Friday, November 29, 2013

What I want for Christmas ...

... or Hanukkah. We celebrate both around here:

Handmade Emma Woodhouse Doll


I've wanted this SOOO much since I first saw it, nearly a year ago. Isn't she gorgeous? Unfortunately, my daughter wanted an Annie doll instead (sigh). Get yours at ViaJoy on Etsy!

Miniature Pride & Prejudice Pop-Up Book

If no kind soul takes pity on me and gives me this book, I will be buying it for my daughter as soon as she's old enough to know not to destroy it. The book measures only 3 x3 and is (necessarily) abridged. Buy a copy from Green Chair Press!

Fitzwilliam & Elizabeth 2014 Calendar

He he! I already have a copy, but I'm listing it anyway because it was like an early Christmas present from the artist herself, Janet B. Taylor, who is currently giving away a copy on her lovely blog, More Agreeably Engaged, so don't miss out on the opportunity to enter and win your own!

Little Miss Austen Pride & Prejudice Counting Primer and Play Set

I've been drooling over this since I first learned of it. I reviewed the board book sometime ago on a well-known blog (read it here), it was featured in my Reading Jane Austen to Children post, and the play set is just the sort of thing Eliza would enjoy right now. I admit to having already bought it for her as a Hanukkah present, so expect a review of some sort of another soon.

Pride & Prejudice Cookie Cutter Set

Love these! Best use of a 3D printer I have seen thus far. Buy them at Printmeneer on Etsy!

This list is subject to expansion and improvement, so stay tuned for more!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgivukkah! JA Dreidel Card Giveaway

Happy Thanksgiving! I'm still knee-deep in NaNoWriMo, despite the holiday, but I'm taking a break for the moment. Tonight is also evening #1 of Hanukkah, and I've made a very special tribute to that occasion this year that I plan to share with you, my dear readers.

I was out for breakfast last weekend with y husband and daughter, and as we waited for a table a very well-intended women asked Eliza, "Are you excited for Santa Claus?" This casual statement drew up a hold host of emotions in me, all of which I was fortunately able to suppress. First and foremost, I was reminded of all those times when I was asked the same question as a child. My family did not celebrate Christmas, but my husband was raised Catholic, and I've fully embraced the holiday as my own since meeting him. I was thankful my daughter was able to just nod at the nice lady, with no conflict of emotions rising up within her.

Anyway, I came home thinking of how traditions meld and change with time, and I was inspired to make these cards. I shouldn't have, but as soon as the idea dawned on me, I had to pursue it. Surely Jane Austen dreidel cards are no stranger than Jane Austen Halloween cards, right? Here they are:

I just made three sets, which one of three each design per set, and I'm giving away one to a lucky winner. Happy Hanukkah, Janeites! This giveaway is open internationally and will close on December 5th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Guest Post at Laughing with Lizzie

I recently became acquainted with Mrs. Darcy, executive chief in charge at Laughing with Lizzie. As the name suggest, she is all hospitality and elegance, inviting me to share with her readers how I cam to write my Tales of Less Pride and Prejudice trilogy. Do please visit her lovely blog and check out my post. Her reviews of all three novels follow soon!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Mr. Darcy's Madness - A More Intimate Peek

Five more days of NaNoWriMo! I'm hoping to put in 3 to 4,000 a day, putting the overall word count on The Madness of Mr. Darcy somewhere in the 80,000s.

The problem is I'm beginning to fizzle out, which is why I'm writing this blog post instead of plugging ahead. Perhaps the sharing of another, extremely rough excerpt will evoke more words of encouragement from my kind readers, giving me the final push I need to complete the novel. It is by far the most complicated story I have ever written, and I sincerely hope it will be my best book yet!

The following, unlike the previous excerpts I've shared, is from the beginning of the story, when Darcy is grappling with whether or not to enter the private asylum called Ramsey House. I'd love to hear you comments! Thanks for reading!

Mr. Darcy was forced to face that truth later that evening. Only an hour two after finally, following a length struggle, falling asleep, he woke up, as he so often did, haunted by specters from his past.

He rose and drew on his dressing gown before opening the door to his room in order to examine the clock in the outer chamber. Normally, on such occasions when sleep was impossible, it was his habit to roam the estate, but tonight the pile of clothes left in waiting by his obliging valet for just such an occasion held no interest for him. He lit a candle and looked to the clock. Three am. No one should be about the house anymore, but he still looked out into the hallway before exiting his room, checking in both directions before making his way hastily to the large gallery, filled with family portraits, one floor down, almost immediately beneath the family quarters. He thought darkly on this arrangement, for it was as if his entire ancestry was buried beneath his bed, where he could always feel the force of their expectations and his failures.

