Thursday, December 11, 2014

Blog Tour: Jane Austen's First Love Excerpt + Giveaway!

Hello! Welcome to this stop on the blog tour for Syrie James' new book, Jane Austen's First Love. I have a lovely little excerpt to share with you, as well as a chance to win a prize pack full of goodies. Enjoy!

About the Book:

In the summer of 1791, fifteen-year-old Miss Jane Austen is determined to accomplish three things: to do something useful, write something worthy, and fall madly in love. While visiting at Goodnestone Park in Kent for a month of festivities in honor of her brother's engagement to Miss Elizabeth Bridges, Jane meets the boy-next-door—the wealthy, worldly, and devilishly handsome Edward Taylor, heir to Bifrons Park, and hopefully her heart! Like many of Jane’s future heroes and heroines, she soon realizes that there are obstacles—social, financial, and otherwise—blocking her path to love and marriage, one of them personified by her beautiful and sweet tempered rival, Charlotte Payler.
Unsure of her own budding romance, but confident in her powers of observation, Jane distracts herself by attempting to maneuver the affections of three other young couples. But when her well-intentioned matchmaking efforts turn into blundering misalliance, Jane must choose between following her own happily-ever-after, or repairing those relationships which, based on erroneous first impressions, she has misaligned.

Excerpt From Chapter the Sixth
Jane Austen’s First Love
By Syrie James
Jane Austen, bright and vivacious at age fifteen, is walking the grounds of Goodnestone Park in Kent, home of the Bridges family, where they are to enjoy a month of festivities in celebration of her brother Edward Austen’s engagement to Miss Elizabeth Bridges. Earlier that morning, Jane met a charming young man, Edward Taylor.

          “We are so glad to have this interval to speak to you on our own,” remarked Sophia, as we crossed the expanse of lawn towards the woods, “for soon the house will be full of people.”
          “We heard that your mother has a great many events planned,” said I. 
          “She does, indeed,” responded Marianne. “Monday is our annual strawberry-picking party, which will include an al-fresco luncheon and lawn games.”
          “After that,” added Elizabeth, “is our engagement ball. Edward is to wear his blue coat—he looks so handsome in it—and my new gown is so becoming!” 
          “There is to be a sketching and painting contest,” said Sophia, “a cricket match, horse-races, carriage rides, a dinner-party at a neighbour’s house, a concert, and a Midsummer’s Eve bonfire.”
          To have all these thrilling events before me, was a truly wonderful prospect. “It all sounds tremendous.”
          “I only hope that in between, we can find a moment to ourselves,” said Sophia. “You must tell us what you particularly like to do. What are your interests and occupations, Jane?”
          I thought for a moment. I had many interests; it was hard to know where to begin. “Well,” answered I hesitantly, “although I know that some consider it to be the lowest and most coarse form of behaviour—I love to read—novels.”
          Sophia gave a little gasp. “Marianne and I both love to read, and novels most especially!”
          “Do you?” said I, delighted.
          “My father has an excellent library, and we borrow what we cannot buy,” said Cassandra.
Elizabeth soon left us, and as we continued our stroll with Sophia and Marianne, our shared admiration of the works of Henry Fielding (Tom Jones), Jonathan Swift (Gulliver’s Travels), Goethe (The Sorrows of Young Werther) and Fanny Burney was brought to light.
          “Evelina is one of my favourites,” said Sophia, to which Cassandra and I offered our assent.
          “I believe Cecilia is the best book I have ever read,” said I. “Fanny Burney is a genius. I am captivated by her depiction of characters like Mrs. Delville, who are not perfect, but neither are they wholly good nor evil—they possess both noble qualities and incurable defects—as such, they seem to me more true to life than any I have read in novels elsewhere.”
          Sophia’s eyes widened. “What a fine assessment of Miss Burney’s literature. I never thought of that before.”
          I wanted to add that it was my dearest hope to write something equally fine one day; but my own efforts were so unworthy, and the dream so unattainable, that I could not voice it aloud.
Marianne now grew weary (I recalled Mrs. Knight describing her as being something of an invalid), so we returned to the house. As we approached the grand edifice, Cassandra asked, “Should we change our gowns for dinner to-night?”
          “No; you are to be our only guests,” replied Sophia. “That is—you and Edward Taylor and his cousin Thomas.”
          “Is it true that Edward Taylor is your cousin?” said I.
          “He is. His father is a very distant cousin of our father’s,” answered Sophia. “We are told the connection goes back a hundred and fifty years, to the time of King Charles I.”
          “That is a very distant cousin indeed!” laughed Cassandra.
          “How old is Mr. Taylor?” asked I.
          “He is sixteen,” answered Marianne, “although he will turn seventeen later this month.”
          I could not stop my smile. Edward Taylor was exactly eighteen months my senior—the perfect age, I thought, for me.
          “We have not had much opportunity to get to know each other,” added Sophia. “We used to play together as children—he was the sweetest little boy—but when he and his brothers and sisters were very small, his family emigrated to the Continent. They have been gone ever since, other than one annum about two years past, when they returned to Bifrons to check on their property.”
         “The Taylors have lived abroad all that time?” said I, astonished.
         “Yes, and there the family still remains; it is only Edward who has come home for good.”
I wanted to ask why it was only Edward who had come home, but the opportunity was lost, for we had reached the house now, and as Sophia led the way up the main staircase, she went on:
          “As far as we—and Papa—are concerned, Edward Taylor is a member of our family. Papa insisted that he and the Paylers, with whom he is residing, be included in all our festivities this month, and we are so glad.”
          Boldly, I asked: “Does your mother share his enthusiasm for Mr. Taylor?”
          Sophia hesitated; then, catching some understanding in my tone and expression, she replied in a lowered tone: “I think you have guessed that she does not.”
          “Why not? He seems very amiable to me.”
          “Oh! He is,” replied Marianne. “We love Edward Taylor. But Mamma disapproves of the way he was brought up, travelling all over the Continent as he has done since he was five years old. She considers him a little too wild, a great deal too foreign, and worst of all (and I do not agree), pompous and overly-educated.”
          “Mamma’s favourite saying,” added Sophia with a sigh, “is: a little bit of learning goes a long way at Goodnestone. I think she fears that, with Edward’s wealth of knowledge, experience of the world, and many accomplishments, her own children will somehow appear to disadvantage—and of course we do not care a fig about that!”
          We were now arrived upstairs, and all separated to our respective chambers to get ready for the evening—an event which I eagerly anticipated, as it meant I would have the opportunity to see more of Edward Taylor, who grew more fascinating with every moment.
Readers, based on this excerpt and other excerpts on the blog tour, what intrigues you the most about Edward Taylor? If you've read Jane Austen's First Love, why do you think Jane fell in love with him?

