Blog Tour: “A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice” ~ Guest Essay by Jasmine A. Stirling and Book Giveaway! Part II

Dear Readers: Yesterday I posted a book review of A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice, by Jasmine A. Stirling; illustrated by Vesper Stamper. Today, I welcome Jasmine with her guest essay on Jane Austen. Please see below for the book giveaway guidelines.

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How Jane Austen revolutionized the way the world viewed women

by Jasmine A. Stirling

Author of A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice

Readers looking for a little escapism might pick up a Jane Austen novel in search of light romantic comedy, not realizing how iconoclastic the beloved author’s books truly were. 

This is in fact, by design. First of all, Austen’s work is above all, great art. It’s manifold purposes are intentionally disguised in delightfully fun and witty prose, designed to propel us through the story and entertain while also educating readers. 

Secondly, Austen was writing at a time when women’s roles were strictly circumscribed. She knew that any overt critique of the patriarchal culture in which she and her characters lived would likely prevent her from being published, reviewed, and/or widely read. The trick was never to be too explicit about anything, so as not to alert the powers that be (wealthy men) that she might be poking holes in the system from which they derived their many privileges. Austen found a way to do just that in her novels—without transgressing the bounds of decorum, of good taste, of sound judgment, and equanimity. 

But Austen’s critiques are there, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Let’s explore how Austen’s six beloved novels revolutionized the way the world viewed women.

Jane Austen’s heroines challenged the prevailing notion of the ideal woman as decorative, passive, emotional, and morally perfect.

When reading Austen, it is important to keep in mind that the ideal Regency lady was about as different from Lizzie Bennet as you can imagine. As one author wrote of the Regency ideal:

“The feminine ideal . . . may best be defined as an interesting compound of moral perfection and intellectual deficiency . . . She was required to be before all things a “womanly woman” meek, timid, trustful, clinging, yielding, unselfish, helpless and dependent, robust in neither body nor mind, but rather “fine by defect and amiably weak.” [She has not] laid aside the poetry of languor and the seductive debility that invested her with the allurement of a convalescent flower.”

Or, as Scottish moralist John Gregory instructed his daughters in the 1770s: “Wit is the most dangerous talent you can possess . . . if you happen to have any learning, keep it a profound secret, especially from the men.”

In addition to being morally perfect and intellectually deficient, the ideal Regency bride was very young, and came with a large fortune—which her husband would take possession of immediately after the wedding.

It is not surprising, then, that in this time period (as in our own), female characters—written overwhelmingly by male authors—were often portrayed in one dimension.  After all, as Anne Elliot wryly observed, “The pen has been in their hands.” In most novels and plays, women were caricatures: morally loose and wicked; virginal, demure, and sweet; saintly and motherly; scheming and power-hungry.

Not so Jane Austen’s heroines. Seen in this light, Lizzy Bennet is not only an incredibly charming, lovable leading lady filled with quirks and flaws; she is downright subversive. “When Austen allows Elizabeth to express critical attitudes,” scholar Judith Lowder Newton writes, “to act upon them without penalty, when she endows Elizabeth with the power to alter her lot, Austen is moving against traditional notions of feminine behavior and feminine fate.”

In fact, in one way or another, all of Austen’s heroines buck gender norms or fall far short of the Regency ideal. Yet are all rewarded handsomely at the end—with love and riches. Lizzy is cheeky and opinionated, Emma is insensitive and meddlesome. Elinor and Marianne are frightfully poor, while Fanny is both poor and low-born. Catherine is obsessed with novels, and Anne Elliot is old and no longer pretty. Most of Austen’s heroines (Emma being an exception) are intellectual and well-read.

Furthermore, it is taken absolutely for granted by Austen that each of her heroines is, or can become, able to make her own life decisions—without any reference to men, her parents, or her social betters. This alone is a radical assumption, coming from a culture in which gender, family honor, and class dictated nearly everything a woman was permitted to say, do, and think.

But Austen didn’t stop there. She also used humor to challenge notions of ideal femininity. In Mansfield Park, Lady Bertram is so passive that she is unable to rise from the sofa, let alone form her own thoughts. Entertaining, frivolous characters like Lydia Bennet and Mary Crawford are viciously satirized. Traditional Georgian accomplishments such as “netting a purse” are ridiculed. Furthermore, Austen’s most desirable male suitors have no interest in the ideal Regency woman. Mr. Darcy, for example, requires that his mate possess “the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”

In fact, I am hard pressed to point to heroines in today’s novels, films and TV shows that shine quite as brightly or depict women quite as realistically as Jane Austen’s did more than 200 years ago. 

By raising up complicated, unique, bright, obstinate, and flawed women, then showing us their struggles and journeys of transformation, and finally rewarding them with love and happiness, Jane Austen obliterated unrealistic (and frankly, disturbing) notions of perfect, monolithic femininity, forever upending the way the world viewed women.

Jane Austen’s heroines helped readers experience first-hand the shockingly precarious and brutally inhumane status of women in Regency England.

CE Brock – S&S, 1908

During the Regency period, marriage required a woman to give up everything to her husband—her money, her freedom, her body, and her legal existence. Husbands were legally permitted to beat their wives, rape them, imprison them, and take their children away without their consent. 

Divorce in the Regency era could only be achieved by a private act of Parliament, and was exceedingly rare. Lower classes could sell their wives in the marketplace, which functioned as a form of divorce. The woman was led to market with a halter tied around her neck and sold to the highest bidder.

The laws of primogeniture and entailed property dictated that, upon his death, the bulk of a man’s inheritance typically be handed down to his eldest son or closest living male relative. If a woman inherited anything after her husband died, it was arranged at the time of the marriage and based on the assets she brought to the union. Often she got little or nothing at all.

Opting out of marriage was not a viable option for most women. Because most people believed that females were vastly intellectually inferior to males, there were no universities for women, and nearly all professions were reserved exclusively for men. A spinster often faced a life of poverty, ridicule, and dependence on the charity of her male relatives.  

As a result, for Austen, “a story about love and marriage wasn’t ever a light and frothy confection.” Hidden in all that effervescent prose are subtle but seething critiques of Regency society, laws, and gender norms. Austen used romantic comedy to expose the incredibly high stakes of the marriage game for women who had no other options. She helped readers see the precariousness, anxiety and vulnerability of real women—showing the brutality of their situation more poignantly, entertainingly, and intimately than any political treatise could have achieved.

In Sense and Sensibility, we feel the injustice of inheritance laws when Henry Dashwood dies and his wife and children are forced to leave their home and live at the mercy of the heir, Mrs. Dashwood’s stepson, John. John chooses to give them little help, and overnight, Mrs. Dashwood goes from living in splendor to barely scraping by.

In Pride and Prejudice, the key context for the story is that the Bennet family home, Longborne, is entailed to the insufferable Mr. Collins. If his daughters do not marry before their father dies, they will be left to depend on the charity of their male relatives (a situation Austen knew well, as it was hers after her father died).

Although Austen’s heroines find both love and riches, unhappy and loveless marriages far outnumber happy ones in her novels. Wickham is bribed into marrying Lydia; she will have to endure a lifetime of his womanizing ways. Willoughby rejects Marianne, opting for Miss Grey’s £50,000. Charlotte Lucas, twenty-seven years old and superior in character, temperament, and intellect, to the pompous and revolting Mr. Collins, accepts his offer of marriage because “it was the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune,” thereby relieving her brothers of the burden of providing for her as an old maid. In fact, Charlotte “felt all the good luck of it.”

In these and many other examples, the reality of women’s narrow options, their shocking lack of personal freedom, and their extreme financial vulnerability ring loud and clear. For the first time in history, Austen’s novels humanized and personalized women’s issues in a revolutionary way, adding fuel to the fire for radical new ideas that were just beginning to circulate about women’s rights, education, and opportunities.

Chris Hammond, P&P, Blackie 1904


Jane Austen championed the radical idea of the ideal marriage as a match between two rational and emotional equals.

While the bleak fates of many of Austen’s female characters illustrate the limited options facing women in the Regency era, happy endings await her heroines. These happy endings also challenged mainstream Regency notions of marriage, which typically looked very unlike that of Lizzie Bennet and Mr. Darcy.  

A middle or upper class Regency marriage was often a male-dominated exchange, dictated by two families coming together to consolidate their fortunes. When she married, a woman passed from the control of her father to that of her husband. She might have the opportunity to reject a suitor, or choose from a number of suitors; or she might be a passive participant in this exchange, depending on her circumstances and family culture. In either case, her submissiveness after the wedding was considered crucial to its success. Austen rejected this model of marriage as ideal in her novels and in her life, writing to her niece that “nothing can be compared to the misery of being bound without Love.” 

