First of all, welcome to My Jane Austen Book Club, Pamela. I'm very glad to introduce you to all the friends and Janeites who visit here. As a start I have to ask: How’d you come to write about Jane Austen?
I have always loved Austen’s work-she’s a genius! But I have to admit that I didn’t set out to write a book about Jane Austen. Moments after sending my first book, The Lady and the Patriot (coming Fall 2012), off to my editor, I got waylaid by an angel. Yup, an angel. And not just any angel, but the archangel who had fallen in love with Jane Austen. And heaven’s bad boy wouldn’t let go until his love story was told. And so, JANE AUSTEN AND THE ARCHANGEL came to life. The tagline is “Every Life deserves one great love…” I think Jane fans will find it to be an intriguing and uplifting story.
Michael Grace, the archangel who falls in love with Jane Austen, and his sidekick, Lord Gabriel, put a fun and charming spin on angels. They bring a dimension to the angelic that includes humor and uncertainty, and a very sexy charm.
And I’m giving away a copy of the book to one lucky reader who comments on this blog post!
Thank you, Pamela! That's very generous of you. Now, tell me, how did you come to write romance?
Before becoming a romance author I was a documentary producer and director (including the Powers of the Universe and Your Water, Your Life) and had an NPR radio show called New Voices. I also ran campaigns to improve the lives of wild animals and their habitats. But my first love has always been story. I think we humans live and thrive by the power of our stories. It made perfect sense to me that romance powers the stories that captivate the heart and transform us.
Great romance novels give us hope, provide a break from the exhausting demands on our psyches, provide a place of delighted engagement, and, very often, they shine a light on the path of life that we may not have seen before. Hope is a wonderful fuel. It’s one reason that I think romance novels are so very important right now. It’s not all on the page; so much of what is powerful about our stories is in the chemistry between author and reader. That’s magic.
I’m married to a former Major League Baseball Player who now runs The Center for the Story of the Universe—and, after many years of study, am firmly convinced that the irresistible power of allurement pulses at the very heart of the universe.
What is the best advice you ever got?
The first is “Peace is every step.” To me it means being present to life in every moment, realizing that this very moment is a miracle and remembering to be the best person I know how in each moment. Take a breath, a long, slow breath and remember to touch in with the bigger context and relax.
The other is very practical: Try to drink 3 cups of Green tea every day. Recent research has shown it is more powerful as an immune system booster than any drug could ever be. I’m going to share more about this in August on my blog, www.PamelaAares.com and quote some of the studies. I want our readers to thrive—and writers, too!
One last question, what’s next?
The second book in the Angels Come to Earth series, Midnight Becomes You. The hero is Michael Grace’s sidekick archangel, Lord Gabriel and it takes place in and around the Great Exhibition in England in 1851, the first World’s Fair. It was an exciting time to be alive and this book explore the shadow realm, the realm that has shades of grey, the realm where the heart lives at its strongest. The great thing about Gabriel is he’s sexy, funny and just a bit irreverent!
Right after that comes The Lady and the Patriot- look for it in the Fall of 2012. It’s an adventurous romp (think Venice, London, Boston and Gold Rush California!) and the heroine, Lady Alexandra Lansdowne, discovers that love is truly the greatest adventure of all.
Now here's an excerpt from Jane Austen and the Archangel for you!
Chawton Cottage, Hampshire England
A letter carrier, Michael mused as he dodged the thorns of a rosebush and headed down the path to the cottage. Perhaps he was lucky—his situation could’ve been dreadful. Instead of cooling his heels in a sleepy English village, he could’ve been sent to purgatory or . . . well, he didn’t want to imagine anything harsher than that. Besides, who was he to question the Almighty?
Searching through the leather pouch he’d slung over one shoulder, he felt a warm-hearted camaraderie with letter carriers—they bore messages that affected destinies. He knew plenty about that.
Still, the assignment would’ve been less provoking if he didn’t know the contents of all the letters he delivered.
Or didn’t care.
But he was an angel, after all. Caring came with the position. And extra responsibilities came with the rank. Archangel. Heavenly messenger. Master commander and all that.
Still, it irked him that he’d had no word. He burned to get on with the English War Office mission he’d been sent to command, chafed for some action. Boredom was wearing him down, and wasting precious time delivering letters made no sense. Two months had passed since the last dispatch, and this was the third village he’d been hanging about.
With an exasperated huff, he kicked an errant stone off the pathway. Making him wait was likely a further punishment. But penitence was not his strong suit, never had been. And it had been such a minor angelic indiscretion—just a brief, unauthorized visit to the future to set things right. Certainly not worth such a fuss.
