Category Archives: North and South

Milton’s Magistrate Excerpt & Giveaway

Good Afternoon everyone,

I’m hoping to cheer you up and give you a reason to smile in the beginning of this week. As you all know I love North and South as much as I love Pride and Prejudice, and I’m always eager to find more North and South variations out there because compared to Pride and Prejudice variations they are very scarce, so I was very happy to know that Julia Daniels started working on another North and South novel called Milton’s Magistrate. This is still a work in progress but we thought that you would like to have a sneak peek at the first chapter, so we are sharing it today along with some wonderful news.

For those who don’t know this author yet, she has written several romances placed in very different timings and settings and two of them are North and South variations, Master of Her Heart which I’ve reviewed here at From Pemberley to Milton and Milton’s Mill Master which will be FREE for an entire week starting today! If you haven’t read it yet, this is your chance to grab a copy, this link will take you directly into Amazon.

Don’t know this author’s work yet? This is the perfect chance to get a glimpse at her writing as you’ll have an entire chapter to read 😉

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“The police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”
                                                                                                         -Sir Robert Peel

Chapter One

 

    Dodging unopened packing crates as she entered the drawing room of their new home in the Crampton Precinct of Greater Milton, Margaret Hale was on a desperate mission to get this room put into some semblance of order by nightfall. Her father’s first pupil would visit that evening, and everything had to be in perfect order. The large room at the front of the rented townhouse in the Crampton district was to be a combination study area for her father’s visiting pupils and a place to relax together as a family in the evenings. The home was much smaller than they were all accustomed to, but for the price, it had been the finest place she and her father could find available in the industrial town.

Margaret, along with her mother and father had arrived in Milton, an industrial town in northeastern England, just five days earlier. This room had been consigned to the lowest priority for settlement. The kitchen and dining room had been unpacked first, followed by her mother’s room, and then her father’s. Although Margaret’s belongings were still crated, this room had to be taken care of that day as her father was hoping his first student would begin reading with him that evening.

She puffed out a heavy breath as she looked at the dozens of crates, most filled with books she needed to unload and place on the empty, built-in shelves. The furniture had been placed in the room, but the pieces still bore the white sheets that had kept them clean on the long railroad trip from the vicarage in Helstone. She decided she would unbind them first, which would allow her a clean place to sit as she sorted her father’s books.

“Drat!”

She had forgotten the list her father created before departing the house that morning. She walked through the narrow pathway she’d created between crates and into the hallway that led to the dining room, where the list likely remained, still on the table where she’d sat for breakfast. As she walked, she tripped on the edge of the Oriental rug that ran the length of the hallway, catching the wall to keep from falling to the ground. The rug was lovely but badly worn in areas, especially the edges. It had come with the house, but it would have to be removed. As often as they would trot down this main hallway, and with her mother’s presently weakened state, it simply could not stay.

As Margaret bent over and began to roll up the runner, planning to store it in the crawlspace under the kitchen, a scream sounded from the back of the house. Margaret dropped the rug, jumped over what she had already rolled up, and rushed to see what the issue was. Dixon had probably seen another mouse, as they’d found several in the kitchen already, but Margaret needed to be certain.

Dressed for her planned excursion to the market, the housekeeper was staring out the back door of the home, clinging to the door jamb, her mouth hanging ajar as if in shock.

“Dixon? Whatever are you looking at?”

The maid didn’t respond.

“Dixon!” Margaret barked sharply. Frustrated, she moved closer to see what in the world the maid was viewing.

On the ground, just below the stairs, a burly man lay still, his neck bloodied from a gaping, horizontal slash across his throat. Margaret cringed and pulled away from the door, bile rising in her throat at the site of a dead man. She sat quickly on a chair and bent over, breathing deeply

Dixon slammed the door and joined Margaret at the small kitchen table.

“You must go find a watchman, Miss Margaret.” Dixon’s urgent voice was quiet, a reminder that Margaret’s mother was still asleep upstairs. It would not do to have her mother become aware of the lifeless body residing in their backyard.

“Should you not go, Dixon?” Margaret took a deep breath and looked up. “You had planned to go to the market. If Mama wakes and finds me gone, she’d think it strange.” Margaret shook her head, eyes wide. “She cannot know about this.”

Maria Hale’s health and spirits had deteriorated rapidly since their arrival. Barely fifty, Mother seemed to have aged a decade overnight. At present, she refused to leave her room except for meals. She refused trips to the market and shops, and while there had been few opportunities to socialize with people of their ilk, she had showed no interest in meeting any people in their new town. Margaret would try to convince her mother to attend church this upcoming Sunday, but she was not holding out hope.

“You should go,” Dixon sputtered. Her gaze remained fixed on the door, a fearful look upon her face.

Dixon often forgot she was a servant. She had been lady’s maid to Margaret’s mother for nearly forty years. As such, they behaved more like sisters and confidantes, than employer and employee. This gruesome task of reporting a murder was not something a young woman of good breeding should be forced to complete. Indeed, her Aunt Shaw would faint dead away at the very prospect of it, but if Dixon would not go, then Margaret must.

Margaret frowned when Dixon finally looked her way. “While I am gone, please finish rolling up the rug in the hallway so Mama will not trip on it should she come to eat lunch.” Margaret stood and replaced her chair under the table. “Lock the main door after me, and do not open the back door again, no matter who comes to call. Perhaps you ought to place a chair under the door knob to block any entrance.”

Margaret marched out of the kitchen. Where in the world would she go to find a watchman in this part of Milton? She was shaking inside, scared what else she might encounter outside her front door. In London, especially on Harley Street where Aunt Shaw resided, it would be quite easy to find a lawman, but here…well, Margaret hadn’t had time to become familiar with the area. She grabbed her hat off the table in the front hallway and exited the house, certain to close the door firmly behind her. Dixon had better heed Margaret’s advice and lock the door.

She paused on the porch and looked in both directions. Which way…? Suddenly, she had a thought. Mrs. Williams. Surely, their new neighbor could guide Margaret toward the closest police station. She descended the steps, turned right out of the gate, then walked along Fulbright, the town’s main road. A few moments later, she stopped at the very last house on the row. Mrs. Williams was the only person she could think of who could help, and as Margaret climbed the stairs, she hoped the older woman was willing to render assistance. With Mr. Bell gone and her father Lord only knew where, she had nowhere else to turn.

Just earlier that week, after they first arrived, Cecilia Williams had stopped to welcome them with a pie. She had lived in this last house on the row for nearly twenty years and would surely know where Margaret could go for help. The woman quickly answered Margaret’s knock.

“Well good day, Miss Hale!”

“Oh Mrs. Williams it is not a good day!” Margaret cried. “Not a’tall!”

“Whatever is the matter, child?” She took Margaret’s hand and tried to pull her inside the home. “Do come in!”

“I cannot.” Margaret shook her head. “I fear I have no time to waste. A man lies dead, Mrs. Williams!”

“Your father?”

“Oh heaven’s no!” Margaret continued to shake her head, and then took a deep, steadying breath so she might more calmly explain. “There is a stranger dead on my back porch. I must find a watchman to report it.”

“A dead man? In Crampton?” Mrs. Williams made a clicking noise with her tongue. “What on earth is this world coming to? Allow me to fetch my coat and gloves and I will take you to the police station.”

Margaret stayed on the upper step of the house while Mrs. Williams went to collect her garb. She glanced around the neighborhood, wondering if the killer was still there, just lying in wait. She shivered at the thought. Had the man been chosen or had it been a random act?

Mrs. Williams was quick to rejoin her and after locking her door, she Together, they rushed through the blustery gray day toward New Street, where Mrs. Williams explained, the nearest police station was located.

“Mrs. Williams, could you slow down a bit, please?” Margaret was struggling to keep up with the much older, spry woman. “I fear I am not as good of a walker as you appear to be.”

 

    “You will have to become accustomed to walking, Miss Hale. Nothing is close to Crampton, and if you do not have means to hire or maintain a carriage, your feet will be your sole transportation!”

She was correct. That had been one of Margaret’s main concerns in settling so far from the town’s center. Although she had walked plenty in London, she’d done so strictly for pleasure, not out of necessity. Aunt Shaw had never allowed Margaret to walk too far and never without an appointed chaperone. Milton was completely different. Women here wandered freely with no need for a chaperone, and most women her age worked in one of the dozens of mills in town, giving the girls far more freedom and independence than Margaret would ever have in London, or perhaps even here. And now, of course, with her father’s reduced circumstances, there would be no carriages—hired or otherwise.

After a hurried, thirty-minute walk, they reached a building at the corner of New Street and Mills, upon which hung a simple, weather-worn wooden sign that read, Police. Mrs. Williams pushed opened the heavy wooden door and breathlessly, Margaret followed her inside.

A navy-blue uniformed man with a trimmed beard sat at a desk right inside the door. He stood quickly as they neared his desk.

“Ladies?” His voice was very high-pitched. “Have you a problem?”

“Yes!” Margaret cried. Still a bit out of breath, she continued. “There is a dead man lying upon the stairs outside the back door of my home!” She tried to remain calm in her explanation, but the shock was too much.

“A dead man?” The official’s eyes had narrowed, and his tone sounded skeptical, but he resumed his seat, reached for a clean sheet of paper, and inked his quill. Looking up, he studied her. “How can you be certain he is not just asleep?”

She uttered an unladylike snort. “Sir, his throat was cut, and there is blood all over his shirt. My maid was on her way to the market and found him when she opened the door!”

As she spoke, the man wrote out the information she gave him, his penmanship careful and neat. When he looked up, he turned to look at Mrs. Williams.

“You are her maid?” he asked.

“Heavens, no.” Mrs. Williams shook her head, affronted. “I am her neighbor. We live in Crampton, sir, in Fulbright Street.”

His face lit up. “Mr. Bell’s properties?”

“Yes.” Margaret nodded quickly, relieved he finally showed some interest. “Adam Bell is my godfather, sir.”

“Your godfather?”

His voice fairly trembled with excitement, and she half-expected him to leap over his desk at any moment and race out the door. He called out to two other men, both of whom wore similar uniforms but their woolen suits had fewer fancy details. The sergeant, who Margaret learned was called Hubert Snipe, quickly explained the situation to the new arrivals, both constables, and soon Margaret and Mrs. Williams followed the three men down a dark, narrow hall and out a back door.

“How did you get here, Miss…?”

“Hale. I am Margaret Hale,” she answered Sergeant Snipe. “Mrs. Williams and I walked.”

His eyes widened. “You walked all the way here from Crampton?”

“Yes.” She nodded. “It cannot have been more than two miles?”

“It is nearly four, Miss Hale,” he told her. “Please, come along with me in the carriage. Boys, bring the wagon.”

He helped her climb into the rig and then turned to help Mrs. Williams. The older woman slid in next to Margaret.

“I shall ride up on top with the driver,” he said before closing the door.

As soon as she heard him climb aboard, the horses pulled them away.

“How glad I am not to have to walk back. I did not realize just how far we had traveled.” Mrs. Williams chuckled, but relief showed clearly on the older woman’s face. “My husband works at Marlborough Mills and walks this twice every day!”

Milton was a mill town. Mr. Bell had said that over eighty percent of the population of Milton relied on the cotton mills for their daily wage. As long as the mills did well and the price of cotton stayed strong, so did Milton and its residents.

“What does he do at the mill, Mrs. Williams?”

Except for the initial meeting when Mrs. Williams brought the pie to Margaret’s family, they had not shared an extended conversation. Instead, they had waved to each other in passing and talked only once, for a short time, when Margaret ran into her at the market two days earlier.

She tipped up her chin. “He is Mr. Thornton’s overseer. He manages the whole of the mill.” Pride underlined her words.

“And which mill is that again?”

Margaret had tried to pay attention earlier when Mrs. William told her, but still in shock, she could not remember the name. Through gossip Dixon had picked up at the market, Margaret had learned some of the mills were run better than others.

“Marlborough Mills. It’s the largest one in Milton. Mr. Bell owns those buildings, too, you know. The machinery and business, however, solely belongs to Mr. Thornton.”

“That sounds like a taxing job, Mrs. Williams. The largest in Milton! My goodness, I should like to see inside one day, just to have a peek at how such a facility is operated. I have come to understand the mills run very long hours.” The whistles that blew through town early and late each day were testament to that.

“Indeed, child. My George leaves well before dawn and is home barely before nine each evening. With our children grown and gone, my days are quite long and lonely.”

She looked out the window as she admitted the last, and Margaret’s heart went out to her.

“You must come and visit us whenever you wish,” Margaret offered, grabbing the older woman’s hand and giving it a gentle squeeze. “My mother is undergoing a rather…difficult adjustment to Milton. Perhaps if she had someone familiar with the town to learn from, she might become more comfortable?” A thought suddenly crossed her mind. “Has this happened before, Mrs. Williams? Is Crampton so dangerous that we will find dead bodies wherever we go?”

Mrs. Williams snorted. “No, indeed! Why I have never heard of a murder in this neighborhood! This is an anomaly, Miss Hale. A horrible, horrible, rare instance. I would not have lived here as long as we have were it a dangerous area. Furthermore, Mr. Bell would not allow such behavior to occur in and around his properties.”

“That is a relief.” Margaret’s hand rested heavy against her chest. “But Mr. Bell is in Oxford so much; how can he possibly be aware of the condition of his properties in Milton?”

“Oh! I suppose being so new here, you would not know. You see, Mr. Thornton manages all of Mr. Bell’s properties within Milton, which includes his mill and our Crampton homes. There may be other places, as well, but those are the ones I am certain of.”

“This Mr. Thornton sounds like a rather important fellow in Milton,” Margaret commented.

“Oh, he is! He is a very fine man. He started with nothing and grew to become an extraordinarily powerful, respected gentleman. Especially for someone so young. I expect he is not yet thirty-five.”

The coach came to a halt just on the corner of Fulbright. An instant later, Sergeant Snipes popped open the carriage door. The wagon pulled to a halt directly next to them, the constables waiting, no doubt, for Snipes to give them their orders on how to proceed.

“Miss Hale, would you be so kind as to lead me to your residence?” he asked her.

“Certainly.”

Margaret stepped out of the carriage and waited until Mrs. Williams was also on the ground before she pointed Snipes to her house at the very end of the row.

