Which Book is this New Book?

With my frequent posts about typing “The End,” readers can be forgiven for wondering which book is coming out first. Because the novellas for my Regency romance series are around 40k words each, I’ve finished writing three books over the last year. The one that’s slated to be available for pre-order from Meryton Press on May 2 is the Austenesque The Barrister’s Bride.

The Barrister’s Bride was written when I was having trouble writing the middle book of the Regency romance series (the trilogy might have four books, so I’ve started to call it a series). I often find that if my muse doesn’t work, writing something else, even if it’s a short story, will help get me started again. The jump-start on the muse worked. I finished the middle novella and wrote the third within the last year, after writing the much longer The Barrister’s Bride.

I suppose you’re curious about all these books. Since The Barrister’s Bride is the book coming out first, it’s the one featured in today’s post.

The barrister in question is Fitzwilliam Darcy, a second son. His older brother, George, is a bad boy. In fact, the two Georges—Darcy and Wickham—are fast friends who are up to no good in this 120k word novel. We wish they would keep to the sidelines, but like a pair of bad pennies, they keep turning up. In the meantime, Fitz, as he is called, has met and become friends with Elizabeth Bennet, whose father passed away six months ago. Fitz and Elizabeth have something in common: they both have had marriages arranged for them, sight unseen, that will take place upon the lady’s majority. Although Fitz has known this for some time and has become accustomed to his fate, Elizabeth only recently discovered about her situation and is not certain what to make of her father’s decision to take away her chance at marrying for love. Of course, that’s the basis of the conflict within the story, and much more happens to liven up the book and make it a real page-turner.

Meryton Press marketer, Janet Taylor; my editor, Leigh Stewart; my British beta, Anji; and Mr. Suze all agree: The Barrister’s Bride is my best book yet. I’m quite honoured by their view since readers seem to think others of my back list are pretty darn good reading, given the positive comments I’m honoured to receive all the time. I do hope you get your copy soon and enjoy devouring the fresh new story on release day, May 9.

If you’d like your paperback of The Barrister’s Bride personally signed, there are two great ways to do so: win the one that I’ll be offering, along with some unique items, as part of the author’s prize (international) for the blog tour (May 9-16), or come to the JASNA AGM in beautiful Victoria, BC September 30-October 2, 2022 to get one signed. The theme for the AGM is Sense and Sensibility in the City of Gardens, and you can meet me there while I’m selling and signing all my books. Either choice sounds like tons of fun!

Here is a short excerpt from The Barrister’s Bride:

“Fitz!”

He jolted at his name spoken in a loud tone near his shoulder and turned to a laughing Bingley.

“Forgive me, but I have said your name three times without a response.” Bingley tilted his head in the direction of his fascination. “Are you acquainted with the lady?”

He nodded and cleared his throat so he could speak without mortification. “Yes, she is Miss Elizabeth Bennet. We collided with one another whilst she searched for her sister in Hatchards, and her uncle, a Mr. Gardiner, introduced us. Gardiner is a congenial fellow who has no estate but supports himself in textiles if memory serves me correctly.” He had been impressed with all of them, but especially Miss Elizabeth. She was now his goddess.

“The ladies’ father died last Easter. His estate, Longbourn, near Meryton, was entailed to a distant cousin. A pity, and my heart broke for the ladies.” Bingley nodded, his mouth more severe than usual. Both men had lost their parents. They knew well the enormous grief associated with the death of a close family member. “At the time we met, I had no idea your leased estate was so close to this small market town, else I may have made mention of that point during the polite discussion that followed our introduction.” That information would not usually have been missed by a man such as Fitz (as his friends called him). He possessed a mind that captured details and never forgot them—not a one.