But he’d been caught.
Hadn’t his sometime friend, Gabriel, always said that the main thing was not to get caught? But well-intentioned exceptions to protocol weren’t covered in angelic rulebooks.
His order for the mission would likely come unannounced, just as it had last time. He shook his head, wishing he could just as easily shake off that memory. He didn’t want to think about last time. The venture had gotten out of hand, hadn’t gone as planned. It still astonished him that people could be such fools. But so could angels, for that matter.
He’d just have to deal.
With a determined flick of his hand, he straightened his cap and walked up the weathered stone path. He liked this cottage. More than that, he liked Jane, the woman who lived there. But she wasn’t happy. In the past few days he’d seen the lines of worry etching deeper into her face.
He caught a glimpse of her through the window, sealing yet another letter to her distraught friend, Lady Serena. Jane was always putting herself out to help her friends. But right now, she was the one who needed help.
It should have been a year for celebration—her books had been published and had sold to widespread acclaim.
But Jane didn’t celebrate.
Though the books had met with success, her funds were still stretched thin. She supported her mother and sister, with little help from her brothers. Those worries he understood. But Chawton Cottage was a peaceful home, suitable for the pursuit of the perfect story. Yet she wasn’t writing, at least not more than letters. She hadn’t written a worthwhile paragraph in months.
All this he knew because of her letters. In fact, he could know the content of every word written in the human realm if he chose to look. That ability was one of his gifts. And sometimes one of his curses.
But no matter how her troubles piled up, Jane wouldn’t ask for help.
Why was it that people never learned to ask? Didn’t they know that spiritual etiquette simply required a request? But they never asked. At least the ones who most needed heavenly assistance didn’t.
He smiled to himself. He could teach Jane how to ask—surely that was allowed.
He mulled over what her letters had revealed. Not only was she worrying over her finances and not writing, her dearest friend, Lady Serena, was in love with a man who hadn’t come back from the war. So many hadn’t. After two years, everyone had given up hope—everyone except Serena. And Jane was Serena’s only ally in resisting her ambitious family’s pressure for her to marry well and move on.
A bit of masterful angel sleuthing had revealed that Lady Serena’s beloved, Lord Darcy Hathloss, had been injured in the Battle of Salamanca. His head injury had resulted in total amnesia and he was marooned in Spain—in Alba de Tormes, to be precise. Though the young man’s father had traveled to Salamanca and scoured the villages near the battle site, the last known location for his son, he couldn’t have known that a farmer and his wife had found Hathloss wandering and delirious. They’d taken him to their home in a nearby village, out of range of the search. Since Hathloss’s head injury had erased all memory of his former life and all command of language, the rescuing family had no way to know he was an English soldier and no way to discover where he lived. It was a miracle he’d survived at all.
Clearly something would have to be done if this love story were to have a happy ending. And though it caused him to be the brunt of exaggerated jesting among the angels—jesting done behind his back and never to his face—Michael liked a happy ending.
He considered the plan he’d hatched that morning. There was one annoying hitch—he’d been told not to leave England until his current mission was completed. The order couldn’t have been clearer. If his plan to rescue Darcy Hathloss, restore the man’s memory and get him back to Hampshire were to succeed, he’d have to get help. And since the rest of his team had managed to finish up their assignments and return to the fold, that left only Gabriel. God only knew where he was. Well, God did know, but right now Michael wasn’t in good enough favor to ask.
So he’d have to find Gabriel on his own.
For an angel, Gabriel was a bit of an ass. Arse, Michael reminded himself. Then he shook his head. He’d have to watch his language—Lack of reverence was another flaw that had landed him in this fix in the first place. He’d just have to swallow his pride, find Gabriel and ask him to help. Gabriel’s powers in the earthly realm were more extensive than even Michael’s. Gabriel could get the man back to England, and Michael could carry on with his plan.
He whistled as he neared the door of the cottage, a short snatch of a tune he’d heard centuries before, a bit of a love song written by a troubadour. He liked having a project; it cheered him up. And it suited him—keeping busy helped to pass the centuries.
And he liked his plan.
He hadn’t worked out all the details—details were pesky irritations. Sure, messing with the man’s destiny could cost him a few more years of exile, but what were a few years to an angel? And intervening would be just a bit of an angelic fudge—if it did the trick, what harm could there be? Darcy and Serena would get together and true love would win the day. How could the Almighty be angry about such a blissful outcome?