Notions of marriage were changing rapidly in Austen’s era, inspired primarily by the Romantics—poets, authors and philosophers who believed that marriage should be fueled exclusively by romantic love—but Austen also rejected this ideal.

While the Romantics insisted that choosing a partner should be about unleashing one’s most passionate feelings, Austen championed the classical, Aristotelian philosophy of balance between emotion and reason when choosing a partner for life. The successful coming of age of an Austen heroine hinges on her learning to discern the true nature of a suitor, not simply the appearance he projects. It also often requires that she look beyond her emotional impulses and fall in love with a man’s character and temperament—as in the case of Marianne Dashwood and Elizabeth Bennet, who are initially attracted to handsome, romantic rakes.

Indeed, flashy romantic suitors like Mr. Wickham and John Willoughby often prove to be wicked, scheming, and insincere. By contrast, more subdued men like Colonel Brandon and Captain Wentworth attempt to restrain their emotions in order to preserve the honor of the women they admire, and wait to betray their feelings until they are certain they are ready to propose. 

Furthermore, Austen’s heroines, although driven by love, do not neglect to consider the practical implications of marrying well. After all, it is only after seeing Pemberley with her own eyes that Lizzie finally relents and accepts Mr. Darcy’s proposal, famously thinking as she looks across the valley at his vast estate: “To be mistress of Pemberley might be something!”

In all of these respects, Austen was, and still is, a fresh voice on the topic of marriage. Our own era is still firmly in the grip of the Romantic frenzy—emotional love songs, extravagant courtships and proposals, an emphasis on being swept away in one’s feelings, and fairy tales with happy endings dominate popular culture. 

For Austen, a classical reverence for balance—equal parts reason and emotion—reigned supreme, especially on the part of the woman, who had far more to lose in marriage than her male counterpart. Too much reason, and you have Elinor Dashwood, a woman who is initially a little too selfless and withdrawn. Too much emotion, and you have her sister Marianne, a woman who follows her feelings straight into the arms of a charlatan. To grow, each sister must learn a little bit from the other.

In this way, Austen again challenged the way the world viewed both marriage and a woman’s journey of self-discovery on her path towards finding love.

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Jane Austen often compared herself to a miniature painter. In her work every situation, character name, snippet of dialogue, and location—matters. It is in these mundane details that Austen’s revolutionary ideas are expressed; it is here that we find the clues to the world Austen dreamed that women would one day occupy.

Viewed in this manner, Austen’s novels become much more than a parade of clever stories about romance and balls. They become, instead, a series of novels in which a brilliant, snarky woman unmasks the culture in which she lives—in ways that were, and still are, revolutionary.

In the end, Austen manages to write both about the real world—a world filled with greed, injustice, deceit, and hypocrisy—in which women’s roles are suffocatingly and terrifyingly limited—and a world of her own making—in which right prevails, and the smart, sassy, headstrong woman gets everything she could ever dream of, and more. 

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About Jasmine A. Stirling

Jasmine A. Stirling is the debut author of A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice, a picture book biography of Jane Austen about persistence and creative mastery. Jasmine lives on a cheerful street in San Francisco with her husband, two daughters, and their dog. From a young age, she loved to write poems and stories and worked her way through nearly every children’s book (and quite a few for grownups, too) in her local library. When she’s not writing, Jasmine can be found hiking in the fog, singing songs from old musicals, and fiddling with her camera.

Jasmine first fell in love with Jane Austen as a student at Oxford, where she read her favorite of Jane’s six masterful novels, Persuasion. A Most Clever Girl is her dream project, done with her dream team—award-winning illustrator Vesper Stamper and Bloomsbury Children’s Publishing. Jasmine also has a YA/New Adult history of the women’s suffrage movement out soon, titled We Demand An Equal Voice.

Visit www.jasmineastirling.com to get a free Jane Austen paper doll kit with the purchase of A Most Clever Girl. While you’re there, enter to win a Regency tea party gift basket!

Follow Jasmine on Instagram and Facebook @jasmine.a.stirling.author where she posts about kidlit and life with two young girls.

BOOK GIVEAWAY:

Enter for a chance to win a glorious Jane Austen-themed picnic basket, including a hardcover copy of A Most Clever Girl autographed by Jasmine A. Stirling!

One (1) grand prize winner receives:

  • A picnic basket filled with:
    • A copy of A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice, signed by author Jasmine A. Stirling
    • A vintage teacup
    • 1 oz of tea From Adagio Teas
    • Truffles from Moonstruck Chocolates
    • Gardenia hand cream
    • A set of Jane Austen playing cards
    • A $15 gift certificate to Jasmine A. Stirling’s Austenite Etsy Shop, Box Hill Goods

Two (2) winners receive:

  • A copy of A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice, signed by author Jasmine A. Stirling

The giveaway begins March 16, 2021, at 12:01 A.M. MT, and ends April 16, 2021, at 11:59 P.M. MT.

CLICK HERE FOR THE GIVEAWAY FORM

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Thank you Jasmine for your insightful essay on our “revolutionary” Austen!

You can find the links to each of the daily blog tour posts here: https://www.thechildrensbookreview.com/2021/03/a-most-clever-girl-how-jane-austen-discovered-her-voice-awareness-tour

©2021 Jane Austen in Vermont

Blog Tour: “A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice” ~ Book Review and Giveaway! Part I

A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice,
by Jasmine A. Stirling; illustrated by Vesper Stamper.
Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2021

Dear Readers: Please see below my review information on the Book Giveaway. And join me again tomorrow for Part II with an essay by Jasmine A. Stirling on “How Jane Austen revolutionized the way the world viewed women.”

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The recent opinion essay by the New York Times Book Review editor Pamela Paul “You’re Not Too Old for Picture Books” (Feb. 21, 2021), presents a fine case for the importance, relevance, brilliance, and pure pleasure such books can give us. Paul admonishes us as parents to not confine ourselves to the parameters of the 4-8 age group, to not take such books away from our children too soon, nay, to not put them aside ourselves. How well we remember such books from our own childhoods (think Jessie Willcox Smith or Beatrix Potter or N. C. Wyeth), where words and pictures were made one, the art telling its own story beyond the words of the text.

In a past life as an elementary school librarian (I at the time also had small children), I found such joy in reading and re-reading these pictures books, designated for the younger grades but having the older students engage with them as well. I have never gotten over this love of these “juvenile” works and still try every year to at least purchase the newest Caldecott winner (a REAL book too, no kindle for these!) Biographical picture books have increased of late, and such works on Jane Austen can nearly fill a shelf – but each is unique, each brings a new take on Austen with new ideas, new art, new ways to engage readers of any age with her world.

A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice, written by Jasmine A. Stirling and illustrated by Vesper Stamper, is a fine addition to this burgeoning shelf, this, as the press release says “an informative, engaging depiction of the life and growth of an exceptional literary talent.” It is funny and sad and profound, taking Austen from a happy childhood reading and writing for her family’s entertainment in the house at Steventon, where “her mother wrote verse…her brothers debated the news…Jane and Cassandra sang songs upstairs…her father taught Shakespeare below.” In this one sentence, with the accompanying illustration of a very busy household, Stirling and Stamper perfectly sum up Austen’s childhood world.

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We see her growing, seeking “a room of her own” to write her stories, observing the quirks and eccentricities of visiting friends and neighbors, and then the sadness and tragedy with the move to Bath and the death of her father, her life now “a quick succession of busy nothings.” Stamper leaves her colorful joyful world of Steventon behind and gives us a Bath that is dark and gray and lonely (Stamper writes that the color palette comes from the textile shades of Austen’s time), color to appear again when settling in Chawton, Jane finding words to write, creating the characters like Elizabeth and Emma and Anne and her many Heroes we have come to love – writing “hearbreak and sadness, happiness and hope” into her novels. Then she is PUBLISHED and we see an appreciative Prince Regent, patrons of circulating libraries choosing HER books, and US, still reading and loving her very original and brilliant voice.

I loved this book – the words and pictures taking us into Austen’s mind and her world – high praise to both writer and illustrator for such a beautifully told and rendered tale, as Stirling herself writes: “I wanted to tell a different kind of story – one centered on Jane’s genius” – and thereby giving hope to anyone out there who might be searching for their own voice, at any age. I found it as insightful and as complete as any of the many lengthy biographies I have read!

