Saturday, February 13, 2016

Jane Austen Lives Again- A new review from Austenesque Reviews!

I'm utterly thrilled with this new review for Jane Austen Lives Again from Meredith Esparza of Austenesque Reviews.

Jane Austen is Alive in 1925!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Author
While suffering greatly from the disease that would take her life, Jane Austen learns that her doctor, Dr. Lyford, is conducting some pioneer studies on immortal jellyfish and transdifferentiation. In a secret attempt to cheat death, Jane and Cassandra consult with Dr. Lyford about using his knowledge to cure Jane Austen’s illness or possibly extend her life a little. The study unfortunately took a bit longer than expected, and several generations later in the year 1925, Jane Austen is finally able to resume life among the living! (Our dream come true, right?)
In order to support herself, Jane Austen takes a position as a governess to five young girls in a crumbling estate in Devon. The only thing is, this isn’t a typical governess position, and Jane Austen’s young charges are a good deal older than expected. But our dear Jane is made of stern stuff and has courage that rises with every attempt of intimidation. Jane takes on the discordant and troubled Milton family and tries to be the friend, supporter, and guide they all need. With such a large task on her hands, Jane is fearful her time to write more novels may be in short supply. But that may be the least of her worries as an unexpected suitor comes onto the scene and tries to win her heart…
Oh my! What a sensational and supremely original story! Jane Odiwe, who we’ve seen play with time-slipping and magical phenomena before, has taken her creativity to a new level with this brilliant original tale about Jane Austen as a governess and alive in the 1920s. Not only do readers have the special treat of seeing dear Jane as a main character, but the young people in this story all bear some resemblance to characters from Jane Austen’s novels. While none of them share the same name or exactly the same personality and situations, it is quite a diversion for the reader to spot characters who remind them of Colonel Brandon, Anne Elliot, Mr. Knightley, and Elizabeth Bennet. Some characters are pretty easy to figure out, but others, especially those who might be a mix of two characters, took some time and pondering. It was quite a lovely to see so many Jane Austen personalities in one setting!
I can’t really pinpoint what I loved most about the story, because I loved it all! I loved the large cast of characters and seeing their interactions, I loved seeing Jane Austen adapt to a new time period, way of life, and job, and I loved observing how through her little ideas and nudges Jane made the lives better of all those around her. I felt that this was just like her. That it would be her way to be so instrumental and have such an impact on all those around her.
In addition, I thought Jane Odiwe executed this clever and complex premise masterfully. With so many characters to juggle, crisscrossing storylines, and the scientific breakthrough of immortal life, this story could have felt a little fantastical and overwhelming. I commend Ms. Odiwe for taking all these elements and skillfully finding a way to make them come together so harmoniously. Readers who are familiar with this author’s previous works, will know that she writes with a very artistic eye and her novels usually include lush descriptions and vibrant details. So many scenes in this book effortlessly popped into my mind – the dresses, the estates, the dances – all in vivid color and detail. Such visually stimulating prose!

With Jane Austen being alive in the 1920’s and earning her keep as a governess, Jane Austen Lives Again sometimes felt like Downton Abbey meets Mary Poppins/Sound of Music (which are some of my favorite things!). It was a wonderful blend of history, fiction, and fairy tale! Absorbing, ingenious, and immensely satisfying – you definitely don’t want to miss Jane Austen Lives Again!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Jane Austen Lives Again Paperback Winners!




Thank you to everyone who left lovely comments about the book trailer videos. My husband picked the names out of his straw hat, and the winners are:

Julia Bookreader and Lynn Bischoff - Congratulations!

Could you please contact me here with your address details so I can send off your books. I do hope you enjoy them!


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

New Reviews for Jane Austen Lives Again and a Giveaway!

Jane Austen Lives Again
I'm absolutely thrilled with the fabulous reviews I'm getting for Jane Austen Lives Again - I'd like to thank Serena Agusto-Cox from Savvy, Verse and Wit, and Katie Patchell writing for Austenprose, for taking the time to review my book. Thank you also to Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose for selecting Jane Austen Lives Again for Best Austenesque Paranormal/Fantasy Novel 2015

In celebration, I have two paperback copies to give away! Please leave a comment below, telling me which video book trailer you like best of the two at the end of this post - closing date for entering will be a week from today - February 10th and the winner announced shortly after.

From the desk of Serena Augusto-Cox

Jane Austen Lives Again by Jane Odiwe requires readers to suspend disbelief, and those fans of Jane Austen who wish she had written more than her 6 novels will surely have no problem doing that.  Her death is averted by her physician, who has discovered the secret to immortal life with the help of the Turritopsis dohrnii in 1817.  When Austen awakens she is in 1925, just after The Great War.  Many families, included rich families, have fallen on hard times and experienced great loss as many lost sons, brothers, and husbands in the war.  Times have changed for women, and Austen is able to get work outside the home to support herself, and although her family has passed on and she’s effectively alone in the world, she pulls up her hem and gets to work as a governess to five girls at Manberley Castle near the sea in Stoke Pomeroy.
“Having lived cautiously, and under strict rules and regulations for so long, Miss Austen felt the winds of change blowing across the Devon landscape.”
Cora, Emily, Alice, Mae, and Beth are a bit more to handle than Austen expects, especially as she is a little younger than she had been before the procedure.  Upon her arrival, Austen is faced with staff who are eager to gossip, which rubs her the wrong way because she prefers to make up her own mind about people.  The heir to the castle, William Milton, is one person who keeps her on her toes, and as Austen gets caught up in the drama of others, she begins to realize that her life would be empty without the Miltons in it.
Odiwe is one of the best writers of Jane Austen-related fiction, and it shows as she weaves in Austen’s own novels into her own novel.  EmmaSense & SensibilityPride & Prejudice, and more are illustrated in a variety of situations here, and Austen is at the center of them all.  However, readers should be warned that Odiwe is not rehashing these plots point for point.  Jane Austen Lives Again by Jane Odiwe is her best novel yet, and if there were something to complain about, it would be that it could have been longer.