Upon entering the gallery, he lit a lamp and began to walk slowly down the length of the room, stopping to study each of his ancestors in turn. There was his great-great-great grandfather, William Darcy, who united his estate of Pembor to the neighboring Waverly through marriage to the sumptuously dressed lady hanging on his right: Elizabeth Hollingsworth. Thought a beauty in her day, the image of the first mistress of Pemberley, in her large collar and enormous skirts, had terrified Darcy since his boyhood. He no longer shielded his eyes from her sharp gaze as he passed her, but she still seemed to cast an aura of menace. He used to dream she was roaming the estates decapitated, with nothing but a disk of starched lace where her head should be. Though she had died a peaceful death at a respectable age, this did not keep her from haunting him. Tonight he stared at her closely, imposing her headless image on the portrait in his mind’s eye, amusing himself with the thought that she seemed a bit more becoming without the appendage.

Next was their son, Edward Darcy, pictured first as a young man, with another likeness directly to it, done many years later and in company with his wife and three children. One of the boys, Thomas, he thought was his name was, died of some illness or another. If he had survived, the two estates would have been split into two once more. Though still in the same family, instead of melding more and more into one, indistinguishable unit, by his own time there would exist only a distant connection, and he would certainly not be the possessor of such a fine estate..

The the remaining heir’s name was William, and he was Darcy’s great-grandfather. He had two children, an elder boy and younger girl, establishing a tradition of sorts, as the next two generations following him bred in precisely the same manner. Darcy thought what a coincidence it was, and wondered fantastically if other children were forcibly prevented, in an attempt to preserve such a convenient dichotomy. His grandfather and father both married heiresses, and their fortunes were freely invested in the estate, always growing and improving, for their was never an abundance of heirs for which to provide. Darcy came to his father’s portrait and looked at it warily. What would his father think of him now, the destroyer of the work of so many generations?

He had failed his duties in every sense of the manner. First and foremost, he had not provided an heir to the estate, passed down so seamlessly for so long. He had once thought Georgiana would have a son, alleviating him of the responsibility. He might have been given the name Dracy, or taken it later in life, and the regular visits of this imaginary nephew, come to learn the management of the estate, would have saved his life from the lonely desolation into which it had sunk. But then Georgiana died, horribly and childless. He had failed to protect her. It didn’t matter how many times he tried to convince himself that she had become her husband’s responsibility, he could not shake the feeling of guilt in her regard. The way in which her life was taken made it all the more horrible. Her widower was not so guilt ridden. Not three years after her passing, he was married once more, and he now had three children and an idyllic family life to show for it.

Darcy knew at the time that he had a duty to find a suitable woman and marry her, with or without the love he had once hoped to share with Elizabeth Bennet, but Georgiana’s death bore down upon him, crippling his will. He had already gained the reputation of being a recluse, but when the official mourning period was more than complete, he tried to force himself through a London season, in hopes the effort would produce an acceptable wife. He attended one ball and then fled for the comfort and security of Pemberley. He had not been seen in society since.

Perhaps it was not too late? Perhaps Sir Frederick really could help him? He looked at his father’s face again and began to laugh wildly. What would he say to his son being committed to a mad house? He would think it even more horrifying than what he had done to poor Wickham, and that was taking into account his affection! No, what his father cared for above all else was family pride and honor. He had seen himself as the embodiment of his heritage, and he tried to raise his son to be the same way. What a wasted effort!

He looked to his mother, bewigged and bonneted in the fashion of the last century, and thought of her sentiments on the notion. They would be just like those of her sister, Lady Catherine, though spoken more softly. Both his parents would shun him if they were alive, their embarrassment at how low he had sunk a source of incessant pain. Oh! Something could certainly be worse than a madhouse. At least he had only their portraits to confront, still and silent, instead of the shame of living and breathing judges. He started laughing again, but the harsh chortles quickly dissolved into weeping, and he fell to his knees before his parents images, crying with hopeless abandon. He could sink no further. There was no pride or dignity left to lose, and then there was that name, Bennet, which seemed to be calling him away from his decade’s seclusion at Pemberley. He would go to Ramsey House, if only for the vague stirrings the name conjured. What else had he left to lose?

Missed the previously posted excerpts from The Madness of Mr. Darcy? You can read the first conversation Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet have in the book here, and a scene from almost the end of the book here.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Regency Christmas at Austenesque Reviews

My holidays officially started today (only three days before Thanksgiving, which makes me more punctual than the nation's retailers), with the beginning of what I suppose I must call The Holidays at Pemberley Blog Tour, despite my sense that the name conjures up images of a far more orderly proceeding than mine. Caveats aside, this is very exciting for me, in no small part because it is the first time one of my books was released early instead of late, making this my most organized marketing attempt yet! Let the fun begin!

