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I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Rose Servitova to celebrate the release of her newest book, The Watsons, a completion of the unfinished Jane Austen novel. I read Austen’s fragment several years ago and was intrigued by the story, and I think it’s very brave of her to “finish” Austen’s novel. I hope you all are as excited as I am about the novel. Please give Rose a warm welcome!

What inspired you to write a completion of The Watsons? Do you think it was harder to write this book, particularly since Austen never finished writing it? Or did you feel that it gave you a little more freedom in your story?

I had not thought of The Watsons at all until I went to a talk in Bath by Jane Austen expert Paula Byrnes. I was writing another manuscript that just was not working and I had more or less accepted that I would have to walk away from it. As I sat listening to Paula speak so passionately about Austen’s unfinished works and Juvenilia, I decided that perhaps I should read them and consider completing one of the unfinished works, if I liked it. I confess, the task was a little difficult as Austen had not placed much color on the fragment. As Virginia Woolf commented of The Watsons, it was as if she had meant to come back and add layers to it and had not. I had to ensure that I enhanced and added to what existed and not deflate or take from it. The characters she created had huge potential so I knew that if they came alive for me, they would take over the story and write it themselves. I feel that is what happened.

What do you think Jane Austen was starting to do with the themes in The Watsons? Are they different or similar to her other works?

Interestingly, Sanditon is very different from her other novels but The Watsons is somewhat similar. There are themes in The Watsons that we see elsewhere, such as sisterly love, female financial dependence, attempts at climbing the social ladder and family obligation.

Can you describe the main characters? What did you think of them, and what were the challenges in continuing their story?

Emma Watson has returned to her home after spending fourteen years with her rich aunt. Once a presumed heiress, she is returned penniless to her family when her aunt remarries. Emma is kind above all else. It leads her to act at times when others would hesitate or fear the opinion of others. She cannot watch others suffer and do nothing. Well educated and refined, she finds it difficult initially to resettle in the family home.

Her sister Elizabeth Watson is nine years older than Emma. Taking the role of matriarch in the family when she was but a child herself (on their mother’s passing). Elizabeth is outspoken, warm, witty and a little blunt.

Mr. Watson is their ill clergyman father, whose health often necessitates staying in bed. He is a sentimental lover of Shakespeare and a kind father.

Margaret and Penelope Watson are the two other sisters. Margaret is petty and loves gossip. Penelope is sharp-witted and conniving.

Robert and Sam Watson are the brothers in the family. Robert is married and doing very well in Croydon. Sam is an apprentice surgeon who is rarely free to visit.

Lord Osborne, Tom Musgrave, Mr. Howard, Mr. Shaw and Solomon Tomlinson are many of the male characters who play a role in this book. Lord Osborne is the socially awkward heir of Osborne Castle, Tom Musgrave is his charming, socially-climbing side-kick, Mr. Howard is an astronomy-loving clergyman at Wickstead on the Osborne estate, Mr. Shaw is a witty, wealthy bachelor from Chichester who abhors marriage and every mention of it, and Solomon Tomlinson is the arrogant curate at Wickstead.

When/how did you discover Jane Austen, and why do you think she and her novels remain so popular today?

My granny’s house had books – all the classics. When I was a teenager, I read Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, the Brontes and all of Austen’s novels. I really have no idea why her books remain so popular today except to say that there is, within the pages, a secret formula that is impossible to describe but which leaves such a satisfaction in the reader that is unmistakable.

When/how did you discover Jane Austen Fan Fiction (JAFF), and what prompted you to write your own?

To be honest, I am not an avid fiction or JAFF reader. In my free time, I am more inclined to read non-fiction. I get a great kick out of the screen adaptations and spin-offs however. I really enjoyed Bride & Prejudice recently. I thought it was an amazing adaptation that captured Austen’s essence perfectly yet altered almost every detail of the book. It was a joy to watch. I felt for many years that if I were ever to write a book, it would have some connection to Austen and, in particular, to Mr. Collins. This dream came true with The Longbourn Letters. I was not sure that I would get involved in any more Austen related writing but then The Watsons happened.

Could you share with us a little about your writing process and describe your writing space (or share a peek via photo)?

Rose Servitova writing

Writing my debut novel, The Longbourn Letters, was very different to writing The Watsons. I work full-time so I have to steal time where I can. The Longbourn Letters was largely concocted while out walking the country roads near my home and later typed up in a café while listening to classical music on my headset. I tended to write at No 1 Pery Square – a Georgian hotel, the setting was perfect by a sash window (see photo). For The Watsons, I gathered all my ideas and notes and took off to a writer’s retreat for a couple of nights – writing the first draft in less than a week and then spending about nine months, here and there, editing and rewriting. Contemporary music played a part – helping me find the emotions I was trying to evoke for key scenes. I also created a visual chart for the characters, basing them on actors, fictional characters etc.; for example, two of the characters are based on Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. As a child, the verbal combat and onscreen chemistry of these two left its mark on me – it was a meeting of minds. I don’t share my work while it’s a work-in-progress. I tend to trust my gut and then trust a very good editor friend.

What book(s) are you reading right now?

Her Kind by Niamh Boyce. Her debut novel, The Herbalist, is one of my favorite books and I’m looking forward to Her Kind as it is based on the Kilkenny Witch Trial of 1324.

Are you working on another book at the moment, and if so, any hints as to what it’s about?

I wrote an outline to Sanditon in early 2018, putting it aside when I heard ITV were filming an adaptation. It’s a manuscript I hope to return to someday. I started a historical fiction crime novel set in a convent in Ireland in the 1930s but work on that has stalled while focusing on getting The Watsons out into the world. The essay is a form of writing that I love and I would like to write a collection of essays at some point. It’s my hope to write them in between writing novels. I’m also a huge fan of travel books and would like to write my own one day.

Fantastic! Thanks for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new release!

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About The Watsons

Can she honour her family and stay true to herself?