“I shall leave you here, Miss Hale,” Mrs. Williams said. “I have no stomach to deal with a dead man.”

“Of course.” Margaret gave her a quick, impulsive hug. “Thank you so much for your assistance today. I do not believe I could have done this without your support.”

Mrs. Williams tipped up Margaret’s chin in a motherly way. “You are a strong young woman, not like the other soft ones who have come up from the south. Yet, I vow, you are as fine as any lady I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.”

“That is kind of you to say.” Mr. Bell would be glad to know Margaret made a fine first impression with her new neighbors, his tenants.

“Miss Hale!” Snipes barked, “Let us be on our way, if you please.”  His men in the parked wagon shifted on the bench, while their horses pawed at the ground.

“Yes, sir. I am sorry.” Margaret turned to Mrs. Williams. “Come along. Let me walk you to your door.”

They climbed the steps, and Mrs. Williams paused on her front stoop.

“Please, do come to visit us. You will always be welcome for tea or otherwise,” Margaret told her.

“I shall, Miss Hale. Once you have fully settled, do let me know, and I will visit at once.”

This time, Mrs. Williams hugged Margaret before walking inside her home. Margaret caught a glimpse of the entry hall over the woman’s shoulder before the door closed. Was the house identical in design to the one in which she and her parents lived, or, seeing as the building had been erected on a corner lot, was the Williams’s place larger? Of course, she didn’t have time to dwell on such matters. Not with Sergeant Snipes waiting for her to lead him and his men down the road to her home.

Please, let Mother still be in her bedchamber, Margaret prayed. She could never explain the presence of these men without causing her mother alarm. Perhaps they would have no need to come inside the house? Surely, Margaret could answer their questions in the alleyway just as easily as she could in their front parlor. She could see no need to disrupt the entire household with this matter.

“This is our house.” She stopped at the base of the stairs. “If you go through the alley over there”—she pointed not thirty feet away—“you will find him at the back door.”

Snipes nodded to his constables, and immediately, they went down the path through the alley. Margaret trailed behind, looking over shoulder, hoping the neighbors were all away from home, at work, and not at home, peeking out their windows and watching her with the uniformed men. It was hardly a good impression for a newcomer to make.

She prayed the body was gone, that it had been a horrible, sick joke. But no, the man was still dead, lying on her back porch. The two constables began looking around the area, studying the ground, searching for evidence, she supposed.

“How long have you lived her, Miss Hale?” Snipes asked.

“We arrived on Sunday afternoon. This is our fifth day now, sir.”

Snipes walked forward, circled the body the best he could without moving him. He bent closer, studying the gaping hole in the man’s throat. She pulled a handkerchief from her sleeve and covered her mouth and nose. Was that the odor of rotting flesh or some other foul smell? She had no idea what the smell was, only that it twisted her stomach. Could the body have begun to decompose already?

“I know this may be difficult for you, Miss Hale, but I need you to take a close look at this man and tell me if he is known to you.” Snipes looked to his constables. “Cover the wound with the sheet you brought. It would not do for her to see such a thing.”

“I saw him before coming to you. At least, I looked quickly.” Still holding her linen cloth over her face, she moved forward and stopped beside the sergeant.

“Miss Hale?” Snipes asked.

She shook her head and moved back. “As far as I know, I have never seen this man.”

“Very well. Boys, load him up. Miss Hale, may I come inside your home and talk with you, please?”

“Yes, of course.” She nodded. “Shall we go to the front?”

He nodded and followed behind her, his leather boots crunching the gravel as they walked. When they reached the door, she found it locked, just as she had asked Dixon to do. She knocked quietly, hoping the maid, and not her mother, would hear them.

Dixon came to answer, cracking open the door.

“It’s me,” Margaret told her.

Dixon pulled the door wide and stepped back. “Oh, miss! You are here. I saw the policemen in the back but did not see you with them.”

Margaret walked inside. She invited Snipes to enter, then closed the door. “Dixon, this is Sergeant Snipes. Dixon is our maid.” Margaret addressed the woman in question. “Would you bring tea, please?”

“Yes, miss.” Dixon looked closely, almost fearfully toward Snipes but left to fulfill Margaret’s request.

Margaret removed her gloves and hat and set them on the table by the door. She held out her hand to accept Snipes’ hat but instead, he held onto it.

“We can go into the drawing room.” She pointed to the door on the right. “We have yet to unpack in there, but I shall remove the coverings on the furniture, and we should be rather comfortable.”

She was nervous suddenly. She had nothing to worry about. She did not know the dead man, had no idea how he had come to land on her stairs. That was truly all she knew, all she could tell the sergeant.

She pulled the white sheets off her father’s favorite chair and the matching one next to it where her mother often sat when the furniture had filled the parlor in their vicarage home. “Please, do sit, sir.”

He sat as soon as she did.

“I assume the maid who answered the door is the one who discovered the body this morning?” he asked.

“Yes. We have just one servant at present.” She swallowed. “I had just finished breakfast and was getting ready to unbox my father’s books.” She gestured toward all the sealed crates. “Dixon screamed. I thought she saw another mouse, as we’ve had half a dozen or so since we moved in. But when I arrived in the kitchen, she was staring out the door. I went to stand beside her, and that when I saw…” Margaret shook her head and shuddered.

“Did you touch the body?”

“No!” Margaret said. “I did not even approach it—him. I saw the blood at his neck and had to turn away. I went to sit at the kitchen table to gather my wits. I have never seen a dead body before, sir.”

“I imagine not.” He chuckled. “Fortunately, you will likely never see another.”

Dixon rapped softly on the door before entering with the tea service.

“Could I speak with your maid, Miss Hale?”

Margaret nodded. “Of course.”

“Perhaps you could step out of the room while we talk?” he asked Margaret. “I wish to hear her experience since she was the first to see the man.”

“Yes, I can understand that. Dixon, please do answer his questions, and fetch me when you are finished.” Margaret stood. “Serve him some tea as well. It is a rather grim day.”

Margaret stepped out of the room and closed the door behind her. Thank goodness her mother was still above stairs! Most of the time, Margaret would have preferred her mother to be amongst the family, but for the moment, Margaret prayed Mama would stay abed.

She walked to the back of the house to look out the kitchen window and see if the constables had left. As she’d hoped, they, along with the dead man, were gone. No evidence remained of the blood that had dripped from the dead man’s neck to cover his shirt and shoulders. His left leg had hung at an odd angle, appearing to be broken or twisted. How the poor soul had suffered! Would she ever know who he was or why he’d been killed? Or most importantly, why someone had dumped him on their doorstep?

She poured herself a cup of tea from the pot on the stove and sank onto a hard-backed chair, waiting for the sergeant to complete his discussion with Dixon. She took a sip of the tea, wondering where her father had gone that morning and when he would be home. At breakfast, he had told her he had a meeting with a new student to establish a learning schedule. She had been distracted, reading a letter from her cousin, Edith Lennox, so he very well may have explained further, but she could not recall any other details. She just hoped he would come home before the sergeant left.

Margaret had drank all but the last dregs of her tea when Dixon came looking for her. The pasty-faced maid stopped in the kitchen doorway, a faraway look in her eyes.

“Miss Margaret, the sergeant wishes to see you,” she murmured.

“Are you well?” Margaret asked, standing. “You are so pale.”

“I am well. It was just difficult to explain what I saw. To remember…” Dixon sat heavily and rested her head in hands, rubbing her eyes with the heels of her palms.

“Yes, I am certain that was difficult. It was painful for me, also.” Margaret rested her hand on Dixon’s shoulder. She, too, felt as if the vivid images of the dead man were burned into her mind. “Have some tea, or perhaps something stronger if it will help. Just keep Mama out of the drawing room until Sergeant Snipes leaves.”

“Yes, Miss Margaret. I best go check on her right now, or I might just start tipping the bottle.”

Margaret leaned forward with a grin. “I would not blame you. What a fright!”

She left the room, shaking her head. Just as she reached the drawing room, the front door opened, admitting her thin, gray-haired father.

“Oh, thank goodness you are home.” She rushed forward to greet him.

He opened his arms, and she threw herself into his embrace.

“Oh, Papa! A horrible thing has happened.” She squeezed him and then pulled back. “There is a police sergeant in the drawing room.”

“A police sergeant!” he cried. “Whatever happened?”

“Shhh, you will distress Mama. Come along.” She took his hand and led him into the drawing room. She closed the door behind them.

“Sergeant Snipes, this is my father, Mr. Richard Hale.”

The two men wordlessly shook hands.

“To what does your visit pertain?” her father asked.

“Please, have a seat, Mr. Hale. Perhaps Miss Hale will explain?” Snipes suggested. He sat as soon as she was settled.

“Papa, Dixon was going to the market this morning. Just after you left us, she walked out the back door and found a dead man!”

“What? A dead man? Outside our home? Is that what you are you saying, Margaret?” His face turned stark white.

“Yes, Papa. The man was lying on our back steps. I went to fetch Mrs. Williams—you know, the lady at the end of our row who brought us that pie? She agree to take me to the police station.”

“Do we know the man, Margaret?”

“No, Papa.” Margaret shook her head. “I have never before seen him.”

“Mr. Hale, I spoke with your Miss Dixon at length. She said she did not recognize the fellow, either. She did say you left just before she had planned to depart for the market. Did you leave by the front or rear door?”

“Why, the front of course.”

“Of course,” the sergeant said. “Did you see anything odd or out of the ordinary?”

Her father wrinkled his brow. “You must understand, sir, everything is new here for us.” He smiled softly at Margaret. “We have never lived in such a place. But from what I have seen the past few days, no, nothing seemed amiss.”

“Do you own a knife, Mr. Hale?”

“A knife?” he whispered. “Is that how he was killed?”

Snipes nodded curtly.

“Stabbed?”

Margaret shook he head. “No, Papa. Someone cut his throat.”

She stared at her hands, uncomfortable to be discussing such a thing. How could this happen to them! Five days in their new town and trouble had already found them!

“I—that is, yes, we have knives in the kitchen, I suppose, but I do not carry a knife or have anything aside from food cutlery,” her father said.

“I believe you, Mr. Hale.” Snipes stared at her father for several minutes in silence, perhaps pondering what else to ask? “Would you please tell me where you went this morning?”

Her father nodded quickly and sat up straighter in his chair. “Yes, of course. I came to Milton to be a private tutor. One of my new students had requested I meet him during his mid-morning break so we might develop a teaching schedule. I have to work around his mill responsibilities, you see.”

“And where was this visit?” Snipes asked.

“It was at Marlborough Mills.”

The mill where Mr. Williams worked and one of the buildings Mr. Bell owned!

Snipes grunted. “You will be tutoring one of the hands from Marlborough Mills?”

“Gracious, no, not a laborer. I met with the master himself! Mr. John Thornton has requested my assistance in finishing his learning of Latin and Greek. I am an instructor of the classics, Sergeant Snipes.”

“Do you know, Papa, Mr. Thornton oversees these properties for Mr. Bell?”

“I do, Margaret.” Her father nodded slowly. “That is precisely how I was first introduced to Mr. Thornton, through Mr. Bell, first through letters. When you were at the station on Monday, waiting for our furnishings to arrive, Mr. Thornton came here to introduce himself and to offer his services should they be needed. He and Bell are close associates.”

Snipes stood. “I think I have all the information I need at present.”

“What is to happen next?” Margaret asked.

“We will attempt to learn the man’s identity and question people in the neighborhood. It is shame you’ve undergone such an experience, especially having only arrived here, Miss Hale.” He smiled gently. “Please, do be assured the town is not unsafe for ladies such as yourself, or gentlemen, for that matter. I will place a watchman here in Crampton for several days. Also, if it pleases you, I will send a man here to install some sliding panels on your door, for further protection?”

“How kind of you, Sergeant Snipes. That would be very agreeable,” her father said, nodding.

Margaret stood next to her father, and together, they showed Snipes to the front entry. Her father opened the door for him and stepped aside. Before he walked through the door, Snipes turned back to face them, a small grin upon his face.

“I am unsure if you are aware, but in addition to running Marlborough Mills, Mr. Thornton is also Milton’s Magistrate.”


Julia Daniels loves to write happily ever after stories that warm the heart and make the reader satisfied. From rural and farm romance to historical western romance and even romantic mystery novels, Julia can spin a tale that ends in a happy romance. Her characters come to life on the pages, drawing the reader into the love story, making them want to stick around and see what happens.

Julia lives in Nebraska with her husband and two kids. In addition to writing, she designs counted cross-stitch patterns, sews, gardens and cares for an odd menagerie of animals, including chickens and goats.

So far she has published the following romances:

North & South Variations and Regency:

1910-20’s & Contemporary Romances:

Be sure to also visit her webpage www.juliadanielsbooks.com for updates!

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.Julia Daniels would like to offer one ebook copy of any of her books to my readers. All you need to do is comment on this post and let us know which book you would like and why. The giveaway is international and it is open until the 17th of November.

Good luck everyone!


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Filed under giveaway, North and South, Promotion

Nowhere But North

Nowhere But North is a character driven book that uses flashbacks to enlighten the reader about the life events that shaped the characters personalities. It starts with what appears to be a forced marriage scenario, which is not only shocking but also innovative in the north and south variations genre, and it develops into a heart whelming love story of two newlyweds who are still learning about what married life is all about. The main story will alternate with chronological flashbacks that will transport the reader into the past to witness several marking events that contributed to the characters development, and allow him to better understand each character.

It is not easy to go back in time and remain truthful to characters who were created by another author, let alone show us how their personalities developed, and the fact that every single flashback was pure perfection in the North and South realm shows a deep character knowledge, and a writing skill that very few have. In fact, I believe only a couple of authors would be able to write such a perfect North and South Variation, which is in my opinion as good as Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South in terms of character development. Had I not known these flashbacks were written by Nicole Clarkston, I could have easily believed that Gaskell had written them herself considering they are perfectly in line with the characters she created.