About the Author: 

Syrie James, hailed as “the queen of nineteenth century re-imaginings” by Los Angeles Magazine, is the bestselling author of nine critically acclaimed novels that have been translated into 18 languages. Her books have been awarded the Audio Book Association Audie, designated as Editor’s Picks by Library Journal, named a Discover Great New Writer’s Selection by Barnes and Noble, a Great Group Read by the Women’s National Book Association, and Best Book of the Year by The Romance Reviews and Suspense Magazine. Syrie is a member of the WGA and lives in Los Angeles. Please visit her at, Facebook or say hello on Twitter @SyrieJames

Grand Giveaway Contest
Win One of Five Fabulous Jane Austen-inspired Prize Packages

To celebrate the holidays and the release of Jane Austen's First Love, Syrie is giving away five prize packages filled with an amazing selection of Jane Austen-inspired gifts and books!  

To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any of the blog stops on the Jane Austen's First Love Holiday Blog Tour.

Increase your chances of winning by visiting multiple stops along the tour! Syrie's unique guest posts will be featured on a variety of subjects, along with fun interviews, spotlights, excerpts, and reviews of the novel. Contest closes at 11:59pm PT, December 21, 2014. Five lucky winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments on the tour, and announced on Syrie’s website on December 22, 2014. The giveaway contest is open to everyone, including international residents. Good luck to all!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Book Review: The Muse by Jessica Evans

The Muse
by Jessica Evans

Genre: Romance / Contemporary / Pride & Prejudice Re-telling

Ages: 16 and up

I received an e-copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review, courtesy of Jakki Leatherberry.


Elizabeth Bennet, the newest corps de ballet dancer at Ballet Theater of New York, dreams of rising through the prestigious company’s ranks to become a prima ballerina. When she’s cast in superstar choreographer William Darcy’s newest work, she believes she’s one step closer to realizing her dream–until she meets him.

William Darcy, the former dance legend and ballet bad boy, is a jaded perfectionist who dancers both fear and admire. Although touted as the next big thing in the ballet world, he secretly battles a bad case of artist’s block–until he meets Elizabeth Bennet.

Tempers ignite between Elizabeth and Darcy, but he’s irresistibly drawn to the stubborn and beautiful corps de ballet dancer. Could she be the muse he needs to reignite his passion for ballet?

My Thoughts:

I loved this book. It is one of the best P&P stories I have read this year. It is a flawless blend of brilliant new ideas and everything I loved from the original Jane Austen. It made me laugh out loud with shocked, horrified humor more than once, but also made me sigh at some lovely moments of pure sweetness.

This is a very modern, no-holds-barred take on Darcy and Elizabeth, to warn those who prefer the more traditional adaptations. Elizabeth gets drunk and does stupid things, Darcy appears to briefly go through a midlife crisis, and yet...They are still completely lovable despite, or perhaps because of, these imperfections.

I was very impressed by the way the author channeled Darcy's intensity into art. Every scene where he was working on his dance was positively fraught with passion (and frequently sexual frustration). When he and Elizabeth worked together, the chemistry was sizzling despite the effort both of them put into ignoring their attraction.

There were many times over the course of the novel that I wanted to strangle Elizabeth, which, to me, is always a sign of excellent character development. There was never a moment when I did not care about what happened to her, what she chose to do next. She could be a little bit petty, a little bit jealous, but always striving to be better. I alternated between cringing for her or cheering her on.

One cannot review this book without making a point to mention the dancing. Oh. My. Goodness. The. Dancing. I have never been particularly interested in ballet, but this book made me want to go take lessons. Of course, I would also want Darcy to be teaching said lessons so we could have passionate glaring contests. Sigh.

Anyway, I definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys dancing, romance and dazzling displays of temper.

Rating System: Profanity, Sexuality and Violence
1 (mild) through 10 (extreme). Ratings may contain spoilers.

I give it an 8.10 for a few uses of the f-word and some mild to mid-level swearing.

I rate it a 7.10 for a couple of fairly descriptive scenes and innuendo, some a little crude.

There was no violence in this book.

                              Lieder Madchen