Friday, July 23, 2021

Book Review: John Eyre by Mimi Matthews

Yorkshire, 1843. When disgraced former schoolmaster John Eyre arrives at Thornfield Hall to take up a position as tutor to two peculiar young boys, he enters a world unlike any he's ever known. Darkness abounds, punctuated by odd bumps in the night, strange creatures on the moor, and a sinister silver mist that never seems to dissipate. And at the center of it all, John's new employer—a widow as alluring as she is mysterious.

Sixteen months earlier, heiress Bertha Mason embarked on the journey of a lifetime. Marriage wasn't on her itinerary, but on meeting the enigmatic Edward Rochester, she's powerless to resist his preternatural charm. In letters and journal entries, she records the story of their rapidly disintegrating life together, and of her gradual realization that Mr. Rochester isn't quite the man he appears to be. In fact, he may not be a man at all.


From a cliff-top fortress on the Black Sea coast to an isolated estate in rural England, John and Bertha contend with secrets, danger, and the eternal struggle between light and darkness. Can they help each other vanquish the demons of the past? Or are some evils simply too powerful to conquer?





Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre is the quintessential 19th century gothic novel. Some pair it with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as the best literature of that era. However, unlike Pride and Prejudice, Brontë’s work has not been given the myriad adaptations and retellings that Austen’s has. Author Mimi Matthews has taken it upon herself to re-envision Jane Eyre with a bit of a gender swap, plus an extra dash of the paranormal as well. Given Brontë’s style of writing, the gothic tone and the lack of the “rom-com” formula that is so common in today’s Austen adaptations, taking on Jane Eyre was a brave choice.


In the source material, the titular character Jane joins the Rochester household as a governess, and she develops a relationship with her employer, Edward Rochester. In John Eyre, the main character is a young man brought into the household as a tutor for two young boys under the care of Mrs. Bertha Rochester. There are other amusing similarities between Jane and John Eyre, but it is sufficient to say that Matthews’ novel is very much its own entity. Brontë’s plot is not rehashed scene by scene. There is a darker element that makes itself known early on in the narrative, and builds to a larger presence near the conclusion. 


The vast majority of the novels that I read are historical fiction, with very few including supernatural or magical elements. I would count Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series (which includes time travel) as the main exception to that trend, and those novels are read separately from ones for review on The Calico Critic. So John Eyre was a bit of a departure for me as a reviewer. That said, I was not disappointed in the venture. Mimi Matthews’ writing is excellent. Her word choices and turns of phrase made for compelling reading. Her characters were well-drawn, and the murky ambience of the tale was almost palatable, but not discomfitingly so. Given the alternating timeline device that was used, the carefully-divulged secrets that lay within the life of Mrs. Rochester were mysterious, but not in a way that made this reader overly uncomfortable for the majority of the novel. Only during a couple of key moments near the conclusion did the plot traipse into an area that was darker than my usual fare, but those times were brief. In general, John Eyre’s narrative style could almost be likened more to a mystery, rather than a paranormal gothic novel.


As I read, my mind initially “cast” the actor Timothée Chalamet as John Eyre, but as the story developed I felt that Tom Hiddleston would be a better choice. John was a very sympathetic educator and protector, showing maturity and a groundedness that were beyond his years. For Mrs. Rochester, I waffled between seeing a younger Angelina Jolie (sporting an European, non-American accent) and Jessica Brown Findlay in my vision of the beleaguered woman in black. Angelina’s beauty probably exceeds that of Matthews’ personification of the character, but Bertha had a strength, road-weariness and vulnerability that Jolie could embody. Actor Jessica Findlay also has a softness that Jolie lacks. So these two women somehow simultaneously held that role in my mind.


For my conservative readers, this novel may or may not be your cup of tea. Overall the “mature” material is very mild, with very little colorful language, and the sexual content is also fairly modest. The paranormal aspect of John Eyre is very much like what is found in 19th century literature for the majority of the story (although I’m no expert in that era’s material). For the last few chapters, some dark elements do creep in. That said, it’s often within the framework of good vs. evil, with even a few discussions of faith (or loss of it), the church, prayer to God, etc. It’s by no means a “religious” novel, but touchstones of faith are briefly mentioned. With this in mind, I would not necessarily recommend John Eyre to the ultra-conservative reader, but if a little bit of darkness (paired with the light of what is good) doesn’t scare you off, then this might be a good match.