From the desk of Katie Patchell:
What would Jane Austen say and do if she lived in the 1920s instead of the late 1700s/early 1800s? Would she wear a drop-waist dress that showed her ankles and bob her auburn hair? Would she dance the Charleston or listen to Jazz music? How would she react to being called ‘baby doll’? And would being handed into the front seat of a car by a young, eligible man just as romantic as being handed into a Regency carriage? These fascinating questions and more are imaginatively answered in Jane Odiwe’s latest novel, Jane Austen Lives Again, where readers—and Jane Austen herself—are transported to the chaotic, electrifying Jazz Age.
1817: After days of sickness, Jane Austen closes her eyes on this world for the last time. Or so she thinks. When she opens them again—to her, only a few moments later—her doctor informs her that he found the secret to immortal life, and the year is…
1925: Post re-birth and after months reading modern newspapers, watching Hollywood films, and listening to Jazz music, Jane convinces Dr. Lyford that it’s time she takes her first steps to becoming an independent woman of the 20th century. A post as a governess for the five young daughters of Lord and Lady Milton seems just the thing.
I’ve never felt better. I feel as if I am about to start a new adventure, even if the thought of five little girls is a disquieting one. More than anything, I will have the time to write all the novels I thought were to be denied to me, and I will endure anything to that end.” (Chapter 1, Location 104)
On her arrival at the beautiful but crumbling Manberley Castle, Jane discovers that the adventure that awaits her is of an entirely different sort. Rather than having to take care of five young children, she’s been given the time-consuming and hectic job of being a governess to five young adult women, some a few years older than her (seemingly) 21 year old self!
But Jane has always loved a challenge, whatever the century. She soon gets swept up in the daily life of a quirky bohemian family and the romantic entanglements of five heroines—not to mention the attentions of William Milton, their irrepressibly charming, teasing, and oh-so-frustrating elder brother. Can Jane give her not-so-young charges the happy endings they deserve, even if they can’t see it themselves? Will she ever be able to find the time to pick up her pen (or typewriter) to write again? And in the midst of the Milton chaos and “modern” 1920s world, will she find love and happiness in her second chance at life?
Two major things were done in Jane Austen Lives Again that made it marvelous: Jane as the novel’s protagonist, and character similarities with Austen’s originals. Because of her supernatural awakening a century after Jane’s supposed death, she is given the chance to be the heroine of her own story. While I’ve loved other books starring Jane Austen that are set in her own time (such as Carolyn V. Murray’s beautiful 2015 debut, Jane by the Sea), getting the chance to see Jane in a different time period was a rare treat—especially in 1920s Devon, England. Transplanting her—the inimitable, fearless, sparkling Jane Austen we all know and love—to a different setting was a genius move. Odiwe skillfully kept Jane’s personality (and history through moments of back story) but enabled her to grow as a heroine.
At the same time, Jane Austen Lives Again is also a reimagining of most of the main love stories in Jane Austen’s novels. The five Milton women were reimaginings of Anne Elliot, Marianne Dashwood, Emma Woodhouse, Elizabeth Bennet, and Jane Bennet. While these main characters followed their original plotlines closely, sometimes they (and the men I thought they’d end up with) varied from their original characters or merged with others (such as the “Frank Churchill” character combining with “Willoughby”). This was handled with ease on Odiwe’s part, and kept me guessing—and highlighting my Kindle copy because of new character insights—until the final pages.
In its humor, family shenanigans, and determined heroine, Jane Austen Lives Again is reminiscent of Cold Comfort Farm, a hilarious, dazzling classic by Stella Gibbons. Yet at the same time, it stays true to Jane Austen and her novels in spirit—and still more, manages to stand apart from these as a unique novel of love, family, and laughter.
With a remarkable setting and gorgeous descriptions, memorable characters and a message of happy endings and new beginnings, Jane Austen Lives Again is a perfect read for Christmas and New Year’s.
5 out of 5 Stars






Monday, December 21, 2015

Happy Christmas 2015!

I hope you all have a very Happy Christmas or Happy Holidays depending on what part of the world you live in - and a very Happy New Year! I've enjoyed a wonderful year and I hope you have too. Wishing you health, wealth and happiness for 2016, along with many hours of happy reading pleasure.

My 2016 novel, Jane Austen Lives Again was such fun to write and I hope you enjoyed the first three chapters posted here - Prologue and Chapter One Chapter Two and Chapter Three. Published online for the first time is Chapter Four below - I hope you enjoy it. Wherever you are in the world, I wish you joy and send lots of love across the miles!

Jane Odiwe December 2016


Chapter Four

When Jane woke the next morning she was delighted to see a remarkable change in the weather. Sunlight poured through the long windows leaving golden lozenges in bright bars across the carpet and over her bed. She stretched, arms overhead, feeling quite deliciously happy for a moment as she luxuriated in the warmth and sense of wellbeing, having slept well despite the lumpy mattress. Leaping out of bed she went to stand at the window, and fiddling with the catch on the last pane at the end where the glass had been divided to make it into a casement, she flung it wide open. The smell of the sea and the sound of gulls mewing up above could do nothing but fill her with a sense of pleasure, making her instantly remember holidays spent in Lyme and Sidmouth in another place and time.
Leaning on the sill she could see the blue expanse of sea and sky, across to the valley and the village on the other side, glittering after the rain, and down to the steaming garden below. Breathing in lungfuls of air, she’d never felt so alive. The memories of her last illness were so fresh that every morning since she’d been brought back she was filled with such a sense of hope and elation as she felt the blood coursing through her veins by a beating heart that felt stronger than she’d ever known.
Down in the garden she could see a twisting path following the line of a stretch of water at the bottom of the tower, and she watched a white swan fly in to land, spraying foam in an arc upon the moat, thick with water lily pads. She was watching the bird preening with a golden beak when along the path she caught sight of Alice and Mae emerging between the rose bushes whose blooms drooped like crushed tissue after the rain. Dressed for the day, Jane noticed the absolute contrast in their styles, Alice in a gown of white lawn flowing down to her ankles, Mae in a pair of trousers with a loose blouse tucked into the waistline. Though still an unusual sight, Jane had seen women occasionally wearing trousers, and thought how comfortable they looked. Mae’s were wide-legged, looking very masculine, and she wondered if they’d been altered from a pair of her brother’s. Jane could just imagine the sort of rows that would ensue when Lady Milton clapped eyes on Mae’s outfit, and she’d bet money on the fact that her stepmother would find fault with her appearance.
Alice and Mae were deep in conversation, their heads bowed, and though she couldn’t hear all that they were saying, odd words, and snatches of conversation drifted up to her on the summer breeze.
‘Will thought you should know … you mustn’t be upset … with luck you may avoid him,’ Mae said.
‘I do not know why Will should say … I’ve long given over thinking of … I would happily see him, what have I to fear?’ Alice answered.
‘I think Will might be relieved to hear that … they were always such friends.’
‘And if I make it easy for everyone, you’ll still be able to meet … I’ve no wish for awkward scenes, Mae … you coming down to the village later?’
‘No … not be told what to do.’
‘I wish you would … not Miss Austen’s fault …’
They rounded the curve of the path and Jane could hear no more. There was a little mystery about someone Mae thought Alice might not want to see, and it looked as if there’d be another day of scenes between Mae and Lady Milton. Jane felt a little uncomfortable at having eavesdropped, but really it was very difficult not to hear those intriguing snatches of conversation. Wondering whether she’d come to learn what it was all about, she left the window on the latch to allow the warm air to circulate, and hearing the clock striking eight, decided she’d better hurry and get herself dressed for breakfast, though after last night’s meal she wasn’t expecting much culinary excitement. There didn’t seem to be any sign of hot water left outside her room so she filled the jug with cold from the basin in the bathroom for a wash, and set about getting ready for the day.