Included is a short nicely-written biography, a selection of the more famous Austen sayings sprinkled in the text (“indulge your imagination in every possible flight” – where does Austen say this??), a note from both Stirling and Stamper, and a listing of resources for further reading.

Chawton House – rear endpaper

A final word on the endpapers, one of my favorite parts of any and every book I handle – here Stamper gives us colorful and imaginative drawings of Austen’s beloved Hampshire, Steventon on the front endpaper, Chawton Cottage (now Jane Austen House Museum) and Chawton House on the rear endpapers, places that inspired Jane Austen to become the genius she indeed was, and places we visit (alas, only a pump at Steventon!) to get closer to her mind and art. Perfectly lovely – and quite “clever” itself!

GIVEAWAY!!

Enter for a chance to win a glorious Jane Austen-themed picnic basket, including a hardcover copy of A Most Clever Girl autographed by Jasmine A. Stirling!

One (1) grand prize winner receives:

  • A picnic basket filled with:
    • A copy of A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice, signed by author Jasmine A. Stirling
    • A vintage teacup
    • 1 oz of tea From Adagio Teas
    • Truffles from Moonstruck Chocolates
    • Gardenia hand cream
    • A set of Jane Austen playing cards
    • A $15 gift certificate to Jasmine A. Stirling’s Austenite Etsy Shop, Box Hill Goods

Two (2) winners receive:

  • A copy of A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice, signed by author Jasmine A. Stirling

The giveaway begins March 16, 2021, at 12:01 A.M. MT, and ends April 16, 2021, at 11:59 P.M. MT.

Click here for the Giveaway Form

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ABOUT THE BOOK:

A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Found Her Voice

Written by Jasmine A. Stirling; Illustrated by Vesper Stamper

Ages 4-12; 48 Pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books
ISBN-13: 978-1547601103

Publisher’s Synopsis: Witty and mischievous Jane Austen grew up in a house overflowing with words. As a young girl, she delighted in making her family laugh with tales that poked fun at the popular novels of her time, stories that featured fragile ladies and ridiculous plots. Before long, Jane was writing her own stories-uproariously funny ones, using all the details of her life in a country village as inspiration.

In times of joy, Jane’s words burst from her pen. But after facing sorrow and loss, she wondered if she’d ever write again. Jane realized her writing would not be truly her own until she found her unique voice. She didn’t know it then, but that voice would go on to capture readers’ hearts and minds for generations to come.

PURCHASE LINKS: [always check your local bookstore first!]

Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/a/2078/9781547601103
Amazon: https://amzn.to/2O2scVx

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jasmine A. Stirling is the debut author of A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice, a picture book biography of Jane Austen about persistence and creative mastery. Jasmine lives on a cheerful street in San Francisco with her husband, two daughters, and their dog. From a young age, she loved to write poems and stories and worked her way through nearly every children’s book (and quite a few for grownups, too) in her local library. When she’s not writing, Jasmine can be found hiking in the fog, singing songs from old musicals, and fiddling with her camera.

Jasmine first fell in love with Jane Austen as a student at Oxford, where she read her favorite of Jane’s six masterful novels, Persuasion. A Most Clever Girl is her dream project, done with her dream team—award-winning illustrator Vesper Stamper and Bloomsbury Children’s Publishing. Jasmine also has a YA/New Adult history of the women’s suffrage movement out soon, titled We Demand An Equal Voice.

Visit www.jasmineastirling.com to get a free Jane Austen paper doll kit with the purchase of A Most Clever Girl. While you’re there, enter to win a Regency tea party gift basket!

Follow Jasmine on Instagram and Facebook @jasmine.a.stirling.author where she posts about kidlit and life with two young girls.

ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR:

Vesper Stamper website

Vesper Stamper is an award-winning author-illustrator of picture books and historical fiction for young adults, including What the Night Sings, winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award for the National Book Award, and A Cloud of Courageous Blue. She lives with her husband, filmmaker Ben Stamper, and her two teenagers, in the northeastern United States, but England is her happy place. Her favorite Jane Austen in Emma. You can visit her at vesperillustration.com.

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BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE: links to each day’s post can be found here: https://www.thechildrensbookreview.com/2021/03/a-most-clever-girl-how-jane-austen-discovered-her-voice-awareness-tour

Please join me again tomorrow for Part II with an essay by Jasmine A. Stirling onHow Jane Austen revolutionized the way the world viewed women.”


©2021 Jane Austen in Vermont

Guest Post ~ Julie Klassen on “A Jane Austen Promenade” ~ Blog Tour and Giveaways for “The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill”

289895_innkeeperofivyhill_slider-blogtour

Dear Gentle Readers: Please join me today as I welcome Julie Klassen with a guest post in celebration of the release of her newest book The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill. Julie tells of visiting Bath this past September for the Jane Austen Festival and the joys of dressing the part – Regency-style – for both she and her husband Brian. Below her guest post is information on her book and how you can enter to win the giveaways.

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A Jane Austen Promenade
by Julie Klassen

This year, for the first time, I attended the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, England. The festival, held every September, draws hundreds of Jane Austen fans (like me) to one of the biggest gatherings of Regency reenactors in the world.

lrbrian_cravatOn Saturday, my husband and I participated in the “Grand Regency Costumed Promenade.” The Bath Jane Austen Festival achieved the Guinness World Record for “The largest gathering of people dressed in Regency costumes” in 2009 at 409. The number rose up to 550 in 2014. Since Bath already holds the record, they did not try to set a new one this year. Instead, we paraded through the streets of this historic city simply to enjoy ourselves, honor Jane Austen, and entertain the hundreds of onlookers who lined the parade route—locals as well as tourists from all over the world. This was fine with me, because I was not terribly interested in setting a world record, but I was determined to dress my husband as Mr. Darcy, and knew this would be my best chance.

Months ahead of time, we contacted an historical costume maker in England who has made similar gentleman’s attire. She sent us fabric swatches and I sent her Brian’s measurements. After some postal delays, we received the outfit. It did not fit Brian well at all at first—likely due to my poor measuring skills. But thankfully a friend-of-a-friend is a skilled seamstress, and she altered the pieces to fit Brian better. I also ordered Brian a top hat, gentlemen’s historically-accurate silk stockings, and pointy-toed shoes, which allowed him to dance at the ball better than he could in tall riding boots. You really can find almost anything online. He also wore his old Bell Ringer gloves. I didn’t bring any “how to tie a cravat” instructions, but thankfully another participant helped Brian tie his.

lrbrianjulieBrian’s cutaway frockcoat is a bit more Georgian in style than true Regency, which worked better with his build, though he had to add suspenders to keep up those high-waisted breeches.

And I want you to notice his long sideburns or “side-whiskers” as they were called, which he grew out to please me and look more the part of an early 19th century gentleman.

I wore my new bonnet and the spencer jacket I blogged about previously (made by Matti’s Millinery), over my gold gown (made by my niece), as well as gloves and reticule. I also brought a silk parasol. The style is not 100% historically accurate, but with rain in the forecast, I decided it was “better safe than sorry.”

And, unfortunately, it rained a LOT during the promenade, and I was very glad indeed to have the waterproof umbrella. The streets and paths we trod were wet and dirty and I saw several ladies with hems “six inches deep in mud,” to quote Pride and Prejudice. But rain or shine, it was an enjoyable time anyway.

lrpromenade

Have you ever participated in a Regency costume party or reenactment?
What did you wear?

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The Giveaways!

Please comment below about your own Regency fashion experiences and you will be entered into the random drawing for two giveaways! The winner will receive a $20 Teavana gift card and a package of four inspirational British romances from four different eras (The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen, A Haven on Orchard Lane by Lawana Blackwell, The Lost Heiress by Roseanna M. White, Not by Sight by Kate Breslin). Deadline is December 21st – the winner will be notified on December 22.

blog-tour-prizes

Here’s the blog tour schedule (you can comment on any of the blogs to be entered into the drawing):

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cover-innkeeperAbout The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill:

The lifeblood of the village of Ivy Hill is its coaching inn, The Bell. When the innkeeper dies suddenly, his genteel wife, Jane Bell, becomes the reluctant landlady. Jane has no idea how to manage a business, but with the town’s livelihood at stake and a large loan due, she must quickly find a way to save the inn.

Despite their strained relationship, Jane turns to her resentful mother-in-law, Thora, for help. Formerly mistress of The Bell, Thora is struggling to overcome her losses and find purpose for the future. As she works with Jane, two men from her past vie for her attention, but Thora has promised herself never to marry again. Will one of them convince her to embrace a second chance at love?