I have always been fascinated by John Thornton’s life and this book was the first to give me the pleasure of reading about it. I had always been curious about his father and his childhood, about his journey from a teenager into adulthood, I always wanted to know how he made it, how he became a Mill Master after everything that happened to him, and thanks to this book I was finally transported into the past and made the wonderful journey of his life alongside with him. I witnessed him in his worst moments, I felt his struggles and insecurities and now I feel I understand this man even better and respect him all the more because of it. His life story is so interesting that it deserves a place in a North and South variation book and Nicole Clarkston did a wonderful job at making that happen.

Apart from the profound character knowledge Nicole Clarkston demonstrated with this book, venturing into flashbacks alternated with real time events showed a tremendous writing talent. Nicole Clarkston certainly knows how to write a beautiful story with interesting and complex characters while maintaining it clean, and captivating the reader at the same time. The transitions into and from the flashbacks are absolutely perfect, with the scene of a chapter being somehow connected to the scene in the next chapter, even it that scene is happening several years later. It takes true talent and courage to craft such a complex story the way Nicole Clarkston did and she deserves to be praised for such a magnificent work.

I loved the initial scenes between Margaret and John, when they were still afraid to let their emotions be known, but also decide to be honest with one another. I am clearly an angsty type of person and books with angst are usually my favourite, but it was nice to see that in this book no unnecessary angst was present. The characters already had too much to overcome in their life so it was nice to see that, at least amongst them, there were no unnecessary misunderstandings. Nicole Clarkston knew how to perfectly balance the emotions in this book, making sure they were realistic, but taking care not to make the story too dark, the result was an incredible book that made my heart ache at times and tears come to my eyes, but which also made me smile with the tenderness that was emanating from the pages. Margaret and John’s love was pure and stout and it was a joy to see how their companionship grew with each page that I turned and how passionate they both were about one another.

It is hard to say what I enjoyed the most about this book because I loved it all, the character insight and development, the writing style, the flashbacks, John Thornton, their relationship, the romance, the secondary characters and how it all came into place, John Thornton (I know I already mentioned him, but the character is so swoon worthing that I have to mention him twice), the balance, etc.

I am completely rendered to this story and I honestly consider this is the best North and South variation book I’ve ever read. I loved both No Such Thing as Luck and Northern Rain from this author, but I believe that with Nowhere But North Nicole Clarkston took the stakes into a completely different level. This book is a masterpiece that should not be missed by anyone who enjoys good literature and I highly recommend it to all readers.

P.S – I have to talk about the cover!!! Isn’t it beautiful? To me it looks absolutely perfect! It reflects exactly the story and environment we will find in the book. We can feel the tenderness between the characters in it and the entire setting transported me to the books scenes. The detail of the compass inside the O, and which we will see separating the chapters inside the book, is the cherry on top of the cake! It is my favourite cover from Janet Taylor so far, and I’ve loved them all 🙂

 

You can find Nowhere But North at:

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

14 Comments

Filed under 5 stars, JAFF, Nicole Clarkston, North and South

Master of Her Heart

What if a 21st century student from Oxford was transported to the 19th century industrial city of Milton to study the society of that time as a preparation for her thesis?

And what if she encountered and fell in love with John Thornton while she was there?

Would there be hope for such a love? Would it ever work?

I found the premise of this book very interesting, after all who wouldn’t want to go back in time and meet our romantic hero? Even better, who wouldn’t want to become his love interest?

The initial chapters of this book were very refreshing because having the presence of a 21st century character allowed the author to use a lighter language that was pleasing and agreeable to read, but as the story progressed it became too distracting to me because it started to be incongruent with the setting of the story. The main character, who is an historian, continuously says words such as “nope” which obviously raises the attention of the people form the 19th century and I would like to think that an historian going back in time would pay more attention to these kind of words that clearly did not exist back then, especially as she is specializing in this time period.

Also, she seems to forget the rules of propriety of Victorian England by asking Mr. Thornton to kiss her without any arrangement between them, and he seems a little out of character by not only kissing her, but not raising too many issues with the fact that she had kissed other people in the past.

I really liked the premise of the book and the the last chapters were also very innovative and refreshing to read in a N&S variation. The author did a great job in the development and adaptation of John Thornton’s character in the last chapters, I won’t say how or why because that would be a big spoiler, but that was very well achieved and if readers can forget about the rules of propriety of Victorian England they may enjoy this book very much.

Unfortunately I could not, and I was really upset by the behaviour of the female character especially as she was an historian, so this was only an ok read for me that clearly took an innovative approach.

 

You can find Master of her heart at:

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.ca

 

6 Comments

Filed under 3 stars, North and South

Author of the Month – Nicole Clarkston

 

Good Afternoon everyone,

We are reaching the end of the month and that means it is time for my author of the month post. In 2018 I created this new feature, which started with Joana Starnes as author of the month in January, and was very happy to see that you welcomed the initiative.  Your incentive gave me the inducement to keep going, so today I’m bringing you the author of the month for February.

This month I would like to give a shout out to Nicole Clarkston!

Nicole Clarskton caught my attention back in 2015 because she was the only author I knew who wrote both P&P and N&S variations. Nowadays there are more authors who are venturing into N&S variations but Nicole Clarkston continues to be the one I consider a true expert in both genres. I must say that as a reader I’m very demanding when reading a North and South fan fiction book, and sometimes North and South variations disappoint me, either because they are unable to keep me interested in the story, or because the characters are too different from what Gaskell presented us with. I have often seen less experienced authors make Mr. Thornton too similar to Mr. Darcy and I know it may be hard to differentiate both heroes when writing a romance, but knowing both characters very well is essential to pull it off. Nicole Clarkston masters this art of differentiating.

Even though she writes both genres, her deep knowledge of the stories and the characters is visible in her books and I have never felt someone was out of character in her stories, it always feels I’m visiting old friends whom I know quite well. Her Mr. Thornton is indeed Mr. Thornton and Margaret Hale is not one bit like Elizabeth. I love that! I do love variations from both Pride and Prejudice and North and South, but I am expecting to find different characters (even if some traits may be similar) and that is what I find in Nicole Clarkston’s books. She shows a true understanding of each characters traits and past story, how they got where they are and what we expect from them in each new situation, this knowledge produces perfect books because she remains true to Austen and Gaskell’s characters and uses her creativity in her original new characters. This is a perfect as it gets in my opinion because it gives us the best of the two worlds: authenticity and creativity.

I cannot tell if I prefer her North and South or her Pride and Prejudice variations, in my opinion they are all equally good, and that is not something easy to achieve, particularly when one is writing the stories simultaneously as she usually does, so congrats Nicole!

Apart from being the only author who continues to consistently write both P&P and N&S variations, which by itself and considering the theme of my blog would be enough for me to give Nicole a shout, she writes stories with a perfect balance. In my perspective, she has the right quantity of everything, her books are perfectly balanced in terms of pacing and in terms of sweet romance vs. angst which always makes the reading experience very pleasant to me.

She has written variations, prequels, gone abroad to Spain and Portugal, created new characters, developed more than one love story in the same book… She keeps challenging herself and it is refreshing to see and read that, hence my shout out 🙂 Thank you for providing me with so many wonderful reading hours Nicole!

Below you can see the books that made me love Nicole Clarkston:

 

Rumours & Recklessness – A Pride & Prejudice Variation

My Review (coming soon)  Amazon.com

 

These Dreams – A Pride & Prejudice Variation

My Review Amazon.com

 

The Courtship of Edward Gardiner – A Pride & Prejudice Prequel

My Review Amazon.com

 

No Such Thing as Luck – A North & South Variation

My Review Amazon.com

 

Northern Rain – A North & South Variation

My Review Amazon.com

 

But these books aren’t enough for me so I keep asking Nicole when will she release her next work, what is she working on etc. I affraid that she may get a little tired of all my insistence, but when I told her about this post she was happy to share some news with me and my readers, so if you’re curious about what she has been doing after the release of These Dreams, you can hear it directly from her 🙂

