Thursday 30 June 2011


Two are the giveaway contests ending today. First of all , many thanks to Deb Barnum and to Lucinda Brant for being my kind guests here at My Jane Austen Book Club. And thanks to all the readers who commented  and entered the contests (here or at Jane Austen in Vermont for either or both books).
The winner in the draw for "Salt Bride" is phastings while "Jane Austen speaks to women" has been won by Patricia's Particularity. Congratulations to the winners! I hope they'll enjoy their new reads. Till very soon for new great giveaways. 

Wednesday 29 June 2011


Lily Berry has squeezed herself into undersized relationships all her life, hoping one might grow as large as those found in the Jane Austen novels she loves. Lily dreams of living in a novel. Mansfield Park, possibly. Escapism? Maybe. Her life is just coming a cropper. Everything in her life: her love story, her family.  Who wouldn’t look for an escape?  Lily has got few certainties in her life, among them Jane Austen and her bookish friend Vera. So she follows her to England and lives a summer adventure at Literature Live, a Jane Austen literary festival in which she tries to reinvent herself.
It will not be easy to escape, her problems seem to follow everywhere.  You can change the setting and the actors in the novel of your life, but in the pursuit of happiness the first you need to change is yourself. This is what Lily learns. She learns more and more about herself, until final self -acceptance. Happiness can start only from there. Happiness can’t depend mainly on the  others. You can’t go on repeating the same mistakes over and over.  You must learn to be happy in the real world. Lily leads the reader  in this journey of self – knowledge.
In her quest for happiness, Lily realizes she has been sad all her life: “ Even I didn’t understand my deep sadness , with me as long as I could remember. My earliest memories were of being sad, different from everybody else; perhaps the reason why I never fit in. Grave adn serious like Jane Eyre, or Catherine and Heathcliff, or Anna Karenina. I understood exactly how they felt, and nobody in real life shared that kind of pain with me” ( p.151)
She can “ only connect  with people who are dead or fictional and can only be happy in places that exist in an author’s head”. Her best friend is … Jane Austen.  She sees her everywhere, Jane follows Lily everywhere.
When she meets Willis, a deacon meant to become a priest soon (just like Edmund Bertram?) and writing a novel, she starts thinking happiness is not impossibile for her.  For the first time in her life someone seems to really understand how she feels. “No one else had ever come close to understanding such thoughts. Not Martin (her ex boyfriend), not  my friend Lisa, certainly not Karen (her sister), not even my mother (recently dead) ; no one but my Jane Austen. I felt so comfortable with this man …” ( p. 114)
But to find love has never been easy,  nor simple,  for an Austen heroine. Fanny Price had to wait until Edmund saw her behind the chimera of a Mary Crawford. Lily is ready to do the same with Willis. She will be loyal and patient, she will wait. But … will she be rewarded with love as, caring Fanny in Mansfield Park? In an unconventionally touching ending , Lily will discover that she can be deeply  loved ,  she can live in a novel but also hope to  be happy in real life.
What I especially liked in this novel is Cindy Jones’s  wit and humour, her vivid style.  While reading, you’ll be surprised at discovering  Lily Berry’s world . It’s not simply a romance, but especially a book  full of literary references , beautifully written ,  based on a  character’s  study which will not leave you indifferent.
Cindy Jones was born on Ohio and grew up in small midwestern towns, reading for escape. She is a winner of the Writer's League of Texas Manuscript Contest, and she lives with her family in Dallas. Other posts on Cindy Jones on My Jane Austen Book Club: An Interview with Lily Berry , Talking Jane Austen with Cindy Jones and Lily Berry

Tuesday 28 June 2011


At Home with the Georgians is an interesting series of programmes about homes in the Georgian Era. I've been watching it on  DVD and have posted my positive reaction briefly on Fly High!
I've also cut and pasted the Austen - related fragments in episode 1 , A Man's Place, in a short videoclip I called "At Home with Jane Austen" . You can watch it on my Utube Channel or here below. I hope you'll enjoy it.
The entire series is definitely worth seeing if you are interested in Jane Austen's World and the 18th century in general. The programmes are brilliantly  presented by Professor Amanda Vickery and are based on her successful book, Behind Closed Doors. The three issues in the DVD are 

1. A Man's Place
2. A Woman's Touch
3. Safe as Houses

Watch the video and enjoy!