As pressure mounts from the bank, Jane employs new methods, and puzzles over the intentions of several men who seem to have a vested interest in the place, including a mysterious newcomer with secret plans of his own. With the help of friends old and new, can Jane restore life to the inn, and to her empty heart as well?

Visit talesfromivyhill.com to find a map of the village, character profiles, a book giveaway, and more!

print_ready_ivyhill_map

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My thoughts:

I will say that Julie has done it again! – offering her readers a fully-developed world in a small English village during the Regency period, this time an intriguing tale of Inn-keeping – we have: Coaching inns and Carriages; Women characters in precarious positions trying to manage in a patriarchal world; there is Cookery and housekeeping details (love this!); every character has a secret and there is a mystery to be solved; and of course there is Love – of various sorts and with a fair amount of guessing as to who might be best suited. This is Book I of Julie’s projected series of three books – all with characters introduced here. As Julie says in her interview on the blog From Pemberley to Milton:

The series tells the stories of four women facing life-altering challenges with the help of their quirky neighbors and intriguing newcomers. Each novel will have a romance and drama wrap up in a hopefully satisfying way, while the main character’s story spans all three books. The series celebrates the strong bonds of friendship, because in a small village like Ivy Hill, everyone is connected, like leaves on a vine.

Book II, The Ladies of Ivy Cottage will be released in December 2017, and Book III, The Bride of Ivy Green, December 2018. I am only disappointed that I must wait so long to engage with these endearing characters once more!

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For more on Julie’s trip to England to research her novels, here’s her tour of Lacock Village,
the inspiration for The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill:

**(You might be interested to know that Julie is going to be leading a tour next September (2017) to many of the places that have served as inspiration for her novels. You can view details here: http://concertandstudytours.com/julie-klassen-coast-tour/).

klassen_julie1About Julie:

JULIE KLASSEN loves all things Jane–Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full-time. Her books have been honored with the Christy Award for Historical Romance, the Minnesota Book Award, and the Midwest Book Award, among others. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. For more information, visit www.julieklassen.com and also at these author links:

 |  Facebook  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads

You can find The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill here: [ISBN  9780764218132]  Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

A hearty thank you to Amy Green of Bethany House Publishers and to Julie Klassen for inviting me to join this Blog Tour. Don’t forget to comment to be entered into the drawing – Good luck one and all and Happy Reading!

c2016 Jane Austen in Vermont

Julie Klassen’s “The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill” ~ Blog Tour Schedule and Giveaways

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Julie Klassen’s latest book, The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill, has just been released and there are various bloggers offering up reviews, excerpts, interviews and guest posts. I will be posting about the book on December 20th, but wanted you to see and follow the other posts that began on December 5th – please be sure to comment on any of the blogs in order to be entered into the random drawing: the winner will receive a $20 Teavana gift card and a package of four inspirational British romances from four different eras (The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen, A Haven on Orchard Lane by Lawana Blackwell, The Lost Heiress by Roseanna M. White, Not by Sight by Kate Breslin). The winner will be notified on December 22.

Here’s the blog tour schedule:

The Prizes:

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Stay tuned for my post on December 20th, where Julie tells of attending the Jane Austen Festival in Bath this past September!

c2016 Jane Austen in Vermont

“Will & Jane” Exhibit at the Folger ~ Interview with Co-Curator Janine Barchas ~ Brochure Giveaway!

UPDATE #2: watch “Will & Jane: The Movie” – 6 minutes on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pevAsxvhts

UPDATE #1: new images from the exhibition have been added!

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Folger Exhibit Brochure

The Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity exhibit at the Folger Shakespeare Library is garnering a good deal of press (as it should!). Apparently there are record crowds wanting to get a glimpse of their two favorite Literary Heroes and how they have shown up in popular culture for the past 200 years – and “The Shirt” is no small part of this (a.k.a. Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy) – no, no, don’t get your hopes up, Mr. Firth is not part of the Exhibit (though he would be most welcome…), but rather the shirt worn for the endlessly-youtubed scene of Darcy emerging from a pool of standing water at Pemberley is on display in a locked glass case where it can be on view but protected from the expected mass hysteria of, well, the masses… Kissing a glass case is not quite the same as stroking a cotton shirt, albeit hanging rather listlessly from a plastic form… but it is still a must see if you can get there! Grown women have been known to faint away, despite the message from a young Jane to “run mad as often as you chuse; but do not faint…” I do hope the Folger is up to the task of a gallery full of shirt-mad persons… (and dare I add that though I am NOT one of the shirt-hysteric Janeites who think this scene is the best in all of the nearly 6 hour film, I do confess a strong interest in getting a glimpse of the actual shirt worn by Colin Firth…)

If you are able to attend the JASNA AGM this year, to be held in Washington DC, October 21-23  (but do allow extra days for all there is to see and do) – you will get a chance to go to the Folger and see what all the fuss is about – the two curators (Janine Barchas of the University of Texas at Austin, and Kristina Straub of Carnegie Mellon University) will be on hand to tell us all about it. If you are not at the AGM, the exhibit runs from August 6 – November 6, 2016 and admission is free. In the sad event you shall miss it entirely, there are also various articles to read – see the links below.

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18th-century Staffordshire porcelain of William Shakespeare (Folger) /
and 20th-century figurine of Jane Austen (Joan Doyle)

Today however, I welcome Janine Barchas, who most graciously answered a few of my questions about how the idea of this Will & Jane grouping came about… if you have any questions, please comment below and she will get back to you. As an incentive, and especially for those of you unable to make it to the Folger, Janine has provided us a copy of the 18-page exhibit brochure – another piece of Jane Austen celebrity “stuff” we all like to collect! (see below for details)

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Will and Jane at Chawton Cottage

JAIV: Tell us how this exhibit came about?

JB: This was a case of classic academic one-upmanship. In 2012, Michael Witmore, the Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library, came to the University of Texas at Austin for a conference about the fate of books in a digital world.  Over a meal, I joked that Jane Austen was “giving Shakespeare a run for his money” and asked what he was planning to do about it.  As Mike and I continued to spar about the differences and similarities between the fan cultures around these two famous authors, an idea was born: “Will & Jane.”

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Busts of William Shakespeare (Folger) and Jane Austen (Joan Doyle)

JAIV: How did you and Kristina Straub come to work on this exhibit together?

JB: Our partnership was the result of solid academic matchmaking! Mike Witmore was her former colleague at Carnegie Mellon University, so Kristina’s name came up right away in the context of her deep knowledge of Shakespeare’s reception in the 18th century.  She and I had never met before our work on “Will & Jane” even though we are both 18th-century scholars and know many of the same people in what is a smallish field.  This exhibition has been a full three years in the making, during which time we have grown very close.  I look at our publications and label text and cannot tell you what sentence began as mine and which was first drafted by Kristina.  Given that academics are known for their social awkwardnesses and a tendency to work best when alone, our partnership on “Will & Jane” has been an extraordinary intellectual experience – even outside of the unique content of the show.

Shakespeare bellows - Folger

Shakespeare bellows – Folger

JAIV: You mostly talk and write about Jane Austen, but also the book itself as part of the material culture of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. What was the biggest challenge in taking on this exhibit that largely deals with the artifacts of celebrity created and collected over the past 200 years?

will-jane-porcelain-figures-jb[2]Royal Worcester porcelain figurine of “Emma Woodhouse” (1998) from the collection of Joan Doyle / and a colored pottery tableau entitled “Othello Relates his Story (ca. 1880) from the collections of the Folger

JB: The dominance of non-book artifacts in this exhibition (ceramics, paintings, odd assortments of relics, tchotchkes, and souvenirs) may seem at odds with a serious library of rare books such as the Folger. However, although both Shakespeare and Austen are fundamentally admired for their great literary works, the history of their afterlives and the nature of their modern celebrity is not just about steady streams of new editions but about the material objects that ordinary fans crave and collect.  This exhibition took us out of the usual library stacks of books and into art vaults and collections of so-called “realia.”  Part of the challenge, then, of putting this exhibition together was for two academics who were used to talking about the language of plays and novels to learn how to think and talk about non-book and JABandages-Amazonwordless objects and the stories they can tell. Mixing high and low culture in this exhibition (books with bobble-heads, so to speak) has been both a joy and a challenge.  In practical terms, today’s objects that celebrate Jane Austen at her 200-year mark lack the historical patina of those Shakespeare “relics” and souvenirs that have been carefully preserved for two centuries.  And yet we wanted these authors to stand together as potential equals.  This meant that every juxtaposition of old and new objects, every comparison between the afterlives of Will and Jane, had to show similar impulses across centuries of fandom – in spite of any obvious differences between current market values of the materials shown.