Dark and compelling, with captivating characters and a narrative that builds to an exciting conclusion, John Eyre has been heralded as one of the “25 of the Best Books Arriving in 2021.” Those familiar with Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel, as well as readers who are unfamiliar with Jane Eyre can both find much to enjoy in Mimi Matthews’ latest title. In a world of darkness and shadow, light and love are the most powerful forces of all.


 




About the Author


USA Today
bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Regency and Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Library Journal and Publishers Weekly, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats.












Join the virtual book tour of JOHN EYRE: A TALE OF DARKNESS AND SHADOW, Mimi Matthews’ highly acclaimed Bronte-inspired Gothic romance, July 12-25, 2021. Thirty-five popular on-line influencers specializing in historical fiction, Gothic romance, and paranormal fiction will join in the celebration of its release with an interview, spotlights, exclusive excerpt, and reviews of this new Victorian-era novel set in Yorkshire, England. 

 

TOUR SCHEDULE                  

July 12           The Caffeinated Bibliophile (review)    

July 12           Syrie James (review)        

July 12           Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog (review) 

July 13           Bronte Blog (interview)

July 13           Laura's Reviews (review) 

July 13           All-of-a-Kind Mom (spotlight)

July 14           Gwendalyn's Books (review)      

July 14           Austenesque Reviews (review) 

July 15           Bookworm Lisa (review)  

July 15           Nurse Bookie (review)      

July 16           Savvy Verse and Wit (excerpt)

July 16           The Lit Bitch (review)       

July 17           My Bookish Bliss (review)           

July 17           From the TBR Pile (review)         

July 18           Rosanne E. Lortz (review)           

July 18           Books, Teacups, & Reviews (review)   

July 19           The Secret Victorianist (review)

July 19           Christian Chick's Thoughts (review)    

July 19           The Gothic Library (review)        

July 20           Getting Your Read On (review)  

July 20           The Silver Petticoat Review (review)    

July 20           Lu Reviews Books (review)        

July 21           Scuffed Slippers and Wormy Books (spotlight)

July 21           The Green Mockingbird (review)           

July 22           Unabridged Chick (review)         

July 22           A Darn Good Read (review)

July 23           Kathleen Flynn (review)   

July 23           So Little Time… (review) 

July 23           The Calico Critic (review)

July 24           The Bronte Babe (review)

July 24           Probably at the Library (review)

July 24           Impressions in Ink (review)

July 25           From Pemberley to Milton (review)       

July 25           Vesper's Place (review)    

July 25           Cup of Tea with that Book Please (review)    




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Sunday, July 18, 2021

Book Review: Back to the Bonnet by Jennifer Duke

"Oh really, Miss Mary!" He lowered his voice and leant closer. "Does convention hold you back? You who deny all conventions of time, twisting it into its proper course?"

Uncover the secret life of Mary Bennet and the extraordinary adventures you had no idea were hidden between the lines of Jane Austen's classic tale.

Matrimony is not a destiny that attracts plain but clever Miss Mary Bennet.

With her family’s fortunes threatened by their own foolish mistakes, deceptive rogues and the inconvenience of male heirs to her family home, the future looks unstable, even bleak. But Mary possesses a secret weapon . . . a bonnet that allows her to travel in time.

In orchestrating events according to her own inclinations, Mary takes an unconventional route to protect her family from ruin. However, she is unprepared for the dark path down which duty and power will lead her.




