It’s my favorite time of year! To celebrate the holidays, JANE AUSTEN’S FIRST LOVE has embarked on a Holiday Blog Tour, with my special gift to you: lots of fabulous giveaways! The grand prize is a beautiful Jane Austen tote bag filled with all kinds of Austen inspired goodies and books–a $180 value. You’ll find all the details about the blog tour and five prize packages at the end of this post, after the excerpt (just leave a comment to enter!)
I’m so excited to share JANE AUSTEN’S FIRST LOVE with you. Inspired by actual events and real people, it is the story of the summer of 1791 when the vivacious fifteen-year-old Jane Austen met Edward Taylor, the remarkable young man who first stole her heart.
To whet your appetite, here are just a few of the wonderful things critics are saying about Jane Austen’s First Love:
“James has a way of getting into Austen’s head and her style that is truly riveting. A realistic tale that could have been written by the revered author herself. James’s latest will charm Austen fans (and fans of James, too) as well as Austen unfamiliars…Romance fans will root for Jane all the way.” —Library Journal (Editor’s Pick)
“Smart, brave and witty teenage Jane–who is also the first-person narrator in the story–is enchanting, while devilishly handsome Edward Taylor is temptingly irresistible. A fresh and engaging new story, which is a real feast for any Austen fan. This book can’t be missing on your Austenesque shelf and would be a very special gift to young readers you want to initiate into Jane Austen’s world.” —My Jane Austen Book Club
“Brilliant characters…full of romance… I’m so very impressed and amazed with how much research, truths, and actual events/people were used as the foundation of this story! Imaginative, thoughtful, and expertly crafted – Syrie James has done it again! 5 stars.” —Austenesque Reviews
AND NOW FOR AN EXCERPT FROM
JANE AUSTEN’S FIRST LOVE
By Syrie James
In this excerpt, it is a beautiful day in March 1791 at Steventon Rectory, home of the Austen family. Jane, her sister Cassandra, and their mother have spent the morning sewing shirts for young Charles Austen, who will soon be going off to the Naval Academy.
Glancing out the rectory window, I observed that the sun had made a bright appearance, and there was nary a cloud in the sky. After a frigid and dreary winter, the last dusting of snow had at last melted away, and the fields beyond, covered in a sparkling frost, beckoned to me. “Mamma, I have finished the long seam on this sleeve, and made good progress on the cuff. May I stop working now and take a walk?”
“You wish to go out in this weather, Jane?” She was incredulous.
“The post will not deliver itself. Someone has to go to Deane and fetch it,” replied I lightly, adding to my sister, “Would you like to join me?”
“I would, very much,” answered Cassandra, lowering her work. My sister, a prudent, well judging young woman, was generally less demonstrative of feeling than I—a characteristic which I struggled in vain to emulate. She was also my dearest friend in the world; I valued her advice and counsel above anybody else’s, and loved her more than life itself.
“Well! I, too, am ready to do something else for a while,” mused my mother, putting her work in her bag, “but to go out? The roads and fields are all covered in frost. You will catch your death of cold!”
“It is nought but a light frost, Mamma,” countered I.
“There is nothing worse than a light frost, for it will soon melt away, and then you are forced to walk over wet ground. I had a childhood friend whose death was occasioned by nothing more—she walked out one morning in April after a hard rain, and her feet got wet through—she never changed her shoes when she came home—and that was the end of her! Have you any notion how many people have died in consequence of catching cold? There is not a disorder in the world except the smallpox which does not spring from it!”
“Mamma,” said Cassandra gently, “you are very right to be concerned, but I do not think there is any danger of the frost melting away today. The fields are still quite frozen.”
“We have walked for miles over fields far frostier than this,” added I. “We have been stuck inside such a long time this winter. I am dying to get out.”
My mother stood, and said, “Well, I can see there is no point trying to talk sense into either of you. If you catch cold, it will not be my fault. But see to it that you put on your boots, change your shoes the minute you get back home, and then it is back to sewing for the three of us.”
Cassandra and I donned all the essential accoutrements, and as we were about to leave the house, my mother cried, “Jane! That shawl will never be warm enough! Take it off and fetch your cloak! Why cannot you be more sensible, like your sister?”
Exasperated, I ran back upstairs and did as bidden.
As we stepped outside, I savoured the taste of the crisp, winter air and the refreshing bite of the breeze against my cheeks. “Is not it glorious to be outside? It is cold, but not too cold. Sunny, but not too bright.”
Cassandra agreed. “It is the perfect day in every way.”
“Yes—well—nearly perfect.” As we struck out along our usual short cut—the well-travelled path carved across the half-frozen field in the direction of Deane Gate Inn, where the mail was delivered—I could not help but sigh. “Cassandra: why is Mamma so harsh where I am concerned? She is ever so sweet to you, yet constantly finds imperfection in me.”
“I think it is because she admires you more, Jane.”
“Admires me more? That makes no sense!”
“It does. You are ever so much brighter than I am, Jane.”
“That is not true.”
“The point cannot be argued. It is not in my nature to invent clever and witty stories, and relate them aloud in such a manner as to have the entire family laughing into stitches. Mamma perceives how very clever you are; so naturally, she expects more from you.”
“That is kind of you to say, but I fear it is not so. I know you all indulge me only because you love me. Mamma insists that my writing is not important. It is expert needlework, she said, which is to be the hallmark of my future.”
