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the madness of mr. darcyIf you were wondering why I hadn’t been around the blogs much recently, it was because I had an opportunity I could not pass up.  I’ve long wanted to devote my editorial skills to fiction, so when Alexa Adams (whose Pride and Prejudice-inspired novels First Impressions, Second Glances, and Holidays at Pemberley are among my favorites in the genre) asked me to edit her latest novel, of course, I had to say yes!  I enjoyed working with Alexa on this project, I’m proud of my contribution, and I hope it will lead to other editing opportunities in the future.

The Madness of Mr. Darcy is now available:

The year is 1832 and regrets beleaguer Fitzwilliam Darcy.  All he ever cared for has been taken from him: his pride, his sister, and his true love, Elizabeth Bennet.  Now, having nearly murdered a man in a fit of rage, he might lose Pemberley, too.  More than just his home, his very identity is at stake.  In desperation, he seeks the help of Dr. Frederick Wilson, owner and proprietor of Ramsey House, a madhouse for fine ladies and gentlemen.  Is Darcy’s confinement the inevitable end to his tortured descent, or will he rediscover what he lost in the most unlikely of places?

I am excited to share an excerpt of The Madness of Mr. Darcy, and Alexa is offering a giveaway as well (see details below).

March 1813

Elizabeth could not sleep. She sat on the window ledge of her bedroom at Longbourn staring out across the lawn towards the long, irregular drive. It had been eight months since her sister, Lydia, had run away from Brighton, and they had no word of her since. Elizabeth was growing accustomed to a lack of sleep, and the long nights passed between painful contemplation and futile attempts to avoid such thoughts altogether – thoughts of what might have happened to her sister.

It was nearly a full moon, and by its determined light, she suddenly perceived movement by the drive’s end, where the palings marked the entrance to the small estate. Staring determinedly in their direction, she was shocked to perceive a scantily clad figure running towards the house. She started, and quickly confirming the truth of what her senses perceived, secured her shawl about her shoulders and raced out her bedroom, down the stairs, through the hall, and unlocked the front door.

“Lydia!” she cried at the familiar face before all similarity to her youngest sibling disappeared beneath the spectacle of a disheveled creature, thrusting itself into her arms and sobbing violently.

The house began to rouse at the noise as Elizabeth half carried, half dragged the woman she was certain must be Lydia (though she still wished to look at her face again for confirmation of that distressing notion) into the nearest parlor, where she flopped upon the couch, a spectacle for the first servants to arrive on scene, and wrapped herself more tightly into Elizabeth’s arms, weeping yet harder.

It was impossible to get her to raise her head, but Elizabeth knew it was she. She wrapped an arm around the mound of tattered fabric in her lap and began to make a shushing noise, as to a baby.

“Lizzy! What is this?” Her mother’s voice demanded.

“Shhh!” she said louder, and then in quiet but shocked tones, “Tis Lydia, I think!”

“Lydia?” her mother repeated, blinking absently while her husband, at her side, clutched the door for support and grew remarkably pale.

“My God!” he exclaimed, his wife still agape and unmoving.

“What is it, Mama?” Elizabeth heard Kitty say, though she could no longer watch the tableau her family presented, all her attention being demanded by the person in her arms. “Why is Lizzy cradling a beggar?”

“Quiet, child!” her mother replied, suddenly stirred into action. She approached her youngest, dearest child. She knelt beside the sofa and reached for the crying creature’s face with both hands, holding it up for inspection. The incessant weeping stopped, and Mrs. Bennet stared into her favorite’s face, dirty and tear-streaked. Tears welled in her own eyes as she said, “Oh, my darling,” and wrapped her arms around her, taking Elizabeth’s burden beside her on the couch. The two women wept together in each other’s arms for several moments before Lydia suddenly, and with great violence, pushed her mother away and dove back to Lizzy, holding her far too tightly. The weeping was replaced by a strange whimpering noise, rather squeaky and frantic.

Mr. Bennet helped his wife to rise from the floor, where she had very unceremoniously landed. The lady rose while holding a hand to her cheek, which revealed a smear of blood when she examined it. “She scratched me!” Mrs. Bennet said in astonishment. “What does this mean, Mr. Bennet?”

The gentleman walked cautiously towards his daughter, whose face was now easier to see where it perched over Elizabeth’s shoulder. “My God!” he said again. “She is mad!”

“It is as Mr. Collins said,” Mary interjected, thinking of everything she had ever read of womanly virtue. “It would have been better if she were dead.”

No one made any reply.

Giveaway:

There are 2 copies of The Madness of Mr. Darcy up for grabs.  International readers will receive an ebook, and U.S. readers will have a choice between an ebook or a paperback.  This giveaway will close Sunday, October 19.  To enter, leave a comment with your email address telling me what most interests you about this novel.  The winners will be notified by email.

