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I’m delighted to welcome Jane Odiwe to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of her latest novel, Searching for Mr. Tilney.

Please give her a warm welcome:

Thank you so much, Anna for inviting me to your blog to talk about my new book Searching for Mr Tilney. It’s a novel inspired by Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and tells the story of a young art student who is invited to Bath by neighbours to help recover from illness. While there, staying in a house on Great Pulteney Street, she finds an old journal that she is sure must have been written by her favourite author Jane Austen. And when she starts experiencing bizarre dreams with strange, yet increasingly realistic images, she’s gradually pulled into another world, becoming Jane’s sister Cassandra, living her life with all her thoughts and hopes. Here’s a little excerpt where we see life witnessed through Cassy’s eyes.

An excerpt from Searching for Mr. Tilney, courtesy of Jane Odiwe:

Cassandra Austen, Bath, Somerset, July 1789

The Assembly Rooms are lit up with torches glowing in the fading light. There is so much to see and take in, and I try to commit it all to memory because I know, however late it shall be, my sister will still be up when I get home and will want to know every last detail. The women look like unearthly creatures, exotic in their coloured silks and satins, with towering hair and feathers so tall I feel under-dressed and somewhat like a country rustic, which I suppose is exactly what I am. And even if I could, I’m not certain I should wish to be quite so fancily or saucily attired. They have the appearance of expensive dolls, the kind that mantua-makers show in their shop windows, with their false hair and rouged countenances.

A blur of people walk past me, and I’m smiling and curtseying everywhere I go. All of our relations are in attendance, the Motley-Austens with their son Lucius who grins and stares at me until I do not know where to look, cousins Jane and Edward Cooper with their father, Uncle and Aunt Leigh-Perrot, all smiling and making small talk, though, as Jane would say, eager to have one another over the moment they are out of earshot.

It’s while we are standing in the Octagon room waiting for things to happen that I become aware of him. Despite the furious paced chattering, and the high-pitched laughing, the great guffaws and the mounting excitement, I am suddenly aware, by some kind of sixth sense, that I am being scrutinised from a distance. When I look across the room to the party of people standing by one of the great mantelpieces his eyes connect with mine, and I feel the familiar pull, the fluttering deep inside me along with the wild beating of my heart. He’s here. Mr Fowle is here in the same room, and I dare not look at him any longer than it takes to acknowledge him with a smile. But in those seconds I’ve noted how much he’s changed since I last saw him. He’s taller, broader, and his hair, which a few years ago was wildly curly and tawny brown, has been slightly tamed, darkened to a charcoal shade that matches his eyes and the dark brows that give him a brooding look sometimes. I dare not look again, but I still feel his eyes watching me and cannot help but hope that he likes what he sees. Or is he wondering whatever became of Cassy Austen who once promised to be a beauty, but is hardly more than a country wench with little style and fashion.

My mother is securing a first dance with Lucius. He has improved since last summer when we saw him in Kent, he’s taller and more filled out, but there is still something wanting in his behaviour. Jane says she thinks he is quite mad, and I must admit there is something about him that unnerves me. I do not like to judge, but his previous conduct gave us reason on several occasions to be on our guard. He is quite a handsome young man now, but he possesses the arrogance of a youth who thinks his attentions to young women must be wanted. He preens, and stares, not only at me, I notice, but also at any young woman who takes his fancy. He makes remarks about them to his father, seeming not to care whether he’s heard or not, though his mother’s hand on his arm indicates that she, at least, disapproves. I care not for his regard, and while it pleases me to know our cousins, I feel Mama is still hoping for something more between us. Not that she would force me to anything I do not wish, but I know her hopes for me and what I feel is my duty to my family are inextricably linked. My parents require me to make a good marriage, one which will help the family prosper, and what could be more easily accomplished, than by marrying a wealthy cousin? We are too young to marry, though I feel the wheels are being set in motion to that end. I would be foolish to discount it entirely. And yet … I know my heart, and it does not yield easily where it has no desire. In fact, I know it will not give way at all.

I cannot remember the first time I realised I was falling in love with Tom Fowle. I think I’ve always loved him in one way or another, though he behaved only ever as a brother to his sister when I was very young. I felt something change between us when he visited us in Steventon last spring, though I hardly dared hope that what I felt for him was reciprocated. But, his manners were different during those few days he stayed with us, and he treated me like an equal for the first time. Sitting in the garden with Jemmy on a sunny day, he poured my tea, and fussed over me with shawls and blankets at the slightest breeze. He made me a daisy chain and crowned me “Queen of Steventon”. Placing the ring of small white flowers in my hair so gently, the touch of his fingers on my curls stayed with me throughout that golden afternoon.

