Monday, April 20, 2015

Excerpt and Giveaway: Suddenly Mrs. Darcy by Jenetta James

Welcome to the blog tour of Suddenly Mrs. Darcy by Jenetta James, brought to you by Meryton Press! Today we have the very first excerpt from this new work of Austenesque fiction, as well as a giveaway.  Thanks for stopping by The Calico Critic, and be sure to check out the other posts along the tour, which runs until May 3rd. If you'd like to enter the giveaway, please utilize the Rafflecopter widget below.

Content Note: Portions of this passage are a bit steamier than ones I usually share here. As the characters are married, there's nothing inherently wrong with this scene. I just wanted to make note of it for those readers of more conservative sensibilities.

Elizabeth Bennet never imagined her own parents would force her to marry a virtual stranger. But when Mrs. Bennet accuses Fitzwilliam Darcy of compromising her daughter, that is exactly the outcome. Trapped in a seemingly loveless marriage and far from home, she grows suspicious of her new husband’s heart and further, suspects he is hiding a great secret. Is there even a chance at love given the happenstance of their hasty marriage?

Suddenly Mrs. Darcy: Prologue

     I have never felt less sure of myself than I feel now. The candlelight flickers over the plain walls and shadowy furnishings of this room. Darkness and damp press against the small windows. An empty rambling countryside lies beyond, and the rumble of unknown revellers roars quietly below. I know he will come to me, and I pull the heavy blanket higher against my person. I can hardly credit I am here, nor know how the compromise of my life shall ever be made right.

     When he does come, I know I must welcome him. It cannot be that he truly wants me, for we are strangers, and in his manner, he has made it plain. He says little, and in view of what has happened, I dread to imagine what he thinks. Even my mother, a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper, seems to know all is not quite as it should be. She knows, as I do and as he does, that she is the author of our situation. I mull, not for the first time, the way in which this began. The confusion and speed of events and the ambiguous nature of the tricks played upon me scream through my mind. I can make no sense of his part. Is he motivated by honour or hatred of scandal or pity, or some other unknown creature in his head? Does he lack the imagination to act other than he has done? I have only the scantest knowledge of him. You could not call it intimacy; you could not call it friendship. Even so, it is a secret between us that he is in some sense guilty if not exactly guilty as charged. However, we are here in this place, and the best must be made of it if we are not to run mad.

     Occasionally, I hear a tread upon the stair and I start, marshalling my courage and straightening my face. But then the tread moves in another direction or returns to the public bar. Some servant perhaps or another guest—not him, coming for me. I turn onto my side in the unfamiliar bed, thinking that, by moving my limbs, I may still their trembling. Apart from the fear of what must come, I am also tired to the bone.

      The journey north began almost immediately after our wedding and is not yet complete; it has been long and the weather treacherous. Mr Darcy sat opposite me in the carriage and said little. In my head, he is “Mr Darcy.” Our connection, short and strange, does not seem to merit any other appellation. In the darkness, I miss my sister Jane and the sweet smells and familiar shapes of our chamber at Longbourn where I have slept all my life. The memory of my mother’s advice, given in that chamber on the subject of this night, returns to me. I begin to wish it would start rather than hound me by being so protracted in the anticipation.

     And so it does start. Steps on the stair do not recede or return. Instead, they grow louder, heavier, and closer; they pause only briefly before I hear a tap upon the door. “Come,” I say, not knowing whether it would be better to say nothing for he knows I am in here. Where else should I be but in this room in this bed? I have nowhere to run as he well knows.

     His appearance in the light of the doorway makes me feel small, but I resist the urge to shrink further to the edge of the bed. Something inside me rises, and though I am fearful, I raise my head slightly and look at his face. It wears a blank expression, and as he closes the door behind him, he asks if I am comfortable.

     “Yes, sir. Thank you. I am.”

     He sits upon the bed and stretches out his hand to me, not touching. “Good. I hope that you are. Madam. Elizabeth. I know you must be fatigued.” He seems to want to say more but does not. The emptiness of the air and the words unspoken swell the space between us, and I remember my resolve.

     “I am not so fatigued, sir.” I try to smile and not appear embarrassed by my circumstances. A shadow of a reply plays across his lips in acknowledgement, and he begins to undress. I turn my head, for watching a man disrobe is wholly without my experience, and I had not anticipated it. I knew it was not a spectacle I should usually witness since Mr Darcy would normally be undressed by his valet. But this night we have been, as so often during our short association, wrong-footed by matters outside our control. Only one chamber was available, so only one chamber do we have.

     And only one bed—so I know I must make the best of it. When he wears only his lawn shirt, he lifts the side of the blanket and, looking at my face for only a moment, gets in. He also looks at the candlelight flickering across the empty wall before turning to me and saying “Elizabeth, come,” as he takes my shoulder and rolls me towards his embrace. My mother had told me it would be over quickly, and so indeed it was. He is not rough and has the goodness to warn me it may hurt at first. It does hurt, but I do not cry out; I will not allow myself to do so. I simply lie before him and allow him to part my legs and enter me as I had been told he would. I find I am not prepared for the odd feeling of his great weight upon me nor the solitary feelings of indistinct woe that beset me as I lie on my side afterwards, feeling his wetness, hearing his breathing, and hopeless of sleep for myself.


