Thursday, June 26, 2014

Project Darcy, a green slope, and Steventon Rectory!

Jane Austen with her father George
Some years ago, I painted a little picture of how I imagined Jane and her father would look when she was about five years old. I thought about this painting whilst I was writing a little scene in Project Darcy when Ellie goes back into the past and becomes Jane Austen, and tied it in with what seem to be Jane’s own recollections that she wrote about in Northanger Abbey. Although she is writing about Catherine Morland when she says her heroine was ‘noisy and wild, hated confinement and cleanliness, and loved nothing so well in the world as rolling down the green slope at the back of the house’, I have a feeling she was referring to a memory of doing that herself. If you’ve ever been to Steventon to see the site where the rectory stood, the back of the garden has a pronounced slope! Here’s how I imagine Jane and her beloved brother Henry playing at the back of the rectory. I hope you enjoy this little excerpt from my latest novel, Project Darcy.

The green slope at the back of Steventon Rectory

The moment she stepped through the hedges and trees that screened the fields, Ellie knew something was different – her world was changed in more ways than she could ever have imagined. Like the little girl in Alice in Wonderland, she’d grown smaller and everything around her had doubled in size. Trees were so tall she could not see the top of them and the grass that tickled her bare legs nearly came up to her knees. Ellie looked back towards the way she had come but she knew it was fruitless. There was only one way to go, and that was to follow the sound that beckoned her. It was as if she saw everything through mist, layers of white vapour that rose to reveal a reality that became sharper with every passing minute. She was no longer Ellie Bentley; that she knew. She was a child, perhaps no more than five years old, and her thoughts intruded until Ellie had none left of her own. Her world was larger, more defined, sounds and smells were fresher, brighter and vivid. More than that, she felt different. Ellie saw life through the eyes of someone else, and when she heard the boy’s voice calling her name she knew him to be her brother.

Site of Steventon Rectory
‘Come on, Jane, let us go again!’
Henry pulled me up the slope to the top of the field where the elm trees stood like sentinels and whispered over our heads in their hushing, leaf language. The day was hot like the one I’d left behind, and my legs struggled to keep up with him in the heat. He sensed that my small legs were tiring and he turned to wait, looking at me with a grin. Light flickered in his hazel eyes, those that I knew grown-ups said were so like mine, but his were almost golden on this day, like Baltic amber. The grass up at the top of the terrace was so long; it prickled the back of my legs. Beads of dew, like fairy necklaces strung along green blades, felt cold under my feet. When we reached the top, he showed me how to lie down in line with the trees, my toes pointing one way and my arms stretched over my head.
‘Jane, wait until I count to three,’ I heard him say.
Lying in the sweetly fragrant meadow, I felt so excited I started to giggle, and my body fidgeted in response. And before he’d managed to shout out the number three, I’d started going, rolling down the hill, and gathering momentum until the world was spinning. There was a blur of blue sky; then green fields, and then over I went again like a flyer on Nanny Littleworth’s spinning wheel. I could see Henry overtake me, going faster than ever. He got to the bottom before me but I came to a standstill at last, my heart beating with pure pleasure as I lay in the grass chuckling and laughing. There were grass stains on my dress and daisies in my hair, which Henry picked out, one by one.
Sitting up, I could see a house that I knew was my home and I had a sudden longing to see my father.
‘Are you not coming up again, little Jenny?’ Henry asked, calling me by the pet name my family used when they wanted to appeal to my better nature. He had his hands in the pockets of his breeches. His shirt was crumpled and stained like my gown. Brown curls flopped over his eyes, which looked into mine so tenderly that I almost changed my mind. I ran to hug him, stood on my tiptoes and planted a kiss on his cheek. Henry was my protector, and my beloved playmate. I longed to be just like him but my mother scolded me when I behaved too much like a tomboy. I knew I should not run or jump or shout, as my brothers did, but nothing she said would deter me, so when Henry begged me to play with him I did not usually need to be asked twice. But, as much as I wanted to be with him, home was calling.
I shook my head and muttered, ‘I’m going to see Papa.’


Site of Jane Austen's home, Steventon Rectory
I have vivid memories of rolling down the slope in the park at the back of my childhood home with my brother and sister, which was a thing we all loved to do. I remember one time when we were recovering from German Measles, and the grass made our rashes flare up again, all very prickly and itchy - but we were all so glad to be outside again. Most of my childhood seemed to be spent outdoors playing, or indoors drawing and writing if the weather was bad - I’d love to know what pastimes you enjoyed as a child!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Writer's Blog Tour



I was thrilled to be invited to take part in the Writers’ Blog Tour by my author friend Sue Wilkes – you can visit her blog here. You can read all about Sue's passions for Jane Austen and her upcoming non-fiction book - A Visitor's Guide to Jane Austen's England.


Sue also invited Emma Jolly to take part, and you can find out more about Emma at www.emmajolly.co.uk  Sue was originally invited to join the tour by Michelle Higgs - do check out her work at http://visitvictorianengland.blogspot.co.uk
I hope you'll stop by and enjoy your visits to these entertaining writers- this international community of writers and authors are all helping one another reach a larger audience!


