Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Knight Before Christmas by Marilyn Brant ~ Excerpt

Hello, my friends! I'm thrilled to have Marilyn Brant on the blog today! She has a new book, The Knight Before Christmas, and I'm so excited to read it! I love Marilyn's stories! 

Marilyn has stopped by to share a little about her book with an excerpt. I hope you enjoy! 

First and foremost, huge thanks to Candy for inviting me to visit So Little Time... today!! It’s been a while since I had the pleasure of celebrating a release, and it’s especially fun to get to be here to do that. :)

The excerpt below from The Knight Before Christmas is all about anticipation...  The hero of the story, Austin Knightley, is (somewhat impatiently) awaiting Emma Westwood’s arrival. The two of them have a shared history of having grown up in small-town Crystal Corners, Minnesota, but it’s been a long time since they interacted in person—and, until very recently, never as adults.

I think most of us have experienced a similar moment of excitement/nervousness while waiting to meet up with someone. The anticipation can be both thrilling and nerve-wracking. Do you have a moment that immediately springs to mind when you think about a situation like that? I always remember waiting for my now-husband to arrive before our first official date. I was doing teacher-related prep work to distract myself, LOL, but I kept wondering, “Are my instincts right about him?”

It turned out to be a fabulous day—and my last “first date”—29 years ago! I loved that he not only showed up on time (because punctuality = awesomeness IMO!!), but that he seemed to care as much about making our burgeoning relationship work out as I did.

I hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from the story, and here’s wishing you a Happy Holiday Season!
     xox, Marilyn


     Austin started checking the time every five minutes from eight thirty a.m. onward. 

     “Why are you so antsy, man?” his brother David asked, as he got ready to take their dad to PT again. “Expecting an important phone call or something?”

     “Or something,” he replied, glancing at the hall clock and willing his beloved family members to leave the house, and quickly. Emma would be arriving in less than twenty minutes. 

     Once David and Dad were out the door, though, there was still Mom, who was lingering in the kitchen as if she knew someone was coming over. Specifically, someone female. 

     “Sweetheart, before I go to the grocery store, can I make some muffins or a fruit salad or anything tasty for you?”

     “Oh, no, Mom, thanks. I don’t need anything.”
“But what if someone stops by? You’ll want to be able to offer him—or her—some refreshments. At least let me brew a fresh pot of coffee.”

     It was now ten minutes to nine. He swallowed. “Coffee sounds like a great idea, but why don’t you let me make it? It’s busy at the market this time of year. You’ll want to get there early to avoid the lines.”

     His mother raised her brows slowly. No doubt about it, she had to have guessed that something was up. Under normal circumstances, he might have copped to it already, but working on a project with Emma Westwood wasn’t exactly a “normal” circumstance. It would be bad enough later when his mom, dad, and kid brother all returned and Emma was there in the house. But if any of them were hanging around to greet her upon arrival, it’d be awkward. And he didn’t need this to be any more awkward than it already was.

     Surprisingly, Mom didn’t voice any suspicions aloud. She just kissed him on the cheek, slipped on her winter coat, and grabbed her keys and shopping list. 

     “I’ll be back in a few hours,” she told him. “Maybe a little longer if I stop at Adele’s Bakery. Those sugar cookies and cocoa-caramel bars that Emma brought us were delicious. I might have to get more.” She paused and smiled...almost guilelessly, but he wasn’t fooled. “Be sure to thank her if you see her before I do.”

     “Of course,” Austin managed. Four minutes to nine. 

     Miraculously, his mother had actually pulled out of the driveway and was down the road before Emma drove up and parked in the front, curbside.

     Nine o’clock sharp.

     She knocked on the door, and he forced himself to wait five full seconds before opening it. 

     “Good morning,” she said brightly, holding up a large white paper bag containing something indistinguishable with her right hand while she waved at him with her left. 

     “Good morning, Emma.” He invited her inside. “Thanks for parking on the street, but you didn’t have to.”

     She laughed. “I didn’t want to block the driveway.” She nodded in the direction of the garage. “I’m sure your dad and brother are already at the gym. And I just saw your mom’s car pull out. I imagine the three of them will come back at some point.” She handed him the bag. “A snack for all of us for later. Or lunch, perhaps. I hope you like curried chicken salad on butter croissants.”