Jane hurried along the corridors and passages, down one staircase after another. She saw one or two maids bearing breakfast trays groaning with teapots, silver food domes and racks of toast, which made her wonder whether many of Manberley’s residents would be joining her in the dining room. It was empty when she walked in, but there were several covered serving dishes on the side, which rather surprisingly held a vast variety of breakfast treats, until Jane reasoned that the Miltons probably farmed the land, and would keep pigs and hens. Jane helped herself to sausage and bacon, scrambled egg and fried bread, thinking that it might be an idea to stock up on food if dinner was to be another poor affair.
She was just enjoying her solitude when the door opened, which made her start a little, especially when she saw who was walking in. It was the driver who’d picked her up from the station, looking as if breakfasting in the dining room at this hour was a regular habit. He mumbled something, which Jane thought might have been “good morning”, before coolly helping himself from the side. With his plate heaped high, he sat down on the chair opposite her, and spent the next ten minutes without another word, eating his way through a mountain of food in silence. Jane couldn’t help thinking his presence was most unusual, even taking into account how times had changed. In her day servants ate in the kitchen, and though she’d been surprised to discover that she was invited to eat with the family, she decided the Miltons must be most unconventional to allow the chauffeur the same honour.
It felt very uncomfortable sitting there without any attempt at conversation. Jane observed her companion who was now unfurling a newspaper from his pocket, and spreading it open on the table, with hardly a pause from the movement of his fork from food to mouth. He was very well dressed in a suit of country tweed, no uniform today, and she couldn’t help noticing how well the greenish flecks in the tawny cloth complimented his tanned skin. He was broad-shouldered, yet she detected a slim torso beneath the waistcoat he wore, and with long limbs and strong, capable-looking hands he could be described as a very good-looking young man. Dark, unruly curls had been fixed as well as they could into place with a neat parting and brilliantine, but those at the nape of his neck where they met the collar of his shirt refused to be tamed.
He must have been aware she was staring because he suddenly looked up which made her jump a little out of her seat. She saw a wide mouth curving into a generous smile at her obvious discomfort, and a flash of white even teeth. 
‘Not run away yet, Miss Austen?’
His accent had a faint trace of something she couldn’t make out, but it was a friendly voice, and she couldn’t help smiling too.
‘No, not yet, Mr … I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.’
‘It’s Will Milton.’ There was a pause during which his eyes connected with hers. ‘Just call me Will … everybody does.’
Jane felt the blood pound in her temples, and knew her face was flooding with crimson. Will Milton? A hundred thoughts flashed through her mind, as she wondered if she could have done or said anything yesterday that she should now regret. He was no ordinary chauffeur she realised in that moment, but the son and heir to Manberley castle. Of course she had been a little snooty, telling him off for discussing her employers, but he’d been obviously playing a trick on her and that was hardly her fault. Besides, he’d had the nerve to drop her at the servant’s door when she knew he should have treated her as a lady and escorted her through the front entrance. Jane thought she detected amused arrogance in the curling of his mouth as he continued to read. She went from embarrassment and shame to downright livid indignation in the time it took for Will to close his paper.
‘Do you always dress up as the chauffeur and pretend to be someone you’re not?’ she said crossly, unable to stop the thoughts coming out of her mouth.
Will seemed to find this funny, and threw back his head to laugh out loud. ‘I don’t have to do it very often, pick people up from the station, I mean, but I thought it might put you at your ease, and I hoped to learn a bit more about you and what you were thinking about coming to work here. We don’t have a driver any more, and on the few occasions I’ve taken on the job, I must admit it’s always fun to listen to the conversations of incoming guests. I’ve learned a lot, and then the moment of realisation is always worth the wait … and such a hoot.’
‘I’m glad you think it’s so funny,’ said Jane, already deciding that she’d never met anyone more unprincipled. Above all things she disliked this sort of trickery, having fun at others’ expense. These Miltons were an odd lot, and she’d best keep her wits if she were to keep her sanity.
‘I didn’t mean to upset you,’ he said and she caught that drawl in his voice again. His eyes were pleading with her but she would not be drawn into the depths of those dark brown eyes. ‘Please forgive me, Miss Austen, I would hate to disappoint my new governess.’
He was making fun of her again. ‘I am not your governess. Your stepmother has made it quite clear to me that you’re a law unto yourself. I am here merely to advise Lady Milton and help with the girls.’
‘I expect she’s told you I’m a wicked stepson,’ he said, his eyes twinkling with amusement, ‘with no morals and a string of women in the village.’
‘Lady Milton has said no such thing, and even if she had I would not repeat it.’
That made him laugh again, and Jane couldn’t help wondering, as she stared at him, whether there was some truth in what he’d said. She saw that arrogance again, and imagined the confident heir to Manberley leaving a trail of broken hearts behind him amongst all the young women of Stoke Pomeroy. Well, he wouldn’t be charming her with his good looks and fine eyes, she decided, not that he’d be interested in anything about her except as a vehicle for his jokes and what he imagined was wit. Jane thought it wouldn’t take her long to put him in his place now she knew what he was like, and looked forward to having the opportunity again sometime.
‘I wonder if I could ask something of you, Miss Austen.’
‘Well, you could try,’ she answered rather stiffly, knowing she wasn’t being very friendly.
‘Could you keep an especial eye on my sisters? Alice is a sweet girl, and she’s been through so much, always taking it upon herself to try and fill the place of the mother we lost. I don’t want to go into detail, but something imminent might just throw her off course a little. She’s been bruised in the past, and though I shall do all to protect her against further hurt, it would be so nice to know someone else was looking out for her. And Mae is lovely too, when you get to know her. Alice told me her behaviour last night left a lot to be desired, and that she’s been rude within your hearing. We talk to her all the time, but we’re at a loss to know what to do for the best.’                    
‘Of course, I shall do all I can to help,’ said Jane in a warmer tone, slightly revising her thoughts about him. At least he seemed to care about his sisters. ‘Please don’t worry too much, Alice is such a kind young woman, and I’m sure Mae just needs time, Mr Milton.’
‘I knew the moment I set eyes on you that you’d be good for Manberley, Miss Austen, thank you for taking us all on. I’m glad you’re not about to run away, but if you ever consider it, will you discuss it with me first?’
Now it was Jane’s turn to laugh. ‘Mr Milton, I hope that will not be the case just yet, but I’d also hate you to think I will have a solution for every problem. I am ill qualified as a counsellor though I’ve had a little experience with young people in my own family. It will be as much trial and error for me too.’
‘No, I won’t have that. You’ve made a difference already … even Mrs Naseby has a good word for you, which is saying a lot. You may be young and inexperienced, but you’re a breath of fresh air, and that’s what we all need.’
Jane didn’t say a word; she could hardly contradict him. But she felt young, even if her mind still held onto the past of an aging woman. She watched Will dab at his mouth with a napkin before he stood up, pushing the chair behind him.
‘I hope I’ll see you later, at dinner.’
‘Yes, Mr Milton.’
‘Will,’ he said with a knowing wink. ‘Please call me Will, everybody does.’