Emma Watson returns to her family home after fourteen years with her wealthy and indulgent aunt. Now more refined than her siblings, Emma is shocked by her sisters’ flagrant and desperate attempts to ensnare a husband. To the surprise of the neighbourhood, Emma immediately attracts the attention of eligible suitors – notably the socially awkward Lord Osborne, heir to Osborne Castle – who could provide her with a home and high status if she is left with neither after her father’s death. Soon Emma finds herself navigating a world of unfamiliar social mores, making missteps that could affect the rest of her life. How can she make amends for the wrongs she is seen to have committed without betraying her own sense of what is right?

Jane Austen commenced writing The Watsons over two hundred years ago, putting it aside unfinished, never to return and complete it. Now, Rose Servitova, author of acclaimed humour title, The Longbourn Letters: The Correspondence between Mr Collins and Mr Bennet, has finished Austen’s manuscript in a manner true to Austen’s style and wit.

Amazon | Goodreads

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About the Author

Rose Servitova

Irish author Rose Servitova is an award-winning humor writer, event manager, and job coach for people with special needs. Her debut novel, The Longbourn Letters – The Correspondence between Mr. Collins & Mr. Bennet, described as a ‘literary triumph’, has received international acclaim since its publication in 2017. Rose enjoys talking at literary events, drinking tea and walking on Irish country roads. She lives in County Limerick with her husband, two young children and three indifferent cats. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.

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November 18            My Jane Austen Book Club (Interview)

November 18            Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog (Review)

November 19            The Lit Bitch (Excerpt)

November 20            Austenesque Reviews (Review)

November 20            vvb32 Reads (Review)

November 21            All Things Austen (Review)

November 22            My Love for Jane Austen (Spotlight)

November 25            From Pemberley to Milton (Excerpt)

November 25            Diary of an Eccentric (Interview)

November 26            So Little Time… (Excerpt)

November 27            Impressions in Ink (Review)

November 27            Babblings of a Bookworm (Spotlight)

November 28            More Agreeably Engaged (Review)

November 29            My Vices and Weaknesses (Excerpt)

November 29            The Fiction Addiction (Review)

I am honored to be part of the release day celebration for Sarah Courtney’s new novel, A Good Name, which is a modern Pride and Prejudice variation. I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah at the recent JAFF Reader-Writer Get Together in Virginia (which you can read about here), where we all enjoyed a great discussion about modern vs. Regency variations of Austen’s novels. I’m excited about Sarah’s book and will be reviewing it here after the holidays, so stay tuned! In the meantime, Sarah is here to talk about her new novel and share an excerpt and giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!

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I started writing A Good Name when I desperately needed a break from writing another variation. My computer had crashed twice in one week, losing me over a month’s worth of writing and making me want to tear my hair out in frustration. I was getting ready for bed one night and contemplating George Wickham’s relationship to his godfather, the elder Mr. Darcy. Somehow that got me thinking about a young Elizabeth Bennet befriending a young George Wickham and unintentionally nudging him onto a path that intersects with George Darcy, and where that might lead him.

Even if you love to hate George Wickham–because believe me, I usually do, too!–I hope that you’ll give A Good Name a try and see a unique George Wickham with a twist that I don’t believe has been seen before in Pride and Prejudice variations.

Don’t worry, this is still a Darcy and Elizabeth romance with a happy ending for our favorite couple.

In this excerpt, Elizabeth Bennet is eight and George Wickham is ten. It’s winter, and she has noticed that he’s cold and doesn’t have winter clothing, so she brings him a coat and boots that used to belong to her father.

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“I don’t need them,” he said. He desperately wanted them. But he was sick and tired of always being the one who needed stuff. Elizabeth brought him food every day. She didn’t make a big deal of it, but she probably thought he was a charity case. “I’m not a charity case.”

She looked shocked. “I didn’t say you were.”

“And I don’t need you to buy me stuff. My mom can buy me whatever I want.” Okay, now he was lying, but he didn’t want to be just a poor kid in her eyes. “So you can stop making yourself feel good by bringing me stuff.”

“So you’d rather freeze than wear my father’s old coat?”

“Yes!” No. “I can get my own new coat! I just haven’t had the time yet.”

“You’re lying,” Elizabeth said. “Your shoes are falling apart. You wear the same pants every day. Do you even wash your clothes?”

“It’s not the same pair of pants. They just look alike.” They could be, anyway. Lots of people had more than one of the same kind of jeans.

She shook her head. “The knees are torn exactly the same way. Exactly.”

He flushed to think she’d spent enough time studying the holes in his jeans to notice. “What do you know? You’re some spoiled rich kid who’s probably never worn hand-me-downs in her life!”

“I have an older sister! Most of my clothes are hand-me-downs!” she shouted. “Fine, don’t wear the coat! I’ll just donate it somewhere. Don’t come to me when you’re cold next week.”

He deflated. He wanted that coat. He just hated being poor. He sat down hard on the bench.

“I’m sorry,” Elizabeth said, sitting next to him. “I didn’t mean to make a big deal of it.”

“It’s just… I hate always being the one to get stuff from other people.”

He looked at the coat. It was pretty embarrassing to have an eight-year-old give him a coat. But it was already done, and he was cold, after all. He sighed.

“They’re too big,” was his final protest.

“They’re supposed to be!” she said with a grin. “For Narnia. Remember, they just get those fur coats from the closet? They were grown-up clothes.”

It was either laugh or roll his eyes, so he chose the first. She was such an adorable kid sometimes.

He had to admit, though, that sitting on the cold bench listening to her read and following her through the frozen forest of the Western Wood were a lot more fun when he was wearing a big heavy warm coat and boots. The boots were so large, though, that he had to walk very carefully so he didn’t walk right out of them.

George spent the entire walk home planning what he’d say to his mother when she asked about the coat and boots. He’d decided that the truth, that they were gifts from a friend, hand-me-downs from her father, would be the easiest explanation.