Below she explains what she has been working on and shares some exclusive excerpts 🙂


~~~

I have always had a pattern of working on more than one book at a time, so I’m currently writing two. True to my pattern, one is a North & South, and the other is a Pride and Prejudice. The North & South book, still tentatively named Nowhere But North, began back in July of 2016, on the heels of the blog tour for Northern Rain. It started as a prequel/sequel, kicking off the very first scene with an uncomfortable marriage ceremony. The story moves forward but is enhanced by a series of flashbacks which contrast and flow with the main story line. This book got put on hold so I could finish These Dreams, and it is proving to be just as much of a monster as that story was. I hoped to have it finished by this month and ready for final edits, but I am afraid I have a couple more months ahead of me (sniff!) This scene is relatively early in the book, just as Margaret and John have begun to reconcile their feelings toward one another.

Exclusive Nowhere But North Excerpt

“Love, are you well?” John tugged at her hand as they moved to abandon the dining room. Hannah had already left them behind, and they had lingered for a few stolen moments in privacy before John returned to the mill for the afternoon.

Margaret hesitated, then turned back to him. The empty quality her eyes had taken on in the few seconds she had looked away fully terrified him. Grief was a fickle tormentor – raising its hideous aspect whenever it pleased, crushing any budding hopes of happiness beneath waves of guilt and remorse for aspiring to such. Well did he know the conflict which bound her within its grasp. Her entire future – their future – hung on what measure of courage and faith she possessed to face her sorrows. She had begun to confide in him, but it was not yet with the strong force of habit which could break through the darkest melancholy.

“Margaret?” he touched soft fingers to her cheek. “What is it?”

She lifted her shoulders and her mouth worked helplessly. “It is nothing of any consequence, John. You mustn’t be troubled… Dixon is to arrive this afternoon – I will be grateful to have her company. I shall be well.”

He narrowed his eyes. “Am I to understand, then, that you have not found my mother’s company very satisfying?”

She swallowed, and her gaze dropped to his waistcoat again.

“Margaret,” he touched her chin, and those clear eyes braved his once more. “I know how she can be. You frighten her, you know,” he murmured softly.

Astonishment swept over her face. “I, frighten her? How is that possible?”

“Because you are yourself – my strong Margaret,” he smiled, a little teasingly.

She shook her head, brushing off his words with a dismissive little laugh. “I feel that I am neither myself, nor strong of late, John.”

He pulled her close to press a loving kiss to her forehead. Had he perceived the unbearable frissons his breath sent through her hair and down her back, it is likely that he would not have returned to the mill at all that day. From him, at least, the gesture was one of innocent comfort. “You will grow strong again, Margaret,” he whispered. “It is your nature, and she knows it as well as I.”

She sniffed a little and turned her face into his shoulder. “I do not understand why that should trouble your mother. She could not respect me otherwise, could she?”

“No, but neither would she be threatened by you. She likes her own ways, and has been left untroubled by contradiction for too long. I never questioned her domestic arrangements, and in late years she has had every resource and influence her heart could desire. All of that has changed, for everything that was hers is now yours.”

“And I am undeserving! You need not say it, for I know that is how she feels. I never meant to displace her,” her mouth tugged ruefully, “either in her home or in your affections.”

“And you have not done so,” he insisted, tugging a little on her hips. “You have only brought to this home what has long been missing. It will take time for her to learn to trust in you as I do, Margaret.”

She drew a long breath and shone a grateful smile. “Perhaps I will sit with her this afternoon, instead of….” She halted.

“Instead of going to the kitchen to visit Bessie Higgins?” he guessed.

She blinked a few times, then her old boldness made a little gasp of reappearance. She lifted her chin. “I had intended to do so, yes. I regret if you are displeased.”

“Not in the least. I was about to offer to escort you, but of course if you desire to remain here with my mother….”

She studied him for a moment in puzzlement. “You would not feel it immodest of me, or a defiance of your authority, if I desire to pay social calls on one of the workers?”

“You would not be my Margaret if you did not defy me whenever the fancy strikes you!” he laughed. “I think I can withstand the shock – to be quite truthful, I have lately missed locking horns with you.”

“John!” she protested. “I beg you would not speak of me in such a vulgar way.”

“Vulgar! I suppose it was, but apt, nonetheless. What amusement would there be in a wife who did not keep me on my toes?”

She frowned, but it was more playful than chagrined. With a little hitch of her chin and a flash of her old hauteur, she surveyed him through lowered lids. “I ought to have expected you, of all people, to thrill in such a challenge. You have ever carried your way against those who wish to come against you.”

“Not always. I suspect you will have the better of me yet, but I plan to enjoy the battle. And, since we are speaking of differing opinions, there is one contrary old fellow who has been asking after you for days. What would you say to a brief tour of the mill before I walk you to the kitchen?”

Her eyes lit expressively, and it was the only answer he required. He leaned down to kiss her once more – a soft brush, a secret pledge of later delights. “I will wait for you to make yourself ready,” he whispered against her lips.

As she turned away, her steps once more sparkling with energy, he gazed after her with the admiration of one who has found his greatest treasure. She disappeared, and he tapped his finger pensively against the leg of his trousers. It was an opportune moment to visit with his mother, to salve her fears that he was lost to her, and to explain to her in detail that cryptic conversation with Henry Lennox.

He found her not in her sitting room as he had expected, but in a small little alcove of the stairwell, the window of which looked out to the mill beyond. “Mother?” he greeted her softly, when she did not seem to hear his approach.

She did not turn immediately, but when she did, he detected a redness about her eyes. Her thinned lips quivered, and her arms were crossed defensively. “How long have you known about Margaret’s brother?” she demanded in a fragile voice.

“She told me yesterday,” he confessed, tugging his fingers through his unruly hair in that way he had when he was troubled. “You may well have guessed that it was he who was walking out with Margaret at the station after Mrs Hale’s death.”

She turned her face back to the window, verifying his words with only a slight lift of her chin. “And what are these heinous charges she spoke of?”

“The Navy considers him a mutineer. Margaret tells me that his captain, a man named Reid, had gone mad – had antagonised and persecuted his men to the point of exhaustion and the limits of physical impossibility. The mutiny itself was instigated by the senseless death of a crew mate falling from the yard arm when he feared punishment by the captain. Frederick Hale is said to have restrained the men from hanging Reid there next. The captain and his officers were instead set on a boat, which was found some days later. They all survived, but the mutineers took the ship to South America, where most of them scattered in fear of their lives. Some of the poor devils were caught and hung regardless, and mad Captain Reid given his old command back.” He sighed in sympathetic exasperation. “I cannot condone the mutiny, but there seems little justice in the matter.”

Hannah had tilted her head back over her shoulder as he spoke, the infamy of it all registering as shock over her stark features. She did not answer when he had finished – instead, her eyes drifted slowly to the floor. Margaret had borne more than she, in her unawareness, had accounted for, and the harshness of her own assumptions chastened her most uncomfortably.

“Mr Lennox spoke of a cousin,” she at last ventured in a subdued voice.

“Yes. Margaret grew up with her in London. She married Lennox’s brother, a captain in the Army, just before the Hales moved to Milton. She has gone with her husband to Greece. They have a child by now, I understand, and are expected to return to London sometime later this year. When they do, Mrs Hale’s sister – a Mrs Shaw – will likely return as well. The last word Margaret had placed her in Paris.”

She rounded fully on him at last, the full weight of these tidings sinking in to her astonished thoughts. Margaret’s revealed family, the previously unknown opportunities she had forsworn, and the sudden devotion she had glimpsed in the young woman’s eyes for John – it all began to make sense to her. “She loves you,” she whispered.

The Pride and Prejudice book is still under pretty tight wraps. I’m not even publicly sharing the title yet because it would be too much of a spoiler. I will say that this plot idea had been jingling around in my head for almost 2  years, but I had other books lined up first and I wouldn’t let myself touch it. I had intended to be truly mean to my muse and make myself finish the North & South book first, but the Muse threw a crying temper tantrum over that edict. After the heavy, angsty These Dreams and the dark, personally challenging scenes I was coming back to when I picked up Nowhere But North again, it was a breath of fresh air to play with something that was just for fun. All I will share so far is that the book is unrepentantly lighthearted and irreverent, and will be chock full of page time for ODC. I’m hoping to have it finished by late spring, possibly even scheduling a simultaneous release with NBN.

 

Exclusive Excerpt

Colonel Fitzwilliam was, indeed, at his flat. He was in the habit of rising early from his long days in the army, and even when off duty, he could scarcely remain abed after seven of the clock. He was already up and enjoying a cup of coffee—no tea for him in the mornings—when his batman informed him that he had a visitor.

“So early! Perhaps a friend ran aground at the gambling tables last night, eh? Well, show him in, Jenkins, show him in.”

“Colonel, it is Lady Catherine de Bourgh who wishes to speak with you.”

Fitzwilliam nearly spit his coffee. He managed to salvage his dignity in that regard, but could not avoid spilling a few drops as he set it on the saucer. “My aunt! What in blazes could she want? Nevermind, Jenkins, of course, you could not formulate the answer to that. That would imply reason on my aunt’s part, and I suffer under no illusions that she has submitted to such an authority. Well, show her in, and I shall make myself presentable.”

He stood, inspecting his coat to be certain that no crumbs besmirched it. Lady Catherine descended upon the apartment like a thunderstorm, cracking and pouring down the force of her displeasure. What he had done to merit this personal call at his humble abode, he could not say, but like enough, it had something to do with Darcy.

He was right.

“Fitzwilliam, where are you keeping him?” she demanded at once.

“Him… forgive me, Aunt, but I have not the pleasure of understanding you. Good morning to you as well, by the by. There is no one here, save Jenkins and myself. And my housekeeper, of course, but….”

“Fitzwilliam Darcy! He has come here, has he not?”

“Darcy? I beg your pardon, Aunt, but I last saw Darcy a fortnight ago. I have only just gone on a short leave, do you see, but I intended to call upon him this morning.”

She stalked nearer. “Do not play coy with me, Richard Fitzwilliam. What has he arranged? I must know all his plans.”

“I would certainly reveal what I knew, Aunt, but Darcy is not here, nor have I had word from him. Perhaps he is paying a call on some friend or other.”

“You and I both know that Darcy never pays social calls at such an hour, and apart from yourself, there is only that tradesman whom he might have gone to for an informal visitation.”

“Bingley? He is not in Town at present. Have you truly not seen Darcy since last night?”

She drew herself up. “Of course I have, and that is the subject of my desired conversation with him.” Lady Catherine seemed to pause. “You will swear that he did not come here… perhaps this morning?”

“Unless I was still abed, Aunt, which is unlikely. May I ask, why the urgency? If I am not mistaken, you are his guest at present, and he will only naturally return to the house when his errands are complete. Has something happened?”

She pursed her lips. “Indeed, something has happened. He has ruined my daughter. Compromised her, beyond hope of recovery, and practically before my very eyes!”

“No! I cannot believe this, Aunt. Darcy would never… and Anne! I find it difficult to credit, Aunt.”

“She was in his bed this morning,” asserted the lady. “I would have him found at once so that the settlement can be drawn up and the wedding might be arranged. As you cannot testify to his whereabouts,” here, she smiled faintly, “I shall speak with him once he has returned to the house. I shall depend upon your support to ensure he behaves the gentleman toward his cousin hereafter. I shall call next upon the earl to discuss the matter with him. Good day, Fitzwilliam.”

Colonel Fitzwilliam stood aghast as his aunt departed in a sweep of black and an irregular tapping of her cane—a means of expression, rather than a necessity for mobility.

Darcy and Anne! If his aunt had not sworn to it, he could never have believed it. Darcy could have any woman he wanted, as a wife or even a mistress, but Anne? Apart from a sickly, unappealing person, there was the matter of her mother. No man in his senses would touch her, least of all Darcy! The man must have been desperate… or intoxicated. After seven and twenty years of celibacy—as far as he knew—perhaps it was a little of both. Besides, any man would be driven to drink with their Aunt Catherine as a guest.

Fitzwilliam shook his head and sighed. Well, Darcy could step into the hornet’s nest if he wished. He wanted no part of it for himself.


 

 

What did you think about Nicole’s news and excerpts? After reading these I’m really eager to get her new novels on my hands. I confess I’m more excited about Nowhere But North but that is only because I’ve known about the plot for quite some time and I find it fascinating! Also, there aren’t as many North and South books out there, so I’m craving for a new one 🙂

Until Nowhere but North comes out, I would like to offer to one of my readers the opportunity to read one of the best North and South variations I have ever read: No Such Thing as Luck.

I’m offering an ebook copy to an international reader and all you have to do to participate is to leave a comment on his post. If you share this post on any social media you’ll get another entry to the giveaway, but please let me know in the comments that you have done so.

The giveaway is open until the 9th of March and the winners will be announced shortly after.

Good Luck everyone!

39 Comments

Filed under Author of the month, JAFF, Nicole Clarkston, North and South, Pride and Prejudice

Collide

 

When I saw Van Gogh mentioned on the first line of Collide I knew I would like the book, but I was not expecting to love it as much as I did. Modernisations are not my favourite sub-genre and even though sometimes I like them, I seldom love them, but Collide was a page turner book that kept me glued to it for two whole days and that completely changed my perspective. I absolutely loved this modernisation!

In this North & South variation Maggie Hale leaves her small town of Hillstone to pursue her dream of becoming a contemporary dancer in Las Vegas and it is in Sin City that she will meet Jay Thornton, someone she will misunderstand but who will intrigue her more than she would like to admit.

In Collide each chapter is focused the point of view of each of these two characters, so we will get to know each one of them very well, and this is one of the highlights of the book for me. The way Melanie Stanford organised and wrote the book made it absolutely irresistible and readers will keep wanting for more and more. The fact that the point of view changes with each chapters makes it a very dynamic book and there is not one dull moment in it.

I loved the Vegas environment and how real these characters felt in their own little world. I could picture their every move and imagine each scene in my head, I felt transported into that reality and I don’t believe there is anything better in a book.

I wasn’t too sure about Jay Thornton’s character in the beginning, but those doubts faded very quickly as I started falling in love with his character. He is compelling, and I could feel myself being drawn to him with every page I turned. But to be honest, I loved all characters in the book, Nico was an excellent modernisation of Nicholas, and I loved how the author made his relationship with Jay so similar to the original, in fact, It is astonishing how well Melanie Stanford translated the original story into this new setting. Everything was put together with a lot of care, and every little detail seemed to flow in the right direction every single time.

Mrs. Thornton does not exist in this book, and I confess that only made it better for me, I never really like her character in North and South books and Jay Thornton’s family life was much more interesting and modern, it made me love him even more,

The relationship between Maggie and Jay is incredible, I felt sparkles between them every time they were together and even though the first time he sees her dancing Song of the Cage Bird is one of my favourite scenes, it doesn’t stand out so much in comparison to the others because they are all great!

Collide is definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year, and if I could give it a higher rating I would, I loved everything about it, the characters, the setting, the story, the writing… Every single aspect of this book contributed to it being a compelling, intense and wonderful book that I recommend to absolutely everyone, not just those who like North and South, but to everyone who likes a love story that carries along with it real life struggles. I’m sure most people will not have gone through the situations these characters went through as they are too extreme, but I could relate to their struggle to get a better life, Nico was the best example, but I could also relate to Maggie fighting for her dreams and for a career on something she likes and to Jay for fighting to get out of the loop kind of life he got himself into.

In short terms, bravo Mrs. Stanford! This is a book I will not forget anytime soon. Oh…and the cover is perfect for the story!!!

 

You can find Collide at:

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.ca

7 Comments

Filed under 5 stars, Favorites, JAFF, Modernisation, North and South

Teaching Eliza – Guest Post on Regional Accents & Giveaway