Thursday 23 June 2011


Lucinda Brant is Australian. She studied political science, history, law and education at university and now teaches at an exclusive boarding school for young ladies when not bumping about Georgian London in her sedan chair or exchanging gossip with perfumed and patched courtiers in the gilded drawing rooms of Versailles.
She loves saying that in a previous life she died at the guillotine during the French Revolution (reason for the migraines in this life). Hence, all her novels are set in 1700’s England or France but well before 1789! 
Today she's here to tell about her experience in Jane Austen's England in the 80s and her love for Persuasion and Mr Knightley. Read, comment, ask questions and don't forget to add your e-amil address. You'll get the chance to win a signed copy of Lucinda's latest Georgian romance, SALT BRIDE, in the hardcover edition. Open worldwide, this giveaway ends on June 30th. If you love BBC Classic Drama, Georgette Heyer, Georgian England, plenty of wit and adventure then you'll love her books!
In Jane’s visiting footsteps: Great Bookham, Surrey

Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen novel, and Anne Elliott my favorite Austen heroine. I don’t care much for Emma, but Mr. Knightley is my second favorite Austen hero. I first read Emma as a set text in high school and then Persuasion for my final year and fell in love with Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliott. Just one month after completing High School and gaining a place to study law and politics at university, I deferred my studies for a year, boarded a jumbo jet (my first ever flight) for a 23-hour journey (one stopover) from Sydney to London to take up a position as a nanny in the leafy environs of Surrey, England. It was 1980, Margaret Thatcher was Britain’s first female Prime Minister and I was eighteen years old. 

To my delight I discovered that just east of where I now resided in Little Bookham with my two young charges, Great Bookham had featured briefly in Jane Austen’s life. How did I find this out? Wherever I went, people were eager to tell me, from the greengrocer to the post office lady, about Jane’s visits to Great Bookham. The exact nature of her visits was rather sketchy, but the local librarian filled in the details for me. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to be walking on the same ground Jane Austen had also walked, however brief her time in my home away from home.

Rev. Samuel Cooke’s memorial tablet 
Jane visited Great Bookham twice – in 1799 and then again in 1814. Her mother’s relatives lived there. The Rev. Samuel Cooke, who was Jane’s godfather, was married to Jane’s cousin Cassandra. The Rev. Cooke was rector of the local church St. Nicholas from 1769 until his death in 1820 and his memorial tablet is in the chancel of the church. I was fascinated to discover that the church of St. Nicholas is mentioned in the Domesday Book, that its interesting wooden church tower dates from the 15th century, and that over the years its congregation has included such luminaries as Lord Raglan, who lost his life at Sebastopol two decades after losing an arm at the Battle of Waterloo (the east window is a memorial to him), and the newly married Duke and Duchess of York (future King George VI and Queen Elizabeth) who had honeymooned at the nearby estate Polesden Lacey. But for me the biggest thrill was that Jane Austen had worshipped at St. Nicholas. That when I walked down the aisle, sat in a pew, I was literally following in Jane’s footsteps. When I went to church and even when I passed by on foot, with my young charges in tow, or to shop or to collect young Master Three from his twice-weekly playgroup, I was always smiling thinking of Jane and her cousins and their connection to what was for a short time my local church.

Old Rectory, Great Bookham, photo taken 1910
Studying the sketch of St. Nicholas at around the time of Jane’s visits, its situation is very rustic and the church appears almost rundown. When I lived nearby, and as it is today, it is very much in town, with Church street running parallel to the beautiful stonewall that encloses the church yard. Sadly the old rectory where Jane stayed is no more. Demolished in 1961, a cedar tree marks the spot where it once stood. The black and white photo was taken in 1910 and shows a rather substantial ivy-covered building and I can imagine Jane seated at one of the windows writing with quill, ink and parchment.

St. Nicholas Church, Great Bookham, 1810
St. Nicholas Church, as I remember it.
Jane’s Letters show that she began writing Emma while staying with her cousins at the rectory in 1814. The leafy countryside around Great Bookham provided the backdrop for Emma and the pivotal scene is said to take place at nearby Box Hill, which rises some 634 feet (193m), and affords spectacular views of the North Downs. Box trees have grown there since the 1500s, hence its name. Jane would have visited Box Hill and it is easy to imagine her picnicking with her cousins in the crisp open air and enjoying the beautiful views.