     He peered into the bag and he was struck by her thoughtfulness—both with the parking and with the sandwiches. “Wow. Thank you. Did you make these?”

     She shook her head. “No, but it’s a favorite of mine, and one of Jennings’s specialties.”

     He felt an unwelcome bolt of jealousy. “Who’s Jennings?”

     “He’s our family’s chef and the reason why I’m such a terrible cook.” She gave a short, self-deprecating laugh. “I never had to learn how to make anything substantial, not with Jennings in the house. And my few attempts at baking were truly embarrassing. Between Jennings and Adele, I always have wonderful meals and desserts. I leave the tough stuff to them.”

     He didn’t know how to respond to that. He’d never thought of Emma as being unable to do anything she might want—just that there were some things she considered beneath her. Maybe that wasn’t the case, though. Maybe what he’d always pegged as Emma’s damsel-in-distress act was more a crisis in confidence.

     Austin motioned for her to follow him into the kitchen, where he put her offering in the fridge and offered her a mug of hot coffee, which had just finished brewing.

     “Let me take your coat,” he said, pleased that she was wearing a thicker one today, “and then let’s grab our coffees and head downstairs to the workroom. We’ve got a drafting board and tools. Today’s going to be all about planning and collecting materials, okay?”

     “Okay.” She handed him her coat and then eyed him with a slight air of nervousness. “Am I, um, dressed correctly?” she asked.

     He gave her a quick once over and absorbed as many details as his eyes could take in. Her perfectly manicured fingernails, which would probably get chipped to bits when they brought back the wood this afternoon and started working on it. Her golden ringlets, not a hair of which was out of place. Her big blue eyes and rosebud lips... 

     Oh, c’mon, Austin. Focus on her question. The clothes.

     True to her word, she was dressed in an affluent version of “play clothes and shoes” or, at least, sneakers that weren’t remotely as ratty as Austin would have liked, but they were a far sight better than those pointy, ankle-breaking boots. She also had on a slightly baggy blue sweatshirt that complemented the color in her eyes and a pair of jeans that were marginally faded, although they weren’t baggy at all. In fact, they fit her extremely well.

     He exhaled. “Yeah. You look great,” he murmured, not liking at all just how much he meant it.

     “Thanks.” She smiled. “All right, Austin. Coffee and then work. Let’s do this!”

     “Yeah, let’s do this,” he repeated. 

The Knight Before Christmas
by Marilyn Brant

Book Description: 

THE KNIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS is a light contemporary romance by bestselling author Marilyn Brant, who also penned the award-winning and Jane Austen-inspired novels ACCORDING TO JANE and PRIDE, PREJUDICE AND THE PERFECT MATCH. 

When successful building contractor Austin Knightley returns to his hometown of Crystal Corners, Minnesota after a decade away, he vows to avoid pampered and popular types like his old high-school crush Emma Westwood—the town's biggest queen bee and self-appointed matchmaker—only to get swept into a community Christmas project she's now organizing. 

With nods to Jane Austen's classic novel EMMA, this modern heroine may be a little "clueless" in the Midwest, but she's got gifts to share and plenty to learn from the boy next door, who's all grown up and handsomer than ever. Even when a snowstorm threatens to derail her plans, she's determined to figure out how to set things right and save THE KNIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS. 

This sweet and heartwarming holiday romance is a story that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

Buy: AmazonBarnes & Noble • Kobo • iBooks
Add to Goodreads.

FTC Disclaimer: Link to Amazon. I am an Amazon Associate. Should you purchase a copy of the book through the link provided, I will receive a small commission. Thanks! 

About the Author

Marilyn Brant is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of over 20 books in the genres of contemporary women’s fiction, romantic comedy, and mystery. Her debut novel about Jane Austen won the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart Award® (2007), and she was named Author of the Year (2013) by the Illinois Association of Teachers of English. She’s a travel addict, a music junkie, and an insatiable book collector, who loves to discuss story structure and periodically contributes novel beat sheets to the popular screenwriting website, Marilyn’s family believes she’s lost unquantifiable hours to the allure of “Tasty” videos on Facebook, but she refuses to substantiate this claim. For more about her writing, visit Marilyn’s website: 

Connect with Marilyn Brant

Thank you, Marilyn, for stopping by! I enjoyed reading this excerpt and learning a little about your own anxious moments before your first date! I'm looking forward to reading The Knight Before Christmas! It's first up on my holiday read list for this year! 