Mae didn’t want to hang around being told what she could or couldn’t do on such a glorious day. She’d already decided to go out on her bicycle, and take a little picnic down to the beach. Mrs Wickens, the cook had made her a packed lunch and even though she knew it was fish paste sandwiches and a flask of tea, it would be better than enduring an insufferable afternoon at the tea shop in the village with her sisters and that new governess who was so prim and proper.
She went down to the old stables where the stalls had once been full of horses. Now there were only two left, her brother Will’s chestnut thoroughbred, Achilles, and a pony, Valentino, which all the girls were meant to share. Valentino whinnied when he saw her, and reaching inside her trouser pocket she fetched out a sugar lump for him. Leaning her head against his noble one as he munched, his velvet nose sniffing for more, she felt the warmth of him melt her heart.
‘No one understands me like you do,’ she said, draping her arms round his neck. ‘But I’m sorry, my darling, I can’t take you with me today, I shall be gone for too long, though I promise we’ll ride along the sands tomorrow.’
Mae kissed his neck, and stroked his mane, as he nuzzled her fingers in hopes of another sugar lump. She fed him one more, and went in search of her bicycle. Propped up in the last stall, she put her packet of sandwiches and thermos flask into the basket at the front, and backed it out. Will’s motorcycle gleamed in the next stall. It was a beautiful object, an Indian scout he’d bought in America a few years ago when he’d been to stay with their Uncle Harry who’d treated him to the exotic machine and even shipped it home for him. Uncle Harry, their mother’s brother was a very wealthy man who divided his time between his brownstone in New York City and his summer mansion at Newport, Rhode Island. He had sons of his own, but the hope was that Will might still come into some of Uncle Harry’s money. Mae knew that her mother had come from a prestigious family, but she’d never met any of them though she was intrigued by the idea of her exotic American relations. They hadn’t wanted Edith to marry her father who they’d considered a pauper compared to the families with whom they associated, and when she eloped with him to England, they’d cut off all ties. It was only after her mother’s death that Uncle Harry had expressed a wish to meet Will, and though the visit had been a success, lasting two years, in all that time he’d never asked to meet the girls.
Mae wished she could try out the motorcycle. When it was running, it was like a beast. Will had let her try it once and she’d loved the purr of the engine and the feeling of power. Resting the bicycle against a post she wandered over to admire the sleek lines and the scarlet paint. She’d watched Will start it up many times, and wondered if she could do it herself. Leaning over, she turned on the gas, as Will called it, pulled on the choke, adjusted the advance and the throttle, and then leaning her full weight on the handlebars tried to kick-start the cycle. It took three attempts before it sputtered into life, and then, as the engine ticked over, Mae thought it would do no harm just to try it out for size. Remembering to kick her leg high she eased into the saddle, and the moment that was done, the most daring thought entered her head.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Then Comes Winter- a new collection of short stories, a Book Tour, and a Competition!


Here is news of a brand new book that looks perfect for a stocking filler! Christina Boyd is here to tell us all about the book tour and a chance to enter a fabulous competition to win a very special copy.
In the US, the time between Thanksgiving and New Year's is travel time as people go back to their hometowns to celebrate holidays with their families. It is only appropriate that Then Comes Winter, a collection of holiday themed short stories, is embarking on a trip to visit each of its hometowns, those of the talented authors who contributed to its making. Along the way through three countries, the traveling copy of Then Comes Winter will be collecting autographs, visiting special places in each region, and collecting souvenirs.