Box Hill, Surrey, sketched in the late 18th Century
Box Hill as I remember it – the vibrant greens of the English countryside
I have wonderful memories of my visits to Box Hill, where I flew kites and ate soft serve ice cream with my two young charges; unlike Emma, who did not enjoy her visit at all after insulting poor Miss Bates and being angrily berated by Mr. Knightley for her unthinking and unkind behavior. It is almost two decades since I last visited Box Hill, but one thing that struck me at the time and has stayed with me is the greenness of the English countryside. It was while standing at the summit of Box Hill on a clear summer’s day that I realised I had never really seen Nature’s green before. The greens of Australian native species are rather brown and dull olive green by comparison. Whereas the green of an English countryside is green, really green, and so many different shades of vibrant green too.

It still makes me smile whenever I think of my time in Great Bookham, sitting in St. Nicholas Church and day-dreaming of when Jane was part of the congregation, an audience to her godfather’s sermons. I wonder if Jane, like me, was only half-listening, guiltily allowing her mind to wander to ruminating over plots and characters and dreaming of Mr. Knightley, or in my case Captain Wentworth!
Lucinda Brant

Lucinda  loves to hear from her readers so  visit her official site, or visit her  at Facebook or drop her a line at

This post is part of the Jane in June event  hosted at Book Rat.
Leave your comments + e-mail address and good luck for the giveaway!

Tuesday 21 June 2011


Happy Midsummer  time everybody living in the North half of the world. Perfect time to read a romance set in a dreamy seaside resort like Lyme Regis, don't you agree? Two of you, regular readers or random commenters,  here at My Jane Austen Book Club are going to do it really soon. The two copies of Victoria Connelly's THE PERFECT HERO have in fact been won by ...

Anita  &  Laura

Thanks again to Victoria Connelly for her kindness and availability and to Avon - Harper Collins  for granting My Jane Austen Book Club and its readers free copies of the book. 

Sunday 19 June 2011


[Image: Vintage Classics cover]

 “Come, come, let’s have no secrets among friends.” (p.163)

[Note:  page references are to the third Oxford edition of Sense and Sensibility.]

Mrs. Jennings may request “no secrets among friends,” and Marianne may “abhor all concealment” (p. 53), but Sense and Sensibility is chock full of both – many secrets, much concealed – within each character, between characters, and between the author and the reader.

P. D. James, in her essay “Emma Considered as a Detective Story,” defines the detective story as one “requiring a mystery, facts which are hidden from the reader but which he or she should be able to discover by logical deduction from clues inserted in the novel with deceptive cunning but essential fairness.  It is about evaluating evidence…it is concerned with bringing order out of disorder and restoring peace and tranquility to a world temporarily disrupted by the intrusions of alien influences” (James, p. 243-44) 

Such is Emma, truly a mystery, where Jane Austen gives us clues and puzzles and hints along the way, whereby we the reader can solve the underlying mystery right along with Mr. Knightley, who gets awfully close, but not quite close enough, to the solution.

But Sense and Sensibility offers no such clues to assist either the novel’s characters or the reader to any understanding of what is happening. Patricia Meyer Spacks writes: “Gradually the novel reveals that almost everyone has a secret, everyone – even characters dedicated to morality - conceals something.” (Spacks, p. 338). Thorell Tsomondo says: “…these secrets contribute to the query and puzzlement that characterizes the work” (Tsomondo, p. 106). Emma may be a mystery, but in S&S, it is all confusion, the reader not in on it. We are led to believe that Elinor is all-seeing, but indeed she often misunderstands, is wrong in her assumptions. We are presented with a Willoughby described, his true self a secret to all, as a good person, the perfect Romantic Hero (though we should have heeded the warning: “his person and air were equal to what her fancy had ever drawn for the hero of a favourite story” (p. 43) – and here Austen conceals perhaps the biggest secret of all, that it is her Colonel Brandon who is the true Romantic Hero of S&S, flannel waistcoat and all!