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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I’m thrilled to have Margaret Wurtele as a guest on Diary of an Eccentric today.  Margaret’s novel, The Golden Hour, is being released today.  The Golden Hour is set in Tuscany in 1943 and tells the story of 17-year-old Giovanna Bellini, whose life is upended when she grows close to a wounded partisan and Jew whom she is asked to hide.  Margaret is here today to talk about why she set her novel during World War II and what inspired her to tell this story.  Please give a warm welcome to Margaret Wurtele:

Even for the author, it can be a mystery how a book comes to be written. It took me more than three years to write The Golden Hour – to immerse myself in World War II and its history, to live with my characters and let their story emerge. It takes strong motivation to stick with a project that long, and I confess I sometimes wonder myself where I found the commitment to carry through! Why World War II and why, in particular, this story?

I was born in November 1945, a few weeks after the end of the war. My father had a bad case of phlebitis in his leg, so he was not allowed to fight. “Save your kisses – I’m 4F,” he telegrammed my mother, who was relieved that he would be safe and they could get an early start on married life. The war was part of their lives in other ways: saving stamps to purchase meat and butter; shortages of their favorite brand of cigarettes; gas rationing and, of course, anxiety for friends and neighbors. I heard these stories growing up, but the war loomed like a large cave from which I emerged. I think I’ve always wanted to connect with it in some deeper way.

In 2004 my husband and I traveled to Tuscany and rented a house with two other couples, friends from California’s wine country, where we live part time, grow grapes and make wine. One day we were invited to lunch at an estate near Lucca where one of the couples purchased olive trees for their Sonoma land. Our host spread a table out under a leafy shade tree near the stately old villa. After we finished eating, he began to reminisce about the last year of World War II.

He told us how the Nazis had taken over the great house next to us; how they had forced the family to live in a few small rooms at the back. After the armistice, he said, his mother – then only 17 – fell in love with the translator for the Allied troops who had liberated them – a much older Jewish man. Despite all the Nazis had put them through, her father still objected to the match on the grounds that he was Jewish. The irony of that – that someone who had been so persecuted would mirror the values of his tormentors onto his own daughter – stuck with me, and I left that day burning to write about it.

Why? My family comes from a Protestant background, and I grew up with strongly inculcated values of religious tolerance. I never had a Jewish boyfriend to put my father to the test, but I have no doubt he would have welcomed anyone I loved and wanted to marry. Must we all confront our fathers, even if it has to be through writing fiction?

I think as human beings, we all wrestle with the unspeakable injustices of World War II. As Americans, we were never occupied or forced to confront those deportations under our noses. So how would we have reacted under the same circumstances? I like to think that, had I been in my character Giovanna’s shoes, I would have been as defiant and courageous as she was. But I am far from sure. Maybe writing the story has been my way of grappling with the War’s legacy of evil.

Thanks, Margaret, for sharing the inspiration for your novel!

Courtesy of New American Library/Penguin, I am giving away a copy of The Golden Hour.  Because the publisher is shipping the book, the giveaway is open only to readers with U.S. addresses.  To enter, simply leave a comment with your e-mail address and tell me why you want to read the book.  This giveaway will end at 11:59 pm EST on Sunday, February 19, 2012.

**Please note that this giveaway is now closed**

Disclosure: I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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“Do power, wealth, and nobility give one the right to determine how an artist paints, or who is allowed to view the painting as the artist created it?”

“Power, yes,” Moses replied without hesitation.  “Yes, power has been known to dictate art.”

“What do you think Masaccio would have to say about that?” she asked.  “The defilement of his work?”

“He would not be pleased,” Moses said.  “An artist is never pleased when his work is compromised.” 

(from The Woman Who Heard Color, page 100)

The Woman Who Heard Color is a beautiful novel about creativity, passion, and a woman who would do anything to prevent the destruction of art.  Hanna Schmid flees the family farm in Bavaria for a more exciting life in Munich in 1900, working as a housekeeper for the Fleischmanns, who own an art gallery.  Hanna admires the artwork constantly moving in and out of the Fleischmann home, and her love for the colorful is intensified by a neurological condition, synesthesia, that enables hear to actually hear color and see music.  There are always artists coming and going at the Fleischmann house, and when serving dinner one evening, Hanna meets Wassily Kandinsky — a man who would one day become “her artist.”

Kelly Jones tells Hanna’s story over a period of decades, beginning with her bonding with Moses Fleischmann over art, their eventual marriage, and their success as art dealers, and following her through the world wars.  Much of the book is set during the Nazi party’s rise to power, setting the stage for what would become World War II.  Through Hanna’s eyes, we see Germany’s economy fall apart, how Hitler’s promises of prosperity garnered him support, and how swiftly Hanna’s life fell apart when the Jewish businesses were targeted.

But the focus of The Woman Who Heard Color is on the art.  Jones moves the story back and forth from the past to the present, where art detective Lauren O’Farrell is seeking answers about Hanna’s involvement with the Nazis.  Through Isabella Fletcher, Hanna’s daughter, Lauren hopes to find out whether Hanna collaborated with the Nazis to steal, sell, and even destroy what Hitler termed “degenerate art.”  At the same time, Isabella longs to tell the truth about her mother, and in doing so, Lauren gets wrapped up in the story of a painting that no one knew survived the war.

I wasn’t sure what to make of The Woman Who Heard Color when I saw the cover.  To be honest, I think it does the book a disservice, making it look like nothing more than a romance novel when romance really isn’t part of this story.  It does little to convey the passion Hanna had for art and all the colors and sounds that defined her life.

