When 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.
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.
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?”
“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!
Syrie 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.
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
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.