[Image:  Col. Brandon in S&S 1995, courtesy of The Republic of Pemberley]

Tuning into the myriad of secrets in S&S is certainly not new ground: a number of scholars have written about the issue of pervading secrecy in this novel [see references below].  So these thoughts are nothing new, but I found it helpful to look at the extent of the secrecy.  Indeed, the words “secret”, “secrecy”, “conceal”, “deceive”, “betray”, all appear numerous times in S&S. And more telling perhaps is the occurrence of “silent” or “silence,” certainly another aspect of secrecy – the decision not to tell, not to speak, to remain silent rather than reveal.  Another word count to note is “eyes” – Austen often referring to what the eyes see when words are deceptive or untruthful, or when silence is chosen and characters rely on “the eyes” to perceive the truth: recall Elinor’s frequent reference to Lucy’s “little sharp eyes”, and Mrs. Dashwood, upon learning that her favorite Willoughby is really such a cad, remarks that “there was always a something in [his] eyes at times, which I did not like.” (p. 338)

There is in S&S also an element of surprise – surprise being a secret of sorts – in the unexpected arrivals of the various heroes: Marianne declares almost verbatim on two occasions “It is he…I know it is!” expecting Willoughby and facing the disappointing “surprise” of Colonel Brandon and later Edward.  Elinior is awaiting her mother and the Colonel and is surprised (as we all are – this feels like a Bronte novel!) when “she rushed forwards and…saw only Willoughby(p. 316). [This gives short shift to a topic that needs an essay all its own!]

Secrets, of course, are a form of manipulation – and there is much of this going on as well!  The story begins with a secret – on his deathbed, Henry Dashwood requests his son to help his wife and three daughters [indeed the whole change in the inheritance from his Uncle to the young Dashwoods was a secret revealed at the will-reading]. Mr. John Dashwood thought to offer a present of £1000 a-piece to each of his sisters and Mrs. Dashwood is led to believe he will take care of them in some way, “[relying] on the liberality of his intentions” (p. 14) – alas! to no avail, as Fanny assiduously talks him out of doing anything in one of the most cringe-inducing chapters in all of literature!  So the novel begins – with concealment and deception.

All three of the male characters in S&S harbor the secret of a previous romantic entanglement, what Paula Byrne calls “a parody of secret engagements” (Byrne, p.113) - Edward’s secret engagement to Lucy and Willoughby’s seduction and abandonment of Colonel Brandon’s ward Eliza.  The reader is misled about these characters – we believe as Mrs. Dashwood and Elinor and Marianne do, that the unexpected departures (that element of surprise again) of both Edward and Willoughby are due to the expressed displeasure of their respective parent-figure, Mrs. Ferrars for Edward, Mrs. Smith for Willoughby.

Colonel Brandon is, of course, a walking secret! – with his past of “injuries and disappointments” (p. 50), the story of his first love hinted at throughout – “I once knew a lady” (p. 57) - but only (secretly!) revealed to Elinor and the reader in Chapter 9 of Volume II (pp. 204-11) as he explains his secret past, his secret-laden departure to London, his secretive dual with Willoughby, “the meeting never getting abroad.” (p. 211). We might quibble that Jane Austen could have made such a mystery man more interesting!

Even Robert Ferrars has a secret – his deceptive growing relationship with Lucy, his remaining hidden in the rear of the carriage when he and Lucy meet up with Thomas. Why, Robert Ferrars entire character IS a secret – we are introduced to him as the fop in the jewelry shop long before we find out who he is.  What a surprise Austen has in store for us when she makes him the plot-solver! And dare we forget Mr. Palmer?, a Scrooge-like character, who surprises us all when his secret is revealed that he is actually not such a bad fellow after all!

[Image:  Hugh Laurie as Mr. Palmer in S&S 1995, courtesy of]

But it is not just the men who have secrets, the women do as well – all of them!  Lucy’s engagement, her “great secret” and her use of this to manipulate Elinor is what drives the plot.  But Elinor is the keeper of secrets – she tells no one about Lucy’s engagement, keeping to her promise; she keeps Brandon’s secrets; but she also conceals her own feelings about Edward, she “mourns in secret” when she believes she has lost him forever, and she keeps secrets from herself – she remains “assured within herself of being really beloved by Edward” (p. 142), when we from the text have no such certainty.  And for two sisters so close, she and Marianne keep their most important thoughts and feelings from each other.  Elinor speaks of “this strange kind of secrecy maintained by them relative to their engagement” (p. 71); she cannot, nor will Mrs. Dashwood, break into their “extraordinary silence” (p. 71) to discover the truth.  Months go by in this state of non-communication.  Marianne’s oft-quoted “we have neither of us any thing to tell; you, because you communicate, and I, because I conceal nothing.” (p. 170), is sure proof that nothing is at it seems inside the strange world of Sense and Sensibility! – Marianne’s claim is the ultimate irony, when, indeed, Elinor has been completely silent on her own inner turmoil, and Marianne, though unable to control her emotions, has been concealing everything.  “Ask me nothing,” she says to Elinor, “you shall soon know all.” (p. 180).