The book's final stop is yet undetermined. Its wanderlust will end once a winner is chosen through this rafflecopter drawing which will determine which lucky winner whose bookshelf will house the only paperback of the anthology signed by all the authors and the editor. Be a part of this unique journey and enter to be that final destination.
In the meantime, join us as we track the book's journey. http://merytonpress.com/a-then-comes-winter-road-trip/

“Then comes Winter, with bluster and snow, that brings to our cheeks the ruddy glow…” Gertrude Tooley Buckingham (The Four Seasons)
If you long for a toasty snuggle on a cold winter’s night, this collection of original short stories inspired by the magic of the holiday season—and more than a nod to Jane Austen—was fancied as a sublime wintertime treat. On the heels of the summer anthology, "Sun-kissed: Effusions of Summer," and in concert with some of Meryton Press’s most popular authors, this romantic anthology introduces several promising writers. With a robust mix of contemporary and Regency musings, "Then Comes Winter," rekindles the romantic fires with equal wit, wonder, and admiration. Edited by Christina Boyd. Contributing authors: Natalie Richards, Erin Lopez, Sophia Rose, Denise Stout, Beau North, Amber Carter, Suzan Lauder, Linda Gonschior, Lory Lilian, Melanie Stanford, Anngela Schroeder, and Maureen Lee.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Jane Austen Literacy Foundation and Mr Darcy!

A year ago I wrote a book called Mr Darcy's Christmas Calendar - a novella written to celebrate my love of Jane Austen and her home at Chawton in Hampshire. I really loved writing this book - I've always loved visiting Jane Austen's House in Chawton, as well as Chawton Great House where her brother Edward lived, and wanted to include those fabulous settings in a book inspired by Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice. Last year, I had the great privilege of meeting Caroline Knight, a fifth great-niece of Jane Austen who told me of her passionate ideas to launch a charity in Jane Austen's name and which she has now successfully launched as The Jane Austen Literacy Foundation.

I enjoyed a wonderful afternoon being shown round Chawton House where Caroline grew up, and it is a day of lovely memories I will always treasure. It was extraordinary to hear about the history of the house through the eyes of someone who'd lived there, and to hear Caroline's own tales of a beloved house. 

I hope you'll be able to help me support the wonderful work of the charity by making your own donations to the charity or by buying a Kindle or paperback copy of Mr Darcy's Christmas Calendar, available on Amazon (internationally). 100% of the profits on the sale of the new book will be going to help fund projects of The Jane Austen Literacy Foundation, along with Jane Austen products in my Zazzle shop. Mr Darcy's Christmas Calendar is being launched today with a new cover and an updated interior - I hope you like the new cover! 

It's a magical tale, about a girl who visits Jane Austen's house only to be drawn into the world of her favourite characters from Pride and Prejudice when she opens the doors of an enchanted advent calendar. When she meets Jane Austen who asks for her help with the plot of a book that reminds her very much of her favourite novel, Lizzy is delighted to help, though nothing seems to be quite as it should be. As she finds herself increasingly drawn into an alternate reality, Lizzy discovers not only is Mr Darcy missing from the plot, but also that Jane Austen has never heard of him. All Lizzy can hope is that she can help to get the story and her own complicated love life back on track before Christmas is over, and bring everything to a happy resolution in Jane Austen's imaginary world!

If you'd like to read Chapter One, you can find it here! I hope you'll join me in helping to support the very worthwhile work of the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation. I feel very privileged to have been asked to be an ambassador alongside Sophie Andrews, aka Laughing with Lizzie, Simon Langton, Director of the 1995 BBC adaptation of 'Pride & Prejudice' and Amanda Jacobs, composer and playwright





Friday, November 13, 2015

Jane Austen Lives Again - Day Four Competition Results!

Day Four
Competition Results!



Thank you so much to everyone who participated - it was lovely to see you all! My husband drew the names from my hat and the winner of the Jane Austen Lives Again bundle prize is :

Annabel Mallia

Two more paperback winners are:
Vee and Kerri 

Congratulations - could you please contact me with your details so I can post your prize.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Jane Austen Lives Again - Day Three Competition Results!

Day Three
Competition Results!






Thank you so much to everyone who participated - I loved reading your answers and comments! My husband drew the name from my hat and the winner of the Persuasion prize bundle is :

Pamela Henwood

Congratulations - could you please contact me with your details so I can post your prize.

Tomorrow I will be posting the result of the Day Four Giveaway so please check back.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Jane Austen Lives Again - Day Two Competition Results!

Day Two
Competition Results!





Thank you so much to everyone who participated - it was lovely to see you all! My husband drew the name from my hat and the winner of the Emma prize is :

Kelly H

Congratulations - could you please contact me with your details so I can post your prize.

Tomorrow I will be posting the result of the Day Three Giveaway so please check back.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Jane Austen Lives Again - Day One Competition Results!



Day One
Competition Results!

Thank you so much to everyone who participated - you all made launch day such fun! My husband drew the names from my hat and the winners of the jewellery are:


Kirk - Blue Filigree Brooch
Pamela Hunter - Green Filigree Brooch
Anna Horner - Green Venetian Necklace
Catherine Curzon - Blue Venetian Necklace

Congratulations - could you please contact me with details of your addresses so I can post your prizes.
Tomorrow I will be posting the result of the Day Two Giveaway so please check back.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Jane Austen Lives Again - Competition Giveaway - Day Four

Welcome to Day Four's Giveaway to celebrate my new release, Jane Austen Lives Again
I'm thrilled to tell you that my book is now available in Kindle and paperback on Amazon, UK, and US, and everywhere else.  Please note the giveaways are open internationally.

Thank you for visiting me on my blog-it's been so lovely to see so many people who I've known over the years, and some new faces too!

Here is Chapter Three, which I hope you will enjoy - today's giveaway follows below!


