Wednesday, 31 August 2011


Straight to the point. This is not Austen. Forget her and only after that you may enjoy yourself.
What I appreciate is that this book is totally honest, starting  from its cool cover.  Just look at it ! You can’t expect a Regency Ball,  nor characters  dancing to the rhythm of  stiff conventions or stuck to propriety and good manners. Look at that mini-skirt, those close bodies and their sexy looks. Do they remind you of anything Austen-like?
OK. Once we’ve cleared that up, we can start focusing on this fast paced, sexy,  contemporary romance set in the transgressive world of  … Sex, Drugs, Rock’n’Roll!
Darcy is as hot as he is talented. Fast music, powerful beats and wild reputation  have made him, a virtuoso guitarist,  and his band, Slurry, into rock’s newest bad boys. They have just been through a dark, complicated , troubled period. But they are ready to go back on stage, if only they could find a new good opening act!  Darcy, Richard Fitzwilliam and Charles Bingley are desperately looking for a good band.
Elizabeth Bennet and the Long Borne Suffering – her sister Jane and her friend Charlotte Lucas – can’t believe their eyes and luck when Slurry come to listen to them on one of their gigs and they are stunend when their manager Alex Lucas tell them they’ve been offered a contract for a long tour and hired  as Slurry’s opening act.
Though experienced rock stars and idols of thousands , the three Slurry men don’t suspect those three girls are going to rock their world!
Elizabeth is fiercely independent and does not trust easily, she’s sure she’s seen the worst the music industry has to offer. Charlotte Lucas and her sister Jane have also talent to spare and they soon become a successful band themselves.
Travelling and playing together for months, as the days and nights heat-up, it becomes clear that everyone is in for a summer to remember. Can you imagine what a ride it  can be, packed with sexy and musical adventures?

Re-writing Pride and Prejudice has become a favourite sport of many, you must have noticed that. How many new versions are there out there? Anyway,  I’m sure that lovers of spicy modernizations will be fond of this one. It is new, witty, uninhibited , beautifully written and with rock’n’roll rhythm!

Final warning: Adult content – Explicit sex scenes.

Fitzwilliam Darcy Rock Star is out September 1. Stay tuned. Heather Lynn Rigaud will be my guest soon. Any question for her?


This months discussion of themes and characters related to Sense and Sensibility featured Regina Jeffers as my special guest. Special thanks to her for contributing such an interesting piece (HERE) and for moderating the discussion at My Jane Austen Book Club. She generously granted one lucky commenter a signed copy of her latest published novel, The Scandal of Lady Eleanor.


I'll wait for you back on September 20th 
to celebrate Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary with Lynn Shepherd and a new giveaway!  

Tuesday, 30 August 2011


If you want to introduce to Jane Austen and her world let's say to ... your friend's/your colleague's/your own teenage daughter, a young niece or grandaughter, your neighbour's lovely child,  here's some good children's/YA books written just for them. Actually, I was quite young when I first read my first Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Orgoglio e Pregiudizio, in Italian . I was 14.  But some of these books below are targeted at even younger kids.

 Cora Harrison fell in love with Jane Austen when she first read Pride and Prejudice at the age of twelve. She has published many novels for children and adults. She and her husband live on a small farm in the west of Ireland. After working in education for many years, she dedicates her writing also to spreading the love for Jane Austen. She says:  “As a teacher I am realistic enough to know that girls won’t automatically read Jane Austen unless their interest is awakened and I hoped to do that…”

I was Jane Austen Best Friend- A Secret Diary is her first austenesque for children. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single girl in possession of a journal must write all her secrets in it. Jenny Cooper, the protagonist, is Jane Austen's shy, pretty, cousin. Jane is clever and sparky and has lots of handsome brothers and a vivid imagination. These are Jenny's secrets: she has never gone to a ball, she hates school, she longs to wear a new gown and flirt with a handsome naval officer, she wishes real life could be more like a novel. A delicious dance between truth and fiction, this is the thrilling story of a moonlight flit, a dashing young man and two girls in search of a hero.

In 2011 MacMillan UK has published a sequel,  Jane Austen Stole My Boyfriend. In this second book in the series Jenny Cooper has found her hero, thanks to her cousin Jane, who considers herself an expert in affairs of the heart. Now it's Jane's turn to fall in love and there are plenty of dances, rumours, scandals and eligible gentlemen to entertain two teenage girls in search of adventure. But a good reputation once lost is gone forever and Jane is in danger of becoming the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons...

Read an excerpt from it:

