Jane and the Waterloo Map by Stephanie Barron Blog Tour + GIVEAWAY

Waterloo cover x 350When I was first asked to join the blog tour for Jane and the Waterloo Map by Stephanie Barron, I was super excited. It’s been a while since I’ve read the other books in the Jane Austen Mysteries series, but I remember loving the idea of Jane Austen as a sleuth. It’s obvious that Jane was observant in real life, as her observations and commentary on the societal events of the day were both astute and very progressive. Therefore it’s not exactly a stretch to think that she would be observant enough to solve mysteries. From the great success that Barron has had so far, it’s clear that many other people agree with me and have loved to see Jane in this new and exciting role. This time we follow Jane as she embarks on an exciting treasure hunt that has very dangerous and real implications. (Below the book blurb and author bio are giveaway instructions so you can win your own copy!)

Book Blurb:

November, 1815. The Battle of Waterloo has come and gone, leaving the British economy in shreds; Henry Austen, high-flying banker, is about to declare bankruptcy—dragging several of his brothers down with him. The crisis destroys Henry’s health, and Jane flies to his London bedside, believing him to be dying. While she’s there, the chaplain to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent invites Jane to tour Carlton House, the Prince’s fabulous London home. The chaplain is a fan of Jane’s books, and during the tour he suggests she dedicate her next novel—Emma—to HRH, whom she despises.

However, before she can speak to HRH, Jane stumbles upon a body—sprawled on the carpet in the Regent’s library. The dying man, Colonel MacFarland, was a cavalry hero and a friend of Wellington’s. He utters a single failing phrase: “Waterloo map” . . . and Jane is on the hunt for a treasure of incalculable value and a killer of considerable cunning.

Jane and the Waterloo Map by Stephanie Barron
Soho Crime (2016)
Hardcover: 320 pages
ISBN: 9781616954253

Author Bio:

Stephanie Barron headshot 2016 photo credit Marea Evans x 150Stephanie Barron was born in Binghamton, New York, the last of six girls. She attended Princeton and Stanford Universities, where she studied history, before going on to work as an intelligence analyst at the CIA. She wrote her first book in 1992 and left the Agency a year later. Since then, she has written fifteen books. She lives and works in Denver, Colorado. Learn more about Stephanie and her books at her website, visit her on Facebook and Goodreads.

Grand Giveaway Contest

Win One of Three Fabulous Prizes

Waterloo Map Blog Tour Prizes x 500

In celebration of the release of Jane and the Waterloo Map, Stephanie is offering a chance to win one of three 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 or all of the blog stops on Jane and the Waterloo Map Blog Tour starting February 02, 2016 through 11:59 pm PT, February 29, 2016. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Stephanie’s website on March 3, 2016. Winners have until March 10, 2016 to claim their prize. Shipment is to US addresses. Good luck to all!

JANE AND WATERLOO - Blog Tour Horizontal

Ross Poldark by Winston Graham Blog Tour + GIVEAWAY

If you’re a historical fiction buff, it’s your lucky day! We at Reflections are proud to be hosting today’s Poldark blog tour stop. Aimed to coincide with the start of the revamp of PBS’s hit series from almost 40 years ago, Poldark, a new generation of viewers will now experience the magic that is this saga. This Masterpiece Classic is based on the Poldark book series written by Winston Graham, which captivated readers around the world when it was originally released. Below is a description of the book one, Ross Poldark, as well as Demelza, the second work in the group. Also be sure to see below for details on how to enter to win your own copies of Ross Poldark and Demelza, or an Anglophile-themed grand prize pack!

Ross Poldark Novel of Cornwall Winston Graham Sourcebooks cover 2015Ross Poldark Book Blurb:

In the first novel in Winston Graham’s hit series, a weary Ross Poldark returns to England from war, looking forward to a joyful homecoming with his beloved Elizabeth. But instead he discovers his father has died, his home is overrun by livestock and drunken servants, and Elizabeth—believing Ross to be dead—is now engaged to his cousin. Ross has no choice but to start his life anew.