‘Cassandra will be very pleased to start the ball with you, Lucius,’ I hear my mother say, and I’m brought out of my reverie as if doused in cold water. I try and smile, and do what is expected, though it is exceedingly hard. I glance over at Mr Fowle, and I see him regarding us, looking from Lucius to me, and back again. How I want to run over to the other side of the ballroom and tell him that nothing is as it appears, but instead I smile wanly, which probably does nothing to assure him either. All I can hope is that our mother will see our Kintbury friends and wish to greet them.

Then, just as I’m about to give up all hope, my mother takes charge and we cross the room to meet them, my heart in my mouth. Mr Fowle and I are standing opposite one another, and I hardly hear what my mother is saying to the Reverend and Mrs Fowle, though I hear her offer some words of congratulation on her son’s new curacy. When the adults carry on chatting, Mr Fowle does not say much at first. But, he’s smiling, his eyes crinkling into laughter lines, as he holds my gaze.

‘My goodness, Miss Cassandra, I hardly recognised you.’

‘Have I changed so much since last April?’ I ask, praying that he likes what he sees.

‘Forgive me, I do not wish to appear ungallant, but you look so different this evening. I still have a memory of the little girl who sat next to me in school lessons with short, unruly curls, and a most serious expression. I find the child I once knew has completely disappeared.’

‘I sincerely hope you’ll find I have changed for the better, Mr Fowle. I recognised you immediately, and though the passing years have altered you in some respects, in others, you remain much the same. Being so much older than myself, and no doubt, a good deal wiser, I recall you were always fond of giving me your thoughts and forthright opinions.’

I catch my tongue. Goodness, what am I saying? I sound as flirtatious as my wicked cousin Eliza who does not care whom she pursues or what she says to them.

Mr Fowle can hardly suppress his laughter. ‘And you think I’m still as outspoken as ever, and clearly advancing into my dotage. I suppose my four and twenty years must seem a vast difference to your tender age, though I assure you, I am not a very old man. I’ve not yet taken to wearing flannel vests.’

I feel my cheeks burning, and note Mr Fowle’s bemused expression.

‘I am not yet too old for dancing either, Miss Cassandra, though I daresay your card will be filled up by the young beaux of Bath to allow such attentions from an ancient clergyman from Kintbury.’

‘I … that is, my card is by no means full, Mr Fowle.’

‘Then I hope you will permit me to ask you to dance.’

‘Thank you, I would like that,’ I answer, and find I can no longer look at him. ‘The first two are taken …’

‘By the young man standing with your party,’ says Mr Fowle, and he stares at Lucius, a grave shadow passing over his handsome countenance. ‘Who is he? He has a look of the Austens … a distant cousin, perhaps?’

‘Yes, he’s Great-Uncle Francis’s grandson.’

Mr Fowle’s face clouds for a moment, and his brows draw together over the dark eyes that search Lucius out across the room. ‘A young puppy, but a wealthy one … and handsome too … he’d be a good match for you.’

I cannot speak. I don’t know how to answer him; everything that comes to mind seems completely the wrong thing to say. Thankfully, he requests the two dances after Lucius, and I struggle with my composure. I am so happy I could burst.

Yet, my euphoria does not last long. The musicians are tuning up, and my mother is hurrying me away, pulling me through the crush of people to the ballroom. It’s impossible to see for the tiers of benches and the large crowds who are surging onto the floor.

‘Oh, goodness me, they’re about to start and where is your partner? Can you see him, Cassandra?’

I’ve seen him, but there’s a small part of me that’s wants to pretend I haven’t. And then it’s too late to run away or back out, and Lucius is standing opposite me in the set and the music starts.

Thanks so much, Jane, for being a guest here today. I am very much looking forward to reading the book!

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About Searching for Mr. Tilney

What secrets lie at the heart of Jane Austen’s teenage journal?

When Caroline Heath is taken to Bath in 1975, she little expects to find the gothic adventure she craves, let alone discover Jane Austen’s secret teenage journal, or how it’s possible to live in someone else’s body. Yet, she’s soon caught up in a whirlwind of fantastic events – travels through time, a love story or three, and even the odd sinister murder – or so she thinks.