Today I have a guest post at Austenesque Reviews discussing some of the Regency Era Christmas traditions mentioned in my book. There is an international giveaway of Holidays at Pemberley. I am all anticipation for Meredith's review of the book, which she will post on Wednesday. Please dear friends: check it out, tell your friends, and help me spread the word!

Oh! Almost forgot to mention that they started giving out the NaNoWriMo winner badges today! Check mine to your right. The Madness of Mr. Darcy is currently at 65,000 words, and there are still six days to go!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

50,000 words!

And still going! Having proved to myself last year that I could write 50,000 words in a month, even unprepared and immensely distracted, I went into NaNoWriMo this year planning to write twice as much as the event calls for, and I'm in good shape to reach my 80 to 90,000 word goal, if I can keep up the pace.

Anyway, in the hopes of maintaining my momentum, I'm providing another little snippet of The Madness of Mr. Darcy for your reading pleasure (I hope). It helped SOOOO much to receive the comments I did on the previous segment I shared with you. Thank you so much! I could really use another bout of encouragement to help finish the novel before the end of the month.

Actually, I am pretty close to the end of the novel. I have to get Elizabeth and Darcy to Pemberley, wrap of Mr. Wickham's part in the story, and wish them all happily ever after. This is a scene I wrote this morning, and as before it is VERY rough. I plan to get my next tens of thousands of words in going back over the bones and fleshing out what I have already written, which is rather like an overly detailed outline. Anyway, hope you enjoy it:

When the door was safely secured behind him, Sir Frederick confronted the still shrieking countess and said, “Lady Anne!” in a commanding enough voice to silence he. “I see you’re upset, but I cannot have you causing such disruption at Ramsey House. Did you not consider what such a commotion might do the equilibrium of my guest?”

She blanched a bit, but replied stiffly, “You told me, Sir Frederick, that the residents of this establishment were docile and disinclined to violence! But then again, you also said my cousin would be keeping genteel company while he resided with you, and so how am I to know the extent of your lies!”

“All the representations I made of my establishment to you at Rosings this summer were perfectly accurate,” he defended himself, his indignation rightfully aroused. “I resent your implication otherwise!”

“Resent it if you must! The facts of the matter is that this woman is known to me of old. I have been privy to entire scandal surrounding her unfortunate sister, and this is the women in whom you entrust the care of young, disturbed ladies! I think if their families knew her history, they would not trust you with their loved one’s care.”

“Anne!” Darcy commanded her attention. “This is intolerable! You have absolutely no notion of what you are talking about!”

“I do indeed know, Darcy! Do you think I could forget a scandal that so affected my mother’s own rector!”

“My cousin Collins always was a fool, Lady Anne,” Elizabeth replied tartly, determined to defend herself. “I’m surprised you would heed anything he said. I thought you had better sense.”

“I will not be spoken to by such a creature,” came the piercing reply, shrieked with such vehemence that Elizabeth stepped backwards, where she gratefully found the comfort of Darcy’s supportive arms.

“Lady Anne,” Sir Frederick intervened, “You speak of events long in the past, and that were never of Mrs. Bennet’s doing. It is unfair, even cruel to attack her in such a manner. There is much you do not know of her history, and I will swear to it that I know of no one so qualified for the role she undertakes here.”

“Then I’m surprised you are so eager to part with her,” the countess scoffed, “let alone countenance an affair between a patient and a member of your staff!”

“Enough, Anne! We’ve spoken jokingly of your channelling your late mother, but you have surpassed even her excessive pitch of officious irrationality!”

“My mother was never so provoked! She would not stand for such usage,” her voice cracked with emotion, and her eyes welled with tears, “I demand you pack your things and leave with me at once, Darcy!”

He sighed wearily, but did not move, “What even brings you here, Anne?”

“I received a letter from a lady in residence here, with whom I am acquainted. She thought it her duty to inform me of your dalliance, which I wanted to dismiss as ridiculous, until I received a letter in your own hand declaring your intention of marrying Elizabeth Bennet! Of all people! And writing it as if it were a rare treat you had in store for us all. You are madder than I ever imagined, Darcy!”  

“That letter was addressed to his lordship,” Darcy angrily replied. “Why did you receive it?”

“The earl is in London on business, and I was authorized to attend his pressing correspondence.”

“And a personal letter from cousin to cousin is now to be considered urgent!” he angrily replied. “Fitzwilliam would not like to know what you have done, Anne.”

“I do not care what he wants! Surely he would welcome this harlot into our family as if she were a countess, for he is just such a fool, but I will not! If you pursue this ludicrous plan of yours, Darcy, no one will receive you in society. I will expose what has happened here at Ramsey House in a most public fashion, and all of you will end in disgrace!”

