Thursday, September 26, 2013

Interview: Joana Starnes talks about From This Day Forward +Giveaway!!

Please join me in welcoming Joana Starnes to Leatherbound Reviews! We are so excited to have Joana here, talking about her latest release, From This Day Forward! Stick around after the interview because there is a giveaway! =)

Welcome, Joana! It's so nice having you here! Let's begin! 
What was your favorite part about writing a sequel to Pride and Prejudice?

First of all, thank you, Jakki, for this opportunity to talk about my first book and introduce my second – and Ceri, for the amazing review! You’re both very, very kind!

I think that, for me, the main attraction of writing a ‘Pride and Prejudice’ sequel was to imagine what might have happened to Jane Austen’s best-loved characters, and how their relationship could have evolved, after their marriage. To see them as real people, and find out how they might have lived, what they might have done, what sort of real-life events might have affected them.

Over the years, I have dragged my partially willing family to the locations of the most recent adaptations, and it was a joy to imagine Mr. Darcy riding over the surrounding fields, strolling with Elizabeth through the gardens or listening out for the patter of little Darcy feet!

I was particularly fascinated by Pemberley, and by how Elizabeth might have grown, from a pert young miss who loves reading and long country walks, into a strong woman, in charge of a family and a large estate. I never doubted she would be successful – Elizabeth can do anything! – but I especially enjoyed exploring the culture shock she might have experienced when she moved from quiet Longbourn to a lifestyle so radically different. From a small, restricted circle to the whirl of London. From the mindset of the young bride, rather confused by the avalanche of new duties and new acquaintance, to that of a confident woman who can run an imposing household, help Georgiana overcome her past, and generally become the mainstay of Darcy’s life, in every way.

Who was your favorite character to write? Why?

I loved writing about our favourite couple, of course – but it was always with a sense of awe. They are an institution, after all; an international treasure! Writing about Mr. Darcy is a joy and a delight, but in so many ways he is so intimidating! He is too well loved, too perfect despite his imperfections, so the pressure to do him justice can be more than a little daunting! As for Elizabeth, she is Jane Austen’s most sparkling creation, and that sets the bar sky-high!

Thus, while I loved creating my own version of them, I felt more relaxed while writing about other characters. Mrs. Bennet for one. There’s great fun in letting Mrs. B’s tongue run loose, and you can always trust her to advance the plot by disclosing some personal detail that the more decorous characters would never dream of bringing up!

My other great favourite was Colonel Fitzwilliam. He has been cast in many different roles over the years, and he did justice to them all. For my part, I chose to go with the one of ‘eminently worthy man doomed to unrequited love’. It’s probably hackneyed, but I find there’s something particularly appealing in the bitter-sweetness of it!

What did you find most challenging in writing a sequel?

I think the greatest challenge was to keep the characters true to their 18th century origins, in the context of a modern readership. Years ago, when Pamela Aidan started publishing her novels, her avid readers (myself included) seemed very keen on context and historical detail. I can’t quite figure out whether the same still applies to the majority of us, several years on.

For my part, I adored learning about Jane Austen’s world, which her characters would have inhabited. Still, it was a challenging line to tread between staying faithful to Jane Austen language and phrase construction vs. what modern readers would expect; between spinning a yarn that would appeal, by modern standards, while not making her characters act too ‘21st century’.

I was rather reluctant to go where Jane Austen wouldn’t have gone, especially when it came to exploring the resolution of one particular tricky stage in the Darcys’ relationship – and thus resorted to the device of seeing them from the perspective of outsiders cautiously looking in. Upon reflection, I should have been more willing to bite the bullet and probe further, as clearly some of my readers would have wanted me to do that. If I ever revisited ‘From This Day Forward’, this is something I would change.

What is your favorite thing about writing?

The very best thing about writing, for me, was the chance to create my own Regency dream world – with the added advantage that, unlike our real-life contemporaries, its inhabitants do pretty much what they’re told! Having said that, the characters sometimes do surprise you, and decide to have a life of their own. For example, I’ve always intended a secondary character to win the day (and the hand of the woman he loved) but somehow, another character decided to take over and steal his thunder! The latter was incredibly insistent – so I simply had to let him go and do just that!

What would you tell those readers who might be on the fence about reading From This Day Forward?

Well, I could say, if travelling back in time appeals to you, if you’ve read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and you love Regency history and Jane Austen’s England, then have a look at Amazon to see what similarly-minded people had to say about my book (thank you so much, you lovely people, for taking the time and trouble to write in such detail, and with so much warmth and sentiment!). Then check it out for yourself – you might enjoy this take on the Darcys’ early years as a couple. The story follows them through the joys and tribulations of their time, in a context Jane Austen might have recognised, and their bond strengthens as they face family opposition, peril and heartbreak.