Chapter Three


Time was racing along at a pace, which Jane thought was typical considering how much she wished it could slow down and delay the dinner hour. She pulled on her evening dress over her head and examined her reflection feeling quite pleased with the result. Dr Lyford’s sister had bought the dress in Gorringes’ winter sale a few years ago in London, and whilst it was not quite in the first fashion now, Elsie Lyford said she thought it would not look too shabby to be worn at the dinner table or at a dance, black being most suitable and practical. It could always be livened up with a bright scarf, a string of pearls or one of the new long necklaces, and turned into at least three different outfits, not that Jane had any jewellery to try that out.  It might even be possible to alter it and lower the waist though Elsie added it might not be the done thing for a governess to attempt to out-do her employers in the fashion stakes. The satin dress felt smooth as silk, it was embellished with a few tiny jet beads and black fringe just below the bodice line, which was still quite high, and had a cape of sheer Georgette sleeves. Looped at the sides the dress felt very elegant and Jane decided she didn’t look too bad after all. A check on her hair scraped up into a bun on her head, followed by a spritz of cologne, and she was ready to face the family.
She almost got lost in the rabbit warren of staircases and passages on the way down, but catching sight of the gallery with its glimpse down into the quadrangle of the spacious hall below, Jane felt she was on the right path at last. With little idea of the time she ended up running down the last set of stairs anxious that she would be late. With minutes to spare Alice was there to meet her. Jane felt relief flood through her when she saw her waving across the hallway; she’d feel so much better not walking into a room on her own.
We’re having drinks in the drawing room first,’ Alice said. ‘Come on through and I’ll introduce you. It’s just the family tonight … Lady Milton thought that would be ordeal enough for you, and she’s keen for you to get to know everyone.’
Jane detected no animosity in Alice’s voice towards her stepmother, but she wasn’t surprised. Though it must have been very difficult feeling like a stranger in her own home when they’d first come back to Manberley, Jane thought that if anyone could have coped with little fuss it would have been Alice.
As if she could read Jane’s mind, Alice spoke. ‘My stepmother means well enough, Miss Austen. She has always been kind to my siblings and me, and naturally she is disposed to favour her own children. Lady Milton would like us all to be off her hands, I think, well married and in our own homes, which I suppose is the natural desire of most mothers.’
‘And are any wedding bells to be heard soon?’ Jane asked as they entered the room. They were the first arrived after all, so she need not have worried.
‘I’m afraid not. William is oblivious to any of the girls that are presented to him, Mae has such high ideals that any suitor is snubbed on his appearance alone, and the younger girls have only just come out. My stepmother’s anxiety levels in that regard are reaching fever pitch. She’d like them to be presented at court, but my father says, as Mae and I never had that privilege it will have to be forfeited. They have horrible discussions about it sometimes, but he seems to think there are enough suitable gentlemen in the local area that would make good husbands.’
‘Is he right?’
‘Of course there are not so many young men left, but rather older men, one or two widowers who lost their sons in the war, keen to take new wives and carry on the line. And then there are local landowners like Jonathan Keeling at Buckland Priors, and Captain Bartlett of Sherford Park lives just a mile away; I’m sure you will meet him sooner or later. He’s a friend of my father’s though he is a younger man, about thirty-five. There are soldiers staying in the village too, part of the army stationed here.’
‘And which one will steal your heart, Miss Milton?’
Jane saw Alice’s expression grow sombre. ‘The one that stole my heart has gone forever, Miss Austen.’
‘I’m sorry, I should not have asked.’
Alice smiled. ‘I think I would like to tell you about him sometime if you’d care to listen.’
‘I would like that very much.’
The room, which had been a haven of peace, was suddenly alive with people and chatter. Lady Milton burst through the door with two girls hanging on her arms, all talking at once, with another trailing behind, her nose in a book. A man who could be no one else but Lord Milton came in next with another young woman whom Jane guessed must be Mae from the cold stare she received. A beautiful girl, and clearly a very spirited one, her features were temporarily spoiled by her sulky expression though she seemed to smile at her father and patted the seat next to her on the sofa for him to sit down.
‘Ten minutes, and then dinner!’ boomed his lordship ignoring his daughter and moving to a small table where a silver tray of drinks was set out. ‘Can’t abide cold food. Now, what’s your poison?’
‘Albert darling,’ called Lady Milton, ‘come and meet Miss Austen. She’s here to help me look after the girls.’
‘Not that we need a nursemaid,’ said Mae glaring at Jane. ‘It’s too bad someone of my age has to have someone trailing after them watching everything I do. Anyhow, I’m not having someone younger than me telling me what to do. Daddy, tell Flora I won’t have it.’
Nobody seemed shocked or embarrassed at this outburst, except Alice whose pleading expression as she looked anxiously at Jane begged forgiveness for Mae’s rudeness.
Lord Milton ignored his daughter again and crossed the room with his hand outstretched. Jane noticed the lapels on his dinner jacket were rather shiny from age and too much careless pressing of an iron. ‘Miss Austen, I am delighted, Flora’s been telling me you’re a miracle worker, and Lord knows we need one at Manberley Castle.’
‘Oh, Albert, things aren’t that bad, don’t exaggerate,’ said Flora Milton with a pretty, affected laugh. She perched on the arm of a sofa and crossed her long legs. ‘Miss Austen is here as another pair of hands, as a companion to us all, and as a sort of lady factotum. She’s a wonderful listener, you know, and it will be so nice to have someone to hear all our troubles.’
‘Where’s Will?’ Lord Milton paid no attention to his wife, and picked up a bottle of gin from the tray.
‘He’s gone out,’ said Mae.
‘Gone out and missed his dinner? I never heard such a thing. Drat the boy, and the damned butler who announced after he’d finished dressing me that he had urgent business in the village. I daresay he’s slipped out with Will to one of their usual haunts. You can’t get the staff these days, Miss Austen. Never mind, I’ll make ’em myself. Is it Atty’s all round then?’
Jane was beginning to think she’d landed in the middle of a novel in the making, and though it was quite interesting to watch the family dynamics she’d begun to realise that she wasn’t an outsider merely looking on, but was expected to become part of the scenario, which was a very frightening idea. And as she watched his lordship sloshing gin and vermouth in large quantities into every glass she felt quite alarmed. Though she wasn’t averse to a glass of wine or two, a cocktail was quite another matter. It would only go to her head and she might let anything she wasn’t meant to mention slip out.
