Category Archives: North and South

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

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.

43 Comments

Filed under North and South, 5 stars

Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey Review & Giveaway

2-1-donwell-cover5 stars

Hello everyone,

Last year I devoured Darcy’s Hope: Beauty from Ashes in one day and the book caused such an impression on me that I considered it one of my favorites from 2016.

The only issue I had with the book was that the second volume, Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey, would only be available in January 2017 and I didn’t want to wait that long to read it.

I eagerly waited until I could read Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey, and when I put my hands on it, I was once again compelled to read it in one day. I simply could not stop reading this book, and that is because Ginger Monette has a fluid and enticing writing style that make her books true page-turners.

You don’t necessarily need to read Darcy’s Hope: Beauty from Ashes to enjoy Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey because even if this is a continuation of the story, readers will easily understand and get immersed in this new story, but the impact this second book will have is much different if you read the first, so I recommend reading Beauty from Ashes first.

Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey starts with Elizabeth receiving very disturbing news that imply she is part of a conspiracy of traitors who helped German officers escape from the Allies on the continent (if you haven’t read the blurb yet, the book occurs during the first World War). She knows that traitors are convicted to death and that people associated to them will most likely be shunned by society, so in an attempt to save her own life and protect Darcy she goes into hiding.

When Darcy discovers Elizabeth is missing, he understands the reasons behind this and does everything in his power to find her and let her know that the news she heard are not true, that she is safe from the malicious rumors and they can be happy together, but Elizabeth outsmarts him and assumes a new identity as a VAD nurse. She becomes Miss Juliet Thomas, the assistant of Dr. Scott, who is sent to work at Hartfield facility.

In the meantime, Darcy is obliged to remain in the continent and is send to the front. Being unable to find Elizabeth, he is devoid of hope, and in an altruistic and heroic act gets seriously injured in battle. He is then sent back to England and transported to Hartfield which belongs to his family. In this new hospital he will be under Dr. Scott’s care and in close proximity to Elizabeth who will be crucial to assist him in his recovery.

It is at Hartfield, close to Donwell Abbey, that our characters will face their biggest trial in life. They will suffer, despair, lose all hope and regain it once more; they will laugh, cherish each other and grow as human beings, and in the end, they will have their happy ending.

This book is simultaneously powerful, intense and beautiful. It is very hard for me to cry with a book, but on Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey tears came to my eyes as feelings consumed and pulled me into the story and the characters reality. The path both Darcy and Elizabeth take in this book is a dark one, and the tone is completely different from Beauty From Ashes. In this book the characters are more mature and the relationship they establish is not a passionate love/hate one, it is based on understanding, friendship, respect and perseverance.

I particularly liked the fact that Darcy never gave up on Elizabeth, and that she yielded to her feelings in the end.

Darcy and Elizabeth are central characters in the book, but there are several cameo appearances of other known characters such as Col. Brandon and Marianne Dashwood. The ones I loved the most were John Thornton and Margaret Hale from Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South. If you don’t love John Thornton yet, you will once you see how crucial he will be on Darcy’s life. I hope the author writes a Great War Romance based on John and Margaret’s POV very, very shortly 🙂 The stories intertwine in perfections and I would dearly love to see this romance through their eyes and experiences having Darcy and Elizabeth as mere secondary characters.

Summing up, Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey is full of depth, intensity and historical romance. It is incredibly well written and the development of the characters fears and war trauma is beautifully accomplished. I highly recommend it not only to JAFF readers but anyone who wants a good historical romance.

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The Darcy’s Hope Saga is available for purchase on Amazon:

Amazon.com – Darcy’s Hope – Beauty from Ashes & Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey  

Amazon.co.uk –Darcy’s Hope – Beauty from Ashes & Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey 

To have a better idea of what this book is all about I would like to invite you read the blurb and the excerpt we brought you today 🙂

 

***Book Blurb***

  1. Amidst the chaos of WW1, Captain Fitzwilliam Darcy has won the heart of Elizabeth Bennet. Finally.

Then she disappears.

Still reeling from the loss, Darcy is struck by a battlefield tragedy that leaves him in a dark and silent world.

Sent to Donwell Abbey to recover, he’s coaxed back to life by an extraordinary nurse. A woman whose uncanny similarities to Elizabeth invite his admiration and entice his affections.

His heart tells him to hold on to Elizabeth. His head tells him to take a chance with his nurse.

But Donwell Abbey holds a secret that just might change everything.

Escape to the era of Downton Abbey in this enthralling stand-alone sequel* to Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes that includes appearances by John Thornton, Margaret Hale, Colonel Brandon, Marianne Dashwood, and descendants of George Knightley.