“Do not make threats that you have no intention of acting upon. I care not a fig for what society thinks anymore, but you do and will do everything in your power to prevent any hint of scandal regarding anyone with whom you are associated getting abroad. I know it was chiefly you who was responsible for hushing up my actions of last winter, interfering on my behalf to keep the proceeding as quiet as possible. Well, you shall just have to put your best effort into this, as well, for I am going to marry Mrs. Bennet, and I care not what you think of it! If I had done so twenty years ago, my life would have been a very different thing, and neither you, nor anyone else, shall prevent us from finally achieving the happiness we both deserve.”

“Bravo,  Mr. Darcy.” Elizabeth said supportively, standing beside him in determined resistance against any further obstacle that dared to stand in their way.

“It is impossible!” protested a suddenly quieter Lady Anne. “Think of what people shall say! Do consider what you do Darcy! Even if everyone else has forgotten Lydia Bennet years ago, there is no hiding that Mrs. Bennet works for a living, and in such a place! Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted!” she concluded in mournful tones, her gaze directed at no one in particular.

I'm such a sucker for the shades of Pemberley. Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Project Darcy by Jane Odiwe

A new Jane Odiwe novel is always a cause for celebration. I have loved everything she has done. Her books combine a deep affection and respect for Jane Austen with a unique vision of what her world looked like, a perspective born of Ms. Odiwe's experience of the physical location associated with Austen and her work as an artist. The result is vivid:
I ran through the glittering garden, past the sundial and the rose beds, where rosy blooms were crumpled like crushed paper in the heat. Along with the pink bricks of the walled garden scented with apricots, I ran my fingers along the roughened surface, not stopping to pick the sweet strawberries lying below in their straw bed nests, and as last I saw him. I could see his white head as he sat at his desk by the window. There were piles of dusty books and yellowed papers on every side of him, and I knew his fingers would be stained black with ink as he corrected his accounts or marked his scholars' work. I knew before I reached the house that the room he occupied would be wreathed in sweet-scented pipe smoke, just one ingredient in the magical elixir that conjured up his special smell. Gilt-edged books, paper and ink all had their own aroma as dear to me as any exotic perfume from India, and were as much a part of him as the glass of Madeira that he took in the evening, and his own cologne of bergamot, neroli and lavender. I could not reach him quickly enough, and at that moment he seemed to sense my presence and looked up to wave and smile. I waved back, my heart filled with love. 
I ran into the house, dark and cool after the sunny day outside to find him still busy with his books. I brought the smell of outdoors with me and knew I loked like a wild child with leaves in my hair. 
"Little Jenny, you have had a very busy afternoon, I think. Those grass stains tell a certain tale." 
I hung my head waiting for him to scold me, but I should have known better. He simply laughed and held out his arms to me. 
"Tell me a story, Papa."
The place is Steventon Rectory, and the girl is Jane Austen. Like Ms. Odiwe's previous book, Searching for Captain Wentworth, Project Darcy is a tale of time travel. This time, instead of the heroine inhabiting the body of someone who knew Jane, she becomes the author herself.

Five modern college students sign up as volunteers for an archeological dig (code named Project Darcy) at the site of Steventon Rectory. They are female roommates, and their personalities are modeled on the Bennet sisters. Our heroine, Ellie, has had intuitive experiences of the other worldly before, but as soon as she arrives at Ashe Rectory, where the girls are housed during the dig, she sees a young man dressed in Regency garb. The ghost proves to be Tom Lefroy, and Ellie begins to have episodes where she travels back to the time when he and Jane fell in love.

Much has been made of Austen's romance with Lefroy, most of it conjecture, but Ms. Odiwe's rendition coincides nicely with the facts. Her research into Austen's letters and the locations depicted endow the entire novel with a believability usually lacking in such attempts. Yes, images from Becoming Jane were, at times, hard to repress, but the depiction of Jane is far more realistic. It was wonderful to indulge in her perspective, so beautifully constructed!

The parts of the book that take place in the past are so good as to outshine the modern story a bit. I enjoyed watching Ellie cope with her experience and explore her own loves, but it is when she is Jane that I completely lost myself in the tale. I admit to being somewhat surprise at how the story ended for Ellie, and even a little disappointed, if only because Ms. Odiwe intentionally toys with our expectations, playing on the Pride & Prejudice parallels. One the other hand, Jane's romance is remarkably satisfying, even with the inevitable end it must come to. Austen, as Ms. Odiwe portrays her, is strong and inspiring when she says goodbye to Tom, not tragic in the least. The reader is left feeling no heartbreak, only gratitude.