Some of my favorite tales from movies and literature include time travel. The Outlander series, The Time Traveler’s Wife (the book, not the movie), Somewhere in Time/Bid Time Return, and Back to the Future are just a few titles which come to mind. In each case, the plausibility of the “science” or magic behind the time traveling is not crucial. The story and overarching narratives carry more weight in my opinion of a piece. Can one truly walk “through” ancient standing stones to 18th century Scotland? Shall we one day find ourselves riding in souped-up DeLoreans at 88 miles per hour into another era? If time travel does become possible, it most certainly won’t be via those mechanisms. And yet, fans of those tales are able to enjoy them because they accept their premises. After this, we move on to the story itself and are amused with the repercussions of those travels through time.

In her novel Back to the Bonnet, author Jennifer Duke does not employ the use of a DeLorean for time travel. Instead, the mode of transport comes in the form of a well worn, out of fashion bonnet set in the world of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. If that premise has you grimacing rather than giggling, then Back to the Bonnet is not for you. It is for similar reasons that I myself have avoided reading Austenesque fiction that involves zombies or aliens, for example. I’m just not going to buy into those stories. But manipulating the embroidery of a bonnet, stitch by stitch to add or subtract time? Sure! Why not? Yes, it’s absurd, but it’s my kind of absurdity!

Pride and Prejudice is arguably Austen’s most popular novel, and the less-popular character of Mary Bennet is often overshadowed by the beautiful Jane, the tempestuous Lydia, or the protagonistic Elizabeth. In Back to the Bonnet, Mary takes center stage after haphazardly inheriting a magical bonnet that can transport its wearer through time. Through this device, Miss Bennet is able to right wrongs that readers of Austen’s work have never been privy to in the past. Mary’s choices aren’t flawless however. She stumbles at times and learns that she cannot control all aspects of her loved ones’ fates. Along the way however, readers will be treated to an amusing speculation of what “would have been” if the characters of Pride and Prejudice had made different choices, or if Mary had not been secretly working behind the scenes to give destiny a little “nudge”. In Jennifer Duke’s world, the dowdy, almost ignored Bennet sister becomes a powerful force working to ensure the happiness and security of the entire family.

While not my favorite time travel story of all time, Back to the Bonnet was a diverting read to take in during my summer break. There are also some additional, amusing fantastical elements that are revealed as the story progresses, but I will not divulge them here and spoil the fun. I would simply advise to once again “go with it” when surprising features of the bonnet are discovered, and just be entertained!

For my conservative readership, I would say that in general the content here is appropriate for most audiences. Mary does have a closeted gay friend who knows her secret, and I picked up on some possible same-sex attraction between two female characters as well. These aspects are not thoroughly explored, however. Also, while some characters do use colorful language, Duke has chosen the literary device of printing merely the first letter of certain words, plus an em-dash. I haven’t seen this writing choice in a while, and I appreciated its usage.

My two sharpest criticisms are minor. Without giving away special details about the bonnet, I will say that there were times when I briefly became confused about the identity of speakers in a dialogue, and/or their current location. This probably will not make sense to those who have not read the book, but I would just suggest that as you are reading, take careful note of who is speaking and from where. My second critique comes in some decisions that Mary feels she has to make near the end of the story. Although I understood her reasoning for doing what she did, I found her actions to be wholly inconsistent with her character in general. However, in the spirit of just “going with” the story, I chose to accept those decisions as well. We have a time-traveling bonnet, for goodness sake!

Again, fans of lighthearted time traveling tales will find much to enjoy in Back to the Bonnet. Jennifer Duke has taken her readers on a fun dive into the world of Pride and Prejudice, showing us not only what “could have been” but also behind the scenes secrets never before revealed. I will certainly never look at embroidered bonnets in the same way again. They will bring a smile to my face and a fanciful wish for the power to travel as Miss Mary Bennet did in Jennifer Duke’s Regency England. 





About the Author


Jennifer Duke grew up in Basingstoke – a town in Hampshire, England, which Jane Austen visited for shopping and balls when her family lived in the nearby village of Steventon. Loving stories from a very early age and being the second of four sisters, Jennifer delighted in reading stories to her younger siblings.

She went to Bath Spa University to study English Literature with Creative Writing and gained a 2:1, later going on to achieve a distinction for her MA in English Literature at Oxford Brookes University.

She has had many jobs – including coffee barista, trainee English teacher, nursery nurse, nanny, housekeeper and dog walker – but kept returning to writing fiction.