  • May be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel, but readers may experience some minor confusions without the context of the mystery of Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes.
  • Has a happy ending for Lizzy and Darcy.
  • Romance is clean. Minor language and some recollections of graphic war scenes.

 

***Excerpt***

Elizabeth bolted from the chair. “Fitzwilliam, wake up!” She nudged his arm in the darkened room, but he continued writhing with great heaving breaths. “Captain!” She squeezed his hand, but he jerked it away, whimpering.

On impulse, she slid her arms under his shoulders and held him close. Instantly his thrashing ceased.

Gently rocking him, she massaged the unbandaged hair at his temple and whispered against his cheek, “It’s all right. Just a dream.”

He breathing slowed, but his body remained tense. “My ribs…hurt.”

She lowered him back to the pillow, then tapped on his hand, Try to relax. All right now?

“Mmm…. Water. And morphine.”

She squeezed his hand and poured water into the hospital cup. She touched the pill to his lips then offered the porcelain straw.

He swallowed. “Who are you?”

Elizabeth froze and closed her eyes. How she longed to tell him the truth, then brush a kiss on his lips, assure him of her love, and promise to stay by his side.

She took his hand and spelled, Miss Thomas.

“Thank you…Miss Thomas.”

Elizabeth sank into the wing chair and released a heavy breath. Could she bear to be so close and yet so far away from Fitzwilliam?

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*** Author Bio***

3-1-headshotWinner of Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s 2015 “Picture This” grand prize, Ginger lives with her family in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she enjoys dancing on the treadmill, watching period dramas, public speaking, and reading—a full-length novel every Sunday afternoon.

Author Contacts:

Website: GingerMonette.com

Author’s Facebook: is here

Goodreads: here

Amazon: here

***It’s Giveaway time***

Ginger Monette would like to offer to three lucky winners ( open to US residents only) a tin of Downton Abbey Tea! All you have to do is click on the  Rafflecopter link below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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***Blog Tour***

Excited about this book? Follow the blog tour for more reviews, excerpts and information on Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey.

Feb 1  The Ardent Reader

Feb 2 From Pemberley to Milton

Feb 3 My Jane Austen Book Club

Feb 4  My Love for Jane Austen

Feb 5  vvb32reads

Feb 6  Just Jane 1813

Feb 7  Savvy Verse & Wit

Feb 8  Austenesque Reviews

Feb 9  My Kids Led Me Back to Pride & Prejudice

Feb 10 Babblings of a Bookworm

Feb 11  Obsessed with Mr. Darcy

Feb 12  Musings from the Yellow Kitchen

Feb 13  Half Agony, Half Hope

Feb 14  My Vices and Weaknesses

Feb 15  Diary of an Eccentric

Feb 16  Every Savage Can Dance

Feb 17  More Agreeably Engaged

Feb 18  The Calico Critic

Feb 20  Austenesque Reviews

Feb 21  More than Thornton

Feb 22  Margie’s Must Reads

Feb 23  Delighted Reader

Feb 24  Becky’s Book Reviews

Feb 26  Linda Andrews

Feb 27  Every Woman Dreams

Feb 28  Tomorrow is Another Day

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27 Comments

Filed under 5 stars, JAFF, North and South, Pride and Prejudice

Audiobooks Giveaway Winners Announcement

giveaway-winners-announcement_final

Hello everyone,

I started this year with the pleasure of interviewing Stevie Zimmerman and learning a little more about the audiobook business and the narration process. I was also very lucky to receive as my guests Jennifer Joy, Nicole Clarkston and J.Dawn King who shared with us their working experience with Stevie and also some news regarding their recently released audiobooks! J. Dawn King announced the release of The Abominable Mr. Darcy audiobook on the same day the post was released and Nicole Clarkston announced that The Courtship of Edward Gardiner would also be narrated by Stevie Zimmerman and released this month! In fact, the audiobook is already out, and to celebrate it, Nicole Clarkston would like to offer one copy of it to an additional winner !!! So today we’re announcing 9 lucky winners who will hopefully spend several hours listening to Stevie narrate the stories of our favorite characters 🙂

But before announcing the winners, I would just like to thank these wonderful authors once more for their kindness and support on this post and for the generosity to my readers. Ladies, you are some of the nicest people I have met in the JAFF community and I am blessed to have had an opportunity to get to know you 🙂 Thank you so much for all your support and friendship!

Now, without further ado, the winners are:

 

Love Never Fails – The Pemberley Library

Accusing Elizabeth – Anji


Rumours and Recklessness – Elizabeth Ehinger

.

Northern Rain – Kneyda


Compromised – Daniela Quadros & Darcybennett

 

The Abominable Mr. Darcy – Maureen C & Jessica Washer

.

The Courtship of Edward Gardiner – Eliza

Congratulations everyone! Can you please send me your e-mail addresses to ritaluzdeodato at gmail dot com so we can send you your audiobooks?

