Saturday, August 23, 2014

Guest Post and International Giveaway: Longbourn to London by Linda Beutler

Today The Calico Critic is treated to a guest post and giveaway from Austenesque fiction author, Linda Beutler.  Some of you may be familiar with her previous title, The Red Chrysanthemum, which was released last year.   Thanks so much to Linda for sharing a bit from her latest work, Longbourn to London, which is a speculative novel focusing on the time period in which Jane Austen's Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth were engaged to be married. I always wished that Austen had spent more time discussing the betrothal and wedding, so this sounds like a real treat!  Below today's excerpt is also a giveaway, open internationally!  We'll have two winners: One for a paperback and one for an eBook edition.  Thanks for stopping by, and good luck to all of our entrants!

Book Blurb:

A courtship is a journey of discovery…

…but what do we know of the official betrothal of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet? We may assume there were awkward social events to navigate, tedious wedding arrangements to negotiate, and Bingley’s toplofty sisters to accommodate. How did Darcy and Elizabeth manage these travails, and each other?

Longbourn to London is not a Pride and Prejudice “what if,” nor is it a sequel. Rather, it is an expansion of the betrothal of Jane Austen’s favorite couple. We follow Lizzy’s journey from spirited maiden scampering about the fields of Hertfordshire to nervous, blushing bride in Mayfair, where she learns the unexpected joys of marriage to a man as willing to be teased as she is to tease him.

Join us as IPPY award-winning author Linda Beutler (2013 Silver Medal, Independent Publishers Awards, for The Red Chrysanthemum) imagines the betrothal and early honeymoon of Jane Austen’s greatest couple.

Includes mature content.

Dear Laura,

Thanks for the opportunity to share a little more of Longbourn to London with you and your readers. This is the beginning of Chapter 6, The Taming of the Flibbertigibbet, when Mr. Bennet has become aware that Mrs. Bennet and her sister Mrs. Phillips have been filling Lizzy and Jane’s heads with all sorts for dire predictions for married life. They have words…

Best regards,

Linda Beutler, author Longbourn to London

Chapter Six

Thomas Bennet opened the door to his library and called for his wife. After waiting a few moments, he called for Mrs. Hill, who came to him immediately.

“Mr. Bennet, sir?”

“Ah, Hill. Where is Mrs. Bennet?”

“In her sitting room above stairs, taking some tea and making lists of things, sir.”

“So she should have heard me when I called just now?”

“I should think so, sir. I heard you from the kitchen.”

“Has she been taken deaf, do you think?”

Mrs. Hill smirked and shook her head. “Would you like me to fetch her, sir?”

“No, Hill. It is time the insubordination in this house was dealt with as it should have been long ago.” Mr. Bennet took the stairs as briskly as Mrs. Hill had ever seen him, and he entered the open door of his wife’s sitting room.

“Mrs. Bennet! Did you not hear my call?”

She looked up with surprise. Her husband usually sent a servant for her, or forgot what he wanted if she ignored him. It was much more exhilarating to make lists of wedding details than to attend to whatever petty issues Mr. Bennet might raise.

“Mr. Bennet! Is there some emergency? Are Mr. Darcy or Mr. Bingley ill?” This was her chief concern as the wedding neared, that an errant infectious disease might carry off either groom.

Mr. Bennet closed the door to his wife’s sitting room, and took a seat facing her. “Mrs. Bennet, let me first say that, when your husband calls you, he expects a response. I do not think, after nearly twenty-five years of marriage, that expecting courtesy is too much to ask. Do I make myself clear?”

“Oh, Mr. Bennet, if you have come in here to argue with me, I pray you leave at once.”

“I am here, Mrs. Bennet, because you would not come to me, and we have a matter of immense and immediate importance, which we must discuss.”

Grumbling under her breath, Mrs. Bennet made a great show of setting aside her lap desk and turning her attention to her husband.

“It has come to my attention, madam, that you have been relating stories of married life to Lizzy and Jane, which our daughters find most unsettling, and these, by extension, reflect upon me in a poor light.”

“Nonsense. Of what can you be speaking?”

“How do you know it is nonsense if you claim not to know the topic? Oh, never mind . . . My point is, Mrs. Bennet, you have told the girls disturbing stories about marital relations and what they may expect, and it has frightened them. I want you to correct what you have said and cease discussing the topic with them if you cannot or will not be truthful.”

“And may I ask how you came by this knowledge? A father should not know of this. My daughters would never discuss such a thing with their father. It is a mother’s place to prepare daughters for what may happen in the marriage bed.”