I was asked to answer four questions about my work and writing, so here goes.  



What am I working on?

I'm currently working on a couple of books - the first is a collection of novellas inspired by Jane Austen's heroines and Georgian jewellery. I posted the first few episodes online at Austen Variations and I hope to finish Elizabeth Darcy's Ring shortly. My second is a novel in my time travel series - I don't want to say too much about this one except it is another Jane Austen tale with two stories running side by side-one in the present and one in the past! I loved writing the other two books in this series, Searching for Captain Wentworth and Project Darcy and I'm having a lot of fun with this one too. 



How does my work differ from others of its genre?


This is a difficult question! Jane Austen has inspired many new works of fiction and time travel has been explored by some authors though I think my work is a little different in that I have two or sometimes three stories running parallel to one another and also that I've used people from Jane Austen's own life as characters in my books. In the book I'm working on at the moment, I have two different historic periods that I'm exploring. My books concentrate on different periods in Jane Austen's life and the sources I draw from involve her letters and novels. The towns, villages and cities where the books are set are very well known to me and I've discovered new places that Jane Austen possibly visited, and included them in scenes in my books.



 Why do I write what I do?


I love Jane Austen's writing and started by wanting to carry on the stories from her novels. Her characters intrigue me and I wanted to explore some of my favourites in more depth - Lydia Bennet, Marianne and Margaret Dashwood, Elizabeth Bennet. Writing sequels were my first adventures into writing with Lydia Bennet's Story, Willoughby's Return, and Mr Darcy's Secret, but then lately I've become more fascinated with Jane's life and how her books may have been inspired by certain events in her own life. 



How does my writing process work?


I usually re-read the Jane Austen novel which is inspiring my own work and also listen to it on audiobook - I really want to get into that time and place, really absorbing the language as much as I can. Thinking about my own characters is a lot of fun - they might be modern day equivalents of Jane Austen's heroines or just inspired by one of her characters but thinking about them and giving them names is one of the 'problems' I really enjoy. I usually have an idea of the plot and where it will go, but I tend not to be too detailed at the beginning because I know my characters like to take over and often change the plot completely! It can be complicated because I have character going back and forwards in time and multiple stories taking place. Then it's a case of getting down to the business of writing- I start at the beginning and work my way through, chapter by chapter. I like to get it all down and then to go back to edit it carefully. After that, I make myself put it away for a while before getting it out again for a last edit.


I hope you’ve enjoyed your visit to my blog. Now I’d like to introduce you to two more wonderful writers:

Monica Fairview Monica’s love of things Regency started when she first read Pride and Prejudice at thirteen. However, her first novel, AN IMPROPER SUITOR, a humorous Regency, wasn’t published until 2009. Since then she has produced two quite serious Jane Austen sequels THE OTHER MR. DARCY and THE DARCY COUSINS, STEAMPUNK DARCY, a post-apocalyptic comic take on Pride and Prejudice and MR. DARCY'S PLEDGE, a light-hearted JA variation. Monica is a member of the blog Austen Variations.

Cassandra Grafton Cassandra has been indulging her passion for all things Austen for many years. Having long wanted to be a writer, the two came together in recent years, resulting in a Pride and Prejudice inspired three volume series - A Fair Prospect: Disappointed Hopes, Darcy’s Dilemma, and Desperate Measures. Cassandra has two grown up children and splits her time between North Yorkshire, where she lives with her husband and two cats, and Regency England, where she lives with her characters.

I hope you'll take some time to visit everyone and enjoy finding out about these fabulous writers!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Review for Project Darcy from Jane Austen's Regency World Magazine!

I am absolutely thrilled with this review from Joceline Bury in this month's edition of Jane Austen's Regency World Magazine

Thank you to Joceline and everyone at the magazine! 

CARDS ON THE TABLE: I'm a sucker for time-travel fiction - from H. G. Wells to, well, to Jane Odiwe in this instance. Her latest Austen-inspired romance takes Ellie Bentley, a modern-day student, to Hampshire, where her best friend has arranged for them to take part in an archaeological dig. Not particularly interested in either digging or Jane Austen, Ellie does have a gift for 'seeing' things - and on the girls' first night at Ashe Rectory she encounters a very handsome ghost. So the scene is set for Ellie to be spirited back to Steventon during the winter of 1796 to witness just what happened when Jane Austen met Tom Lefroy and to - perhaps - unravel the real love story behind the romance at the heart of Pride and Prejudice. Odiwe writes with great charm and assurance: her contemporary characters are engaging, her historical protagonists convincing. In Project Darcy she takes a slice of literary history and turns it into a thoroughly entertaining, often very funny, and frequently touching piece of modern romantic fiction.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Happy May Day!

Jane Austen travelled to Bath at the beginning of May in 1801. It seems they enjoyed fine weather, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we will enjoy the same soon-though it's raining today! I love this letter, full of gossip and news, the price of food, plans for a new gown, and the purchase of a new bonnet!