The intelligent glow within Miss Elizabeth’s eyes when she gazed into his was one of those fine points. She was blessed with a strong will and astute mind behind that uncommon yet pretty face. As soon as he became aware that Bingley’s estate was near Meryton, Fitz’s thoughts were consumed with whether he would have the opportunity to meet her again—and tonight was his chance. Now, how was he to go about approaching her? A reserved sort, he had never been as socially oriented as his older brother, George. Some might have even called him shy. His diffident nature never mattered to him in the past. He had always been sought out for friendship for no other reason than he was a Darcy, a name that was important amongst polite society. He was fortunate to have come to his age of seven and twenty years without becoming too prideful. Vanity had not escaped George’s personality. Fitz scoffed in his head. His brother was an example of most of the older brothers in England—filled with a sense of importance they justified by their position of power and wealth. George would use that confidence to march right over to Miss Elizabeth and request a set. He would not stare at her from across the ballroom, debating his next step; but like a dunderhead, Fitz continued to do just that as he mulled over stupid thoughts of his scoundrel older brother. Why was bravado not a quality he possessed? His lack of assertiveness compared to others seemed unfair. He would not need much. A drop would do.

The corners of Miss Elizabeth’s full lips rose as he bowed his head to her across the haze-filled room, and she returned a nod of her own. She moved across the assembly rooms as if intending to cross to greet him, yet at the last moment, she spun on her heel and took a different direction towards a group of ladies. An ache emerged inside him as if a favourite toy had been denied.

~~~

Watch for the cover reveal later this week on Meryton Press! In the meantime, the featured image is one that was not used for the cover. The Barrister’s Bride will initially be available in ebook, KU, and paperback. Audiobook will be coming soon after the release.

Busy People

If there’s one thing that’s a constant in this world, it’s that you can expect that busy people are eventually productive people.

So what can I hold as evidence? I managed a lot of completions since my last blog post, including:

  • A three week trip to England during which I sought out many Jane Austen locations (lifetime and film) among other tourist destinations, plus met JAFFers Mίra Magdó and Lizzie Sargent, and saw Pride and Prejudice with author Leslie L. Diamond at the only operating Regency theatre left in England (the Royal Theatre in Bury St. Edmunds)—that should have been a blog post in itself;
  • Writing a JAFF novella (working title The Fitzwilliam Intervention);
  • New writing on Book One: An Accomplished Woman of my non-JAFF Regency trilogy (the Lady Hoxley, Matchmaker Trilogy);
  • Collaborating with narrator Neil MacFarlane on the recently released audiobook for my novel The Mist of Her Memory.

During the start of the current pandemic, I was still in my home in Mexico, which at the time seemed to be the safer place to be. In the midst of the expat travel panic in late March, I contracted viral pneumonia, which was also a COVID-19 scare. This meant I was in isolation in a nice private hospital in Mexico at the cost of an excellent insurance company then rushed home on a private jet since the commercial companies wouldn’t take someone with my cough. For the record, I was tested as COVID-19 negative, as well as negative for Influenza A and B and Dengue.

I’m now recovering, though my lung capacity won’t let me exercise like I used to, but that will be overcome in time. Being a COVID-19 vulnerable person, I must be more careful than most, so I remain isolated in my home, with only walks in a mask to get out of the condo. I don’t mind, as it’s a lovely loft apartment with huge windows and views to make you jealous, and includes two cats who like to cuddle up to me while I’m on the laptop on the sofa. I can read and write and edit like before, and I’m enjoying it as well. I’m busy enough that I have to say “no” to special projects, and all that’s on top of a happy and balanced real life!

I’ll let the pictures show the excitement from my trip! Click on the thumbnails for a larger picture.

New Release and a Book Sale

A week ago, the culmination of almost two years’ efforts gained fruition. But let’s backtrack. I finished writing my latest novel a year ago, including extensive self-editing, as you would expect from me. After beta edits were completed (thanks to Nina, Leslie, and Anji!) and a title was agreed upon with my beta team, acceptance of The Mist of Her Memory by Meryton Press took place merely a week after submission. I knew the romantic suspense/mystery novel was a compelling story from that response.

Twice weekly posting at A Happy Assembly last autumn and the timing of commencement of editing with Sarah Pesce and Ellen Pickels and cover design by Janet Taylor meant an early 2019 release date. In fact, The Mist of her Memory was released a week ago–five days ahead of the planned date! Yes, darling Amazon decided I didn’t need a promotional lead-up to release, thumbing its nose at my scheduled cover reveal at Diary of an Eccentric and the pre-release marketing and sales plan by Janet Taylor of Meryton Press.

While it meant me finally twiddling my thumbs after months of preparation, the early release got the book into the hands of readers sooner. Reviews started to come in within two days of the e-book’s appearance on Amazon. I hadn’t realized it was such a fast read–it must be enthralling for such quick responses.

Of course, I’d been through all this before three times, but with fewer glitches by the monopolistic distribution channel. Thank goodness for Ellen Pickels at Meryton Press, who ironed out the list of problems on the book’s page for me!

To celebrate the release of The Mist of Her Memory, Meryton Press is holding a sale on my back-list: that’s the three books of mine they’ve published in the past. Alias Thomas Bennet, my debut novel that’s a mature Regency romance with a mystery twist, is on sale now. Bestseller Letter from Ramsgate will follow tomorrow with a three-day sale. Finally, triple top-ten of 2017 listed mini-novel A Most Handsome Gentleman will also be on sale for three days. All are already well-priced given the quality of Meryton Press‘s books, but they’ll be 99 and £99 in an Amazon Countdown Deal for US and UK customers. I hope appreciative customers will feed the author’s ego with some kind commentaries in the form of new reviews after they snag these great deals!

Watch for more of Janet B. Taylor’s teasers and the blog tour announcements on my Facebook page!