As the past and present entwine, Jane’s journal reveals a coming of age tale, set against the scandalous backdrop of Knole Park in Kent, and the story behind an enigmatic portrait. In Bath, a Georgian townhouse acts as a portal in time, and Caroline finds herself becoming Cassandra Austen, a young woman making her debut in society, torn between family duty and the love of her life. As the riddles unfold, and the lines blur between illusion and reality, will Caroline find the happiness she seeks or will she indulge her wild imagination, threatening her future and a fairytale ending?

Check out Searching for Mr. Tilney on Goodreads | Amazon U.S. | Amazon U.K.

**The ebooks are currently on sale for $1.24 in the U.S. and 99p in the U.K.**

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About the Author

Jane Odiwe

Jane Odiwe lives in North London with her husband, children and two cats, but escapes to “Fairyland”, Bath, whenever she can. When she’s not writing she enjoys painting, reading, and music, and loves spending time with her family.

Connect with Jane on Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Website

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Giveaway

Jane is generously offering a paperback copy of Searching for Mr. Tilney to one lucky reader, open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and tell me what intrigues you most about the book. This giveaway will close on Sunday, April 23, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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mr. darcy's christmas calendar

Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★★☆

Something was not quite right, thought Lizzy.  No Mr. Darcy?  Elizabeth had looked completely blank at the mention of his name.  Whatever was being re-enacted here, it surely wasn’t Pride and Prejudice.

(from Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Calendar)

Quick summary: In Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Calendar, Lizzy Benson visits Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton on a snowy day, where she is greeted by a Mrs. Bennet.  She picks up an Advent calendar in the gift shop, meets a Lydia Bennet in the drawing room, and marvels at the museum’s efforts to make visitors feel like they’ve traveled to another era.  But when Lizzy’s calendar starts glowing, she learns that Miss Austen herself is there in the background tinkering with the first draft of what will some day become Pride and Prejudice, and she finds it impossible to go home, she begins to think she has somehow gone back in time.  As the days pass and Lizzy watches events similar but not quite the same as those in her favorite novel unfold, she is torn between her need to return to her family in modern-day London and her desire to see how things play out for the Bennet girls and even for herself, as her feelings for the Darcy-esque Mr. Williams change along with the images behind each door of the calendar.

Why I wanted to read it: I’m a huge fan of Jane Odiwe’s novels, especially the time travel ones.  (Check out my reviews of Searching for Captain Wentworth and Project Darcy)

What I liked: The idea of an Advent calendar serving as a tool to travel through time was clever, as was the idea that it is possible to live within the pages of a novel and interact with the characters.   However, Odiwe doesn’t allow Lizzy to be a passive observer, and I enjoyed watching her own story unfold along with all the Bennet family drama.  It was interesting to see Miss Austen thinking her way through the revisions, realizing that something (or someone) was missing, bouncing ideas off Lizzy, and tweaking her characters along the way.

What I disliked: I can’t say I really disliked anything, but at times, the blending of past/present and fiction/reality was a bit confusing.  Of course, it’s the kind of book where you need to just go with the flow, and once I stopped thinking too hard about it, I was able to just simply enjoy it.

Final thoughts: I really wanted to review Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Calendar before Christmas, but with all the activity leading up to the holiday, I found myself looking forward to relaxing in bed each evening with the book, and I actually didn’t finish it until after our Christmas Day festivities were over.  But this truly is a novel that can be enjoyed all winter long.  Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Calendar will delight Austen fans by giving them a glimpse of their beloved author hard at work, her characters in flux, and what might transpire were they able to slip back into the past and into a novel, forging relationships that transcend time.

Disclosure: I received Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Calendar from the author for review.

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

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Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★★☆

Lady Catherine, now purple about the gills, opened and closed her mouth like the trout he fished in the Pemberley streams, but before she could utter another word, Fitzwilliam Darcy spoke.  ‘There is no more to discuss, except to say that I am willing to forgive and forget, there will be no further reference to the interview that has taken place or to your past misdemeanours if you abide by my rules.’

Without waiting for a further reaction, Mr. Darcy turned on his heel and marched out of the room, aware that his aunt was left flabbergasted, stunned, and for once, quite speechless.