Paragon: Tuesday (May 5).
MY DEAR CASSANDRA,
I have the pleasure of writing from my own room up two pair of stairs, with everything very comfortable about me.
Our journey here was perfectly free from accident or event; we changed horses at the end of every stage, and paid at almost every turn-pike. We had charming weather, hardly any dust, and were exceedingly agreeable, as we did not speak above once in three miles.
Between Luggershall and Everley we made our grand meal, and then with admiring astonishment perceived in what a magnificent manner our support had been provided for. We could not with the utmost exertion consume above the twentieth part of the beef. The cucumber will, I believe, be a very acceptable present, as my uncle talks of having inquired the price of one lately, when he was told a shilling.
We had a very neat chaise from Devizes; it looked almost as well as a gentleman's, at least as a very shabby gentleman's; in spite of this advantage, however, we were above three hours coming from thence to Paragon, and it was half after seven by your clocks before we entered the house.
Frank, whose black head was in waiting in the Hall window, received us very kindly; and his master and mistress did not show less cordiality. They both look very well, though my aunt has a violent cough. We drank tea as soon as we arrived, and so ends the account of our journey, which my mother bore without any fatigue.
How do you do to-day? I hope you improve in sleeping -- I think you must, because I fall off; I have been awake ever since five and sooner; I fancy I had too much clothes over me; I thought I should by the feel of them before I went to bed, but I had not courage to alter them. I am warmer here without any fire than I have been lately with an excellent one.
Well, and so the good news is confirmed, and Martha triumphs. My uncle and aunt seemed quite surprised that you and my father were not coming sooner.
I have given the soap and the basket, and each have been kindly received. One thing only among all our concerns has not arrived in safety: when I got into the chaise at Devizes I discovered that your drawing ruler was broke in two; it is just at the top where the cross-piece is fastened on. I beg pardon.
There is to be only one more ball -- next Monday is the day. The Chamberlaynes are still here. I begin to think better of Mrs. C----, and upon recollection believe she has rather a long chin than otherwise, as she remembers us in Gloucestershire when we were very charming young women.
The first view of Bath in fine weather does not answer my expectations; I think I see more distinctly through rain. The sun was got behind everything, and the appearance of the place from the top of Kingsdown was all vapour, shadow, smoke, and confusion.
I fancy we are to have a house in Seymour Street, or thereabouts. My uncle and aunt both like the situation. I was glad to hear the former talk of all the houses in New King Street as too small; it was my own idea of them. I had not been two minutes in the dining-room before he questioned me with all his accustomary eager interest about Frank and Charles, their views and intentions. I did my best to give information.
I am not without hopes of tempting Mrs. Lloyd to settle in Bath; meat is only 8d. per pound, butter 12d., and cheese 9 1/2 d. You must carefully conceal from her, however, the exorbitant price of fish: a salmon has been sold at 2s. 9d. per pound the whole fish. The Duchess of York's removal is expected to make that article more reasonable -- and till it really appears so, say nothing about salmon.
Tuesday night. -- When my uncle went to take his second glass of water I walked with him, and in our morning's circuit we looked at two houses in Green Park Buildings, one of which pleased me very well. We walked all over it except into the garret; the dining-room is of a comfortable size, just as large as you like to fancy it; the second room about 14 ft. square. The apartment over the drawing-room pleased me particularly, because it is divided into two, the smaller one a very nice-sized dressing-room, which upon occasion might admit a bed. The aspect is south-east. The only doubt is about the dampness of the offices, of which there were symptoms.
Wednesday. -- Mrs. Mussell has got my gown, and I will endeavour to explain what her intentions are. It is to be a round gown, with a jacket and a frock front, like Cath. Bigg's, to open at the side. The jacket is all in one with the body, and comes as far as the pocket-holes -- about half a quarter of a yard deep, I suppose, all the way round, cut off straight at the corners with a broad hem. No fulness appears either in the body or the flap; the back is quite plain in this form [hourglass shape], and the sides equally so. The front is sloped round to the bosom and drawn in, and there is to be a frill of the same to put on occasionally when all one's handkerchiefs are dirty -- which frill must fall back. She is to put two breadths and a-half in the tail, and no gores -- gores not being so much worn as they were. There is nothing new in the sleeves: they are to be plain, with a fulness of the same falling down and gathered up underneath, just like some of Martha's, or perhaps a little longer. Low in the back behind, and a belt of the same. I can think of nothing more, though I am afraid of not being particular enough.
My mother has ordered a new bonnet, and so have I; both white strip, trimmed with white ribbon. I find my straw bonnet looking very much like other people's, and quite as smart. Bonnets of cambric muslin on the plan of Lady Bridges' are a good deal worn, and some of them are very pretty; but I shall defer one of that sort till your arrival. Bath is getting so very empty that I am not afraid of doing too little. Black gauze cloaks are worn as much as anything. I shall write again in a day or two. Best love.
Yours ever, J. A.
As it's May 1st, I thought you might like to see how we celebrate in Oxford in the UK!

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Launch of the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation!