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About the Author

Jenetta James is a lawyer, writer, mother and taker-on of too much. She grew up in Cambridge and read history at Oxford University where she was a scholar and president of the Oxford University History Society. After graduating, she took to the law and now practises full time as a barrister. Over the years she has lived in France, Hungary and Trinidad as well as her native England. Jenetta currently lives in London with her husband and children where she enjoys reading, laughing and playing with Lego. Suddenly Mrs. Darcy is her first novel. 

Connect with Jenetta

The Suddenly Mrs. Darcy Blog Tour Schedule
Sponsored by Meryton Press and Leatherbound Reviews

4/20: Excerpt & Giveaway at The Calico Critic
4/21: Review at Songs and Stories
4/22: Guest Post & Giveaway at My Jane Austen Book Club
4/23: Guest Post & Giveaway at So Little Time…
4/24: Review at Diary of an Eccentric
4/25: Excerpt & Giveaway at My Love for Jane Austen
4/26: Review at Babblings of a Bookworm
4/27: Guest Post & Giveaway at Austenesque Reviews
4/28: Guest Post at Songs and Stories
4/29: Excerpt & Giveaway at Best Sellers and Best Stellars
4/30: Review at My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice
5/1: Review at Margie's Must Reads
5/2: Guest Post & Giveaway at More Agreeably Engaged
5/3: Excerpt & Giveaway at Laughing with Lizzie

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Book Review: Geek Physics by Rhett Allain

Star Wars has been on my mind a bit today.  There was a one-hour simulcast at Star Wars Celebration today, live from Anaheim which included interviews with new and returning cast members and concluded with the latest teaser trailer for Episode VII.  I checked out a bit of it during lunchtime, but the convention continues throughout the weekend.  In fact, as I write, more live streams are still running on the Star Wars YouTube page!

On a seemingly unrelated note, I also took a look at a little book called Geek Physics.  I hadn't planned on writing a critique, but I just couldn't resist with this one.  It's just too fun.  Here's my quickie review:

I am an admitted fangirl of such frivolous things as Star Wars, the Avengers, Lord of the Rings and Back to the Future.  Apparently, Rhett Allain is a fanboy of the same persuasion.  In his recent book Geek Physics, Allain tackles the physics behind several concepts within these fantastical worlds.  He breaks down imaginary theories to real-world physics and formulas, answering some of the most burning questions of our time:

  • What is the density of Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir?
  • What is the recoil speed of Captain America?
  • Could Superman punch someone into space?
  • How realistic is Angry Birds physics?
  • What kind of power source would you need to run a lightsaber?
  • If R2-D2 is able to fly, how much does he really weigh?

And one of the most crucial questions facing the Star Wars community today:


Other interesting, yet more realistic topics are discussed, ones that even a non-fanboy or girl would find amusing:
  • Does replacing paper flight manuals with iPads ultimately save fuel for the airline industry? (My husband, a Gulfstream IV pilot will surely have something to say about that.)
  • Can ice cream get cold enough to be zero calories?  (A girl can hope…)
  • How many dollar bills would it take to stack them to the moon?  (May I have half of them?)
  • How high would you have to drop a frozen turkey so that it is cooked when it lands?

This brief volume is packed with humorous and interesting ideas, many of which I had never considered before (the turkey question being one of them).  As I’ve been looking over the book, I find myself laughing out loud and reading to my children.  I can’t wait to show the Han Solo section to my fanboy husband.  There is a decent amount of physics-speak in Geek Physics that goes right over my head, but overall I found Allain’s writing to be easy to understand and incredibly amusing.  I would not recommend reading this alone or in a quiet library.  You WILL want to share some of these ideas with a friend and you most probably will laugh out loud.  Geek Physics may just change the way you think about scientific study, and that has real-world applications indeed.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Book Review and Giveaway (US): The Turnip Princess

In literature and in cinema, fairy tales were an integral part of my childhood. The stories transported me to incredible worlds of magic and wonder, taking me “down the rabbit hole” in a variety of ways. The usual suspects were there: Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Sleeping Beauty… both in print and on the silver screen, these stories captivated me.  I believe my first YA novel was Beauty by Robin McKinley, which I read in elementary school in the late 70’s/early 80’s.  One of my favorite books of all time is The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. It displaced me to the extent that I literally felt as if I entered the fictional world of Fantastica.  To this day, I can remember lying in my bed, finishing the book and not wanting it to end.  It was so magical.

Over the years I’ve collected quite a few books featuring fairy tales, and as I’ve grown to understand some of the history behind these legends, I now know that they aren’t always like we see in Disney films or in the Golden Book versions of the tales. Many are dark, with social and political commentary woven throughout.  I was particularly surprised when I read an earlier version of Cinderella in which the ugly stepsisters were literally cutting their feet so that they might fit into the glass slipper. And the Hansel and Gretel story—think about it—a witch in the woods who EATS CHILDREN.   Then there’s Snow White-- The huntsman was to literally bring back her heart to the evil Queen. When we take a closer look, many of these tales do not seem appropriate for children at all!