Still, I loved The Woman Who Heard Color.  From all of the World War II documentaries I’ve watched, I knew Hitler fancied himself an artist, but I didn’t know too much about his push to preserve “German” art (basically meaning depictions of hard-working Aryans, at least that’s what I got from this book) and rid the country of the art he found useless, meaningless, and obscene.  The history grabbed my attention from the start, but to anyone who knows me and my reading tastes, that’s not much of a surprise.  I also loved Hanna.  She was such a complicated character, always having to balance her love of family with her love of art.  She showed how fearful and difficult it was living under the Nazis and how people were forced to do things against their will for the greater good.

I think Hanna’s story was strong enough to carry the book alone.  When Jones would move back to Isabella and Lauren, I found myself longing to be back with Hanna again.  It’s not that their story wasn’t interesting; it just wasn’t entirely necessary, or at least Lauren didn’t need to be a main character.  Their scenes were few and needed only to bring the story to its conclusion, so I felt that they were not as well developed as Hanna.

The Woman Who Heard Color likely will make my list of favorite reads from this year.  Jones does a great job enabling readers to feel the tension that built up in Germany prior to WWII, and showing the lasting effects on one family made it all the more heartbreaking.  Though the impact of power on art and the passion for preserving creativity are at the forefront, The Woman Who Heard Color is also a story about relationships and how sometimes history conceals the truth.  The Woman Who Heard Color is a must-read for fans of historical fiction set during WWII and for those who are as passionate about art as its main character.

Courtesy of Penguin, I am giving away one copy of The Woman Who Heard Color.  To enter, leave a comment with your e-mail address and tell me why this book interests you.  Because the publisher is shipping the book, this giveaway is open to readers with addresses in the U.S. and Canada only.  You have until 11:59 pm EST on Saturday, December 24, 2011, to enter.

**Please note that this giveaway is now closed**

Disclosure: I received a copy of The Woman Who Heard Color from Berkley/Penguin for review purposes. I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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I am thrilled to welcome Danielle Younge-Ullman to Diary of an Eccentric today to help kick off the re-release of her 2008 novel Falling Under in ebook format, complete with a new (and gorgeous) cover.

I reviewed Falling Under back in 2008 and loved the book.  Here’s a little of what I had to say:  “It’s hard to put into words just how much I loved this book. I grew attached to Mara, rooting for her all the way. Younge-Ullman does an excellent job portraying Mara’s pain, actually making me feel the hurt in some scenes. The character seemed so real to me, maybe because I identified with her, having known what it’s like to be so depressed that you can’t do the one thing you live for. (For Mara it was painting, for me it was writing. But that’s all in the past now.) I couldn’t believe this was Younge-Ullman’s first novel, and I can’t wait for her next one.”

Danielle is here to talk about the most common questions asked about the book by book clubs.  Please give a warm welcome to Danielle Younge-Ullman:

Thanks so much for having me here, Anna, as I launch the Falling Under ebook, with its new cover.

Since 2008, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with a quite a few book clubs, and it’s been some of the most fun I’ve had as an author. People who read tend to be awesome, plus there’s always lots of yummy nibbles, and I love talking about books!)

The book club meetings haven’t just been fun though, they’ve taught me a lot about my own book, and the kind of questions and conversations it tends to provoke.

So…as a fun and fast way to give you a feel for Falling Under, I thought I’d share with you the top five subjects/issues I get asked about from book clubs.

Here goes:

1: The ending! Almost every book club I’ve met with has greeted me with demands for answers about the enigmatic ending of Falling Under. It’s their first question, or their second. Soon they find out that the discussion and (often heated) debate that results is part of the reason I wrote it the way I did…and that I am not going to clear up the mystery no matter how much food and wine they ply me with, though they’re welcome to keep trying.

2: Is it autobiographical? Because the story and writing are rather intense and delve into some deep emotional territory, people assume it must be. Shortest possible answer: it is, and it isn’t. It is not my life, but it is centered around issues I care passionately about (the effects of divorce on children, how art and creativity are linked to psychology, relationships, sex, gay rights, agoraphobia, friendship) and on many levels the book is emotionally true, but not biographically.

(If Anna doesn’t mind, here is a link to a post I wrote recently for Caroline Leavitt’s blog, which addresses the central inspiration of the book perhaps more directly than I have ever before, which might interest some of you.)

3: Is the sex autobiographical? Okay, sometimes they ask this first. Depends on the vibe of the group and, um, what time of day they meet. My first and stock answer is, “I have a vivid imagination,” which is true. Pressed to talk about it further, I steer us toward the issues my protagonist, Mara, is working out through sex, the many ways she is confused and messed up about it, and how central it is to her journey into, and then out of, the emotional damage she has sustained.

4: Is that a 2nd Person POV? This is one I get asked by the more literary-minded book clubs, as many people don’t actually know what 2nd Person POV is. (POV = “point of view”.) So, yes. Half of the story is written in 2nd Person, which means instead of the character being referred to as “she” (3rd Person) or “I” (1st Person), she talks about herself as “you”. This was something that happened organically when I was looking for a way to find the voice of the younger Mara. I was looking to really drag the reader into her shoes in a visceral way, and the 2nd Person just happened. Turns out it’s quite an unusual POV to use, though not unheard of.