An event not to be missed!
I was contacted recently by Caroline Jane Knight who wrote to tell me of a new Literacy Foundation she is setting up in her 'Great Aunt Jane's' name. She is hoping to raise money to fund projects across the world, and is inviting everyone to the launch of this amazing foundation in Oxford. The event will take place on 16th April, at Holywell Music Room, Wadham College, Oxford University, Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PN from 10.30 to 12.30. This is such a worthwhile and incredibly exciting venture - one I shall be supporting wholeheartedly! For more details see below, and for tickets log onto www.eventbrite.co.uk  You can also follow on Facebook.com/janeaustenlf

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!



Happy Valentine's Day!

We're celebrating over at Austen Variations with some writing - excerpts from our books and a poem by Diana Birchall, plus there are links to authors' websites for their special contributions!

Here's an excerpt from Project Darcy which follows on from my piece at Austen Variations - I hope you enjoy it. Jane Austen and her friend, Tom Lefroy, are falling in love at the Manydown Ball!


My spirits were dancing in silent rapture just as much as my feet when Tom escorted me to the dance floor. I think something of the joy we felt on the occasion pervaded the whole room like the fragrance lingering on the air as the atmosphere lightened. There was laughter and movement and flurries of white muslin as dashing young men spun their partners round, satin slippers kicking up the chalk. As the musicians played faster the handclaps and boot stomping grew louder. Everywhere looked a blaze of colour and sparkle under glittering chandeliers as the dancers skipped and hopped, galloping down the set to reach their place in time. It was wonderful to feel his hand in mine, to catch his eye, and to have his fingers linger in the small of my back like a caress.
By the time the supper bell rang, we were all starving hungry. Such a spread, like a king’s feast, was laid out on the dining table. My brother James carved the turkey with great perseverance, whilst Henry made it his job to help all the young ladies. He was on fine form and had encouraged his brother to dance every dance. Catherine and Alethea exchanged smiles with me. I knew Catherine would tease me about Tom as soon as she had the chance. Catherine’s brother Harris was helping James. He was growing up, and looked quite the young gentleman in his evening attire. I saw him look up and catch my eye. He was very shy, but I knew that he liked me. Knowing that I was one of the few people he preferred to talk to, I gave him my best smile back again.
‘Come on, Jane,’ whispered Tom, ‘surely there’s a corner where we can sit without the whole world attending to our every word.’
‘Tom Lefroy, you will have people talking about me, if they are not already, but there is a little place in the greenhouse where we might find a seat.’
I led him from the room and along the corridor. Everyone was so busy eating, drinking and swapping gossip that I was certain we would not be missed, but I knew we should not be long. At the back of my mind, a voice told me I was behaving badly but it felt we were the only two people in the whole world who mattered. We abandoned our plates and glasses, and ran tiptoeing, hand in hand, as soon as we were out of sight. Amongst the Persian orange trees and exotic plants, I found my rustic bench, a favourite spot where I often took a book when staying with my friends. Screened by greenery, we could not be seen. The space was a cosy one, warm from the glow of candles set in coloured lamps that lent a magical glow to the darkness of the interior.
‘Thank you for making this Christmas visit so enjoyable,’ said Tom, turning to face me. ‘I must admit that I was truly dreading being away from my family.’
‘I, too, have enjoyed every minute of your company … even when you were behaving like an arrogant coxcomb.’
‘You wound me, Miss Austen, and in more ways than you will ever know.’
I fiddled with my reticule and thought of the picture hidden inside. ‘You will have to go away soon, I think.’
Tom nodded. ‘I have to study, and I have a long way ahead of me before I shall be started in my chosen career.’
‘And I suppose you will not stop at being a mere lawyer. I can see you as a judge, Tom, with a long white wig on your head looking rather stern.’
Tom threw back his head and laughed. ‘If my Uncle Benjamin has anything to do with it, you’re right. He is my sponsor and I do so hope to make him proud. I wish to do the best for my family. With so many children, you know yourself, money is stretched to its limits.’

‘I wish you weren’t going away,’ I said. The words were out, and the secrets of my heart were unleashed. It was too late to go back.
‘But, I will go and you’ll soon forget me. It’s probably for the best, you know. Besides, you have so many ardent suitors I could not flatter myself that you would wish to confine yourself to me alone.’
He took up my hand between two of his own and turned it, as if studying my fingers before entwining his in mine and holding them up to the curve of his mouth, pressing his lips against the kid leather. I wanted to feel his mouth on mine, and I knew I might never have another moment so exquisitely right.
‘Kiss me,’ I dared to say.
‘Jane … we should not.’
I heard his words but I did not believe them. I tried again. ‘Do you not wish to kiss me, Mr Lefroy?’
Tom stroked the flesh exposed above my wrist where he hooked a finger beneath the buttoned opening of my glove. ‘Jane, it’s not that … but I do not think kissing you is a good idea.’
‘It would just be a kiss between friends. I am always kissing Catherine and Alethea. It would signify nothing more than a seal to friendship.’
Tom shook his head. ‘Oh, Jane, you have no idea how much I’ve dreamed of kissing you, and it would be a terrible thing if I did.’
‘I don’t understand. If we both wish it, why is it so wrong?’
Tom gazed into my eyes and I saw his anguish. ‘Because I do not trust myself to behave like a gentleman.’
‘Kiss me, Tom, or I will kiss you.’
His hand caressed my face and a finger traced my mouth before he placed his lips on mine so gently that tears filled my eyes. I touched his cheek, threaded my fingers through his hair, and felt our lips and our breath join as one. I fell into his arms and he drew me closer with kisses of love and tenderness.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Laura's Reviews-review of Project Darcy by Laura Gerold.