As fairy tales have endured over the centuries, many scholars have gone about studying their history and evolution over the years.  Some of the frequently-studied authors are the brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault and Hans Christian Andersen, the men who brought to us the most well-known of fables. However, while in the Municipal Archive of Regensburg, Erika Eichenseer stumbled across 500 lost fairy tales of Franz Xaver von Schönwerth, a 19th-century folklorist from Bavaria. He lived in the same era as the Grimms, and culled his apologues from his travels in the region, talking to local storytellers and legend-keepers. Since that discovery in 2009, Erika has painstakingly put together an amazing selection of these tales in The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales.

The stories are divided into six categories:
  • Tales of Magic and Romance
  • Enchanted Animals
  • Otherworldly Creatures 
  • Legends
  • Tall Tales and Anecdotes
  • Tales About Nature
The tone of the writing is very much like traditional fairy tales. It’s light, but unusual and assumes that the reader will accept just about any premise for a story. The narratives are short—some are only one page in length, and others run a few pages. Some are humorous, and others seem to be harboring a bit of social commentary.

Because my mind is so engrained with the traditional tales mentioned earlier, reading these newly-discovered stories actually felt a little strange.  They almost had an alien-like feel to them.  Not in an extra-terrestrial sort of way, but there was an oddness and unfamiliarity there.  Some didn’t make sense to me either—I had a hard time figuring out the point of some of the anecdotes.  For example, one unusual chapter is entitled A Pot of Gold in the Oven (p.167-168), in which a retired soldier discovers a stash of gold, only to find it has disappeared for seemingly no reason. And the titular fable, The Turnip Princess (p.3-5), while it did have familiar elements, also had moments of peculiarity.

Yet other chapters were very much in the vein of stories that I’ve known and loved. One of my favorites is The Little Flax Flower (p.109-11).  Like most of the tales in this anthology, it covers just over two pages. It has familiar elements, such as a beautiful maiden with a plain girl, magic, and a handsome prince-like gentleman. I loved the moral that it shares, that hard work and integrity are more important than beauty and self-absorption. In those few short pages I became devoted to the plain maiden and loved to see how her fate played out.  There were other tales in The Turnip Princess that were of similar persuasion.

While some of the stories in The Turnip Princess were at times odd and may not necessarily find their way to the Disney studios, there were many that I found enchanting, entertaining and whimsical. This title truly is a must-read for any scholar of fairy tales or oral traditions. It’s quite the historical find, and truly a classic gift to the world. Franz Xaver Von Schönwerth, Erika Eichenseer and translator Maria Tatar invested so much of their lives to bring this to us, and the literary world is better for it. This is certain to be golden treasure of its own, not likely to disappear any time soon.

The Turnip Princess
and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales (US)

Penguin Classics has graciously offered a paperback copy of this historic title! Please use the Rafflecopter widget below and enter to win!  Contest period ends at 12am EST on April 18th, 2015.  Open to U.S. addresses only.  Prize administered by Viking/Penguin Books.

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About the Editor

Erika Eichenseer, born in Munich, Germany, in 1934, was brought up in a teacher's familiy with a story-telling mother. After studying to become a teacher, she married Dr Adolf Eichenseer, also a teacher, who later became the art director for traditional cultural development in the Oberpfalz (Upper Palatinate), a part of Bavaria. Both Erika und Adolf are storytellers, authors, playwrights and poets, who have dedicated much of their lives to keeping alive the region's traditional culture.

Until 1979, Erika was a teacher in elementary and secondary schools. There she started a school theatre, adapting regional tales, such as those from Franz Xaver von Schönwerth, which fascinated her from the very beginning. Besides putting on plays, she experimented with different and mixed media such as puppets, marionettes, shadow theatre, black-light-shows.

From 1979 on she changed direction to work in her husband's institute for traditional cultural development, specializing in regional literature, documentation and the te-animation of traditional customs and arts. In this function she guided 400 amateur theatre groups in the region, giving them specialized courses, reviewing the value of their playing material, opening up many other possibilities for finding good plays, an she wrote plays herself.

In 1986, the 100th anniversary of the death of Franz Xaver von Schönwerth, the German collector of folklore, customs, myths and legends, who worked at the time of the brothers Grimm and was highly regarded by them, she edited a reader and an educational supplement with his tales for all schools in the region to promote this mostly unknown collector of the complete folk customs and tales of Oberpfalz. This was not enough, however, to launch Schönwerth, who remained unknown.

In 2010, his 200th birthday-anniversary, the newly established Schönwerth-society succeeded in raising his profile. A series of presentations, mainly planned and produced by Dr Adolf und Erika Eichenseer, focused the public view on this extraordinary personality. And "Prinz Roßzwifl" ("The Scarab Prince"), a choice of Schönwerth's fairytales, edited by Erika Eichenseer, was published.

In March 2012, an article in "The Guardian" focused international interest on the 500 unknown tales, brought to light in Erika's book an regarded as a "sensational find". Prinz Roßzwifl included new fairytales never published before, and they had the great historical value of being in the original oral format they were collected in.

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