I must wonder if Ms. Odiwe has more time travel tales in store for us. It has never been a favorite genre of mine, but in Ms. Odiwe's hands, perhaps because she doesn't get bogged down in mechanism and explanation, I find myself entranced. Project Darcy brings to life the personal experiences Austen endured that may have inspired her most beloved novel, just as Searching of Captain Wentworth did for Persuasion. I do so hope the rest of Austen's novels will be tackled in their turn.

Read my thoughts on other works by Jane Odiwe by clicking on the links below:

                      Mr. Darcy's Secret
                      Searching for Captain Wentworth 
                      "Waiting" from Jane Austen Made Me Do It  
                      Willoughby's Return

This is my thirteenth review for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentennial Celebration 2013, hosted by Austenprose. Please see my others below:
Bluebells in the Mourning by KaraLynne Mackrory  
Pride and Platypus by Vera Nazarian 
Mr. Darcy's Little Sister vs. And This Our Life by C. Allyn Pierson 
An Unlikely Missionary by Skylar Hamilton Burris 
The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy by Regina Jeffers 
The Three Colonels by Jack Caldwell 
Pride and Prejudice (1995): Influence and Merits 
His Uncle's Favorite by Lory Lilian 
Mr. Darcy's Refuge and Mr. Darcy's Noble Connections by Abigail Reynolds
          Pirates and Prejudice by Kara Louise

          The Darcys of Pemberley by Shannon Winslow

          Return to Longbourn by Shannon Winslow

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Glance at The Madness of Mr. Darcy

I'm not sure I'll do this very often, but I can't help myself today! Besides, I said I would try and share some of my NaNoWriMo story, The Madness of Mr. Darcy, before November began. So here is a bit of what I wrote today. I'm currently sitting at 31,459 words, and I really am enjoying it so far! The thing almost writes itself. The following is the first private conversation Elizabeth and Darcy have shared in twenty years:

“And your other sisters?” he asked hesitantly.

She sighed. “Mary, like myself, was able to find employment. She is a governess to a very large and respectable family, and feels herself quite fortunate in her position. Kitty lives as a companion to my Aunt Gardiner, whose husband died some years ago. And Jane,” she looked at him for the first time since beginning her account, “married my Uncle Phillips’ clerk. When he died, she moved in with his sister’s family along with her two children. We are lucky they could take her in, but is not the life I would have wished for her. I often feel she is the most unfortunate of my living sisters, but her children are an enormous source of comfort. The eldest, Charles,” she said significantly, “has recently begun the pursuit of a naval career. She misses him terribly.”

“Charles?” he asked, his voice hollow.

“It was always a favorite name of hers.”

“Eliz - I’m sorry - Mrs. Bennet, but I must tell you I tried to get Mr. Bingley to return to Netherfield. I could not hide from him the … incident with Miss Lydia, and in light of that circumstance, he did not feel he could return to Hertfordshire.” He noted the tears welling in her eyes, but by some amazing act of self-command, not a single one fell. “If it is any consolation, I do believe he loved her. Perhaps he still does … ”

After a moment of thoughtful silence, she asked, “What became of Mr. Bingley?”

“He married a friend of his sister’s and settled in Surrey. His wife died giving birth to his eighth child, I believe. That was already many years ago. I have not seen or heard from him in quite sometime, but when last I hear, he had assumed direct control over his family’s business.”

“I see,” she replied, and silence reigned again. Eventually Elizabeth summoned the courage to say, “I was so sorry to hear of Miss Darcy’s death.”

He didn’t speak for a moment, struggling to master himself before saying, “She did not deserve to meet such an end.”

“I know it’s little consolation, but Dr. Wilson and I are contriving to keep Lady Saunders from giving you any further grief regarding her death again. The incident, unfortunately, happens to be a particular fascination of hers, but we conquered the obsession once and will do so again. Indeed, it is half the reason for this outing today. We hoped to redirect her attention.”

Through his pain a smile, most unaccustomed to his drawn face, broke slightly through. “Is that also the reason behind your maneuvers with Mrs. Frogmore this morning?”

She looked at him in amazement. “How did you know?”

“You forget, Mrs. Bennet, how very observant I am when it comes to you.”

She didn’t say anything, and with a hint of desperation he continued, “What a pair we make! Beaten down by the events of our past! Life could have been so different …”

She forced a smiled. “You must learn some of my philosophy, Mr. Darcy. Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure,” a bitter laugh escaped her. “I admit I think of the past very seldom, and I think I have done so enough for one day.” She consulted the ever-present pocket watch. “It is time to be heading back to Ramsey House, Mr. Darcy. Please follow me.”

