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My guest today is Kyra C. Kramer, who is visiting Diary of an Eccentric with an exclusive video guest post to celebrate the release of her new novel, Mansfield Parsonage, a variation of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. In the video, Kyra talks about Mansfield Parsonage and why Mary Crawford is arguably the most interesting and likeable character in Austen’s novel. Please give a warm welcome to Kyra C. Kramer:

Thanks, Kyra! What an interesting take on Mansfield Park! I’m definitely looking forward to reading Mansfield Parsonage.

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About Mansfield Parsonage

mansfield_parsonage

Fans of Jane Austen will recognise the players and the setting – Mansfield Park has been telling the story of Fanny Price and her happily ever after for more than 200 years. But behind the scenes of Mansfield Park, there’s another story to be told.

Mary Crawford’s story.

When her widowed uncle made her home untenable, Mary made the best of things by going to live with her elder sister, Mrs Grant, in a parson’s house the country. Mansfield Parsonage was more than Mary had expected and better than she could have hoped. Gregarious and personable, Mary also embraced the inhabitants of the nearby Mansfield Park, watching the ladies set their caps for her dashing brother, Henry Crawford, and developing an attachment to Edmund Bertram and a profound affection for his cousin, Fanny Price.

Mansfield Parsonage retells the story of Mansfield Park from the perspective of Mary Crawford’s hopes and aspirations and shows how Fanny Price’s happily-ever-after came at Mary’s expense.

Or did it?

“This book captures Austen’s voice with a fascinating point of view.” – Maria Grace, Author of “Courtship and Marriage in Jane Austen’s World”

“Kyra Kramer delights with her cheeky take on one of Austen’s most misunderstood characters. Through sharp observation and a talent for turn of phrase, Kramer polishes Mary Crawford into the bright jewel she truly is. By the end, you’ll be wondering why the original wasn’t written from her perspective all along. This is Regency Era at its finest. Mansfield Parsonage, a true source of felicity!” – Adrienne Dillard, Author of “Cor Rotto”

Check out Mansfield Parsonage on Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Kyra C. Kramer

Kyra C. Kramer

Kyra C. Kramer is a medical anthropologist, historian, and devoted bibliophile who lives just outside Cardiff, Wales with her handsome husband and three wonderful young daughters. She has a deep – nearly obsessive – love for Regency Period romances in general and Jane Austen’s work in particular. Ms. Kramer has authored several history books and academic essays, but this is her first foray into fictional writing.

Connect with Kyra C. Kramer via website | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon

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Giveaway

MadeGlobal Publishing is generously offering a hard copy of Mansfield Parsonage to my readers. This giveaway is open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and answer the question Kyra poses in her video post: are you pro-Mary or pro-Fanny/Edmund? This giveaway will close on Sunday, March 5, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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holidays with jane

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

“I’ve an assignment for you,” Samuel said as he clunked the cup back down.

Jane sighed. “I thought as much. Why does He always send you? Couldn’t He send someone with a sharper wit to entertain Cassandra and me?”

“It was either me or a Brontë, my dear girl. I thought I’d spare you that.”

(from “It’s a Wonderful Latte” in Holidays with Jane: Christmas Cheer)

Holidays with Jane: Christmas Cheer is a collection of six Christmas-themed stories based on each of Jane Austen’s novels.

“The Work of an Instant” by Jennifer Becton  (based on Persuasion)

An oddly dressed Santa working in the Mansfield Perk coffee shop informs Dr. Anne Elliot that she will receive her Christmas wish just before her old flame, Lieutenant Commander Frederick Wentworth waltzes in, apparently on leave from the USS Kellynch. Her nurse friend Louisa pounces immediately, but could a Christmas ball and some Christmas magic reunite Anne and Frederick after so many years apart?

“Mischief and Mistletoe” by Melissa Buell (based on Northanger Abbey)

Pastor’s daughter and aspiring fashion designer Catherine Morland gets a chance to spread her wings when she is offered a job making new costumes for the annual Dickens’ Christmas Festival in Santa Barbara. Cate is over the moon when she meets Henry Tilney, but she worries that a misunderstanding of her situation could alter his feelings for her.

“A Tale of Three Christmases” by Rebecca M. Fleming (based on Sense and Sensibility)

The lives of the Dashwood sisters are in chaos following the death of their father. The youngest, Maggie, finds solace in her writing, and a thoughtful gift from her father and a bit of Christmas magic help her navigate the family and romantic dramas over a period of three years.