I've reviewed some of Marilyn Brant's books:

The One That I Want
Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Bet
Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Match
The Road to You
Holiday Man
On Any Given Sundae
Double Dipping

Haha, I love how nervous Austin is! He's so adorable! What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below! 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

What Are You Reading? ~ Nov. 13th, 2019

* * Post contains affiliate links. * *

What are you Reading?  Let me know what your current read is, what you recently finished reading, and what you plan on reading next! 

Current Read

I'm currently re-reading Holidays with Jane: Thankful Hearts* by Rebecca M. Fleming, Jennifer Becton, Melissa Buell, Nancy Kelley, Cecilia Gray, and Jessica Grey. I'm reading this with my JASNA reading group. It's a fun set of modern Jane Austen short stories!  

Recently Finished

I finished reading One Second After* by William R. Forstchen. Wow, it was good and so intense! It's about a small town in North Carolina, and their struggle to survive after an EMP goes off and shuts down the country. The story looked at so many aspects of the aftermath from an EMP, not only trying to find food and defending it from raiders. But also not having proper medications; for instance, diabetics, what happens to them. What happens to hospitals, nursing homes, and with communications down, there is no way to find out if or when help is coming. So many things to think about. What a page-turner! ~ 5 stars

I also finished listening to The Girl With No Name* by Diney Costeloe.  Another great book for me this week! Lisa is a Jewish refugee who is sent to London just before the Blitz during WWII. She slowly learns English and starts to feel comfortable with her foster family when she gets hurt during a bombing. Her new family thinks she is dead, and she has no memory of them or who she is. I really enjoyed listening to this story and loved following Lisa as she grows into a young woman. Also, the secondary characters are wonderful too. ~ 5 stars

What's next? 

I'm thinking about reading The Knight Before Christmas* by Marilyn Brant, who kindly gifted me a copy! Ooh, it looks so good! 

*Disclaimer: Links are to Amazon. I am an Amazon Associate. Should you purchase a copy of the book through the link provided, I will receive a small commission. Thanks! 

Have a great week, friends! I'm excited to have started in on my holiday reads! How about you? Do you have any holiday books on your list? 

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Giveaway Winner!

Hello, friends! I'm delighted to announce the winner of When Charlotte Became Romantic

Many thanks to Victoria Kincaid for graciously offering one of my readers a chance to win an e-copy of her new book! 

Without further ado... the winner is: 


Buy: Amazon US (paid link) • Amazon Uk • Amazon CA
Add to Goodreads.

FTC Disclaimer: Link to Amazon US. I am an Amazon Associate. Should you purchase a copy of the book through the link provided, I will receive a small commission. Thanks! 

Thanks again to all who entered!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Prayer and Praise Blog Tour! ~ Interview with Shannon Winslow

Hello, my friends! I'm thrilled about Shannon Winslow's newest book, Prayer and Praise: A Jane Austen Devotional! I enjoy reading devotionals, and I'm excited about reading this one!  

I was curious about what started Shannon on her path to writing, and I wanted to know more about this book, so I interviewed her. I hope you enjoy reading it!

1. Welcome, Shannon! You’ve been a guest here several times before, but let’s start at the beginning. When did you read your first Jane Austen novel, and what was it?

It wasn’t until about a dozen years ago, unfortunately. Once my two sons were nearly grown, I got back to reading again (something I had thrived on in my early years but nearly given up while I was a super-busy working mom). I already had the idea that I should catch up on “the classics” when I fortuitously spotted a copy of Colin Firth’s P&P ’95 at Costco. It was love at first watch, needless to say. That started me off. But I decided to read Austen’s novels in the order they had been published, so I actually read Sense and Sensibility first! 

2. What persuaded you to write Jane Austen Fan Fiction?

After reading and rereading all her novels, I still hungered for more. Then the first modern P&P sequel I stumbled across…  Well, let’s just say it disappointed me (in the extreme!). So I sat down at the computer one day to try my hand at writing my own – the kind of sequel I envisioned, something true to Austen’s style and to the characters I knew and loved so much. I had no idea if I could do it, but it turned out well and I’ve never looked back. The Darcys of Pemberley, published in 2011, is still my best-seller.

