Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Win a Book! Definitely Not Mr. Darcy - Karen Doornebos

The Author of Definitely Not Mr. Darcy, Karen Doornebos, is my lovely guest today and she 
raises the Question: Is There An American Equivalent to the English Mr. Darcy?

 Comment below and share on Facebook or twitter for a chance to win a signed copy, two teabags, and two coasters that ask the rhetorical question, “Coffee? Tea? Or Mr. Darcy?”

Jane, thank you for hosting me here as I celebrate the launch of my debut novel, Definitely Not Mr. Darcy. I’m thrilled to be here, in virtual England with you!

Let me introduce myself as an American author that has been, since childhood, enamored of all things English, all the way from Winnie the Pooh and Alice in Wonderland to the latest incarnation of Dr. Who (or more accurately Downton Abbey). No surprise then, that I traveled to England to live and work, after graduating in (what else?) English Literature. That was some twenty years ago, yet the obsession (along with many others, I assure you) continues.

I’m not alone. Here in America there are thousands of members of the Jane Austen Society of North America, and plenty of card-carrying Jane Austen fans that partake of festivals, Jane Austen teas held at libraries, and consumers a-plenty to buy “I Love Mr. Darcy” mugs, t-shirts and tote bags galore.  

I have often wondered that Americans have fabulous, hunky film stars like George Clooney, Bradley Cooper, or Johnny Depp, but do we have a literary hero that comes close to Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy?

Hmmmm. Perhaps Rhett Butler of Gone With the Wind…but does Rhett or Jay Gatsby hold a tallow candle to Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy? I’m curious to know what the readers out there think, because frankly my dear, I’d choose Mr. Darcy in a heartbeat.

Thank you, Jane Austen, for providing us with him! Captain Wentworth, Colonel Brandon, and Mr. Tilney do come close to rivaling your Mr. Darcy, but not quite.

There is of course, Mr. Rochester, but wait a minute, he’s English too! And he doesn’t intentionally change for his heroine, as Mr. Darcy changes his behavior because of, and with a remote hope over winning over, Elizabeth. And, so, in one fell swoop, Mr. Rochester is bested by our Mr. Darcy.

I do blame some of the Mr. Darcy obsession on the fact that Pride and Prejudice has been, for decades now, on required school reading lists across the nation. At very impressionable ages, American girls are introduced to the natural charms of Mr. Darcy. He becomes, essentially, our first literary love. And the fact that he’s so wealthy just feeds into our Cinderella-marries-the-Prince fantasy that we Americans are spoon-fed from birth!

It’s no coincidence then, that my heroine in Definitely Not Mr. Darcy fell for Darcy at an early age. She owns the entire collection of “I Love Mr. Darcy, Captain Wentworth, Mr. Tilney” etc. coffee mugs, too.

I had a lot of fun with my American heroine, Chloe Parker, who really is more Austen-obsessed than I, and feels as if she were born two centuries too late. Chloe joins what she thinks is a documentary set in Jane Austen’s England…but soon discovers that she’s up to her stays in a reality dating show…competing to snare the “Mr. Darcy” of the show. The only problem is she can’t get two other men on the set off her mind!

Yes, there are three potential heroes in Definitely Not Mr. Darcy. But is one of them a real Mr. Darcy? I leave that for you to decide!

I enjoyed having a 21st-century American navigate (or not navigate!) the social intricacies of upper-crust 1812 English society. I also enjoyed the wish-fulfillment aspect of bringing my heroine’s fantasy to life—will her beloved Jane Austen’s England be everything she’d hoped? As the back of the book says:

This is no ordinary Regency romance. It’s reality.

Chloe Parker was born two centuries too late. A thirty-nine-yea-old divorced mother, she runs her own antique letterpress business, is a lifelong member of the Jane Austen Society, and gushes over everything Regency. But her business is failing, threatening her daughter’s future. What’s a lady to do?

Why, audition for Jane Austen-inpsired TV show set in England, of course.

What Chloe thinks is a documentary turns out to be a reality dating show set in 1812. Eight women are competing to snare Mr. Wrightman, the heir to a gorgeous estate—and a one-hundred-thousand-dollar prize. So Chloe tosses her bonnet into the ring, hoping to transform from stressed-out Midwestern mom to genteel American heiress and win the money. With no cell phones, indoor plumbing, or deodorant to be found, she must tighten her corset and flash some ankle to beat out women younger, more cutthroat, and less clumsy than herself. But the witty and dashing Mr. Wrightman proves to be a prize worth winning even if it means the gloves are off…

 You can learn more about Definitely Not Mr. Darcy at Karen's website become a fan of mine on Facebook or follow me on twitter @karendoornebos.

