Jane Austen’s First Love, by Syrie James – Holiday Blog Tour Stop

First LoveWhen the opportunity to join this tour was announced I jumped on it as I am interested in anything inspired by Jane Austen.  Oh and it didn’t hurt that to date I have read everything written by Syrie James.  This is my favorite cover yet, I have framed the beautiful postcard that came with my copy of the book.

I am not yet done with the book and will return with my feature but for now enjoy the preview provided by the publisher and the excerpt from chapter 1 provided by James.  I read this excerpt and knew I was going to enjoy visiting Jane’s first love with her. Still pinching myself that I have the opportunity to share this with you. Be sure to keep reading this post as there is a fabulous giveaway announcement you will not want to miss.

PREVIEW

In the summer of 1791, fifteen-year-old Miss Jane Austen is determined to accomplish three things: to do something useful, write something worthy, and fall madly in love. While visiting at Goodnestone Park in Kent for a month of festivities in honor of her brother’s engagement to Miss Elizabeth Bridges, Jane meets the boy-next-door—the wealthy, worldly, and devilishly handsome Edward Taylor, heir to Bifrons Park, and hopefully her heart! Like many of Jane’s future heroes and heroines, she soon realizes that there are obstacles—social, financial, and otherwise—blocking her path to love and marriage, one of them personified by her beautiful and sweet tempered rival, Charlotte Payler.

Unsure of her own budding romance, but confident in her powers of observation, Jane distracts herself by attempting to maneuver the affections of three other young couples. But when her well-intentioned matchmaking efforts turn into blundering misalliance, Jane must choose between following her own happily-ever-after, or repairing those relationships which, based on erroneous first impressions, she has misaligned.

EXCERPT

The summer of 1791 is so firmly fixed in my memory that I believe I can never forget it; every detail is as fresh and vivid as if it occurred only yesterday, and looking back, there are times when it seems as if my life never really began until that moment—the moment when I first met him.

It was a letter which instigated this fond remembrance—a letter I wrote to my sister Cassandra many years past, which she came upon the other day by happenstance. It was a cold morning in late November, and we had recently returned to our apartment at Bath following a lovely, all too brief holiday in Lyme. I was setting the table for breakfast, when I observed my sister seated by the window in the drawing-room, deeply engrossed in reading. An open box of old correspondence lay at her feet.

“What are you reading, Cassandra?” inquired I.

“One of your old letters,” replied she, smiling. “I came upon this box while I was tidying the wardrobe, and could not prevent myself from taking a look inside.”

“My letters? Why do you keep those old things? Re-reading them can hardly prove to make lively entertainment of a morning.”

“Oh, but it does. You wrote this one in September 1796 when you were in Kent. Here you speak of a Miss Fletcher: She wore her purple muslin, which is pretty enough, though it does not become her complexion. There are two traits in her character which are pleasing; namely, she admires Camilla, and drinks no cream in her tea.” Cassandra laughed softly. “You are a most candid and amusing writer, Jane.”

“I am flattered that you think so, but I still say: what is the point of reading my old correspondence? It is full of nothing but useless details which can no longer be of interest to anybody.”

“I beg to differ. Reading them is a source of great pleasure for me, dearest.” Turning the letter over, she continued, “Look what you write here: We went by Bifrons and I contemplated with a melancholy pleasure the abode of him, on whom I once fondly doated.”

I paused, the spoon which I had been holding forgotten in my hand. That single sentence caught at my heart, of a sudden bringing back to mind a person, and a time and place, which I had not thought about in many years—and an attachment which I thought I had long since got over.
Cassandra looked at me, empathy in her eyes. “You are thinking about that summer, are you not?”

I nodded.

“How many years has it been?”

I did the mental calculation. “Twelve and a half years.”

She carefully refolded the letter. “They say that memories fade in time—but where particular people and events are concerned, I have not found that to be the case.”

I knew that she was thinking of Tom, her own lost love, who had tragically died so many years before. Our eyes caught and held across the room.

“Nor have I.”

