Posts Tagged ‘cake & courtship’

Today I am delighted to kick off the blog tour for Mark Brownlow’s Cake and Courtship, which is Book One of Mr. Bennet’s Memoirs. I’ve invited Mark here today to introduce the book, and there’s even a deliciously sweet giveaway! Please give Mark a warm welcome:

First of all, a big thank you to Anna for hosting me at Diary of an Eccentric. This is the first stop on the Cake and Courtship blog tour, so it seemed a good idea to introduce you to the premise behind the novel, with the help of an excerpt.

We can all imagine Pride and Prejudice’s Mr Bennet sitting happily in his library with the door firmly shut.

What we probably cannot imagine is that same Mr Bennet involving himself in matters of the heart. This is how Jane Austen described him in Pride and Prejudice:

…so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three-and-twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character.

Mrs Bennet may not fully grasp her husband’s true nature, but we can agree she would never describe him as “romantic”. Remember how he mocked Jane’s fate after Mr Bingley left for London?

“So, Lizzy,” said he one day, “your sister is crossed in love, I find. I congratulate her. Next to being married, a girl likes to be crossed a little in love now and then. It is something to think of, and it gives her a sort of distinction among her companions.

Just why is Mr Bennet so cynical? And might all his teasing hide a heart that is more tender than he cares to admit?

These two questions sit at the centre of Cake and Courtship. Indeed, they are the very questions that Mr Bennet must ask himself when visited by John Barton, the artist son of an old friend who left the country many years ago.

John is a little naïve and a lot in love. Unfortunately, his attempts to even meet the elusive Miss Hayter of Bath have suffered from a lack of confidence and connections. In his desperation, John asks Mr Bennet for advice.

This sets off a chain of events where our dear Mr Bennet is forced to confront both his own past and the perils of the game of courtship, armed with little more than wry humour and a slice of sponge cake. And all this takes place during uproar at Longbourn. It appears Netherfield Park is let at last…

In the excerpt below, Mr Bennet has just learnt of John’s wish to seek his advice and he discusses the prospect with his favourite daughter. There are a few conversations between Elizabeth and her father in Cake and Courtship: the two share a common intelligence and mutual respect that offers a lot of potential for verbal duelling!


An excerpt from Cake and Courtship, courtesy of Mark Brownlow

“Lizzy.” She looked up from her book. I held up the letter to her from the other end of the library. “News from John. He writes from his Rudford estate and expects to visit in some ten days’ time.”

“This is good news.” She placed her book to one side, a pressed flower serving to mark the page. “And does he remove your fears for his family’s welfare…and ours?”

“He does. More or less. He has completed his estate business and seems in good spirits. The message is most amiable, suggesting his character remains as pleasant as I remember it to be. And it appears he is, as yet, unmarried, though that is a thought we should keep to ourselves for now. Let us not raise any false hopes, especially given his final words. Listen to this, Lizzy: I also beg leave to seek your advice on a personal matter…concerning a lady.

Lizzy seemed to struggle to contain a smile. “And this disturbs you, Papa?”

“It does, though it rather depends on what he means. I hope he does not wish to discuss such matters as her suitability, or how he might set about winning her affection.”

Lizzy lifted a hand to cover her laughter. “Be at ease, Papa. I do not think he would look to you for advice on such topics.”

“My dear girl, I am always happy to play the victim for your teasing but here it is entirely misplaced. Such things may not interest me now, but I’ll have you know I was once thought of as a great master of the rituals of courtship. Henry Barton certainly thought so. One or two young men owe their success as suitors as much to my guidance as to their lands and titles. Imagine, Lizzy: I once even believed in romance and the persuasive power of poetry. Still, I daresay all men have the right to be fools for at least part of their lives.”

“Only a part?”

“Well, when I consider many of my acquaintances, you may be right.”

“With such a talent for courtship, Papa, I wonder you took so long to marry yourself.”

I turned my head so she would not see my face. A careful smile and the scent of lavender flitted at the edge of my memory, kept out by a wall of regret. “As you get older, Lizzy, you will discover that life does not bow easily to the wishes of even the most romantic of souls. Quite the opposite. Life must be mastered with pragmatism and sense, which explains why so few people succeed at it.”

“Did you help Mr Barton court his wife?”

“Not directly. My ideals had long since shattered on the anvil of disappointment by the time Henry met Sophia, though I, too, was tempted to seek her affection. This was before I was introduced to your mother, of course. His love was true, and I left the field clear for him. Sophia chose wisely when she married Henry and I envied their joy. It survived the wilting of passion that does for so many arrangements.”

“It sounds like John should better talk with his father, then.”

“Let us not get ahead of ourselves, Lizzy. Men may talk of a lady without intending to wed her, whatever Mrs Bennet might believe. But if he does have an eye to marry, John’s father will not speak with him on such matters. Not because he fears the idea of female companionship and affection, but because he mourns the loss of both so deeply. Besides, by the time they exchanged letters on the subject, the lady in question would no doubt be wearing someone else’s ring.”

Lizzy stood and moved to the window. “For where thou art, there is the world itself, / With every several pleasure in the world, / And where thou art not, desolation.

“Suffolk, no? In Henry the Sixth?”

“Part Two.”

“Yet Suffolk could still find joy that Queen Margaret lived. Henry has not even that consolation. But hush, girl, John’s letter and your questions make me sentimental and that will not do at all, for I have business to attend to in town.”


“Of a sort. A lecture from Mr Criswick.”


About Cake and Courtship

When John Barton falls in love with the elusive Anne Hayter, there is only one man he can turn to for advice. Unfortunately, that man is Mr Bennet of Longbourn, a world-weary gentleman with five daughters pursuing their own marital ambitions.

To help John, Mr Bennet must emerge from his beloved library and face the challenges of the tearoom and dance floor one more time. In doing so, he finds his own romantic past catching up with him.

In this Pride and Prejudice variation, Mark Brownlow takes you on an Austenesque journey full of wry humour and Regency romance (with a few slices of sponge cake).

As you get older, Lizzy, you will discover that life does not bow easily to the wishes of even the most romantic of souls. Quite the opposite. Life must be mastered with pragmatism and sense, which explains why so few people succeed at it.

Cake and Courtship is a standalone story, but also the first book of Mr Bennet’s memoirs.

Click here to buy Cake and Courtship


About the Author

Mark Brownlow

Mark Brownlow is a British-born writer living in Vienna, Austria. His debut novel, Cake and Courtship, is a Regency romance narrated by Pride and Prejudice’s Mr Bennet. He has also written a novella, The Lovesick Maid, a cozy mystery set in Jane Austen’s fictional village of Hunsford. You can find Mark at LostOpinions.com, where he is known for his reimagining of classic literature as emails.

Science degrees from the Universities of Oxford, Aberdeen and Reading prefaced a short-lived career as a research academic. Since turning from facts to fiction, Mark has also worked as a translator, agony aunt, marketing consultant, journalist, business writer, web publisher and copywriter. None of which kept his soul happy in the way that creative writing does. When not writing, he works as a part-time lecturer in medical and scientific English at a local university.

If there is no pen to hand, he can be found watching his kids play football or sharing a glass of wine with his wife in front of a costume or historical drama.

Mark’s website
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Mark is generously offering a winner’s choice giveaway, open internationally. One lucky winner can choose between a copy of Cake and Courtship or a box of chocolates. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address, and let us know what interests you most about the book. This giveaway will close on Sunday, March 11, 2018. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!


Thank you, Mark, for being my guest today. I hope my readers agree that Cake and Courtship sounds fantastic, and I can’t wait to read it and spend some time with Mr. Bennet!


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