3. You now have a total of seven successful JAFF novels to your credit. So what inspired you to tackle the challenge of a non-fiction piece? To write a Jane Austen Devotional?

You used the right word: inspired!

I had always been curious about Jane Austen’s spiritual side, and so I did some reading on the subject. Then, as I perused her three surviving prayers, ideas kept popping into my head – associations to her stories and characters. Finding the words “Pride and Vanity” together in the first prayer made me think of that contentious conversation between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. The mention of repentance reminded me of Emma, after she insulted Miss Bates. Elinor and Marianne came to mind when I read a section on suffering.

I started thinking that it might be possible for me to write a meaningful Jane Austen devotional base on her prayers. After all, I had years of Bible study under my belt as well as extensive knowledge of Austen’s works. So that’s what I ultimately decided to do!

I ended up breaking down Austen’s three lengthy prayers into fifty individual petitions, allowing each one to inspire a separate message founded on scripture and using characters and situations from Austen’s novels as illustrations for each spiritual principle. Every book I’ve written has been a new and interesting challenge in some way or another. That’s definitely true of this devotional, and it was a thrill to see how well it came together!

4. I’m curious about the title. Where did “Prayer and Praise” come from?

It’s because I conclude every devotional message with a brief on-topic prayer and a quoted bit of scripture (or sometimes an excerpt from a traditional hymn) in God’s praise. Plus I admit that I rather enjoyed the idea that the title could then be abbreviated as “P&P,” the same as my favorite novel.  

5. You implied before that you liked having a fresh writing challenge every time. Can you elaborate on that?

I’d love to! My first novel (The Darcys of Pemberley) was my first novel, so everything was a new challenge! For my second, instead of borrowing Austen’s characters, I created my own for a brand new Austen-style story (For Myself Alone). In The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen, I made Jane Austen herself a character, drawing a parallel between her own life and her novel Persuasion – the most complex story I’ve ever attempted. I’ve also written two time-travel novels (Leap of Faith, Leap of Hope) – one JAFF and the other not. I’ve written stories for minor characters (Mary Bennet, Georgiana Darcy, and Anne de Bourgh). And I recently wrote my first play (adapted from my novel The Ladies of Rosings Park), so we’ll have to see if anything comes of that.

6. I see what you mean, Shannon. So what’s next for you? What are you currently working on?

I have a campy Northanger Abbey sequel about half finished (my first murder mystery!), which should be out sometime next summer. Then I’m feeling drawn back to Pride and Prejudice, probably something from Darcy’s point of view this time – also something I’ve never done before. To paraphrase the name of your blog, Candy, “So many ideas; so little time!”

Lol! Yes, that's so true of many things! Thank you for letting me interview you! It has been a pleasure working with you on this. 

Prayer & Praise
A Jane Austen Devotional
by Shannon Winslow

Did you know that Jane Austen wrote prayers in addition to her six classic novels? She was not only a woman of celebrated humor, intellect, and insight; she was a woman of faith.

Prayer & Praise is a treasure trove of thought-provoking messages inspired by the lines of Austen’s three preserved prayers. Atop a solid foundation of scripture, these 50 devotional segments (each finishing with prayer and praise) enlist familiar characters and situations from Austen novels to illustrate spiritual principles – in creative, often surprising, ways! 

Which one of Austen’s characters developed a god complex? Who was really pulling Henry Crawford’s strings? Where do we see examples of true repentance, a redeemer at work, light overcoming darkness? With a Biblical perspective, Austen’s beloved stories reveal new lessons about life, truth, hope, and faith.

Buy: Amazon US (paid link) • Amazon UK • Amazon CA
Add to Goodreads.

FTC Disclaimer: Link to Amazon US. I am an Amazon Associate. Should you purchase a copy of the book through the link provided, I will receive a small commission. Thanks!

Connect with Shannon Winslow

Here is a sample from Prayer & Praise from Shannon's website. 

For a chance to win a copy, go to Shannon's website! Good luck! 

So, friends, what do you think? Isn't it amazing that a few of Jane Austen's prayers survived?! I'm so happy about that! Do you read devotionals? 