[Image: La Belle Assemblee, 1807]

Society at the time required circumspect behaviors, especially of its female members – one acted demurely, maintained secrets, told polite lies.  As Tony Tanner says, “it was a society that forced people to be at once very sociable and very private” (Tanner, p. 88).   Byrne talks of the “the level of deceit in the marriage market” (Byrne, p. 126), and Spacks goes so far as to say that the entire “plot of S&S suggests that women must and men should conceal their feelings” (Spacks, p. 339).  When Elinor admonishes Marianne “Pray, pray be composed and do not betray what you feel to every body present” (p. 176), as Marianne screams for Willoughby to attend her, we are seeing this conflict of honest expression versus proper behavior.  In the beginning of the novel, there are several references to Elinor needing to tell little lies, “the whole task of telling lies when politeness requires it” (p. 122), unlike Marianne, who wears everything on her sleeve.  Elinor later in the novel becomes less able to perform these social niceties – she more and more responds with silence, this repeated numerous times, with the final wordless bolting from the room upon hearing that Edward is free.

[Image:  “His errand...was a simple one. It was only to ask Elinor to marry him”
 C.E. Brock, courtesy of Molland’s]

One forgets in tearing S&S down to its bare bones, what with all these secrets; all the duplicitous characters lurking about; the lies (can we ever really forgive Edward for his secrecy and the outright lie about the ring?!); all the behind the scenes seriousness of Colonel Brandon’s history of lost love, his secret duel, (we must add here Brandon’s very quick reference to his ward Eliza’s friend, “who with a most obstinate and ill-judged secrecy [my italics] would tell nothing, would give no clue, though she certainly knew it all” (p. 209) regarding Eliza’s whereabouts); and Willoughby’s betrayal of both Eliza and Marianne - with all this, how easy it is to forget that S&S is a comedy after all!   Is there anything more laugh-inducing that the scene when Edward arrives to find both his Lucy and his Elinor together? – I know that you know but pretending I don’t know, etc. – a perfectly drawn piece of theater (for an insightful look at Austen’s love of and use of such dramatic elements, see Byrne).

And who better to return us to good humor than Mrs. Jennings, certainly the most loveable and endearing of Austen’s cast of annoying characters! If in Elinor we have the keeper of secrets, in Mrs. Jennings we have the lover and teller of secrets, the good-natured gossip, though she most often gets it all wrong!  She (along with Sir John Middleton) makes much of the secret letter “F”; she is sure that Colonel Brandon has a “natural daughter”; tells all that Marianne and Willoughby are secretly engaged; gossips that Willoughby and Miss Gray’s “engagement is no longer to be a secret”; and ends with “the important secret in her possession” (p. 291) that Elinor and the Colonel are to be engaged!  Mrs. Jennings certainly personifies Austen’s belief in gossip as nearly a living social entity that undermines the keeping of secrets: in her letter to Cassandra of 5 September 1796 [Le Faye, Ltr. 5, p. 8]:

Mr. Richard Harvey is going to be married; but as it is a great secret, & only known to half the Neighborhood, you must not mention it.  The Lady’s name is Musgrove.

[Image: Mrs. Jennings in S&S 1995, courtesy of]

 But let’s return to the concept of Jane Austen as the writer of detective stories. Margaret Ann Doody in her introduction to the Oxford edition of S&S quotes Joseph Wiesenfarth: “the very structure of the novel attempts to engage and develop the total personalities of Elinor and Marianne by presenting them with a series of mysteries that must be solved.” Doody says that “the characters are all detectives trying to put together this piece and that piece of information”– citing Mrs. Jennings declaration to Marianne “I have found you out in spite of all your tricks” about the latter’s secret visit to Allenham with Willoughby, showing that all the characters are in a sense spying on each other to get at the truth  (Doody, p. xxxiii)  An abundance of secrets will certainly set any detective worth her/his salt to action – and Sense and Sensibility does not disappoint, despite an inherent sense of confusion.  And so all ends as all good English novels do – with the requisite comedic ending, where the truth will out, all is revealed, each character is given their just due, and whether you like that Marianne ends up with Colonel Brandon or not [another essay!], and we are told that Willoughby will forever regard Marianne as “his secret standard of perfection in woman” (p. 379), order is restored, and all is quite right with the world.
Further Reading:

  • Byrne, Paula. Jane Austen and the Theatre. London: Hambledon, 2002.