5: How did you come up with the title? Most people consider falling in love a good thing, but for my protagonist, Mara, it’s a bit of a messy proposition and potentially catastrophic, at least in her mind. Mara doesn’t so much fall in love as she falls under it.

That’s it for now, but I’m happy to answer further questions if anyone wants to leave them in the comments section. Falling Under is available right now for the bargain price of $3.99 on Amazon, and can also be purchased in the Nook, Smashwords and Diesel Bookstores. And if you don’t have an ereader, there are many free apps that will let you read ebooks on your computer or phone.

Thanks, Danielle!  I wish you much success with the ebook release!

Danielle would like to offer the ebook of Falling Under to one of my readers (and possibly more, depending on the number of entries, so spread the word!).  The book is available in any electronic format, and Danielle will coordinate with the winner to receive the book via Amazon or Smashwords.  To enter, please leave a comment with your e-mail address and tell me what intrigues you about Falling Under.  This giveaway will close at 11:59 pm EST on Saturday, December 24, 2011.

**Please note that this giveaway is now closed**

Disclosure: I am an Amazon associate.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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“Jack’s in trouble, Mellie.  I don’t know how or why, but maybe that’s what Bonnie was trying to tell you.”

“But why me?  Why not Rebecca?”

My mother looked at me, her eyes hard.  “Let it go, Mellie.  Whatever it is you’re holding on to that’s preventing you from seeing what everybody else sees so clearly, let it go.”

I thought of Jack, and the way he’d always made me feel as if I were standing at the edge of a cliff, and how unprepared I was for the free fall if I should take a step forward.  And I had no idea what it was that made me cling so hard to solid ground.

(from The Strangers on Montagu Street, page 121 in the ARC; finished version may be different)

The Strangers on Montagu Street is the third book in Karen White’s Tradd Street series, which began with The House on Tradd Street and continued in The Girl on Legare Street.  The series focuses on and is told from the point of view of Melanie Middleton, a Realtor in Charleston, South Carolina, with a need to neatly organize every aspect of her life and the ability to communicate with the dead — a gift she’s still not sure she wants and definitely doesn’t advertise.  To best understand The Strangers on Montagu Street, you probably should read the first two books in the series, and beware that some details from those books may be included in my review of this one.

In The Strangers on Montagu Street, as in the previous books, Melanie refuses to admit her attraction to Jack Trenholm, the true crime writer who helped her unravel the mysteries associated with the house she inherited on Tradd Street and her mother’s home on Legare Street.  Their banter is humorous, but I always want to reach in the book and give Melanie a good shake; you can cut the sexual tension with a knife, and why she refuses to accept her feelings for Jack is beyond me.  Well, this time, the two have more to worry about than their relationship (or lack thereof).  Jack just learned he has a 13-year-old daughter, Nola, who is struggling to come to terms with her mother’s death and is convinced that Jack wants nothing to do with her.  He has no idea how to handle a teenage girl, so he turns to Melanie for help.

Melanie knows what it’s like to feel abandoned by her mother, so she takes Nola into her home, and of course, that means Jack is around more often.  Not only does Melanie have her hands full with a teenager and her career, but she also must juggle her concerns for Jack, whose career is in limbo, and the ghosts in her home that have set their sights on Nola.  Melanie senses the protective spirit of Nola’s mother, Bonnie, but there’s a darker entity connected to the antique dollhouse given to Nola by her grandmother.  The dollhouse is a replica of an old house on Montagu Street, and Melanie, Jack, Nola, and Melanie’s mother befriend the old woman who lives there.  They all must work together to solve the mystery of the woman’s past — which is connected to the disappearance of her brother in 1938 — if the spirits attached to the dollhouse are to find peace.

The Strangers on Montagu Street offers exactly what readers of the Tradd Street series have come to expect:  Melanie’s quirkiness, drama between her and Jack, and plenty of restless spirits.  This is my favorite book in the series so far, mainly because Melanie isn’t as annoying as I’ve found her in the past.  Her character showed a lot of evolution this time around, and even though she is still a bit thick-headed, she really has grown on me.  Jack is one of those hard-to-resist characters, especially when he’s being protective of Nola, and the addition of Nola was a breath of fresh air.  She is very mature and intuitive, brings out the best in Melanie, and is spunky and likable.  I can’t wait to see where White takes her next.

White has become one of my favorite authors in recent years, and like her other novels, The Strangers on Montagu Street is a comfort read.  It’s light and fun, with just the right touch of drama, romance, and Southern culture.  However, I was a bit distressed by the shocker of an ending, mainly because I hate having to wait for the next installment in the series.  Rest assured, though, that the mystery associated with the dollhouse is wrapped up by the end, but White definitely knows how to get readers excited for the next book.  I waited for two years for this book, and I really hope I don’t have to wait that long again!