I'm thrilled with this review from Laura Gerold of Laura's Reviews!

 I read Project Darcy right before Christmas and it was a perfect book to read at that time of year.    Author Jane Odiwe is also a wonderful artist and I loved her illustration of an old-fashioned house in winter in a small circle on the cover.  Looking at that picture whenever I picked up the book, I found it southing and put me in the mood for the novel.  I wish I could actually get more copies of her artwork.  I need to look into this!

Project Darcy is a time travels with Jane Austen novel. Ellie Bentley joins an archaeological dig at the childhood home (Steventon rectory) of Jane Austen for the summer while in college.   This isn’t really how she wanted to spend the summer, but her good friend Jess has survived cancer and this dig is one of her dreams.  Together with their other friends, Martha, Cara, and Liberty, they travel to Hampshire and stay in Jess’s Aunts house, which also happens to be the home of the Lefroy family, good friends of Jane Austen.  While there, Cara and Liberty go silly over the boys, but Jess find herself more seriously infatuated with Charlie Harden, a rich and nice guy.  Ellie is not so infatuated by Charlie’s snobby friend Henry Dorsey.  This present day story roughly follows the lines of Pride and Prejudice set in modern times, but with a few new twists and surprises.

One twist is that Ellie has a special gift where she is able to slip back in time and experience Jane Austen’s romance with young Tom Lefroy.  Jane finds Tom quite stuffy and arrogant when she first meets him, but upon further meetings, she finds herself in love.  Tom and Jane both have no money and know their romance is improbable, but their love cannot be denied.  Could this romance have helped to inspire Pride and Prejudice?

I enjoyed this novel.  It was a relaxing read and quite entertaining. I felt both the contemporary as well as the time slip portion of the novels were equally as strong in the narration.  I enjoyed both stories and felt in suspense waiting to see what was happening in the other time frame.  I liked all of the characters and I especially enjoyed the twists to the stories that Odiwe added in just when you thought you knew what was going to happen.  I also really enjoyed the setting of the modern day story – an archaeological dig on Steventon Rectory!  That would be a dream to work on.  I also love time slip/time travel stories so together with my love of all things Jane Austen, this was the perfect novel for me.  I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a great book to read.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Happy Birthday Jane Austen!

It's Jane Austen's birthday today and over at My Jane Austen Book Club, there are books and prizes to be won, as well as contributions from authors, like myself, which will be posted over the next 24 hours - don't miss it! In celebration, Project Darcy and Searching for Captain Wentworth are both on offer on Kindle, as well as Mr Darcy's Secret - I hope you'll enjoy them if you get a chance to read them!

 This week I went to see the Georgians Revealed exhibition at the British Library. It's well worth going to see and imaginatively put together. Sadly, I was unable to take photos to give you a glimpse of what's on offer, but a plethora of imagery was used to illustrate the themes of Homes and Gardens, Shopping and Fashion, Culture and Ideas, Leisure and Pleasure. Some of my favourites included Humphry Repton's Sketches and Hints in Landscape Gardening, with examples from his 'red books' where he showed before and after images of how a garden might be 'improved'.
I used this idea in Mr Darcy's Secret. Thomas Butler designs a folly for the Darcys in my Pride and Prejudice sequel - he is a young landscape gardener, and has a 'green book' to display his designs, which more than capture Miss Georgiana Darcy's fancy!

One of the exhibits I really enjoyed was a pamphlet displayed about the tea-table. Of course, taking tea was a fashionable and expensive business, and so the genteel ladies who indulged were given guidance on suitable conversation whilst taking tea. It reminded me of Mr Collins with his practised bon-mots, and surely reading a publication like 'The Tea-Table' and handbooks like Jonathan Swift's 'Polite Conversation, consisting of smart, witty, droll and whimsical sayings collected for his amusement and made into a regular dialogue', would have prompted many a practised discussion!
I was reminded of Jane Austen so many times, not only because her writing desk formed part of the exhibition, but because of the activities we know she indulged in. It was interesting to see originals of the Ackerman prints, we love and know, to do with shopping - The Linen Draper, Wedgwood's Rooms, and Harding, Howell and Co's Grand Fashionable Magazine, etc. Shopping and consumerism were gaining new heights - I loved the prints of shop-fronts and the highly decorated trade cards, there were examples of Wedgwood and Blue and White china, which we know Jane Austen's family enjoyed, and examples of mass-produced staffordshire ware which was made for the middle classes.
Mrs Siddons
I was reminded very much of the times we live in now as I wandered round the exhibition, and I couldn't help thinking how much our society has in common with the Georgians. Celebrities of the day seemed to enjoy the same sort of adulation as they do now, and the rise of the theatre had much to do with this phenomenon. The exhibition shows playbills of the time advertising plays and shows, and has examples of celebrities in printed form like Joseph Grimaldi who was one of Britain's best-loved clowns. He also performed in pantomime which was really coming into its own at this time. Mrs Siddons and Dorothy Jordan were famous actresses of the day - Jane Austen really wanted to see Mrs Siddons perform, but she didn't get the opportunity to her great disappointment.
The Georgians were well known for scandal as well as culture, and Elizabeth Chudleigh became a celebrity for exposing 'her charms' at a Ranelagh masquerade, dressed as Iphigenia. The word 'dress' here is improperly used-it is said she was near-naked and prints of the time bear this out, though some were imaginary like the one shown!