On the other hand, if you think it won’t do much for you to read about what battles Colonel Fitzwilliam might have been injured in, or what would have counted as juicy gossip in 1809 – and you’d rather have less context and more drama and a closer look at Elizabeth and Darcy doing the age-old ‘will they? – won’t they?’ dance, then check out my next book, ‘The Subsequent Proposal’. It will soon be available at Amazon and Smashwords. I hope you’ll like it. Either way, I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for dropping by! 

Connect with Joana Starnes
Read It Now!
Kindle | Nook

Joana Starnes has kindly offered up ONE (1) ebook copy of From This Day Forward for giveaway! Open internationally! To enter, comment on the interview. Feel free to ask Joana any questions. 
For extra entries, you may also do the following:
*Tweet the interview (comment you tweeted)
*Tweet the review (comment you tweeted)
*Share on Facebook
Giveaway ends Wednesday, October 2. 
Best of luck!! =)

Author Bio:
Joana Starnes lives in the South of England with her family.
A medical graduate, she had over the years developed an unrelated but enduring fascination with Georgian Britain in general and the works of Jane Austen in particular, as well as with the remarkable and flamboyant set of people who have given the Regency period its brilliance and glory.

For years, Joana has sought glimpses of Regency Britain in country houses, letters, diaries and old books - and has found tantalising snippets from a world Jane Austen and her characters would have recognised, with titbits of delicious gossip, long-held traditions, hints of fashion, echoes of events that would change history, as well as glances into the lost world of the English country house, in all its self-sufficient splendour.
 All this, Joana would like to share with her readers, in the hope that they would enjoy the journey back in time in search of Pemberley just as much as she did.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Red Chrysanthemum by Linda Beutler Blog Tour

I am pleased to announce Leatherbound Reviews is hosting their first blog tour! *Yippee!*

Sign-ups are currently taking place! If you would like to take part in the blog tour, please fill out the form below!

From the publisher: “Pride and Prejudice” and the language of flowers…
When Fitzwilliam Darcy leaves the inn in Lambton after a tense but fruitful visit with Elizabeth Bennet, her words cultivate his hopes. “Less naturally amiable tempers than Mr. Bingley’s have found ways to forgive you.” Has she excused his flaws of character and errors in judgement? While dining at Pemberley, Elizabeth is confounded when Darcy says of her scent, “Now I find I am more fond of lavender than ever… certainly even more fond of it than I was in, say, April.” Has he pardoned her intemperate assault on his pride?

As her esteem blossoms into love and his desire flourishes into devotion, the meanings of every leaf and petal allow Elizabeth and Darcy to express emotions too vulnerable to speak aloud. But can messages in fronds and leaflets save their fragile hearts when scandalous news arrives from Longbourn?

Perhaps flowers do not always say it best.

I am super excited about this blog tour! I think The Red Chrysanthemum sounds like a fresh take on a most loved classic. 

Sign-up deadline is Friday, October 25th!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Review: From This Day Forward by Joana Starnes + Giveaway!!

From the publisher:
On a crisp winter morning, in a small country church, Miss Elizabeth Bennet married Mr Darcy – and her quiet, tame existence had abruptly changed. The second daughter of a country gentleman is now many different things, to different people. Beloved wife. Mistress of a dauntingly great estate. Reluctant socialite. Daughter. Sister. Cousin. Friend. Her world is very different too, touched by a series of events that the creator of ‘Pride & Prejudice’ would have recognised. And as the days of her married life go by bringing both joy and turmoil, the man that stands beside her is her shelter and comfort in the face of family opposition, peril and heartbreak. 
Three very different Christmas seasons come to serve as landmarks to their lives and there are blissful days and times of sorrow at the old English country house. And before too long, a time would come when Darcy must decide if he is prepared to risk everything for the sake of a full life together - or succumb to the collection of his fears.

Although Elizabeth stated in Pride and Prejudice that since Darcy was a gentleman and she was a gentleman’s daughter they were equal, it wasn’t strictly accurate; they lived in very different worlds. Darcy’s estate was much larger than the Bennet’s, so even if Elizabeth was well-versed in the duties that she’d need to fulfil as mistress of a home, being the mistress of a grand estate may well have been daunting. Also, Elizabeth had very likely never navigated London’s fashionable circles, something she’d need to do successfully to ensure a good marriage for Georgiana as well as for any children that she and Darcy would have. I’ve often wondered whether she’d struggle, or if it would be plain sailing.