Thus begins the Poldark series, a heartwarming, gripping saga set in the windswept landscape of Cornwall. With an unforgettable cast of characters that spans loves, lives, and generations, this extraordinary masterwork from Winston Graham is a story you will never forget.

Demelza A Novel of Cornwall, 1788-1790 by Winston Graham 2015Demelza Book Blurb:

In the enchanting second novel in Winston Graham’s beloved Poldark series, Demelza Carne, an impoverished miner’s daughter Ross Poldark rescued from a fairground brawl, now happily finds herself his wife. But the events of these turbulent years test their marriage and their love. As Ross launches into a bitter struggle for the right of the mining communities, Demelza’s efforts to adapt to the ways of the gentry (and her husband) place her in increasingly odd and embarrassing situations. When tragedy strikes and sows the seeds of an enduring rivalry between Ross and the powerful George Warleggan, will Demelza manage to bridge their differences before they destroy her and her husband’s chance at happiness?

Against the stunning backdrop of eighteenth century Cornwall, Demelza sweeps readers into one of the greatest love stories of all time.

Author Bio:

Winston Graham (1908-2003) is the author of forty novels. His books have been widely translated and the Poldark series has been developed into two television series, shown in 22 countries. Six of Winston Graham’s books have been filmed for the big screen, the most notable being Marnie, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Winston Graham is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and in 1983 was awarded the O.B.E.

Grand Giveaway Contest

Win One of Three Fabulous Prizes

Ross Poldark Blog Tour Prize Package x 500

In celebration of the re-release of Ross Poldark and Demelza, Sourcebooks Landmark is offering three chances to win copies of the books or a grand prize, an Anglophile-themed gift package.

Two lucky winners will each receive one trade paperback copy of Ross Poldark and Demelza, and one grand prize winner will receive a prize package containing the following items:

(2 ) Old Britain Castles Pink Pottery Mugs by Johnson Brothers

(1) Twelve-inch Old Britain Castles Pink Pottery Plater by Johnson Brothersr

(1) London Telephone Box Tin of Ahmad English Breakfast Tea

(1) Jar of Mrs. Bridges Marmalade

(1) Package of Duchy Originals Organic Oaten Biscuits

(2) Packets of Blue Boy Cornflower Seeds by Renee’s Garden Heirloom

(1) Trade Paperback Copy of Ross Poldark & Demelza, by Winston Graham

To enter the giveaway contest simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on the Ross Poldark Blog Tour starting July 06, 2015 through 11:59 pm PT, August 10, 2015. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the entrants and announced on the Buzz at Sourcebooks blog on August 13, 2015. Winners have until August 20, 2015 to claim their prize. The giveaway contest is open to US residents and the prizes will be shipped to US addresses. Good luck to all!

Poldark-500x200 v2

The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen Blog Tour + GIVEAWAY

tsoppjkAs you may have noticed by now, I’m a huge Julie Klassen fan. I’ve reviewed five of her works thus far, and her wit and immersive writing have kept me coming back for more each time. It was a no-brainer then that I decided to be part of the blog tour for The Secret of Pembrooke Park. Matching Klassen’s lively writing style with a dash of mystery was bound to create an adventure that I couldn’t pass up.

From Goodreads:

Abigail Foster fears she will end up a spinster, especially as she has little dowry to improve her charms and the one man she thought might marry her–a longtime friend–has fallen for her younger, prettier sister.
When financial problems force her family to sell their London home, a strange solicitor arrives with an astounding offer: the use of a distant manor house abandoned for eighteen years. The Fosters journey to imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left: tea cups encrusted with dry tea, moth-eaten clothes in wardrobes, a doll’s house left mid-play . . .

The handsome local curate welcomes them, but though he and his family seem to know something about the manor’s past, the only information they offer Abigail is a warning: Beware trespassers who may be drawn by rumors that Pembrooke contains a secret room filled with treasure.

