J is for

, via Wikimedia Commons”]Jane.

Austen that is.  Books, movie adaptations of books, continuing stories, brilliant quotes from a woman who did what so many of us strive to do and did it brilliantly.  She wrote.  Some might say she did what so many teachers advocate.  She wrote what she knew.

She wrote of gentlemen–country gentlemen with large and small incomes.  She wrote of family and of ladies who were called such by society and those who were ladies by means of the manner in which they expressed themselves and in how they behaved.  In the words of Marianne Dashwood, a young woman so very different from her sister in every respect, “No. I compare it with what it ought to have been; I compare it with yours.”

She knew the right thing to do and did not do it. (James 4:17)  She allowed her feelings to dictate her actions and as a result, she was injured emotionally, spiritually, and even physically.  She had the same upbringing–lived in the same situation of life.  Miss Austen was a master of showing that situation does not, in and of itself, create character.

In Emma Woodhouse, the same kind of pride that blinded Darcy to his own arrogance and ill manners blinded her to her own prejudice.  It seems a recurring theme in Austen’s books– perhaps because then, as it is now, pride and prejudice both are recurring themes in life.

I remember the first time I saw the A&E version of Pride and Prejudice.  Every bit of it seemed so very familiar.  I pulled out the book and was astonished at how closely so many of the scenes were recreated in regards to dialogue.  It makes me wonder if Miss Austen was a pioneer in more than as a female novelist in a predominantly male world of authors.  No, she wasn’t THE pioneer, but along with a few others, she seemed to reach the kind of popularity essential for appealing to a broad range of people.  Her witty dialogue and engaging characters seem to reach beyond Regency England.  How many times have you met someone and thought, “Oh, she is such a Mary Musgrove” or “I wonder if anyone has ever told her that she is so like Fanny Price.”

Who is your favorite Austen character?  Which is your favorite book?  Do you have a favorite movie adaptation or a favorite book continuation/adaptation?  Oh, and if you don’t… I recommend considering Mr. Knightley, Pride and Prejudice, either adaptation of Persuasion, and any book by Barbara Cornthwaite or Laura Hile.

To see what other bloggers are doing this month, check out the HUGE list of bloggers HERE!

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Book Review: Mercy’s Embrace Series

Books:  Mercy’s Embrace– So Rough a Course, So Lively a Chase, The Lady Must Decide

Author: Laura Hile

Did Austen write a more disliked family than the Elliots of Kellynch?  I don’t think so.  Perhaps some would disagree, but I cannot fathom how.  Between their pride, arrogance, self-absorbed obsession with wealth and appearance, “every feeling revolts!”  So, when I saw Laura Hile’s book about Elizabeth Elliot, I wondered why she’d bothered.  Who cares about Elizabeth Elliot?  “I wouldn’t care if she were alive or dead only that she was Anne’s sister.”  (loosely paraphrased quote by Mr. E from Emma.  My apologies Miss Austen.)  However, when I read the publisher’s synopsis, I confess I was a little intrigued.   This is what I read.

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Twenty-nine winters’ revolving frosts…
have brought no change
to Miss Elliot’s matrimonial state.

Elizabeth Elliot is as beautiful as ever, yet no gentleman of proper stature has requested her hand. Lady Russell claims she is too particular, but Elizabeth begs to differ. She is not about to settle for a gentleman of no distinction like her sister Mary. Nor will she follow her heart and marry a commoner with no title but Captain—that was Anne’s mistake. As for romance and the tender stirrings of the heart, why, only a simpleton would fall prey to such foolishness!

But when the proud Miss Elliot encounters a pair of smiling Irish eyes in a most unsuitable man of vulgar connections, she is tempted to change her opinion. Almost.

Jane Austen’s beloved Persuasion provides the backdrop for this first in a series of delightful romps set in Regency England.

After that, who could resist at least giving the book a small chance?  Well, I’m here with fork in hand and chewing my fried crow.  I was hooked long before the end of the first chapter.  Ms. Hile has a delightful ability to keep you in Regency England while showing that human nature is still human nature, regardless of century, and therefore, make the reader nod when people behave in stunningly familiar ways.  When I started reading, I was afraid she’d make Elizabeth highly reformed.  I had horrible visions of her serving as a missionary to street urchins or marrying a day laborer much to the shock of her family and friends.  Thankfully, Ms. Hile has some common sense and a feeling for the proportion of things.  She did not change Elizabeth Elliot’s character at all.  In fact, because this story is centered around Elizabeth, you really do see her faults in glaring clarity in a way that the original story couldn’t have tried to do.

So, why do I like books about such an unsympathetic character?  Well, because that’s the best part of these books– she becomes sympathetic slowly but surely.  She doesn’t become another Anne or a Fanny Price or anything, but you see more depth of her character, and the character of Patrick Gill helps show sides of her personality that she’s never had a chance to develop.  The Elizabeth Elliot that you meet in the first book is precisely the one you knew and disliked from Persuasion, and is still the same person at the end of the third book, but with new facets of her personality revealed in a way that makes you like her even while disliking her.  She grows, matures, and has a new appeal, but she is still Elizabeth Elliot– Anne’s obnoxious and haughty sister.  You finish the third book with the feeling that she might even grow a bit more of a heart given time.