A longstanding love of Jane Austen’s novels led to her first published novel Back to the Bonnet.

As well as writing, she is interested in mindfulness, environmental issues and painting. She loves animals, history, art, travel and being out in nature. Currently she is working on a fantasy novel inspired by ancient art at Chauvet-Pont d’Arc cave in the south of France, a story set 35,000 years ago – a slight change from Regency England! She also has plans to write a post World War II romance inspired by Jane Eyre.


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Saturday, May 29, 2021

Book Review: Dear Clara by Shelly E. Powell

He thinks she is a rare beauty. She knows he is charming on paper. Both hope for romance, but when letters are no longer enough, Clara must face the truth and decide whether to let go of pride or protect her heart.     

For the first time in her life, Clara Everton has done something truly improper. She has written to a gentleman she hardly knows, simply to avoid an unwanted marriage proposal and perhaps to prove to herself that her first London season was not such a disappointment after all. As one letter grows into many and her feelings for James Thayne deepen, Clara begins to wonder whether a letter is as innocent a thing as she once thought. Meeting Mr. Thayne in person shakes her hopes, and she must reconcile herself to the unexpected truth. Yet, as circumstances continue to bring them together, Clara can't help but question whether opening her heart to Mr. Thayne is riskier than protecting it.




For the first two years of my romantic relationship with my husband, we “dated” long-distance. This was in the early ‘90s, before the internet was common, before everyone had an email address or a text-enabled mobile phone. Making long-distance phone calls was expensive, so we often relied on the good old-fashioned postal service. I can’t tell you how many letters we wrote, but there were many. We have saved every one, and they are very precious to us. Now married twenty-six years, I’m so grateful that we had that time to get to know one another through the written word. Letters can indeed be powerful things.

In Shelly Powell’s Dear Clara, primary characters James Thayne and Clara Everton endeavor to nurture a relationship in much the same way. However, their efforts had many contrasting features compared to what my husband and I undertook in the twentieth century. The story is set in a period of England (presumably in the nineteenth century) when writing to the opposite sex was considered to be a habit reserved for family members, betrothed couples or married partners. An unengaged man and woman exchanging letters in secret was at minimum unadvisable and at worst ruinous for the woman’s reputation. In addition to facing that social construct, at the outset of their letter-writing, James and Clara hardly know each other. The young lady he had briefly met made such an impression upon him, he greatly desired to pursue her, and he chose letter-writing as his method. Not only did Mr. Thayne take a risk in writing to a virtual stranger, but Clara wagered even more as a woman in responding to him. What follows is a diverting interchange with several unexpected twists and turns.

Dear Clara is a sweet, family-friendly historical romance. Shelly Powell is a relatively new published author, and while there were times when I felt that the writing could have been stronger, I did enjoy the novel. Many Regency-themed works center around the theme of a “misunderstanding”, and as that miscommunication is worked out the narrative progresses. Without revealing a crucial plot point, I will say that Dear Clara also has a major misunderstanding at the center of the plot as well. Truthfully, I felt that the “wrong” that was done to one particular character (which produced a significant amount of angst for that individual) was given more power than was warranted. The character’s error was certainly believable, however. Although I felt that the hurt party took it too much to heart, I understood the necessity of providing a literary obstacle to overcome in the story. It wasn’t difficult to overlook that minor issue and continue enjoying the tale. 

Dear Clara has well-drawn characters, with vivid personalities and relatable interests. In my mind I saw Mr. Thayne portrayed by actor Stuart Martin of Miss Scarlet and the Duke, and Ellise Chappell of the recent Poldark series was Clara. Stuart is an attractive but not striking man, and I could see a slightly younger version of himself playing James. The character of Clara is somewhat quiet, but still embodies an inner strength, enough to make the choices the did in the novel. Like Clara, actor Ellise Chappell exudes fortitude but vulnerability at the same time.