Hoping to improve her family’s financial situation, Abigail surreptitiously searches for the hidden room, but the arrival of anonymous letters addressed to her, with clues about the room and the past, bring discoveries even more startling. As secrets come to light, will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks…or very real danger?

One of my favorite things about Klassen as an author is seeing the influence that both Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters have in her works. The themes and spirit of her writing borrow from their famous works, and it always makes me happy to see, being such a fan of these authors myself. For example, reading Abigail’s search for the secret treasure room had many parallels to when Catherine Morland was attempting to find out if Henry Tilney’s mother was murdered in Northanger Abbey. Just like in Jane Eyre, there is a serious undertone of Gothic mystery to the plot as a whole, and you get a sense that there is a bigger picture hiding behind all the clues that one comes across during the course of events. I felt this way as clues began piling up while Abigail searches for the secret room and tries to uncover the mysteries of Pembrooke Park. I knew that the anonymous letters, warnings, and other seemingly independent events would weave together in a larger picture, much like Jane’s dealings with Mr. Rochester belie his true intentions until much later.

In addition to these overall themes, I felt that the plot moved well, with the revelations coming quickly enough to keep me on the edge of my seat. Of special note are the twists at the end, which had me actually gasping out loud (much to my husband’s amusement from the other room.) Not only did the plot and themes hook me, but the characters did as well. Abigail, Leah, William, and even Miles were the cause of my ability to read the entire book in one sitting. Overall, Klassen has produced yet another gem in her lineup. The Secret of Pembrooke Park was everything I thought it would be, and if you’ve never had the pleasure of reading any of Klassen’s works, this is a great one to start with.

5 out of 5 Stars

The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen
Bethany House Publishing (2014)
Paperback: 464 pages
ISBN: 9780764210716

Special thanks to Bethany House for my review copy!

Author Julie Klassen 2015 x 200AUTHOR BIO:

Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. Three of her books have won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. She has also been a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Awards. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in St. Paul, Minnesota. Learn more about Julie and her books at her website, follower her on Twitter, and visit her on Facebook and Goodreads.


Grand Giveaway Contest

Win One of Four Fabulous Prizes

Secret Pembrook Park Blog Tour Prizes x 350

In celebration of the release of The Secret of Pembrooke Park, four chances to win copies of Julie’s books and other Jane Austen-inspired items are being offered.

Three lucky winners will receive one trade paperback or eBook copy of The Secret of Pembrooke Park, and one grand prize winner will receive one copy of all eight of Julie’s novels: Lady of Milkweed Manor, The Apothecary’s Daughter, The Silent Governess, The Girl in the Gatehouse, The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, The Tutor’s Daughter, The Dancing Master, and The Secret of Pembrooke Park, one DVD of Northanger Abbey (2007) and a Jane Austen Action Figure.

To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on The Secret of Pembrooke Park Blog Tour starting February 16, 2015 through 11:59 pm PT, March 9, 2015. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Julie Klassen’s website on March 16, 2015. Winners have until March 22, 2015 to claim their prize. The giveaway contest is open to residents of the US, UK, and Canada. Digital books will be sent through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Good luck to all!

Secret of Pembrooke blog tour horizontal bannerClick here for more details of the blog tour!


The Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers Blog Tour + GIVEAWAY

Joining me on the blog today is Mary Ann Rivers, author of The Story Guy, which I reviewed yesterday!  Mary Ann is here today to share Carrie and Brian’s (the heroine/hero of The Story Guy) favorite books.  But first, a little about the book!

The Story Guy Cover - FinalBook blurb:

In this eBook original novella, Mary Ann Rivers introduces a soulful and sexy tale of courage, sacrifice, and love.

 I will meet you on Wednesdays at noon in Celebration Park. Kissing only.

Carrie West is happy with her life . . . isn’t she? But when she sees this provocative online ad, the thirtysomething librarian can’t help but be tempted. After all, the photo of the anonymous poster is far too attractive to ignore. And when Wednesday finally arrives, it brings a first kiss that’s hotter than any she’s ever imagined. Brian Newburgh is an attorney, but there’s more to his life . . . that he won’t share with Carrie. Determined to have more than just Wednesdays, Carrie embarks on a quest to learn Brian’s story, certain that he will be worth the cost. But is she ready to gamble her heart on a man who just might be The One . . . even though she has no idea how their love story will end?