‘Not too heavy on the absinthe or crème de violette if you please, Albert,’ said Flora selecting a cigarette from a silver box and fixing it into a long scarlet holder to match her dress. ‘I do not wish to see green fairies dancing at the end of my bed tonight.’
Lord Milton was getting flustered as he topped up the cocktails and handed out the drinks. ‘He’s never here when you need him. I daresay he’s gone on pleasure bent.’
‘Well, you’re only young once,’ said Lady Milton, ‘isn’t that so, Miss Austen?’
Jane smiled, and nodded a little, feeling that to answer truthfully she’d have to reply in the negative. She’d had to lie about so much lately, but she felt a certain justification. The truth would certainly horrify them all, especially Cora who would, no doubt, imagine her in the direst sense as a walking corpse or worse. She sipped at her cocktail which she thought hideously perfumed, and ignored Lord Milton’s urgent pleas to ‘drink up quickly, we must hasten to the dining room!’
She was listening to Lady Milton loudly bemoaning the expense of new silk stockings and their scarcity in Devon when Jane noticed she was being scrutinised by Cora. A tall slim girl who looked about eighteen, she was sitting on a leather pouffe with her legs outstretched, her girlish organza dress billowing over the sides, a book folded in her lap, but with one finger keeping its place on the page. The one touch to modernity was a low-slung sash round her hips in apricot silk, but Jane was pleased to see her appearance befitted her age. Her hair was short but curled into her neck, and a pair of forget-me-not blue eyes gazed wide-eyed between two rows of dark lashes. A pretty girl, but clearly an intelligent one, and when their eyes met Cora quickly looked away, as if she knew she’d stared too much for politeness.
‘May I ask what you’re reading?’ asked Jane.
Cora looked up. ‘It’s a novel by Walter de la Mare, about a very small girl who at twenty could be taken for a child of ten. At times awfully strange, but terribly good and it’s simply enchanting. I’ve read it before … the images created get stuck in your head, Miss Austen. There’s a particularly vivid one near the start where the tiny heroine, Miss M, is sitting in a tartan frock on her father’s pomatum pot on his dressing table.’
‘So she’s very tiny, like an elf or fairy.’
‘Yes, in a way though size isn’t really the point of the book, I don’t think. It’s more about how we view the world, and how overwhelming it can be, and all wrapped up in the most beautiful sentences.’
‘I should like to borrow it when you’ve finished, if you wouldn’t mind. And if you’d like to discuss it further when I’ve read it, I should enjoy that very much.’
‘I’d like that,’ said Cora putting the book down and drawing up her legs to hug her knees. ‘It’s always fun to get another opinion on a book; hardly anyone at Manberley reads, Miss Austen.’
Jane smiled. ‘Can you recommend a good bookshop nearby? I have only one book with me and I should love to start a new collection.’
‘There’s a most delightful bookshop in the village, Miss Austen. I should love to show you, I think you’ll like it very much. It’s such an old-fashioned place with a brass bell that tinkles above the door, shelves upon shelves of books lining every wall, and tottering piles covering what’s left of the floor. There are so many books that it’s hard to find the proprietor sometimes, though he’s generally to be found at the back of the shop in a cosy chair oblivious to the world. I shouldn’t wonder if he doesn’t get lost one day amongst the mountains of books.’
‘I can’t wait to see it. Are you free tomorrow? I’d love to walk down to the village.’
‘We could all come,’ said Beth who’d been listening to their conversation. ‘Alice told me you need one or two things for your room, Miss Austen. Mother said we should buy whatever is required, and I’d love to show you the village and help you pick something out.’
‘Oh, how kind of you,’ said Jane noticing Beth for the first time. A younger, more attractive version of her mother unadorned by heavy make-up, she was a striking looking girl, perhaps a couple of years older than Cora. Dressed in a modern gown in vibrant yellow, which suited her glossy brown hair, her very dark velvet eyes and the fine arching brows above them, Jane warmed to her instantly.
‘And we’re bound to meet some of the officers,’ said Emily, nudging her sister. ‘I think Lieutenant Dauncey is rather sweet on Beth, and she on him. I am dying to get them together.’
‘Emily, I am not interested in Lieutenant Dauncey or anyone else, whatever you think,’ Beth said quite crossly. ‘I’d rather you didn’t meddle. One of these days your match-making schemes will land you in trouble.’
‘But I’m so good at it,’ Emily insisted, tossing her mane of blonde curls over her shoulders. She was the only one of the girls to be so fair, and with her long, unrestrained hair and green eyes flecked with hazel she had an otherworldly quality. ‘You must admit, if not for me Mr Stephens wouldn’t have even noticed Daisy Stocks, and now they’re married. Mr Stephens is the local vicar in the village, Miss Austen. And as for the vicar at Moorford, Mr Wallis, I’ve got someone lined up for him too!’
Jane saw Alice rise to her feet. She looked a bit flushed, and her hands trembled as she spoke.
‘We really should go into dinner, cook hates it if the food is left to go cold.’
‘Let’s not discuss the Wallis’s, Emily,’ said Flora Milton in a low warning voice, rising to her feet. ‘You know how much it upsets your sister.’
Everyone stood up then, and Alice led the way out to the dining room. She was noticeably upset, and it clearly had something to do with the mention of the Moorford vicar. Jane couldn’t help feeling sorry for her, and wondered if he’d been the young man to break her heart though she dismissed that idea when she remembered she’d been given the impression that her sweetheart was no longer living. Perhaps she’d learn more in time if Alice chose to confide in her, but what she’d be able to do to help she couldn’t think. Being in love with someone who could never be yours was a wearing business, Jane knew from past experience, and as she followed the others into the dining room, she suppressed her own memories and the associated emotions rising from the past.
Jane noticed the details of white linen, gleaming silver set for several courses, white candles guttering in the breeze from an open window, and the dying evening light slanting through French windows onto flocked walls, green as the velvet interior of a jewel box. It was a picture of a dining room from an age of opulence, though on closer inspection she could see that the crystal glasses were rimed with dust, there were stains on the cloth and tarnish on the cutlery. It did not bode well.
‘Miss Austen, come and sit next to me,’ said Alice, and Jane tried very hard not to show her sense of relief. Beth sat on her other side, and she felt pleased she’d have a chance to speak to her again.