“With Love, from Emma” by Cecilia Gray (based on Emma)

Emma Gold may not have any family to keep her company during the holidays, but she takes comfort in her matchmaking abilities. However, she fears her efforts to pair up members of the bridal party at her best friend’s wedding may have gone awry amid her confusing feelings for and competitive banter with Lance Knightley, whose bar is next to her flower shop and whose kiss under the mistletoe she can’t forget.

“It’s a Wonderful Latte” by Jessica Grey (based on Mansfield Park)

Mansfield Perk manager Evie and her best friend Frank find themselves at odds when the Piper siblings solicit their help for a fundraiser. Not sure what to do about her new relationship-going-nowhere and her complicated feelings for Frank, Evie needs the help of Jane Austen herself, who uses a bit of Christmas magic to help Evie realize love (and the real meaning of the novel Mansfield Park).

“Pride & Presents” by Kimberly Truesdale (based on Pride and Prejudice)

Liz Bennet is ready to take the reins at the Longbourn Community Center and enable her father to retire. She hopes for a Christmas to remember, with the help of basketball star Charles Bingley. Meanwhile, his lawyer friend Will Darcy has Liz all out of sorts, and he certainly made a bad first impression, so when he asks her out, she is shocked and turns him down. And then the fantastic Christmas she has planned for the children starts to crumble, along with her family’s grasp on Longbourn, and Liz must swallow her pride and realize she may not be such a good judge of character after all.

As with Holidays with Jane: Trick or Sweet, I enjoyed all of the stories in this collection, and again, I loved how they were connected in little ways, through the Mansfield Perk coffee shop and Cate’s Creations. In fact, this time it’s too hard for me to choose a favorite story! I also love how these are modern takes on Austen’s novels and how they aren’t straight retellings, and even though the stories are short, I was satisfied with all of the endings. I hope to squeeze more holiday reading in before the new year, but if I don’t have time, I’ll be thankful to have ended on a bright note. I’m looking forward to reading the other Holidays with Jane collections next year!

Merry Christmas!!

Disclosure: Holidays with Jane: Christmas Cheer is from my personal library.

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trick-or-sweet

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

Jane laughed, “I know exactly what you mean! That’s the beauty of novels, isn’t it? How well fiction can illustrate and even reflect everyday life. I never open a novel without reading about someone I know — and often meet people I’m already familiar with from the pages of a book.”

(from “Once Upon a Story” in Holidays with Jane: Trick or Sweet)

Holidays with Jane: Trick or Sweet is a collection of six Halloween-themed stories based on each of Jane Austen’s novels.

“Must Be Magic” by Kimberly Truesdale (based on Persuasion)

Anne Elliot is still learning how to control her powers — the powers that cost her the love of Fareed Walia eight years ago when she turned down an offer from him in order to find herself — when her family is forced to sell Kellynch House. Fareed comes back into her life at the same time as a dark figure from Anne’s past seeking a powerful talisman and revenge.

“Once Upon a Story” by Rebecca M. Fleming (based on Northanger Abbey)

College student Catie meets a pair of curious sisters at a coffee house as she attempts to piece together what went wrong at the annual Fall-o-Ween festival. Her research about the Battlefield Legend may have cost her the friendship of the Tilney family and the man she loves.

“Insensible” by Cecilia Gray (based on Sense and Sensibility)

Betrayed by her parents, Miriam Dashwood’s life and the family’s business, Dashing Events, are in shambles. She scrambles to pull off the ultimate Halloween party for Brandon Firestone’s law firm as she navigates her confusing feelings for him and the excitement of a motorcycle ride with the bad boy rocker from the band Willow Bee.

“Emma Ever After” by Melissa Buell (based on Emma)

Emma Woodhouse is planning the annual Fall Ball to benefit the charity in her late mother’s name and decides it would be a great idea to auction off local eligible bachelors. Her friend Grant Knightley is skeptical of the plan, her matchmaking abilities, and TV show host Frank Hill, who may or may not have his sights set on Emma.

“Mansfield Unmasked” by Jennifer Becton (based on Mansfield Park)

In a mash-up of Mansfield Park and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Pug — Lady Bertram’s furry friend at the Mansfield Park Boarding House — wants to use his cupid magic to help his friend, Pryce, but things get all mixed up at an outrageous, last-minute Halloween party.

“Beyond Midnight” by Jessica Grey (based on Pride and Prejudice)

Will Harper loses a bet to his sister and must attend the high school’s Trick or Sweet dance dressed in the costume of her choice: Mr. Darcy. Things get very uncomfortable for Will when he insults Elena Marquez, who is unlike any girl he’s ever liked before, and he worries the magic between them will be lost when the dance is over and he takes off the Darcy costume.