(from Mrs. Darcy’s Diamonds)

Quick summary: Mrs. Darcy’s Diamonds is a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and a Jane Austen Jewel Box Novella by Jane Odiwe.  Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy have only been married for a few weeks when they invite the Bingleys, the Bennets, and Lady Catherine to Pemberley for Christmas.  Their happiness is interrupted when Elizabeth loses a diamond ring that is a Darcy family heirloom, and the Wickhams come around with news of a scandal that could tarnish the Darcy name.  With Lydia prancing around the ballroom saying things she shouldn’t, Lady Catherine and Caroline Bingley united in their dislike of the Bennets, and Darcy’s distant and mysterious French cousins Antoine and Louise de Valois becoming fast friends of Georgiana’s, it’s not surprising that Pemberley is in a state of chaos.

Why I wanted to read it: Odiwe is one of my favorite authors of Austen-inspired fiction.  I’ve enjoyed every book of hers I’ve read so far: Lydia Bennet’s Story, Mr. Darcy’s Secret, Searching for Captain Wentworth, and Project Darcy.

What I liked: Mrs. Darcy’s Diamonds gives readers a peek into Darcy and Elizabeth’s happily ever after, showing the depths of their passion without getting too steamy and how the strength of their love will enable them to conquer any challenge thrown at them.  Odiwe does a great job packing a lot into such a short story so that I was never bored, nor did I feel overwhelmed.  I loved that there was a bit of mystery and scandal — and especially that I didn’t figure it out right away.  I also enjoyed the original characters, Antoine and Louise, and how secondary characters like Georgiana Darcy and Anne de Bourgh are fleshed out a little more.

What I disliked: I wish the story had been longer, but I was happy to read at the end that another Jewel Box Novella is coming soon!

Final thoughts: Mrs. Darcy’s Diamonds is the perfect short read for a brisk afternoon, with a cup of tea and Christmas on the horizon.  Odiwe is one of those authors whose books always make my wish list as soon as I hear about them, and I’ve never been disappointed.  I enjoyed watching Elizabeth come into her own as the mistress of Pemberley, forging close bonds with the tenants and softening Darcy’s rough edges.  Most of all, I enjoyed Georgiana’s story, seeing her come out of her shell and become more confident in the months since the ordeal with Wickham, and I can’t wait for Odiwe to continue her story.

Disclosure: I received Mrs. Darcy’s Diamonds from the author for review.

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

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project darcy

Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★★☆

Looking up at the boathouse rising from the water with its verandah and windows, unchanged over the years except for fresh paint and the addition of some gothic decoration, she imagined him standing there, waving to her.  Tears misted her eyes and spilled over her cheeks.  Dreaming of her Mr. Darcy would never be enough, but there was absolutely nothing she could do about it.

(from Project Darcy, page 219)

Project Darcy is the second book in Jane Odiwe’s Time Travels With Jane Austen series, which began with imagining the inspiration for Persuasion in Searching for Captain Wentworth.  This time, Odiwe follows five college friends on an archaeological dig at Jane Austen’s childhood home in Steventon, Hampshire.  Ellie Bentley has always been able to see things other people can’t, and the moment she sets foot in Hampshire, she sees the ghost of a fair-haired man inhabiting the home where she and her friends are staying, a former rectory that belonged to a friend of Jane Austen’s.  Without warning, Ellie is transported from the hot summer dig to the winter of 1796, where she experiences first-hand the romance between Jane Austen and the man who may have inspired Pride and Prejudice.

Ellie is confused about whether she is experiencing Jane’s feelings or whether she is actually falling in love with the man from Jane’s past herself.  It becomes increasingly hard for Ellie to stay grounded in reality, where she is painting pictures of what the Steventon Rectory may have looked like as part of her work on the dig and doing her best to avoid Donald, the curate who has been pursuing her at the urging of her mother.  Sound familiar?  That’s because when she isn’t traveling back in time, Ellie’s life in the present is very much a modern-day retelling of Pride and Prejudice.

Ellie and her friends are reminiscent of the Bennet sisters, with Ellie, a free-spirited woman who, like Elizabeth, is not afraid to speak her mind; Jess, who is just as good-natured as Jane; Martha, who is just as serious as Mary; Cara, who is exuberant and a follower, like Kitty; and Liberty, who is every bit as wild as Lydia.  At the dig, Jess hits it off immediately with Charlie Harden, whose sister, Zara, and best friend, Henry Dorsey, turn their noses up at Ellie and her friends, especially when Liberty and Cara hang all over the camera crew both on and off the dig.