  Elizabeth came from an upper-class background and entered court circles as a maid of honour to Augusta, the young princess of Wales in 1743. She married, but by 1749 she had separated from her husband because of her infidelity. The same year she made her appearance as Iphigenia and instantly became the talk of the town! She became mistress to Evelyn Pierrepoint, Second Duke of Kingston upon Hull and married him in 1769, after a court ruled that her first marriage had not taken place. After the duke died, questions were raised about her marital status - she was tried in 1776 and found guilty of bigamy and consequently was shunned by most of society. The trial and several accounts of her life were published in various forms.

The exhibition shows several prints and books which show the notation of dancing and how popular dances were performed. I found these fascinating as a past student of ballet and dance! It was also lovely to see originals of Philip Astley's Circus, which Jane Austen went to see. I set a scene in Project Darcy at Astley's where Jane goes with her brothers and a certain young Irishman to see the entertainment.


Four white horses trotted in sideways marching in time to the music of the band. A troupe of young men in skin-tight breeches leaped and jumped from one to the other drawing gasps of approbation from the crowd.
‘Do you think you’re up to the challenge of a bareback ride, Miss Austen?’ Tom whispered, as the sight of the steaming horses diverted my brothers’ attention. Thundering round the circus arena, two of the riders stood aloft, performing acrobatics as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
I laughed and whispered back, ‘I could do anything if you were willing to catch me.’
‘And I should be most happy to oblige, Miss Austen.’
His fingers found mine for a second, and when the inevitable happened and my brother Edward remarked on the warmth of my complexion, I made the excuse that it was the heat of the August night that made me so pink. From Project Darcy
Jane Austen at her desk

I hope you've enjoyed a glimpse at the exhibition - there is much to see! Don't forget to visit Maria Grazia's blog for the birthday celebrations. Happy Birthday Jane Austen! 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Introducing Liz Monahan - Illustrator!

I'd like to welcome Liz Monahan to the blog today - Liz is a wonderful illustrator of Jane Austen's books/characters and she has a new kindle book out which I highly recommend! I asked Liz to tell us a little about herself-

Liz Monahan
 I love your illustrations in your illustrated Pride and Prejudice. Could you tell us about your interest in Jane Austen and why you decided to start illustrating her books.

 I first read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ when I was sixteen, and was instantly smitten. I fell in love with Jane Austen’s writing, and my passion for her works endures; I never seem to tire of them. I studied English Literature at Southampton University, and wrote my final year thesis on Austen’s work, for which I received a First Class Honours degree.
Pride and Prejudice-illustrated by Liz Monahan
I decided to illustrate ‘Pride and Prejudice’ in December 2012. Prior to that, I’d produced a set of paintings, which I called ‘The Cast Of’ series, featuring all the main characters from each of Austen’s six novels, prints of which I’ve been selling through my Etsy shop: ‘BlueSkyInking’. I’ve also sold them at the Jane Austen Festival in Bath. Inspired by the feedback that I received there, I presented my portfolio to ‘The Jane Austen House Museum’ in Chawton, Hampshire. They agreed to sell prints and greeting cards through their shop. Like many artists, I tend to inhabit of a world of self-doubt, wondering whether my interpretation of Austen’s works will find favour with more ‘traditional’ readers. I’ve been heartened by the positive reaction from the global community of Jane Austen fans. It would appear that Austen’s popularity shows no sign of waning, especially in her bicentenary year. I’ve always loved Hugh Thomson’s original illustrations, but sensed that there was scope to develop and explore the satirical themes of the book for a more contemporary audience. Many of the recently illustrated adaptations of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ had left me disappointed; they tend to trivialize the characters and overlook the subtle nuances that make the book such a pleasure to read, and re-read. Like everybody else, I adored Andrew Davis’ seminal 1995 BBC production of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, but thought that the time was right to offer an alternative to those adaptations that had used cut-and-paste, photo-shopped images of Colin Firth (gorgeous though he is!) emerging half-dressed from a lake. I decided to take the plunge when I read a timely observation from Chris Riddell, a British illustrator whose work (‘The Edge Chronicles’, ‘Ottoline’, ‘Gulliver’s Travels’) I really admire. “If nobody will commission you to illustrate a book, you must commission yourself.”

 Could you tell us something about yourself and your work. When did you decide that illustration was something you’d like to do for a career?