She came to me, removed the spoon from my hand, and set it on the table; then she took me in her embrace. “You are older and wiser now, Jane. But it is only natural that you should think of him. I know what he meant to you.”

So saying, she kissed my cheek, handed me the letter, and left the room.
I sank into the nearest chair, immediately opening and scanning the letter until I found the phrase which was of such interest to me. Then I held the missive to my chest, as a hundred memories came flooding back…

* * * * * * * * * * * *

At that point of my life when this history occurs, I had attained my fifteenth year. I was young, I know it; but does age matter? Did Juliet, not fourteen, love her Romeo any less? What of Pyramus and Thisbe’s burning passion? Ought we to discount their raw and overpowering feelings, simply because of their youthful age? I think not. When he was near, at times my heart did not beat to its regular rhythm; in so many ways, I thought he was my perfect match.
To my mind, particularly when one took into account my education and the manner in which I was raised, I was, at fifteen, a grown-up person in every way; indeed, I felt as mature and worldly as my sister, who was three years my senior. I was not beautiful, like Cassandra; my hair was far too curly, and neither fashionably light nor dark, but a shade of brown somewhere in between; even so, I received compliments on my hazel eyes and clear complexion, and was often told that I bore a strong resemblance to my father and my six brothers, who I believed to be handsome.

I lived in the house where I was born, Steventon Rectory, in the county of Hampshire. Although not grand or elegant by any means, it was a dwelling worthy of a scholar and a gentleman and had provided me with all the comforts and joys of a happy childhood. We had a lovely garden and a big old barn, where for years my brothers and sister and I had enjoyed holding home theatricals. I had done very little travelling outside of Hampshire, other than two brief intervals away at school, and one family excursion to east Kent to visit my elderly great-uncle at Sevenoaks. I was anxious to see the world.

I had been taking dancing lessons since I was a child and loved nothing more than the idea of a ball; but an idea was all it had been, for as much as I perceived myself to be an adult, my mother still forbade me from attending the assemblies at Basingstoke. This was the greatest cross I bore at the time, for I dreamt of three things in life: doing something useful, writing something worthy, and falling in love—and how could I ever fall in love if I had to wait nearly two years before Mamma would allow me to come out?

On Thursday morning, the 18th of March, 1791, I was in my dressing-room, a smallish chamber which communicated with my bedroom and had been especially fitted up for my sister and me. I adored every inch of that room, from the chocolate brown carpet, blue wallpaper, and comforting fireplace, to the painted bookshelves and cheerful striped curtains, for it was a place of quiet and refuge, where I could write in privacy and peace.

I was seated at the small table between the windows, above which hung a looking-glass and our Tonbridge-ware work-boxes, thoroughly engaged in composing a little play I had entitled The Visit, and was just considering the next line to be spoken, when I heard the tread of footsteps on the stairs and my mother’s voice ringing out:

“Jane! Jane! Come down! You are needed!”

“I am writing, Mamma!” I doubted very much that my reply would hold much weight with her, and sadly this proved to be the case.

My mother entered the room and stopped beside me, shaking her head and clicking her tongue. “Look at you, bent over that table like an interrogation point—do sit up straight, Jane! Put down your pen and come downstairs; we have work to do.”

“What kind of work?”

“I told you at breakfast! We still have all those shirts to make for Charles, and two new pairs of breeches, and who knows how many handkerchiefs. Cassandra and I have been working all morning, and with only two pairs of hands, it is slow going.”

“May I come down in an hour, Mamma? I am right in the middle of the most amazing scene: eight people are crowded into a tiny drawing-room which only has chairs for six. Two large persons will be obliged to sit on the laps of others—only imagine the hilarity which will ensue!”
“That can wait, Jane; this cannot.”

“But, Mamma! I have the whole dialogue in my head. If I stop now, I will forget! Did Shakespeare’s mother interrupt his efforts with a pen? Did Mozart’s father oblige him to sew gowns for his sister?”