Check out my reviews of other Karen White books:

The House on Tradd Street
The Girl on Legare Street
The Lost Hours
On Folly Beach
Falling Home
The Beach Trees

Courtesy of Joan Schulhafer Publishing & Media Consulting, I am giving away the first two books in the series, The House on Tradd Street and The Girl on Legare Street, to one lucky winner. To enter, please leave a comment with your e-mail address and tell me what intrigues you about this series. Because Joan Schulhafer Publishing & Media Consulting is shipping the books, this giveaway is open only to readers with addresses in the U.S. and Canada. The winner will be chosen randomly from comments received by 11:59 pm EST on Sunday, December 4, 2011.

**Please note that this giveaway is now closed**

Disclosure: I received a copy of The Strangers on Montagu Street from Joan Schulhafer Publishing & Media Consulting for review purposes. I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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I am delighted to have Laurel Ann Nattress as a guest on Diary of an Eccentric today.  Laurel Ann is the editor of a newly released anthology of stories inspired by Jane Austen, titled Jane Austen Made Me Do It, which I will be reviewing here tomorrow.  She also runs one of my favorite blogs, Austenprose, and helped me discover the world of the Austenesque novel.  Without Laurel Ann, I never would have read Sanditon, and with her help, I tracked down all of Austen’s juvenilia in a single volume, so I am especially thrilled for her to have published a book.  Laurel Ann is here today to discuss how Austen incorporated mystery into Emma without resorting to murder.  Please give a warm welcome to Laurel Ann Nattress:

Jane Austen’s Emma: A mystery full of curiosity, suspicion, suspense and red herrings – but no murder!

Hi Anna, thanks again for hosting me here at Diary of an Eccentric during my Grand Tour of the blogosphere in celebration of the release of my new Austen-inspired anthology, Jane Austen Made Me Do It.

You are participating in my Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 at my blog Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog this year. You and I both share an affinity for mysteries, and Jane Austen. Combine the two genres and I am hard pressed to find anything I like better in fiction.

Before I delve into my own book, I wanted to focus on Jane Austen’s work and how she has influenced so many writers over the centuries, including my authors – specifically her masterpiece Emma, which not only deals with an over confident, misapplying, and frustrating heroine, but is indeed a detective mystery!

I think it quite interesting that Jane Austen’s Emma is considered to be one of the earliest mystery novels ever written. But, Emma contains no murder! Well certainly not. How could there be something so indelicate as the “unlawful killing of another human being with malice aforethought” in Austen’s genteel setting of two or three families in a country village like Highbury? Nevah! But it is indeed a mystery novel and one of the most masterfully plotted ones at that – full of curiosity, suspicion, suspense and red herrings.

In 1998, the great mystery writer P. D. James gave a talk on the very subject to the Jane Austen Society’s AGM at Chawton entitled, “Emma Considered as a Detective Story,” in which she explains why a book, without a murder or a crime, qualifies as a detective story. Emma may lack a serious crime or a premeditated death, but Austen plants many surprises and clues for the reader, keeping us in a state of puzzlement and moderate anxiety while matching our wits to unravel the plot, including: Why has Frank Churchill not visited his father Mr. Weston for years? What is his relationship to Jane Fairfax? What is Mr. Dixon’s relationship to Jane Fairfax? Who are Harriet Smith’s parents? Who gifts Jane Fairfax the extravagant piano forte? And, many more…

You can imagine my delight Anna, when I received two mystery stories and another inspired by Emma for my anthology, Jane Austen Made Me Do It. Each of the stories are unique and totally different from one other. Stephanie Barron, who has brought us her amazing Being a Jane Austen Mystery series of eleven novels that you and I are reading for the challenge this year, gives us what she pens as a fragment of a Jane Austen mystery – an intriguing escapade with the dishy gentleman rogue, Lord Harold Trowbridge, and his fangirl Jane Austen as a detective; bestselling authors, husband and wife writing team Frank Delaney and Diane Meier writing as F.J. Meier, bring us “Faux Jane,” an urbane mash-up alluding to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man characters Nick and Nora Charles that were featured in the popular movies in the 1930’s & 1940’s; and the popular Austenesque writer Monica Fairview adds new mysteries and matchmaking mixup’s to Emma Woodhouse’s life as the newly married Mrs. Knightley in “Nothing Less Than Fairy-land.” Here are descriptions of the stories:

“Jane and the Gentleman Rogue,” by Stephanie Barron

Jane and the Gentleman Rogue finds the unsettled Miss Austen in the spring of 1806, living in temporary Bath lodgings following the death of her father. An invitation to a ball at the Dowager Duchess of Wilborough’s home in Laura Place throws her into the company of Lord Harold Trowbridge: confidant of the Government, Rake about Town, and spy. The unmasking of a French Adventuress and her traitorous paramour leads to an unexpected meeting at dawn–when only Jane’s wit stands between England and disaster.

“Faux Jane,” by F. J. Meier (Frank Delaney & Diane Meier)

A rich young American actress anxious to marry an English Lord buys a “signed first edition” of Pride and Prejudice as a gift to impress his rare book collecting mother – which, of course, is a fake. The actress’s friends are the story’s two protagonists – a fashionable New York photographer and her chic-restaurant owner husband – they’re Nicola and Charles Scott. The story mirrors many of the snob and society nuances excelled in by Jane Austen – on whom the restaurateur, Charlie (as his wife calls him: he’s “Charles” to everyone else) is encyclopedic. With the help of their butler-manservant, a former hood named Uncle Julius, Charles and Nicola crack the fraud.