Jane looked round the table. Lady Milton was trying to engage Mae in conversation but she was being completely ignored. At every attempt Mae turned her head as if she hadn’t heard her stepmother, and was soon talking loudly to Emily on her other side. Lord Milton was chatting away to Alice, looking rather fondly on his daughter, as his wife attempted to interrupt them, shouting across the table that she couldn’t hear what was being said.
‘I ought to warn you,’ Beth began in a low voice inclining her dark head toward Jane’s ear, ‘that besides the fact that we’re a disparate bunch, dinner is a bit of a hit and miss affair, and between you and me, rather lacking in content and variety. It’s not cook’s fault, in the old days when money was plentiful meals were absolutely splendid, but like everywhere else in the castle cutbacks have been made.’
‘Please don’t worry, Miss Beth. I have been used to frugality most of my life,’ Jane answered truthfully, ‘and of course, we are living in very difficult times.’
‘Though not everyone in Stoke Pomeroy seems to suffer as we do,’ said Beth. ‘Mr Keeling at the Priors has the most splendid dinner parties to which we are occasionally invited. We stuff ourselves when we go there because the food is so marvellous. There was lobster to start last time we went, and roast lamb, followed by rhubarb crumble with jugs of custard. I have dreams at night of dining there when we’ve had a particularly poor dinner. Mr Keeling is from one of the old families and he seems to have pots of money left.’
‘Is he a young man?’ Jane asked.
‘Well, he’s of marriageable age, I suppose, if that’s why you’re asking, though no one here would consider him like that, however much my mother would wish it. We’ve known him since we were babies, Miss Austen, and he’s like a doting big brother. I’m sure you’ll meet him soon; he’s always here. The castle is like a second home to him, he says. He’s very generous and often sends us a gift of venison, beef, or fish when in season, and his gardens produce the most wonderful fruit. Then it feels like a holiday, and everyone is happy because we go to bed with full stomachs.’
Jane was just wondering if she dared ask what had happened to the Milton sugar fortune when the first course arrived, a huge tureen of soup, carried in ceremoniously by a footman who proceeded to dole out ladlefuls of watery consommé into the dishes before them. There was a faint taste of something meaty, which surely came from the bones that had been boiled to produce it, though Jane could not decide exactly what. It was lukewarm, and the accompaniment of a slightly stale bread roll did nothing to improve it. Jane was still getting used to the fact that not all the courses arrived on the table at once, and though trying to embrace every facet of her new life, she thought there was a lot to be said for being able to miss out certain dishes if they were not to your liking.
‘Civility costs nothing, Mae,’ Lady Milton was saying in an exasperated tone. ‘I just asked you a perfectly reasonable question.’
Jane saw Mae roll her eyes, but she sat tight-lipped, behaving as if a response wasn’t expected.
‘Albert, talk to your rude daughter, please. I will not be ignored in my own home.’
Jane saw Lord Milton pick up his wine glass and drain it. The room, which had been lively with chatter, was suddenly silent.
‘Come on, ladies, let’s not squabble,’ he said without looking either of them in the eye. He dabbed at his moist forehead with a large cotton handkerchief.
‘I am not squabbling, Albert. I am trying to have a conversation with your daughter and I am having no luck. I think you need to be firmer, and tell her that she is behaving like a spoiled child. I cannot do anything about the fact that her mother is dead, and that you chose to marry me, but I do not see why we shouldn’t be able to sit at the dinner table and be polite, even if we hate the very sight of one another.’
‘Flora, for goodness’ sake, let’s not have a quarrel now,’ said his lordship, beckoning to the footman to fill his glass. ‘I’m too tired for all this nonsense. It’s got to stop.’
As the dishes were cleared in preparation for the second course Jane couldn’t help feeling sorry for Lady Milton. Whilst the dinner table wasn’t the place to start an argument, she could see the lady was at the end of her tether, and Mae, who clearly had her father wrapped round her little finger, was enjoying the fact that he and her stepmother were at odds. It was obvious that Mae was playing a little game, one she thought she’d easily win every time. But, despite the fact that Jane thought her behaviour was uncalled for, she suspected Mae was not coping well with life and lashing out at anyone who tried to show they cared. Whilst Alice had accepted her mother’s death and the idea of her father being happy with someone else, her younger sister was railing against the world, and anyone she thought might divert her father’s attention from herself. Lord Milton wasn’t helping. He didn’t seem to be engaged with any of the women in his family, particularly, though Jane detected a slight preference for Alice and Beth.
The dollops of macaroni cheese doled out with a serving of cabbage did nothing to lighten the atmosphere, and though Alice and Beth started up a conversation on some new music they’d heard about, the dinner limped along to its inevitable dismal conclusion along with some stewed apple and lumpy custard for pudding, watered down to a runny consistency.
Jane excused herself as soon as she could leaving the disgruntled company in the drawing room, who were now pretending that nothing untoward had happened. Lord and Lady Milton were knocking back more cocktails, and sitting next to one another on the sofa, she laughing girlishly at everything he said.
It was rather eerie finding her way up to her room in the dimly lit passages, but when she entered her room she was struck by the beauty of silver moonlight shining through the windows and the sight of the sky studded with stars, twinkling like diamonds. She felt suddenly revived and thought how she would make the best of the moment by using the time before bed for some writing. Jane sat down at the desk and switched on the lamp, which flashed too brightly then promptly popped with a loud crack. A new bulb would have to be added to the shopping list, she thought, and wished she had a candle to write by. These new fangled lights were all very well, she thought, but a candle was always reliable. The moon chose that moment to hide behind a bank of cloud, darkening the room to black velvet and feeling quite deflated, she decided it was time to give in and go to bed. Tomorrow was another day, and her new book could wait until then.



This bundle is to win a Jane Austen Lives Again paperback, a Jane Austen Lives Again mug, and a Jane Austen winter scene mirror compact. I am also giving away two further copies of the book to two other recipients. 

Competition Rules!


Please tell me which is your favourite all-time Austen production on film or television in a comment below. The competition is open for a week-the winner will be announced on November 13th. This is the final competition - 
Good Luck and remember to come back next week to see if you've won!