12 Comments

Filed under Audiobooks, JAFF, North and South, Pride and Prejudice

Interview with Stevie Zimmerman & Audiobook Giveaways

Hello Dear Readers,

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time in traffic and as I’m not a particular fan of the radios we have nowadays I started buying audiobooks to have some distraction, and of that, I did become a fan. It started as a way to get distracted, but it proved to be a wonderful way to get to know more stories and to relive some of them in a different way. I started enjoying audiobooks so much that I no longer listen to them only in my car, now I listen to audiobooks every time I’m cooking, cleaning and even running (I couldn’t do it without audiobooks to distract me).

When my husband started to notice I was listening to books he found it strange as he had no idea this was such a common entertainment. Our discussions led me to investigate a little about audiobooks and I was surprised to discover that they are not as recent as I though going back for several decades.

I also found some interesting articles which told me that the audiobook releases are now almost always simultaneous with the publication of the printed book, and that we see around 36 000 new titles released per year. If you are curious about the growth of this industry, you can find our more in this Publishing Perspectives article about the FutureBook conference that took place in London a couple of months ago. I found it very enlightning and interesting.

As you may imagine most of the audiobook I listen to are JAFF and one of my favourite narrators is Stevie Zimmerman. When I heard she would be narrating The Courtship of Edward Gardiner this year I though it would be the perfect opportunity to interview her and get to know a little about the other side.

I’m sure some of my readers will be as curious as I am regarding audiobooks and Stevie, so today I’m sharing the interview with you. You can read it along with some author testimonials below:

 

***Interview with Stevie Zimmerman***

 

headshotCan you tell us a little about you? Who are you, what are your interests, your professional background etc?

I come from England and moved to the US when I married – my husband is an orchestral conductor and is half English half American. I have two children, both in college now. I am a theatre director and had wanted to be an actor when I was in school and college. I quickly discovered I didn’t have “it” to be a successful stage actor and when I started directing I felt really at home. For a few years I didn’t work while I had to make ‘real’ money, and then to bring up my two children. Over the last ten years I have been able to take on more work in both the theatre and the voiceover world and now it is a great balance.

 

And how and why did you start narrating audiobooks?

I stumbled into a night class on voiceovers several years ago and really enjoyed it. The teacher of the class said I could get work because of my English accent – and offered to help me for a rich fee! I decided to try it on my own. At first I was just doing short commercials and then got into some longer narrations for e-learning. Then a few years ago I found out about a website where authors and narrators could meet and produce audiobooks without going through traditional publishers who usually want to use famous names for their audiobooks – which I am not. Yet!  ; ) My very first book remains one of my best sellers and it was a regency romance so that became my main niche.  I’ve done other genres but the period romance is by far my most popular.

 

How do you prepare the narration of an audiobook?

I must be honest – I do not read the book ahead of time. The main reason for this is that I like to go on the same journey as the reader. Obviously there are certain things I need to know ahead of time so I ask authors if they have specific requirements in terms of accent and class and so on. There have been a couple of times when an author doesn’t reveal “James’ wonderful Scottish burr”  until Chapter 4 – and that is a pain! But otherwise I like to uncover the characters and story along with the reader. I don’t want to know at the outset that this person turns out to be evil, because if the characters and the readers don’t know I don’t want to put it into my characterization.

 

It’s interesting to know you don’t read the books before narrating them, I thought you did to choose which ones you would accept and which you would not.

When it comes to choosing which books to do, rather than read them ahead of time, which would probably be impractical as the audition process implies interest in a project before you get to see the full manuscript, I do some research on Amazon. I look at reviews, and sales, and I can judge the quality of the writing from the audition sample usually. There have been a couple of occasions when I’ve wished I’d been more cautious in auditioning for a title  – when I end up being a sub-editor for a book that has been badly written and lacked an editor. And sometimes reviews can be good even when the story is ridiculous. But I think I’m getting better at choosing! Certainly, Nicole, Jennifer, and Joy have well written and carefully edited books thank goodness!

 

What’s the hardest thing about narrating an audiobook?

It’s kind of a lonely occupation. I get caught up in the books and keep narrating for as long as my voice holds up – or until my dog Charlie grumbles about being ignored. But that can mean I spend several hours, as I put it – ‘in the basement talking to myself’.

 

When did you first heard of JAFF? And when and how did you start narrating JAFF?

I’m not sure but I think I first realized there was this whole genre when I was offered my first JAFF audiobook. I had been aware that there were spinoffs of other classic books like the really well known prequel to Jane Eyre – Wide Sargasso Sea – although I’ve not read it. But I had no idea there was such a huge interest in retellings and expansions of Austen’s books.  It’s a funny thing in a way, to look at a story that is so well known and retell it even though the outcome is inevitable. But I always think about Romeo and Juliet. Even if you were in the audience at the very first performance the ending is revealed in the prologue of that play, so the fact that we know what is going to happen doesn’t have to mean the story isn’t compelling and rich and enjoyable.