But in the meantime, I do have to ask:

Is there an American literary equivalent to the English Mr. Darcy? Leave a comment for your chance to win! Increase your chances by sharing this post on Facebook or twitter!

Huge congratulations and thank you, Karen for joining us today. I've enjoyed hearing all about your book, as I'm sure my readers have too. Don't forget to leave a comment to win a copy of the book. The competition will run until October 10th and the winner's name drawn from a hat to be announced on October 11th 2011.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends: Laura Boyle

As the Jane Austen Festival in Bath gets underway, I am delighted to welcome the lovely Laura Boyle who I've known for a number of years. When I heard she had a book out which combines both my love of Jane Austen and food, I had to investigate! The result is a scrumptious book (believe me, I have been tempted to devour the pages) and she very kindly agreed to stop by to tell us all about it. Over to you, Laura!

I have a love affair with cookbooks. Books in general, my family would say, but cookbooks in particular. I have cookbooks on my shelves that I’ve never even used, simply because the pictures were gorgeous and the dinners so nicely staged. Any trip to the bookstore will eventually find me with the cookbooks…and often walking out the door with one, convinced that I, too, can cook Cantonese in “only three easy steps” or that my family will love the meals that “whip together in minutes to simmer invitingly for hours” in my crockpot.

Naturally, when David Baldock, curator of the Jane Austen Centre in Bath asked me if I would be interested in turning their website’s regularly featured recipe collection into a cookbook that could be carried in the Centre’s shop, I was delighted. For over ten years, I’ve been researching period recipes each month for their online magazine feature, always searching for something that was popular during Jane Austen’s lifetime; something, perhaps, that the Austen’s themselves might have enjoyed. From this was born Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends.
Although I live in the United States, I’ve been working with the Centre almost from their opening, in the late 1990's. I have loved Jane Austen’s work ever since I first read Pride and Prejudice as a young teenager and since then I have greedily read all I could about Jane Austen, her life and the period in which she lived. This fascination has spilled over into my work, inspiring my company, Austentation: Regency Accessories, where I offer custom made hats, bonnets, reticules and gift baskets, along with other accessory items of the period. It has truly been a perfect match and I am grateful for the opportunities I have had and the wonderful people I have met along the way.

I well remember my first visit to Bath, about a year after I began working with the Centre. At the close of that visit I was given a vintage copy of The Jane Austen Household Book with Martha Lloyd’s Recipes by Peggy Hickman…a little volume I have turned to again and again over the years as I’ve tried to learn more about the foods the Austen’s ate and how they were prepared. This book is a collection of recipes that Martha Lloyd, a dear friend of the Austen’s (later in life she married Jane Austen’s brother, Francis), kept throughout her life. The recipes range from main dishes to soup, to puddings, to shoe blacking and ink (perhaps Jane’s own recipe?) Delightfully, Martha Lloyd also noted the names of the friends from whom she obtained the various recipes; names that are familiar from reading Jane Austen’s own letters.

In writing Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends I looked first to Jane Austen’s letters and novels in order to see what dishes she mentioned and then tried to find authentic Regency recipes for these dishes, in order to discover just what the food would have tasted like. Many of these recipes came from Martha Lloyd’s household book, suggesting that they were tried in the Austen’s own kitchen. Other recipes came from Maria Eliza Kettleby Rundell’s New System of Domestic Cookery (London, 1808) and Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (London, 1774) among others, titles which would have been household names among Regency wives and housekeepers.

The next decision was, “What type of cookbook to make?” There have been many Austen adapted cookbooks over the years. Cooking with Jane Austen shares history and recipes, while Jane Austen and Food provides innumerable accounts of what the Austen’s ate and why. The Jane Austen Cookbook is a modern take on Martha Lloyd’s household book, while Tea with the Bennets and Tea with Jane Austen provide countless recipes for treats and sweets as well as the history of tea as it relates to the Austen family. Why reinvent the wheel, so to speak?

We finally decided on an affordable, full color cookbook that would include period recipes along with modern equivalents, as well as historical tidbits and quotes from Jane Austen’s work showing why each dish was important. I was adamant that we would include a color photograph of each dish, something which had not previously been done. This meant that each recipe had to be converted into modern measurements (there were no standard cups and teaspoons at that time) cooking temperatures (a “quick” oven?) and times, as well as experimented with, prepared and photographed.