All of the stories in Holidays with Jane: Trick or Sweet are fun, humorous, and romantic, not to mention quick and satisfying. The stories are connected in small ways, namely the Mansfield Perk coffee house, which I really wish existed! I enjoyed all of the stories, but if I had to choose a favorite, it would be probably be “Insensible,” as I really found myself drawn to Miriam and Brandon’s sweet relationship and how they both changed over the course of the story. All of these authors did an admirable job setting the autumn/Halloween scene and retelling important aspects of Austen’s novels in just a handful of pages, making them modern and very different (in a good way) at the same time. I can’t wait to read the rest of the Holidays with Jane collections!

Disclosure: Holidays with Jane: Trick or Sweet is from my personal library.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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then comes winter

Source: Review copy from Meryton Press
Rating: ★★★★☆

What I did know was that I needed to go to that party. I was trying to be Elizabeth, not Fanny, after all. Fanny would stay at home and pine after her cousin (gross). Elizabeth would go and have fun, be witty, and impress men with her “fine eyes.”

(from Then Comes Winter, “Becoming Fanny” by Melanie Stanford)

Quick summary: Then Comes Winter is the second short-story anthology from Meryton Press, with stories inspired by the winter season and Jane Austen. There are a mix of modern-day re-imaginings and Regency-era stories, from a Northanger Abbey-inspired story set in Tahoe to a Pride and Prejudice-inspired story that has Elizabeth Bennet running a successful Italian restaurant. There’s something for everyone in this collection!

Why I wanted to read it: I was intrigued by the Austen connection, of course, but I also really enjoyed the summer-themed short-story anthology, Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer, so I just had to read the winter-themed one, too. And it’s the perfect time of year for a collection of stories that can be enjoyed by the Christmas tree with a cup of hot chocolate.

What I liked: The selection of stories was perfect, and I enjoyed them all. The anthology introduced me to several new authors, and again, editor Christina Boyd did an excellent job ensuring plenty of variety and a seamless flow from story to story. It would be hard for me to select a favorite story, but some that stood out were “Holiday Mix Tape” by Beau North and Brooke West, a modern-day take on Persuasion, “A Man Whom I Can Really Love” by Natalie Richards, a unique retelling of Sense and Sensibility, and “The Unexpected Gift” by Erin Lopez, a Pride and Prejudice-inspired tale in which Georgiana Darcy refuses to let her brother give up on love.

What I disliked: Nothing at all!

Final thoughts: Then Comes Winter is a perfect addition to my small library of holiday-themed books and would make a perfect gift for fans of Austen-inspired fiction. I’m very picky when it comes to short stories because I often feel like I’m left hanging at the end, but both Meryton Press anthologies are full of stories that leave readers satisfied. Not once did I think something was missing or that a story would have been better suited as a novel. It’s a delightful collection that can be read a little at a time amid all the holiday chaos.

Disclosure: I received Then Comes Winter from Meryton Press for review.

© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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old friends and new fancies

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★★

Elizabeth’s forecast created much amusement, and Miss Crawford said, “Everything I hear beforehand of Lady Catherine is very alarming to a stranger like myself.  I shall have to have caught a bad cold before her reception next week, for I shall not have the courage to appear and play.”

“Oh, no, Miss Crawford, you must appear,” said Darcy.  “We are all too bad, with our jokes about her, for really she means to be very kind.  But we have got into shocking ways since my wife married into the family.”

“On the contrary, I think I have educated you all admirably.”

(from Old Friends and New Fancies, pages 31-32)

Written in 1913 and published the following year, Old Friends and New Fancies is considered the first-ever Jane Austen sequel.  Sybil G. Brinton manages to believably bring together characters from all six of Austen’s novels to create happily-ever-afters for several secondary characters.  The book centers on the romantic ups and downs of Georgiana Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam (Pride and Prejudice), whose broken engagement in the first chapter leads to some awkward moments as they try to find true love elsewhere.  Colonel Fitzwilliam and the happily married Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy make their annual visit to Bath, where Lady Catherine de Bourgh mingles with characters from the other novels.

Mrs. Robert Ferrars and Anne Steele (Sense and Sensibility) are desperate to gain Lady Catherine’s approval, and their loose lips churn up events that Mary Crawford (Mansfield Park) would rather forget, separating her from the man she loves and making her vulnerable to the attentions of the obnoxiously vain Sir Walter Elliot (Persuasion) as he seeks a beautiful, well-to-do second wife.