“Nothing Less Than Fairy-land,” by Monica Fairview

In this gently humorous story inspired by Jane Austen’s novel Emma, the day has come for Mr. Knightley to move into Hartfield, but Mr. Woodhouse is still not reconciled to the marriage. Trouble looms on the horizon, unless Emma can quickly come up with a way to convince her papa to accept Mr. Knightley’s presence.

This is just a sampling of the diversity of stories in Jane Austen Made Me Do It. From historical to contemporary, romance to comedy, paranormal to mysteries, there is something new to sleuth out and discover in my new Austen-inspired anthology. I hope your readers will be tempted to give it a try.

Thank you Anna for graciously hosting me today at Diary of an Eccentric. It was indeed a pleasure.

Cheers, Laurel Ann

Editor bio:

A life-long acolyte of Jane Austen, Laurel Ann Nattress is the author/editor of Austenprose.com a blog devoted to the oeuvre of her favorite author and the many books and movies that she has inspired. She is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, a regular contributor to the PBS blog Remotely Connected and the Jane Austen Centre online magazine. An expatriate of southern California, Laurel Ann lives in a country cottage near Snohomish, Washington. Visit Laurel Ann at her blogs Austenprose.com and JaneAustenMadeMeDoIt.com, on Twitter as @Austenprose, and on Facebook as Laurel Ann Nattress.

Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress
Ballantine Books • ISBN: 978-0345524966

Giveaway of Jane Austen Made Me Do It

Enter for a chance to win one copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It by leaving a comment by Sunday, November 6, 2011, stating what intrigues you about reading an Austen-inspired short story anthology. Winners to be drawn at random, notified by e-mail on November 7, and announced on Diary of an Eccentric shortly after. Shipment to U.S. and Canadian addresses only. Good luck to all!

Thanks, Laurel Ann! I wish you much success with Jane Austen Made Me Do It, and I hope there’s another Austenesque anthology on the horizon!

**Please note that this giveaway is now closed**

Disclosure: I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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As part of the blog tour for the latest novel in Karen White’s Tradd Street series, The Strangers on Montagu Street, Joan Schulhafer Publishing & Media Consulting is offering a copy of the book, slated for release on Nov. 1, to one of my readers.

Psychic Realtor Melanie Middleton returns — only to be greeted by a house full of lost souls.

With her relationship with Jack as shaky as the foundation of her family home, Melanie’s juggling a number of problems. Like restoring her Tradd Street house — and resisting her mother’s pressure to “go public” with her talent, a sixth sense that unites her to the lost souls of the dead. But Melanie never anticipated her new problem…

Her name is Nola, Jack’s estranged young daughter who appears on their doorstep, damaged, lonely, and defiantly immune to her father’s attempts to reconnect. Melanie understands the emotional chasm all too well. As a special, bonding gift, Jack’s mother buys Nola an antique dollhouse — a precious tableaux of a perfect Victorian family. Melanie hopes the gift will help thaw Nola’s reserve and draw her into the family she’s never known.

At first, Nola is charmed, and Melanie is delighted — until night falls, and the most unnerving shadows are cast within its miniature rooms. By the time Melanie senses a malevolent presence she fears it may already be too late. A new family has accepted her unwitting invitation to move in — with their own secrets, their own personal demons, and a past that’s drawing Nola into their own inescapable darkness… (publisher’s summary)

I will be reading and reviewing The Strangers on Montagu Street soon, but in the meantime, you can check out my reviews of the first two books in the series:

The House on Tradd Street
The Girl on Legare Street

To enter to win a copy of The Strangers on Montagu Street, simply leave a comment with your e-mail address and tell me your favorite spooky or creepy read that would be perfect for the dreary Autumn months.  This giveaway is open to readers in the U.S. and Canada and will close at 11:59 pm EST on Sunday, November 6, 2011.

**Please note that this giveaway is now closed**

Disclosure: I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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I’m thrilled to have Rebecca Ann Collins as a guest on Diary of an Eccentric today.  She is the author of The Pemberley Chronicles Series, which follows the characters of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  Her latest novel, Expectations of Happiness, is a sequel to Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, and I will be reviewing it here tomorrow.  I’ve always been curious about what inspires writers to devote their time to continuing or re-imagining the works of other authors, and Ms. Collins has been kind enough to tell us her story.  Please give a warm welcome to Rebecca Ann Collins:

Thank you for inviting me to contribute to your blog; it is a pleasure to speak directly to you and your readers. You ask “What prompted these authors to devote much of their writing to Jane Austen’s novels and characters?”

I’m afraid I cannot speak for other writers, but I can tell you why this author decided, after many years of reading and studying Jane Austen’s work at school and at University, to write a companion volume to Pride and Prejudice. I have told this story before – but I daresay it can be re-told here, in answer to your question.