JAIV: What most surprised you in your findings?

JB: We initially thought that in order to fill 20 large display cases, we might have to stretch the comparison a bit here and there. But we were amazed by the tight parallels between, for example, the public spectacles that celebrated Shakespeare around his 200 mark (e.g. a museum dedicated to the Bard and a Jubilee) and today’s BBC bonnet dramas that, in essence, do some of that same work to promote Jane Austen.  Also, we were genuinely surprised by the manner in which Henry and Emily Folger resembled, in their dedication to all things Shakespeare, the collecting impulses of Alberta and Henry Burke, the couple who amassed the world’s most significant Jane Austen collection (now split between the Morgan Library and Goucher College).  One thread across the exhibition is how these two American couples, collecting decades apart and focused on two very different writers, pursued their purchases in the same way.

JAIV: What do you hope visitors will take away from this exhibit?

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Will and Jane at the Folger

JB: A sense of fun. We hope the combination of whimsy and scholarship is infectious and will help folks to see that even pop culture benefits from a larger historical framework.

JAIV: What has been the response so far?

A chalice made from the mulberry tree Shakespeare planted (Folger) /
a lock of Jane Austen’s hair (Jane Austen’s House Museum)

JB: A lively and lavishly illustrated review across two pages of the NYT weekend section on opening day surely helped to boost visitor numbers as well as raise our curatorial spirits.  The public seems genuinely curious about a show that pairs these equally famous but very different authors.  So far, we’ve had some record numbers in terms of daily visitors and received enthusiastic feedback from Folger docents.  The docents are the well-informed volunteers who lead daily group tours and have their finger on the pulse of true public reaction.  When they remain enthusiastic, you know a show is doing well.

JAIV: Who besides Shakespeare and Jane Austen has had such an impact on our celebrity-obsessed culture?

JB: Modern movie stars (and before them the starry thespians of the 18th-century stage) have glammed up both Will and Jane.  Our exhibition features a number of film actors who have their feet in both Shakespeare and Austen camps and whose own celebrity is in a symbiotic relationship with these authors.  From Laurence Olivier (photo stills and movie clips) to Emma Thompson (she loaned us the original typescript of her Sense and Sensibility screenplay), objects about and from movie stars adds a bit of Hollywood sparkle throughout the exhibition.

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The Shirt – Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy (BBC)

JAIV: What is your next project???

JB: Hopefully another project with Kristina. It will indeed also be very hard to go back to a steady diet of “just books” after this.   I suspect that odd bits of material culture will cling to all my research from now on.  I see both Will and Jane differently now.  They are each bigger than their written works alone.

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This collector’s album for cigarette cards (London: Carreras Limited, ca. 1935) is one of many items in the exhibition showing Will and Jane being used to advertise non-book products

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Thank you Janine! – very much looking forward to seeing you and Kristina at the Folger in October!

If you would like to comment or ask Janine a question, please do so in the reply box below. Deadline will be Wednesday August 31, 2016 at 11:59pm – winner will be announced on Thursday Sept 1, 2016. Domestic only, sorry to say (our postal rates have soared).

barchas-janineJanine Barchas is Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin.  She is the author of  Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity (Johns Hopkins University Press, August 2012).  Her  first book, Graphic Design, Print Culture, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel (Cambridge UP, 2003), won the SHARP book prize for best work in the field of book history.  You can visit (and spend hours browsing!) her online digital project What Jane Saw (www.whatjanesaw.org) which includes the gallery of the British Institution that Jane Austen visited on May 24, 1813 and the “Shakespeare Gallery of 1796.” Barchas, along with colleague Kristina Straub, is currently curating an exhibition at the Folger on Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity.

Further reading:

“Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity” runs August 6 through Nov. 6, 2016 at the Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 East Capitol Street S.E., Washington; 202-544-7077.

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“The Shirt” at the Folger

c2016, Jane Austen in Vermont

Jane Austen Sleuth! ~ Stephanie Barron’s “Jane and the Waterloo Map” ~ Excerpt & Book Giveaway

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Amateur sleuth Jane Austen returns in Jane and the Waterloo Map,
the thirteenth novel in Stephanie Barron’s delightful Regency-era mystery series.

Gentle Readers: Today Jane Austen in Vermont is taking part in the ‘Jane Austen and the Waterloo Map’ blog tour that began on February 2, 2016 (see other tour stops below). Ms. Barron has done it again! – this time taking us into the Battle of Waterloo, but not before presenting our Jane with a body in the Carlton House Library! Read here an except from Chapter 8, followed by the details for the Giveaway – you can comment here or any of the other blog posts until February 29th.

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Waterloo cover x 350About the book:

November, 1815. The Battle of Waterloo has come and gone, leaving the British economy in shreds; Henry Austen, high-flying banker, is about to declare bankruptcy—dragging several of his brothers down with him. The crisis destroys Henry’s health, and Jane flies to his London bedside, believing him to be dying. While she’s there, the chaplain to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent invites Jane to tour Carlton House, the Prince’s fabulous London home. The chaplain is a fan of Jane’s books, and during the tour he suggests she dedicate her next novel—Emma—to HRH, whom she despises. However, before she can speak to HRH, Jane stumbles upon a body—sprawled on the carpet in the Regent’s library. The dying man, Colonel MacFarland, was a cavalry hero and a friend of Wellington’s. He utters a single failing phrase: “Waterloo map” . . . and Jane is on the hunt for a treasure of incalculable value and a killer of considerable cunning.

 And now….

AN EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER 8:
In which Jane discusses the Battle of Waterloo with one of its survivors,
Lieutenant James Dunross of the Scots Greys.

“I did wonder whether the Colonel’s final words had any connexion to his valor on the field at Waterloo.” I looked at the Lieutenant rather than my hostess’s rigid form. “I have heard him described as a Hero. Would it trouble you to speak of him—or might I persuade you to recount his actions on that glorious day?”

There was the briefest pause.

“James?” Miss MacFarland queried in a lowered tone, her gaze fixed on the glowing coals.

“My dear,” he replied.

“Will it distress you?”

“Naturally. But as I expect to be hearing of Waterloo for the rest of my life, I had as well become accustomed.” The Lieutenant’s aspect was light, but his voice betrayed his distaste. “I should not use the word glory, however, to describe it. Carnage is more apt.”

“No,” Miss MacFarland protested. She turned impulsively to face us. “It shall always be a day of glory to me, because you and Ewan were spared! I cannot tell you how incomprehensible it is, Miss Austen, that my brother survived that battle—only to end in the fashionable desert of Carlton House.  Incomprehensible!”

“The Colonel belonged to the Scots Greys, I believe?”

“He began military life in an hussar regiment, and saw years of active service in the Peninsula; but being better suited to heavy dragoon work, exchanged two years ago into the Greys. That is how we came to be acquainted with Lieutenant Dunross—James served in the regiment under my brother.”

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                               Battle of Waterloo 1815 – William Sadler [Wikipedia]

The gentleman forced himself heavily to his feet, and crossed with the aid of his cane to the draped window. He pulled aside the dark blue curtain and leaned into the casement, staring expressionlessly down at Keppel Street.“Are you at all familiar with the course of the battle?” Miss MacFarland asked.

“What little I learned from published accounts.”

“Then you will know that the cavalry was commanded by Lord Uxbridge.”

As who did not? Uxbridge had cut a dash among the Great for most of his life: He was an earl as well as a general; head of the Paget family; a darling of the ton; and Wellington’s reputed enemy. A few years since, Uxbridge ran off with the Duke’s sister-in-law, and embarrassed all their acquaintance. Divorce and outrage are nothing new to people of Fashion, however; and tho’ Uxbridge and Wellington might not sit down to whist together, once battle was joined with Napoleon, one was in command of the other’s cavalry. Some ten brigades, in fact.

“In the early afternoon of that wearing day, Wellington’s left was under serious attack from the French batteries,” Miss MacFarland said. I collected from her unvaried tone that she had told this story—or heard it told by her brother—many times. “General Picton was killed, and shells were exploding with horrific effect all along the British line. Our troops were giving way under the assault of d’Erlon’s columns. Uxbridge saw it as Wellington could not, being far down the right. The Earl threw Lord Edward Somerset and the Household Brigade into the thick of the fight, then galloped off to the Union Brigade.  This is composed, as perhaps you may know, of three regiments: the English, or Royals; the Scots Greys; and the Irish, or Inniskillings.”