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

What Are You Reading? ~ Nov. 6th, 2019

* * Post contains affiliate links. * *

What are you Reading?  Let me know what your current read is, what you recently finished reading, and what you plan on reading next! 

Current Read

I'm currently reading One Second After* by William R. Forstchen. I'm enjoying it immensely! It's so intense. What I like about this one is that it explains more of how an EMP works - how it fries all electronics. Also, you see more of a small town trying to survive and maintain civility, instead of just a couple of people (preppers) trying to survive. It's interesting, and it makes you think. 

I'm still listening to The Girl With No Name* by Diney Costeloe. I'm about 60% finished and loving it! It's about a Jewish refugee teenager sent to London just before the Blitz during WWII.

Recently Finished

I finished reading Looking for Alaska* by John Green. It was good, and now I'm watching the series on Hulu. One thing, for a YA, I thought it was a little too mature. 

What's next? 

My reading group is reading Holidays with Jane: Thankful Hearts* by Rebecca M. Fleming, Jennifer Becton, Melissa Buell, Nancy Kelley, Cecilia Gray, and Jessica Grey, so that's what I'll probably read! I've already read it, but it will be fun to read again. 

*Disclaimer: Links are to Amazon. I am an Amazon Associate. Should you purchase a copy of the book through the link provided, I will receive a small commission. Thanks! 

Have a great week, friends! Be sure to share what you've been reading! 

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Perfect Gentleman Blog Tour! ~ Guest Post, Excerpt, & Giveaway!

Hello, my friends! It's my stop on The Perfect Gentleman Blog Tour! I'm very excited about this book! It's the kind of tale I look for in a Pride and Prejudice retelling! I hope you enjoy this excerpt Julie Cooper has selected for us, and be sure to check out the awesome giveaway! Details are at the bottom of the page! 

Greetings all, and thank you for letting me talk a little bit about this story! Every Pride and Prejudice variation needs a “Hunsford” moment, and The Perfect Gentleman is no exception.

One drawback to most Hunsfords, however, is the sense of helplessness we feel as readers, watching our favourite couple make decisions that could potentially destroy any chance of a future together. I will admit that I don’t always mind watching Darcy make a muck of things—but Lizzy’s participation in any ugliness can get to me. I suppose I always want Lizzy to be a much better human than myself—more patient, more charitable, and most of all…wiser than Fitzwilliam Darcy.

I believe this Lizzy achieves this lofty goal. In The Perfect Gentleman, Lizzy is a girl with dreams. Born of a mother who is “sunk beneath reproach” so to speak, and abandoned by her father, she might have turned to her mother’s scandalous means of supporting herself. But she can always see through the false glamour of her mother existence, even while recognising that Mrs Bennet did the best she could with the means she had. Lizzy doesn’t judge—she simply believes in herself, and that she can do better and become more than society expects.

By the time we come to the following excerpt, we are rooting for Lizzy to triumph over the circumstances of her birth and realize her goals. We’re also pretty sure that nothing will stop her, despite her upcoming confrontation with the arrogant Mr Darcy:

Excerpt from The Perfect Gentleman: 

SHE FOUND HIM pacing impatiently near the carriage. For just a moment, Lizzy was simply captivated by his appearance. From shoulders needing no buckram padding to the long legs leather-tipped in polished Hessians, he was a picture of wealth, masculinity, and authority. His wardrobe alone priced him beyond her reach; she ought to have known better. To have kissed him was a blunder of monumental proportions, for she could not imagine anyone else ever making a better job of it. 

And yet, in an odd way, she was proud of herself. She had captured the interest, however briefly, of a formidable, aristocratic man. In this, she could understand what had driven Fanny Bennet to sacrifice herself for Sir Eden; there was a thrill in it, an imitation sort of power, for a female so often at the mercy of others.

And yet, unlike Fanny, Lizzy had not succumbed. Her hopes and dreams remained intact. She would not sacrifice or give them away, not in return for fleeting—if wonderful—sensation. And though the odds of seeing Mr Darcy again were sadly slim, she could not be sorry she had known him just a little. A deep-seated fear that she was her mother’s daughter was forever banished. 

She was Elizabeth Bennet, a sculptor, and Fitzwilliam Darcy thought her beautiful. 

How many could say that? 


Of course, our Mr Darcy isn’t exactly stupid, and we can have perfect confidence in this “perfect” gentleman that, despite the upcoming setback, he won’t let her get away. 