In 1996 – following the BBC’s superb production of Pride and Prejudice – a well meaning niece sent me two books by a well known writer – which claimed to be “continuations of Pride and Prejudice.” I read them with some interest and was deeply disappointed to discover that Jane Austen’s beloved characters had been distorted and presented as some figures in a Regency- style soap opera. They behaved not as mature, intelligent characters, as one would have expected of Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, but like spoilt, ill tempered, often silly types, with very little to redeem them apart from their looks and their so- called “passion” for each other – which they proclaimed in highly contrived language. Nothing remained of the original Austen characters, whose development from a state of inordinate Pride and Prejudice to a more mature understanding and love of each other was the theme of that classic romance – still one of the most popular books in English literature.

It was such a letdown; I wrote to the publisher and asked why they permitted such poor quality work to be sold as sequels to one of the classic novels of English Literature. The answer was a polite challenge – “if you feel you can do better, why not write your own sequel to Pride and Prejudice?” It was a challenge I could not resist.

Which is how I came to spend the next eighteen months in researching and writing the first volume of The Pemberley Chronicles Series – which was published in Australia at the end of 1997 and then reprinted several times in the next two years. The popularity of the book and the many encouraging reviews and readers comments it received led to the next volume – The Women of Pemberley – and so on, until we had a series of ten books, on the lives of the Pemberley families, covering about fifty years of English political and social history from the Regency to the Victorian age.

I have researched the historical, social and literary background of the time very thoroughly; it is a period of which I made a particular study at University and I found it a very dynamic and interesting era in English history.

I also share a number of Miss Austen’s own values and have great empathy for the characters and themes that dominate her novels. While I admire her literary style, I make no attempt to imitate it; I feel that would be presumptuous indeed. Instead I have devised a fairly generic 19th century narrative style, with which my readers seem to be quite comfortable.

The Pemberley Series was subsequently picked up by Sourcebooks, for reprinting in the USA and my reward has been the response of my publishers and readers and the many times that I have been told that Miss Austen herself would have enjoyed the books. My excuse for continuing with the genre – into the new book – Expectations of Happiness which is a companion volume to Jane Austen’s first novel – Sense and Sensibility – is that I love telling a story and I felt there was one about the Dashwood sisters which had been left untold.

I hope that my readers will agree and look forward to hearing from them.

Thank you again,

Rebecca Ann Collins.

Thanks to Rebecca Ann Collins for sharing her story and for writing a variation of a different Austen novel.  I love the Pride and Prejudice variations, but I think Austen’s other novels deserve some attention, too.

If you’re interested in reading Expectations of Happiness, you’re in luck!  Sourcebooks would like to offer a copy to one lucky reader.  To enter, simply leave a comment with your e-mail address and tell me what you think makes a good Austen variation.  Because the publisher is shipping the book, this giveaway is open to readers with addresses in the U.S. and Canada only.  This giveaway will close at 11:59 pm EST on Sunday, October 30, 2011.

**Please note that this giveaway is now closed**

Disclosure: I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Today it’s my pleasure to welcome Mary Lydon Simonsen to Diary of an Eccentric.  Mary is one of my favorite authors of Austenesque novels, and I always love having her as a guest.  Her latest novel is a paranormal take on Pride and Prejudice called Mr. Darcy’s Bite, which I will be reviewing here tomorrow.  I’ve read about Mr. Darcy as a vampire and an almost zombie, but I’d never read about him as a werewolf, so I knew I had to give Mr. Darcy’s Bite a try.  Mary is here to tell us a little about one of her daughters, who found that dyslexia doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy reading when she fell in love with novels about werewolves and vampires.  Please give a warm welcome to Mary Lydon Simonsen:

Hi Anna. Thank you for having me back at Diary of an Eccentric. It’s always a pleasure. You were gracious enough to allow me to choose my topic for the blog post, so I thought I might share a little bit of my personal history with your readers.

I grew up in the 1950s and ’60s when most people did not have libraries in their homes. It was the same for the Lydons. But in my family, we did have “The Book of Knowledge,” a unique encyclopedia grouped by subject, e.g., poetry, science, American history, etc., and because it was the only thing available, other than schoolbooks, I read the whole set. As a lifelong reader, I fully expected that when I had children they would share my love of reading. But life can throw curveballs at you. In the first place, I couldn’t have children, so I adopted my two lovely daughters, Meg and Kate, when they were babies. Kate loved to read, but for Meg it was different. Meg is dyslexic.

Before graduating from high school, it was a constant battle to get my older daughter to read anything. But in her twenties, she discovered vampires and werewolves, and she started to buy her own books. (To see Meg with a book in her hand was a thrill for her parents.) Although she still struggled, she kept at it because she loved the subjects.