Odiwe makes the romance between Jane and her Mr. Darcy believable, from the stirrings of first love to the end that we know is coming but hope will turn out differently.  Jane was such an astute observer of human nature, and I like to believe that just like her heroines, she had her own love story.  Odiwe also makes Ellie’s travels through time seem plausible, from the subtle triggers to her intense response and ultimate confusion.  However, the ending of the novel seems a bit rushed and completely unexpected, given how insignificant the character in question seemed until that point.  I like that the ending is unpredictable, but that also serves to make the conclusion feel less realistic.

Even so, Project Darcy is a fun take on Pride and Prejudice, especially for Austen fans who wonder about the inspiration for her beloved novels.  Odiwe does a wonderful job balancing the past and present story lines and making the present-day characters similar enough to Austen’s to follow the parallels to Pride and Prejudice but also different enough that there are some surprises.  Odiwe makes Jane Austen come to life, and I really hope she is planning more time travel novels for the rest of Austen’s books.

Book 20 for the P&P Bicentenary Challenge

Disclosure: I received Project Darcy from the author for review.

© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★★★

‘I think every woman has that within her which would set her free, if only she could act on her inner feelings and be true to herself.’

(from Searching for Captain Wentworth, page 272)

Have you ever wished you could meet a long-dead favorite author and maybe even see firsthand the people and events that inspired your favorite novel?  In Searching for Captain Wentworth, Jane Odiwe’s heroine, Sophie Elliot, gets the opportunity to meet and even befriend Jane Austen through her ancestor, Sophia.

Needing time away to mend her broken heart and determined to begin the novel she’s always wanted to write, Sophie heads to her great-aunt’s house in Bath, which has been in the family for generations.  When she observes her dashing and mysterious downstairs neighbor, Josh, drop an old glove, Sophie has good intentions of returning it to him.  But this is no ordinary glove; Sophie soon determines that it allows her to travel back to 1802 and see Regency Bath through the eyes of Sophia.

Sophie, unsure each time she travels through time when or whether she’ll return to the present day, finds life in the Elliot home unbearable at times.  Sophia’s father seems only to care about the family’s connections, and her arrogant sister, Emma, rests all her hopes on marrying Mr. Glanville and is none too happy about Sophia getting in the way.  If you love Jane Austen’s Persuasion as much as I do, you won’t have any problem identifying the similarities to Anne, Sir Walter, and Elizabeth Elliot.

The one thing that makes life tolerable for Sophie/Sophia is hanging out with the Elliot’s neighbors, the Austens, particularly the sisters Jane and Cassandra.  Sophie is a fan of Austen’s novels and getting to know the real Jane and especially learning whether or not she had a true love make the temptation of the time-traveling glove too hard for her to resist.  And of course, there is Jane’s charming brother, Charles, who is home from the Navy and touches Sophie’s heart in a way no other man ever has.  Meanwhile, in the present, Sophie and Josh navigate a flirtation that is both sweet and awkward…and complicated by the fact that Sophie can’t bring herself to give back the glove.

Given my love for Persuasion, it’s not surprising that I adored Searching for Captain Wentworth.  I certainly could understand how Sophie was torn between two worlds.  Who wouldn’t want to be friends with Jane Austen?  Odiwe’s Jane is as feisty, witty, and funny as we expect her to be.  And because Sophie is so likeable and so real, especially her desire to start a new life and get over her past disappointments in romance and her career, I couldn’t help but root for her to find happiness in whatever century she chose.

But Searching for Captain Wentworth isn’t just about time travel and romance.  Odiwe does a great job showing what women in the Regency era had to endure, from being pushed into marriage and constantly reminded of their familial obligations to a feeling of being trapped by society and how their time was never their own.  It made me feel sorry for Sophia, who wasn’t as lucky as Sophie in being able to escape her world with a magical glove.

Odiwe makes Jane Austen come to life, and her love for Austen and her novels shines on every page.  Searching for Captain Wentworth is a believable imagining of who and what could have inspired Austen to pen Persuasion, and I was impressed by Odiwe’s ability to persuade me to believe the unbelievable.  I turned the last page thinking how much fun it would be to get my hands on that glove, even if I’d never be able to fake my way through a Regency dance despite having watched the movie adaptations of Austen’s novels countless times.  You don’t need to have read Persuasion to enjoy this novel, and since Odiwe is one of my favorite authors in the Austenesque genre, I think it’s the perfect book for a day curled up with a blanket and a hot cup of tea.