  • Doody, Margaret Ann. “Introduction.” Sense and Sensibility. By Jane Austen. New ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2008.

  • Drabble, Margaret, “Introduction.” Sense and Sensibility. By Jane Austen. New York: Signet, 1997. [Introduction c1989]

  • James, P. D. “Emma Considered as a Detective Story.” Time to Be in Earnest: A Fragment of Autobiography. New York: Knopf, 2000.

  • Le Faye, Deirdre, ed. Jane Austen’s Letters. New ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997.

  • Spacks, Patricia Meyer. “Afterword.” Sense and Sensibility. By Jane Austen. New York: Bantam, 1982.

  • Tanner, Tony. Jane Austen. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1986.

  • Tsomondo, Thorell. “Imperfect Articulation: A Saving Instability in Sense and Sensibility.” Persuasions 12 (1990): 90-110.

  • Wiesenfarth, Joseph. “The Mysteries of Sense and Sensibility.” The Errand of Form: An Assay of Jane Austen’s Art. New York: Fordham UP, 1967.


I welcome your comments!  Can you remember the first time you read Sense and Sensibility? What secret in the novel most surprised you?
Random drawing for one of my favorites of the numerous Jane Austen gift books:  Jane Austen Speaks to Women, by Edith Lank (2000). As usual, please, don't forget to add your e-mail address to your comment which can be left here or at Jane Austen in Vermont where I linked to my guestblog here.

The giveaway is open worldwide . Winner will be announced on June 30th.

[Image:  Jane Austen Speaks to Women cover]

“Elinor agreed to it all, for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition.”  [Elinor in Sense & Sensibility

Deb Barnum

Deb Barnum, author of the Jane Austen in Vermont  blog, had a former career as a law librarian, then followed her heart and bought an antiquarian book shop, certainly every book lover’s dream – but alas! hating being tied down to retail, she closed the bricks & mortar shop and now runs an internet-only business – Bygone Books   -  though she does miss the customers and the daily opportunity for book chat! A reader of Jane Austen in her younger days, Deb began a re-entry into Austenland too many years ago to mention when her daughter was reading Emma in college, and she has not looked back – she is the Regional Coordinator for the new JASNA-Vermont Region, is an avid collector of books on London, Regency England and of course Jane Austen.
You can follow Deb on Twitter as austeninvermont.

Wednesday 15 June 2011


One of my recent discoveries, these lovely novels by Cora Harrison to introduce young girls to the world of Jane Austen! I'm really glad I've found out about her surfing the Net and had the chance to interview Cora Harrison for My Jane Austen Book Club. As I'm really glad to announce the names of the two winners of her books now! 

Farida Mestek    wins      I WAS JANE AUSTEN BEST FRIEND  

Jo's Daughter  wins   JANE AUSTEN STOLE MY BOYFRIEND    


Many thanks to MacMillan UK for this double giveaway and to Cora Harrison for taking the time of answering my questions and being my guest. To all the readers who entered and didn't win, hold on, try again both here on My Jane Austen Book Club and on my other blog , Fly High

Tuesday 14 June 2011


The Perfect Hero is Victoria Connelly's latest publication. I  posted the review of this delightful novel just last week, do you remember? After reading it, I  had so many curiosities about the characters and the inspiration for this Austenesque present - day romance! And, guess what?  Victoria Connelly has kindly accepted to answer all my questions. Moreover, Harper Collins has granted you readers other two copies of this lovely romance if you leave your comments and e-mail address at the end of this interview. Below you'll find the name of the winner of the first giveaway connected to my review (HERE) , and the launch of the new DOUBLE GIVEAWAY open worldwide! The winners will be announced next Tuesday June 21st.

Welcome back on My Jane Austen Book Club, Victoria! The Perfect Hero is the  second book in your Austen Addicts  Trilogy. After Katherine Roberts and Robyn Love, the  Janeite heroines of A Weekend With Mr Darcy, another lovely protagonist, Kay Ashton. Can you tell us  how you came to picture her out of your imagination? Is she inspired by any Austen heroine?

Kay Ashton is, perhaps, the closest my heroines have ever come to being like me!  She’s a romantic.  She’s a daydreamer.  She’s a Jane Austen fan!  She isn’t directly inspired by any Austen heroine although I think she has elements of Catherine Morland and Marianne Dashwood with her wild imagination, and a little of Emma Woodhouse with her naughty match-making tendencies.