‘I hate Jane Austen! I really hate her!’
I stop. I know that voice.‘Oh, Lavinia, Mama says that Jane Austen is just a vulgar, husband-hunting, affected little minx. She says you are to take no notice of her.’I know that voice too.It’s Lavinia and Caroline Thorpe. I remember them well from the time when Jane and I were at boarding school at Southampton. They had made my life a misery there. I can still hear them chanting ‘Look at Jenny Cooper’s muslin – it looks like a rag.’ ‘Jenny Cooper has the snub nose of a servant girl, she’s such a little dwarf, isn’t she?’; or else, to the owner of the school, ‘Mrs Crawley, Jenny Cooper has broken a school rule!’And now here they are at the Assembly Rooms at Basingstoke.I hesitate at the door of the ladies’ cloakroom. One curl has come loose from its knot at the back of my head during the hectic pace of the Boulanger dance, but it will have to stay like that. I can’t go in there and face the two Thorpe girls. I turn to go, but then something stops me and I turn back. Before my courage ebbs away I burst through the door, say to them icily, ‘Jane Austen is my best friend’; I’ll thank you not to gossip about her.’I push past them, examine myself in the looking glass, trying to look calm. I pretend to look at myself, but I can see them sneering, shrugging their shoulders as if I were not worth a reply. I carefully pin up the stray curl, and then decide to leave it lying there on my neck – it looks nice, I think. I half-turn and with my head over my shoulder survey my gown, pure white and sprigged with tiny silver flowers. The train is beautiful. A hundred tiny deep blue beads have been sewn to it and they twinkle in the candle light. I smooth my long white gloves, making sure that they fit snugly over the elbow and then I sweep past the two Thorpe girls without another glance. As I close the door behind them I hear Caroline say,‘Anyway, we’re going to Bath for the season; he’s bound to be there.’ She raises her voice a little and says ‘And the Austens and their beggarly cousin won’t be there to interfere.’When I get back to the Assembly Rooms, the new dance has not yet been called, but Jane is already hand in hand with Newton. No wonder Lavinia is so upset. The Honourable Newton Wallop is the second son of the Earl of Portsmouth and it’s rumoured that he will be the heir to the Portsmouth estates as the eldest son, John, is strange and, according to Jane, it is feared that he is a lunatic. Newton has been a pupil at Mr Austen’s house at Steventon and he and Jane seem great friends, joking and laughing. They’ve been dancing together for most of the evening.‘Your very humble servant, ma’am,’ says Newton, and Jane replies in very affected tones, ‘la, sir, pray do not be such a tease,’ And then she laughs as Newton reminds her of the time that she and he made an apple-pie bed for Jane’s prim sister, Cassandra. Lavinia would be furious if she could hear how friendly they sounded.I don’t waste any more thoughts on Lavinia. I can see Thomas coming towards me. I don’t push my way through the crowd to join him. I just stand and look at him.Captain Thomas Williams, the youngest captain in the Navy – brave, handsome and noble – and in love with me! Tall – taller than most people at the ball; broad shoulders; black hair gleaming like a blackbird’s wing under the candlelight from the chandeliers above; dark brown eyes, so piercing and yet . . . I think back to the little damp woodland and the bluebells and tiny forget-me-nots at our feet and how those eyes were so soft and pleading then. And still I can’t believe that he has asked me to marry him.He has reached me now.‘You look so beautiful,’ he murmurs in my ear and I smile and know whether my curls are pinned up tidily, or escaping down on the nape of my neck, it makes no difference to him. He loves me as I am and no matter what I do or say. We go and stand beside Newton and Jane.‘Oh, la, sir, you make me blush,’ she is saying to him and Newton instantly responds with a deep bow and says loudly, ‘Madam, your beauty overwhelms me. No poor words of mine are enough to describe you.’‘Dearest Newton,’ Jane begins in a very lofty way, her voice so loud that several people turn to listen to her and then she spoils it by hissing ‘You’re on the wrong side, Newton. You are such a ninny. Go and stand beside Jenny. Quick, the music is starting.’I smile at Newton as he joins me. He’s quite handsome – not handsome in the same manly way as my Thomas, but he is large-eyed,, curly-haired and fresh-faced. He stretches out his hand to Jane and Thomas takes my hand and we whirl around as the last dance of the evening begins.I can see Lavinia and Caroline Thorpe now. Neither is dancing. They are standing in front of their mama and Lavinia is half twisted towards her, saying something. I can guess what she’s saying. When she turns back her face is full of rage, eyes narrowed as she looks at Jane.
‘Jane,’ I whisper. ‘Look at Lavinia Thorpe, over there by the fireplace. She’s furious with you.’Jane looks over her shoulder, a lightning look, but that is enough for someone with Jane’s quick wits. Newton dances back and Jane puts up her hand to hold his. She smiles sweetly into his face and drops a demure curtsy and then they are off dancing rather closer than is usual, both of them laughing as the two rows of dancers clap them energetically.‘Jane ,’ I say when we are back in our bedroom at Steventon, ‘I think that you have made an enemy.’‘Don’t care,’ she says, carefully hanging up her ball gown.‘She’ll gossip about you,’ I say, hanging my gown beside hers.‘Who cares about Lavinia Thorpe?’ Jane’s voice is scornful as she sits on the stool in front of our little looking-glass and begins to take the pins from her curls.‘Not me,’ I say, taking up the hairbrush. I will brush her hair a hundred times and then she will do the same for me. I don’t care about Lavinia Thorpe, either. All I can think of now is that my uncle, Mr Austen, will be coming back from Oxford tomorrow and that Thomas will ask for my hand in marriage.And then we will live happily forever after.
Read my interview with Cora Harrison 

 Jenny Ziegler writes YA fiction and on occasion of our "Talking Jane Austen with ..." session , this is what she answered to my questions :  "do you find she can still teach/be a model for nowadays youth"?
"Most definitely!  Teens may not realize it, but they can truly relate to her characters and their predicaments.  Austen’s protagonists deal with problems of love, identity, friendship, family, economic hardships, and reputation – all issues that modern youth have to contend with.  Plus, she’s funny!  I think there is a misconception among those who haven’t read Austen that her stories are all polite tales about manners and society.  Although she does address class struggles, her storytelling is playful and gently mocking, and she always populates her stories with hilarious individuals"