Joana Starne’s story picks up 9 days after Darcy and Elizabeth’s wedding.  When the story begins, we find a few obstacles that Elizabeth has already encountered; the housekeeper at the London townhouse is unwelcoming towards her, and Lady Catherine is not the only one of Darcy’s Fitzwilliam relatives that is opposed to his marriage to Elizabeth.  With the exception of Colonel Fitzwilliam, none of the Fitzwilliams are welcoming to Elizabeth.  If Elizabeth had come from the same social circle as Darcy, she would have been able to rely on the support of her own family, but of course, this isn’t the case as her parents don’t have the connections to be able to launch her into society. Luckily, some of Darcy’s more distant relations are more amenable and agree to assist.

The book follows the events of the Darcy household over the next few years.  Darcy and Elizabeth are a very loving couple (although, don’t worry if you don’t like sex scenes, there are none in this book).  We see them settle into their roles as husband and wife, and we see how much they come to rely on each other, particularly in the face of his family’s opposition.  Elizabeth breathes life that has been missing since the death of Lady Anne into the rather staid Darcy household.  The growing relationship between Elizabeth and Georgiana is lovely to see, and Elizabeth really helps Georgiana grow and find confidence in herself, something that is vital for Georgiana’s launch into society.  The book is as much about Georgiana and her blossoming into womanhood as it is about Elizabeth and Darcy. The family face a number of hurdles, some harder to overcome than others, and we will get the opportunity to see how well Mr and Mrs Darcy have overcome their old faults of hasty judgement and distain for the feelings of others.

Although I enjoyed the book from the outset, it took a good while to grip me.  It was fairly slow going at the beginning, and although issues were faced initially, they were pretty easily overcome, and I’d have liked a bit more tension in the first half of the story. The book has its share of angst, but it is concentrated, so it hits you even harder when it arrives.

Both Elizabeth and Darcy’s families appear in the book. I felt the depiction of the Bennet side of the family was generally faithful to Pride and Prejudice, aside from the Gardiner’s sons who were older than canon. In the world of Austenesque fiction, you often find Mrs Bennet drawn very harshly, but here I felt she was properly represented in all her embarrassing glory, and you couldn’t help wincing at some of her comments, but also sympathising with her when she succeeded in her life’s ambition of marrying off all her daughters and then felt bereft.  I’d have liked to have seen a bit more of Elizabeth’s sisters.  As for Darcy’s family, both Colonel Fitzwilliam and Lady Catherine are featured in this story, and we meet the more distant relatives who assist Lizzy’s launch to society.   The connection between Darcy and these relatives is described in a bit too much detail for me, I read the paragraph about 5 times before I had it straight in my mind, but distant cousin pretty much covers it!
One thing I particularly liked about this book was the humour, such as this gem showing Miss Bingley’s views of the Christmas entertainment at Pemberley:

‘“What game is that, pray?” Lady Mellor’s youngest piped up, understandably inexperienced in what passed for entertainment in Cheapside and the wilds of Hertfordshire.’

We see three Christmases in this book, the first two Christmases following Elizabeth and Mr Darcy’s wedding which form a stark contrast to each other, and the third Christmas celebration in the epilogue, 24 years down the line where we get the chance to catch up with the futures of many of the characters.   Personally, I love an epilogue, and the epilogue in this book I particularly enjoyed.

Review written by Leatherbound Reviews contributor Ceri Tanti. 

About Ceri:
I read ‘Sense and Sensibility’ back when I was a teenage bookworm.  I liked that book enough to move on to ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and I absolutely fell in love with it, completely captured by Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy’s story, and quickly moved on to read Austen’s other main novels.  Fast forward to Christmas 2011 and my husband got me a kindle for Christmas; when I looked on Amazon for my Jane Austen favourites I found that there was a whole world of Austen-inspired fiction that I never knew existed before.  Thank you Jakki, for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts on ‘From This Day Forward’ with you all.

Connect with Joana Starnes
Read It Now!
Kindle | Nook

Joana Starnes has kindly offered up ONE (1) ebook copy of From This Day Forward for giveaway! Open internationally! To enter, comment on the review.
For extra entries, you may also do the following:
*Tweet the review (comment you tweeted)
*Comment on my interview with Joana on Thursday
*Tweet the interview (comment you tweeted)
*Share on Facebook
Giveaway ends Wednesday, October 2. 
Best of luck!! =)