Gemma Reilly is another cute character in all her fragility.  Is she your Anne Eliot?

Like Anne Eliot, Gemma has spent most of her life being told what to do and it takes her a while to find out who she really is but, when she does, she’s a force to be reckoned with!

Persuasion is  often quoted  in the story and Lyme Regis is the set of most of the action in it. Austen’s last novel happens to be my favourite – the one I find most romantic and touching -   and I dream of going to Lyme Regis and visit Dorset sooner or later. What about you instead?   What’s your opinion on Persuasion?

I adore Persuasion.  It’s a deeply moving novel about the mistakes we make when we’re young.  Anne is such a sympathetic heroine and I so feel for her so much.  Jane Austen wrote this novel when she was dying and I think it’s very special.

The idea of getting Kay involved with the cast and crew shooting an adaptation of  Persuasion  in Lyme Regis, as she hosts them in her newly opened B&B, makes the plot spicier. I love period drama and I’d love to work behind the scenes of a costume piece, even as the host of a B&B.  Are the characters inspired by any real actor/actress you know or admire? If you can reveal that .

Well, my hero, Oli Wade Owen, is tall with blond hair and is playing Captain Wentworth so some readers may think he’s based on the gorgeous Rupert Penry Jones.  They might be right!  But I tend to make up most of my characters but little traits from people I know may creep in from time to time.  Adam’s love of writing and his need for a quiet life is very like me!

What Persuasion adaptation do you prefer?

I love the 1995 so much – Amanda Root is so perfect as the put-upon Anne and it’s beautifully filmed.  I love the scene where all the characters are telling Anne their troubles and are expecting her to sort them all out!  But the recent adaptation is gorgeous too – the music was so moving and I loved Anne’s little looks towards the camera.  Oh, and I did rather adore Rupert Penry Jones as Captain Wentworth! 

Your hero, the film star Oli Wade Owen,  is incredibly attractive with his good looks, his blond hair and his charming ways. Not The Perfect Hero, though.  What is the perfect hero like in your opinion?

I like a man who is sweet and gentle and doesn’t need to be the centre of attention.  I like a man who cares about animals and the countryside.  And I love a man who has a great passion.  My husband is a wonderful artist and is passionate about the subjects he paints.

They only exist in the movies and in books, don’t they ?
Well, I’m a romantic so believe that they exist in real-life too!  And I’m very lucky to have a lovely husband.  We’ve been married for 10 years and I’m very happy!

 In the final pages  of The Perfect Hero, there is  your “Top Ten Romantic Heroes”, led by Captain Wentworth . My question is about the second romantic hero in your list, Michael Maloney as Mark in Truly Madly Deeply. Curiously enough, I’ve seen this 1990 film only last week for the first time (as I wrote in this blogpost  of mine)  so I’ve got very vivid images in my mind. Is your Adam Craig, the sweet sensitive scriptwriter, inspired by that character?

 I adore Michael Maloney in Truly Madly Deeply – he’s sweet and sensitive and gives the heroine plenty of time.  I think I prefer this kind of hero to the macho-type and my own heroes are probably more like Mark than Captain Wentworth!

I love your Adam Craig’s relationship with his Nana Craig very much.  Bizarre, noisy, prejudiced  Nana Craig is definitely  my favourite character in your novel.  Being an ex-child brought up by a sweet nanny this musing  too is influenced by  very personal  memories.  Now, there’s only one thing I don’t understand. If we are not giving  away too much of the finale, may I ask you why she said what she said to Kay who was looking for Adam? Because I found that quite a  sudden, unexpected  change in her attitude which left me rather disappointed.

Nana Craig is very protective of her grandson, Adam, and doesn’t want to see him get hurt.  She’s aware that Kay was in some sort of relationship with Oli and doesn’t believe that she truly loves Adam so she speaks her mind.  I was anxious when I wrote this scene but felt that it was that right for Nana Craig to do.

I’d love to ask you so many other things but I think I would spoil too much for the future readers of The Perfect Hero. So I only ask you to write a 50 word presentation of this delightful novel.

 The Perfect Hero is a romantic comedy set in the pretty seaside resort of Lyme Regis in Dorset.  It’s about Kay who falls in love with the actor playing Captain Wentworth in a new film version of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.  But is he the perfect hero for her?