Stuart Martin as "James Thayne"
Ellise Chappell as "Clara"

Powell also had some very interesting choices near the end of the novel, ways in which she wrapped up problems for multiple characters that I found to be unexpected and quite creative. In truth, the novel’s concluding chapters were very strong. Dear Clara has a solid finish, leaving this reader quite contented. Shelly Powell does have room to grow as an author, but she shows great promise with this work. In a social media posting she dropped hints that a new work is in progress, one that will please fans of Jane Austen. As a Janeite, I look forward to seeing what she has in store. I’m sure it will be a delightful title, building upon the talent already on display in Dear Clara.




About the Author

As soon as Shelly Powell was old enough to write, she was crafting stories to share with family and friends. Her earliest works featured princesses and mermaids, which she willingly portrayed on the makeshift stages of home and school. Although her interests have expanded since then, she still finds writing to be a thrilling process and a unique way to connect with others. Shelly loves a happy ending but also believes in happy beginnings. She hopes to write many stories in the years to come. Shelly enjoys running, yoga, drawing, and spending time with her sweet husband and amazing kids. Stay tuned because she has more projects in the works...




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Saturday, April 10, 2021

Book Review and Kindle Fire Giveaway: The Indebted Earl by Erica Vetsch

Warning: There are some very minor spoilers in the following summary. While not inappropriate, the details shared could easily go unknown to the reader and abstaining from them could enhance the enjoyment of the story. If you would like to take that course of action, skip to the next dividing line below. My review will offer fewer specific details.


Captain Charles Wyvern owes a great debt to the man who saved his life—especially since Major Richardson lost his own life in the process. The major's dying wish is for his love to be relayed to his fiancée, and for the captain to look after her needs. But along the way, Charles learns of another obligation that has fallen on his shoulders: due to a death in the family, he is now the Earl of Rothwell.

His new role includes an estate in need of a leader and a trio of orphaned girls, all wards of the former earl. Wyvern understands war; young ladies and properties he does not. As a solution, Charles proposes a marriage of convenience to the late major's betrothed, the bereaved Lady Sophia Haverly.

Sophie is surprised to find she isn't opposed to the idea. It will help her care for Richardson's elderly mother, and she's already fallen in love with the wayward girls on the Rothwell estate. This alliance is a chance to repay the captain who has done so much for her care, and a distraction from her grief. When Wyvern returns to his commission at sea, she'll stay behind to oversee his property and wards.

It sounds so simple. Until the stalwart captain is arrested on suspicion of smuggling, and Sophie realizes how much he's come to mean to her. Now she must learn to fight, not only for his freedom but also for his love.




The Indebted Earl
is the concluding volume in the Serendipity & Secrets trilogy by Erica Vetsch. Like the preceding titles The Lost Lieutenant and The Gentleman Spy, this final tale is one of adventure, romance, and unexpected entitlement. As implied prior to the book’s summary above, I hesitate to offer too many details about the overall storyline. For my part, I began reading the novel with very little knowledge of what lay ahead. My enjoyment of The Lost Lieutenant and The Gentleman Spy was strong enough that I agreed to read and review this novel solely based on my experience with those earlier titles. The assumption was made that The Indebted Earl would be a good match for me. Fortunately, that small gamble paid off.

Similar to the main male character Evan in The Lost Lieutenant, Captain Charles Wyvern is the lead here. He too is returning to his home country from war, although he does not struggle with memory issues as Evan did. He does carry an emotional burden however, and he works through that encumbrance through most of the story. The debt he feels that he must discharge is related to Lady Sophia Haverly, sister of Marcus Haverly from The Gentleman Spy. When they meet she is grieving the loss of her fiancé, the man who saved Charles’ life in battle, Major Richardson. 

While paying a visit to Sophie (in part to deliver the deceased Major’s sea chest of belongings), events begin to transpire which rapidly change the lives of the characters. This leads to major life choice decisions emerging on a fairly regular basis. Both Charles and Sophie find themselves in positions they never expected to hold, with their hearts pulled in multiple directions simultaneously.