It was great fun writing this couple, who from an “outside looking in” view were exact opposites, but along the way of their Regency Road Trip, discover that they aren’t so far apart, after all.

The Perfect Gentleman
by Julie Cooper

Book Blurb 

’Tis no secret that Lizzy Bennet has dreams. The uniquely talented daughter of a woman with a dubious reputation, Lizzy knows she must make her own way in a world that shuns her. Fitzwilliam Darcy carries the stains of his family’s disgrace upon his soul and only by holding himself to the strictest standards has he reclaimed his place in society. 

Now Georgiana Darcy has gone missing. If his fifteen-year-old sister cannot be found quickly, the scandal could destroy Darcy’s years of perfect behaviour. Lizzy Bennet know just what to do to find Georgiana. She is willing to join the pursuit to get what she wants but will Darcy be willing to trust her with his secrets? And what will they do when the search for Georgiana reveals what neither expected to find? 

The Perfect Gentleman is a romantic adventure so big it needs two volumes in one book. Follow the adventure in A Not-So-Merry Chase and discover the surprises and temptations that await at Pemberley in Love Wisely But Well.

Buy: Amazon US (paid link) • Amazon UK • Amazon CA
Add to Goodreads

FTC Disclaimer: Link to Amazon US. I am an Amazon Associate. Should you purchase a copy of the book through the link provided, I will receive a small commission. Thanks! 

About the Author

Julie Cooper, a California native, lives with her Mr Darcy (without the arrogance or the Pemberley) of nearly forty years, two dogs (one intelligent, one goofball), and Kevin the Cat (smarter than all of them.)  They have four children and three grandchildren, all of whom are brilliant and adorable, with the pictures to prove it. She works as an executive at a gift basket company and her tombstone will read, "Have your Christmas gifts delivered at least four days before the 25th."  Her hobbies are reading, giving other people good advice, and wondering why no one follows it.

You can connect with Julie Cooper on Facebook.

Blog Tour Schedule

* * * GIVEAWAY * * *

It's giveaway time! Quills & Quartos Publishing is giving away a $50 Amazon gift card! To be eligible, just comment on any of the blog tour stops. You need not visit all the stops (one point per stop and comment), however, it does increase your chances of winning by earning more entries. The contest ends on November 13, 2019.

  • To enter, leave a comment below!
  • For more entries, comment on any of the blog tour stops.
  • Open Internationally
  • The last day to enter the giveaway is November 13, 2019.

Many thanks to Quills & Quartos Publishing and Christina Boyd @ The Quill Ink for having me on this book tour! 

Congratulations to Julie Cooper on the release of The Perfect Gentleman, and thank you for visiting us here today!

So, friends, what do you think? Do you like stories where Elizabeth and Darcy are thrown together in some way and have to work with each other? 

Monday, November 4, 2019

Giveaway Winner!

Hello, friends! I'm excited to announce the winner of the Fine Eyes & Pert Opinions giveaway! 

Many thanks to Maria Grace for that lovely excerpt! Also, for offering one of my readers a chance to win an e-copy of her new book!

So, without further ado ... the winner is:


Congratulations, Ginna! I have sent you an email.

Buy links: Amazon (paid link) • Universal Book Buy Link
Add to Goodreads.

FTC Disclaimer: Link to Amazon. I am an Amazon Associate. Should you purchase a copy of the book through the link provided, I will receive a small commission. Thanks! 

Thanks again to all who entered!

Friday, November 1, 2019

The Bride of Northanger Blog Tour! ~ Interview with Diana Birchall

Hello, my friends! I'm so excited to be part of The Bride of Northanger Blog Tour! I got a chance to read the book (which I loved) and ask Diana Birchall a few questions! I hope you enjoy!

1.  When did you read your first Austen novel, and which was it? What were your first impressions?

It was Pride and Prejudice, which I read at a time long before any adaptations (except the 1940 Laurence Olivier/Greer Garson film).  Austen was not so widely read in those days – of course she was known as a classic author, but she was more the property of the English literature specialists, not so universally popular as she is today.  I had a literary aunt who liked her, but because Austen just wasn’t in the spotlight, I read Pride and Prejudice at 20, a decade after reading Jane Eyre. The title seemed to me rather pompous and dull. Of course, I was immediately surprised and smitten!  This was the most delicious book I’d ever read, and the minute I was finished I started it all over again.