So many Regency era books are difficult to lose yourself in, because of the particular style of writing.  As much as I love Austen, I am rarely caught away in the story so much that I have a hard time coming back to reality.  I just enjoy the literary fun and never think much about the style.  However, Laura Hile, as did Barbara Cornthwaite in her book, managed to maintain that Regency style and feeling while still managing to transport me from the present into the past.  That takes some skillful writing.  These Crown Hill Writers Guild authors do not disappoint!

One of the most delightful things about the book was seeing other Austen characters appear in the story.  Mr. Rushworth makes a grand showing as only he can.  His mother… oh dear, his mother.  Caroline Bingley is, of course, her normal obnoxious self.  It’s a delight to read and hate her at will.  I’ve always said that this is why I love fiction– it is not a sin to hate someone who doesn’t exist!  🙂

The end of the third book is one of the most brilliantly written things I’ve ever read.  Ms. Hile does a fabulous job of wrapping up the story with a satisfying ending, while still making you eager for more.  If she never wrote another volume, you’d not be left feeling like too much was left untied.  However, she does leave enough open to make the reader wonder if she might just favor us with a fourth book.

I highly recommend this series.  If you are a fan of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, you will not be disappointed.  Indeed, I do think even those who aren’t particularly drawn to that novel will like this series.  Don’t hesitate, dash over to Amazon or the AustenEmporium at Wytherngate Press and snag your copies today.

Now, Ms. Hile has graciously offered to give an entire set of the Mercy’s Embrace books to one of my blog readers!  So, please leave a comment and tell me what Jane Austen character you would want to read more about in the future.

Book Review: George Knightley, Esquire– Charity Envieth Not

Title: George Knightley, Esquire

Subtitle: Charity Envieth Not

Author: Barbara Cornthwaite

Publisher’s Synopsis: George Knightley is the owner of a considerable estate, a landlord, a magistrate, and a bachelor-a state that his brother John is perpetually prodding him to change. Thankfully, there is no one remotely suitable in his entire circle of acquaintance…or so he thinks. An unwanted interloper, a few romantic mishaps amongst his friends, and the dawning realization that Emma Woodhouse is no longer a child might just change everything.

In the tradition of fellow Crownhill Writers Pamela Aidan (Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman) and Susan Kaye (Fredrick Wentworth, Captain), Barbara Cornthwaite has written a retelling of one of Jane Austen’s novels from the hero’s point of view. Carefully researched and skillfully written, George Knightley, Esquire tells the other side of Emma’s story.

I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to have the privilege of reviewing this book for Barbara Cornthwaite.  An expert writer with the ability to write flawlesly in the style of Regency era authors, Barbara has taken Jane Austen’s Emma and written the story from a new perspective– that of George Knightley.  One of the most beloved of Austen’s heroes, the esteemed Mr. Knightley is best described in Emma’s words to Harriet when discussing the qualities of underappreciated Mr. Martin, “You might not see one in a hundred with gentleman so plainly written as in Mr. Knightley.”  While Emma may have been wrong about the poor farmer, her recognition of Mr. Knightley’s excellent character and manners is spot on.

This book is the first of Barbara’s expansion of the beloved story of Emma Woodhouse.  All of my favorite characters are faithfully rendered while giving me a bit of insight from other points of view, primarily Mr. Knightley’s.  Minor characters come to the forefront and I became caught up in their lives as well.  I didn’t read a single line that said, “Wait, that wouldn’t have happened!” Which, in my opinion, is quite impressive.  The author gave me a glimpse of Emma from her perspective without removing Austen’s .  That seems to me to be a very difficult thing to achieve.

If you’ve read any of my reviews, you know that I am very nit-picky, but I truly only have one complaint about this book.  I’m very sorry to say that with all of its perfections, it has one very glaring flaw.  I feel badly for mentioning it, but I don’t think it would be an honest review without telling my major (and one) disappointment.  The book ends before the story does– and book two isn’t written yet!  This is appalling, and I think the author needs to rectify the situation forthwith!

Truly, if you are an Austenophile, buy the book.  Do not go past the checkbook, do not look and see that it only has $200.00.  Just buy it, wrap it for yourself, and enjoy on Christmas morning.  I would tell you not to wait until then to dive into its wonderful depths, but the longer you put off reading it, the shorter the wait for the next book.  Make sure you have plenty of hot chocolate, ‘biscuits’, and of course, strawberries.

As my own promotion of this book, I am giving away a single copy.  It will be purchased online and shipped directly to the winner’s door.  If I can get the author to do it, I will ask her to autograph a bookplate and mail it to you, but I can’t make promises (She’s in Ireland so it isn’t something I can guarantee).

Just leave a comment and tell me who your favorite Austen character is and why.  You can enter multiple times, but then you have to find other things to tell me about what you like about Emma… maybe who you hope is in it, who you hope isn’t, or something of that sort.  I will draw names on New Year’s Eve and announce New Year’s Day.