Sass and Serendipity (2011) is her latest publication inspired to Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. Here's a sinopsis from the author's site:

 For fifteen-year-old Daphne, the glass is always half full, a dab of lip-gloss can ward off a bad day, and the boy of her dreams—the one she's read about in all of her beloved romance novels—is waiting for her just around the corner.
But Daphne's older sister Gabby wishes Daphne would get real. In Gabby's world, everyone's out for themselves, wearing makeup is a waste of time, and boys only distract you from studying before they break your heart. The only boy Gabby trusts is her best friend, Mule, who has always been there for her.
Both Gabby and Daphne are still reeling from their parents' divorce, though in very different ways. While Gabby will never forgive her unreliable father for failing her mother, Daphne idolizes her daddy and is sure that everything would work out fine if her cranky mom would just let him back into their lives.
When a crisis leaves the girls and their mom homeless, help comes from an unexpected source, and both girls are courted by surprise suitors who shake up their views of the world. Suddenly the glass isn't so clearly half empty or half full… and love seems a lot more complicated than they ever could have imagined.

Then,  what about the original six  re-told in a simplified manner?

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Emma and Persuasion retold for young readers by Gill Tavner. With charming colour illustrations throughout, character introductions and large font it is an enjoyable and fun way to introduce children to classic literature. Paperback, 64 pages, published by Real Reads. You find all of them at here.

Cassandra's Sister (2008) by Veronica Bennet is instead a fictional Jane Austen's biography for teens.
Bennett's Jane (known as Jenny to her family) is 17 when we meet her. Fiercely devoted to her entire family, but especially to her only sister, 19-year-old Cassandra, Jenny continually wavers between two poles: Should she marry and find love (and financial security) in the arms of a husband? Or should she pursue her writing, composing fiction that mirrors the real-life concerns of herself, her family and her acquaintances? When love --- through betrayals, deaths and misunderstandings --- continually evades the people she cares for, Jenny's choice seems clear, only to be thrown into question again by an unexpected proposal. 
 Bennett does a creditable job of introducing young readers to Austen's world. Creating characters whose wit and wisdom often seem straight out of Austen's novels, Bennett uses Jenny, her friends and her family members as mouthpieces to discuss literature, women's rights and other concerns of the day. Considering the sophistication of the dialogue, however, many of Bennett's descriptions often seem childlike in comparison: "Jenny loved dancing…. She loved the tramp, tramp of shoes on the wooden floor and the swish, swish of gowns as the ladies turned at the end of the set." Such simplistic descriptions stick out when Bennett clearly expects her audience to understand authentic 19th-century dialogue and to keep track of a couple-dozen major and minor characters (from

That's all for today. Do you know any other good Austen read for teens or children?


Thanks for all your comments and for your enthusiasm for this new  novel inspired to Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility". Of course, many thanks to Jenny Ziegler for being our guest last week and to her publisher for granting My Jane Austen Book Club readers a free copy.

The lucky winner of Sass and Serendipity is ...

Felicia - Elegant Female


Monday, 29 August 2011


I'm glad to announce that has just decided that the lucky winner of this new Austenesque novel is

Congratulations to the winner and  many thanks to author Shannon Winslow for guestblogging on My Jane Austen Book Club and actively interacting with readers. Great success to her and her "The Darcy of Pemberley".

Friday, 26 August 2011


No, don't worry, I have not suddenly become interested in making all my single friends engaged and matched. Never been good at matchmaking  ( well, neither Emma Woodhouse is,  actually!) Honestly, I envy my single friends most of the time, why should I ruin their freedom? Jokes apart,  my "Emma moment" is simply the fact that in the latest couple of days, I happened to read and watch stuff someway related to Jane Austen's Emma. Ready to discover what? 

1. A BOOK 

Perfect Happiness , The sequel to Jane Austen's Emma by Rachel Billington , Hodder and Stoughton,  , London 1996

"Emma Knightley, handsome, clever and rich, with a husband whose affection for her was only equalled by her affection for him, had passed upward of a year of marriage in what may be described as perfect happiness: certainly this is how she described it to herself as she sat at her writing desk from which she had an excellent view of her father, Mr Woodhouse, taking a turn rould the shrubbery on the arm of her beloved Mr Knightley".
With this promising opening I was ready to dive into a joyful family picture and thrilling romantic tale, but none of that could I experience while reading this novel. Page after page, my expectations were disappointed. The characters were all there for a new great story, even some good points for a good sequel were there, instead I felt as if something was missing  all the time. Well-written, in due respect of Austen's style and atmospheres,  but  the protagonists at times sounded untrue to their own nature or,  from time to time,  some of the turns in the plot were not completely  plausible. It is not the worst sequel I've read, mind you,  but it didn't totally convince me. I really wanted to like it but just felt like I couldn't from , let's say ... the second chapter to the end. 