2.  What began your path to writing Jane Austen Fan Fiction?

Winning a contest in the JASNA journal Persuasions in 1984. I wrote a little dialogue imitating the chatter of Miss Bates in Emma. It was so exciting to win, but I also realized that I simply adored writing this kind of pastiche and vowed to do more. So, I did. My method was to focus on Austen’s writing, her exquisite style and balance, psychological acuity, and above all her wit. I suppose it was a kind of attempt to take her apart and see what made her tick. Delving into the secrets of her art, could only lead to a better understanding of her work, and incidentally improve my own writing. Hundreds of stories, and several novels and plays followed, and I am still pastiche-ing away, to my own great pleasure and enlightenment!

3.  I truly enjoyed reading The Bride of Northanger. What inspired you to write a sequel to Northanger Abbey?

Thank you, I’m glad you liked it!  I came to Northanger Abbey rather late, having already written sequels to Pride and Prejudice and Emma, as well as writing a play about Mansfield Park, and episodes in an alternate version of Persuasion. I still have not attacked Sense and Sensibility!  I always loved Northanger Abbey, for its fresh charm and youthful spirit, as well as the Gothic satire and Austen’s comments on novels. Most of all though I was interested in the central couple, Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney, and wanted to see how that slightly oddly assorted pairing – he so clever, she so young and na├»ve – would play out in marriage. 

4. After reading the story, I had a question. Was it customary at the time to pronounce the death of a high-ranking person as dying of natural causes even under suspicion circumstances because murder would not be respectable?

The English custom was to have a Coroner preside over an Inquest to examine a case of suspicious death, but there were many reasons why the local people would lean towards a “cover-up” in the case in my novel.  Such things happened then, as they still do today!

5.  I loved the "curse" on the Tilney family! Can you tell us more about that? 

If you look at the history of Netley Abbey, which Jane Austen visited when she lived in Southampton as a young woman, you’ll find many parallels with Northanger Abbey. It seems very likely that Netley was her model and inspiration. An ancient Cistercian Abbey, founded in the 13th century, it was taken over during the time of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century. The monks were turned out, and the property given to a wealthy landowner. The monks were said to have put a curse on the place, in retribution for people taking away stones for building projects, and there were legends of ghosts and a White Lady haunting the place. Jane Austen lived a couple of centuries after the dissolution, but she had a strong sense of history, and of course saw all kinds of ruins and religious houses around her landscape, often in the hands of cruel and greedy landowners like her own General Tilney. There was plenty to inspire her, and plenty for me to use in my own Gothic fancies!

6.  I couldn't go to the Jane Austen Society of North America’s AGM in Williamsburg, Virginia this year, but I saw some pictures of you there. Tell us one of the highlights of the weekend for you!

It was really a wonderful AGM! Williamsburg is well worth a visit, though I especially loved the side trips to fascinating Jamestown and the beautiful, historically rich plantations on the James River, troubling though they were because of their slave history. One of the highlights for me was the talk I gave on a panel called “The Company of Clever, Well Informed People,” about the 40-year history of JASNA. The other great thrill was signing my books at the Book Emporium. Only conference speakers could sign, and I qualified!  So many friends, old and new, came up and were so kind about my new book, that I was really, literally over the moon with joy.  I’ve written about the AGM on the Austen Variations blog, with pictures:

7.  What do like to do when you are not writing?

Read, and play with my three fat cats. Two of my favorite activities, hiking and ballet, are somewhat limited as I’ve been having trouble with my knees, but although I’ve hung up my pointe shoes, I can still walk in the mountains, and dearly love it. I’ve taken many trips to England over the years, and never ever get tired of seeing Jane Austen’s country and walking where she walked.