And then, maybe then, Jane would be happy.
A smile curved across Michael’s face as he reached the weather-beaten door. He wanted Jane to be happy, wanted her happiness in a way that he’d seldom desired anything for himself. And—he tried to stop smiling but couldn’t—he wanted to be the one to ensure that happiness.
He knocked at the door and heard a quick shuffling of papers followed by the sound of Jane’s steps across the floor. The heavy door creaked open. He couldn’t help but notice that her cheeks were flushed, her eyes guarded, as if she’d nearly been caught at some naughty game. Little did she know that he was well aware of what she wrote at her desk, of how she covered her work to conceal her activity from servants and visitors. But since her brother Henry had bragged of her accomplishments as an author, Jane’s secret was leaking out and secrecy was hardly a behavior she still had to maintain. Yet her modesty was endearing. He liked her better for it.
She looked up at him and he saw more than worry lurking in her eyes. He saw fear. It surprised him, and little did these days. But it wasn’t fear of him, though had she known him better, it might have been. No, what he saw was deeper and more haunting. Something primal. Something that gnawed at her soul.
“Letter for you, Miss Austen,” he said, trying for a nonchalant tone.
“Thank you,” she said as she took the letter. “By the way, where’s the letter carrier who delivered here last month?”
Few people noticed those who served them, but Jane noticed everything, except when it came to herself. He smiled. “I’m taking the place of your usual carrier.”
She laughed. “There haven’t been any usual carriers since I’ve lived here.”
That was true—Michael was the third carrier this year. And God knew Damien and Alastair hadn’t been hugely adept. But they’d followed the rules and made their way back to the heavenly realms. It should’ve been a straightforward assignment for him as well. But as Jane smiled up at him, he had the very uncomfortable feeling—a zinging prickle of warning—that this might not be straightforward after all.
“I’m Michael,” he said, tipping his cap.
Surprise registered in her eyes. “And your surname, sir?”
Right, he thought. She didn’t know him well enough to be on a first name basis, and even if she did, it wasn’t proper to his station. Egad, all these English practices and sensibilities. Even more complicated than holy protocols. It was enough to make him yearn for the tumultuous era of the crusades. He’d better come up with a surname. Fast.
“Umm . . . ” He thought for a moment. “Grace. Michael Grace.” She wouldn’t know it didn’t truly fit.
“Thank you, Mr. Grace.” She turned the letter in her hand and read Serena’s vibrant script that dashed across the front. It wasn’t franked.
“Just a moment.” She turned to open a small wooden box on a shelf and took two coins from it.
Before he could move, she reached to place the coins in his hand and her fingers passed right through his hand. The coins clattered to the floor.
Maybe she hadn’t noticed. He hoped she hadn’t noticed. He’d forgotten to put his gloves on. With an inward groan, he reached into his pocket for his gloves, donned them and bent down to retrieve the dropped coins. She hadn’t moved.
“It’s a lovely day,” he said, dissembling, hoping to distract her. But as he knew, little escaped her keen notice.
And apparently little to do with her escaped his awareness.
Just that brief swoosh of her essence through his had made his heart pound, had shocked feelings through him he’d never felt before. Not good.
But the sensations that rippled through him felt good. Too good. And that was not good.
Without making eye contact, he turned and walked to the street, not looking back.
Jane stood at the doorway, staring after the letter carrier. Wasn’t it enough that she couldn’t write three meaningful words in succession, couldn’t develop a personality for the heroine or a plot for her story. Now her mind had to play tricks on her as well. She could’ve sworn that her fingers passed right through Mr. Grace’s palm. And, even stranger, the most blissful feeling she’d ever experienced had washed through her at precisely the same moment, feeling like a blessing, sounding like a song. Surely she’d only imagined the soul-sweet singing, the power and splendor of a heavenly chorus. But more astonishing than the music and unearthly voices was the thrumming of her heart.
Pressing her hand against her chest she watched the man stride to the street. His dull uniform did nothing to hide the muscled grace of his movements. Grace. A fitting name for a man who moved as he did. Was she simply adding to the flight of fancy when she remembered the smoldering amber glow shimmering from his eyes?
I need to keep those sorts of dramas on the page. But that’s what was wrong, wasn’t it? Too much drama all around her and too little on the page. None on the page, she reminded herself, not a word. That wasn’t like her.
Here's the url for Jane Austen and the Archangel. Tell Pamela how you like it! And remember leave your comment + your e-mail address to win a Kindle copy! This giveaway ends on July 28th and is open internationally. Good luck!