“Ah,” I managed. I had never thought to consider which regiments comprised the Union Brigade.

“Sir William Ponsonby was in command.”

Another man of Fashion. The Ponsonbys had spawned Lady Caroline Lamb, one of most outrageous ladies I have ever encountered.

“And above Ponsonby was Uxbridge,” I said encouragingly, having got it all straight. “So Somerset and Ponsonby and Uxbridge—who might normally have met peaceably in a ballroom—charged off together on horseback to slaughter the French.”

“Indeed. Or at least, their gun batteries.” Miss MacFarland glanced almost unwillingly at Lieutenant Dunross, but the silent figure by the parlour window gave no sign that he was attending to our conversation.

“The Greys were supposed to be held in reserve,” she continued. “But in fact they attacked the longest—well after the Royals and the Inniskillings had given up.”

“Of their own volition? –Without waiting for the command to charge?”

“No Scotsmen would be left in the rear while the English and Irish attack,” Miss MacFarland said proudly. “And indeed, the Union Brigade succeeded in their object so well that the French were turned.”

“For a little while, perhaps,” James Dunross tossed over his shoulder. “A half hour, even. But as is so often true in the smoke and confusion of battle, the hunters became the hunted.”

“I am sure that Ewan regarded that charge as having won the day,” Miss MacFarland argued.

“So he may have done! But he was wrong, Georgie. The battle was won by Blücher and his Prussians, not the Scots Greys.” He turned abruptly from the window and stumped back to us on his cane, his countenance alight with anger. “You must apprehend, Miss Austen, that most of our commanders and cavalrymen know nothing of military science. Excellent fellows, to be sure—Uxbridge was an hussar in his youth, and could not be called green—but we are gentlemen first and soldiers a distant second.  What we know of cavalry manoeuvres was learnt on the hunting field. We are apt to get carried away by our own daring, as tho’ a confrontation with the French were a day’s hunting with the Quorn. Which is rather what happened at Waterloo.”

I stared at him frowningly. “You were distracted by a fox?”

“In our enthusiasm to have at Buonaparte, we charged too far,” Dunross explained, “and then could not get back again to the British lines. Most of us had never been in battle before.  Ponsonby was unhorsed—he’d left his best charger in the rear because he could not bear to expose so expensive a mount to enemy fire. When the hack he rode into battle failed him, he was shot dead where he stood. The French cavalry counterattacked with Lancers. Do you know of them?”

I shook my head.

“Quite a new thing in military circles, but utterly terrifying. They carry something like a jousting stick and can stab anything on two or four legs to death. One of them stabbed me as I lay on the ground, unhorsed after that celebrated charge.”

“The hunters became the hunted, as you say?”

He smiled thinly. “Our cavalry were broken up, cut off, surrounded, and destroyed.”

I glanced at Miss MacFarland. Her expression was grim, as tho’ it were physical pain to hear Dunross speak.

“You will admit, James, that the Greys showed the most dramatic charge of all, in the midst of a sunken lane between hedges, where they sabered the French to pieces?” she cried. “You will admit that they seized one of Napoleon’s Eagles–the most dreadful shame a Frenchman may know?”

“Certainly,” he returned. “And then the French threw themselves down and pretended to surrender to us. Being honourless rogues, however, they stood up and fired on us as we approached to disarm them.”

She threw up her hands. “I wonder you regard even my brother as worthy of your respect, James,” she cried.

“I must,” he returned. “I owe him my life. Such as it is.”

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Grand Giveaway Contest!!

Win One of Three Fabulous Prizes

Waterloo Map Blog Tour Prizes x 500

In celebration of the release of Jane and the Waterloo Map, Stephanie is offering a chance to win one of three prize packages filled with an amazing selection of Jane Austen-inspired gifts and books!

To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on Jane and the Waterloo Map Blog Tour starting February 02, 2016 through 11:59 pm PT, February 29, 2016. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Stephanie’s website on March 3, 2016. Winners have until March 10, 2016 to claim their prize. Shipment is to US addresses. Good luck to all!

Further reading:

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A review from Library Journal:

“Barron deftly imitates Austen’s voice, wit, and occasional melancholy while spinning a well-researched plot that will please historical mystery readers and Janeites everywhere. Jane Austen died two years after the events of Waterloo; one hopes that Barron conjures a few more adventures for her beloved protagonist before historical fact suspends her fiction.”

The Blog Tour: For more about Jane and the Waterloo Map, you can visit and comment on these other blogs throughout the month of February – there are reviews, interviews, guest blogs, and more excerpts, plus the fabulous giveaway opportunity. Join the fun! 

JANE AND THE WATERLOO MAP BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE: 

Stephanie Barron headshot 2016 photo credit Marea Evans x 150About the Author:

Stephanie Barron was born in Binghamton, New York, the last of six girls. She attended Princeton and Stanford Universities, where she studied history, before going on to work as an intelligence analyst at the CIA. She wrote her first book in 1992 and left the Agency a year later. Since then, she has written fifteen books. She lives and works in Denver, Colorado. Learn more about Stephanie and her books at her website, visit her on Facebook and Goodreads.

All the FACTS:

  • Title: Jane and the Waterloo Map (Being a Jane Austen Mystery)
  • Author: Stephanie Barron
  • Tour Dates: February 02 – February 22, 2016
  • Genre: Regency-era Mystery/ Historical Mystery/Austenesque Mystery
  • Publisher: Soho Crime (February 02, 2016)
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1616954253
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1616954260
  • Author’s website: http://www.stephaniebarron.com/books.php
  • Blog Tour page: http://stephaniebarron.com/blog-tour.php

Purchase options:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indiebound | Goodreads

Waterloo cover x 350

 

 c2016 Jane Austen in Vermont

Julie Klassen’s Lady Maybe Giveaway ~ and the winner is….

… Nancy M – who wrote on September 10th

I think I have all your books aside from the latest. And they sound very intriguing. I will be happy to get them both!

Cover-LadyMaybeNancy, please email me with your contact information (address, phone, email) and the book will be sent out to you directly from Julie’s publisher.

Thank you all so much for commenting – Sorry you couldn’t all win – but suggest you order Lady Maybe pronto…(and The Painter’s Daughter in December!)

And hearty thanks to Julie for sharing her love of England and for writing such delicious stories!

©2015 Jane Austen in Vermont

Author Julie Klassen on her Lady Maybe ~ With Book Giveaway!

Is there a better summer read (we still have three weeks left – don’t rush it please!) than a Regency Romance? And one laced with a mystery, a good number of secrets, and echoes of Jane Eyre?  [Please see below for the Book Giveaway info].

Cover-LadyMaybeJulie Klassen’s latest title is Lady Maybe, a tale of a young woman, an unwed mother, who does all in her power to protect her son, and unwilling to divulge the father’s name. This is one of the many intriguing secrets in this historical romance, and once again Klassen portrays the gruesome reality of the “fallen woman” in Regency England – Hannah Rogers’ only choice is to leave home and try to manage on her own, an impossible task in a world where women are the victims of a system that affords them no way to survive alone, or at least survive respectably.

The book begins with a horrible carriage accident and from there we encounter so many secrets and betrayals that to write any sort of substantial review would spoil the reading journey! Nothing is as it seems – you must puzzle it all out along with the characters – and though it is clear who our Heroine is after the first few chapters, the Real Hero is not truly revealed until the end. And along the way, any number of social issues in early nineteenth-century England are spread before the reader: the plight of unwed mothers, the difficulties of divorce, the prejudicial justice system, and the vagaries of gossip – all this, with some compelling bits of Jane Eyre hovering about, makes Lady Maybe an engaging must-read.

I interviewed Julie here earlier this year for her The Secret of Pembroke Park  – so today I asked her to share with us something about Lady Maybe, and here she tells up how she chose the North Devon coast as the setting for this story.

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On a Cliff’s Edge

                          by Julie Klassen

Jokingly, I say the real reason I write books is to justify my long-held desire to travel to England. But the truth is, my research trips there enrich my novels’ settings and add a great deal of historical detail. So far, I’ve been able to go three times.

While writing Lady Maybe, set in Regency England, I needed to find a road dangerously near a cliff’s edge overlooking the sea. Initially, I searched for the location using Google Earth, old maps, and web sites. I finally found the ideal setting—a coastal road in North Devon along the Bristol Channel near Lynton & Lynmouth. These twin villages are nestled amid the dramatic landscape of Exmoor National Park—also the setting of the novel Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore.