But in the end, he didn’t need it. His mother didn’t even notice him come home—or notice much of anything lately. Mark was gone somewhere or other, and nobody said anything when he was back, either. There were some advantages to being ignored.

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About A Good Name

George Wickham’s childhood friendship with Lizzy Bennet saved his life. How will it change her future?

Ten-year-old George Wickham was hungry, lonely, and desperate until the day he met Lizzy Bennet. She transformed his life with a peanut butter sandwich and the magic of books. Losing her friendship devastated him, until his meeting with the Darcy family set him on a course to a new life.

Will Darcy insulted Elizabeth Bennet at their first meeting and accidentally injured her a few months later. She is just starting to overcome her first impression of him when something from his past comes to light. Will the revelation of Elizabeth’s childhood friendship with George Wickham change everything?

Buy on Amazon

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About the Author

Sarah Courtney

Sarah Courtney has been addicted to reading since she first learned how. She carried books with her everywhere . . . to sports games (professional sports games required two books!), school, bus rides and car trips, and even when her parents told her to “go outside and play.” She finds time for reading now by doing most of it on her Kindle app, which means that she can read while walking down the stairs, waiting in line, making dinner . . .

Sarah loves to read fantasy and fairy tale interpretations, Agatha Christie’s mysteries, romantic suspense/action, and especially variations of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Sarah tried her hand at writing numerous times as a child, but never stuck it out long enough to finish a book. When she discovered that there was an entire fandom dedicated to her favorite author, Jane Austen, she was inspired to write her first novel.

Sarah homeschools her six children, ages two through twelve. She is constantly asked, “How do you find time to write?” The answer is simply that you find the time to do the things you love. Also, getting the laundry put away is highly overrated.

You can find Sarah on Facebook and her blog.

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Giveaway

Sarah is offering an ebook copy of A Good Name to one lucky reader. To enter, please use this Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

Thank you, Sarah, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new release!

Dear readers, I have some fantastic news for you! Jennifer Joy’s newest novel, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Guardian, will be published on Saturday, November 23, and you can pre-order it now on Amazon (U.S. | U.K.). In addition, I have the honor of unveiling the cover for you today, and Jennifer is offering some gifts to celebrate the release!

Before I show you the beautiful cover, let’s read the book blurb!

He lost everyone he loved … except for a secret baby. 

Fitzwilliam Darcy will lie and break the law to keep his sister’s newborn safe. When the only way to protect her is to have an heir of his own, his search for a trustworthy wife begins…

She was her father’s favorite … until he sacrificed her happiness. 

When Elizabeth Bennet’s father falls gravely ill, she is willing to shoulder the responsibility of her family’s care while maintaining her freedom — until she is forced to marry Mr. Darcy.

One broken man + one bitter lady = one happy family? 

Through grief and betrayal, Darcy and Elizabeth learn to trust each other and work together to honor the promises they have made — including the vows they exchanged.

But a spiteful enemy from Darcy’s past is determined to divide their family, and the law is on his side…

Oh my goodness! When a mere book blurb gets your heart racing! A secret baby…a forced marriage…OMG! I hope you all are as intrigued as I am!

Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for: introducing Fitzwilliam Darcy, Guardian:

What a beautiful cover! It certainly conveys the seriousness of their circumstances, and yet there’s some tenderness and passion. What do you think??

To celebrate the release of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Guardian, Jennifer is offering 4 ebook copies (Kindle/mobi) to my readers, open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address, and tell us what you love about the cover and/or what interests you most about the book. This giveaway will be open through Wednesday, September 27, 2019. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Jennifer, for inviting me to host the cover reveal, and congratulations on your new release!

You can follow Jennifer Joy on Facebook and Twitter, and all of her books can be found on her Amazon author page.

To my readers who reside in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia and are high school students or the parents of one (or who know someone in these locations with a high schooler), please check out the below press release regarding the Gaithersburg Book Festival’s Annual High School Poetry Contest! The contest is being coordinated by Serena from Savvy Verse & Wit, and if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments, and she will respond. Thanks!

Open Theme for the Gaithersburg Book Festival’s Annual High School Poetry Contest 

Winning poet to be awarded $250 prize at 2020 Festival on May 16 

Gaithersburg, Md. – October 10, 2019 – The Gaithersburg Book Festival is proud to announce its annual high school poetry contest is now open for submissions. First and second place winners will receive $250 and $100, respectively. Third place and fan favorite winners will receive $50 and $25, respectively.

Winners will be unveiled at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 16, 2020, at its new, temporary location – Bohrer Park at Summit Hall Farm (506 S. Frederick Ave., Gaithersburg, MD 20877).

“We’re so excited to again feature a High School Poetry Contest as part of the 2020 Gaithersburg Book Festival,” said Jud Ashman, Festival chair and Mayor of the City of Gaithersburg. “Student submissions last year were outstanding and the finalists got to meet some incredible poets and authors.”

To participate, students must be enrolled in grades 9-12 at a public or private school, or be in a homeschool program, for the 2019-2020 school year. Additionally, entrants must reside in Maryland, Virginia or the District of Columbia.

There is no restriction on form or topic. Poems should be typed in 12 pt. Times New Roman and not exceed one page in length. Each student can submit one poem as a Word document (.doc or .docx). File names must only contain the title of the poem (e.g., The_Red_Fern.doc); they should not include the name of the student or school.

Poems must be the original work of the student and must not have been previously published online or in print. By submitting work to the contest, students grant the Gaithersburg Book Festival a non-exclusive license to publish, distribute, transmit and exhibit the poem, and any portions thereof, via any medium without financial compensation.

Poems must be submitted electronically via web at https://tinyurl.com/yyvgqdpl by midnight ET on Thursday, February 20, 2020.

Up to 12 poems will be selected as finalists and posted on the Gaithersburg Book Festival website prior to the Festival. For the first time, finalists will also be asked to record a video of themselves reading their poems, which will be posted on Gaithersburg Book Festival website. A release will be required.