 

Who’s the most challenging JAFF character you’ve ever had to interpret while narrating a book? And why?

With most of Jane Austen you’re dealing with a large number of female characters, many of whom are of similar age and class. Look at  P&P – you’ve got five Bennett daughters, two Bingley sisters, Charlotte, and then the other female characters, Mrs B, Lady Katherine, Anne, and the other townsfolk. So that’s really hard, to come up with distinguishing vocal features without making caricatures.  That’s true of the men as well, but there aren’t quite so many of them. But the most challenging one I think is Mr. Collins. Finding a way of communicating his obsequiousness and social ineptitude without making him entirely ridiculous is tough. Some JAFF authors do write him to be ridiculous and that’s fun, but after all, we love Charlotte don’t we and we don’t want her married to a complete idiot. I must admit I like the P&P variations where she ends up with someone else.

I’m intrigued more authors haven’t expanded or retold other of the novels . It’s really more P&P fan fiction than Jane Austen. It’s the most popular of course. But I love the others too. Persuasion has always been my favourite.

 

Persuasion is a favourite of mine too, my second favourite Austen novel, but I’ve got another one in my heart and that is North & South. You’ve recently narrated Northern Rain by Nicole Clarkston which is a N&S variation. Did you find it too different from P&P in terms of narration? I’m assuming the working class is a little harder to narrate, but I might be mistaken 🙂

I loved reading Nicole’s Northern Rain. I had actually listened to Juliet Stevenson reading North and South so I had her in my head a lot. It was a very different book from P&P variations as there was almost no comedy and, although it is at heart a romance, there is a lot of social history and political observation that marked the original too. The challenge with this book was to have a range of accent levels to reflect class and education, some accents very broad and others slight. And of course a large number of men to do! I hope I managed to distinguish between the various men of industry in the north, as well as the working class men and women.

 
Stevie thank you so much for your time! I really enjoyed talking to you and have only one more question: why should people listen to audiobooks?

I think the right narrator can bring a book to life like nothing else. If you’ve got multiple characters and you listen to a narrator with great acting chops you’ve got a movie in your head. I love listening to books on long drives, on walks with Charlie in the woods, when I’m tidying the house, times when I couldn’t read a book. It’s not a replacement – it’s a different experience. I hear from listeners who both read and listen to the same book and they say it gives them a new take on the book either way. Unfortunately the wrong narrator can kill a book. I’ve started several that I just couldn’t go on with because of the performance not the writing. But the right one! Wow! I listened to Dan Stevens (who was the romantic lead at the beginning of Downton Abbey) read a really long, complex historical novel that I might have struggled with on the page and he gave every single character the most wonderful, defined quality. I’d listen to almost anything he narrates.

 

Do you want to know more about Stevie? Check out her website: http://steviezim.wixsite.com/stevie-zim-voice

 

author-testimonials

Stevie is so well liked in the JAFF community that some of my favourite authors agreed to talk to us about their experience with her.

Jennifer Joy, Nicole Clarkston and J. Dawn King are my very specials guests today as they share their experience with Stevie, the narration process and the auditions.  They also bring several gifts for many of my readers as an incentive to started listening to books and share with all of us some very hot news!!!

 

authorwebJennifer Joy

There’s a reason why Stevie is so busy. It’s because she’s one of the best JAFF narrators out there! On the two occasions I’ve had the privilege of working with her, she’s always made the process easy with her timeliness and professionalism. Not to mention her narrative talents! The range of voices give each character a distinct sound— which is so important for audio listeners. We can’t have readers confusing Mr. Collins with Mr. Darcy, now, can we? With Stevie, that’s never an issue. (And she does an amazing Lady Catherine!) As an author and reader, I’m a fan!

 

 

Nicole ClarkstonNicole Clarkston

I first “met” Stevie through an audition she submitted to produce Rumours and Recklessness. For some reason, I was not getting notifications from ACX (Audible’s publishing platform) and I had forgotten to log in to check new auditions. Therefore, by the time I heard her sample, it was already a few days old.

I had no idea at the time what an honor it was. All I knew was that her voice was exactly what I had been hearing in my head as I wrote. She was so “light and pleasing,” to paraphrase Austen. You could hear the restrained laughter as she voiced Elizabeth, and the coiled agony in “Darcy’s” tones. No further auditions were necessary!