8.  Do you have another book that you would like to write? If so, can you share anything about it? 

Oh, yes, lots!  Next up is a Little Women sequel, but I’d also like to put together my Lady Catherine de Bourgh stories in a single volume and collect a book of plays.  And then there’s that Sense and Sensibility sequel…

The Bride of Northanger
by Diana Birchall


A happier heroine than Catherine Morland does not exist in England, for she is about to marry her beloved, the handsome, witty Henry Tilney. The night before the wedding, Henry reluctantly tells Catherine and her horrified parents a secret he has dreaded to share - that there is a terrible curse on his family and their home, Northanger Abbey. Henry is a clergyman, educated and rational, and after her year’s engagement Catherine is no longer the silly young girl who delighted in reading “horrid novels”; she has improved in both reading and rationality. This sensible young couple cannot believe curses are real...until a murder at the Abbey triggers events as horrid and Gothic as Jane Austen ever parodied - events that shake the young Tilneys’ certainties, but never their love for each other...

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“Diana Birchall once again proves herself the worthiest of Austenesque fiction writers, with keen powers of observation, discernment, judgment, fire, genius, and wit on every page.” — Devoney Looser, author of The Making of Jane Austen

“No one captures Jane Austen's vibrant style, sense of humor, intelligence, and voice better than Diana Birchall. I flew through this charming novel, which makes a delightfully spooky and most welcome sequel to Northanger Abbey.” — Syrie James, author of The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen

“One of the most enjoyable returns to Austen to be found. Not to be missed.” — Susan Franzblau, author and film director

About the Author

Diana Birchall worked for many years at Warner Bros studios as a story analyst, reading novels to see if they would make movies. Reading manuscripts went side by side with a restorative and sanity-preserving life in Jane Austen studies and resulted in her writing Austenesque fiction both as homage and attempted investigation of the secrets of Jane Austen's style. She is the author of In Defense of Mrs. Elton, Mrs. Elton in America, Mrs. Darcy's Dilemma, and the new The Bride of Northanger. She has written hundreds of Austenesque short stories and plays, as well as a biography of her novelist grandmother, and has lectured on her books and staged play readings at places as diverse as Hollywood, Brooklyn, Montreal, Chawton House Library, Alaska, and Yale. Visit Diana at her Austen Variations author page, follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.

Connect with Diana Birchall

Social Media hashtags 

#BrideofNorthanger, #JaneAusten, #HistoricalFicton, #GothicMystery, #Austenesque #Janeite #BlogTour


October 28 My Jane Austen Book Club (Interview)
October 28 vvb32 Reads (Spotlight)
October 29 From Pemberley to Milton (Excerpt)
October 30 Drunk Austen (Interview)
October 30 Silver Petticoat Review (Excerpt)
October 31 Jane Austen’s World (Review)
November 01 So Little Time… (Interview)
November 01 Laura's Reviews (Review)
November 04 English Historical Fiction Authors (Guest Blog)
November 04 Confessions of a Book Addict (Spotlight)
November 05 More Agreeably Engaged (Review)
November 05 Vesper’s Place (Review)
November 06 Jane Austen in Vermont (Interview)
November 06 Diary of an Eccentric (Interview)
November 07 All Things Austen (Spotlight)
November 07 A Bookish Way of Life (Review)
November 07 Let Them Read Books (Excerpt)  
November 08 Babblings of a Bookworm (Review)
November 08 vvb32 Reads (Review)
November 11 My Jane Austen Book Club (Review)
November 11 Reading the Past (Spotlight)
November 12 Jane Austen’s World (Interview)
November 12 The Calico Critic (Excerpt)
November 13 The Book Rat (Review) 
November 13 Austenesque Reviews (Review)
November 14 Fangs, Wands, & Fairy Dust (Review)
November 14 The Fiction Addiction (Review)
November 15 My Love for Jane Austen (Spotlight)
November 15 Scuffed Slippers and Wormy Books (Review)

Diana, thank you so much for visiting us here and for answering my questions! It was fascinating to learn about Netley Abbey. I had no idea! I also enjoyed looking at your AGM pictures! Thank you for sharing! My son's wedding was the next weekend, so I wasn't able to attend this year. I would have loved to go to Virginia to see all the historic sites, and I love Northanger Abbey!

Many thanks to Laurel Ann Nattress @ Austenprose for organizing and including me in this blog tour! 

As I said above, I've had the privilege to read The Bride of Northanger, and I loved it! I felt it was written just as Jane would have wanted. The gothic feel and mystery make for a delightful read, especially this time of year! I would highly recommend it! 

I hope you enjoyed my little interview with Diana! Please, leave any comments or questions you might have below! 
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