Monday, 14 February 2011

A Jane Austen Valentine by Abigail Reynolds + Giveaway

Banner made by Beth from Maybe Tomorrow?
Happy Valentine's Day Everyone!

If we are talking about love, Jane Austen must be absolutely mentioned. Why? Because she has introduced girls and women for more than 200 years to romantic fiction! How many of us have discovered romance through Pride and Prejudice and Mr.Darcy's and Lizzie's love? So it went without saying that today on the day celebrating love, Jane Austen had to be praised. And who could do that better than a romance author who writes Jane Austen variations? I would like to introduce you to Abigail Reynolds, whose wonderful Pride and Prejudice variations will keep you agreeably entertained for many hours. 

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A Jane Austen Valentine
by Abigail Reynolds

Congratulations on your first Blogoversary, Stella!

Pride and Prejudice (Restored Edition)Whether or not you like romantic fiction, there are two undeniable facts about it. First, it’s by far the bestselling genre of books today. Second, it’s all Jane Austen’s fault. Pride and Prejudice remains the quintessential romance. Its winning formula has been repeated in countless romances: a dark, brooding wealthy hero and a poor but spirited and intelligent heroine who have to overcome roadblocks from family and society in order to achieve their happy ending. Impressively, Austen manages this without describing fervent kisses, heated touches, scorching sensations, and all the other staples of modern romance.

Some people deny that Austen wrote romance. My answer to this is Captain Wentworth’s letter to Anne Elliot in Persuasion. Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I’m going to quote it in its entirety, since it’s the most powerful piece of romantic writing I know. Prepare to melt!

I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in

F. W.

I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's house this evening or never.


Can anyone doubt that this letter is the work of a woman who knew the power of romance? Yet as an unmarried female writer in Regency England, Jane Austen wasn’t allowed to describe touches, kisses, or passionate feelings. But she’s a tricky one, our Jane. She used code. Regency readers knew perfectly well what she was talking about when she said, “[Darcy] expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do.” Not until later in the paragraph does Darcy begin to tell Elizabeth of his feelings. So if he wasn’t talking at the beginning of the paragraph, we’ll just have to guess how he expressed himself. Pretty neat trick, for a writer who couldn’t use the words lips, mouth, kiss, or touch!

Mr. Darcy's Obsession (Pride & Prejudice Continues)I’m lucky. As a modern writer, I can describe anything I want. I have the best of both worlds because I write Pride and Prejudice variations, so I can write more about Jane Austen’s characters without the limitations she faced. A variation, for those of you unfamiliar with this very new subgenre, takes a classic story and alters one element of it, then tells what might have happened instead. In my latest book, Mr. Darcy’s Obsession, Mr. Bennet dies before Darcy has a chance to propose to Elizabeth, causing her social status to drop still further. Here’s an example from it - a very clean one – of something Jane Austen wouldn’t have been allowed to write. Darcy has just encountered Elizabeth in a park unexpectedly, and she isn’t wearing gloves because she ran out of the house after an argument with her sister. He holds out his arm to her.

She hesitated for a moment, then with a certain air of decision, she wrapped her hand inside his elbow. He was astonished to see she was not wearing gloves. Astonished and delighted, since it meant he could feel her touch more through the layers of fabric, and he could hold her unprotected flesh against him. He had always loved to watch her hands, her tapering fingers always in motion, never still as other women’s so often were, but he rarely had opportunities to see them freely, unhidden by her gloves. And as pretty as her kidskin gloves were – he could still see the pattern of embroidery on them, as he remembered so many details about her – they could not compare to the true beauty of her hands. He had seen them only when she played the pianoforte and when she removed her gloves to partake of refreshments, but he had studied them on those brief occasions, admiring the smooth curves of her skin, marked only by a tiny, crescent-shaped scar on the back of her forefinger. He had wondered, even back at Netherfield, what had caused that scar. Now he could see her hand closer than ever before, and he was flooded with a desire to kiss that small bit of puckered skin that only highlighted the perfection that was Elizabeth. But his sense of propriety won out; that, and a fear of frightening her away. A moment too late he realized he should not be staring.


Happy Valentine’s Day! May you all find your perfect Darcy or Elizabeth.

Abigail Reynolds is a lifelong Jane Austen enthusiast and a physician. In addition to writing, she has a part-time private practice and enjoys spending time with her family. Originally from upstate New York, she studied Russian, theater, and marine biology before deciding to attend medical school. She began writing Pride and Prejudice variations in 2001 to spend more time with her very favorite characters. Encouragement from fellow Austen fans convinced her to continue asking ‘What if…?’, which led to five other Pemberley Variations and her modern novel, The Man Who Loved Pride and Prejudice. She is currently at work on another Pemberley Variation and sequels to The Man Who Loved Pride and Prejudice. She is a lifetime member of JASNA and lives in Wisconsin with her husband, two teenaged children, and a menagerie of pets.

You can reach Abigail at her website: Pemberley Variations.


To Conquer Mr. Darcy  What Would Mr. Darcy Do? (Pride & Prejudice Continues)  Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World (Pride & Prejudice Continues) 

From Lambton to Longbourn: A Pride & Prejudice Variation  Without Reserve: A Pride & Prejudice Variation  Impulse & Initiative: What if Mr. Darcy had set out to win Elizabeth's heart? (Pride & Prejudice Variation)


The Man Who Loved Pride and Prejudice: A modern love story with a Jane Austen twist  Pemberley by the Sea: A modern love story, Pride and Prejudice style


Mr. Darcy's Obsession (Pride & Prejudice Continues)The more he tries to stay away from her, the more his obsession grows…

What if…
Elizabeth Bennet was more unsuitable for Mr. Darcy than ever…

Mr. Darcy is determined to find a more suitable bride. But then he learns that Elizabeth is living in London in reduced circumstances, after her father’s death robs her of her family home…

What if…
Mr. Darcy can’t help himself from seeking her out…

He just wants to make sure she’s alright. But once he’s seen her, he feels compelled to talk to her, and from there he’s unable to fight the overwhelming desire to be near her, or the ever-growing mutual attraction that is between them…

What if…
Mr. Darcy’s intentions were shockingly dishonorable…

GIVEAWAY RULES:

Thanks to Abigail's and Sourcebooks' generosity, a lucky commentator will win a copy of Mr. Darcy's Obsession.

Mr. Darcy's Obsession (Pride & Prejudice Continues)

To be entered all you have to do is:

1. fill out the main form so I have your contact info (just once, if you have already filled it out for a previous giveaway that's enough)

2. Leave a comment/question to Abigail. If you've read Jane Austen, which of her novels or characters are your favourite?

Giveaway is open to US/Canadian residents and ends on Friday 4 March 2011.

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