The story is easily summed - up, if you don't expect too many details. 
A tragedy strucks the quiet routine at Highbury:  poor Jane Fairfax, now Churchill,  has died in childbed and Frank Churchill, nearly mad and desperate has disappeared, refusing to see his newly born son and menacing to commit suicide. Nobody knows where he is. Nobody except for ... Emma.  Another tragedy follows, as John Knightley is imprisoned for debts and his family, Isabella and their children, need Emma's and her husband's help.  This time, and for the first time in her life, Emma has to move to London, leaving Mr Woodhouse to the care and company of Miss Bates - who is now alone after Mrs Bates's sudden death. Emma's London adventures brought her a new charming, independent friend,  Mrs Philomena Tidmarsh,  and lots of doubts on the nature of her marriage. Why is her husband, Mr Knightley, always so detached, controlled, and why doesn't he trust her with his complete confidence? And , above all, why isn't he as passionate as Mr Frank Churchill? 
Other events will disturb the quiet life of the inhabitants at Highbury but,         of course, there must be a happy ending in an Austen sequel, or even more than one.  Just a clue. At the end of the book, after more than a year of marriage Emma succeeds in calling Mr Knightley with his first name, George! A sign of the reached intimacy which had lacked  between them before? A sign of the finally reached "perfect happiness"?   Oh! And just another small one: Mr Woodhouse doesn't mind Miss Bates's company at all!
Perfect Happiness is published by US publishers, Source Books, under the title Emma & Knightley.


Beautiful Lies (De vrais mensonges) - 2010

I had read somewhere online  that in this new light French comedy directed by Pierre Salvadori  the protagonist played matchmaking just like Miss Woodhouse in Jane Austen's EMMA. And could I resist the temptation to see it? No, of course. I found a DVD with the audio in the French language and English subtitles and truly enjoyed myself watching it. French "Emma" in this story is Émilie  (Audrey Tautou),  the beautiful but brusque owner of a seaside beauty salon who receives a very romantic anonymous love letter from Jean , her handyman (Sami Bouajila). 
Émilie  is not at all impressed by Jean's words and decides to forward the romantic letter to her depressed mother,  Maddy (Nathalie Baye) . What's better than a love letter to improve self-esteem and self-confidence in her fragile mother abandoned by her father for a new partner, younger than Émilie herself? Émilie wants to play deus ex machina but her tricks will make all of them suffer, while setting in motion a train of misunderstandings and complications. Happy ending? YES! 
If you like French comedy and romance, you'll like this film.   It is light, tender and funny. 

Wednesday, 24 August 2011


Jennifer Ziegler is the acclaimed author of Alpha Dog and How Not to Be Popular. She lives in Austin, Texas with her family. Her latest release is Sass and Serendipity, the story of two teenage sisters, Daphne and Gabby, which is meant to be a homage to one of her favourite novels, Sense and Sensibility.  Jennifer is my guest today to talk Jane Austen with me.  Join us and welcome Jennifer on My Jane Austen Book Club.

Hello, and thanks a lot, Jennifer, for accepting my invitation. My first question is, of course, when and how did you discover Jane Austen?

Hi!  Thank you so much for inviting me!

Jane Austen first came into my life when I was in high school.  I wish I could remember who persuaded me to read her because I owe them at least a box of chocolates.  I’m ashamed to say that at the time I was of the mindset that older, classic novels were all boring and didn’t relate to my life.  Jane Austen sure changed my mind!  Sense and Sensibility quickly became a favorite of mine – a book that I would read and reread throughout my life.  And each time I read it, I’d find something new about it to love.

As a writer of YA literature do you find she can still teach/be a model for nowadays youth?

Most definitely!  Teens may not realize it, but they can truly relate to her characters and their predicaments.  Austen’s protagonists deal with problems of love, identity, friendship, family, economic hardships, and reputation – all issues that modern youth have to contend with.  Plus, she’s funny!  I think there is a misconception among those who haven’t read Austen that her stories are all polite tales about manners and society.  Although she does address class struggles, her storytelling is playful and gently mocking, and she always populates her stories with hilarious individuals.

What do you especially like in the world she created?

Her characters.  They are so finely drawn that they seem familiar.  You can’t help but root for her protagonists, but even the rogues and curmudgeons are likeable in their own way.  Plus, they add sauce and spice to the stories. 

What do you especially admire in her style?

Most of all, I love her playful, slightly ironic tone.  Her narrators are like off-screen, all-knowing characters.  Consider the first line of Pride and Prejudice – the best, most finely crafted opening sentence ever.  It simultaneously introduces the main topic, sets the tone, and makes an amusing point.

I read that you “played Austen” writing your latest novel, Sass and Serendipity. What do you mean?

Ha!  That was a frame of mind I tried to get into while drafting the book.  Although I knew I couldn’t channel Austen or emulate her style, I wanted to feel as if I could climb into her mind.  When I decided to seriously pursue this project, I purposely stayed away from all things Austen (not easy for me) so that I wouldn’t feel intimidated by her greatness, nor pressured to translate every brilliant detail of the original.  Instead, I worked from the themes and plotlines that had been filed away in my memory.  This also made it easier to feel a sense of complete ownership, to pretend that it was my idea and not something I was borrowing from the classics.  Thus, in a way, I was pretending to be Austen stumbling upon the story.

It’s rather serendipitous that it came out in 2011. It is the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary this year. Did you plan that?

No!  It was serendipity!  When I was finishing up my final draft, a friend asked me when Sense and Sensibility came out.  I wasn’t sure exactly, so I looked it up. I was stunned when I realized the coincidence. 

It is clearly a homage to Austen and a retelling of her Sense and Sensibility, with Daphne and Gabby as modern Dashwood sisters.  Which of them resembles you?  Are you more Elinor or Marianne?