She walked before him all the way back to where the carriages awaited, and he watched her the entire way. The back might have been that of an entirely different lady - so brisk and business like - but when he saw her face and looked into those remarkably unchanged eyes, he knew that despite her trials, she was still the same Elizabeth. He studied her hair, secured in a tidy bun at the nap of her neck. No, he would not dwell on the past at all, not anymore. She could not have returned to his life for no reason, and he resolved to not lose any last opportunity for happiness, no matter how desperate, that came his way. It was then that he realized he failed to mention the papers he had found within the secret compartment of the window box that morning.

Any and all comments will be most appreciated!

Return to Longbourn by Shannon Winslow

Now to compensate for my very paltry attempt at reviewing The Darcys of Pemberley! Return to Longbourn is the continuation to that story, taking on Mary Bennet as heroine. Let me just state up front, lest there be any confusion, that I've read my share of Mary stories, some very good, but this is by far my favorite. Shannon Winslow has remained rigidly true to Austen's original character while transforming her into a romantic heroine of the highest degree. If anyone doubts that Mary has the potential for a fairytale princess ending, let the fact that she has no less than three dashing suitors for her hand prove the point. This veritable miracle is achieved by Ms. Winslow looking not to Austen for her inspiration but Charlotte Bronte, whose influence is unmistakable in this tale of a governess.

That's right. Rather than remain a burden to her family (and perhaps just to escape them), Mary engages herself as governess to the new family residing at Netherfield: the Farnsworths. Leaving the colorful clothes and social engagements her mother forced upon her behind, she dons the subdued hues and quiet manners of the genteel servant. It's a welcome escape from notice and attention for Mary. Instead of being in the spotlight as she marches towards spinsterhood, she has guarded herself against such humiliations. Now she gets to sit and observe humanity, studying the characters of her fellow humans as assiduously as her father and sister ever did. Her observations are no longer mundane or pedantic, and following the death of Mrs. Farnsworth, she has the entire family's well-being to attend: a task for which she proves uniquely qualified.

Like the first book in this series, Return to Longbourn begins with a death: this time Mr. Bennet's. Mrs. Bennet's fear of the hedgerows is addressed by the appearance of Mr. Tristan Collins, returned from America upon learning of his inheritance, whom she quickly decides ought to marry Kitty. Kitty, fearing another Mr. Collins, flees to Pemberley to avoid him, an arrangement which proves agreeable to Mary, for Tristan in no way resembles his brother, and in his friendship she begins to experience the foundations for joy:
They were just passing the tree-lined lane for Lucas Lodge, when suddenly the clouds united over their heads, and a driving rain set full in their faces. There was only one thing to be done, to which the exigence of the moment gave more than usual propriety; it was that of running with all possible haste back the way from which they had come. Laughing, Mr. Tristan grasped Mary's hand without warning and compelled her along the road at a gallop. She held her skirt, put her head down, and raced along at his side, drawing deep draughts of the freshening air into her lungs as she went. 
On they ran in unison, stride for stride. Neither of them proved fleet-footed enough to outstrip the rain, however, and they ended huddled together on the front porch of Longbourn, soaked clean through.
Mary's long repressed and controlled emotions slowly begin to relax, increasing both her vibrancy and vulnerable. It is in this style of character development that the influence of Jane Eyre is primarily felt, though the fact that she works as a governess for a family that has a secret certainly helps. The rather one-dimensional Mary Bennet Austen gave us is totally reborn as a woman of immense passion, but I am thankful to acknowledge that when this heroine, heartbroken and guilty, flees the house of her employer, she at least remains cognizant enough to not misplace her purse. Fear no near-death scenes on frozen Moors, madwomen in the attic, or maimed heroes. Ms. Winslow doesn't stray so very far away from Austen's two inches of ivory. Had she dared, I suspect her Mary would have proven resistant to such theatrics.

I absolutely adore this rendition of Mary Bennet and have been in raptures over her for weeks. I could not put the book down until I learned her fate, which remains remarkably mysterious for the bulk of the story. Do not miss this book! Return to Longbourn is an essential read. I look forward to doing so again and again.

This is my twelfth review for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentennial Celebration 2013, hosted by Austenprose. Please see my others below:
Bluebells in the Mourning by KaraLynne Mackrory  
Pride and Platypus by Vera Nazarian 
Mr. Darcy's Little Sister vs. And This Our Life by C. Allyn Pierson 
An Unlikely Missionary by Skylar Hamilton Burris 
The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy by Regina Jeffers 
The Three Colonels by Jack Caldwell 
Pride and Prejudice (1995): Influence and Merits 
His Uncle's Favorite by Lory Lilian 
Mr. Darcy's Refuge and Mr. Darcy's Noble Connections by Abigail Reynolds
          Pirates and Prejudice by Kara Louise

          The Darcys of Pemberley by Shannon Winslow

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Darcys Of Pemberley by Shannon Winslow

So I've been hearing a lot of buzz about Shannon Winslow's newest novel, Return to Longbourn (which I will review next), but I wanted to read the first story in the series before embarking on it. I purchased a copy of The Darcys of Pemberley and started cruising through the story, only to suddenly realize about a third of the way through that I had read it before, in the days before I started blogging, when I consumed such a constant stream of Austenesque that some of the stories got lost in the mix. I'm sorry to say this was one (though I have my theory why it did), for it is a sweet tale and worth reading. I enjoyed the revisit.