Hello everyone,

Today I’m sharing the stage with debut author Riana Everly, someone I loved chatting to in the last couple of weeks and whom I will love to get to know better in the future.

She has just published Teaching Eliza, a mash up of Pride and Prejudice and Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw and while discussing her book a few weeks ago, we realized how much we both loved regional accents. One thing led to the other, and she ended up writing a very interesting and original guest post explaining the different accents in the United Kingdom. She even added some information and a video for my friends who love North and South and I hope you like to re-watch the scene she chose as much as I did! (and yes, she was the one chosing it, the subtitles are just a curious coincidence).

It would also make me happy to know that we are sharing something new with you, that you enjoy knowing more about all these accents and that you get interested in perusing the novel.

But I will leave you to it, have fun!

 

 

A tale of love, manners, and the quest for perfect vowels.

From a new voice in historical romance comes this sparkling tale, wherein the elegance of Pride and Prejudice and the wit of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion collide. The results are clever, funny, and often quite unexpected….

Professor Fitzwilliam Darcy, expert in phonetics and linguistics, wishes for nothing more than to spend some time in peace at his friend’s country estate, far from the parade of young ladies wishing for his hand, and further still from his aunt’s schemes to have him marry his cousin. How annoying it is when a young lady from the neighbourhood, with her atrocious Hertfordshire accent and country manners, comes seeking his help to learn how to behave and speak as do the finest ladies of high society.

Elizabeth Bennet has disliked the professor since overhearing his flippant comments about her provincial accent, but recognizes in him her one opportunity to survive a prospective season in London. Despite her ill feelings for the man, she asks him to take her on as a student, but is unprepared for the price he demands in exchange.

“With her clever mash-up of two classics, Riana Everly has fashioned a fresh, creative storyline with an inventive take on our favorite characters, delightful dialogue and laugh out loud humor. Teaching Eliza is certain to become a reader favorite. It’s a must read!” – Sophia Meredith (author of the acclaimed On Oakham Mount and Miss Darcy’s Companion)

Teaching Eliza is a full-length novel of about 110,000 words.

 

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You can find Teaching Eliza at:

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

 

 

 

 

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“It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him.”
George Bernard Shaw, Preface to Pygmalion

The linguistic landscape of England is distinguished by different accents that identify not only region of origin, but also social class. This is the crux upon which Shaw’s play Pygmalion – and consequently my new novel Teaching Eliza – is based. Henry Higgins, the male lead in Shaw’s play, is a professor of linguistics who claims to be able to identify a person’s place of birth to within a few miles, or a few blocks in London. He attributes his skill to the science of phonetics, or the study of spoken sound. He also claims to be able to teach anybody to speak like the highest-born of society, which is where Eliza Doolittle comes into the picture. She wants to learn to talk like a lady in a flower shop, and Higgins decided to teach her!

 

 

I must admit to a fascination with accent and dialect. Having moved to Canada as a child, I was always very aware that I spoke differently than my new friends and classmates. Sometimes I was teased for this, sometimes I was admired. (“You have such a pretty accent!” goes a long way to ingratiating yourself with me. Offerings of coffee and chocolate also work.) But it is something I have always been conscious of.

Chatting with the charming Rita about this blog post, we discovered a common interest in language and accent, and I thought it would make a fun topic to look at for a moment. In my story, Teaching Eliza, Elizabeth Bennet discovers that she is marked by her Hertfordshire accent, and seeks the help of an expert to learn to sound like the ladies of Town. That expert, conveniently, is Professor Darcy, who has all of Higgins’ skills and expertise, and equally all of his arrogance!

But what are the differences in accent? Some are easy to hear and describe, others are more subtle. There are far too many local accents to talk about in one short blog post, but here are a very few examples of what you might find in different parts of the country. Of course this is far from complete, and within each region, there will be further differences that might not include some of the characteristics I mention. Still, for a linguist wanna-be like me, it’s fascinating stuff.

 

Yorkshire

This is one of the more distinctive regional accents. Mr. Bingley worked hard to rid himself of his accent, but in truth, I find this a lovely and lyrical accent.

Some identifying characteristics include the following:

  • short ‘u’ sound in ‘cup’ is pronounced more like the vowel in ‘book’ or ‘put’;
  • short and rather pretty ‘a’ differs very little between words like ‘cat’ and ‘glass’;
  • long ‘a’ that is a monophthong (not blending with an ‘i’ or ‘y’ sound at the end, so ‘take’ sounds somewhat like ‘tek’;
  • ‘ng’ often becomes ‘n’, so giving sounds like ‘givin’;
  • in some areas, the vowel in ‘heard’ or ‘nurse’ is the same as the vowel in ‘dare’, but the ‘r’ is rarely pronounced;
  • a unique and rich local vocabulary, some words dating back to Saxon and Viking days. How fun is that!

 

West Country

The West Country accent is influenced by the proximity of the region to Wales, and it carries some echos of Welsh. It is distinguished by the even rhythm of speech and the retention of the ‘r’ sound after vowels. In the 2009 miniseries Emma, Mrs. Elton speaks with a West Country accent.

Some identifying characteristics include:

  • rhotic vowels. This is fancy talk for “pronouncing the ‘r’ sound after vowels in words like ‘carpet’;” most other English accents lost this historic sound, but it continues in North American and Irish accents;
  • the ‘a’ in words like bath, grass and path is flatter and more forward than in the London accents;
  • frequent metathesis where there is an ‘r’ before a vowel. So ‘great’ becomes ‘gurt,’ and ‘children’ becomes ‘chillurn’;
  • the continued use in some areas of the second person singular pronoun ‘thee’ and ‘thou,’ as well as the use of the verb ‘bist’ in place of ‘are.’

 

The London area, including the Estuary

This is the accent heard in the south-east of England, especially along the Thames estuary and the area around London. It shares many features with both the Cockney and RP accents (more on RP in a moment). Lizzy Bennet would have spoken a version of this in her village of Meryton, for Hertfordshire is not so very far from London. I have imagined Meryton in the western part of Hertfordshire, where there would be some influences of the Buckinghamshire accent. This accent would not have been very different from what was heard in London, but this is where class differences come into play, for the higher classes would have spoken with Received Pronunciation, and would have been horrified to be confused with a mere provincial tradesman or farmer!

 

Some identifying characteristics:

  • a definite distinction between the ‘a’ sounds in ‘trap’ and ‘bath’. This is known as the trap-bath split and it characterizes many southern English accents;
  • the use of a glottal stop to replace a ‘t’ at the end of syllables, such as ‘foot’ or ‘what’;
  • the replacement of a final dark ‘l’ sound (like at the end of ‘ball’) with something that’s almost a ‘w’;
  • intrusive ‘r’, which joins words ending with a vowel, so ‘India and China’ sounds like ‘India-r-and China’, and ‘Law and Order’ sounds ‘Law-r-and Order’.

 

Received Pronunciation (RP)

This is the ‘Queen’s English’, the accent spoken by the highest social classes, including Professor Darcy and his noble relations. It is taught in the best schools, and is the sign of education as well as class. Today, only 3% of the population speaks with this accent, and it is not identified with a region of England. This is what Lizzy hoped to emulate, so she might be accepted by the ton as one of their own.

 

Some characteristics include:

  • non-rhotic vowels. You never pronounce the ‘r’ in ‘parcel’ or ‘bird’;
  • the use of the aspirated ‘h’. “In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly ever happen.” Each ‘h’ is sounded distinctly.
  • words such as ‘dune’ and ‘stupid’ have a y-sound before the vowel, so ‘dune’ and ‘June’ sound very similar;
  • weak vowels are still distinct and have not all blended to a schwa;
  • Mary, marry and merry all sound quite distinct

To play around with some different sounds, check out this cool site:
http://www.ipachart.com/

For a linguistic journey through Britain, check out this marvelous video:

Here is a clip from North and South, where you can swoon at the wonderful ending… I mean, where you can hear the different accents spoken by John Thornton and Margaret Hale. Listen to his closed vowels, compared to her open ones, and the different ways they pronounce similar letter combinations. Then you can swoon.

 

In this passage from Teaching Eliza, Mr. Bingley teases Professor Darcy about accents. Check out the rest of the book to see how Lizzy gets on with her own lessons. Enjoy!

*~*~*~*

The professor looked down his patrician nose at her and replied in haughty tones, “We are at the dawn of a new age, Miss Elizabeth. Times are changing, and men who might begin in Kentish Town with twenty pounds a year can end in Park Lane with twenty thousand.” His eyes darted quickly towards Mr. Bingley, whose own fortune of a hundred thousand pounds, Lizzy knew, was achieved in just this fashion. “These newly wealthy men want to drop Kentish Town, but they give themselves away with every word. Now, I can teach them, through my art and skill, to speak not as they were, but as they wish themselves to be. I can teach them to move in society.”

“Is that true?” These were the first words Mr. Hurst had uttered all night, so enraptured did he seem with the ragout set before him.

“Indeed it is,” replied Colonel Fitzwilliam with the enthusiasm of one fully apprised of the professor’s abilities. His own beautiful voice was surely approved of by his haughty cousin. “He has a remarkable history of success with people from all walks of life. I recall one young man, hardly a man, dragging himself up from the gutter and with an accent and vocabulary to match, and you would scarcely know him now! In fact, you have almost certainly heard his name, but would never know his origins.”

“Do say more, Professor Darcy, for I am most intrigued,” said Elizabeth.

“I see no reason to hide my talents,” he preened. “I can take ever so lowly a creature, a flower girl for example, with her kerbstone English that will keep her in the gutter to the end of her days, and within three months pass her off as a duchess at an ambassador’s garden party.”

Arrogant, insufferable man! thought Lizzy, but she held her tongue and said only, “How fascinating!”

Mr. Bingley now took over the conversation and spoke volubly on his own great success as a student of the professor, recounting how he had learned to replace the broad and limiting sounds of his native Yorkshire accent with his current cultivated tones.

“Oh Lord, how dreadful it was at that,” the professor laughed. Lizzy realised she had never before heard anything resembling joy or playfulness from him and was stunned by the sound. “The challenge we had, eh, Bingley, forcing those troublesome vowels backwards and eliminating the glottal stop from the middle of words.”

“Oh, how true, Darcy! Even wairse,” he intentionally reverted to his previous pronunciation, making the professor groan, “was leernin’ to put oop with yair insistence tha’ I add in them pesky consonan’s at the ends o’ wairds.”

“‘Words,’ Charles, ‘wuhhhhds.’”

“Aye, Dercy, ‘wairds.’”

Bingley smiled impudently and the colonel roared with laughter, provoking disapproving glares from Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst.

 

Riana Everly was born in South Africa, but has called Canada home since she was eight years old. She has a Master’s degree in Medieval Studies and is trained as a classical musician, specialising in Baroque and early Classical music. She first encountered Jane Austen when her father handed her a copy of Emma at age 11, and has never looked back.

Riana now lives in Toronto with her family. When she is not writing, she can often be found playing string quartets with friends, biking around the beautiful province of Ontario with her husband, trying to improve her photography, thinking about what to make for dinner, and, of course, reading!

 

 

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Oct. 19 From Pemberley to Milton

Oct. 23 Babblings of a Bookworm

Oct. 24 So Little Time… So Much to Read!

Oct. 25 Diary of an Eccentric

Oct. 27 Savvy Verse and Wit

Oct. 28 My Love for Jane Austen

Oct. 30 More Agreeably Engaged

Oct. 31 Savvy Verse and Wit

Nov. 1 Austenesque Reviews

 

 

 

Riana Everly giving away five copies of the ebook to blog readers through a random drawing on Rafflecopter.

The giveaway is international and to enter it you can click here.

Good luck everyone!

60 Comments

Filed under JAFF, North and South, Pride and Prejudice

Fitzwilliam Darcy vs. John Thornton

By Nicole Clarkston

It is a tremendous disservice to relegate both Pride & Prejudice and North & South to the category of romantic novels and simply leave them there. Both handle issues of far-reaching social impact with delicacy, but today, let us simply sit back and admire the masterpieces who are Fitzwilliam Darcy and John Thornton.

Delicious, aren’t they? What is it about these fictional characters that seems so real to us that I actually fear somewhat for my own safety in labeling them as fictional? Together, they represent two of the strongest, most iconic male characters ever conceived in literature, and, perhaps most fittingly, they were created by female authors. I believe that both Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell have bestowed on us far more than a few hours of entertaining reading. They have crafted paragons of imperfection- men already possessing honor and dignity, but lacking the requisite social skills and humility to win the objects of their hearts’ desires. Both must travel a very hard path, and in the process, they reveal to us some of the secrets of love and humanity.

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Filling in for Dad

Darcy, as we all know, is wealthy and powerful, the master of his own destiny at a young age, but all that prestige has come at a steep price. He has lost both of his parents, and must now manage his sprawling estate without the continued advice of his father. Everyone has a plan for his life, and so far, he has fallen into step just as he was expected to… but it chafes. He is mortified by all the women seeking his attention, and clearly has never been impressed by any. Though Austen is silent on this point, one begins to think that he would eventually have done his duty and married the least embarrassing and most convenient debutante at hand, simply to secure the required heir. He is certainly taking his time about doing it- perhaps not yet ready to completely fill his father’s shoes? Or could he be searching for something he cannot accurately describe, and has never yet encountered? However, he has his hands full enough without the bother of searching for a wife. In addition to all the expectations on him, he has been betrayed by one he used to consider a friend, and his own sister threw off his protection and put herself in harm’s way. It is a wonder the man is not gray by the time Elizabeth Bennet meets him.

Thornton has also lost his father, in a betrayal that will color all his future relationships with a deep, hidden sense of unworthiness. He spends the next sixteen years trying to bury that shame but has no time to admit that fact, because somewhere in his early adolescence, he had suddenly become the sole provider and head of the family. Thornton has neither the luxury nor the burden of a fortune and a great estate dumped into his lap. Rather, he contends with the family’s disgrace over his father’s suicide and debts, and one imagines that the boy never has a chance to properly mourn his lost father. He is driven by both pride and ambition, and devotes all his energies to raising his family from poverty to prosperity. This, I think, is where Thornton really stands out. Gaskell gives us hints that Mrs Thornton had once come from good family, but their change in circumstances at George Thornton’s death is not one which was easily reversed. The hard-working young John Thornton, however, defies the odds. Unfortunately, he has learned to measure his worth by what he has achieved. By the time he meets Margaret Hale, he has become well-regarded and wealthy, and is starting to think that maybe, just maybe, he might finally have earned the right to be loved.

I find it interesting that both men have been forced into a position of authority at a young age by the loss of their fathers. Both also find themselves responsible for their younger sisters, who give evidence that the gravity of life’s experiences has been quite masterfully spared them- perhaps to their detriment. Both men have at last come to a place where they feel comfortably in control of their fortunes, despite their own looming worries about traitorous friends or pending labor strikes. Both, however, are deeply private men, and likely very lonely men, ripe for overpowering infatuations with women who might be their intellectual equals.

 

The Crush

Darcy has no intentions of finding any woman appealing in that crowded country dance. There are none of his social sphere- hard as Caroline Bingley tries to persuade him otherwise. No woman in that room is even a candidate for the title of Mrs Darcy, until one walks away from him. Over their first several encounters, Darcy is repeatedly fascinated by this woman who seems not to be in pursuit of his purse, and who possesses the wit to close his mouth on more than one occasion. Elizabeth stands out not because she makes an effort to, but because her very nature is in such stark contrast to everything he has already grown weary of. He cannot help watching her, and learns that she is generous, ladylike, and well-read- all qualities which he admires. She is also devastatingly clever, and will not suffer insults in silence. He grows to respect her able, poised defense of herself, but her sparkling good humor and genuine zest for life may be the final blow to his denial of feelings for her. She is everything he lacks, and unlike anything he has ever seen, but oh, her family! The world is not fair.

 