Mary Ann now gives us her insight on Carrie and Brian’s favorite books…

Books on Brian Newburgh’s Nightstand (which is really an overturned milk crate):


Brian can’t resist a woman in glasses, or a funny one. I feel like he would be unable to stay away from a fronted display of this book on shelf at the library. Fey’s manifesto about bitches getting stuff done with hilarious recollections of theater camp and trying to write 30 ROCK scripts in her living room while nursing her baby would cover a whole range of Brian’s late night needs as a reader.

SHADOWHOUND by Suki Malahar*

After that edgy kiss in the park, when they were both a little, or a lot, turned on, Brian’s attention would have been on high alert. Carrie mentioned this author as a favorite of her teen population and tells Brian that maybe he should check her out. Of course, of course, he does. He probably read it in one night, thinking of Carrie and that kiss the entire time.

*I should mention that Malahar is a totally fictional author, but is one I will evoke in my work and you, if you’re reading me, and will find along the way, like an Easter egg.

MAUS by Art Spiegelman

This graphic novel about a father and son with a complicated relationship would appeal to the young Brian who liked to secretly draw and write his own comics, and also to his own meditations about loss and the meaning of family.

TORTILLA FLATS by John Steinbeck

A classic novel of insouciance featuring characters rambling from one scene to the next, would be nothing less than a completely compelling fantasy for Brian–warm desert breezes, drinking, improbable scenarios, lack of routine–all heaven for our story guy.


He meant to get around to reading it when everyone was talking about it, but never did. This one actually fell off his milk crate and slid under his bed and he owes outrageous library fines on it.

Books on Carrie West’s e-reader

IT by Stephen King

If you’re an insomniac doomed to staying up all night, you might as well ride wave after wave of horrified thrills–or at least that what Carrie does. She knows she should be looking for thrills elsewhere, but this will have to do.

ALL OTHER THINGS by Charlotte Stein

Internet messaging, secrets, two hot enigmatic men. Carrie has this on her reader FOR REASONS.

GHOSTBOY by Suki Malahar*

Malahar’s first book has always been Carrie’s favorite. It has a kissing scene to die for.

*Bonus points, I mention this book, but not the title, in a free short on my website

1-800-HOT-RIBS by Catherine Bowman

This book of outrageous poetry would appeal to the language lover in Carrie, and her witty sense of humor.


Carrie’s favorite stories have crying at the end, and this spare memoir of John Bayley’s life caring for his wife, the brilliant novelist Iris Murdoch, as she loses her battle with Alzheimer’s fits the bill and may have given Carrie a kind of perspective on Brian’s life.

THE STORY GUY on Goodreads | Barnes & Noble  |  iBookstore  |  Google Play  |  Other Retailers

Mary Ann RiversAbout Mary Ann Rivers

Mary Ann Rivers was an English and music major and went on to earn her MFA in creative writing, publishing poetry in journals and leading creative-writing workshops for at-risk youth. While training for her day job as a nurse practitioner, she rediscovered romance on the bedside tables of her favorite patients. Now she writes smart and emotional contemporary romance, imagining stories featuring the heroes and heroines just ahead of her in the coffee line. Mary Ann Rivers lives in the Midwest with her handsome professor husband and their imaginative school-aged son.

Connect with Mary Ann:  Website  |  Twitter |  Facebook


Click on the link below to be taken to the Rafflecopter giveaway generously sponsored by Loveswept Publishers:

A Rafflecopter Giveaway

The Story Guy Blog Tour

The Female Hero with K. Hollan Van Zandt, author of Written in the Ashes + GIVEAWAY

Joining us on the blog today to discuss her new novel Written in the Ashes is author K. Hollan Van Zandt!  Please help me in welcoming her as she discusses women and feminism in books!  (I reviewed Written in the Ashes yesterday, so make sure you check out that post too!)