Prizes will be provided courtesy of Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus.

Complete rules and regulations can be found online at https://www.gaithersburgbookfestival.org/gbf-programs/poetry-contest/. Questions can be emailed to writingcontest@gaithersburgbookfestival.org.

About the Gaithersburg Book Festival

The Gaithersburg Book Festival is an annual all-day celebration of books, writers and literary excellence. One of the premier literary events in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, the 2020 Festival is scheduled for Saturday, May 16, at Bohrer Park at Summit Hall Farm (506 S. Frederick Ave.) in Gaithersburg, Md. Activities will include author appearances, discussions and book signings; writing workshops; a Children’s Village; onsite sales of new and used books; literary exhibitors and food, drink, ice cream and more. FREE admission and accessible shuttle will be available from Shady Grove Metro and Lakeforest Mall. The Gaithersburg Book Festival also hosts author events in Montgomery County throughout the year as a way to encourage continued appreciation for all things literary. For more information please visit www.gaithersburgbookfestival.org, follow us on Twitter @GburgBookFest or like us on Facebook.

To celebrate the release of her latest novel, By Time Divided, the second book in a trilogy, Elaine Jeremiah is here to share an excerpt and a giveaway. If you’ve ever wanted to go back in time to visit Regency England, you won’t want to miss these books!!

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Thank God for ladies’ maids, I thought fervently as the maid who’d served me at Westerleigh last time I was here, Susan, laced my corset up tightly over my chemise. I glanced over at Mia who was undergoing the same ordeal. She grimaced at me, giving a small shake of her head. I gave her a rueful smile.

I raised my arms and Susan deftly lifted a petticoat over my shoulders. It was held up by thin straps. Then came the dress. Like the petticoat, it was white and looked like the one I’d worn to the ball in Lyme, but I couldn’t be sure. Where had all these clothes come from anyway?

I glanced at Mia again. She seemed well provided for too. When we’d opened her trunk, we’d found a veritable treasure trove of gowns and accessories, including some beautiful fans and intricately stitched reticules. Mia had gasped, her mouth hanging open as we lifted out wonder after wonder of amazing dresses, pelisses, shawls and bonnets, not to mention various shoes and undergarments.

‘I think you’re richer than I am,’ I’d joked when we’d finished going through the contents.

Mia had given me a slightly dazed smile and said nothing. Now, as she turned towards me with a bashful expression, I took a good look at her. I was astonished. I’d always known she was beautiful, but now she was nothing short of stunning in the dress which we’d chosen for her to wear. It was a very pale pink, so pale it was nearly white. This ambiguous colour suited her honey-toned skin and hair perfectly.

‘Amazing!’ I told her. Again, Mia said nothing, simply nodded. She seemed tongue-tied – unusual for her. But then she was out of her depth here, even more than me. And it showed. It’s not every day you walk into Regency England, I reminded myself. Even so, I was concerned for her, anxious to keep my promise to her and prevent Lady Margaret in particular from insulting her if I could.

Now we were ready and our maids stood back from us to admire their handiwork.

‘You both look very well, miss,’ Susan told me. But she looked askance at Mia, belying her kind words.

‘Thank you, Susan,’ I replied. ‘You and Fanny may go now.’

‘Thank you, miss,’ Susan said. She and Fanny quickly bobbed a curtsey and hurried out of the room. I turned to Mia. Her brow was furrowed and her expression bleak. I reached a hand out to hers and squeezed it.

‘It’ll be OK, Mia.’

‘Will it? How can you be sure?’

I sighed. ‘I can’t, but I promise you I’ll do everything in my power to ensure that the Montagues treat you kindly.’

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About By Time Divided

Having accidentally time travelled to Regency England, Jane Austen fan Cassie Taylor finds herself unexpectedly back in the twenty-first century. But everything has changed. She’s been missing for three weeks and her parents are upset and disbelieving when she tells them where she’s been. The police aren’t too pleased either.

Cassie’s best friend Mia doubts the story, yet stands by her friend. And then the unthinkable happens when both of them end up in Regency England. Now Cassie has an even bigger problem: Mia is mixed race and they’re stuck in an era where the slave trade has only just been abolished. Cassie must somehow explain herself to her Regency friends – why she vanished and who her friend is. She also needs to find Ted, the love of her life.

How will Cassie manage to protect Mia from the insults of Regency people who see her as worthless? And how will she ever find a way for her and Ted and Mia to finally return home?

Buy on Amazon U.S. | U.K.

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About the Author

Elaine Jeremiah

Elaine lives in Bristol, South West England with her husband and their golden retriever, Dug. But she was privileged enough to grow up in Jane Austen country, in Hampshire.

Writing has always been a passion of hers, but it’s only been in recent years that she’s been able to devote more time to it. She decided to self-publish with the help of her wonderful husband who’s very tech-savvy! In 2013 she self-published her first novel, but it was only with her fourth, her novel ‘Love Without Time’, that she felt she finally found her niche: Jane Austen Fan Fiction!

She’s always loved Jane Austen’s writing and the Regency era, so this felt like a natural thing for her to do. ‘Love Without Time’ is the first in a trilogy best described as a Jane Austen-inspired time travel romance. ‘By Time Divided’ is the second book in the trilogy.

 

If you want to connect with Elaine online, her Facebook page can be found here:

https://www.facebook.com/elainejeremiahauthor/

Her Twitter handle is: @ElaineJeremiah

Her website is here: https://elainejeremiah.co.uk/

 

‘Love Without Time’ is available from Amazon.com here: http://amzn.to/2DxRPHO

It’s also available from Amazon UK here: http://amzn.to/2Dywq0y

‘By Time Divided’ is on Amazon.com here: https://amzn.to/2YEKzzH

It’s on Amazon UK here: https://amzn.to/2KokZtv

 

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Giveaway

Elaine is generously offering ebook copies of the first two books in the trilogy, Love Without Time and By Time Divided, to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Thursday, November 21, 2019. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Elaine, for sharing an excerpt with us, and congratulations on your latest release!