Lizzy Bennet and Miss Bingley - copyright Liz Monahan
 I trained as an illustrator at Bournemouth and Poole College of Art and Design – illustrating stories was something I’d always wanted to do from a very early age. I’ve illustrated a number of children’s books, and also undertake private commissions. I recently moved to the beautiful city of Norwich, with my own Mr. Darcy – my librarian husband Kevin, and our beloved, retired greyhound (that we’ve re-christened Mister Bingley!). I love doodling (on any available scrap of paper), music (I play the trumpet), reading, and the theatre. What’s your favourite medium? My preferred medium is watercolour. I find it very versatile, and chose it for this particular project because of its lightness and clarity.

 What is next for you?

 I’d like to illustrate all of Austen’s novels, so I’m steeling myself for my next big project, which will be ‘Mansfield Park’, for its bicentenary in 2014. I’ve done a few preparatory sketches, which I hope to post on Twitter, to gauge the reaction. I plan to follow it with ‘Emma’ in 2015 and ‘Persuasion’ in 2017. ‘Sense and Sensibility’ and ‘Northanger Abbey’ will hopefully appear in 2016, but by then I might need to have a lie down in a darkened room! I’ve learnt so much from the experience of self-publishing Pride and Prejudice, and it’s been incredibly hard work but hugely satisfying. I’d also like to illustrate Jane’s lesser known work ‘The History of England’, written in 1791, when she was just sixteen, and illustrated by her sister Cassandra. I am also working on a children’s story with my husband, who has a way with words, featuring our beloved greyhound Mister Bingley, as detective Shylock Bones, assisted by his dim-witted sidekick Doctor Flotsam.

Lady Catherine de Burgh and Lizzy - copyright Liz Monahan
If you had to choose, which illustration would you pick of your own as a favourite?
Oh, that is such a difficult question to answer. It’s so hard to pick a favourite! I like drawing those characters that offer a supporting role in the story. They are easier to draw because they carry less ‘baggage’. I spent a lot of time researching the book, trying to decide how the characters could and should look. Jane Austen gives very little away in terms of her characters’ physical appearance, which offers plenty of scope to freely interpret them. I was acutely aware that everyone has their own ‘take’ on Elizabeth and Darcy – it was important that I got them right! My husband is forever reminding me of the old saying (that we keep stuck on the fridge). It reads: ‘I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure - which is: try to please everybody’. After a lot of worrying (and a lot of preparatory sketching), I decided ‘to please myself’ with my own personal vision of the characters, the one I had formed on first reading the book when I was sixteen. I hope others will enjoy my interpretation, and understand that it was a labour of unconditional love.

Liz Monahan and Mr Bingley
I'm sure they will, Liz! Thank you so much for visiting me on the blog today - I wish you huge success with your work - what a talented lady, I'm sure you'll all agree!!!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Project Darcy Book Tour Giveaway Winners Announced!

Thank you to everyone who entered my blog tour competitions to win some jewellery and an embroidered bag -

We have three winners - Congratulations!!!!

The winners are:

June Williams for the Georgian brooch



Nicole Platania for the Victorian brooch


Cassandra Grafton for the embroidered bag


Could the winners please contact me here so I can learn how to get your prizes out to you! Thanks again-I hope you all enjoy your prizes!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Winner announced of Pride and Prejudice Movie Book!



Thank you to everyone who joined in last week's Giveaway to win a copy of Pride and Prejudice illustrated with photos from  the Greer Garson/Lawrence Olivier film and a pack of my Christmas cards.

Congratulations!!! The winner is Janet T!

Can you please contact me here to claim your prize - Congratulations!!!!!

My blog tour for Project Darcy continues - if you missed the start of it, you can catch up here:


Wednesday, October 30th   - Wondrous Reads
Sunday, November 3rd - My Jane Austen Book Club
Tuesday, November 5th - Austenprose OFFICIAL BOOK LAUNCH
Wednesday, November 6th -  Indie Jane
Thursday, November 7th - More Agreeably Engaged
Tuesday, November 12th Calico Critic
Wednesday, November 13th Meditating Mummy
Monday, November 18th Austen Authors
Monday, November 18th The Book Rat
Wednesday, November 20th Austenesque Reviews


It's not too late to enter the GIVEAWAY for two lovely brooches (closing date Monday, 18th November) - click here to read more and also to win a vintage bag - click here to read more


Thank you, everyone, for making this such fun, and for all the lovely words of encouragement here and elsewhere - it truly means the world to me!
Tomorrow, I am a guest of Laura Hartness at Calico Critic - I hope you'll join me for a chat and a giveaway of Project Darcy!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Project Darcy Blog Tour and Vintage Bags!


I hope you're enjoying my blog tour as much as I am! Today, I'm a guest on Indie Jane, talking about grandfather clocks, time, and Project Darcy - I hope you'll join me.

Tomorrow, you'll find me at More Agreeably Engaged with Janet Taylor!

STOP PRESS! I've just received a review from Kath Eastman - here it is in full at her blog - Nut Press - here's a little of her review below - she's made my day!