I wrote my first draft before I ever visited the area. Then, last year, an old friend and I had the privilege of traveling there. We drove on winding, breathtakingly-narrow roads as far as we could, then continued on by foot, walking on a carriage road hundreds of years old. Wind whipped hair in our faces, pulled hoods from our heads, and drowned out our voices as we searched for the perfect spot to send a carriage careening down into the water far below. Standing on the edge of that cliff, overlooking the sun-streaked blue and gray water, the opening scenes began to play like a movie in my mind: a lady’s companion, a carriage accident, and a desperate woman trying to rescue her child…

Lynton, cJulie Klassen

[Lynton, © Julie Klassen]

During an earlier trip to England, my husband and I visited a carriage museum in Devon. There, I learned the difference between a landau, barouche, traveling chariot, gig, chaise, and more. How fascinating to see so many historic carriages up close, to peer into the rich interiors, and imagine my characters heading off on their life-changing journey.

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[a Barouche]

I hope readers will enjoy the journey as well!

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Lady Maybe synopsis (from the rear cover):

A woman’s startling secrets lead her into unexpected danger and romance in Regency England…

One final cry…”God almighty, help us!” and suddenly her world shifted violently, until a blinding collision scattered her mind and shook her bones. Then, the pain. The freezing water. And as all sensation drifted away, a hand reached for hers, before all faded into darkness…

Now she has awakened as though from some strange, suffocating dream in a warm and welcoming room she has never seen before, and tended to by kind, unfamilar faces. But not all has been swept away. She recalls fragments of the accident. She remembers a baby. And a ring on her finger reminds her of a lie.

But most of all, there is a secret. And in this house of strangers she can trust no one but herself to keep it.

Lady Maybe
Berkley Trade, July 2015
Price: $16.
ISBN: 978-0-425-28207-6

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For those of you who love Klassen’s Regency novels, the wait for the next one is short one! The Painter’s Daughter will be released on December 1, 2015 (it is available for pre-order now). Here is the synopsis:

cover-PaintersDaughter

Sophie Dupont, daughter of a portrait painter, assists her father in his studio, keeping her own artwork out of sight. She often walks the cliffside path along the north Devon coast, popular with artists and poets. It’s where she met the handsome Wesley Overtree, the first man to tell her she’s beautiful. Captain Stephen Overtree is accustomed to taking on his brother’s neglected duties. Home on leave, he’s sent to find Wesley. Knowing his brother rented a cottage from a fellow painter, he travels to Devonshire and meets Miss Dupont, the painter’s daughter. He’s startled to recognize her from a miniature portrait he carries with him–one of Wesley’s discarded works. But his happiness plummets when he realizes Wesley has left her with child and sailed away to Italy in search of a new muse. Wanting to do something worthwhile with his life, Stephen proposes to Sophie. He does not offer love, or even a future together, but he can save her from scandal. If he dies in battle, as he believes he will, she’ll be a respectable widow with the protection of his family. Desperate for a way to escape her predicament, Sophie agrees to marry a stranger and travel to his family’s estate. But at Overtree Hall, her problems are just beginning. Will she regret marrying Captain Overtree when a repentant Wesley returns? Or will she find herself torn between the father of her child and her growing affection for the husband she barely knows?

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Author Julie Klassen 2015 x 200About the Author:

Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. She is the bestselling author of ten novels set in Regency England, including her new release, Lady Maybe. Julie is a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, and enjoys traveling to England to research her books whenever she can. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked as a fiction editor for sixteen years and now writes full time. Three of her novels have won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. She also won the Minnesota Book Award, and has been a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Awards. Julie and her husband have two teenaged sons and live in St. Paul, Minnesota.

For further reading:

Julie’s other novels:

  • Lady of Milkweed Manor (2008)
  • The Apothecary’s Daughter (2009)
  • The Silent Governess (2010)
  • The Girl in the Gatehouse (2011)
  • The Maid of Fairbourne Hall (2012)
  • The Tutor’s Daughter (2013)
  • The Dancing Master (2014)
  • The Secret of Pembrooke Park (2014)
  1. Website: http://www.julieklassen.com/
  2. Her research page, with pictures: http://www.julieklassen.com/Research.html
  3. Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Julie-Klassen/102060596587055
  4. Twitter page: https://twitter.com/Julie_Klassen

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Book Giveaway!

Please comment or ask a question of Julie in the box below to be entered into the random drawing for a copy of Lady Maybe, with hearty thanks to Julie and her publisher Berkley Books. Deadline is Tuesday September 15, 2015 11:59 pm – winner will be announced the next day – domestic mailings only, sorry to say.

Good Luck! and Thank You Julie!

©2015, Jane Austen in Vermont

Book Giveaway Winner! ~ Linda Slothouber’s Jane Austen, Edward Knight, and Chawton

BookCover-Slothouber…and the winner is Nancy who wrote:

Quite fascinating. I am particularly interested in your comment that Edward had more land and less money than many thought then and today. I know there are those who revile Edward today for not doing more for his mother and sisters instead of praising him for what he did do. . I’d love to have a copy of that book as much for what it says about general conditions and Edward’s in particular. –  I have the impression that Mr. Knightley also had more land than cash on hand and that his brother John received an allowance or something from their estate.

Nancy, please contact me as soon as possible with your contact details, and Linda will get the book sent off to you right away.

Thanks all for your terrific comments, and to Linda for her generosity for the guest post and responding to all your questions. Those of you who didn’t win, I encourage you to do it the old-fashioned way and buy the book – it is worth every penny and more of the $11.95!

And apologies for delay in announcing the giveaway – the Holiday caught me up short!

c2015 Jane Austen in Vermont

Guest Post & Book Giveaway! ~ “Edward Austen Knight as Landlord” ~ with Linda Slothouber on her Jane Austen, Edward Knight & Chawton

BookCover-SlothouberGentle Readers: Today I welcome Linda Slothouber, author of Jane Austen, Edward Knight, & Chawton: Commerce & Community (Woodpigeon Publishing, 2015), the result of her research at Chawton House Library in 2013. As the recipient of a grant through JASNA’s International Visitor Program, Linda’s project was to research the management of the Chawton estate in Hampshire during Edward Knight’s [nee Austen] ownership and this recently published book presents her findings. It is a most interesting and informative read, giving insights into the life and character of Jane Austen’s brother, thereby showing us how knowledgeable Jane Austen was in creating her own Heroes as landlords [think Mr. Knightley and Mr. Darcy! Henry Crawford, not so much…] – she had a fine model in her very own brother! I cannot improve upon what Deirdre Le Faye has written, that this book is “an essential addition to the Austenian bookshelf.”

I asked Linda how she chose this topic, what prompted her to apply for the JASNA grant, and here is her response: “Having written about other businesses in Jane Austen’s time, such as Wedgwood and Richard Arkwright’s cotton-spinning empire, I was very interested in how the business of estate management worked, both in the real world and in Jane Austen’s fiction.  I made some preliminary inquiries and found out from Chawton House Library about the Knight Archive and other potential resources.  My original intention, when I applied to JASNA’s International Visitor Program, was to write a much shorter book, but each question I answered spawned two more, and I discovered some stories and information I just couldn’t bear to leave out.” She tells us more about it all in her post below.

Linda has generously offered us a copy of her book for a giveaway, so please leave any comments and questions for her after this post in order to be entered into the random drawing [details below].

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Edward Knight, Landlord
by Linda Slothouber

The number of books, websites, magazines, and television programs that aim to explain the world in which Jane Austen lived must number well into the hundreds.   Many of them give a broad view of historical events and cultural conditions, compressing decades of time and significant regional diversities into a notional Georgian/Regency England.

In researching my book, Jane Austen, Edward Knight, & Chawton: Commerce and Community, I wanted to complement the more general histories by looking closely at specific people in a specific place.  My goal was to answer my own questions about the structure and economy of the English estate by looking at the experience of the estate-owner who would have been most familiar to Jane Austen:  her brother, Edward.  Adopted by rich relations, Edward inherited Godmersham Park in Kent; property in Chawton, Steventon, and elsewhere in Hampshire; and property in three other counties, changing his surname to Knight as a condition of the inheritance.  (Ronald Dunning gives more background on the Knight family here.)