Today we’re celebrating the release of Melanie Rachel’s latest novel, Headstrong: Book One: Improvise, a modern Pride and Prejudice variation that offers a fresh and unique take on Elizabeth and Darcy. I am a big fan of modern variations, and this one sounds especially fantastic. Melanie is here to talk about bringing Jane Austen’s characters into the present day. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Writing a modern JAFF is a bit like looking over a cliff and deciding whether you want to jump off. Everyone tells you not to bother, that readers don’t like them, that it’s not worth your time. It’s not nearly as popular a form as the Regency variations, and it can be difficult to translate Jane Austen’s plots and beloved characters into a modern setting. I think that many readers are looking to read something that takes them far away from their everyday lives, and that’s certainly a valid reason for preferring stories set hundreds of years in the past. Imagining Jane Austen’s characters in our world today, though, can be just as exciting—who wouldn’t want to meet their favorite character? Austen’s characters are so true to human nature that I believe I’ve already met a number of them in real life.

So I jumped—I wrote Headstrong.

Headstrong features an Elizabeth Bennet who has just left the Marine Corps after six years in service. It hit the shelves on November 10th, the birthday of the United States Marine Corps and one day before Veteran’s Day here in the United States.

Headstrong is a Pride and Prejudice variation. It is by no means the first, and that’s because P&P is an excellent story to modernize. Many readers are drawn to Elizabeth Bennet precisely because she is such a modern, relatable character. She’s smart, funny, and wrong-headed at times. Occasionally, she’s quick to anger. But she’s honest enough to own her mistakes and grow as a person, which also makes her brave.

In sketching a contemporary Elizabeth Bennet, I drew from these characteristics. Elizabeth should be funny, but also know when that humor is appropriate. She could easily have been an athlete, even if that famous three-mile walk to Netherfield did leave her with sore ankles. She would also have been, I think, very interested in an education, now that one was available to her. More importantly, a modern Elizabeth Bennet would be independent. I did add a few years to her age, because I believe that a twenty-year-old in Regency England was a bit “older” than many twenty-year-old women (and men) are today. This made Headstrong’s Elizabeth a bit closer in age to her Will Darcy—and far more experienced in what the world is really like than the rather sheltered original.

Once I had an idea in mind, I began looking around for models. Given how true to life Austen’s characters are, I found them all around me.

Headstrong’s Elizabeth Bennet is an amalgam of several students I’ve had come through my university classroom—a Marine who told us during introductions that she’d gotten off the plane from Iraq the night before but was determined to get her degree, a member of the Coast Guard who had earned the highest physical fitness rating in her unit and was very proud of it, another who had been a foster child but found her home in the Marines, yet another who’d taken a medical retirement from the Army. He told me that he had trouble concentrating sometimes due to a service injury and hoped I would be patient with him. I asked him whether he’d contacted our Accessible Student Services to ask for accommodations. He replied he’d only been near the explosions, not in any—so he didn’t think he qualified for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) assistance. Suspecting he was being modest, I asked how many explosions he’d been near. He shrugged and said, “Maybe ten.” The humility nearly all of these students displayed is something I thought Elizabeth would feel deeply.

So I’ve made it through this post without revealing too much about the novel itself, though I hope I’ve offered enough hints to tempt you! Headstrong is a three-book series, and the books will be released in quick succession. Book One: Improvise, is available now. Book Two: Adapt, will be out November 24th. And–fingers crossed–Book Three: Overcome, will be out by the 7th of December.

PS: For those of you who still aren’t sure about modern JAFF–since it’s almost Thanksgiving, may I recommend a short piece for those of you willing to be adventurous and give a modern a try? I highly recommend the very funny JanCat’s “Black Friday.” I will never get over the opening image of a British Darcy standing, overwhelmed, in a Walmart on Black Friday.

That’s got to be intriguing enough to lure you in. I hope you enjoy it as much I as do!

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About Headstrong: Book One: Improvise

A few months after teaming up with Major Richard Fitzwilliam to thwart a terrorist attack in Europe, USMC Staff Sergeant Elizabeth Bennet is back in the States as a civilian. Her training in cyber-security makes finding work easy, and she’s learning to fit into her new life. But there is lingering fallout both from the attack and her life before it that she’s not yet prepared to face. Complicating matters is the major’s handsome cousin.

Co-owner of Darcy Acquisitions, CEO of FORGE, and guardian to his younger sister, Will Darcy is stretched to his limits. When Richard sets up an interview at FORGE for his friend Elizabeth Bennet, Will insults her instead of hiring her. In making amends, Will falls for the witty, troubled Marine with long legs and fine eyes.

Falling in love is easy, but do these two very different people have what it takes to make love last?

[This is a non-canon P&P modern and a full novel at just over 86,000 words.]

Buy on Amazon

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Giveaway

Melanie is generously offering a copy of Headstrong: Book One: Improvise to one lucky reader. This giveaway is open to readers in the U.S. (choice of ebook or paperback) and internationally (ebook only). To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Wednesday, November 20, 2019. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Melanie, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new release!

It’s my pleasure to welcome C.P. Odom back to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate his latest Pride and Prejudice variation, A Covenant of Marriage. Colin is here today to share his thoughts on a PBS special, “I Hate Jane Austen,” as well as an excerpt from the book. Please give him a warm welcome!

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This guest post doesn’t really have anything to do with my new Pride and Prejudice variation, A Covenant of Marriage, but some time back my wife saw a program listed on PBS called “I Hate Jane Austen.” She’s not a big Austen fan herself, but she’s managed to put up with my writing in this venue for about the last fifteen years, first in the fanfiction arena and then being formally published by Meryton Press. So she thought I might be interested and recorded it for me.