I pretty much read Project Darcy in one sitting. Even though I knew at least how Jane Austen's own story would end, I loved spending time with Jane Odiwe's imagining of her again in that period, as well as being anxious to see where the modern-day characters would be at the end of the book - and who with! This was a highly enjoyable read for me because it had a bit of everything: sumptuous period detail - I can imagine that Jane Odiwe had fun imagining the interiors of Ashe, both in Jane Austen's time and in its more contemporary setting; seeing who the candidates for Jane Austen's characters were from her own circle of acquaintances and their modern-day counterparts; a good sprinkling of romance and pairings, including a glimpse into one of Jane Austen's own rumoured romances and the delicious puzzle of piecing all the connections together made Project Darcy for this reader.

Wednesday, November 6th -  Indie Jane
Thursday, November 7th - More Agreeably Engaged
Tuesday, November 12th Calico Critic
Wednesday, November 13th Meditating Mummy
Monday, November 18th Austen Authors
Monday, November 18th The Book Rat
Wednesday, November 20th Austenesque Reviews

Today's treat inspired a little scene in Project Darcy - Ellie has a vintage bag similar to the one below - I'd imagined Ellie's bag, but this one is similar in style, only with flowers and a short strap!



Ellie is getting ready for a party whilst she is staying near Steventon, at Ashe Rectory -


Half an hour later, Ellie was feeling refreshed for having had a scented soak in the bath. She’d washed her hair and was now standing in front of the wardrobe hanging her clothes, and trying to decide what she was going to wear for the party. It was still warm and light so she selected some cropped jeans and a short-sleeved cotton top, with a scoop neck and embroidered pin tucked front. The detail made it a little bit more special than the every day and to set it off, she picked a chunky necklace from her jewellery roll with turquoise stones and silver beads threaded on a long leather cord. Choosing a warm scarf in coral, scattered over with hummingbirds and edged in silk fringe in case it got cooler later on, Ellie then added a pair of canvas trainers to complete her outfit.
Jess knocked on the door. ‘I’ll just round up everyone else so I’ll see you downstairs in a minute!’
Ellie shouted back that she’d join them in a second and looked around for her bag. It was her favourite, an antique bag that had belonged to her great-grandmother. Made of black silk moiré, it was embellished with a bluebird and had a long silk strap. She’d left it on the chest of drawers in front of the window next to a blue and white jug and bowl. Dashing to fetch it, she was stopped in her tracks by the sense of something or someone moving outside in the garden below. 

If you'd like to own the little bag, please leave a comment below!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Georgian Jewellery Treat on Project Darcy Launch Day!


I'm so excited that launch day is here - I'm having a party over at Austenprose and there's a couple of giveaways so I hope you'll join me there!

I love setting a scene in my novels, and I've mentioned before how much I enjoyed writing and thinking about the girls' bedrooms in Project Darcy.

Jess's bedroom is a Regency haven with a French bed with buttoned silk upholstery - On the walls was a collection of silhouettes of people from past times. The profiles of soldiers and debutantes looked across at one another from ebony frames ranged around the marble mantelpiece. It looked as if it had been designed with Jess in mind with its Regency furniture and vast portraits of ladies dressed in white muslin.
Ellie loves anything vintage (how funny, that's just like me : ) ) -
and her bedroom has an exquisite deco dressing table - A deco dressing table complete with a mirrored surface and a triptych looking glass was topped with a selection of exquisite objects – a porcelain tray and boxes for jewels, a Japanese fan, a silver hairbrush enamelled with blue as vivid as a butterfly’s wing, and a cloisonné vase filled with old-fashioned roses.

When Ellie finds herself in Madame Lefroy's bedroom, she can't think where she is at first.

When I opened my eyes, I couldn’t think where I was for a moment. I was sitting on a bed that looked nothing like the one I’d collapsed onto earlier. This one was a four-poster, simply carved with reeded motifs and dressed with drapes and swags of sprigged cotton. The panelled walls were painted a dusky blue-grey which echoed the tones in the long curtains at the floor-length windows. A chest of drawers and a dressing table were the only other items of furniture, but the biggest clue to its owner lay in the elaborate powdered wigs set on stands, the silver-topped scent bottles, and the set of ivory-backed brushes, upon the dressing table. An open box of jewels glinted in the candlelight, and I recognised one or two of Madame’s favourite Rivière necklaces, one of amethysts, and the other of topaz. 

Most people who know me, are aware that I love jewellery, and as it's such a special day for me today, I wanted to share some, as a way of saying thank you to all the wonderful people who make life so fabulous with their kind words and messages every day.
In celebration of the release of Project Darcy, I have two brooches to give away. They are both old pieces, one is Georgian and the other probably Victorian.
This is the Georgian brooch I am giving away - it is very small - half an inch or so, but perfect for a lapel or a scarf. The stones are paste and the backing pinchbeck, a form of brass made to look like gold, which was very popular in Georgian times. It has a long pin and c-clasp at the back.



The other heart-shaped brooch is probably Victorian, but quite Georgian in style - I love the pretty colour of the stones, which are paste, of course. 

I hope you like them, and if you'd like one of them to be yours, all you have to do is leave a comment below telling me about a favourite piece of jewellery that you own. The giveaway is open until Tuesday, November 19th 2013. Once you've done that, please visit me on Austenprose for more giveaways to celebrate my special day!