In the latter portion of the novel, a feeling of uncertainly and subterfuge begins to emerge. Questionable details in the lives and manners of particular characters lead the narrative into an area of intrigue that I did not expect. The story builds to an exciting climatic scene at sea that was positively riveting. Captain Wyvern at the helm made for very compelling reading, and a quiet scene after that perilous episode truly brought tears to my eyes.

Erica Vetsch has produced a fine trio of family-friendly novels in her Serendipity & Secrets series. Not only in The Indebted Earl, but in all three titles she has brought to her readers compelling characters, exciting adventure and intrigue, as well as sweet romance. While these works do have Christian themes that emerge from time to time, discussions of faith are not heavy-handed and involve issues that believers face on a regular basis. Many of us sometimes find ourselves in challenging situations, wondering what God must be up to in our crazy lives. We face murky seas in life, and we ask God for direction, for a heading on our journey. We laugh, we fall in love, but we also face unexpected storms that can test our faith but also prove our mettle. Charles and Sophia are on a similar journey in The Indebted Earl, and it was a pleasure to follow along that odyssey with them. Congratulations to Erica Vetsch, and I am pleased to recommend this series to anyone.








As a part of the release of The Indebted Earl and accompanying blog tour, readers can enter to win a Kindle Fire HD 8! All you have to do to enter is to fill out your name and email address in the widget below, but there are lots of ways to earn BONUS entries. It's completely up to you how many you want to do. You can even do a daily Tweet!








About the Author

Erica Vetsch is a New York Times best-selling and ACFW Carol Award–winning author. She is a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota with her husband, who she claims is both her total opposite and soul mate.   

Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks. A self-described history geek, she has been planning her first research trip to England.

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Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Book Review & Giveaway: The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen by Shannon Winslow

What if the tale Jane Austen told in her last, most poignant novel was actually inspired by momentous events in her own life? Did she in fact intend Persuasion to stand forever in homage to her one true love?

While creating Persuasion, Jane Austen also kept a private journal in which she recorded the story behind the story - her real-life romance with a navy captain of her own. The parallel could only go so far, however. As author of her characters' lives, but not her own, Jane Austen made sure to fashion a second chance and happy ending for Anne and Captain Wentworth. Then, with her novel complete and her health failing, Jane prepared her simple will and resigned herself to never seeing the love of her life again. Yet fate, it seems, wasn't quite finished with her. Nor was Captain Devereaux.

The official record says Jane Austen died at 41, having never been married. But what if that's only what she wanted people to believe? It's time she, through her own private journal, revealed the rest of her story.




Like many Janeites, Pride and Prejudice is my favorite of Jane Austen’s main writings. However, coming in a close second is her posthumously-published Persuasion. The tale of unrequited love, finally resolved after many years has captured my attention for quite some time. In my opinion, Captain Wentworth’s letter to Anne Elliot is by far the best literary epistle in the English language. When author Shannon Winslow published The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen almost seven years ago, I added it to my TBR list, but was not able to read it until recently. Even so, it was read in small installments, as I am also in graduate school with other reading assignments. However, there were many nights when I would enjoy a chapter of this title before bed, or I’d listen to a few minutes of the audiobook version while driving around town.

Although it took me a while to read, that is not an indication of any lack of interest. In fact, as I neared the end of the novel, I was ensconced in writing a term paper, unable to write this review just yet. I honestly didn’t want the story to end, it was so delightful. I dragged out its completion, both wanting my thoughts to be fresh for this critique, but also desiring to enjoy the book as long as possible.

I don’t want to offer any spoilers, but given the general premise of the novel, it’s a given that author Shannon Winslow has taken some literary license with the life of Jane Austen. However, she has done so in a way I truly didn’t expect. I suppose if I’d been paying closer attention to certain details when the book was first published, when it was being promoted online, I would have picked up a particular plot device. I’m glad that I did not— The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen was more of a treat than I had anticipated. Even up to the final chapters, Winslow kept me guessing as to the outcome of the story. The conclusion was satisfying and believable. 

I also appreciated Mrs. Winslow’s ability to write as a Christian author. She incorporates her faith into the narrative in a way that doesn’t feel forced. It’s more subtle, while still potent. The main characters are certainly in love and so exude that passion, but the story is written in a way that is appropriate for all audiences. I could recommend this title to anyone.

