I was very excited to get a feature with Bookbub for January! They are pretty selective and I have been applying off and on for about six years. I was shocked when I received their acceptance for A Lively Companion as applying had become a habit, not an expectation!
Generally I try not to obsess about Amazon or other rankings–readers make a career, not rank–but I am making an exception and doing a big happy dance today!
Thanks for all the reads, purchases, comments, and encouragement over the years!
Also #5 in Canada and #16 in the UK! (Canadian readers don’t intimidate me, but British ones do. <Corrie waves nervously, knowing she’s doing it wrong.>)
In other news, my Emma/Pride and Prejudice crossover is also up for pre-order and the wonderful lady who edits for me, Gabriella at editforindies.com, will be starting on it in March before it goes live in April.
This post first appeared on the Austen Authors’ blog on September 13, 2020 by Amanda Kai. I thought it was pretty great! Click here to read it in full.
Here in the United States, we are preparing for one of my favorite holidays coming up in a couple weeks: Thanksgiving! Where I’m from, we have many traditions around this holiday involving gathering… Personally, I plan to watch the Macy’s parade, cook a big meal for my family, and after we’ve all stuffed ourselves, have an Austen movie marathon. Which got me thinking, what if the Austen men were Thanksgiving dishes? Now, there are a LOT of men in all of Austen’s books, so to keep it simple, I included the main leading men, the secondary leads, and the rakes, plus a couple others, for fun. Austen wrote some very yummy male characters, and I just couldn’t help but compare them to some of my favorite foods.
Veggie tray- Mr. Elliot (Persuasion)
On the outset, it seems like a good option, right? After all, veggies are healthy! Until you realize that you’re adding all those extra calories by dipping everything in Ranch dip…not unlike the way Mr. Elliot turned out to be a real weasel. Besides, who eats veggies on Thanksgiving with everything else there is? Pass the mashed potatoes please!
Tossed salad- Mr. Elton (Emma)
Salad is another one of those dishes that likes to masquerade as a healthy option. And it can be– when it’s not loaded with fancy toppings and rich dressings. Mr. Elton, too, initially looks like a decent catch, but his haughty attitude and petty behavior is no different than drowning a good bowl of veggies in bacon, cheese, fried toppings, and full-fat creamy dressing (though to be honest, that sounds pretty tasty! Maybe I’m a closet Mrs. Elton…)
Ambrosia salad- Captain Benwick (Persuasion)
The flip-side to a Jell-O salad: an Ambrosia salad. They come in many varieties, usually with different types of canned fruit, marshmallows, shredded coconut and whipped cream. My sister-in-law makes an amazing one she calls “Heavenly Hash” that has maraschino cherries and pineapple in it, along with the other stuff, and we always beg for more! Captain Benwick reminds me of this salad: chock full of sweetness and good things. He’s a character that I wish we could have seen more of in the story. I would have liked some scenes of him reading poetry to Louisa Musgrove.
Green bean casserole- Edward Ferrars (Sense and Sensibility)
A crunchy exterior of fried onions, but underneath, the mushy goodness of green beans and cream of mushroom. Edward’s shy nature and untold secrets makes him a bit hard to get to know, but underneath that crust is a man with a soft nature and a heart of gold. Besides, aren’t the fried onions kind of the best part of the casserole anyways?
Deviled eggs- Mr. Wickham (Pride and Prejudice)
I remember my Nana used to make deviled eggs every year for Thanksgiving. Perfectly hard-boiled, the insides scooped out and mixed with mayonnaise, mustard, and spices, then stuffed back in the egg whites and dusted with paprika. Mr. Wickham’s one tasty devil too– charming to a T, handsome, but just waiting to give you trouble, like those eggs that have been sitting out way too long on the buffet counter, breeding salmonella…
There’s a ton more, plus all the pictures! Go decide what your favorites are and let me know. 🙂
My kids have a great picture book called, “The Big Orange Splot” that I took this title from because it fits so well the intimacy that homes and houses represent in Jane Austen’s books.
There’s Lizzy running into Darcy at Pemberley, arguably the best scene in any of the movies!Mr. Knightley walking into Emma’s house at all hours (plus the pivotal scene of his reprimand happening at his estate). Captain Wentworth’s sister moving into Anne Elliot’s house. The symbolism of Barton cottage compared to Norland Park. Jane spending several days of sickness at Netherfield…
It’s only practical, of course, that many scenes would be set at one or other of the character’s homes, but there’s definitely a sense that a new level of intimacy occurs when the love interest visits (or lives!) in their significant other’s home. This is particularly true with the more reserved characters. Bingley is friendly and gregarious, so we tend to feel that he and Jane would have been totally fine without that house visit. With Darcy, on the other hand, Lizzy starts to feel that she’s violating his privacy before they even get to Pemberley! Anne Elliot, as well, is quiet and introverted, and the knowledge that Frederick will be walking around her house is enough to make her (and my) heart flutter. Then there’s poor Fanny Price, essentially homeless as she fits neither with her uncle nor with her family, who ends up with only a single, cold room to call her own, which she eventually fills with her books and plants and personality. It’s the room where she feels safe, and of course, only Edmund is a welcome visitor, which makes it all the more painful when she must listen to him praise another woman there.