Stevie is a busy lady, so by the time I heard her audio sample she had already accepted some other projects. I was content to wait for her, it was well worth it. I still giggle when I hear her voicing Lydia, and Lady Catherine absolutely sent me into hysterics! No character was too small for special attention, and I was impressed that one person could so beautifully bring to life so many different people.

It was truly her take on Darcy which took my breath away. I was so impressed that her natural tones could take on a deep richness without sounding like “a woman trying to play a male part.” She is just fabulously talented in that regard. She has played Darcy in so many other JAFF books that she has a real handle on him.

When I published Northern Rain, I knew right away I wanted to see if Stevie was interested. Ana Clements had produced No Such Thing As Luck (with the same characters from North and South) for me and has done a spectacular job, but her career was taking a path away from audiobooks. I was thrilled beyond words when Stevie accepted the project, and giddy  every time she sent me a new file to preview. These characters were new to her, but she captured them beautifully. John Thornton’s voice was key, and she crafted him perfectly.

Stevie is a joy to work with. I enjoy chatting with her as she is working on a project, and she pays close attention to detail. When an author hands their baby over to a publisher or audio producer, there is a hope and a trust that the original vision will not be lost, but brought to life. I have learned I can depend on Stevie to catch the heart of the characters and create a wonderful listening experience for the “reader”.

Rita, can I make a little announcement? Stevie will be producing The Courtship of Edward Gardiner early this year!

 

a1i6hm0desl__ux250_Joy King

I have used three different narrators for my audiobooks and all three were excellent to work with. When I first place a book up for auditions, my nerves take over. (Yes, I become Mrs. Bennet.) I think to myself, “what if nobody wants to produce my story” and “what if nobody wants to listen to it.”

Catherine O’Brien produced ‘A Father’s Sins’, ‘One Love, Two Hearts, Three Stories’, and ‘Yes, Mr. Darcy’. Her ability to differentiate between characters by changing her voice is incredible. When our schedules didn’t work for the next project, I listened to many samples of other narrators and contacted Stevie directly. Within a few weeks, she had produced ‘Compromised’. As she posted each chapter and I listened closely to her reading, I was again reminded of how much theatrical skill a good narrator needs. Like Catherine, her characters are a pleasure to listen to. She has also produced ‘The Abominable Mr. Darcy’  which was released in Audible today!!

My latest project, ‘Love Letters from Mr. Darcy’ was narrated and produced by Jannie Meisberger. Like the others, she was an absolute delight to work with and was equally as quick.

Rita, these women are true professionals. They edit their own work carefully before returning the files to me. The challenge for an author is to wiggle our projects into their already tight schedules. All three of them are in high demand so it is a privilege and honor to be accepted by them.

My next audiobook I will be posting for auditions is ‘Mr. Darcy’s Mail-Order Bride’. This will be my first audiobook where the narrator needs an American accent. I’m considering a male voice and have two in particular I’d like to pursue to produce the project.

I’m always excited to hear my stories come to life at the hands of a capable narrator. The first time I listen, I follow along with the manuscript to check for errors. I find few. Then I listen to it again with my eyes closed to see how closely the character voices fit. The last time, my eyes still closed, I listen solely for enjoyment.

The demands for audiobooks has grown so I cannot imagine not having my Jane Austen fan fiction stories produced in this format. With the help of Catherine, Stevie, and Jannie, I truly believe these become the best they can possibly be.

 

giveaway-time

These authors are so generous they decided to start the year by bringing lots of goodies to my readers!

Jennifer Joy would like to offer a copy of Love Never Fails (one of my favourites from 2016) and Accusing Elizabeth.

Nicole Clarkston would like to offer a copy of Rumours & Recklessness and Northern Rain (yes, another favourite).

And J. Dawn King would like to offer two copies of Compromised and two copies of the just released The Abominable Mr. Darcy’

Let us know if like me you are a fan of audiobooks, and when/where do you listen to them, or if you are not yet convinced with audiobooks, and why not?

Every opinion is accepted and we would love to hear your yours 🙂

Let us know in your comments which audiobooks you would like to receive. If you are uncertain as to which you would like, you can always visit the authors Amazon Page and check the description of each book:

Jennifer Joy

Nicole Clarkston

J. Dawn King

The giveaway is international and is open until the 22nd of January, to be eligible all you have to do is participate in the audiobook discussion by commenting this post.

Good luck everyone!

70 Comments

Filed under Audible, JAFF, North and South, Pride and Prejudice

2016 Favourite Books & 2017 TBR list

favorite-book-2016-copia

Good Morning fellow Janeites,

Welcome to From Pemberley to Milton’s first post of 2017!

I hope you all started this new year with your right foot and that you are as excited as I am to discover which new books our dear authors will present us with this year.