Thornton is a tradesman- a manufacturer, lest we overlook that distinction- and as such, his society is not considered worthy of many of the gentry. Milton, however, is his own particular little kingdom, and here, the manufacturers reign. There is some confusion about whether he, a man of resources and authority, is on lesser, equal, or greater footing than the penniless gentlewoman he encounters. He is used to having his way, but Margaret coolly puts him in his place at their first meeting (which is different in the book, as Trudy Brasure’s post explains beautifully). She is clearly not intimidated by him, demanding his respect immediately, but he is well and truly gobsmacked by her grace and beauty. He becomes rather tongue-tied in her presence, which must surely be a new experience for him, and does little to impress her. She represents everything that he has long been working for- she is elegance, serenity, and gracious ease; the very living evidence of the kind of security he has been longing to provide and at last thinks he might have earned.

Throughout their early acquaintance she challenges his opinions, and though naïve, her intelligence inspires him to desire her respect. He tries to earn it, but the harder he tries, the more she scorns him. Thornton’s mother claims that other women were interested in him, but apparently he has never bothered with them. One wonders if his early experiences learning at the knees of his strong, determined mother might have taught him exactly what sort of woman was worthy of his regard. Unfortunately, he can sense from the beginning of their acquaintance that Margaret considers him unworthy of hers. This haughty Southern maid both repels and captivates him, and he spends each encounter bouncing between indignation and breathless adoration.

So, here we have two men who are ostensibly great catches for a marriage-minded young lady, but have proven rather elusive. The authoresses leave the readers to conclude that their heroes cannot be satisfied by a marriage of convenience, and that it will take a remarkable woman to jar them from their complacency. These women turn out to be somewhat unconventional, intelligent, and possessed of rather unique charms which manifest as astonishing beauty in the eyes of their enraptured beholders. Their attractions are on every level- physical, emotional, intellectual, and in Thornton’s case, even spiritual. In both cases, our gentlemen fight tooth and nail not to succumb- in the first case to a woman beneath Darcy’s notice, and in the second to a woman who considers Thornton beneath hers. It has been said that in North & South, the Pride was Margaret’s, and the Prejudice was Thornton’s. That observation is, perhaps, not at all inaccurate.

 

The Shoe Leather

When Darcy finally overcomes all his own objections to Elizabeth’s connections, he anticipates that she will accept him immediately. Oh, Darcy. Many a treatise has eloquently detailed why he never expected a refusal, but refuse him she does- mercilessly and jaw-droppingly. In apologizing for the delay in his confession of love, he manages to offend her so thoroughly that she clubs him over the head with a verbal ton of bricks before he escapes the parsonage that day. Ouch. Never has Mr In Control of the World been so humbled. She is wrong, entirely wrong, about everything! Isn’t she? Surely, a nice, civil letter will help clear things up. He scurries back to London with his tail between his legs, but at the very least, hopefully he has put to rights some of her misapprehensions. Sadly for poor Mr Darcy’s wounded pride, he is forced to admit that the only woman he has ever wished to impress also happens to be the only woman to see him for what he truly is- a man of too much conceit for his own good.

Thornton, in his more rational moments, knows very well that Margaret would never have him. Unfortunately, his judgement becomes a little hazy whenever he is around her, and for some while he has been privately watching her and fantasizing about her. All it would take to set off the powder keg of his growing passion is a simple sign from her that she might not despise him. When she feels compelled to shield him from his own workers, believing that her femininity provides her a natural, sacrosanct safeguard of sorts, she does so without considering what he might think of her motives, and with just as much pity on the workers as on the unprotected Thornton. Thus, when he shows up at her door the next day to thank her and to do what he considers his duty as a gentleman, she righteously slaps him down. The ensuing argument is glorious and deliciously highlights the stark contrasts in their ways of thinking. Thornton goes away heartbroken, but vowing to love her still. Margaret feels as though her innocence and dignity have been stripped away because her lofty motives have been mistaken for something so vulgar as affection for a man she does not like. Really, she doesn’t like him. At all.

Oh, the misunderstandings! The reader can see clearly from the beginning that the characters would complement each other in ways which even they do not yet fully comprehend, but those ladies are having none of it. Elizabeth is offended that Mr Darcy thinks he can insult with impunity, and still believe he is doing her a favor by offering his hand. Money cannot buy this girl, which we cannot help but admire, even though at the same time we shake our heads at her stubbornness.

Mr Thornton and Margaret’s argument is subtler. Margaret has never really come to terms with her own feminine maturity or the fact that she might be an object of desire. She is scandalized that Thornton could think she wished to protect him personally, finding such an emotion abhorrent to her maidenly sensibilities. She later confesses to herself that there was something of a spark there, else how could she have found such courage in the face of danger? Mostly, however, she feels that she acted out of sacrificial honor despite her personal feelings, and she certainly does not need him messing things up by claiming love for her. In addition, marrying Thornton for the security he might offer rankles, because in her mind, he is a giant social step beneath her, and in effect, she would appear to be marrying him for improper reasons.

 

The White Horse

Austen never gives us any indication that Darcy confessed his failed proposal to anyone. Plenty of authors have since toyed with that entertaining notion, but in the original, Darcy keeps his stiff upper lip and goes back to the business of living without Elizabeth Bennet. Apparently he is not doing a very good job of it, because at their next encounter, he is anything but composed. He sees at once that his letter has improved her view of him somewhat, and almost immediately he sets out to win her good opinion once more. Things might have continued rather swimmingly, until Wickham decided to take a holiday with Elizabeth’s younger sister. Darcy’s subsequent actions are why we all love him. He patches it all up and saves the day, but he doesn’t want Elizabeth to know about it. He doesn’t want her gratitude, because he senses that along with it might come a feeling of obligation, and eventually, resentment. He does want to restore her family’s dignity with a minimal amount of fanfare, so he goes about it quietly. He sets out on his mission knowing that she may forever be beyond his reach.

Thornton tries to go on with life too, but only after assuring himself that there is no other woman out there to equal the one he has lost. He refuses to allow his mother to abuse Margaret in his hearing, immediately taking upon himself the blame for her refusal. Clearly, he was not worthy, and he knew it beforehand. Slowly, Milton goes back to “normal” after the strikes, but Thornton has a new outlook on his business. Margaret has held a mirror to his face, and he does not like what he saw there. As he is processing his new ideas, he discovers Margaret in a compromising situation. Though he believes her lost to him and devoted to another, he steps in to save her from legal troubles because he cannot bear to see her come to harm.

His involvement is both a blessing and a curse, for now Margaret sees his inherent goodness, but his knowledge of her own personal fall from grace drives yet another rift between them. The modern audience is more caught up in Thornton’s misapprehension regarding the identity of Margaret’s companion at the train station that evening. Thornton naturally takes the man to be Margaret’s suitor, when, in fact, he was her embattled brother. This shakes Thornton and leaves him sick with jealousy, but the real damage to his regard comes when she lies about her presence at the station. He had been used to at least respecting Margaret’s nobility- which, incidentally, is the very virtue she claimed to hold over him at his failed proposal. Watching her trade her integrity for the sake of concealing that mysterious other man becomes an ongoing source of agony for him.

Unbeknownst to our favorite fellows, their fair maidens are both tormented with regret by now. Darcy and Thornton have begun to show themselves as men of purest honor, too good to behave resentfully when they had every right to. We want to shake them all- force them into the same room, bolt the door, and refuse to let them out until they have talked things through. Of course, that is not the way of the world, and by this point, we have four very anguished souls pining for the ones who got away. For the ladies to go to them and apologize for their grievous errors would be the vilest display of immodesty, and both Elizabeth and Margaret are feeling as though they have already sunk low enough in their loves’ eyes. Darcy and Thornton, for their parts, are quite simply too terrified to try again. They have learned the hard way that they were not all that they had considered themselves to be, and their new humility prevents them from reaching out at a number of points.

 

Humble Pie

Seeing Elizabeth and her family returned to respectability is possibly all Darcy can hope for. At least he settles the matter knowing that she is safe, and that he has done what he can to secure the family’s future. Elizabeth has the option again to marry, with her prospects no less limited than they had been before. In other words, she is now freed up to find someone else. In another attempt to right his own wrongs, Darcy encourages Bingley to return, and even attends his friend… you know, just to assure himself that he has done right by Bingley and Jane. Really, that’s all. Most distressingly for poor Darcy, he has no idea if Elizabeth is happy to receive him, or wishes him on another continent. Our shy hero goes back to staring at her and making her uncomfortable again. Darcy, Darcy….

Unfortunately for poor Thornton, Margaret is the least of his troubles. The month-long strike disrupted the flow of commerce in Milton so badly that nearly all the businesses are suffering. Thornton is behind on orders and income. Where once his mill had shown tremendous promise, now he is struggling for capital. Blow after blow then falls- he loses his only true friend, Mr Hale. As a consequence, the woman whose very presence in Milton is both inspiration and misery for him removes to London. He has lost all connection to her, until, most humiliatingly, Mr Bell also dies and leaves Margaret his heir. The penniless woman who had disdained him before now becomes his wealthy land lady, and has even more reason to look down on him. Thornton is at length faced with the prospect of confessing to her that he must give up his lease, but at least by this time he has learned the truth about her brother. Sorry that he has misjudged her, and knowing there is little chance for reconciliation, he makes the humbling journey to London where he will permanently sever ties with her.

The darkest chapters of the books are where our gentlemen shine the brightest. This is love as it was meant to be- putting aside one’s own interests to look after the welfare of another. Not only have they proved that they never were the heartless malefactors that their fair ladies had once taken them for, but they have also made tremendous strides to improve their already honourable characters. Both feel they owe it to their own sense of dignity to become the man their lady deserves, although both have by now given up hope. By stepping in and saving their ladies from disgrace at the hands of an imprudent relative, each might have had an opportunity to collect on her gratitude, but they refuse to stoop to that level. They do not stop there, though. Each makes a meek “final” journey from the North to see their lady one last time, setting right their affairs. It is likely that each bore a spark of hope, but it was not a strong one.

 

The Only Sensible Outcome

Well, we all know how a proper story must end, but in both cases, the final reconciliation is positively delicious- fraught with nerve-wracking angst, and at long last, joyous surrender. Apologies and forgiveness abound, and lingering feelings of shame are washed away. I shall not detail those scenes for you- either you have not read them and I do not wish to spoil them, or you have… and I do not wish to spoil them. Let me only say that the tender passion, tempered with the excruciating restraint of the period, is simply exquisite in both cases. We have glimpses- very little ones, mind you- of the strength of the couples’ new attachments, and even little peeks into a budding sense of play as it develops. It is a travesty long lamented that neither authoress returned to her story to pen a sequel- in fact, Gaskell was forced to cut hers entirely too short for our taste. We are left wanting more. And more.

So what is it about those two imaginary characters that makes them, to us, the absolute definition of gentle manhood? To love, passionately and uncontrollably, is at the same time their greatest vulnerability and their most profound strength. We adore that these two men, who both thought themselves quite the masters of their own destinies, fell flat on their faces when confronted with the kind of women whom even other women can admire. We swoon over their heartbreak, gasp our approval when we see them striving to better themselves, and rejoice when their loves finally see them for who they really are.

I dare not pick a favorite. Not only would my mind change as soon as I encountered yet another delightful take on one of these lovely gents, but I would likely offend the other man’s very loyal audience! I admire both so completely. It has been my privilege to borrow these characters from their original creators, continuing to torment and examine them from new angles. They are each an absolute fascination, and happy is the woman who finds her own Fitzwilliam Darcy or John Thornton.


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Nicole Clarkston is a book lover and a happily married mom of three. Originally from Idaho, she now lives in Oregon with her own romantic hero, several horses, and one very fat dog. She has loved crafting alternate stories and sequels since she was a child watching Disney’s Robin Hood, and is never found sitting quietly without a book of some sort.

Nicole discovered Jane Austen rather by guilt in her early thirties- how does any book worm really live that long without a little P&P? She has never looked back. A year or so later, during a major house renovation project she discovered Elizabeth Gaskell and fell completely in love.

Her need for more time with these characters led her to simultaneously write Rumours and Recklessness, a P&P inspired novel, and No Such Thing as Luck a N&S inspired novel which immediately became best selling books. The success she had with her first attempt at writing led her to write 3 other novels that are her pitiful homage to two authors who have so deeply inspired her.

Nicole was recently invited to join Austenvariations.com, a group of talented authors in the Jane Austen Fiction genre. In addition to her work with the Austen Variations blog, Nicole can be reached through Facebook at http://fb.me/NicoleClarkstonAuthor, Twitter @N_Clarkston,  her blog at Goodreads.com, or her personal blog and website, NicoleClarkston.com

Pride and Prejudice Inspired Novels                 North and South Inspired Novels

Rumours and Recklessness                                 No Such Thing as Luck

The Courtship of Edward Gardiner                   Northern Rain

These Dreams                                                         Nowhere but North (coming soon)

 


 

29 Comments

Filed under JAFF, North and South, Pride and Prejudice

The art behind the covers & giveaways

Hello everyone,

Some of my latest posts have been dedicated to cover reveals and I’ve mentioned in all of them how much I love covers, so I believe the subject of this post will not surprise you.

I admit it, I do buy books because of the cover! I know that the cover per se does not tell us if we are buying a quality product or not, but the truth is, we do buy things that are appealing to the sigh, and that happens to me with books. I am always captivated towards books with beautiful, enticing covers and when the cover is everything but appealing, I tend to walk away. Of course I pay a lot of attention to the author, the plot, etc, but the cover is one more detail that could make me buy a book or not. It shows a certain taste that I often see reflected in the writing. Sometimes I stop to read the blurb of a book just because of it’s cover, and if the cover was not attractive I probably would never have read the blurb or bought the book, hence the importance of covers for readers such as me.

I love everything about covers, all the small details in it; the colours, the background, the font, the balance between the front cover and the back cover, etc. And I find that sometimes back covers are disregarded as inferior parts of the book, but I love them as much as front covers, I love to find a book whose back cover reveals me something about the story! And the good covers often do, have you noticed that?

This passion I have for book covers made me cross paths with Janet Taylor’s designs and fall in love with her work. In fact, I first learned about Janet  because I could not resist the cover of The Secret Betrothal by Jan Hahn and had to buy the book because of it. The cover was amazing and because I loved the book so much I decided to look for other things from the same designer. I soon found several covers designed by Janet and became a fan of her work ever since! I don’t know if it is a coincidence or not, but several books with covers designed by her were actually some of my favourites in the year they were published 🙂

Today I’m honoured to say she is my guest as she agreed to answer a few questions about her work 🙂

I also invited the authors with whom she worked with to share a little of their experience with her, and I could not be more delighted to read all these wonderful stories surrounding their covers and the process of their creation (have I mentioned how much I love to read about covers?)

I hope you enjoy reading this interview and the author testimonials as much as I did 🙂


interview

Janet you are quite active in the JAFF community with your blog More Agreeably Engaged, your blog tour coordination and the wonderful JAFF designs, but when did this love for Jane Austen and fan fiction began?