When she informed me, I wasn’t too interested. I know there are people who don’t like Austen, but I didn’t think I wanted to listen to the arguments of someone on that side this question. However, when my fourth novel, Perilous Siege was published, it touched a chord in my wife and she read the freebie paperback copy I received from my publisher. The result was quite surprising to me—she read it cover to cover in two days and absolutely loved it! It was the first time she’d read more than a few passages in any of my books, and she began to enthusiastically convince friends and family to read it also.

It caught me so off guard that when she resumed her efforts to get me to watch this PBS program, telling me it wasn’t a negative hit-piece that I relented. How could I resist her arguments after she enjoyed my latest novel so much?

  • The blurb for the program says that British columnist Giles Coren meets academics and fans of author Jane Austen to see if they can change his mind regarding his dislike for the author. Hour long program.
  • Coren opens by reviewing all the hype for Jane Austen, her fame, her reputation as one of the greatest writers in English literature, all the books, movies, variations, and shows, saying, “It’s not enough to like her. You’re expected to love her. And I just don’t. In fact, I hate Jane Austen.”
  • I hadn’t heard of Giles Coren before this point, though my wife said she was a bit familiar with him because he’s a restaurant critic in addition to being a journalist and English literature graduate. He says that possibly the germ of his dislike of Austen came from having been forced to read her as a teenager, which I could sympathize with because I’d been forced to read Herbert Melville and Joseph Conrad among other so-called “giants of English literature” during my high school years.
  • The first of the experts he consults is Professor John Mullen, who’s been teaching Austen for more than thirty years and luckily is a neighbor. Coren asks what he is missing about Jane Austen, and Mullen’s response is to say that most people like Charlotte Bronte and Joseph Conrad who didn’t like Austen didn’t “get” her humor. Mullen thinks that’s one of the most delightful things about her works, and staggers Coren when he goes on to put her on a par with Shakespeare.
  • Coren asks incredulously, “You put her with Shakespeare?” and is flatly incredulous when Mullen responds, “Definitely. Definitely.” After some back and forth, Coren finally states that he thinks he’s unsavable, to which Mullen advises him to forget about all the other Austenesque paraphernalia and “go back to the books.”
  • So Coren starts with Sense and Sensibility, Austen’s first novel, and speaks with best-selling author Joanna Trollope, who wrote a modern version of Austen’s novel. His first question is, “Why?”
  • Trollope makes a number of interesting statements that I had not encountered in my research into Austen. First, she addresses Jane Austen’s fans, and points out that her earliest admirers were men—in fact, other male writers—while Austen is promoted in modern times as a girly and romantic thing rather than the tough and sinewy observer that she was. This point made me remember that such perceptiveness was one of the characteristics Austen imbibed into her Elizabeth Bennet in contrast to most of her feminine contemporaries.
  • In the ensuing conversation, Coren betrays what he had missed in his reading of Sense and Sensibility when he states that Austen seems to be portraying Marianne and Elinor as two wildly divergent personalities while it appears to his 200-year later viewpoint as if both sisters were rather similar. Trollope’s explanation centers on the fact that Coren doesn’t really understand the meaning of “sensibility” in the context of Austen’s time. As she explains, sensibility was a philosophical fashion in Europe when Jane Austen was growing up. When Austen started this novel, she was a victim of sensibility, being passionately emotional like Marianne. Sixteen years later, when she finally finished, she had come to realize that being sensible like Elinor—logical and rational—was more correct.
  • With respect to Coren’s objection to money being so prominent, she points out that the money was hugely important and not to be casually dismissed. “In Jane Austen’s day, if you didn’t fall into poverty. You fell to utter destitution, to rags, the gutter, and starvation.” Because Coren didn’t understand this, she charges that he thus thinks that Austen is for a fluffy kind of girl, which is not at all the case.
  • With considerable reluctance, Coren attends a Regency ball in Bath in period costume. He’s willing enough to dress up, but he resolutely states that he does not do dancing. In addition, he inserts jibes at various points as he prepared for the ball, including “Jane Austen is an icon, and once a person becomes an icon, it becomes impossible to think critically about them” and “crucially she’s out of copyright.” But even with this jaundiced prejudice, Coren is surprised to enjoy himself at the ball. He even dances (which must have taken some practice, since he danced Austen’s favorite dance, a cotillion), and later says that he won’t be reading Austen more often but that he does look forward to the dancing which she enjoyed so much.
  • The next topic is Pride and Prejudice, to which Professor John Mullen interjects that the best thing about this novel is Austen’s dialogue. He goes on to say that Austen wrote the best dialogue that’s ever been written in novels, a statement that Coren still has a hard time swallowing. It gets no easier when he looks into the Bollywood version of P&P, Bride and Prejudice, since the director of that movie, Gorinda Chudha, tells him he is misguided and he doesn’t understand what the story is about. When he says that, no matter what Austen tries to tell the reader, all her stories are about who they’re going to marry in the end. The director notes that Austen was instead highlighting the boundaries and constraints on women at that time. She says Austen was writing about what she knew, the cultural mores around her world, but she was constrained against explicitly making the point about how limited was the world for women at the time. Instead, she had to be deft and witty in how she said it. She says that Jane Austen is witty and she would pick up Austen and read her at any time, to which Coren responds slyly, “Better you than me.” Obviously, he hasn’t been convinced by the arguments made so far.
  • Chudha’s comments are made more relevant to today’s world when he visits with the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan for tea and reading Austen. From their discussion, he realizes that many of the social problems facing women that he thought to be long solved were still relevant in that part of the world. All the women laugh at the passage where Mr. Bennet says he will never see his daughter again if she marries Mr. Collins, and one of the participants says that she has lived the Mr. Collins scene. Coren is flabbergasted to realize that the 200 year gap which he thinks makes Austen irrelevant does not exist for these women.
  • Coren’s old friend, David Beddiel, writer and comedian, is a big Emma fan and is anxious to inform Coren of his mistakes. Coren believes that Austen only had six themes (in her six novels) and they’re all the same, while Beddiel believes she is more important than Shakespeare. The reason for that, Beddiel says, is that Austen single-handedly created the modern realist novel. Before Austen, there were novelists like Stern, Nash, and Smollet with their mad, direct to the reader explanations of everything that was going on. What Austen did was to let the reader see the world through her character (Emma, in Beddiel’s example), her thoughts and dialogue, and trust the reader to work out what was going on. Previous novelists didn’t know how to do that and just explicitly told the reader what was happening.
  • As Coren goes on to relate his reactions to Austen’s other works, he adds to what he has already related about Austen, some of which were quite surprising to me. I thought I was relatively well-informed about Austen, but I was taken aback by Austen biographer Paula Byrne’s argument that Jane Austen was not at all the romantic writer I thought her to be, that she’s actually subverting it. Her arguments make sense, but I confess I had never comprehended it before. Even in my writing, I considered that I was writing romances. Oh, well. I studied engineering at college, not English Literature. I had thought I had the subject covered, but now I’m not so sure.
  • By the end, Coren says he’s reached the final chapter and it was time to confess all to John Mullen, where his journey started. Mullen asks if Coren had talked to anyone who had changed his mind, and Coren says that several people had convinced him that Austen’s novels were not conventional romantic novels. In my own case, I hadn’t thought Austen’s works were conventional, but I had thought they were essentially romantic novels. So this program was educational to me.
  • Coren also admits that he has come to believe that we could not have got from Shakespeare, whom he admires (as do I) to today’s writers without Austen in between. He also confesses that his skepticism has collapsed and that her novels are actually brilliant.
  • This program may not be as informative to more perceptive readers than it was to me, but it set me back on my heels, jarring my confidence in my perceptions. I had previously considered her novels as brilliant but not in the way I do after watching “I Hate Jane Austen.” I recommend it wholeheartedly to serious readers, even those to whom it might not be as educational as it was to me.