The book begins with Mr. Collins' death (a supplementary account of which can be read in the short story, Mr. Collins's Last Super). The Darcy's have been married long enough for Elizabeth to be confident in her role as Mrs. Darcy, although some, like Lady Catherine, have still not come to grips with the fact. Love and prosperity treats former Bennets well, and both Elizabeth and Jane are reaping the daily benefits of heir marriages. The only real bane to contend with is the Wickhams, who have a tendency to assert themselves at the most inconvenient time, and the challenges we all face in married life.

The novel provides a gratifying glimpse into what life at Pemberley must have been for the Darcys: entertaining their neighbors, guiding Georgiana into society, and relishing their mutual affection. However, conflicting forces arise that threaten the harmony of Elizabeth and Darcy's relationship. On Elizabeth side, there is Georgiana, who confides in her what she cannot repeat to Darcy, and on his side, there is Wickham, still adept at manipulating his former friend and capitalizing on his insecurities. The great tension of the novel derives from Wickham's machinations, and while effectively done, it is this that probably denied the book a distinct place in my memory. So many of the books I read at the time involved an evil Wickham threatening the security of Pemberley. That does not diminish what is unique in this version, but it did help it to blend with the other books in my mind.

It seems this review is going to be shorter than I'd like, but my thoughts keep straying to Return to Longbourn (my review of which I will post later this week), about which I'm much more enthusiastic. As previously stated, The Darcys of Pemberley is a sweet tale, providing lots of gratifying time in the Darcys' most felicitous company. It is also well-written while maintaining a solid pace, and I recommend it to those who never get enough of Pemberley (I'm one of them!), and as an introduction to the continuation, which is, unfortunately, stealing the thunder of its precursor. That seems a bit lukewarm, I know, but please trust it is due to the second book's triumph, rather than something lacking in the first.

This is my eleventh review for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentennial Celebration 2013, hosted by Austenprose. Please see my others below:
Bluebells in the Mourning by KaraLynne Mackrory  
Pride and Platypus by Vera Nazarian 
Mr. Darcy's Little Sister vs. And This Our Life by C. Allyn Pierson 
An Unlikely Missionary by Skylar Hamilton Burris 
The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy by Regina Jeffers 
The Three Colonels by Jack Caldwell 
Pride and Prejudice (1995): Influence and Merits 
His Uncle's Favorite by Lory Lilian 
Mr. Darcy's Refuge and Mr. Darcy's Noble Connections by Abigail Reynolds
          Pirates and Prejudice by Kara Louise

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Jane, Actually by Jennifer Petkus

I admit to embarking on this book with a great deal of skepticism. I only bought it because it was available for free on Kindle at the time, and I needed reading material for my tip to San Francisco. Even then, I read every other book I had purchased for the occasion before (somewhat reluctantly) finally beginning this one. The introductory material seemed to justify my concerns: the ghost of Jane Austen communicating through the internet? Really? But then I got hooked ...