I started with the recipes themselves, hoping to have enough variety to allow the reader to host their own Regency inspired party. With that in mind, we also included information for the hostess on arranging and serving her own dinner party, card party or tea. After deciding on the recipes, they were sorted out by category: Breakfast, Dinner, Sweets and Beverages, and named for the character or person that the recipe seemed to suggest.

If on first reading, Jane Austen’s books seem to say little about food, her letters more than make up for this with a wealth of information about what she ate, what fruits were coming into season in the family garden and even what provisions cost in the various cities she visited. A closer look at the novels, however, proves that once again, Jane Austen never misplaces a word. The foods she mentions are purposeful, from Donwell Abbey’s strawberries (readers would recognize that the forward thinking Mr. Knightley had been busy improving his property…cultivation of this fruit was new to the Georgians) to Mr. Hurst’s Ragout (a “fashionable” French dish compared to Elizabeth Bennet’s plainer, sensible tastes).
Jane Austen even uses the food on the table to set her stage; recall “the milk, a mixture of motes floating in thin blue, and the bread and butter growing every minute more greasy” served in the Price household, versus the “cold meat, cake, and a variety of all the finest fruits in season…beautiful pyramids of grapes, nectarines, and peaches” served at Pemberley. One, in an instant, paints a picture of poverty stricken, slovenly housekeeping, while the other puts you in mind of a gracious table, laden with carefully cultivated fruits and a bountiful harvest.
Months of research resulted in weeks of cooking and testing and tasting. While the children were sleeping, I was cooking. Naptimes became an opportunity to try cookie and cake recipes. After bedtime, I would attempt more complex dishes, such as the meats and Broiled Eggs. My husband became my chief taster, ever ready to photograph my “newest” creation, working to get the lighting just right and the shadows just so.

There were disappointments, of course, but for the most part it was surprising just how straightforward and delicious the recipes turned out to be! My “modern” appliances made quick work of what was once a time consuming chore (one recipe suggested that you “whisk it up for a full hour”) taking the place of any number of kitchen maids. I have never used as much cream and butter as I did in creating these dishes, but the results were amazing!

There was so much satisfaction in creating a dish from scratch in this age of fast food and microwave dinners. The tastes created by these recipes, where layer upon layer of flavor blended to create creamy sauces and hearty gravies, were unbelievably delicious. It was strange, too, how cooking these recipes, over 200 years after they were written, seemed to bring me into a closer connection with not only Jane Austen and Martha Lloyd, but with my own grandmothers and great grandmothers, centuries of women who prepared food for their families using recipes passed on to them by prior generations.

Most of these recipes were unlike anything I had ever prepared before, but thankfully, Hannah Glasse and her “sisters” were at my side. Women who wrote to “the ignorant and unlearned” in such a way that in but a few lines they could convey an entire dish from start to finish. It is my hope that in reading and cooking from Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends others too will enjoy not only the sights, smells and tastes of the Regency, but that they will come away with a better appreciation of Jane Austen’s works, as well as a renewed kinship with those generations of old, from Eve on, who have worked to provide nourishment for both body and soul to those they hold most dear.

Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen's life. She is the proprietor of Austentation: Regency Accessories, creating custom hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe. Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends is her first foray into the world of print publication. Laura's greatest joy is the time she is able to spend in her home with her family (1 amazing husband, 3 adorable children, a red fish and a strange dog).

Thank you, Laura, I wish you every success with your book!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Juliet Archer: Celebrating the launch of her new book, Persuade Me.

I'm delighted to welcome Juliet Archer to the blog today! Juliet is the author of a new book, Persuade Me, which is her second book in the series, Darcy and Friends. I am looking forward very much to reading this book as I so enjoyed her first, The Importance of being Emma. Over to you, Juliet!

DARCY & FRIENDS by Juliet Archer

I’m thrilled to be doing this guest blog – so thank you, Jane, for inviting me and ‘hi’ to everyone out there! I’m here to celebrate the launch of my new book, Persuade Me, and will be meeting up with Jane later this week to celebrate in person – with wine (I’m so looking forward to that!).

First, let’s get one thing straight: I don’t write Regency. Instead, I’m on a mission to modernise all six of Austen’s completed novels. I’m two down – Emma and Persuasion – with four to go, in a series entitled ‘Darcy & Friends’.