My mother raised her eyes heavenward. “I know how much you enjoy your writing, Jane. Lord knows, we all love a good laugh now and then, and if any one understands the pleasures of composition, it is I—I flatter myself that my poetry is not entirely unreadable—but it is only a hobby, Jane: an amusement for the family. We are neither of us Mozart nor Shakespeare.”

______________________________________

Honored to be on the tour and share this except provided by James.  I know this book will be big success as there are so many Austenites out there all over the world.  A perfect gift for any one that loves, Jane, history or is looking for a good read.

Syrie I have read every historical fiction novel you have written and I hope that it will be necessary to dedicate more then a shelf to your writing if you keep this up.  Congrats!

AUTHOR BIO

0Syrie James, hailed as “the queen of nineteenth century re-imaginings” by Los Angeles Magazine, is the bestselling author of nine critically acclaimed novels that have been translated into 18 languages. Her books have been awarded the Audio Book Association Audie, designated as Editor’s Picks by Library Journal, named a Discover Great New Writer’s Selection by Barnes and Noble, a Great Group Read by the Women’s National Book Association, and Best Book of the Year by The Romance Reviews and Suspense Magazine. Syrie is a member of the WGA and lives in Los Angeles. Please visit her at syriejames.com, Facebook or say hello on Twitter @SyrieJames.

GIVEAWAY DETAILS

jafl-grand-prize-x-420

GRAND GIVEAWAY

Win One of Five Fabulous Jane Austen-inspired Prize Packages

To celebrate the holidays and the release of Jane Austen’s First Love, Syrie is giving away five prize packages filled with an amazing selection of Jane Austen-inspired gifts and books!

To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any of the blog stops on the Jane Austen’s First Love Holiday Blog Tour.

Increase your chances of winning by visiting multiple stops along the tour! Syrie’s unique guest posts will be featured on a variety of subjects, along with fun interviews, spotlights, excerpts, and reviews of the novel. Contest closes at 11:59pm PT, December 21, 2014. Five lucky winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments on the tour, and announced on Syrie’s website on December 22, 2014. The giveaway contest is open to everyone, including international residents. Good luck to all!

Jane Austen’s First Love: A Novel, by Syrie James
Berkley Trade (Penguin USA) 2014 (400) pages
Trade paperback ISBN: 978-0425271353
eBook ISBN: 978-0698139268

Blog Tour

To find out more about the blog tour which runs through December 15th and its stops visit Syrie’s website: syriejames.com or visit Austenprose blog post: http://austenprose.com/2014/11/17/jane-austens-first-love-holiday-blog-tour/. Lastly, on twitter to follow the fun search hashtag #JAFLBlogTour.

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A Love Story Across Time

I was instantly drawn to the cover of THE WIDOW’S WALK by Robert Barclay from WilliamMorrow Books.  But my affection for this book only grew as I read the story within.

Widows Walk

Elizabeth Canfield, a woman who fell to her death while waiting for her true love to return to her.  Now 170 years later she is trapped, never aging, wandering in and around the home that she once called her own.  But now something has changed and her ghostly world is flipped upside down with possibilities.

Garrett Richmond  an up and coming architect was drawn to a dilapidated old home referred to as Seaside.  He had big dreams for this home and he was willing to take a leap of faith to do so. Family and friends thought his obsession a bit strange but there was no way for them to understand the draw to this house and the beautiful spirit within.

But how can a these two, a live breathing man and this apparition find a way to believe.  Garrett thought he was loosing it and than once he started to believe a love for the ages developed. There are some lovely details of both architecture and the history of the house. Additionally, there are twists I cannot share but I was always sad to put it down when work or life called.

This love story was endearing and I did not want it to end.  Can lightening strike twice between reader and author?  I sure hope the answer is yes.  I am looking forward to reading other books by Robert Barclay.

Shh because this is going in some stockings this year for the holidays.