~~~

What happened that fateful morning in Lambton?

What brutal attacker caused grievous, near-fatal injuries?

Does she remain in danger? Elizabeth cannot remember!

Sequestered in her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner’s London home, Elizabeth Bennet tries to recover from a devastating incident that stole her memories during their Derbyshire tour. She continues to suffer from strange, angry voices in her head and to recall events that people tell her never happened. Even those who love her refuse to believe her. Elizabeth can barely endure the confusion!

Fitzwilliam Darcy is desperate for any hint of his beloved’s well-being, yet he lacks the information he seeks as her family forbids him contact with Elizabeth. His frustration mounts when he learns that her mental impairment incited taunting and torment in her home village of Meryton.

Which of Elizabeth’s recollections bear the closest resemblance to the truth? And what is the result of her sister Lydia’s elopement with Mr. Wickham? How is Mr. Darcy to rekindle his romance with Elizabeth when her aunt and uncle strictly shield her from him?

Prepare to grip the edge of your seat during this original romantic tale of suspense and mystery, another Pride and Prejudice variation by bestselling author Suzan Lauder.

“Suzan Lauder skillfully weaves a story that submerges you into the plot and doesn’t let go. The Mist of Her Memory’s twists and turns hold a well-guarded secret that keeps you guessing until the very end.” — author L. L. Diamond

“Dancing with Jane Austen” by Suzan Lauder

When a course comes up at your local university promising to teach about dancing in Jane Austen’s novels as well as practice a bit of actual Regency period dancing, what does a Janeite do but jump at the chance? And that’s exactly how I spent my Saturday mornings for four weeks this autumn!

“Dancing with Jane Austen” was offered by the Continuing Education Division of the University of Victoria, fondly known locally as UVic. The teachers were JASNA life member Charlotte Hale and JASNA member and local dance teacher and caller Rosemary Lach, who called the balls at the Port Alberni Jane Austen Festivals I attended in the past. The dozen participants were all Jane Austen lovers and very motivated to learn more.

Someone forgot his gloves!

To start the program, Charlotte Hale provided an entertaining presentation on one or more of the novels each class, as well as touching on topics such as history, etiquette, apparel, conversation, and conventions of the Regency, and especially, the dance scenes in Austen’s six novels. For example, we learned to bow and curtsey, learned that a deep bow was only for Mr. Collins and his ilk. We discovered that one of the pet peeves of the presenters was the lack of gloves on the actors in the TV and movie adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels. It was improper for either of “the sexes” to be without gloves at a ball. As a Regency no-no on an adaptation ball, in my opinion the lack of gloves is now second only to a confused costuming nightmare in a more recent movie.