“Both of our daughters have complained to their intended spouses.” Mr. Bennet was not above stretching the truth to carry his point. “They have been vague as to details, but so completely forthright about their attendant fears as to make what was told to them completely apparent.”

“Mr. Bennet! I shall not be criticised on this subject. The girls have no idea what to expect on their wedding night, and I believe it prudent that they be made to expect the worst. I consider their behaviour to their intendeds to be highly improper, implying any of what should be talked of only amongst women, and I shall scold them, sir. Make no mistake.”

“Fanny, you will do no such thing.”

Voices were raised. From their bedroom, Elizabeth and Jane could hear the tone but not the content. They looked at each other with open astonishment.

“Mr. Bennet, on this point I shall stand my ground. It is a mother’s duty to protect daughters from false hopes of the marriage bed.” 

“Have you no consideration for their future husbands, and therefore madam, no respect for what they may infer our relationship has been? Have I been a brute to you? Have I ever made unacceptable demands upon your person? If you speak of horrors you yourself have not experienced, the girls will infer you have experienced them, and at my hands!” 

“Mr. Bennet, that is ridiculous! The girls do not think of you and me in such a way.”

“No indeed, I believe they did not until you felt you needed to see that they enter the married state expecting the worst, as you say.”

“And so they should!”

“Mrs. Bennet! You will speak of this subject to Lizzy and Jane no more, except to say you have no reason to believe either Mr. Darcy or Mr. Bingley are brutish, unkind, or perverted in any way. They are gentlemen and will be kind at the very least. You do no one any good service by painting all men with the same brush. You will stop this.”

“No, sir, I certainly shall not. This is not your concern, Mr. Bennet—not your concern at all!”

“Fanny, I shall lock you in this room until the wedding if you leave me no other choice. No details, no lace, no shopping, no hectoring Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst—none of it.”

“Oh, Mr. Bennet! You cannot mean it!”

“Do not try my patience further, madam. You will apologise to Lizzy and Jane and amend the untruths you have foisted upon them, or I shall have you kept separate from them until they are wed. I have never been unkind to you in our marriage bed, and I shall not have you implying to anyone that I have. You have no idea the harm you have done, and I shall see it does not continue. The choice is yours, Mrs. Bennet.” He stood and began pacing in what little space was available in front of his wife.

“This is most improper, Mr. Bennet—most indelicate. Fathers of daughters must not concern themselves with such things. This was Lizzy, was it not? She’s gone telling tales, has she? Only Lizzy would ever think to seek counsel in such a shameful way.”

 “Lizzy and Jane should not approach their wedding in a spirit of fear and misapprehension; you and your gossiping sister have overstepped yourselves. You give Lizzy and Jane the advice better used on Lydia, who is now married to one of the vilest seducers we are ever likely to meet, no thanks to ourselves . . . ”

“Oh, Mr. Bennet! Lower your voice . . . ”

“No, Fanny. I shall not be moved. You have a decision to make. Remain in your room until the wedding, or amend your advice to Lizzy and Jane. And no more social engagements with Mrs. Phillips. She is no longer fit for civil society—drunk or sober!”

International Giveaway: Longbourn to London 

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More About Linda Beutler

Linda Beutler is an Oregon native who began writing professionally in 1996 in the field of garden writing. First published in magazines, Linda graduated to book authorship in 2004 with the publication of Gardening With Clematis (2004, Timber Press). In 2007 Timber Press presented her second title, Garden to Vase, a partnership with garden photographer Allan Mandell. Recently Linda has been working with Meryton Press.

Linda lives the gardening life: she is a part-time instructor in the horticulture department at Clackamas Community College; writes and lectures about gardening topics throughout the USA; and is traveling the world through her active participation in the International Clematis Society, of which she is the current president. Then there's that dream job--which she is sure everyone else must covet but which she alone has-- curator of the Rogerson Clematis Collection, which is located at Luscher Farm, a farm/park maintained by the city of Lake Oswego. She signed on as curator to North America's most comprehensive and publicly accessible collection of the genus clematis in July 2007, and they will no doubt not get shut of her until she can be carried out in a pine box.

September 2011, Linda checked out a book of Jane Austen fan fiction from her local library. After devouring every title she could get her hands on, began writing her own expansions and variations of Pride and Prejudice. The will to publish became too tempting, and after viewing the welcoming Meryton Press website, she sent her child before the firing squad. Luckily, the discerning editors at Meryton Press saved the child from slaughter, and Linda's first work of Austenesque fiction, The Red Chrysanthemum was published.