I’ve read on the last pages in my copy of The Perfect Hero that the third book in the Austen Addicts Trilogy is “The Runaway Actress”. Can you anticipate anything about it?

The Runaway Actress isn’t the third Austen Addicts book, I’m afraid.  The UK want to publish some standalone rom coms so I’m not sure when the third will be published in the UK.  But it will be out in the US in 2012.  It’s called Mr Darcy Forever and is set in the beautiful Georgian city of Bath during the Jane Austen festival where two estranged sisters meet once again.
But I’m very excited about The Runaway Actress too which is about a famous film star who swaps Hollywood for the Highlands of Scotland in an attempt to find out who she really is.

Thanks a lot for taking the time of answering my questions, Victoria, and for being my guest again on My Jane Austen Book Club!

Always a pleasure and thank you so much for your interest in my books!


The winner of the first copy of The Perfect Hero chosen by among the commenters of my review is...

But for all the others there is still a double chance to win this book. Try again! Leave a comment and your e-mail address.  This is the perfect summer read! The winners will be announced next Tuesday June 21st.

Monday 13 June 2011


Mark T. Mitchell teaches political theory at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, VA. He is the author Michael Polanyi: The Art of Knowing (ISI Books, 2006) and The Politics of Gratitude: Scale, Place, and Community in a Global Age (Potomac Books, forthcoming). He is co-editor of another book titled, The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry (ISI Books, forthcoming). Currently he is writing a book on private property. 

What has he got to do with Jane Austen? Fact is, he is one the most brilliant editors at Front Porch Republica great site about politics, social issues and culture and there he has  posted three brilliant pieces Jane Austen related which I've found out and read with great interest. You know how rare it is to find an objective male point of view on our beloved authoress and once I bump into a very special one, I have to share!
1. Why We Need Jane Austen 
In this article Professor Mark T. Mitchell tells about his experience teaching a course that included literary works including Pride and Prejudice: 

"Reading Pride and Prejudice with a group of bright and interested students has been a delight. Austen can charm students in 2011 and, given the multitude of voices and volumes competing for their attention, this is no small feat. But what, exactly, is it that makes Austen such a good teacher today? The question, itself, suggests that Austen is more than a good read, more than an escapist literary drug, more than a comedy of manners.
 I want to suggest that Austen provides something for which young people—even the jaded ones—secretly long. While the world she depicts is in many ways foreign to us, it is only just different enough to bring our own pathologies into clearer relief. In short, Austen reminds us of the largely forgotten categories of the lady and the gentlemen. It is her genius to make us aspire to these roles even in a world where such notions are strange and often ridiculed"

2. Pride and Prejudice and Porn

In this article, Prof. Mitchell reflects on the phenomenon of rape on college campuses, and again he finds Austen the best of teachers and longs for the gentleman's return.

"Of course, the issue of rape on college campuses gets fuzzy when the subject of “date rape” enters the picture. This is made all the more confusing when alcohol is added to the mix. Does regretting a sexual encounter the morning after a drunken binge qualify as rape? Clearly not, but the haze of alcohol or other substances surely impairs judgment, memory, and communication.
Nevertheless, the advent of the so-called hook-up culture has fostered expectations among young men that encounters with co-eds naturally lead to no-strings-attached sex. Sex is not preceded by an altar, commitment, “I love you”, or even a decent conversation. In a hook-up culture anonymous sex is not a scandal but, it would seem, the ideal, for when sex is depersonalized, it cannot lead to the complications associated with affection, vulnerability, and the desire to sacrifice for the good of the other person".

3. Attributes of the Gentleman or Mr Darcy's Rules of Engagements

After writing the first two articles, Prof. Mitchell was invited by a group of college men to lead a discussion about the idea of the gentleman. He is sure that, even in a democratic age, where social classes are fluid and poorly demarcated, the gentleman is characterized by the same  five attributes as Jane Austen's  Darcy:

1.the gentleman has a firm sense of propriety
2. the gentleman is amiable and to be amiable he has to be friendly. 
3. the gentleman possesses constancy
4.the gentleman is willing to sacrifice for others
 5. a gentleman can admit he’s wrong

 discover more reading the whole article

Professor Mitchell  is convinced that (especially) men  have a great deal to learn from Jane Austen's world. He discusses these issues from his political/social point of view , never too abstract or theoretical because based on common sense and related to the contemporary social reality. How interesting!