One of the highlights of the presentations was the synopsis of the book. Charlotte cleverly wrote her own summary that shortened each novel to a few minutes, then created a story using stick people with hairdos to differentiate them. Each character got a one-word characterization plopped on the top of their head on the screen, and occasional captions enhanced the entertainment. An example from Persuasion can be seen below. Participants all agreed that this was a favourite part of the presentation, which also included numerous period art pieces and photos of the actors from the various adaptations to help spell out the dance scenes and their influence on plot and characterization, as well as some video clips of the dance scenes and the men (and sometimes women) with no gloves. Can you tell I like that part of the etiquette?After Charlotte completed our PowerPoint presentation, dance instructor Rosemary Lach led the experiential part of the class. This was where, sadly, I did not shine. I’m quite uncoordinated as well as easily distracted, in addition to having a problematic shoulder. During one class I was suffering from a balance problem that day so I had to sit out the Cotillion (Allemande) with the ladies who had physical issues that prevented them from dancing. But it was fun to watch and make notes to use in future story writing!Because Rosemary called out the moves for our Regency era English country dances, it was fairly easy for most participants to learn them. We learned to smile at our partner instead of watching the floor since, in the Regency, a ball was an opportunity to check out possible marriage matches. There was skipping, slipping, three-steps, circles, squares, lines, and chains. We learned that a waltz in the Regency was a country dance to a ¾ beat, and we practised the “Duke of Kent” waltz.

Back row left: Charlotte Hale. Front row, second from left: Rosemary Lach. Front row, right: Suzan Lauder.

During the last class, we were encouraged to dress in Regency costume, and oh, how pretty and handsome my classmates and I were. I chose my lilac ball gown with my best “Grown-Up Lady” lace cap (some chose morning gowns since the session was from 10am to 1pm) and many rented their outfits from a local theatre. I brought spare gloves for others who may have forgotten, and one of my wallflower friends borrowed a pair to go with her fabulous vintage shawl. Once we finished the presentation portion of the class, we were treated to Rosemary and Charlotte showing us the fancy footwork and forms for the minuet prior to our guests arriving for the ball and tea, and a group of eight practised the Cotillion to show our guests.

At noon, we were joined by some costumed family members of the class as well as some people who seemed to know the dances already, so the dance line was quite long. We were also treated to live musicians for the dances! I sat out all but the first (La Boulanger, in which my partner was a lady handsomely dressed as a gentleman!) because of all my afflictions and so I could take the photos you see in this blog post. I’m a cross between Mr. Collins (when I dance) and Mrs. Bates (when I sit out). The tea and treats afterwards were my kind of party.