“Every woman needs to be skilled at needlework, Jane; but regardless of what Mamma says, she knows you are capable of far more than that; I feel certain of it.”
“If that is true—what do you think she expects of me?”
“I do not know,” replied she, troubled. “It is possible that even she does not know.”
“How confusing this is! How I wish I could oblige her! How I wish I could do more, Cassandra; more than darning stockings and making shirts and writing nonsense for no ears other than our own. Nothing of interest ever happens to me. I should dearly love to be useful somehow, to do something which might make a difference in the lives of others—but what that might be is a mystery to me.”
“You will discover it in time, Jane. You are still young.”
“Young! How that term exasperates me!” My footsteps crunched noisily against the hard, frosty ground. “I am not so very young, Cassandra. And what does age matter, in any case? How often have you said that you consider me your equal in every way? Oh! If only I were seventeen and out like you!”
“Do not wish your life away, Jane.”
“I am not wishing it away; I only wish to be out. Do you have any idea how hard it is to sit home while you go off to the assembly rooms without me?”
“I understand how you feel, my dearest; and I am sorry for it.”
“There are so few real amusements in the world. Dancing is such a glorious activity! It exercises both the body and the mind, all while moving with spirit and elegance to lively music.” Holding out my arm as if to an imaginary partner, I curtseyed, then practised my dancing across the field, making several turns.
Cassandra smiled. “You are an excellent dancer, Jane—so much more elegant and animated than I could ever be.”
“You are too modest. I love nothing more than watching you dance, dearest; except, perhaps, dancing myself. Oh! We know of parents who allowed their daughters to come out at fourteen, when accompanied by their mother or an older sister. Why must I be denied the same pleasures? How I wish I could powder my hair and put on a new gown, white gloves, and satin slippers with shoe-roses, and make my debut at the ball at Basingstoke with you tomorrow!”
“It is not all that agreeable to powder one’s hair, Jane; I only do it when I absolutely must, and because Mamma insists upon it. And with regard to your debut—you know Mamma will never bend on this matter. I wish you would not continue to let it vex you so.”
“How can I do otherwise?” The breeze whipped the strings of my bonnet, and I pulled my cloak more closely about me as we walked along. “It is so unfair. I am tired of dance lessons with Catherine and Alethea, improving my skills for nothing more than children’s balls at Manydown, or snug dances in our own parlour with pushed-back furniture and our brothers and neighbours’ sons for partners. How I long to converse and dance and flirt openly with gentlemen I have never met!”
With a little laugh, Cassandra said, “What appeals to you more? The flirting or the dancing?”
“The flirting, absolutely!” We had reached the opposite side of the field now, and holding up the hems of our skirts, we made our way up the mud-encrusted lane, past the tiny village and the church of St. Nicholas, over which my father presided. “Oh, Cassandra! Every night I dream of meeting a worthy young man who incites all my passions—a gentlemanlike, pleasant young man who is intelligent, thoughtful, kind, and accomplished, who shares my enthusiasm for literature and music and nature, with whom I can converse on any topic at length with spirit and debate—if he be good-looking, all the better—”
“Where are you to find this paragon of virtue?”
“I have no idea—but I have conjured him in my imagination. He must exist.”
“I fear you expect too much, Jane. No one man can be all these things to you.”
“But he must be! For he is the only man I shall I ever marry. Were I to meet him tomorrow, I should fall instantly and happily in love with him.”
* * * * * * * * * * *
Reader, if you enjoyed the above scene, you’ll find more than half a dozen specially-chosen excerpts from Jane Austen’s First Love at various stops along the Holiday Blog Tour, and there’s also one on my website featuring the moment when Jane and Edward Taylor first meet. 🙂
DETAILS ABOUT THE GIVEAWAY…
WIN 1 of 5 JANE AUSTEN-INSPIRED PRIZE PACKAGES
I am giving away five fabulous prize packages on the Holiday Blog Tour. Although Jane Austen’s First Love is not one of the giveaways, several of my other books are, as well as a whole bunch of Jane Austen-inspired gifts! Here’s the grand prize– a lovely “I’d Rather Be Reading Jane Austen!” tote bag filled with all goodies shown below:
See the other 4 prize packages on offer by visiting this link.
To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on this post below. I’d love to hear what you intrigues you about Jane Austen’s First Love, or your thoughts about the excerpt above–and if you have any questions for me, please fire away!
Check out the other stops on the Jane Austen’s First Love Holiday Blog Tour here. To increase your chances of winning, visit any of the other blog stops and leave a comment. You’ll find unique guest posts on a variety of subjects (which I hope you’ll find entertaining!), along with some 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. The giveaway contest is open to everyone, including international residents. Good luck to all!
If you’d like to know more about Jane Austen’s First Love and my eight other published novels, I’d love it if you’d visit me at syriejames.com, and please connect with me on facebook and Twitter @SyrieJames. In the meantime, I hope you’ll check out JANE AUSTEN’S FIRST LOVE. I’m so excited by the many dozens of ★★★★★ reviews it has received. I hope you’ll agree with My Jane Austen Book Club, who says “This book can’t be missing on your Austenesque shelf, and would be a very special gift to readers you want to initiate into Jane Austen’s world.” 🙂
I wish you the happiest of holidays, and I look forward to your comments here and along the blog tour!