In a way, I’m both.  I’m Marianne (Daphne) with an Elinor (Gabby) exoskeleton. I am the oldest of three siblings, and I strive to be responsible and take care of others, just like Gabby and Elinor.  However, deep down I’m romantic and silly and prone to getting lost in my daydreams, just like Daphne and Marianne.  It’s an eternal struggle – one that my subconscious probably tried to work out as I drafted the book. 

Have you got a sister? Did you take inspiration more from your personal experience while writing Daphne and Gabby or from Austen siblings?

At the concept stage, I was inspired by Austen’s characters, but the reason her story resonated so much with me was because I have a sister and could relate to the dynamic between Elinor and Marianne.  It’s tough to trace inspiration sometimes, but I suspect that my characters’ arguments, careless assumptions, suppressed jealousies, and fierce sense of loyalty and protectiveness stemmed more from my own experiences than from Austen’s work. 

What about the  heroes in Sense and Sensibility? Willoughby, Brandon or Edward Ferrars?

My favorite of the male suitors in Sense and Sensibility is Colonel Brandon.  But I have to confess that I would have completely humiliated myself over someone like Willoughby as a young girl.  When I was a teen, I thought I wanted romance and drama.  Now that I’ve lived longer and understand myself better, I have a very different view on relationships.  Both of these mindsets – my present one and that of my younger self – influenced the love relationship plots in the novel.  I didn’t directly draw from personal experience (disclaimer: no former boyfriends are exemplified in the novel), but I did work from the emotions of past relationships.

In what ways are today’s young heroines and heroes like Jane Austen’s? In what ways do they differ?

I think they are very much alike.  Of course, they express themselves with different vocabulary and play video games instead of taking “turns about the room,” but overall they are the same.  They still crave real friendships and true love and a feeling of belonging in the world.  They still need to understand who they are, realize their inner strengths, and overcome their weaknesses.  In short, both Austen’s young protagonists and today’s youth need to come of age. 

Family relationships, love, and friendship are fundamental in Jane Austen’s work.  What about in your novels? 

They are pervasive in my books, as well.  Not only do such themes interest me as a reader, I enjoy exploring them as a writer, too.  Often there’s no need to add life-threatening circumstances, supernatural elements, or other dire situations to teen lit because being a young adult is inherently full of drama and life-changing events – particularly regarding relationships.  We are all works in progress, so our connections with others must be constantly redefined.  Moreover, it is through these bonds that we best learn about ourselves.  The challenges of communicating effectively … the emotional risks of admitting your feelings for someone … seeing ourselves reflected back in the eyes of our loved ones … these things force us to grow as individuals.  As a novelist, I find family, friendships, and love interests to be the most telling aspects of my characters – and the most fascinating. 

Which adaptation of Sense and Sensibility do you prefer? The 1995 movie directed  by Ang Lee or the recent Andrew Davies’s BBC series (2008)? 

I haven’t yet seen the recent miniseries.  I absolutely adore the movie, and it would be tough for another screen version to take its place in my heart.  However, miniseries are longer and can stay closer to the novel.  And I do love Davies.  Tell you what – I’ll watch it and let you know my verdict!

And this is my final question.  Present your book, Sass and Serendipity, to our readers in max 50 words.

Sass and Serendipity is the story of two sisters, Gabby and Daphne Rivera, who have very different views on life and love. As the girls deal with emotional and economic set-backs, they end up growing closer to people they never thought they would – including each other.

Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer my questions, Jennifer. It’s been a pleasure to have you as my guest on My Jane Austen Book Club.

The pleasure is all mine!  Thank you for hosting me on your lovely blog.  


Leave your comment + e-mail address to enter the giveaway of a copy of Sass and Serendipity. Open worldwide, the giveaway ends August 30 when the name of the winner is announced.

Monday, 22 August 2011


Shannon Winslow, her two sons now grown, devotes much of her time to her diverse interests in music, literature, and the visual arts – writing claiming the lion’s share of her creative energies in recent years.
In addition to several short stories (one a finalist in the Jane Austen Made Me Do It contest), Ms. Winslow has authored three novels to date. The Darcys of Pemberley, a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, is her debut. For Myself Alone, a stand-alone Austenesque story, will soon follow. Her most recent project is a contemporary “what if” novel entitled First of Second Chances.
Shannon lives with her husband in the log home they built in the countryside south of Seattle, where she writes and paints in her studio facing Mt. Rainier.

When I first sat down to write The Darcys of Pemberley six and a half years ago, I had no idea where it would lead me. I’ve since discovered that creating a sequel to a much-loved novel, such as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is quite an adventure – one filled with great delights … and some major challenges too.

The delights were easy for me to envision, and my main motivation for writing. I’d come to know and love the characters of Pride and Prejudice. By continuing the story, I’d be able to spend many more weeks and months in the company of the Bingleys, the Bennets, and all the others. I would get to vicariously enjoy the idyllic life of the three Darcys (don’t forget Georgiana) at that mythical paradise called Pemberley, and to guide them safely down the path ahead. How lovely! But, I soon realized that three hundred pages of happily-ever-aftering would not make a very interesting novel.

