pages
ISBN: 9781595142603

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