Author Blog:




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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Book Review: Jane Austen's First Love by Syrie James

From Goodreads:

Inspired by Actual Events

Fifteen-year-old Jane Austen dreams of three things: doing something useful, writing something worthy, and falling madly in love. When she visits her brother in Kent to celebrate his engagement, she meets wealthy, devilishly handsome Edward Taylor—a fascinating young man who is truly worthy of her affections. Jane knows a match between her and Edward is unlikely, but every moment she spends with him makes her heart race—and he seems to return her interest. Much to her displeasure, however, there is another seeking his attention

Unsure of her budding relationship, Jane seeks distraction by attempting to correct the pairings of three other prospective couples. But when her matchmaking aspirations do not all turn out as anticipated, Jane discovers the danger of relying on first impressions. The human heart cannot be easily deciphered, nor can it be directed or managed. And if others must be left to their own devices in matters of love and matrimony, can Jane even hope to satisfy her own heart? 

Like many Janeites, I regret that Jane Austen did not live a longer life.  Her death at age 41 in 1817 seems to cut her years short, robbing us of more of her writing, and possibly keeping her from a long successful marriage, which many assume she would have enjoyed.  Who knows how her career and marital status would have been altered had she not fallen ill at such a relatively young age?

Author Syrie James seems to have the same desire as well—to have more of Jane than we have been afforded.  In Jane Austen’s First Love, Ms. James speculates on the years before Austen’s success as an author. We see her as a lively girl of 15 ½, yearning to break out into the world, make something of herself and fall in love.  Before the likes of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet or Fanny Price ever make their way onto the page, we are given a speculative peek into the life of a young girl on the verge of adulthood.

In this imagining of Jane’s earlier years, sibylline hints of her characters yet to come are seen. The intelligence, wit and spunky qualities of Miss Austen were reminiscent of her Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. The worrisome, fretful nature of her mother Mrs. Austen was very much like Mrs. Bennet from the same novel.  Austen’s sister Cassandra has the calm, sweet demeanor of Elizabeth’s eldest sister Jane.  And the matchmaking tendencies of the titular character in Emma are hinted at in some of her behaviors as well.  The intricacies of romantic relationships, family and social class are addressed, which certainly informed the future authoress as she examined the same issues in her novels.  First Love certainly tips its hat to many Austenesque characters and themes, which as a fan I found to be amusing.

As a love story, Jane Austen’s First Love had plenty of room for literary license, but there are two dominant issues that cannot be avoided:  Jane’s untimely death and lack of a long, successful marriage.  If author Syrie James planned to keep this reality in her story (as some Austenesque diversions have not), then ultimately there are assumptions that have to be made.  Her love interest, Edward Taylor, while based on a real individual, can never ascend to the level of a long-term husband. So it becomes Ms. James’ task to produce a romantic tale with some assumed restrictions.  We know what ultimately happens to Jane. But what happens to her along the way?  We know that she comes to make something of herself as an author, but how was her adult heart affected by her relationship with Mr. Taylor as a youth?  What is the story behind him? Syrie James has done a wonderful job in this speculation.  Jane is a delightful, romantic and at times immature youth.  Edward is handsome, well-traveled, educated and charming beyond his 17 years. I could understand their attraction to each other. As her affection for him grows, I was reminded of my younger self on many occasions.  The emotions we feel at that age are so intense—they’re very new, exciting and open-ended. They could lead to nothing, or… to everything.

While Janeites will certainly enjoy Jane Austen’s First Love, those who have never read a word of Austen’s writings will not find themselves alienated by issues and characters unfamiliar to them in relation to her work.  First Love firmly stands alone as a satisfying novel. Yes, knowledge of Austen’s compositions will enhance the experience, but I would feel comfortable recommending this to anyone. The writing is excellent, the content decorous and the characters entertaining. Whether or not this is your first venture with Jane, First Love is a delightful speculation on a young girl whose life retains untold secrets to this day.

Jane Austen's First Love Giveaway!
(US Only) 

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About the Author 

Syrie James is the bestselling author of nine critically acclaimed novels: Jane Austen’s First Love; The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen (an international bestseller); The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen; The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte; Dracula, My Love; Nocturne; Forbidden; Songbird; and Propositions. Her books have been translated into eighteen languages. Syrie lives with her family in Los Angeles, California. Follow her at and, and visit her website at



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Jane Austen's First Love provided for review purposes only.


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