And beyond personal identity, there is also the fact that being in someone’s home creates uncomfortable intimacy. That’s the tension us romance readers crave, amirite? It’s the basis for so many romance tropes like arranged marriage or the governess angle. Leaving Jane Austen for a sec and moving to the Brontes, I don’t think any book did it better than Jane Eyre. No matter what you think of the romance, the fact that Jane can’t easily avoid Rochester forces her to face what she feels for him. Over and over.
Some people just call this angst, but I confess I can’t get enough of it in the romance books I read. I want to feel the heart of the character’s emotional dilemma, and nothing does that like being unable to escape their S.O.’s presence or the intimacy of having them in their home.
In that vein, here’s a short excerpt from the second of my Austen Ensemble series, A True Likeness. In this book, in the interest of using the “forced to live with your crush” trope, I made Georgiana’s love interest a portraitist, hired by Darcy and Bingley to paint Lizzy and Jane before the wedding.
Georgiana felt restless with her brother gone, and when she felt restless, she played the piano. This pianoforte, in Miss Bingley’s style, was noticeably fashionable. The wooden panels were decorated in the Chinese style, with strange shapes and patterns. The edges of the panels were lined with black, glossy wooden trim. The tone of the instrument was… well enough. Nothing to scoff at, but still not to compare with the sound of her pianoforte at Pemberley. That one was of plain blonde wood, well-crafted and perfectly toned, but nothing extraordinary to look at.
Mrs. Annesley slipped in with some white work in her hands and settled down across the room near the window.She played several scales and arpeggios, mindful that she had not truly practiced in many days. Eventually however, she let her hands go to her favorite pieces.
Georgiana didn’t immediately notice when another figure paused outside the door, not until he shifted. Then she saw Mr. Turner leaning against the door frame, listening.
She smiled a little and somehow, when one song led to another, found herself naturally playing her favorite pieces, even the romantic sonata she had played for Wickham.
As the notes fell like raindrops from the instrument, Georgiana felt that two paths were opening up before her. There was Mrs. Annesley, who represented everything peaceful and proper in her life: a woman Georgiana genuinely loved. Then there was Mr. Turner. He represented something else, something exciting, challenging, and profound.
Mrs. Annesley could not see him from where she sat, nor could Mr. Turner see her companion. Georgiana was balanced between the two. He did not enter the room but continued to lean against the threshold with his eyes shut, enjoying the music.
She loved his square face and smudged hands and broad shoulders. She loved his intense beliefs, his self-control, and his gentleness. She loved his art and skill and humility. She loved him.Georgiana loved him in that moment, but she knew she could not choose him. Her future, like every young lady, was not her own to give away. But her heart was hers, and she could acknowledge what she felt for Mr. Turner. For John. Because she was in love with him.
She would not fancy herself a tragic character—many women loved when there was no hope of marriage, or like her cousin Anne, chose to marry without love—but she was quietly glad to acknowledge it was real. It was far more real than the giddy infatuation Wickham had encouraged in her. Perhaps someday she would feel something like this for another man, and she would know it was worth pursuing…
Thanks for reading!
“My house is me and I am it. My house is where I like to be and it looks like all my dreams.” – “The Big Orange Splot” by Daniel Pinkwater
This whole series was great fun, but it was my first foray into Regency fiction and for a lover of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, that was intimidating! The process of writing this last one was particularly interesting, landing squarely in the COVID-19 lockdowns.
If you happen to read this while the whole world is still holding its breath over this pandemic—well, hang in there. (Also, I have more books, hint, hint. There are several modern retellings and some sci-fi as well, if you need to really remove your mind from current affairs and coronavirus.) If you’re reading this after the pandemic, well, praise the Lord it’s over!
As an introvert, the isolation isn’t getting to me yet (plus I have four kids, that helps), but I have noticed that this story has more multi-character conversations than usual! Often I try to limit dialogue to two or three people, for the sake of clarity, but in this story, I just couldn’t do it. I would say to myself, “Alright, it’s just Anne and James bonding… but Barney’s there! And Martha! Probably the housekeeper! Everybody’s there.
It’s finally out there! My Pride and Prejudice retelling is complete and available in ebook or paperback on amazon.com.
Phew, it always takes me a couple months to come off the high of finishing something. In the meantime, here is the description:
During the tumultuous 2016 presidential election, three Latina sisters navigate life and love in Southern California.
Elisa Benitez is happy to help her family clean cabins for the summer, but when her older sister falls hard for one of their rich guests, Elisa expects heartbreak. Her sister is a Dreamer, an undocumented immigrant, and he’s an elected state representative.
Even worse is his infuriating friend Darcy! He’s arrogant, rude, and based on a comment Elisa overheard, probably racist. He’s one of those guys who get by on money and looks, and she wouldn’t mind poking a hole in his self-image.
Darcy certainly didn’t intend to fall for a beautiful, well-spoken Latina on his short vacation to the mountains. Elisa would sooner turn off his hot-water heater than agree with him about anything. Why is debating with her more fun than agreeing with anyone else?
But when Elisa’s little sister runs away, and her parents are scared to go to the police, Darcy realizes just how serious she was. And how serious his own feelings have become.
Pride and Prejudice and Passports is a modern variation on Pride and Prejudice with heart and humor, a wholesome romance that brings Darcy and Elizabeth to life all over again.