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An excerpt from Chapter 8 of A Covenant of Marriage

She cried aloud with a great mourning cry for all that she had never known in this life and the agony of a bereavement unguessed till this moment.

— Marion Zimmer Bradley (1930–1999)
American science-fiction and fantasy author, The Mists of Avalon

Wednesday, December 23, 1812
Longbourn, Hertfordshire

The coming of Christmas did not presage the usual joy of the season since the fate of Miss Lydia Bennet was still the preferred subject of conversation about the neighbourhood. Hardly any gathering among the better families passed without an exhaustive review of what was known or speculated. Of course, since the Bennet family was never included in any of these gatherings, they were not able to comment on the accuracy of those conversations.

The arrival of the Gardiners provided the only relief to the general gloom at Longbourn, and Mrs. Gardiner continued her usual practice of distributing presents to all the girls. It made it seem, just for a moment, like any other Christmas season, but her discussion of the fashions in vogue in London was not received with the same attention as in previous years, for fashion was not a topic much discussed at Longbourn.

At least, the subject drew little attention until Mrs. Gardiner happened to mention Mr. Darcy’s name in passing when discussing the declining interest of long sleeves among the fashionable ladies.

“Mr. Darcy?” Elizabeth said immediately. “How did you come to hear his opinion?”

“Why, did I not mention we have had occasion to meet Mr. Darcy?” Mrs. Gardiner said, trying to make her voice sound casual, for she had not intended to mention his name.

“No, you did not. Jane, did Aunt Gardiner talk of meeting Mr. Darcy in any of her letters to you?”

“I do not believe so. I cannot remember hearing of it until now.”

“Well, I thought I mentioned it,” Mrs. Gardiner said. “He dined once at our house, and he extended a like invitation before he returned to Derbyshire.”

“Mr. Darcy dined with our uncle?” Elizabeth said, almost angrily. “A man who makes a living in trade? I cannot believe it, Aunt. He would consider such an acquaintance a degradation. You must be making a joke of some kind.”

Mrs. Gardiner winced at the tone in Elizabeth’s voice. She was aware of her niece’s antipathy for the man, but her mood had become somewhat bitter. The rejection of her family by the neighbourhood seemed to affect her open and cheerful spirit more than it did her sisters.

“It is no jest,” Mrs. Gardiner said. “After what you related about that gentleman being so disagreeable, I was surprised to discover Mr. Darcy quite amiable. In light of the disappointments of the past year, I think you ought to give a person a chance to redeem himself.”

Elizabeth immediately realized her misstep and apologized. “You are right as usual. I suppose I am too disposed to be critical these days.”

Mrs. Gardiner was well aware of the gloom pervading Longbourn, which was not improved since her sister Bennet spent most days in her room, coming downstairs only rarely and then for not very long. “Well, we must invite you girls to visit us in town. A change in scenery might be just the thing to improve your outlook.”

All of the sisters except for Mary were exceedingly pleased by this proposal, and it was determined that Jane would visit first, followed by Elizabeth and then Kitty. With these decisions made, Mrs. Gardiner gathered her courage and departed upstairs to try to cheer her sister and persuade her to join the family.

The Gardiners stayed until a few days prior to the New Year before returning to town, taking Jane with them. Longbourn was a dreary place with Mr. Bennet ensconced in his library and his wife confining herself to her sitting room. No one visited save Mr. and Mrs. Philips.

With her aunt and uncle gone, taking her elder sister with her, Elizabeth returned to her long rambles when the weather allowed. She was not due to take Jane’s place until after the end of March, and she looked forward to it eagerly.

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Friday, April 23, 1813
Covent Garden, London

Elizabeth’s turn to visit her aunt and uncle began in April, and she felt her spirits lighten as soon as she departed the environs of Longbourn. Her aunt had planned a number of engagements especially suited to Elizabeth’s lively nature, and one of the most appealing was a visit to the theatre.