2016 was a particularly hard year for me in terms of time. I had an increase of activity at the office in the middle of the year that consumed much of my free time, so I could not dedicate as much time as I would like to From Pemberley to Milton. On the other hand, the increase of work stress led me to take reading as a refuge that allowed me to relax, so I pretty much read in every  single moment I had free, meaning I ended up reading more than I thought I would.

I’m probably not a fast reader, and certainly I’m not capable of reading as many books as most of you, but I’m quite proud of myself for finishing 2016 with 45 new books read. I re-read some great books this year, but I’m not including them on this list.

 

2016-year-sum-up-copia

Just like last year, I thought it would be nice to give a shout out to some of my favorite books from 2016. This list is not based on published books in 2016, but on the books I actually read in 2016. I thought this would be fair because I don’t always read books on their release year, and it would not be fair not to include them amongst my favorite just because their publication year was prior to the year I read them. Unfortunately I decided I would only select 10, or I would have no criteria whatsoever, but it was hard and some books that are not in this list come immediately to my mind as The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet, Northern Rain, Miss Darcy’s Companion , Shadows Over Longbourn and A Fine Stout Love and Other Stories. But I should stop, or I’ll just continue mentioning books I loved… So, without further ado, my favourite 2016 reads are, without no particular order, the below:

favourites-list-final

 

darcys-hope-favouriteDarcy’s Hope – Ginger Monet

Publication year –2015

Number of Pages – 278

What I loved about it – The writing, the surroundings, the historical aspects, the romance, the intensity, Darcy and of course, Thornton 🙂

Review link

Amazon link

 

 

 

mbdd-favourite-2016Mr. Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter – Joana Starnes

Publication year – 2016

Number of Pages – 322

What I loved about it – The growing stout love, the intimacy, the intensity, Darcy and of course, the angst!!!

Review link

Amazon link

 

 

 

tcoeg-favouriteThe Courtship of Edward Gardiner – Nicole Clarkston

Publication year – 2016

Number of Pages – 182

What I loved about it – Little Lizzy, Little Fitzwilliam, Little Bingley and Madeleine! Overall the entire feeling the book transmitted 🙂

Review link – Coming soon…

Amazon link

 

 

 

darcy-by-any-other-name-favouriteDarcy By Any Other Name – Laura Hile

Publication year – 2016

Number of Pages – 662

What I loved about it – The humour, the complicity and intimacy, the romance, Darcy and angst! OMG, the angst!

Review link

Amazon link

 

 

 

elizabeth-papers-favouriteThe Elizabeth Papers – Jenneta James

Publication year – 2016

Number of Pages – 210

What I loved about it –The writing, the writing and the writing! I love the tone Jenetta James transmits in her books and this one was just breathtaking!

Review link

Amazon link

 

 

 

love-never-fails-favouriteLove Never Fails – Jennifer Joy

Publication year – 2016

Number of Pages – 348

What I loved about it –The intensity and sadness of the first chapters, the humour in the next chapters, Elizabeth and Mrs. Bennet!

Review link

Amazon link

 

 

 

remembrance-of-the-past-favouriteRemembrance of the Past – Lory Lilian

Publication year – 2011

Number of Pages – 432

What I loved about it – ODC’s journey throughout the book, Darcy’s honour, Darcy himself and Elizabeth’s jealousy 🙂

Review link

Amazon link

 

 

 

when-mary-met-the-colonel-favouriteWhen Mary Met the Colonel – Victoria Kincaid

Publication year – 2016

Number of Pages – 98

What I loved about it – Mary, Mary and Mary! And the Colonel of course 🙂

Review link

Amazon link

 

 

 

nstal-favouriteNo Such Thing as Luck – Nicole Clarkston

Publication year – 2015

Number of Pages – 326

What I loved about it –The entire journey, but the ship scenes…sigh… They were worth the entire book! I should say that this is a favourite “in exequo” with Northern Rain, but I could only add one 😦

Review link – Coming Soon

Amazon link

 

 

best-part-of-love-front-favouriteThe Best Part of Love – Amy D’Orazio

Publication year – 2017 (I read the ARC copy)

Number of Pages – To be disclosed

What I loved about it – The stout love, the intensity and the angst!! I’m ready to re-read this book and I just finished it last week 🙂

Review link – Coming soon

Amazon link – Coming Soon

 

 

 

Are any of these amongst your favourites too? And which amazing reads am I missing? I have seen some people talk about their favourites in the last days and I know for sure that I probably didn’t read some truly good books that are amongst the hearts of my fellow Janeites, so any suggestion is welcome 🙂

2017 will be a true challenge because I don’t think I will be able to read as many JAFF books as I did this year, especially because I do want to read other genres this year, but I’m also very curious to see what is coming, and which books will carve my soul 🙂