Book 7 for Explore the Many Genres of Jane Austen Challenge (Jane Austen as a fictional character)

I was saddened to learn that Shanna from Existing’s Tricky lost her battle with cancer in April. To honor her memory and her love of books, I am determined to complete her challenge. May she rest in peace.

Disclosure: I received Searching for Captain Wentworth from the author for review.

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

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Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming Jane Odiwe to Diary of an Eccentric.  Jane is the author of Lydia Bennet’s Story (my review), Willoughby’s Return, and most recently, Mr. Darcy’s Secret (my review).   I’ve enjoyed Jane’s work because she stays true to Austen’s characters and writes humorous dialogue that I think Austen herself would appreciate.

Please give a warm welcome to Jane Odiwe, who has stopped by to show us her writing space:

Thank you very much, Anna, for inviting me onto your blog today to talk about my writing space.

I’m very lucky to have a room of my own in which to write; I’m surrounded by books, and objects, decorative items and photos that I love or have sentimental meaning. Because my novels are inspired by the work of Jane Austen there is usually to be found a tottering pile of books from which I’m researching – it doesn’t look too bad on the day I took these photos, but I’m sure you can spot the copies of Pride and Prejudice and Mr. Darcy’s Secret. On the bookshelves are all the books that I love – some I’ve kept from my childhood, which include Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield, A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Favourite books of mine that I read over and over apart from all of Jane’s novels, of course, include Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Armin, A Room with a View by E.M. Forster, and The Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton. Amongst these wonderful authors, I have a box of my own illustrated stories I wrote to entertain my sister and brother, that I did when I was very young, with titles like ‘The Smiles Family’, ‘The China Gentleman’, and ‘The Magic Shop’.

I’m not a very tidy person as you can see, and apart from notebooks and sketchbooks, I have endless pieces of paper on which I jot down ideas as they come to me. I wish I could write them all in my notebook, but I don’t seem to be able to do that very well, and end up searching for ages trying to find one tiny nugget of information that I know I was here somewhere a minute ago!

I love Regency prints, and like to refer to pictures for details of costumes, or sometimes the figures depicted might give me an idea for a character so they get dotted about. I have some special photos of my children as babies, and other family photos including one of me and my lovely sister taken in a park with our Grandmother. She always made her own dresses, she and my Mum were very clever like that. My Grandmother is wearing a soft floral pink frock, a belted style she always preferred, and she has on her beads – how times and clothes have changed!

I am the luckiest person in the world. People from all over the world write to me, I’ve received such wonderful greetings cards and letters, and occasionally someone sends a little gift through the post. One lady in Hampshire found my Effusions of Fancy book in Steventon Church and has written to me ever since. She sent me the beautiful ribbon bookmark and the rosebud box, and an Australian lady who writes regularly sent me the wise owl who sits on my desk along with many useful notebooks and lovely books. I am very spoiled! I have a beautiful hand-made book from a lady in Brazil, hand-made jewelery from an American lady, Regency costume made by my cousin in Worcester, and a gorgeous rag-doll stitched by my sister-in-law when I was ill a long time ago. My Indian dolls are amongst my favourite things – sometimes they like to be together, and at other times, I get the distinct impression that time apart is a good thing. I think they have a love/hate relationship like Lizzy and Darcy; they love each other really, but are both very stubborn!

I love trinket boxes. I have a lovely one bought by my brother and his wife when they went travelling all over the world, and my husband bought me a treasured one with a patch box hidden inside, which has ‘love and unite’ on the lid.

Apart from all the lovely things I have to look at, I have my pots of pencils and paintbrushes, which invariably go astray as we have several artists in the house, and music to listen to when I’m writing. It’s my favourite place which takes me back in time to another world!

Thank you, Anna for asking me here today. I wonder, do your readers have a favourite place to work or create in? I’d love to hear about it!

Thanks, Jane, for sharing your photos!  I like to write and blog in my recliner, but sometimes I have to move around the house to avoid the noise.