I will tell you a something not many people know about me.

I am a feminist. Gloria Steinem is one of my greatest heroes.

So for my first novel, Written in the Ashes, I wanted to write a story that would illustrate the female hero’s journey, because what we have everywhere in literature is the example of the man’s hero’s journey.

Even Harry Potter, bless him, isn’t Harriet Potter.

So what is the heroine’s journey? I think, as women, it isn’t so much about riding out to slay the dragon. We don’t really do that sort of thing very often. Most women are nurturers. We would ride out to heal the sick dragon. We would risk our lives and being scorched to be sure the dragon got its medicine and could be well enough to take care of its dragon family.

That’s what women do.

But yet, our dying world does not reflect that value. The world is being conquered to death. Her valuable resources raped to death. And we are in the eleventh hour.

So I wrote this story about ancient Egypt that is really a tale about one thing:

A woman who is silenced. A woman who must find her voice.

Why? Because all women are silenced. We are silenced by our governments first and by our families second and by ourselves third. And by history. There was a time when having a voice got you burned at the stake. So there are generations of silenced women behind many of us.

We simply do not speak up. If all women spoke in chorus, there would be no war and plenty of green energy to go around.

Now, I’m exaggerating on purpose, because as a storyteller, that’s what we do. We paint the world a certain way to invite a hero into it.

And my heroine, Hannah, is a woman who is silenced by the tragedies that happen to her. Rape. Slavery. And so her journey is to find her voice.

And it doesn’t happen to her suddenly. She has to practice speaking up. It’s uncomfortable for her, and she must learn a new language. And she is a singer. She is a woman practicing using her voice throughout the entire book.

And at pivotal points in the story, she finds her voice and uses it and the curtains part and she sees her own power. And her power grows the more she uses her voice.

This is not just one woman seeing her own power. This is the woman inside each of us seeing her own power. This is the woman inside of men and women seeing her own power. The Great Woman. The archetype of the nurturer brought back to life to save us from the brink of destruction.

You can read this novel as a romp. And it is. It’s sexy and wild and everyone says how they stay up late reading and they are late for work and miss their train stops. And that’s great for my ego, and hopefully it will help send my son to college one day. But it isn’t what’s really important to the soul of the story.

See, if you really study the intention in the book, and you meet the Hannah inside yourself, you will find a suffragist. You will find an Alice Paul. You will find a Gloria Steinem. You will meet the woman who wants to risk everything to heal the dragon.

And she’s saying, “Hey, what’s the big idea? Haven’t we slain the dragon enough? Shouldn’t we be making sure it has enough to eat so there are baby dragons in the future?”

Because every human should be asking these questions now for the dragons. For the lions. For the elephants and the whales. For the polar bears. For the most beautiful species that are all facing extinction.

I for one wouldn’t know how to explain to my son that I stood by silent while the last lion was killed by poachers. Could you?

And so this novel is really about that. It’s about freeing the voice in us that has been made a slave to the establishment. It’s about defending our bodies and the body of the Earth. It’s about defending justice even when that stance could make you an outcast or get you killed.

Women fight. My women fight. The woman inside each of us must speak up and fight for what matters to her. If all women chose just one cause, the world would change in a decade.

So when you read the novel, know that this is a book that is meant to help you ask what is worth fighting for in your life, so you will go out and risk everything for that.


One lucky person will have the opportunity to win their own copy of Written in the Ashes by K. Hollan Van Zandt. Simply leave a comment below by midnight on Tuesday, May 22, 2012. Winner will be picked at random and announced on Wednesday, May 23, 2012. Giveaway open to all! US residents have the option of a paperback or eBook, entrants from other countries are eligible for an eBook. Good luck!