I have a TBR pile that keeps growing, particularly because every time someone suggest a really book I tend to read it leaving my TBR pile exactly as it was, so this time I decided to make it public! Maybe this way I will feel obliged to stick to it and actually read the books I had chosen to read 🙂

So, you are all my witnesses, this year, I must read these books:

To Be Read JAFF & NSFF

Darcy and Elizabeth – A Promise Kept – Brenda Webb

Sketching Character – Pamela Lynn

Pulse and Prejudice: The Confession of Mr. Darcy Vampire – Colette L Saucier

Love Letters from Mr. Darcy – J. Dawn King

Master of Her Heart – Julia Daniels

The Rainbow Promise – Lory Lilian

The Darcy’s of Pemberley – Shannon Winslow

The Sheik of Araby – Lavinia Angell

***

To re-read JAFF & NSFF

Disappointed Hopes – Cassandra Grafton

The Second Chance – Joana Starnes

Mr. Darcy’s Diary – Amanda Grange

A Heart for Milton – Trudy Brasure

***

Non JAFF:

The BookThief – Marcus Zusak

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill – Julie Klassen

The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George

Sputnik Sweetheart – Haruki Murakami

Bucky F*cking Dent – David Duchovny

Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

 

What about you? What are your reading plans? Would you like to suggest anything, JAFF or Non-JAFF?

I know this was an extensive post, but I hope you have liked it and that you’ll keep visiting and talking to me about JAFF 🙂 I have some news that I’m looking forward to share with you, so speak to you soon 🙂

 

 

43 Comments

Filed under 2016 Favourites, Favorites, JAFF, North and South, Pride and Prejudice

Margaret of the North

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Margaret of the North is not so much a continuation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, but a continuation of the BBC series portraying Richard Armitage and Daniela Ashby.

This means the book starts with Mr. Thornton and Margaret’s reunion at the train station, and it is very interesting to note that the beginning of the book is not overly romantic with all the emotion display one would expect, it resembles very much Elizabeth Gaskell’s writing style and that is something I appreciate, it is in fact the most similar in style to Mrs. Gaskell that I have read until today.

The book continues with Mr. Thornton and Margaret’s honeymoon to Paris and subsequent travel to Cadiz to visit Frederick. It is a slow paced book and I kept waiting for something to happen but it never did, so with time, the book became less interesting for me. I never felt a true emotion while reading it, and even if this is an extremely subjective argument, for me it is essential to feel something while reading a book.

I also had some difficulty in identifying with Mr. Thornton. It was strange to see him so unpreoccupied about re-opening the Mill, and at times his speech seemed more like a speech Mr. Darcy would have. In this book John Thornton was too sure Margaret would accept him, and that he became a better person after her refusal. For me this is a description of Mr. Darcy and not Mr. Thornton who never believed such a woman could care for him.

Despite this fact, I believe the author was successful in showing us the class differences that existed at the time, and how Mr. Thornton learned from his experiences and changed his perceptions on how to improve the workers life conditions.

Margaret of the North is very descriptive, and for those who like this type of writing it will be very appealing as we get to read everyone’s opinion and perception on almost all subjects, but to me it felt too slow paced and lacking emotion. The book slowly describes the changes in the characters’ lives after John and Margaret get married. It gives us an interesting view of Margaret and Hanna’s relationship and the impacts that living with one another has for these characters. It makes us see and understand how Hanna suffered with this situation, and how all the changes had a big impact in her daily life and therefore in her disposition.

This is not a book of action, it is a book that gives us a more intense view of the characters’ lives after the wedding, their feelings and inner struggles. It leads us on a path where we focus on their personal growth and not on the story itself, so it might be an interesting read for those who want to analyze the development of these characters.

Margaret of the North is available at:

Amazon.com – Margaret of the North

Amazon.co.uk – Margaret of the North

10 Comments

Filed under 3.5 stars, North and South

Nicole Clarkston’s book – Giveaway winner

Hello everyone,

I have recently reviewed Northern Rain by Nicole Clarkston, which is clearly on my top 3 North and South best fan fiction books, and along with that review, I brought a giveaway sponsored by Nicole Clarkston herself.

I’m not sure if you all know, but Nicole Clarkston is one of the few writers who devises North and South fan fiction and Jane Austen Fan Fiction! So far she has published Rumours & Recklessness, a Pride and Prejudice variation, No Such Thing as Luck a North and South Variation and Northern Rain, also a variation of North and South. But I know she is working on more JAFF and NSFF, and I’m very curious to see which one will be the next release.

Because she knows me and my readers love both genres, she decided to offer a giveaway of any of her works in any of the available formats.

Summing up, the winner could choose either a paperback, an ebook or audible of any of the below books:

 

Northern Rain

Rumours & Recklessness

No Such Thing as Luck

 

I would like to once again thank Nicole Clarkston for her generosity and kindness, and also ask her to publish another novel as soon as possible, because I’m in terrible need of a good book, and anything she publishes is great for certain!