Every story needs conflict. So, despite my reluctance to torture such dear friends, I had to do it. Mr. Collins was an easy mark, and I thought Colonel Fitzwilliam’s situation offered possibilities. With very little encouragement from me, surely Wickham, Lydia, and Lady Catherine would be willing to stir up some trouble. And I could see that the courtship of Miss Georgiana might prove a rocky road. But what about Darcy and Elizabeth? Well, since no marriage is perfect, they would have to face some adversity in their relationship too. And all this had to take place within the boundaries left by Jane Austen in the final chapter of the original novel, for I was determined not to contradict anything she’d written.
 In addition to having to unravel the ending that my predecessor so carefully knit together, I faced a second unique challenge as a sequel writer: how to keep Pride and Prejudice fans happy. Janeites, myself included, feel passionately protective of her story and characters – our own vision of them, that is. The problem is we don’t all see things the same way. An example of this is the debate over who’s the true Darcy – Firth or Macfadyen (I’m solidly in the Colin Firth camp btw). More evidence: a sequel I read and personally disliked (“That’s not how Jane would have written it!”) has been praised to the skies by other Austen fans.
 With no way to please everybody else, I followed my own vision. The Darcys of Pemberley has been called a purist’s sequel to Pride and Prejudice. I take this as high praise indeed, since my intention was to be true to the original story, and to Jane Austen’s style, characters, and sensibilities. But another author’s interpretation may be just as valid; it will simply appeal to a different segment of Jane’s enormous fan-dom. There’s room for everybody – even zombies, I suppose. 

 After fine tuning the book, the final hurdle was getting it published. Not an easy task under the best of circumstances, let alone in tough financial times. One editor said, “It’s been done.” Another rejected it with, “I don’t like the third person narrative style.” (I would have loved to have been allowed to point out that Jane Austen always wrote in third person.) Fortunately, the NY publishing giants are no longer the only game in town. Technology has paved the way for small, independent publishers and e-publishers to enter the market, giving writers (and readers) more options. That’s what opened the door for me.
Producing The Darcys of Pemberley has not only been the hardest work I’ve ever done. It’s also been a labor of love and the most fun I’ve had in my life. The cherry on top is the satisfaction of now being able to share it with readers.
  Shannon Winslow

What is indispensable for a successful Austen sequel in your opinion? Answer this question and leave your e-mail address to enter this giveaway contest and have a chance to win a signed copy of The Darcys of Pemberley. The giveaway is open internationally and ends on 29th August. Good luck,  everyone! MG
Learn more at Shannon’s website  and blog , and follow her on Twitter (as JaneAustenSays) and on  Facebook.

Saturday, 20 August 2011


This month's guestblog to celebrate the bicentenary of Sense and Sensibility (1811 - 2011)  is by Regina Jeffers and is about the idea of a "compromise marriage" in Jane Austen's world and novels, with special reference to the Daswood sisters. 
This month's giveaway is  of a signed copy of Regina Jeffer's latest publication, "The Scandal of Lady Eleanor". The details of the giveaway can be found at the end of this post. 
You can read all the guestposts in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Celebration following the links you'll find HERE.
Enjoy Regina's post and join the discussion!

Settling for the Comprise Marriage

What hope was there for the dowerless daughters of the middle class during Jane Austen’s lifetime? Such is a topic Austen explored repeatedly in her novels. Elizabeth and Jane Bennet sought men of a like mind. The Dashwood sisters found their choices limited by their financial situation. Fanny Harville and Captain Benwick could not marry until he earned his future. General Tilney drove Catherine Morland from his home because of the lady’s lack of funds. Charlotte Lucas accepted Mr. Collins as her last opportunity for a respectable match. The intricacies and tedium of high society, particularly of partner selection, and the conflicts of marriage for love and marriage for property are repeated themes.
Watercolour painting by Jane Odiwe
 Marriage provided women with financial security. Henry Tilney of Northanger Abbey explains, “… in both [marriage and a country dance], man has the advantage of choice, woman only the power of refusal: that in both, it is an engagement between man and woman, formed for the advantage of each.” Women of Austen’s gentry class had no legal identity. No matter how clever the woman might be, finding a husband was the only option. A woman could not buy property or write a will without her husband’s approval. If a woman was fortunate, she would bring to her marriage a settlement – money secured for her when she came of age – usually an inheritance from her mother. The oldest son or male heir received the family estate, and the unmarried or widowed females lived on his kindness. The ladies of Sense and Sensibility have this reality thrust upon them when Uncle Dashwood changes his will and leaves Norland to his grandnephew. In Uncle Dashwood’s thinking, this change will keep Norland in the Dashwood family. However, the four Dashwood ladies suddenly find themselves living in a modest cottage with an income of £500 annually. As such, they have no occasion for visits to London unless someone else assumes the expenses. Their social circle shrinks, and the opportunities to meet eligible suitors becomes nearly non-existent. With dowries of £1000 each, the Dashwood sisters are not likely to attract a man, who will improve their lots. Jane Austen, herself, lived quite modestly. The Austens lived frugally among the country gentry. The Austen sisters were well educated by the standards of the day, but without chances for dowries, Jane and Cassandra possessed limited prospects. Jane met a Mr. Blackall the year Cassandra lost her Mr. Fowle. In a letter, Blackall expressed to Mrs. Lefroy a desire to know Jane better; yet, he confided, “But at present I cannot indulge any expectation of it.” To which, Jane Austen responded, “This is rational enough. There is less love and more sense in it than sometimes appeared before, and I am very well satisfied.” Imperfect opportunities were Jane Austen’s reality. In 1802, Jane Austen accepted an offer of marriage from Harris Bigg. With this marriage, Jane would have become the mistress of Manydown.
Yet, despite her affection for the family, Austen could not deceive Bigg. The following morning, she refused the man’s proposal. Whether she thought to some day find another or whether Austen accepted the fact that her refusal doomed her to a life as a spinster, we shall never know. In the “limited” world in which Jane Austen lived, she could not have known her eventual influence on the literary canon. Austen held personal knowledge of young women seeking husbands in one of the British colonies. Reverend Austen’s sister, Philadelphia, traveled to India in 1752, where she married an English surgeon Tysoe Hancock, a man twenty years her senior. When the Hancocks returned to England a decade later, Reverend Austen traveled to London to greet his sister. However, Philadelphia and Tysoe were not to live “happily ever after.” Unable to support his family in proper English style, Tysoe returned to India to make his living. He never saw his wife and child again. Despite its tragic ending, this “marriage” secured Philadelphia’s future and the lady’s place in society. Only marriage could offer a woman respectability. 
 In Jane Austen for Dummies (page 134), Joan Klingel Ray breaks down the financial prospects of the Dashwood sisters. Converting the £500 to a modern equivalent, Ray comes out with a figure of $46,875. For the gentry, supporting four women, two maids, a man servant, paying rent, buying clothes, food, coal, etc., that sum would have meant a poor existence. I find in reading Sense and Sensibility that I am often disappointed with the eventual choices of the Dashwood sisters. Edward Ferras and Colonel Brandon have less of the “glitz and the glamour” that my innate Cinderella syndrome requires in a love match. However, if any affection did exist between the couples, then Marianne and Elinor, under the circumstances and the times, made brilliant matches. They settled for the “compromise” marriage common in the Regency era.

