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I am very excited to welcome Victoria Connelly, author of A Weekend With Mr. Darcy (read my review), to Diary of an Eccentric today. A Weekend With Mr. Darcy is a delightfully fun novel about three people who attend a Jane Austen Conference. It’s filled with references to Austen’s novels and film adaptations and the romantic ups and downs of three very endearing characters. Today, Victoria is here to talk about her love for all-things-Austen. Please give a warm welcome to Victoria Connelly.

My Obsession with Jane Austen

My obsession with Jane Austen started at the tender age of 13 when I fell in love with Laurence Olivier’s portrayal of Mr Darcy in the 1940’s film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I loved his haughtiness in the early scenes when he snubs Elizabeth Bennet played by the wonderfully witty Greer Garson, and I adored the scene when he placed his arms around her to teach her how to shoot an arrow – a scene I didn’t know wasn’t in the book until I read it a few years later!

I think I’ve always wanted to be a novelist and, from my early love of Pride and Prejudice, I think I was always meant to be a romantic novelist. I just adored the chemistry between Mr Darcy and Elizabeth – sparks fly between them whenever they are together. But there’s more to Jane Austen than a great love story – her turn of phrase and her wit are highly addictive. You know exactly which characters she loves and which she disapproves of. Which of us hasn’t laughed in delight at her portrayals of the sycophantic Mr Collins and the condescending Lady Catherine? There’s also the wonderful etiquette of the time – the social conventions regarding young women in society which we just don’t have now. I think this world still fascinates readers today.

But it’s not just the books I’m obsessed with. I adore the films too and never tire of the endless adaptations, from Andrew Davies’s 6-hour adaptation of Pride and Prejudice which is just perfect to wallow in, or the sumptuously-filmed and exquisitely-scored Joe Wright film which is fabulous for a quick fix. There is nothing better to help you unwind from the stresses and strains of modern life than to take a trip back into Regency England.

I’m also addicted to Austen locations and it was these that helped inspire my Jane Austen addict trilogy. I’ve been lucky enough to make several visits to the Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton in Hampshire which features in my first book A Weekend with Mr Darcy. I’ve also walked along the famous Cobb in Lyme Regis (which can be seen in Dreaming of Mr Darcy) and stayed in the beautiful Georgian city of Bath to enjoy the Jane Austen Festival (which is the backdrop to the third book, Mr Darcy Forever).

It’s not just locations from the books that fascinate me but locations from the film adaptations too. A couple of years ago, I visited the incredible house and grounds of Chatsworth in Derbyshire which made a very grand Pemberley for Matthew MacFadyen’s Mr Darcy. I also had the great pleasure of spending a whole weekend at the house that was used as Barton Cottage in the 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. Tucked away on a private estate in Devon, I really felt as if I’d stepped into the pages of an Austen novel and half-expected Willoughby to turn up on horseback at any moment!

In short, Jane Austen makes me happy. She has the ability to make me smile when I’m feeling sad and to inspire me as a writer too. She will always be very special to me and I only wish I could thank her personally.

Thanks, Victoria! I also was introduced to Jane Austen through the Laurence Olivier/Greer Garson film adaptation. It’s not a perfect adaptation, but it holds a special place in my heart for triggering my own obsession with Jane Austen. I look forward to reading the rest of your trilogy.

Courtesy of Sourcebooks, I have one copy of A Weekend With Mr. Darcy up for grabs. To enter, simply leave a comment with your e-mail address and, if you’d like, tell me your favorite film adaptation of an Austen novel. (Personally, I adore Rupert Penry-Jones’ smoldering Captain Wentworth, although the movie is not the best adaptation of Persuasion.) Because the publisher is shipping the book, this giveaway is open to readers with U.S. and Canada addresses only and will run until 11:59 pm EST on Sunday, July 31, 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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Source: Review copy from Sourcebooks
Rating: ★★★★☆

Perhaps that’s why Austen’s books were so popular, Katherine mused because her heroines made the most terrible mistakes: they either fell for the bad boys or turned the good ones away.  They were real, flawed but forgivable, girls who had a lot of growing up to do and readers loved them because they were them.

Which one of us hasn’t made a hash of our lives at one time or other, Katherine thought, daring to think about her own doomed relationship with David.  The only difference was that Katherine wasn’t a fictional character in a novel, and Jane Austen wasn’t around to ensure her a happy ending. 

(from A Weekend With Mr. Darcy, pages 68-69 in the ARC; finished version may be different)

It took me only a handful of pages to figure out what was going to happen in A Weekend With Mr. Darcy, but that didn’t prevent me from really enjoying the book.  Sometimes light and predictable is just what you need, and Victoria Connelly infuses the book with charming but flawed characters and plenty of humorous scenes.

A Weekend With Mr. Darcy follows three people at the Jane Austen Conference hosted by Dame Pamela Harcourt at her estate, Purley Hall.  Katherine Roberts is a professor who lectures and writes about Jane Austen at work and secretly devours the sexy Regency romances by Lorna Warwick, an author she talks to through letters and considers her best friend.  She plans to speak at the conference and just get away from it all, particularly a student with a major crush on her and a former lover whom she discovered was married.

Meanwhile, Robyn Love is unhappy with her job and looking for the right time to break up with her boyfriend, who just doesn’t understand her love of Jane Austen, the books, and all the film adaptations.  She can’t wait for the long weekend at the conference so she can visit Jane Austen’s family church in Steventon and the house where Austen did much of her writing, as well as immerse herself in the Regency world and talk with people who love all-things-Austen as much as she does.  But her loud and obnoxious and not-a-fan-of-Austen boyfriend has a surprise — he will accompany her to the conference.

Also attending the conference is Warwick Lawton, who has elaborate plans to meet the woman of his dreams there and make her fall in love with him.  Except he has a secret that threatens to derail his plans.

All I could think about while reading A Weekend With Mr. Darcy is that I would love to be friends with these characters, I’d love to attend such a conference, and if I were lucky enough to spend even a moment at Purley Hall at said conference, I would never want to leave.   A Weekend With Mr. Darcy has that little extra something to go with the romance — Jane Austen (of course) and a cast of interesting and well-developed characters.  I fell in love with Katherine, Robyn, and Warwick; I rejoiced with them, I laughed with them, and I cringed with them when the inevitable mistakes were made.

Connelly has created a magical world for Janeites, where it is possible for an Austen-obsessed woman to find her Mr. Darcy or Captain Wentworth, which makes the whirlwind romances easier to swallow.  Because when you read a book like this, you want to believe that love at first sight is possible — especially when it could be your very own Darcy or Wentworth.  A Weekend With Mr. Darcy is a fun, though predictable, must-read for Austen fans looking for characters who are just like themselves.  If you love Austen as much as I do, you’ll find yourself nodding in agreement every time these characters open their mouths to say how and why they love Austen, her books, and all the films.  Connelly is obviously one of us, and I can’t wait to read the next two books in this trilogy about Jane Austen addicts.

Disclosure: I received A Weekend With Mr. Darcy 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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