Rita, I am a late bloomer to the JAFF community. It was the last of 2010 or early 2011 when I started reading JAFF. I was going through a bit of a rough time and my friend, Jan Hahn, sent her copy of the 1995 miniseries of Pride & Prejudice home with me to watch. She thought it would be good for me! Ha! I guess you could say it was! I have since immersed myself in anything I could get my hands on, Jan’s books included. This was before An Arranged Marriage had been published but it was already in the editing process. I fell in love with it as soon as I read it and it is still one of my favorites. Believe or not, until that time, I had no clue that Jan wrote JAFF and her stories had been on forums since 2001 or shortly thereafter. Anyway, I had read Pride & Prejudice as a young girl but hadn’t picked it up again until after watching the miniseries.

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And when did it go from reading to drawing?

In 2012, Jan Hahn was getting The Journey read for publication. She asked me to draw Darcy and Lizzy and a highwayman. I did it but on regular typing paper and with regular colored pencils. It was not used for her cover but that was the beginnings of my drawings. I then decided to attempt the two drawings that I call ‘The Look, Darcy’ and ‘The Look, Lizzy’ from one of my favorite scenes in the miniseries. I’ve been drawing ever since.

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I always wonder if you took an arts degree of if you are self-taught, can you tell us a little of your progress in drawing?

I always loved to draw as a child. The summer after my fourth-grade year, there was a traveling artist that came at the invitation of our school. My mother and father allowed me to attend his two-week class where I learned about shading and a few other things. I loved the class but it is my only training.

Since I generally do not have a model, I use a photo for my model. I study it before I draw, while I’m drawing and after I complete a drawing. I look for places where my drawing is vastly different from the photo and what I could do to make mine look more like the photo. Many times it can be a shaded area as small as a couple of millimeters or 1/8 inch that alters how my drawing looks. It wouldn’t seem like something that small could make so much difference but it can. Too much shading, too little shading, not enough curve to a nostril or too much – these can make or break a drawing.

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I think it’s impressive what you can create without an arts degree, it takes true talent! Which type of drawings captivate you the most? And which are the most challenging?

I think I like close-up facial drawings the best of all. They allow me to go for the details and details are ‘my thing’ so to speak. It is all in the details. I love to do the eyes and usually do them first. Since the eyes are the windows to the soul, they are the most important feature. I love to try and capture the expression in the eyes. Sometimes I get it and sometimes I don’t.

As for the most challenging, I will have to say the nose on the facial drawings. It is what always gives me the most trouble. I know you asked which types of drawings and this is not a type but a part of the one I love most. My most challenging drawings would probably have to be buildings. I’m a math person, (I used to teach college preparatory mathematics to high school students) and the lines in the buildings need to be parallel. If they are not, it drives me crazy. It also makes me crazy trying to get them that way! lol

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I know what you mean about the eyes! That’s what captivates me the most in your drawings! You’ve used some of your drawings to do covers. Could you tell us a little bit more about your cover art design?

Designing covers is one of my favorite things to do. I love trying to bring a good story to life through the front and back covers. I am a cover junkie, too, Rita! 😊 Meryton Press gave me my first opportunity to design a cover. It was for Linda Beutler’s The Red Chrysanthemum and I was a nervous wreck in the beginning. I did drawings for the first three covers at Meryton Press, Linda Beutler, Suzan Lauder and Jan Hahn. I did some drawings for J. Dawn King that she used as part of her covers in The Men of Derbyshire Series. I now mostly do graphic design since drawings cannot be ‘fixed’ as easily as graphic designs. It would be great if I could hit a delete button and fix something but that is not the case. If I have used darker colors, they can be almost impossible to remove without ruining my paper. Sometimes, I must start over and that takes much time.

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I know you have lots of merchandising in your website. Do you use all your designs to create merchandising at JT originals? What kind of products can we find there?

I use most of my drawings to create merchandise at JT Originals. I have not had the new ones from 2017 made up yet as I am trying to get a new vendor to do them for me. I do have note cards and note pads from the new drawings. I do those myself so they are easily available.

I have mugs, mouse pads, tiles, compacts, Christmas ornaments, two sizes of note cards and two of note pads.  I can do address labels and bookmarks if they are requested. I am hoping to soon have prints on canvas for any drawing available for purchase.

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One of the merchandise you have on your website is an anual calendar with original drawings. How did that idea come up? Any idea’s for this years calendar? I know we’re still in the beggining of the year, but I’m already looking forward to your next calendar 🙂

I have been doing a calendar since 2013. I had gone to England in August of 2012 for a tour of the 1995 PnP film locations. It was fabulous, by the way! 🙂 One of the tour guides is a Jane Austen scholar and is also a writer. She knows the man that has his art at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath. I had told her of my drawings when viewing some of his in the village that was Meryton in the miniseries. Without my knowledge she contacted him and later told me that I would be able to sell my work. If you notice, I always have ‘my artistic interpretations of the scenes’ either on the back of the calendar or somewhere inside. That was what he told Hazel Jones to tell me. Since 2013 was the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride & Prejudice, Hazel said that could be a good year for me. I’m not sure how it went from there, but the calendar was born. When I got home, I got busy drawing. The rest is history, so the saying goes.

I do have some ideas for the 2018 calendar. It will be drawings too. I’m thinking of possibly using the same men/films as last year but in a different way. That’s all I’ll say for now. Suffice it to say, I think the changes will be ones that you will approve! I’m looking forward to the next calendar too. I will begin working on it in a few weeks. I need to get started on the drawings.

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Thank you so much for allowing me to interview you Janet! I feel I could continue discussing every single detail of your drawings with you for hours. I am also a known geek who absolutely looooves merchandising, so I can not resist sharing with my readers some of the products you have on your website JT Originals 🙂

The 2017 Calendar has to be the first to be displayed 🙂 I remember eagerly waiting for Janet to share the next drawing that would be included in this years calendar, I knew Colin Firth would have to be in it, but I was thrilled to see that Richard Armitage and Ciaran Hinds as Mr. Thornton and Captain Wentworth respectively, were also included. I would just ask you to take a closer look at Ciaran Hinds card, isn’t it just perfect with the letter drawn in the back??

Oh…and you should look at all the faces here because Janet is offering one set of 12 cards with each one of these gentleman in one of the cards 🙂

 

But I could not finish my part on this post without showing a little more of what you can find at JT Originals. I confess to own a few of these items and to look forward to the new merchandising Janet will create with the new drawings, particularly the one of John Thornton 🙂

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I’m sure you’ve noticed by now how much I like and admire Janet’s work, but I’m not the only one loving her work! I’ve asked some of the authors who worked with her to write a few words about that experience, and was touched by how special they herJanet to be 🙂


author-testimonials

 

Nicole Clarkston

When Janet first wrote to me about No Such Thing As Luck, she graciously offered to host me on her blog. I had never explored the JAFF community at all, so I thoroughly enjoyed clicking through all the sights at More Agreeably Engaged. When I discovered her artwork, I was astonished. This lady has a true gift for capturing characters real or imagined, and her eye catches the balance, the light, and each nuance of expression. As a writer, my desire is to push the pause button on special moments, translate them into print, and breathe life into them. Janet does that very same thing with her images.

Though I barely knew her and was not quite certain what I was letting myself in for, I had to ask Janet to work on my next cover! As it happened, that was for Northern Rain, a book which was less than half completed at the time. Since we had months (at the speed I write), we spent that time becoming friends as we talked over cover ideas. Janet is what we Americans colloquially describe as a “Good People.” May I brag on her as a person a little more before returning to her work?

Janet was, very appropriately, my first taste of the wonderful enigma that is the JAFF community. She uses her speech and her actions to bless others, and you never hear a word of her which is not spoken in admiration. She encourages authors, bloggers, and readers alike, and she employs her precious time helping others find a good read to wind down after a hard day. When she is not blogging about new books or painting her breathtaking Richard Armitage portrait, she is a proud grandmother, a supportive mother, and a loving sister. In addition to these things, she spends her spare time caring for rescued dogs. Her heart truly aches for these canine orphans, and she invests more time and love into them than many people do into their own children.

Janet’s son Jeff happens to be a talented designer in his own right, and the two of them have continued to grow their artistic talents together. I have been the happy beneficiary of their combined efforts! I will allow Janet to fill you in on those details, but I would like to draw your attention to some of her trademarks. Firstly, each book cover she creates ties into the story. As far as I know, she has read every book before creating the cover, and she creates a visual catch for a reader to pause and take in. If you capture every detail she lovingly drops into that cover, you may as well not read the book, for you have already divined its essence.

Another talent of hers is for the eyes. They spark, snap, draw you in, or set you at ease. A talented actor is able to convey with a simple look an entire novel’s worth of feelings, and Janet can trap that look forever on canvas. Unlike with my own vocation, she cannot simply hit the “delete” button, so every flick of the brush must be precise. I will never know how she can transform an unruly glob of paint into (here I go again) Richard Armitage’s tender, impossibly eloquent expression in the legendary Kiss Scene, but she does. She even manages to create my favourite look on my period heroes- a roguish 5 o’clock shadow! How? Well, she tells me that it has something to do with admiring the real thing for hours on end, and I suppose there are less pleasant ways to develop a talent.

Perhaps it goes without saying that I have already forced Janet to promise that she will craft the covers for my next projects. I could not imagine turning my book babies over to anyone else! I am glad that this amazing woman is receiving the recognition she deserves for her work. I hope that one day soon we will all be able to sit down to a cup of coffee with Janet’s RA portrait smiling back at us. A Colin Firth coaster would match nicely, I think, and perhaps a Matthew Macfadyen mousepad would round out the collection. Good luck in the giveaway, everyone!


 

Jan Hahn

About ten years ago, I met Janet Taylor (in the flesh). Our personalities clicked, and we soon became friends. Four years passed, however, before I shared my love of Pride and Prejudice with her, much less the fact that I wrote Austen-inspired stories. I was a bit shy about my obsession. About the same time, I learned that she was an artist and a skilled photographer of the ‘critters’ that roam her property out in the Texas hill country. I soon discovered an abundance of information about birds, squirrels, raccoons and other wildlife. And what did Janet learn from me? She fell in love with Mr. Darcy and JAFF, a whole ‘nother type of wildlife.

My second novel, The Journey, was about to be published, and I wanted a highwayman on the cover. Janet drew a colorful picture of Darcy, Elizabeth, and a blonde highwayman dressed all in black. Unfortunately, my publisher couldn’t accept the scene because of copyright issues: Mr. Darcy happened to look exactly like Colin Firth, and Elizabeth was the spitting image of Jennifer Ehle. Well, why wouldn’t they be? Firth and Ehle were Darcy and Elizabeth in Janet’s mind.

Meryton Press, however, was impressed with Janet’s work, and they commissioned her to draw covers for two of their authors, Suzan Lauder and Linda Beutler. By the time The Secret Betrothal, was ready for publication, Janet created original versions of Darcy, Elizabeth and Wickham for my front cover.  For the back of the book, she drew a beautiful beach scene, including a huge rock that played an important role in the story, as well as a pair of Elizabeth’s slippers discarded in the sand.

By that time, Janet Taylor had become well known to the JAFF world through publication of her gorgeous calendars featuring her illustrations of Austen characters. Every year, I look forward to seeing what she will come up with in her new calendar. She outdid herself this year with Austen’s Men in Film Plus Two! I love when the month changes―I get to swoon all over again.

Janet is a delight to work with. She’s interested in the story, she listens well, and she’s eager to see that the cover reflects the book. She makes my idea come to life and then suggests touches that mirror portions of the plot. For A Peculiar Connection, I found separate 19th century paintings of three young boys executed by the same artist. That was my sole contribution to the cover. Janet did the rest. She combined the boys into one framed portrait, and in the background, she added muted illustrations of a ship, a letter containing the very words I had written in the story, and an old mansion―all of which played essential parts in the book.

Janet has a fantastic eye for color and style and a more than generous supply of talent to create an attractive, eye-catching book cover that draws readers’ attention. She’s a joy to know and a great friend.

 


 

Suzan Lauder

Had you asked the author prior to publishing what the cover of Alias Thomas Bennet would look like, she would firmly state it would be composed around a ship. When I found out that Janet Taylor would be the cover artist, I sent her dozens of images: tall ships from the 1700s, men on ships’ decks, artsy ships, ships on fire, ships in a storm, ships in dry dock, you name it!

But Janet had done one special thing—she read the book and fell in love with the characters in the story. Then during one email of ships, I made an offhand comment about seeing people on shore with body language to show their stress. She somehow knew that the author wanted the “feel” of this image even though I was concentrating on the idea of a sailing ship.

The artist’s process is fascinating. Imagine a bearded young man in a ball cap, t-shirt and sports pants holding a baby doll gently in his arm as only a seasoned father can do, with the finger of his other hand being held by a toddler in diapers. The child looks off to a sound in the distance, her face slightly startled and worried, and the man looks at her with typical fatherly interest. “Is she okay? Should I comfort her or leave her be?” Does that picture in your mind seem like the front cover of a Regency novel? The cover story was already in the eyes of the models, and the magic of Janet Taylor was there to capture it, because this is her son and granddaughter!

With the use of soft core lead pencil crayons, she redrew the images, changing a ball cap to a top hat, modern casual wear to evening wear of 200 years ago, lightening hair, adding a toddler’s traveling costume, making a causeway from a backyard deck. In the background, a period sailing vessel is coming into the harbour—or is it leaving? The sky is slightly ominous, the colours telling of an unknown worry for the future, as do the lines on the face of the gentleman. We correctly assume the children are Jane and Elizabeth Bennet and the gentleman is their father, yet once we read the story we realize the additional significance of the mystery within the romance novel—so the cover becomes a bit of a teaser.

Hands are supposed to be the hardest thing to draw. Janet drew them so well that I insisted the title not cover up where little Jane held onto her father’s finger.

Little touches made this cover so special. Janet worried that little Jane would be unsafe near the water, so she added posts and ropes to keep her just a little bit safer. That’s the magic of Janet.

Meryton Press is known for back covers that are so good, they could be front covers. Longbourn was a prized theme in the story, and Janet offered up a watercolour painting of Longbourn from a photo of an English manor house taken on her own trip to England. We added some flowers to spice up the real life photo’s simplicity, but then found out that watercolours don’t look that great on covers. Janet had to re-do the back cover in the soft lead pencil crayons of the front cover.

Thank you, Janet, for making my characters come alive, putting a perfect face to my hero, and telling the story of Alias Thomas Bennet in such a succinct and clever way. I’m honoured to have had one of your unique covers!

Alias Thomas Bennet_cover_rev2 (1).jpg

 


 

Caitlin Williams

How envious I am of those who can draw and paint. To create such beautiful images from nothing but your own imagination is a mighty skill. I have no artistic talents at all, so last year when I wanted to redesign the cover of The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet, I shouted “help” in a very loud voice and in swooped Janet B Taylor ready to save the day with all her super skills.

The book previously had a very boring back cover but she found the perfect image and now it looks wonderful, and compliments the redesigned front cover beautifully.

Janet is unfailingly professional and a lovely lady to work with. She understood what I wanted, even when I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted myself. Thanks Janet and I hope we get the chance to work together soon.

TCoAoEB FC Final wobld 121516 M


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Joy King