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A New Poirot Mystery

The Monogram Murders: The New Hercule Poirot Mystery” by SOPHIE HANNAH from WilliamMorrow was long-awaited at our house.  It is a rare book that my other half and I fight over but he stole this one, hid it and now these are his thoughts…

Monogram

I was very interested in reading this book as soon as I heard about it. The editorial reviews were very positive….so I put another book aside, and I dived in! After reading this book, I have a better appreciation of just how hard it must be to write a convincing pastiche. Many Sherlock Holmes pastiches, although pretty good stories, seem to miss the mark a bit. I feel the same about Sophie Hannah’s first effort at Poirot; pretty good book but not quite Agatha Christie’s Poirot. Sophie Hannah’s Poirot is not as charming as one is used to and comes across a little boring. In addition, the story itself seems at times to be overly complicated.

I may be overly critical here, but remember – we are comparing Ms. Hannah to Ms. Christie. The Poirot novels I have always enjoyed the most are those which include Captain Hastings. Hastings is missing in this novel, but the author does do a good job of utilizing Scotland Yard policeman Edward Catchpool for much of the narration. The portions of the book I enjoyed the most are those that highlighted Catchpool’s investigation (and did not include Poirot)!

Bottom line – I was interested enough in the book that I quickly read it to the end. Although not as satisfying as a Christie novel, it was good enough that I will be reading Sophie Hannah’s next Poirot novel when she makes her second effort. Hopefully, the Poirot we have enjoyed all of our lives will emerge in book #2.

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A Visit to Chestnut Street

My first Maeve Binchy read and oh what a treasure. I actually listened to this book thanks to Random House Audio and I could not have asked for better company on the ride to and from work.  Sile Bermingham was the perfect narrator to transport me to Ireland.

Chestnut Street

This collection of short stories written by Binchy on a fictional street that she was saving for later have now come to life in this book.  Each story stands on its own and allows for easy listening if you are not sure about making a commitment to the audiobook world or only have short interludes for listening in. Bermingham is really to be applauded as this collection has so many characters that she has to bring to life in the audiobook.

When I finished a disc I would often find myself going back to listen to one of the stories  again.  This is the kind of listen/read to visit again and again.

These stories were both touching and humorous and there was something special in each one. Ms. Binchy I tip my hat to you posthumously and thank you for CHESTNUT STREET and the body of work you left for myself and others to read now and for years to come.

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War Has Two Faces Endearingly Captured by Anthony Doerr

allthelight-209x300Anthony Doerr has crafted a book that is chapters and chapters of short stories somehow melded together into a story about WWII. Expressed through two characters on opposite sides of the war, it provides a window into the history and emotions of this war.

Marie-Laure lives in Paris with her father the locksmith of the Museum of Natural History.  Werner is an orphan living in a house with other orphans including his sister Jutta in a small town in Germany.

Marie-Laure’s father builds his daughter is model of their neighborhood so that when a disease takes her sight she can get around the city.  She spends many hours with him at the museum. Torn from their happy life when the Germans invade Paris, they flee first to a safe house that is compromised and then to a great-uncle’s home in St.-Malo.

Werner develops a talent for electronics. He can see how to make it work in his mind. Eventually he is invited to an academy for Hitler’s Youth. He ends up in St.-Malo at the tail end of his mission to track down those in the resistance sending messages that plague the Germans.

Marie-Laure’s father builds her a model of St.-Malo so she can navigate this new home. Soon he is taken prisoner and now she is alone in this strange town that soon is under siege by the Germans. Her father and great-uncle have provided her a way to stay alive.

Marie-Laure and Werner lives briefly intersect when they need each other the most in the war. If they hadn’t found it other they might both have perished.

I was not surprised to find that Doerr has a history in short stories as these chapters read just that way.  Yet Doerr has my admiration as he was able to craft these chapters into a beautiful novel. And while there was some choppiness due to the format this chapter reader did not mind.  Doerr even committed the cardinal sin of time jumping in the sections of the book but it still did not diminish my adoration for this book.

Thanks to Scribner for taking a chance on this interesting format and for providing me with a copy this book. Thanks to the Hashtags Book Club for making this selection for our August read. I loved musing about it during our weekly twitter chats.