Meg is a big fan of Pride and Prejudice, but only the film and TV adaptations. She can’t get through a Jane Austen novel nor has she read any of my Austen re-imaginings, that is, until Mr. Darcy’s Bite. Because of her dyslexia, you can imagine how pleased I was that she had read my book. Meg liked it so much that she wrote a review, and I am happy to share it with followers of Diary of an Eccentric:

As a big fan of vampire and werewolf books, I feel Mr. Darcy’s Bite is the best werewolf book I have ever read. I fully believe that if you are a Twilight, Anita Blake, Women of the Otherworld, or Jane Austen fan, you will truly enjoy this book. It is a wonderful tale of two different people, one werewolf and one human. No matter how hard Darcy tries not to love Elizabeth because he is a werewolf, in the end, he could not resist. As their love grows, so does their understanding of each other. This book is a truly enjoyable Pride and Prejudice remix. I finished Mr. Darcy’s Bite in three days. Love, Love, Love It! Meggie

I think the reason Meg enjoyed Mr. Darcy’s Bite so much is because it is a primarily a love story. Yes, Mr. Darcy has fangs, fur, and four feet and howls at the moon, but he’s also deeply in love with Elizabeth Bennet. There are complications; it would be a dull book without them. But despite the risk of exposure, another woman vying for Darcy’s affections, and the dangers associated with being an animal that was nearly hunted to extinction, Darcy and Elizabeth’s love provides a protective barrier, keeping a hostile world at bay.

What do you think about Mr. Darcy being a werewolf? I’d love to hear from you.

P.S. Anna, I have a Persuasion novella launching next month. I know how you love Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth. I also have a P&P time travel novel coming out in December.

Thanks, Mary!  I’m glad your daughter has found books that make her excited.  And I definitely am excited about your upcoming Persuasion novella and am intrigued about time travel and P&P.  I wish you much success!

Courtesy of Sourcebooks, I have 1 copy of Mr. Darcy’s Bite to offer my readers.  To enter, simply leave a comment about your thoughts on Mr. Darcy as a werewolf and be sure to include your e-mail address.  Because the publisher is shipping the book, entrants must have addresses in the U.S. or Canada.  This giveaway will close at 11:59 EST on Sunday, October 30, 2011.

**Please note that this giveaway is now closed**

Disclosure: I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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It’s always a pleasure to have Abigail Reynolds as a guest on Diary of an Eccentric.  Abigail is the author of several retellings of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, her most recent being Mr. Darcy’s Undoing (check out my review).  I love how she always manages to throw a new obstacle in Darcy and Elizabeth’s path to happily ever after; I never get tired of reading them!  Abigail is here to talk about why she thinks Jane Austen and her novels are so popular more than 200 years after her death and why so many authors devote their time to keeping Austen’s characters alive.

Please give a warm welcome to Abigail Reynolds:

For a writer who has been dead for nearly 200 years, Jane Austen is doing remarkably well these days. Her works are more popular than ever. New film and television adaptations come out on a regular basis, and there’s an entire subgenre of Austen-related novels that has blossomed in the last few years. Readers don’t seem to be able to get enough of Jane Austen’s characters or her world.

Admittedly, Jane Austen was a brilliant writer who produced books filled with wit, insight, and timeless characters, but we’re not seeing a deluge of adaptations of Tolstoy, Shakespeare, Dickens, Bronte, or any other brilliant writers. There’s something unique about Jane Austen’s appeal for modern readers.

Jane Austen was in the right place at the right time. The Regency period is far enough in the past that modern readers can project their own fantasies onto it, but not so distant that it’s hard to imagine living there ourselves. Poised in the time between the First and Second Industrial Revolutions, the people living in the Regency seem much more modern than those in medieval or Restoration times. There was a middle class in Jane Austen’s day. Manufacturing existed on a limited scale. Men used guns for hunting and war, and women bought fabric created in mills rather than spinning and weaving their own. The London ton operated along social rules which parallel modern society in many ways, with popularity and taste helping define social status in addition to birth. It’s a society we can recognize and to some extent picture ourselves in it.

Just as important is what’s missing in Regency times. Massive industrialization, individual laborers turned into factory drones working themselves to death, clouds of soot, and clattering railroads were only a few years in the future. The First Industrial Revolution had started in the late 18th century, but its full effects on society weren’t felt until the 1830s, a mere two decades after Pride & Prejudice takes place. Wages for the poorest workers fell dramatically starting in the 1830s and didn’t recover until the next century. The pastoral pleasures of Jane Austen’s world turned into the bleak and painful landscape of Charles Dickens. Of course, there was plenty of poverty and suffering in Jane Austen’s day as well, but she doesn’t portray it in her books, so we can pretend it isn’t there. A sort of genteel poverty is as bad as it gets.

Many readers are looking for an escape from the ills of the modern world. If we want to think about poverty and starvation, we can read the newspapers. When we want a simpler, seemingly gentler world, one that is both familiar and yet lacking so many of our modern issues, Jane Austen’s world is the perfect place to go. Jane Austen adds to that by giving us love stories and looking at characters with an amused rather than a jaundiced eye. What’s not to love?

Well said!  Thanks, Abigail!  I can’t wait to read more of your Pemberley Variations!

Courtesy of Sourcebooks, I have a copy of Mr. Darcy’s Undoing for one lucky reader.  To enter, leave a comment with your e-mail address and tell me why you think Jane Austen is so popular today.  Because the publisher is shipping the book, entrants must have addresses in the U.S. or Canada.  This giveaway will close at 11:59 pm EST on Sunday, October 23, 2011.

**Please note that this giveaway is now closed**

Disclosure: I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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