Meanwhile, Kitty Bennet (Pride and Prejudice) is living it up in London as the protégé of Emma Knightley (Emma), who still fancies herself a matchmaker.  Back at Pemberley, Elizabeth and Georgiana warn Kitty not to assume the subject of her infatuation will make her an offer of marriage, but that doesn’t stop Kitty from confiding in the obnoxiously gossipy Mrs. Jennings (Sense and Sensibility) — a move that threatens her happiness and that of Georgiana.

Nearly every important character in Austen’s novels is at least mentioned in Old Friends and New Fancies, with a list included at the beginning of the book for reference.  Although I had to pay attention to follow the mingling of the characters, I never felt lost or overwhelmed.  I’m glad I waited until I finished all of Austen’s novels before delving into this one, but I suppose you could still follow and enjoy it with at least a working knowledge of Austen’s plots and characters.

Bringing together characters from six novels is very ambitious, but Brinton makes it seem easy.  The characters meet in believable circumstances and forge convincing relationships, and Brinton deftly knits together numerous plot threads into a story that captivated me from the very beginning.  The story branches out from two endearing but struggling characters, Georgiana and Colonel Fitzwilliam, and Brinton has fleshed them out so that they truly do feel like old friends.

Old Friends and New Fancies is one of the best Austen sequels I’ve read so far.  I had so much fun revisiting these characters and imagining a world where they could all live together.  If you’ve ever wondered what might happen if characters from one Austen novel hopped into the pages of another, you’ll definitely want to get your hands on this book.

Book 10 for the P&P Bicentenary Challenge

Disclosure: Old Friends and New Fancies is from my personal library.

© 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 Penguin Press
Rating: ★★★★☆

Austen never married, but she did have children, and many more than eight or eleven.  Their names are Emma and Elizabeth and Catherine, Anne and Fanny and Elinor and Marianne.  Their names are Henry and Edward and Wentworth and Willoughby, Mr. Collins and Miss Bates and Mr. Darcy.  They were not long-lived, they are ageless.  Had she married Tom or Harris, she might have been happy, she might have been rich, she might have been a mother, she might have even been long-lived herself.  She might have been all of these things — but we would not have been who we are, and she would not have been Jane Austen.

(from A Jane Austen Education, pages 245-246)

As a lifelong lover of books, I truly believe that we can learn a lot from reading, and not just in the sense that we broaden our knowledge on various topics.  I believe we can learn profound truths about life and change the course of our lives, for the written word has that kind of power.  William Deresiewicz was a graduate student at Columbia studying literature.  He was interested in mingling with the Manhattan elite, talked about politics and other topics without really caring what other people had to say, and had few romantic relationships that progressed beyond sex.  When his professor assigned Jane Austen’s Emma, Deresiewicz had no interest in reading what he expected to be a boring book without a plot.  But it didn’t take long for him to see Austen’s genius and apply the lessons he learned from Austen’s novels to his personal and professional lives.

Each chapter in A Jane Austen Education is devoted to one of Austen’s novels and what he believes is the major point Austen wanted to get across.  In Emma, Deresiewicz learned that life is about the little, everyday things.  In Pride and Prejudice, he learned that making mistakes is part of growing up.  In Northanger Abbey, he realized that you have to learn how to learn and how to love things and that life is full of surprises.  In Mansfield Park, he began to understand how wisdom is more important than wit and discovered connections between the snobby Bertrams and the crowd with which he was involved.  In Persuasion, he learned about true friendship, and in Sense and Sensibility, he learned about growing — not falling — in love.

Deresiewicz shows that Austen’s novels are about so much more than unexpected romance, the need for women to marry and marry well, and the obvious divisions between country folk and high society.  Since taking literary theory and other courses for my B.A. in English, I’ve long wondered if academics analyze things too much, looking for symbolism and statements on society that aren’t there.  For instance, I took a creative writing course in which we were required to write a poem and present it to the class.  I had no idea what to write about, but on my way to my next class, a crow walked across the path in front of me.  My poem “A Single Crow” was about someone watching a crow walk across their path on a brisk autumn day, and my professor went on and on about how I did a great job incorporating symbols of death, etc., when it seriously was a poem about a crow!  Of course, I didn’t let my professor know that.  But it made me wonder whether we sometimes read into things too much, and I question whether authors make detailed plans to incorporate symbols into their books or whether it’s just a coincidence or a matter of interpretation.  I think it’s probably a little of both.  In A Jane Austen Education, Deresiewicz makes convincing arguments and supports his reasoning behind the things he believes Austen was seeking to accomplish in her works.