Now without further ado, the randomly selected winner is:

 

***Sue Mecham***

Congratulations Sue! Please let me know which book and format you would like to receive 🙂

You can contact me through ritaluzdeodato at gmail dot com.

Happy reading!

6 Comments

Filed under giveaway, North and South, Pride and Prejudice

Northern Rain Review & Giveaway

NR Final FC4 071516 nobld SM5 stars

Hello everyone,

I could not be happier when I was told Nicole Clarkston had released a new North and South variation novel, so I bought it immediately and from the moment I started reading it I could not put it down. Nicole Clarkston sure knows how to captivate readers with a stunning beginning!

Northern Rain begins on a cold rainy day with Mr. Thornton visiting his father’s graveside on the anniversary of his death. He is heartbroken thinking of Margaret and what he lost, when the lady herself passes by and, seeing a sad Mr. Thornton on the rain, decides to be kind and offers him protection under his umbrella. In this initial scene they do not communicate with verbal words, but much is said and perceived. I absolutely love when and author makes me feel the intensity of the characters feelings without even making them say a word, and that is precisely what happens in this intense and emotional scene. On their walk home Margaret tries to clear her name and reputation in Mr. Thornton’s eyes as this story is set after Mrs. Hale’s death, and this is the first step for a growing friendship between them, that will obviously turn into an angst filled romance very soon.

This small change in the plot will have some important impacts: Mr. Thornton begins to wonder about Margaret’s indiscretion, Mr. Hale has John’s company and with Margaret’s support and medical intervention survives, and Margaret’s love and admiration for Mr. Thornton begins much sooner in the story.

However that does not mean that all the angst, tribulations, internal and external struggles will not come in the way of John and Margaret, by the contrary. The story has villains we will not see coming, and subplots that are a page turner until the end.

I believe Nicole Clarkston has an incredible knowledge of Gaskell’s characters and that is shown in this book. Mr. Thornton and Margaret’s characters are so true to themselves, so well developed that I believe Gaskell herself could have written this story. He is honorable, just, strong and vulnerable at the same time and she is independent, and also strong and vulnerable in different ways, just as Elizabeth Gaskell portrayed them.

Dixon is the same grumpy person, Hanna Thornton remains herself but we get to know her a little better as she is exposed to new situations. In fact, Hanna’s reaction at the drapers store is absolutely perfect and in accordance to the character. It also allowed us to know that Margaret would have an ally in Mrs. Thornton once she realizes that this is the woman who will make her son happy. The consequences of her reaction made this book an agreeable read and it gave us a glimpse of a brighter future in the Thornton household.

Fanny remains the silly creature we know her to be but in this book we also get to see a little more of Watson, and he reveals himself as an insecure besotted man. This was an interesting addition as these secondary characters are not always approached or developed. Watson remains a minor character, but the fact that Nicole Clarkston decided to let us know more about him, and many other characters was definitely a plus.

The new characters were also essential to the success of the book. Even though I love North and South, there is not a lot of variety in terms of characters and that makes it especially hard for writers to create new scenarios. But Nicole Clarkston had a perfect equilibrium between the canon story and its own characters and new characters who gave a new life to Milton’s society and made this new plot possible with all its trials.

I felt Mrs. Clarkston brought the best there is to offer in a Jane Austen novel and added it to Gaskell’s already rich prose. This was a risk but perfectly executed. All relevant aspects of North and South were kept by the author, but the reading became more light, pleasing and romantic. Thornton’s reaction when he discovered who Frederick is was so genuine and passionate that I could not stop reading. And then all the kitchen moments followed and I felt myself swoon with the romance and intimacy in it! Of course the tea set present was the cherry on top of the cake for me 🙂

I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend this book, and can only hope the author releases a new N&S variation soon. The vignettes posted during the blog tour had me craving for more 🙂

I could not end this review without mentioning the cover. Isn’t it just absolutely marvelous? I have said several times that I love Janet Taylor’s covers, and this one is just another pearl she has created 🙂

You can find Northern Rain on:

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

 

***It’s giveaway time***

 

Apart from being a great author, Nicole Clarkston is a very generous person and she would like to, once more, offer one of her books to my readers.

You can choose any of Nicole Clarkston’s books and even the format!

Let us know what you think about Northern Rain, if you ever read anything from Nicole Clarkston, and of course, which book and format you prefer. You can choose the e-book, paperback or audible.

For more information on the different formats available for each book please see the links below:

Northern Rain

Rumours & Recklessness

No Such Thing as Luck

.

The giveaway is international and is open until the 29th of August.

Good luck everyone!

35 Comments

Filed under 5 stars, North and South