Shannon Winslow has given a fine gift to Janeites and lovers of Persuasion. I appreciated the manner in which she interwove the fictional source material into the novel, making Jane’s story very much Anne’s story too. Many fans of Miss Austen have often wished for a different ending to her life, and in The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen we are granted just such a wish. In my mind I’m going to pretend that it’s all true. Shannon Winslow has merely revealed it to us all to enjoy.



About the Author

Shannon Winslow claims she was minding her own business when an ordinary trip to Costco a dozen years ago changed her life. That was the day a copy of the ’95 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice fairly leapt off the shelf and into her oversized shopping cart. She has been hopelessly hooked on all things Jane Austen ever since, her obsession ultimately inspiring her to begin writing her own stories a la Austen.

Winslow's 2011 debut novel, The Darcys of Pemberley, quickly become a best seller, praised for its authentic Austen style and faithfulness to the original characters. Eight more novels and a Jane Austen Devotional have since followed, with no end to her creative output in sight! Her next novel, Fitzwilliam Darcy: In His Own Words is scheduled for publication in May 2021.

Her two sons now grown, Shannon lives with her husband in the log home they built in the countryside south of Seattle, where she writes and paints in her studio facing Mr. Rainier. Visit Shannon at her website/blog:  Shannon Winslow’s “Jane Austen Says…” and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.


GIVEAWAY!

Shannon has graciously offered a copy of The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen to one of our US readers! You may choose between a signed paperback or Kindle copy. The contest is open to those with a US mailing address. Please fill out the Rafflecopter widget below to be eligible to win. The only required element for entry is an email address so that we may contact you if you are the winner. Entries accepted until 12am EST on April 22, 2021. Best wishes to all the entrants!


a Rafflecopter giveaway





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Sunday, December 6, 2020

Book Excerpt: Gentleman Jim by Mimi Matthews

She Couldn't Forget...

Wealthy squire's daughter Margaret Honeywell was always meant to marry her neighbor, Frederick Burton-Smythe, but it's bastard-born Nicholas Seaton who has her heart. Raised alongside her on her father's estate, Nick is the rumored son of notorious highwayman Gentleman Jim. When Fred frames him for theft, Nick escapes into the night, vowing to find his legendary sire. But Nick never returns. A decade later, he's long been presumed dead.

He Wouldn't Forgive...

After years spent on the continent, John Beresford, Viscount St. Clare has finally come home to England. Tall, blond, and dangerous, he's on a mission to restore his family's honor. If he can mete out a bit of revenge along the way, so much the better. But he hasn't reckoned for Maggie Honeywell. She's bold and beautiful--and entirely convinced he's someone else.

As danger closes in, St. Clare is torn between love and vengeance. Will he sacrifice one to gain other? Or, with a little daring, will he find a way to have them both?



 
Welcome to the final stop of the Gentleman Jim blog tour! I'm thrilled to be offering an excerpt of this intriguing new novel by Mimi Matthews, available below. Prior to my post, three other blog stops featured passages from the novel. If you'd like to read them first, they can be found here:

  • Silver Petticoat Reviews  (Chapter Two, pp. 33-36)

  • My Jane Austen Book Club (Chapter Three, pp. 38-41)

  • Gwendalyn's Books (Chapter Three, pp. 47-50)

  • The entire tour featured dozens of other stops, with reviews and interviews as well. Here is the full listing, if you'd like to stop by them all!


    BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE: 

    Nov 09           Relz Reviewz (Character Spotlight)

    Nov 09           Life of Literature (Review)

    Nov 09           Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog (Review)

    Nov 10           Savvy Verse and Wit (Interview)

    Nov 10           Greenish Bookshelf (Review)

    Nov 11           Library of Clean Reads (Review)

    Nov 11           Silver Petticoat Reviews (Excerpt)

    Nov 12           Bookworm Lisa (Review)

    Nov 12           Heidi Reads (Review)

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    Exclusive Book Excerpt from Gentleman Jim (Chapter Four, pp. 56-59)


        Maggie’s smile faded. “Gossip? What gossip?”