A Jane Austen Education provides a candid look into the life of a young man who was lost and how Jane Austen helped him find himself and happiness.  Deresiewicz doesn’t hide his faults; he is brutally honest to himself and his readers, and I must admire him for that.  It was refreshing to read about Austen’s novels from the point of view of a male reader — and one who didn’t even want to read her books.  A Jane Austen Education is perfect for readers who have been touched by Austen’s words, enjoy light memoirs or reading about reading, and even those who haven’t yet read Austen, as Deresiewicz doesn’t give away the endings to the novels.  It’s a beautiful tribute to an author whose wit has been dazzling readers for centuries.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to participate in the blog tour for A Jane Austen Education. To check out the other tour dates, click here.

Disclosure: I received A Jane Austen Education from Penguin Press 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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Source: Review copy from William Morrow
Rating: ★★★☆☆

“My Dear Mark Twain,” I said, squinting with the effort of remembering.  The audience seemed to understand where I was going.  My Jane Austen stepped closer, cautiously amused.  “If you so much as touch my shinbone, I’ll use it to beat sense into your head.  If you don’t like Pride and Prejudice, stop reading it!”

The audience waited for more.  My Jane Austen scribbled on her ivories as if she might add her own remarks.

(from My Jane Austen Summer, page 262 in the ARC)

In My Jane Austen Summer: A Season in Mansfield Park, Cindy Jones reaches out to those of us who wish to escape our problems by living in a novel, but as the protagonist, Lily Berry, is bound to learn, characters in a novel are fixed in time and on paper and never get a chance to learn from their mistakes.  Grieving the death of her mother, Lily just can’t seem to come to terms with the fact that her ex-boyfriend has moved on and that her father’s new girlfriend tossed out the family memories before Lily and her sister could save them.  She also is unemployed, having been caught reading Northanger Abbey on the job.  The one thing Lily knows for certain is that she finds comfort in the words of Jane Austen and longs to escape into the pages of Austen’s novels.

At the urging of Vera, the owner of the local indie bookstore, Lily sells all of her belongings and leaves Texas for England to the Literature Live festival run by Vera’s husband, Nigel, where professional actors will perform Mansfield Park to a group of Janeites over the course of the summer.  Vera assures Lily that she will have a part in the production, and even though she is not an actress, Lily jumps at the chance to live in her favorite novel.  But life in England is just as complicated as the life she left behind.  Lily must deal with family secrets unearthed by her sister back home and contend with Magda, an overbearing professor in charge of the production who dislikes Lily’s love of Fanny Price (the heroine in Mansfield Park, who is so unlike Austen’s other heroines that academics fight over her in the “Fanny Wars”); Bets, who pushes Lily out of the production even though she likens taking part in the festival to serving time in prison; Willis, an aspiring clergyman who hides in the attic of Newton Priors (the estate where the festival is held) writing a vampire novel; and Omar, the professor who adapts Austen’s novel for the festival and befriends Lily.

As Lily spends the summer planning a tea-theater, crafting a business plan to save the festival, and running around in Regency attire, she befriends her inner Jane Austen, who lurks in her peripheral vision and follows her as she stumbles through new relationships and adventures.  Lily’s Jane Austen doesn’t say anything, but fades in and out, writes lists, and gives Lily knowing looks where appropriate.  While Lily deals with the problems that caused her to leave Texas and navigates a literary festival where she’s in way over her head, she learns that Jane Austen means something different to each reader but that the world will never truly know her.

My Jane Austen Summer is a novel mostly about a woman trying to emerge from her grief and loneliness to find herself, with fun references to Jane Austen and reading in general.  The plot is more complicated than I expected, helped along by the ambitious cast of characters, Lily’s real-life problems, and the drama of the literature festival.  I admire Jones for working her love of Jane Austen and Mansfield Park into a contemporary novel, keeping them in the forefront but giving Lily the space to tell her own story.  Jones doesn’t go overboard in her comparison of Lily to Fanny Price, it wasn’t forced, making the novel flow more naturally.

Above all, I liked how the novel seemed true to life, as the trip to England does not solve all of Lily’s problems and she’s not healed or transformed overnight.  I wasn’t sure I was going to like Lily when the book opened — I questioned her mental state and thought she was kind of creepy with the stalking of the ex-boyfriend — but I ultimately found her endearing.  Hey, I can’t blame a girl for wanting to escape in a novel — and not in the I’m-going-to-read-and-let-my-thoughts-drift kind of way.  Who wouldn’t want to act out the role of their favorite heroine, and who doesn’t indulge in fantasies at one time or another?  My Jane Austen Summer is a great escapist read, with a perfect blend of literary references and soul searching, and you can enjoy it without having read Mansfield Park.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to participate in the blog tour for My Jane Austen Summer.  To check out the other tour dates, click here.

Disclosure: I received My Jane Austen Summer from William Morrow 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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