#42 A Review of The Flower Reader by Elizabeth Loupas – Blog Tour

If I had to pick a genre of book that is my absolute favorite, it would be historical fiction.  More specifically, historical fiction that takes place in Europe between the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.  I find the history between England and Scotland during this time to be absolutely fascinating!  When I was offered the opportunity to join the blog tour for The Flower Reader by Elizabeth Loupas I immediately said yes, knowing it took place during my favorite time period!

Rinette Leslie has quite the interesting gift.  She can read flowers as if they are Tarot cards, divining the future through her connection with all things floral and plant related.  Additionally, she is one of the ladies in waiting to Mary of Guise, the Queen of Scotland.  On her deathbed, the Queen asks Rinette to use her gift to tell her what her future holds, yet once everyone leaves her alone with the Queen, she encounters a different task: the Queen gives Rinette a small casket full of important letters and documents that she instructs Rinette to keep safe until her daughter, Mary Stuart, can return to Scotland and ascend to power.  Unable to resist a look at their important cargo, Rinette and her husband open the casket and find that the letters and documents are meant to help Mary Stuart in her quest to take over the throne, and contain very important secrets.  As a result of his knowledge of the contents of the coffin, Rinette’s husband is murdered by an unknown assailant.  Distraught and filled with vengeance, Rinette takes a place at the new Queen’s court in order to hunt down her husband’s killer.  Will her plans succeed?  Will she too be killed over the casket’s contents?

When I first finished this book, I was struck by the Loupas’ creativity.  It’s not every day that you hear of a character that has the power to read futures in flowers!  I think it added an interesting touch to Rinette’s personality, and helped make her character seem more mysterious and powerful.  Granted, as a woman who has lost her love and vows revenge she is quite powerful on her own, but this touch seemed to make her quest that much more adventurous and really made the chapters fly by.  The plot moves as a break-neck pace, and events are constantly swirling.  When you think things have calmed down for a moment, it picks right back up again.  There is definitely no shortage of action in this story.

Another thing I noticed was the correlation between Loupas’ writing style and Phillipa Gregory’s.  I definitely think that fans of Phillipa would enjoy this work, as there are similarities in how intricate and exciting the plots are.  The anticipation and antsy feeling that I got while reading about Rinette’s adventures definitely reminded me of Phillipa’s works.  And being that Phillipa is one of the best known writers of this genre, that’s a good thing!  One slight detraction I did notice was that the sheer amount of characters in this work tended to confuse me at parts.  The character index in the front of the novel did help a bit, but I still was scratching my head at some points.

Overall, Loupas’ tale is an excellently written story of love, betrayal, revenge, and loyalty.  Couple this with an exciting plot that leaves you on the edge of your seat, waiting to see what will happen next, and you have a recipe for a great hit.  I definitely recommend this one, especially to all the Phillipa fans out there.  You won’t be disappointed!

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my twentieth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

The Flower Reader by Elizabeth Loupas
Penguin Group (2012)
Paperback: 448 pages
ISBN: 9780451235817

Special thanks to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for my review copy!  I’m just one stop on the blog tour for The Flower Reader!  You can check out all the other stops here!  For those of you on Twitter, follow the hashtag: #FlowerReaderVirtualTour

Todd’s Review of Dinner With Lisa by R. L. Prendergast – Blog Tour

Reflections of a Book Addict  was recently approached to join the blog tour for Dinner With Lisa by R. L. Prendergast, which we eagerly accepted!  Kim is the usual fan of historical fiction on the blog but after reading the synopsis for Dinner With Lisa I convinced her to let me take the lead on reviewing this novel.  I was really intrigued by the unique mix of history (Great Depression era) and the infamous Mona Lisa.  The cover alone was definitely enough to pique my interest!  So, with all that sorted out I began reading, not quite knowing what to expect.