You see, it is a truth universally acknowledged that Darcy is the best loved of all Austen’s heroes. A series called ‘Ferrars & Friends’ or ‘Bertram & Buddies’ would be less than enticing! But it’s one thing to decide on a name, and quite another to make it fit the series it’s describing.

When I was writing Persuade Me, however, I discovered a strong link between Wentworth and Darcy: both are resentful types if wronged. Wentworth can’t forgive or forget Anne Elliot, while Darcy bears a bitter grudge against Wickham, because of first Georgiana and then Lizzy. What if they met shortly after the earlier incidents, and Darcy found he could relate to Wentworth on precisely this point? Here’s Persuade Me’s Foreword by Will Darcy:

A magazine headline, circled in black ink: ‘Never forgive, never forget’. You can tell a lot from what’s on a person’s desk …
Some years ago, just before I met Elizabeth, I took my sister Georgie to Australia for a much-needed holiday. She was going through a particularly difficult time; so, when she showed a spark of her previous passion for saving the planet, I encouraged it in every possible way.
During a brief visit to Melbourne I discovered that there was an expert in marine conservation based at one of the local universities, a Dr Rick Wentworth. I sent him an email, using the pretext of possible interest from the Pemberley Foundation in his Save the Sea Dragons campaign – although I usually avoid the ‘grand benefactor’ act at all costs. When I received a terse and somewhat begrudging invitation to meet in his office, I immediately pictured an old, cross, bespectacled nerd.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. He turned out to be young, charming and, judging from Georgie’s sharp intake of breath, very easy on the female eye. And he was English, with a northern accent that had apparently resisted all attempts at Australianisation.
He even apologised for the tone of his invitation. He told us that, with his work attracting more and more media attention, he’d become wary of requests like mine. This led to a brief discussion about the drawbacks of being a modern celebrity, especially a reluctant one.
As we talked, I realised that he was meticulous about his research – and not just on sea dragons. I’d given him no indication of my sister’s troubles and had taken the necessary steps to gag the press, although inevitably some details had leaked out. Yet I sensed he knew – and understood – what she’d been through …
So I watched in genuine admiration as he drew Georgie out of her dark shell into the wider world, if only for an hour. He held us both spellbound with stirring tales of battles against natural elements and man-made disasters, often in the form of short-sighted bureaucracy, and showed us stunning footage of the fragile creatures he was fighting to protect. Of the man himself I learned very little – until we got up to leave.
At this point he scrawled his personal email address on a piece of paper and handed it to a blushing Georgie, urging her to get in touch with any questions. That in itself made me warm to him and decide on a generous donation from the Foundation for his campaign – an unusual instance of my heart ruling my head. 
But the piece of paper had been hiding something on his desk, a magazine article with a big bold headline. A headline that obviously had a greater significance because he’d drawn a brutal black ring round it: ‘Never forgive, never forget.’
They were words I could relate to completely. Except that I was thinking of the man who’d broken my sister’s heart, whereas he – as I discovered much later into our friendship – was thinking of the girl who’d broken his.
Although neither of us knew it then, their paths would cross when he wrote a book and, despite some misgivings, visited England to promote it.
This is their story …

Next I turned to The Importance of Being Emma, which had been published at the end of 2008. What did Darcy have in common with Knightley? Well, I’d already taken on board Austen’s hint that the relationship between Emma and Knightley was for a long time one of ‘brother and sister’. While this was based on her sister being married to his brother, it also became the rationale for Emma to suppress any romantic feelings she has for Knightley throughout most of the book.

My version starts with a scene between Emma and Knightley some years earlier, where he finds out that she has a teenage crush on him and he completes her humiliation by telling her that he thinks of her as a little sister. Ouch! Therefore, in the reprint of The Importance of Being Emma (see below for the beautiful new cover) there’s another Foreword by Will Darcy, concluding with a description of the connection he felt with Knightley: Little did I know that Georgie, fifteen years old at the time, was harbouring a teenage crush of her own – one that would have far-reaching effects. While the little incident between Mark and Emma had caused a rift that he only discovered years later.

I have no idea whether Jane Austen ever linked her heroes in this way. To me, these connections are yet another example of the sheer complexity of her books. As well as being beautiful studies of how young men and women learn to love, they are a reference point for human nature in all its richness and diversity.

So what’s next in the ‘Darcy & Friends’ series? To quote the title of a wonderful book penned by my hostess, that is Mr Darcy’s Secret!