Presentation of Edward Austen to Thomas and Catherine Knight – wikipedia

Presentation of Edward Austen to Thomas and Catherine Knight – wikipedia

I knew that the landed gentry made their money from renting and using their inherited lands, but how exactly did that happen?  How involved were landowners in estate management?  Jane Austen’s brother was an excellent case study.  I also wanted to explore how Chawton actually functioned as a community and get a better look at the people who lived in the cottages and farmhouses.  Who were the people that Jane Austen would have encountered during her years in Chawton?  When Chawton Great House was vacant or in the hands of tenants, what effect did that have on the estate and the village?

A View of Chawton @1740 by Mellichamp. Chawton House Library (BBC – Your Paintings)

My research into these questions was possible because of the availability of the Knight Archive, a treasure trove of several centuries’ worth of papers.  In 1961, 1986, and at various points in the 1990s, the Knight family gathered up record books, official documents, and random bits of paper from Chawton House and turned them over to the Hampshire Record Office in Winchester.  The HRO’s archivists created an index, but, because many entries refer to bundles of documents, the index can’t comprehensively describe everything in the archive.  The experience of going through one bundle after another, carefully unfolding 200-year-old papers to discover what each one contained, is something I will never forget!  Among the fascinating odds and ends I came across were the bills for Elizabeth Austen’s funeral and for the care of Jane and Edward’s brother George in his last weeks, the seating plan for the church in Chawton, and the list of poor old ladies to whom flannel petticoats were given after Edward Knight’s death.

Most of the documents in the Knight Archive concern the management of the Chawton estate and other Knight holdings.  While there are significant gaps, what has survived provides important insight into the Knights’ estate operations in Hampshire over a long period of time.  I read estate papers written by Elizabeth Knight and her steward in the early 1700s, and then turned to an estate wages book from the early 1900s, when Montagu Knight was the squire; some of the activities done on the estate remained remarkably constant, and some of the same surnames appeared on the lists of workers in both centuries.  As the focus of my research fell exactly between these two points, the range of documents provided an invaluable context for understanding Edward Knight’s period of ownership.

Excerpt from Edward Knight’s 1807 bank ledger, showing several deposits of estate income made by his steward, Bridger Seward, and forwarded through Henry Austen’s bank in Alton. (Courtesy of Barclays Group Archives)

The period between 1808 and 1819, encompassing the years when Jane Austen lived in Chawton, is, by chance, particularly well documented.  An estate accounts book has survived and is supported by bundles of vouchers documenting specific purchases and jobs done on the estate.  To pursue some questions, such as how much money Edward Knight earned from all his property in a typical year, I had to do some detective work, comparing the data found in the Knight Archive with that from other sources, including the Godmersham Heritage Centre, Barclays Group Archives (which holds Knight’s banking ledgers), and previously published sources such as Deirdre Le Faye’s Chronology of Jane Austen and Her Family.

So what did I learn?  It turns out Edward Knight had more land, and less money, than has commonly been believed.  I estimate that his contemporaries would have spoken of him as having “7,000 or 8,000 pounds a year,” not the £15,000 his near-contemporary Mary Russell Mitford stated (admittedly based on hearsay) as his income.  Knight had to contend with a lawsuit that threatened his ownership of his Hampshire property – that much is well-known – but his wealth was also affected by changes in the national economy that affected land values and farming income, presenting problems that plagued him throughout the 1820s and seem to have had an effect on his health, as well.

Edward Austen Knight - CHL

Edward Austen Knight – CHL

Knight felt deeply his responsibilities to his family, to the community, and to his own posterity – his son and the future heirs of the Knight estates.  Throughout his life, he provided financial assistance to many members of his family, though his female relations received far less direct financial support than his brothers did, or received assistance in ways that were not recorded in bank ledgers.  As for the community, Knight’s support for education, health care, and housing for the poor made Chawton more stable and less miserable than many other villages at the time.  It may be tempting to criticize some of his actions and omissions from our 21st-century vantage point, but L.P. Hartley’s maxim holds true:  “The past is another country:  they do things differently there.”

Learning about Edward Knight’s history and experience in estate management is valuable in its own right, but adding to the body of knowledge about Jane Austen is always a goal.  By discovering more about the people she knew during her eight years in Chawton and comparing the facts of their lives with what she wrote about them, we may come a tiny step closer to understanding her views and feelings.

One individual she knew well is William Triggs, Edward Knight’s gamekeeper at Chawton.  Triggs was by far the most well-paid of the Chawton estate servants; his salary of £52 was nearly half that of the estate steward.  His primary responsibility was to protect game on the estate for Edward Knight’s sons and guests to shoot when they came to stay. Since this didn’t happen often, some of his time was spent overseeing hay-making and other projects on the land, paying workers, and selling hay and potatoes on behalf of the estate (all tasks a bailiff might have done, but Knight didn’t employ one at Chawton at the time).  He was trusted with the money required to carry out these tasks and he earned a commission on sales.  He had guns and dogs and a horse that was purchased with estate funds, as was his hat, which cost a guinea (four times the cost of a common laborer’s hat).  Gamekeepers at the time were often resented by villagers for their high-handed ways and for siding with landowners, and this may have been the case with Triggs.  I found only one record in Knight’s estate accounts of poachers being conveyed to jail, but I did find a mention of a charge of assault brought against Triggs, which was settled by the estate paying the large sum of 9 pounds to the victim.

Jane Austen mentioned Triggs several times in her letters.  She found in him a worthy subject of long-running jokes shared with several members of her family.   She ended one letter, written from Godmersham Park to Cassandra back in Chawton, “With love to you all, including Triggs.”  In another letter, she wrote of seeing Triggs scurry down the lane, laden with birdcages and luggage, to meet the coach—not the kindest observation surely, but it seems to me she took some delight in seeing Triggs lose his swagger and struggle with lowly tasks.  In 1817, an interesting meeting took place:  “Tell William [Edward Knight’s son] that Triggs is as beautiful & condescending as ever, & was so good as to dine with us today,” wrote Jane.  We must imagine Triggs, the servant who perhaps acted above his station, sitting down to dine with the Austen women, who were related to the squire at the Great House but living in much humbler circumstances.  How did Jane Austen feel about being condescended to by her brother’s employee?  She tried to make conversation with him, but was it the sort of conversation Mr. Bennet had with Mr. Collins at dinner?  Did she speak aloud, teasingly, what she later wrote in her letter, that Triggs must have looked “very handsome” in his green coat at a recent funeral procession?  By discovering more about the dinner guest at the cottage table, it becomes easier to at least formulate such questions, even if the answers remain elusive.

A final word:  Even a scrap of paper of no obvious significance, which might easily have gone in the fire 200 years CEA-3-JAHouseMuseumago, has its magic today:  the words, the spelling, the quality of signatures (or X’s marked down by the unlettered), and the amount of paper allocated to a particular purpose all tell us something.  If such ephemera is worth saving and studying, then how much more essential is it to preserve a unique document that is central to Jane Austen’s life story?  Right now, Jane Austen’s House Museum is engaged in a campaign to collect £10,000 to purchase the letter that Cassandra Austen wrote to her niece Fanny immediately after Jane Austen’s death.  To secure the letter, this sum must be collected within less than three months.  Please read about the letter and consider contributing to the fundraising campaign.   [ The letter is CEA / 3, dated July 29, 1817 – Le Faye, 4th ed., p. 363 – you can read the text here]

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About the Author:  A 20-year career in management and technology consulting, degrees in English and Administration, and a stint as JASNA’s International Visitor to Chawton in 2013 created the foundation for Linda to write her 2015 book, Jane Austen, Edward Knight, & Chawton: Commerce & Community.  The book is available from Amazon, Woodpigeon Publishing, and Jane Austen Books in the U.S., and is available in the shop at Chawton House Library.  Linda blogs about new findings and supplemental research at chawtoncommerceandcommunity.blogspot.com. [Please note that Linda will be donating all profits from U.S. sales to the JASNA 2016 AGM.  For those of you attending JASNA-Vermont’s 7 June 2015 meeting, I will have copies for sale.]

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Book Giveaway:

BookCover-Slothouber

Thanks you so much Linda for your guest post on Edward Knight! Readers, please leave a comment or question for Linda in order to be entered into a random drawing to win a copy of Jane Austen, Edward Knight, & Chawton: Commerce and Community. Deadline is next Friday May 22, 2015 at 11:59 pm. Winner will be announced on May 23. Limited to domestic mailings, sorry to say, but don’t let that keep you from commenting!

Chawton House Library today - cTony Grant

Chawton House Library today – cTony Grant

[Tony Grant and I visited CHL last May on a very rainy day –
his picture was better than mine so I use it here with thanks!]

c2105 Jane Austen in Vermont