 

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A Second Helping from Hazel Gaynor – Cover Reveal

I had the chance to read the first novel from Helen Gaynor about the Titanic http://poofbooks.wordpress.com/2014/04/24/a-titanic-memory-the-girl-who-came-home/, that too had a beautiful cover. Next up from Gaynor is A MEMORY OF VIOLETS and it too has a cover that will catch your eye.

Gaynor

From the author of the USA Today bestseller The Girl Who Came Home comes an unforgettable historical novel that tells the story of two little sisters – orphaned flower sellers – and the young woman who will be transformed by their experiences.

‘For Little Sister … I will never stop looking for you.’

1876. Among the filth and depravity of Covent Garden’s flower markets, orphaned Irish sisters Flora and Rosie Flynn sell posies of violets and watercress to survive. It is a pitiful existence, made bearable only by the presence of each other. When they become separated, the decision of a desperate woman sets their lives on very different paths.

1912. Twenty-one-year-old Tilly Harper leaves the peace and beauty of her native Lake District for London, to become assistant housemother at Mr. Shaw’s Home for Watercress and Flower Girls. For years, the home has cared for London’s orphaned and crippled flower girls, taking them off the streets. For Tilly, the appointment is a fresh start; a chance to leave her troubled past behind.

Soon after she arrives, Tilly discovers a notebook belonging to Flora Flynn. Hidden between the pages she finds dried flowers and a heartbreaking tale of loss and separation as Flora’s entries reveal how she never stopped looking for her sister. Tilly sets out to discover what happened to Rosie. But the search will not be easy. Full of twists and surprises, it leads the caring and determined young woman into unexpected places, including the depths of her own heart.

About the Author: Hazel Gaynor is the author of The Girl Who Came Home (William Morrow Paperbacks; ISBN: 9780062316868; 04/15/2014). She is also a freelance writer, writing regularly for the national press, magazines and websites in Ireland and the UK. Her writing success has been featured in The Sunday Times Magazine and Irish Times and she has also appeared on TV and radio. Hazel is a guest blogger and features writer for national Irish writing website writing.ie for which she has interviewed, among others, Philippa Gregory, Sebastian Faulks and Cheryl Strayed. Hazel was the recipient of the 2012 Cecil Day Lewis award for Emerging Writers and appeared as a guest speaker at the Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference and the Historical Novel Society Conference in 2014. You can reach her at https://www.facebook.com/hazelgaynorbooks.

You have to wait till it arrives in February but you can pre-order from any of the places below:

Barnes & Noble / Amazon / IndieBound / Books-a-Million / iTunes

William Morrow Trade Paperback; February 3, 2015; $14.99; ISBN: 9780062316899

 

 

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Dark Dark Tale in the Time of the Bard

Dark AmeliaI love book covers/art that is not a secret but I often do not think twice about the title.  With this novel DARK AEMILIA I was drawn to the title but expected something more.  I think the title was far darker then the woman that was driven to the brink by the time and circumstances she found herself in.

Aemilia Bassano is born in the time of Queen Elizabeth and with the death of her musician father coupled with her beauty she finds herself a plaything in the Queen’s court. William Shakespeare is not my favorite, sorry to those who study and appreciate his works. I often felt I was in a Shakespeare work with Sally O’Reilly capturing this time so well in the pages of this novel.

While Aemilia is a beauty and just wants to be with the love of her life it was not meant to be.  Instead she is married off and raises a son by another man. Aemilia will do anything for her precious son Henry perhaps because he reminds her of the man she loves. Sorry to say this book was just too dark for me.  And the sorcery I was hoping to find did not materialize until hundreds of pages into the book. By then it was just too dark and there were not any characters I had forged any connection to.

My favorite aspect of this book was gaining a new understanding of a time and its complications and in turn a real life person that is little known.  O’Reilly’s style is academic but I trusted her pen and always felt in good hands. I am appreciative to learn about Aemilia Bassano aka Lanyer and have spent some time learning more about this woman and her struggle.

I thank Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for allowing me a turn at this tour for DARK AMELIA.  Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres.  You should see what other tours are in the works, there is something for everyone. http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/

 

 

 

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