        Jane’s eyes narrowed at her brother. “Yes, George. Exactly what are you talking about?”

        “That’s the very thing I’ve come to tell you. I was out riding this morning in the park. I’ve bought a new gelding, Miss Honeywell. A prime goer. Not unlike that blood chestnut you had back when—” He broke off at a stern look from his sister. “Yes. Quite. As I was saying, I was out in the park this morning. All the fellows were talking about it. It’s not quite the thing to speak about in front of ladies, but I daresay Jane has already told you—”

        “Yes, yes. She knows about the duel.” Jane waved him on with an impatient hand. “What did you hear?”

        Maggie leaned forward in her chair, her attention fixed on Jane’s brother. St. Clare had promised not to hurt Fred. And he’d given her no reason to doubt his word. It had all seemed to be settled.

        “A lot of the gents in the park were present at the duel,” George went on between bites of his plum cake. “I wish I’d been! There’s not many who’ve seen St. Clare shoot, excepting Lord Vickers and Lord Mattingly. They traveled a bit with him on his grand tour, you know, and they said he was as deadly as all the rest of the Beresfords. Not that St. Clare’s reputation meant a thing to Burton-Smythe. But then, as I told Vickers, Burton-Smythe’s so full of self-importance that it would never even occur to him that any man could best him.”

        “Oh, go on!” Jane demanded.

        “Well, the short of it is, the handkerchief was dropped and Burton-Smythe fired. His shot went a touch wide. Nearly singed the viscount’s sleeve, I heard. And St. Clare didn’t even flinch! Just stood there and without batting an eye, fired a bullet straight through Burton-Smythe’s shoulder.”

        Maggie’s mouth fell open. “St. Clare shot Fred?”

        “To be sure, he did, but that’s not even the best part.” George’s eyes were bright with excitement as he entered into the spirit of the tale. “Burton-Smythe was lying on the ground with the surgeon kneeling over him, and St. Clare walks up to him as cool as you please and says, ‘Let this be a lesson to you, my good man. If you’re going to act the brutish country squire, best stay in the country.’ And then he leapt into his curricle and drove off.” George laughed appreciatively. “If that don’t beat all!”

        Maggie felt a sickening flicker of dread in her stomach. One didn’t have to be killed outright in order to die from a gunshot wound. Why, if Fred’s shoulder festered, he could expire within the week! And then what was she to do? “Where is Fred now? Is he all right? Oh, Jane… Do you suppose I should go to him?”

        “I say, Miss Honeywell, don’t put yourself into a taking,” George said. “Burton-Smythe is holed up at his lodgings. He’s not hurt too badly—the bullet went clean through—but I hear he’s in as foul a mood as anyone ever saw him. You’d be wise to leave him be for a while.” George cleared his throat, giving an uncomfortable tug at his cravat. “Besides that, there’s some who already think you have an agreement of some sort with Burton-Smythe—”

        “Indeed, I do not!” Maggie objected.

        “—and if you arrive at his lodgings to nurse him through his injury you may as well put a notice of your betrothal in the paper.”

        “Is that the subject of the gossip you mentioned?” Jane asked. “Well, is it?”

        George groaned. “You know how things are. It’ll begin with a few old tabbies stopping Miss Honeywell in Bond Street to ask after Burton-Smythe’s health and end with all of the ton saying that the duel was fought over her honor.” He shook his head in disgust. “Some of the fellows are already talking. Wouldn’t you know it, that infernal gabster Beauchamp was at the duel, and by the time I arrived at the park, he was already there, telling the other gents how Burton-Smythe and St. Clare had looked as if they hated each other, and how he’d give a monkey to know what the duel had really been about. ‘No doubt it’s a woman,’ he says. What a heap of rubbish. Everyone knows they fell out over a game of cards.”



    About the Author


    USA Today
    bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a retired Andalusian dressage horse, a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats. Her next romance, The Siren of Sussex, will be out in 2022 from Berkley/Penguin Random House.









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