About the author: 
Regina Jeffers is the author of several Jane Austen adaptations, as well as Regency romance, including Darcy’s Passions, Darcy’s Temptation, Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion, Vampire Darcy’s Desire, The Phantom of Pemberley, and The Scandal of Lady Eleanor. She considers herself a Janeite and spends much of her free time with the Jane Austen Society of North America and A teacher for 39 years, Regina Jeffers is a Time Warner Star Teacher Award winner, a Martha Holden Jennings Scholar, a Columbus Educator Award winner, and a guest panelist for the Smithsonian. She has served on various national educational committees and is often sought as a media literacy consultant.

Giveaway time!!!

Leave your comment + your e-mail address
 to win a signed copy of 
 "The Scandal of Lady Eleanor" ,  Regina Jeffers latest publication. 
The giveaway is open internationally and ends August 31st. 

About the book

The Scandal of Lady Eleanor is a sweep-the-reader-away story of romance, adventure, and intrigue set in the Jane Austen era.
A master at capturing the elegance, grandeur, and literary style of the Regency era, Regina Jeffers has developed a loyal following with her many popular Jane Austen spin-off novels. In The Scandal of Lady Eleanor, Jeffers offers a completely original Regency romance featuring highly engaging characters and exciting—even shocking—plot twists. James Kerrington, a future Earl and a key member of the British government’s secret unit, the Realm, never expected to find love again after the loss of his beloved wife. Kerrington’s world shifts on its axis when Eleanor Fowler stumbles into his arms. Eleanor, however, is hiding a deep secret: she had hoped the death of her father, the Duke William Fowler, would give her family a chance at redemption from the dark past, but when Sir Louis Levering proves her father’s debauchery, Eleanor is thrown into a web of immorality and blackmail. Kerrington and his friends must free Eleanor from Levering’s diabolic hold.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011


I'm glad to welcome a new guest on My Jane Austen Book Club, a new name in the world of Austen-related fiction.  Scott D. Southard is the award-winning author of MY PROBLEM WITH DOORS and MEGAN.  His novel MY PROBLEM WITH DOORS was called “big and entertaining” ( and “an absorbing, thought- provoking tale” (Lansing State Journal).  His books can be found on . Scott was the creator and writer of THE DANTE EXPERIENCE, a radio comedy series produced by Mind’s Ear Audio Productions. It was the winner of the Golden Headset Award, the Silver Ogle Award, and second place for the Silver Microphone Awards.  It was called by AudioWorld  “…a cross between Monty Python, the Marx Brothers, and the Airplane movies.”
Scott received his MFA in writing from the University of Southern California.

Scott’s most recent novel, A JANE AUSTEN DAYDREAM is being released in installments by the literary Web site, Green Spot Blue.  Previous installments in the novel (as well as information on his other writing) can be found on his blog.
Inspired by Jane Austen’s own work and “partially” by her life story, this is Jane’s life reinvented in fiction.  Filled with references to her works and characters and many new literary twists, Jane experiences the adventure her mind and spirit deserved and the love she always wished she could find. 
A book for both the novice Austen reader to the professional Austenite, this humorous and moving tales follows the growth of Jane into the great writer we know today... with a lot of love and tribulations along the way... and maybe a hint of pride and something. 

My Confessional: An Introduction to A Jane Austen Daydream

By Scott D. Southard

Over the last decade people have done everything possible to make a dime off of Jane Austen.  From a time-travelling TV series about her, to a “biographical” movie, to an intrusion of zombies and sea monsters in her books, Jane is flourishing and filling the bank accounts of lesser writers.