Jane, Actually or Jane Austen's Book Tour is premised on the notion that the afterlife, a maddeningly isolated state. has been scientifically proven, and a form of electronic communication, the AfterNet, constructed to allow the countless disembodied souls floating aimlessly through eternity to communicate with the living and each other. The idea is a bit farfetched, I know, and distinctly creepy (I can just imagine the NSA enlisting dead agents, a level of paranoia that the author, Jennifer Petkus, does not explore in this volume), but the notion of being able to communicate with the real Jane Austen is so unbelievably exciting that all my concerns and doubts were quickly swept away. Ms. Petkus does an admirable job of bringing Austen to life (excuse the term), while accounting for the experiences she must have encountered in the 200 years since her death. This is no longer a quiet country spinster, as much as her handlers strive to maintain that image. She has been on battlefields, travelled across the globe, and has a decided technology addiction (it is her only way of communicating, after all). Nevertheless, her portrayal is both believable and cozily familiar. The premise of the book focuses around the launch of her new book, a completed Sanditon. She uses an avatar (a paid actress named Mary Crawford, ironically) in order to communicate directly with an audience, and perhaps my favorite part of the book is her Keynote address at JASNA's AGM:
A well-known photo appeared on the screens showing a woman in Regency dress lounging by a pool with a cordless phone in her hands.
"This photo is so last century," Mary said with a sigh. "Look at the size of that cordless phone. I really must have a new picture taken."
This book is like a love letter from Jane to her Janeites. She forgives our trespasses on her work, even thanking us for them. In return, she's pretty much precisely what we wish her to be. There are many cameos by real Janeites, though at times the names have been changed to protect the innocent. As exciting as Jane's character is, the society of those around her is what keeps the story moving. She develops relationships with a wide swarth of humanity. There's Mary Crawford, the struggling actress, Melody Kramer, her gay agent and best friend, Dr. Alice David, Jane's internet nemesis, and many more, but the most important, I would argue, is Albert Ridings, her dead friend, who does not know she is the "real" Jane Austen but enjoys lively debates about her work online. Oh yes! Ms. Petkus provides Jane with a hero, and a most appropriate one, I think:
All this was new to Albert, this dissection of Austen. He had enjoyed Austen since his discovery of her while in hospital. His memory was that he held Persuasion in his hands as he drew his last breath, and that he died without the knowledge of the reunion of Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth. It was not until two years later that he could confirm their happiness and it was one of the few joys he could remember from those dark days.  
It was understandable than, that his enjoyment of Austen was uncritical. She gave him joy and beauty at a time when he languished in the hell of the trenches and finally as he lay dying in the influenza ward. And over the decades, he had reread those six novels when ever he found someone enjoying them. He recalled the joy of finding someone reading Austen for the first time and enjoying her; and the misery of some dull elf reading her who did not understand her and did not appreciate her beauty.
The one part of the book I did find a bit lacking was the part from which I was anticipating deriving the most enjoyment: readings at book signings of the completed Sanditon, the launch of which drives the story. Ms. Petkus was working at a disadvantage here, as "Another Lady" has already completed Sanditon in a most satisfying manner (it is my absolute favorite piece of Austenesque literature). While Jane, Actually does not strive to actually provide a completely realized plot to Austen's last, unfinished novel, I couldn't help but compare the scenes shared with those of Another Lady's. I'm afraid anyone who takes on Sanditon in any manner will always be compared to the standard already set. It's not quite fair, I know, but it is the truth.

I highly recommend this amusing portrayal of ourselves, the Janeites, to ourselves. We deserve this gratifying romp with our idol through the modern world, and I thank Ms. Petkus for facilitating the experience. I will certainly return to enjoy it again.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Lovely Reviews!

In midst of Twisted Austen madness, I received some rather gratifying reviews. First, the one I missed: Anna at Diary of an Eccentric wrote the ONLY proper Emma and Elton: Something Truly Horrid review the story has received. I learned of the post right when Jane and Bingley started posting, so though I was late to the game, the timing probably was perfect. Read it here:

Also super exciting was stumbling upon Warmisunqu's Austen review of the ENTIRE Tales of Less Pride and Prejudice series. This is the first time I've read reviews of all three books as a trilogy, which was very exciting! Read the review of First Impressions here:

Second Glances here:

and Holidays at Pemberley here:

Friday, November 1, 2013

Jane and Bingley Now Available on Kindle and Nook!

Halloween is behind us, but the fun continues! Jane and Bingley: Something Slightly Unsettling is now available for purchase on your Kindle or Nook, or you can always read it for free right here (check the page tabs above), or download a pdf of the story from Goodreads, also a freebie. It was great fun. Thanks to all who participated, and good luck to everyone who entered the giveaways. They are all open until November 8th, so there is still time to enter and win!

NaNoWriMo 2013: The Madness of Mr. Darcy

Keep on truckin'! Twisted Austen is over, and NaNoWriMo is on! I've been posting with renewed regularity as of late, but I'm afraid this event necessitates as slowdown, as I cannot blog and speed write a novel all at the same time. I have a few reviews of very excellent books scheduled to post over the next few weeks, which should hopefully prevent an entire loss of momentum, so please check back to enjoy those. I might also throw up a few posts venting my frustrations or joys as I pound out my new novel. We'll just have to see how it goes.

This November I will be writing the first 50,000 words of The Madness of Mr. Darcy, a book I've been aching to write all year long. It will be a reimagination, like my previous books, but this one takes place in 1832. 20 years ago things went terribly wrong when Mr. Darcy failed to find Lydia and Mr. Wickham, and the subsequent loss of Elizabeth Bennet for his wife was only the first in a series of disappointments and tragedies that seem to plague his existence. Miserable and desperate, he is persuaded by his cousins to accept the help of Sir Frederick Wilson , the owner and manager of Ramsey House, a private mental institution. Mr. Darcy enters Sir Frederick's care thinking all hope for his life is lost, but it is at Ramsey House that he finds his future. I'm so excited! Wish me luck!