I do hope the presenters offer this again to a new group of Janeites. All the participants had a fine time and enhanced their own knowledge admirably.

~~~

In other news: Those readers who enjoyed The Mist of Her Memory as it posted at JAFF super-website A Happy Assembly will be excited to learn that it will be published in early 2019 by Meryton Press! For those less familiar, it’s a Romantic Suspense novel with a strong mystery element, based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The novel will be suitable for all who have read Pride and Prejudice.

Review: Persuasion by the Chicago Chamber Opera Tour Company

I was fortunate to attend a performance of the musical adaptation of “Jane Austen’s Persuasion: A Musical Drama” by Barbara Landis on July 6, 2018 as part of the Port Alberni Jane Austen Festival. It was a brilliant performance highlighted by 49 musical pieces from music of Jane Austen’s time to Irish folk tunes to classic opera, much of which is enhanced by lyrics and arrangements by Landis, who also took the lead roles in the play. Landis is certainly a flexible force behind this production, taking on the role of playwright in this variation of Jane Austen’s shortest novel as a tribute to the 200th anniversary of its publication. In discussion with some of the cast later on, I found out that she also takes a lead financial role and is a sort of mother to the very large cast and team involved in the performance, which has toured the world since 2013. To top off her ties to this situation is the fact that she’s a distant relative of Jane Austen. I’m sure that was as much of an impetus to do this show as any other reason.

Persuasion is clearly a strong romance, with the obligatory angst keeping the protagonists apart until the key moment when they both understand that the other’s love has withstood all the trials it has been forced to bear. Finally, the couple comes together, eliciting tears from the romantics in the audience.

A notable performance of the evening came from the perfectly austere, then flirtatious, then romantic–with perfect timing on those characteristics–Jeff Diebold as Captain Wentworth, who was wonderfully tall and handsome in his captain’s uniform. Comedic turns by several of the cast members were additional highlights, most notably by John B. Boss as a flamboyant Sir Walter Elliott, and Gretchen Mink Hansen, who could have walked off a Rowlandson cartoon, thanks to the costuming and her body language! I was especially impressed by the acting and singing of the dual roles of Anne Elliott and Jane Austen by Barbara Landis. Though Landis is significantly older than Anne is in Austen’s canon, the gifted and well-experienced soprano pulls off the multi-faceted role and character changes well. Her “bloom” comes back when she is in love, and she is the glue that holds the production together.

Nearly all the cast members were strong in voice and excellent actors. The odd time there was a mismatch with a stronger and weaker voice, however, at other times the duet was magical. With so many tunes to choose from, it’s impossible to pick out highlights. Landis did a marvelous job of timing and matching the music to create a seamless production with so many actors and songs.

Many in the audience were particularly enthralled by the two professional Irish dancers, but for me, the cameos that were most enjoyable were the choral music and classical opera, but that’s purely because I love those types of music. This brings up an interesting point about the production: it’s got something for everyone, yet no one style was so overdone that those who weren’t big fans could be tired of it.

Costuming was a delight to the eyes despite some Victorian-looking hair styles, black neck ties instead of white Regency cravats, and a dearth of top hats. The lovely gowns and handsome tail coats were evident again the following day when the cast joined the festival-goers to try to break the Guinness World Record for people in Regency costume in one location–and came up only 60 short. I loved some of the details of the ladies’ gowns and how the dresses changed for each scene and the level of circumstance of each character. Similar details were given to the men, from the naval uniforms to the elaborate lace cuffs of Sir Walter.

Chamber Opera Tours can be proud of this long-standing production, which heads off to the Jane Austen Festival in Bath in the autumn. Barbara Landis’s adaptation of Persuasion was perfect Austen, wonderful Regency, and a melange of music proven to please all preferences. Brava!

Disclaimer: I’m no theatre critic, I’m just a person who loves opera, Regency costuming, and Jane Austen who happened to enjoy this show a great deal, as Austen would say.

~~~

For those of you who have followed the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment, I made a gown from a Value Village bed sheet at $7.99 and a ton of chenille and lace from Parasina in Mexico at about $5 and tried to match it to a Regency fashion plate for the Port Alberni Jane Austen Festival this year. What do you think? I wore Joe Fresh earrings at $3 and a Jane Austen topaz necklace that was a gift. I also had some ballet flats from Coppel in Mexico on sale at $49–yeah, expensive for me, but super comfortable for a whole day of activities, including the signing and selling of my Jane Austen Fan Fiction novels! As expected, A Most Handsome Gentleman was the most popular, given that many festival-goers had already bought and read the back-list. I got lots of encouraging comments from those fans!

I hope organizer Trisha Knight and the Centennial Belles will continue this festival for a fourth year next year so we can beat our record of 349 people in Regency costume in one place. It sure was fun! Think about adding this wonderful destination to you holiday plans for next year. I can loan a few costumes! Perhaps Chamber Opera Tours will be back with another fantastic production!

 

Coming JAFF Attraction: The Mist of her Memory by Suzan Lauder

Members of the online Austenesque reading site A Happy Assembly will enjoy a sneak peek at my latest story, The Mist of her Memory, a Regency romantic suspense/mystery. If you’re not already a member, you should seriously consider joining this excellent Jane Austen Fan Fiction site with over 2000 stories, some of which are better than most published works. It’s the largest JAFF only site on the Internet with nearly 10,000 members. Registration is easy and intended to keep the site membership to the 18+ age group since a few of the stories are mature rated (they are marked MA for those who wish to avoid them). The personal information requirement is minimal and kept personal, there are no ads, and best of all, it’s free. The site isn’t limited to stories–there are also excellent Regency resources and discussion groups included.

The Mist of her Memory is a Regency romantic suspense with a strong mystery element. It will appeal to all JAFF lovers as well as mystery/suspense lovers who’ve read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Update July 24, 2018: Now Posting Sundays and Fridays at this link!