On the scheduled evening, Elizabeth looked about her curiously as she descended from her uncle’s carriage in front of the Theatre Royal. She had not had many chances to attend the theatre since her father was not fond of London, and tonight’s excursion had been highly anticipated. A steady stream of people converged towards the entrance, all dressed in the latest fashions, many of which must have cost incredible sums of money. She and her aunt discussed which finery was in fashion and which ladies—and gentlemen—seemed not to know whether they looked well in the attire they had chosen for the night or not.

After being shown to their seats, Elizabeth saw much to engage and amuse her among the audience. She saw ladies walk slowly to their seat, conscious that many eyes followed them and enjoying the fact. Many a note was being passed to and from ladies who had already seated themselves. It seemed as though the drama executed by the audience might surpass the play soon to be performed on stage!

Mrs. Gardiner pointed out the two royal boxes. “As you know, relations between the king and his son were strained for years before the king became so mad he had to be restrained. There was an altercation here one evening in the Lower Rotunda between the two of them, and the papers were full of the sordid details for days. After this public display, the theatre would direct the King to the King’s side and the Prince Regent to the Prince’s side. I believe this theatre is the only one with that distinction, if it is correct to label such foolishness a distinction.”

Elizabeth found the story amusing and was looking around when she noticed a pair of opera glasses focused on her. Equally startled and flattered, she looked closer and was stunned to recognize the distinctive Darcy jaw.

At first, it seemed as though he might be looking at her aunt or uncle since they knew each other socially, but a second look made it clear he was looking directly at her. Such a fascination seemed exceedingly strange. After her unrestrained rejection of him in Kent, she knew Darcy would take pains to avoid any meeting between the two of them. And with the scandal attached to her family because of Lydia’s elopement, his aversion to any encounter would be even greater.

Yet it was undeniable that he was looking at her, and now Elizabeth wondered whether they would meet again. It was impossible that any interest remained on his part—his letter had made his disinclination unquestionable—but if they did meet during her visit, how would he act? Would he be as proud and haughty as he had been in Hertfordshire and Rosings, or would his behaviour be more in keeping with what her aunt had described? She could hardly guess, and Elizabeth wondered whether she should talk to her aunt to make sure they did not accept any invitations from Mr. Darcy during her visit.

As she was watching, she saw Darcy lower his glasses, and he fixed her with a familiar, intent gaze—the one she had so often misinterpreted. He gave a slow, grave nod of recognition, and Elizabeth was on the verge of returning the acknowledgement when she noticed Darcy was not alone in his box. Beside him was a young girl who had to be his sister, and next to her sat Mr. Bingley.

Neither Miss Darcy nor Mr. Bingley seemed to have noticed the path of Darcy’s gaze because they were involved in what was clearly an amiable and amusing conversation. Elizabeth was shocked to her core to witness the exact scene predicted by Caroline Bingley in her cruel letter to Jane upon quitting Netherfield. Instead of returning Darcy’s nod as she had intended, Elizabeth turned in her seat to face forward, her cheeks flushed red with anger and despair at the final extinction of any hope for her sister and Mr. Bingley.

She had much to think on during the performance, and it quite ruined any possibility of enjoying the play. At the interval, she steadfastly refused even to glance over her shoulder in the direction of the Darcy party, but she could no longer contain her curiosity when the play ended. In the process of rising to her feet and retrieving her shawl, she was able to cast a casual glance at Darcy’s box and found it empty.

She did not see him as she made her way out of the theatre. It was obvious Darcy had made his departure early, and Elizabeth was certain he had done so purposely to avoid any possibility of encountering her.

She did not know whether to feel relief or disappointment.

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About A Covenant of Marriage

A Covenant of Marriage—legally binding, even for an unwilling bride!

Defined as a formal, solemn, and binding agreement or compact, a covenant is commonly used with regard to relations among nations or as part of a contract. But it can also apply to a marriage as Elizabeth Bennet learns when her father binds her in marriage to a man she dislikes. Against her protests that she cannot be bound against her will, the lady is informed that she lives under her father’s roof and, consequently, is under his control; she is a mere pawn in the proceedings.

With such an inauspicious beginning, how can two people so joined ever make a life together?

Buy on Amazon (U.S.) (U.K.)

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About the Author

C.P. Odom

By training, I’m a retired engineer, born in Texas, raised in Oklahoma, and graduated from the University of Oklahoma. Sandwiched in there was a stint in the Marines, and I’ve lived in Arizona since 1977, working first for Motorola and then General Dynamics.

I raised two sons with my first wife, Margaret, before her untimely death from cancer, and my second wife, Jeanine, and I adopted two girls from China. The older of my daughters recently graduated with an engineering degree and is working in Phoenix, and the younger girl is heading toward a nursing degree.

I’ve always been a voracious reader and collector of books, and my favorite genres are science fiction, historical fiction, histories, and, in recent years, reading (and later writing) Jane Austen romantic fiction. This late-developing interest was indirectly stimulated when I read my late wife’s beloved Jane Austen books after her passing. One thing led to another, and I now have four novels published: A Most Civil Proposal (2013), Consequences (2014), Pride, Prejudice, and Secrets (2015), and Perilous Siege (2019). Two of my books are now audiobooks, Most Civil Proposal and Pride, Prejudice, and Secrets.

I retired from engineering in 2011, but I still live in Arizona with my family, a pair of dogs (one of which is stubbornly untrainable), and a pair of rather strange cats. My hobbies are reading, woodworking, and watching college football and LPGA golf (the girls are much nicer than the guys, as well as being fiendishly good putters). Lately I’ve reverted back to my younger years and have taken up building plastic model aircraft and ships (when I can find the time).

Connect with C.P. Odom on Facebook | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads | Meryton Press

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Giveaway

Meryton Press is generously offering 8 ebook copies of A Covenant of Marriage as part of the blog tour. You must enter through this Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

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Thank you, Colin, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new release!