My meeting Janet began with two people (Jan Hahn and Jack Caldwell) and Facebook.

One of the first variations of Pride and Prejudice I read was The Journey, by Jan. I was hooked. Soon after reading her story and almost everything else available at the time, I opened a Facebook account. What was the first thing I searched? Jane Austen. I happened upon a giveaway for a book Jack Caldwell released on Janet’s stop of his blog tour. I entered, and I won.

When Janet contacted me with congratulations, I mentioned I had published my first JAFF the month prior. She invited me to be on her blog and the rest is history. I later checked out her JT Originals website and fell in love with her work. I commissioned her for three pieces of art (Darcy/Elizabeth, Bingley/Jane, and Col Fitzwilliam/Constance Wickham). The first one I put on the cover of A Father’s Sins. The others are already designed into book covers. I’m still hoping to get the stories written, because the world needs to see these gorgeous works of art.

Last summer, I saw a stunning photograph of a young woman who reminded me of Lizzy Bennet. She had the wrong hair, the wrong clothing, and the background was not correct. As soon as I mentioned it, Janet started sketching. The project is almost complete. What she has shown me is STUNNING. Will it go on one of my book covers? Oh, yes. I LOVE the work she does.

In a wonderful coincidence, Janet invited my daughter, Jennifer Joy, to do her very first blog interview after the release of Darcy’s Ultimatum. So, our family has a special place in our hearts for our dear friend.


 

Linda Beutler

Janet Taylor was my first cover artist for my first published JAFF story, The Red Chrysanthemum, and as it happens, I was her first cover author! The very idea of having a say in a book’s cover was a novel one at the time (so to speak), since in the design of the two books on gardening previously published, I had little input in the cover. Meryton Press gave me Janet’s contact information, and I sent along the requested list of several ideas. But Janet had her own vision, to capture the pivotal moment when Georgiana Darcy’s skirts brush the titular blossom out of sight, behind Darcy’s boots.

I’ll admit I had to be convinced. It seemed like a huge self-spoiler, but Janet forged ahead. In time I came to think it quite natural for the cover to hinge on the story’s most important plot point. My only concern shifted to the Hessians being exactly like those worn by Mr. Darcy in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice mini-series. And the legs had to be the right proportion to be attached to a certain 6’2 actor. Janet would send a version, and I would send her back to Darcy’s moments with Elizabeth at Pemberley. Did Janet really spend six hours watching that one scene, as they ascend the outdoor stairway? I shall take her at her word!

The results have been greatly praised. Janet is self-effacing, but there is no way The Red Chrysanthemum would have won a silver IPPY for romance writing in 2014 without her dynamic, manly cover.  It takes a team, more than just an author’s story, and presentation is everything. What red-blooded woman wouldn’t at least pick it up to read the back cover with its glorious open red roses?

Every flower on the cover of The Red Chrysanthemum carries a message of love, and I loved working with Janet again on my latest novel, My Mr. Darcy and Your Mr. Bingley. Having worked with Janet before, I did not hesitate to suggest a crucial moment within a pivotal scene. She jumped on it! The result is beautiful and poignant and everything I wanted it to be.


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Sally Smith O’Rourke

Like many other Jane Austen fans, I first found Janet because of her beautiful paintings of scenes from the 1995 Andrew Davies adaptation of  Pride and Prejudice. I was writing a post for my blog (my idea of the Darcy’s wedding night) and wanted to use “The Kiss” to head the post, and she was gracious enough allow me to use it. It was the perfect complement to the story.

Afterwards, we stayed in touch. I advertised my JAFF books in her wonderful calendars and when I finished writing Days of Future Past, I needed a cover and Janet was where I went.

One of the great things about working with Janet on the cover was her flexibility and creativity. Originally I wanted a garden gate on the cover with a garden on the back. I owned the painting of the garden, but needed a garden gate. After reading the manuscript and seeing the ‘tea garden’ painting Janet suggested reversing the pictures, and as you can see that was a great suggestion, and was definitely the way to go.

While the painting on the cover existed, she did have to crop it and added some brightness to the images so the title would stand out. But her real talent shows in the back cover. She started with a photograph of a garden wall that she took on a trip to England. The story in Days of Future Past is about reincarnation, under hypnosis, the hero sees three garden gates, one  for each life. Janet created a perfect representation of that imagery for the back cover.

They (not sure who ‘they’ are) say a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case it is very much the fact. Picture ‘a’ is the photo Janet took, and ‘b’ is the back cover she created from it.

And right now, she’s contemplating the cover for the Christmas book, that I hope to have out this year. Keep an eye out.

For what it’s worth my blog is sallysmithorourke.com 🙂


 

I have to tell you that it gave me a lot of pleasure to put up this post together, and it made me particularly happy to see how kind and generous all these authors and designers were. In fact, everyone involved in this post wanted to offer something to my readers, so today we are giving away lots of goodies :))))

We are giving away the below items:

* One 2017 Austen Man in Film + 2 calendar

* One set of twelve cards and envelopes featuring one of each Austen Men in Film + 2. The cards are 4 1/4″ x 5 1/2 ” and blank inside with matching square flap envelopes. (Check the calendar pictures to see whose portraits will be on the envelopes).

*One John Thornton canvas of 8″ x 10″.

* One copy of Northern Rain (winner chooses format)

* One copy of The Courtship of Edward Gardiner (winner chooses format)

* One copy of No Such Thing as Luck (winner chooses format)

* One ebook or autographed copy of The Secret Betrothal or A Peculiar Connection (winner chooses book and format)

* One ebook copy of Alias Thomas Bennet

* One paperback copy of The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet

* One ebook copy of A Father’s Sins

* One paperback copy of A Father’s Sins

* One signed paperback of The Red Chrysanthemum

*One ebook or paperback of Days of Future Past (winner chooses format)

The giveaway is international and each reader will be entitled to win one prize. To participate in this giveaway all you have to do is comment this post and let us know how you feel about book covers! Feel free to say whatever you want, I am personally very curious to know everything you will tell me 🙂

If you want to double your chances of winning, share this post on any social media and add the link to it here.

Good luck everyone!

115 Comments

Filed under Emma, JAFF, jane austen, Mr. Darcy, North and South, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice

Pride & Prejudice vs North & South

Good Afternoon dear readers,

Today I would like to share with you a guest post under my readers reviews feature, even if this post is not exactly a review, but more of an analysis of my 2 favourite novels: Pride & Prejudice and North & South.

My guest today is Apala Bhattacharya, a dear friend I’ve met online due to our mutual love for The X-Files. As we started talking, we realized that we had much, much more in common. We both have degrees in the media areas, we love history and we are fascinated by period dramas, namely the North and South BBC adaptation.

We also share our love of Pride and Prejudice, but she didn’t know about the world of JAFF. I introduced her to it, and once she started reading JAFF, she was hooked!

Today she shares with you her view on P&P and N&S, and also a great idea she came up with for readers and writers of JAFF and North and South variations. I know you will love the idea! I’ll explain everything at the end of the post. 🙂

 


Pride and Prejudice and North and South: A Comparative Analysis

by Apala Bhattacharya

Most people will tell you that Darcy and Elizabeth make the most iconic romantic pair in the history of classic literature. Less well-known, but equally loved, is John Thornton and Margaret Hale of North and South. Both novels bind together nuanced perspectives of human nature and human struggles, with love stories that are timeless.

As if the books weren’t enough, the TV adaptations of both these novels cast the most perfect men for the roles. Colin Firth set hearts aflutter with his charming reserve and wet, wet shirt; Richard Armitage set the bar for hot businessmen who redefine enduring passion. (Christian Grey who?) Both characters are one half of an iconic pair; but let us consider who all four of these characters are as individuals, as couples; and what they might have in common.

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth and Darcy, Margaret and Thornton

In each of these romantic pairings, one half of the couple is a perfect foil to the other.  Elizabeth confronts Darcy’s pride, and he is a better man because of it. Darcy makes Elizabeth realize that first impressions are often prejudiced. In the end, Darcy is humbled, Elizabeth’s prejudices are rectified, and they live happily ever after together.

The theme of ‘pride’ and ‘prejudice’ runs through North and South as well. Margaret’s prejudice towards traders and the North, gives way to the realization that there is nobility in honest, hard work. Thornton learns that more can be achieved through understanding and cooperation, than with an Us vs Them attitude. In both stories, one helps the other reach a place of greater understanding.

Our female protagonists are somewhat alike. Elizabeth and Margaret are both sensible, thoughtful, intellectual women – no silly women are they. (Unlike Fanny in North and South, and Lydia in Pride and Prejudice.) Both conduct themselves with grace under pressure. Both are humbled by the events in their lives, and are the better for it.

Darcy and Thornton have some things in common as well. Though one may be part of the landed gentry, and another a self-made man, they are neither of them charmers – both tell it like it is. But it’s not what they say that matters, it’s what they do.  They rise to the occasion when their ladies are in a tight spot. Both passionately propose to the women they love, only to be summarily rejected. In time, both women have a change of heart, but it was rough going for a while. I’d imagine Darcy and Thornton would enjoy commiserating. (Crossover fanfiction idea. Writers, could we?)

 

Austen and Gaskell: their enduring legacy

Like her protagonist Elizabeth, Austen revels in the ridiculous. She holds up a mirror to human flaws, and does it with humour and charm. Whether it is Mr. Collin’s sycophancy, Charlotte’s mercenary approach to love and marriage, or even Elizabeth herself – Austen  parses human motivations and reactions with surgical precision.  And that’s why we love Austen. Her writing epitomzes the saying “It’s funny because it’s true”.

Gaskell is a more sombre writer. At least six characters die in novel. Plus, Thornton’s father killed himself. Cheerful subject. She doesn’t shy away from exploring death, disease, poverty, feudalism, capitalism and class divide. Gaskell explores these subjects with a real earnestness that is reflected in Margaret’s conversations with Thornton, Higgins and her father.  A Victorian woman wasn’t supposed to exhibit intellectual curiosity, so here’s Gaskell breaking gender stereotypes, like Austen does with Elizabeth. They are both quite feminist for a world that had not yet created the term ‘feminist’.

Unlike modern literature, classic literature wasn’t binary – it wasn’t escapist romance vs high art. Pride and Prejudice and North and South aren’t just great love stories; they’re great literature. Literature that will give generations of women unrealistic expectations of men, forever.

 


 

Did you like this post? You can find many more such as this and some others with a more serious and historical component at Apala’s new blog where she shares her love books and films set in historical eras (specially Victorian). She blogs as The Anglophile at https://perioddramamadness.wordpress.com/

Now I would also like to share with you a project that started out with a difficulty Apala found when searching and choosing her next book to read. It’s easy for us JAFF regulars to find the JAFF book to read that’s perfect for us, but for someone who is new to this world and doesn’t follow JAFF blogs, it can be confusing. So Apala asked me if I would help her develop a file that would list all the JAFF books available, and that sounded difficult but a great idea 🙂

We’ve been quietly working on setting up the JAFF google sheet for the past month. Now her blog has a list of what we hope will be the most complete list of all JAFF books, with info on the type of novel, number of pages, formats available,  price, amazon links, etc. Of course we couldn’t stop there, so we also created one for the North and South Fan Fic, which I believe is almost complete. These are crowd-sourced lists (with a moderator), so we hope you will add names of books we’ve missed out on – perhaps your favourites, or the ones you have written and published. As most of you know, there are dozens of JAFF books coming out each month, so it would be completely impossible for us to add them all, that’s why we need your help! With everyone’s input we might actually create a list where we could find hundreds of JAFF books and sort them out by our favourite genre, author etc. We have even added some books published this week 🙂

If you are insterested, go here to find the lists for JAFF, North and South Fan Fic, Historical Fiction, and Period Dramas: https://perioddramamadness.wordpress.com/category/lists/

15 Comments

Filed under Guest Post, jane austen, North and South, Pride and Prejudice, Readers Reviews

No Such Thing as Luck Review & Giveway

Hello everyone,

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but Nicole Clarkston’s debut book, No Such Thing as Luck, has a new cover. Janet Taylor is the responsible for the wonderful new design and when I heard about this makeover, I thought it would be a good time to post the review of the book. It is one of my favourite North and South fan fiction books after all, and I hadn’t reviewed it yet, so I thought, why not do it now that it has a new face?

No Such Thing as Luck was the first book I ever saw of Nicole Clarkston and it was because of it that I discovered she also wrote JAFF. I’ve read and loved her other two JAFF books (Rumours & Recklessness and The Courtship of Edward Gardiner) but this one will always have a special place in my heart because it is one of the best North and South fan fiction books I’ve ever read.

This variation takes place after Mr. Hales’s death and Margaret’s departure from Milton. Some months after these events Margaret receives a letter from Frederick telling her that Mr. Bell, who was visiting him in Cadiz, is terminally ill and would like to see her one last time. She decides to embark on a ship as soon as possible and as she is about to embark the Esperanza, she bumps into Mr. Thornton, who is also embarking on the ship to meet a business associate who may help him save the mill after the disastrous strike.

It is due to these circumstances that we will see the action of the book occurring on board of a ship, and as you may imagine, it is not difficult for people to bump into each other frequently when confined in a small space, so the duration of this trip provided us with plenty of scenes between Margaret and John 🙂

In fact, I believe it serves as a closure to the original story. Mrs. Gaskell’s rushed ending was a bit bittersweet for me as I would have liked to read a more slow-paced ending with our characters exploring and demonstrating more their love for each other. This book, being also a slow-paced story, despite the adventures in the end, gave me the satisfaction of seeing these characters profess their love for one another by words and behaviours during an enjoyable amount of time.

I believe nothing could be more perfect for these characters than the scenes Nicole Clarkston created on the ship. These were the most intense and romantic scenes I’ve seen of John and Margaret so far, and I wasn’t even done with this book and already wished the author would never stop writing tales of John and Margaret.

Nothing compares to the eager anticipation that Nicole Clarkston creates in the first chapters, followed by the overpowering joy of seeing John learning the truth at last.

Ever since his conversation with Higgins I could only hope to see him in Spain. I could only imagine what his reaction at seeing Frederick would be, and Nicole Clarkston gave me that satisfaction with this unique variation of North and South.

This John Thornton is one of the best, if not the best, John Thornton I have ever seen on a North and South fan fiction book. Nicole Clarkston made me fall in love with him all over again, he is gallant, protective, tender and strong. He is a combination of everything perfect and imperfect I would love to see associated to this character.

Margaret is true to herself, but in this book she already knows that turning down such a man was a big mistake considering she is aware her heart has been touched by him. As I love to read books when Margaret is already in love with John, this book was a delight to read.

Mrs. Thornton is also seen through a different perspective and even if she remains the same in essentials, we see a new side of her that allows us to get to know and understand the character better. Also, her reaction at seeing Margaret introduce herself when entering the court is priceless!!! (when you read it, you’ll understand, but I imagine many people would love to read this book just to have the pleasure of witnessing this moment).

No Such Thing as Luck is a riveting book full of romance between John and Margaret and I highly recommend it to anyone in need of a good romance. The first chapters captivate the readers hearts and souls and it will be hard stop reading after that.

 

You can find this book at:

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Nicole Clarkston would like to offer one copy of this book to my readers. All you have to do to enter the giveaway is comment on this post and share your thoughts with us. The giveaway is international and the winner may choose the book format. It will be open until the 3rd of April and the winner will be announced shortly after.

If you don’t want to miss the announcement of the winner and therefore miss the opportunity to see your name there, please follow From Pemberley to Milton. By doing so you will receive an email every time a new post is published and will not miss your prize if you are the lucky winner.

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Filed under 5 stars, North and South