Courtesy of Sourcebooks, I have 2 copies of Mr. Darcy’s Secret to offer to my readers.  To enter, please leave a comment answering the question Jane posed at the end of her guest post, and be sure to leave your e-mail address.  Because the publisher is shipping the books, this giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian addresses only.  This giveaway will end at 11:59 pm EST on Sunday, Feb. 27, 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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Source: Review copy from Sourcebooks
Rating: ★★★★★

Elizabeth stared at Mr. Darcy in disbelief.  Not for the first time in the last few days did she stare at the man she had married to consider how little she really knew him.  She had been so sure of his character in Hertfordshire and now, for the moment, she could not reconcile any of her former beliefs.  Looking at him, his countenance flushed from his passionate speech, his face solemn and sober, she realised it was useless to debate the matter.

(from Mr. Darcy’s Secret, page 151 in the ARC)

When I turned the last page of Mr. Darcy’s Secret, my first thought was that Jane Odiwe has done her homework.  She knows Jane Austen and the much beloved characters from Pride and Prejudice inside and out.  I knew Odiwe was a master of the Austen sequel when I read Lydia Bennet’s Story, and Mr. Darcy’s Secret is even better.

In Mr. Darcy’s Secret, Elizabeth and Darcy are newly married, and Elizabeth must learn to navigate the massive estate that is Pemberley, meet the townspeople of Lambton, and impress the elite couples that have come out in droves to check out Darcy’s wife.  Trust soon becomes a huge issue when Elizabeth hears about a scandal involving Darcy’s mother’s maid many years ago and stumbles upon love letters indicating that Darcy had a romantic life before Elizabeth.  She is curious about the gossip, but she doesn’t feel comfortable asking her husband to share his secrets.  However, her inability to confront the issue ultimately threatens the reputation of the Darcy family.

Meanwhile, Darcy’s shy sister, Georgiana, is ready to come out into society, and her brother is ready to make her a suitable match.  Although Darcy married for love — with Elizabeth’s low social status angering his aunt, Lady Catherine — he refuses to consider Georgiana’s feelings about her potential husband.  After preventing an elopement with the scoundrel George Wickham, Darcy is worried that fortune hunters will seek out his sister, and he is determined to get Georgiana married off to a man who will provider her with a comfortable life, both financially and socially.  Although the mystery surrounding Darcy’s past is interesting, Georgiana’s story grabbed me right from the start.  Georgiana learns what it means to be in love, and she questions the idea of women as property.  She is torn between duty and love, and she must either call out her brother for being a hypocrite or submit to his wishes.

Odiwe stays true to Austen’s characters — Elizabeth is still witty and outspoken, Darcy is still proud and noble, Mrs. Bennet and Lydia are still obnoxious, and Lady Catherine is still haughty.  However, she makes them her own, especially Georgiana, and even introduces new faces, including Tom Butler, a charming landscape gardener; his mother, an old friend of Elizabeth’s Aunt Gardiner; and Viola Wickham, a sister of the horrid George Wickham.  Odiwe’s use of language brings readers back to Regency England, though with a more modern feel, and her lively dialogue make the story feel like something Austen would have written or at least enjoyed.

Elizabeth, now close to exploding with mirth for the image conjured in her mind of Lady Catherine reciting her poetry before an audience all trying to outdo one another with romantic idylls, tempests, and spontaneous lines addressed to nature was all too much.  “Oh dear,” she could not resist adding, “do you suppose we shall have to communicate in verse when we meet?”

“Lord, help us all,” muttered Mr. Darcy under his breath, but not so quietly that the whole company could not hear him.  “Bingley, I hope you know the difference between an Epic and an Epigram, or I feel you’ll be cut and snubbed by all of the new Lake society!  Mrs. Bingley, be most careful when you are out walking this afternoon in case you feel a sonnet coming on, and Mrs. Gardiner, Mrs. Butler, beware the ballad and the ode!”  (pages 242-243 in the ARC)

Mr. Darcy’s Secret was a pleasure to read because Odiwe breathes new life into Austen’s characters without altering their personalities too much.  Elizabeth and Darcy, like all couples, encounter some bumps in the marital journey, and the way they deal with such strife seems true to who they are.  Darcy was a changed man in Pride and Prejudice, and Odiwe makes his alteration feel authentic with some slip ups here and there.  Mr. Darcy’s Secret is one of the most seamless Austen sequels I’ve ever read.  Odiwe’s love for all-things-Austen shines through.  A must-read if you love the Austen variations as much as I do.

Disclosure: I received Mr. Darcy’s Secret from Sourcebooks for review.

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

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