Juliet, thank you so much for being my wonderful guest today. I'm looking forward to seeing you very soon to celebrate the launch!
You can find Juliet on twitter and Facebook. If you're in Bath at the end of this week you can also meet Juliet:

 16th September, 2011 4.00-5.00pm - Mystery Walking Tour of Jane Austen’s Bath - start/end at Waterstone’s, Milsom St

17th September, 2011 1.30-4.30pm - Jane Austen Festival, Bath - book signing at Country Fayre, Guildhall and afterwards at private reception for the Festival Friends

18th September, 2011 2.00-3.00pm - Mystery Walking Tour of Jane Austen’s Bath - start/end at Waterstone’s, Milsom St 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sue Wilkes celebrates the launch of a new book: The Children History Forgot

I'm delighted to welcome Sue Wilkes to my blog this morning! Sue has a new book out entitled The Children History Forgot, to add to the other wonderful collection of non-fiction history books she has penned.

From the publisher, Robert Hale
Once upon a time, Britain forged a mighty industrial empire - built with the blood, sweat and tears of society's most vulnerable members. Children History Forgot explores young people's working lives during the late Georgian and Victorian eras, when boys and girls created almost every item in our ancestors' homes: bricks, glass, cutlery, candles, lace, cotton and more. All over Britain, from the coal mines of Wales to the flax mills of Ireland, children toiled in factories and workshops, underground and on the land. A chosen few like Samuel Slater began new lives in America but thousands of others have been forgotten by history: killed by unguarded machinery or poisoned by metal or pottery dust. Many were conscript workers: pauper apprentices trapped by their poverty. Sue Wilkes tells the story of the long, heartbreaking fight for reform. The story of men like Lord Shaftesbury, Richard Oastler and the tireless factory inspectors who battled, not only to improve youngsters' working conditions and opportunities for education, but also to change society's attitudes towards childhood. Children History Forgot takes a fresh look at the true cost of Britain's industrial success story.
Holywell Mill, North Wales

Sue is a regular writer for Jane Austen's Regency World Magazine. Here is what she says about poor children in Jane Austen's period.

Jane Austen enjoyed a privileged childhood compared with that of many poor children. She was taught to read and write, and went to school with her sister Cassandra. The Austen family were not entirely free from the pressures of having to earn a living, as Jane's father George Austen had only a limited income. Jane's aunt Philadelphia was apprenticed to a milliner in her teenage years, and Jane's brothers entered the Navy and clergy (except for Edward, who was adopted by the wealthy Knight family).
But while Jane learned 'the usual female accomplishments' at home and school, all over Britain, the children of the poor began work at an early age. They helped their parents in workshops or on the land. Pauper children were apprenticed by parish overseers into many different trades, and domestic service. When the first cotton factories were built, like this mill at Holywell in North Wales, pauper children were apprenticed miles from home to the mill owners. Thirteen hour shifts were not uncommon. The work these 'apprentices' learned was easy to learn, and did not equip them to earn their own living when they grew up.

Thank you Sue, I am so looking forward to reading this book which I'm sure will be as fabulous as the others!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Jane Austen Made Me Do It - New Website!

I think I may have mentioned how proud I am to be a part of this fantastic collection of short stories, but if that wasn't enough, now I am thrilled to tell you about a new website which is up and running to celebrate all things about this new book.

Laurel Ann Nattress, the wonderful editor of the book writes about the chance to win a book:

Jane Austen Made Me Do It officially releases on Tuesday, October 11, 2011 – which is over a month away. I hope that you are as anxious to read it as I am to hear your reactions. If you want to be one of the first to peruse the pages of this new anthology, you could be one of the lucky Janeites to own a copy before publication. In celebration of the website’s official reveal, we are offering you the chance to win one of four advance reading copies. Just check out the details to qualify for a chance. Good luck, and thanks for sharing with me in my excitement of the publication of my new book.

Do have a look on the website for news about how you can win a book, read all about the authors and their stories, and who won the competition to have their short story included in the book! 

I can't wait to see my story amongst all those written by fabulous authors.
“Waiting: A story inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion,” by Jane Odiwe

Captain Wentworth and his beloved Anne Elliot have waited almost nine years to be together. At last all misunderstandings are swept aside. They have declared their love for one another, and all that remains is for their union to be blessed by Anne’s father, the irascible Sir Walter Elliot, and for the family members to be told. As Anne and Frederick ponder their futures each is reminded of the past, and all that has happened...