I come from a background where I believe an artist and their work should be protected. They are jewels to be collected and protected, not Play Doh to be manipulated for one’s own devices.

Yet, I have something to admit and in many ways this introduction is my confessional; but whether I have done a sin is up for you to decide. Let me tell you about my experience with Jane Austen.

Jane and Me

I was first introduced to Jane’s work in a college classroom run by Dr. Brent Chesley at Aquinas College.  To say that Dr. Chesley is obsessed with Austen and Pride and Prejudice is to put it mildly. He passionately strove each day to convince the class during their reading of its importance and perfection. For me, I didn’t need the convincing.  From the opening paragraph, I was immediately taken by her voice. 

Throughout Pride and Prejudice Elizabeth and her wit really impressed me; to such an extent that I even wondered if Darcy deserved her. Over the summer break I went through all of her other work. And when I graduated from college, I visited England by myself and on one day—with a copy of Emma in my backpack—I explored Chawton and Jane Austen’s house; wandering the same trails, halls, and gardens. I even visited her final resting place, and it, frankly, depressed me. I didn’t feel like it celebrated her; it felt cold, hard, and far distant from the snappy, brilliant woman I felt I discovered in her work. It was the resting place of a proper reverend’s daughter, not the most important voice in English literature.

It was after that trip that I began to investigate more into her. Sadly, while there are many books about her life, there is very little that can be really said. Jane lived, in many ways, a quiet life.  She did not have great adventures or scandals, or, sadly, earth-shattering loves. And that last fact tainted in many ways my future reading of her books. A sense of melancholy seemed to enter her fiction that wasn’t there before, a want for love. While it can be said, that there are some autobiographical allusions in her work, most prevalently in Persuasion, in her own stories she paints a better picture, a better ending than she was ever given.

An ending she never had but obviously wanted.

Yet, when one picks up her few still-in-existence letters to read, you can’t help but be impressed by the wit. In many ways, she is a little of all of the daughters in Pride and Prejudice.  She is smart and loves books; she is far too witty; and she is also a little bit of a dangerous flirt.  She was the sarcastic voice mumbling inappropriate jokes to her friends at a dance. She was the young woman who could keep up in any conversation with any gentleman, probably taking them by surprise; not expecting a response like that from a reverend’s daughter.

That is the Jane I wanted to explore in my own writing.  And it was then that the initial spark began for A Jane Austen Daydream.

The Writing Process

To create the book, I spent about seven years off and on studying her.  This was not about diving into each biography available, but more about reading and re-reading her works again and again.  My paperback copies of her work are covered in yellow, orange, and blue highlighter ink (I had a system). And I knew, in many ways, before I decided to investigate what actual little facts we have about her what I wanted to have happen in the book. See, her books, her words and stories, had already showed me the path that was best.

It must be emphasized that A Jane Austen Daydream is not a biography. It’s not even close to that.  Yet, Jane is the basis for the novel, and I am “trying” to give her the life, adventure, and the love she might have written for herself.

To accomplish this goal, changes had to be made to the biography throughout the telling. For example, to fit the structure of the tale, the ages of some of her siblings were changed. Also, some of the timeline around her own life and publishing were changed as well. The other major changes I will leave for the reader to discover and be surprised by in its pages.

However, there was one last trick I needed to accomplish to make this book something true to her essence.  I needed to include Jane in all her perfect (and imperfect) glory. And in deciding that I wanted to embrace her in the work, I turned to her own writing as a source.  This novel is filled with references, characters, quotes, excerpts, and other hints from her books, letters, and unpublished snippets. I think, almost every paragraph includes at least one allusion to her. For the Austen fan, I hoped that this inclusion would add something to the work for them. Maybe in a way, turning it into something akin to a treasure hunt to find where Southard ends and Austen begins.

One interesting snag I had in finishing the book is that in including Austen into the work, I needed to change my own post-modern American voice. Yet, I didn’t want to create a voice that was too period; so a new voice for me emerged; something between Austen and my own. It is simpler than Austen (we do live in simpler times in many ways in our fiction writing); but still I believe it makes the transition between her and my voice many time seamless… Well, I like to believe it is so.

I recommend the reader give the book a few chapters to get used to this voice and the style of the work.  I promise the journey is worth the trip. This is not a typical post-modern novel (Save the fun and unpredictable “twist” that comes later, which I will NOT ruin here), it is more of its own entity. Unique… and in many ways I am very proud of it.

A Final Argument

Before I end, I want to answer any complaints that might come up from readers saying I am behaving no differently from the people I criticized at the beginning.

First off, I believe I am coming from a more celebratory position. If any reader would like to know about her real life there are a lot of good books out there, but I would recommend starting with her letters.  This is a “wink” merely to the actual Jane. Finally, I do not ruin or change any of her novels. If this leads people to reading her books, I would be very pleased. In other words, from my perspective this is a gift I am attempting to give to her and the readers that enjoy her books. How arrogant that may be is for the readers to decide.

Second, I never thought of this as an attempt to “cash in” on her popularity, and if it ever found publication or success, I was always planning to share a percentage with the Jane Austen’s House Museum.

Do those two points save me from my own ridicule? I hope so, because I love the story and the characters in it, especially the rambunctious and spirited Jane.

I hope you enjoy A Jane Austen Daydream

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