Joseph Gaston is a nearly 40-year-old widower who tragically lost his wife 6 months ago when birthing their daughter, Clare.  Additionally, he has three other children ranging from 4 to 11 years of age.  Jobless during the Great Depression, Joseph is desperate to gain financial security in order to survive and provide for his family .  His brother Henri convinces him to travel to Philibuster, Alberta with the promise of a job and childcare for his children there.  Unfortunately for him, the job does not materialize, and he barely gets by with some assistance from Henri and his sister-in-law Tilda.  Joseph endures hardship after hardship, and confronts complex issues of racism and poverty that were prevalent throughout the Depression era.  Desperate to save his family, Joseph nearly gives up his children in order to give them a better life, when he learns about Lisa.  Angry and at the end of his rope, he tries one final act that he hopes will put and end to all of his suffering.  What is it?  What will happen to his family?  What will happen to Joseph?

Upon finishing this book I had a newfound respect for those who lived through the 1930’s, more commonly known as the Great Depression.  Most of our experiences with said era are via Of Mice and Men or old pictures of families in trucks piled high with belongings driving across the dust bowl.  Yet when you actually look at how difficult it was to live day in and day out, it’s a miracle that so many were able to keep going despite the constant challenges.  Not only were there physical challenges for Joseph, such as how to feed all his children or look after them while he is out job hunting, but there were immense emotional and mental challenges that I could never imagine.  Trying to keep a clear head and endure an endless stream of setbacks and roadblocks must have been incredibly draining and disheartening, yet Joseph is able to keep going in hopes that he will give his children the life they deserve eventually.  Prendergast writes in the style of a classic, with immense detail that is a great testament to the large amount of research that he must have put in to create this novel.  Yes, it’s not filled with action scenes or nail-biting suspense, but the honest and fantastic language that he uses to describe Joseph’s plight and Joseph’s tenacity throughout it all was incredibly well constructed.  Kudos to Prendergast for giving us a real and gritty look into a slice of history that is often overlooked.  I know I will never see it the same way again!

4 out of 5 stars

Dinner With Lisa by R. L. Prendergast
Dekko Publishing (2011)
Paperback: 280 pages
ISBN:  9780978454821

Special thanks to R.L. Prendergast for sending me my review copy!

Jane Austen Made Me Do It Blog Tour With Laurel Ann Nattress + GIVEAWAY

Please help me welcome good friend of the blog (and my blogging mentor) Laurel Ann Nattress, as we help her celebrate the release of her FIRST book!! Laurel Ann’s book Jane Austen Made Me Do It is an anthology of short stories inspired by none other than Jane Austen herself.  My review will be posted tomorrow, so make sure you stop on back!  Welcome, Laurel Ann!

Letter writing in Jane Austen day vs. our modern world

Hi Kimberly, thanks again for hosting me at Reflections of a Book Addict during my Grand Tour of the blogosphere in celebration of the release of my new Austen-inspired anthology, Jane Austen Made Me Do It.

Since we are both bloggers and write in this new (in the scope of the things) online form of communication, I thought that I would focus today on writing, specifically, another form of personal communication that was very important in Jane Austen’s day – letter writing.

According to the third edition of Jane Austen’s Letters, collected and edited by Deirdre Le Faye (1995), there are 161 known letters written by Jane Austen that still exist or were transcribed and subsequently misplaced or locked away into oblivion.  That is a scant sum considering that it is estimated that she most likely wrote over three thousand letters in her adult lifetime.  Letter writing was the primary source of family news, communication between friends and business associates in Jane Austen’s lifetime and would continue to be so well into the twentieth century.

 To say that letter writing is a lost art might not be far from the truth.  If I am any measure of modern letter writing standards, my stationary draw in my serpentine Regency walnut desk still contains boxes of engraved Crane sheets obtained more than ten years ago.  I do write personal note cards and thank you’s, but I cannot tell you the last real hand written letter I wrote on a sheet of stationary!  Can you?  The use of e-mail and computers has changed all of our communication practices.  They don’t even teach penmanship in school anymore.  Unthinkable.  This news would certainly send Jane Austen and her generation into a deep depression.  Letter writing, like taking tea, was a daily ritual.  Her novels are full of letters containing pivotal moments for her heroine.  Mr. Darcy hands Elizabeth Bennet the infamous “Be not alarmed, madam” letter in Pride and Prejudice, and, who could forget the most romantic letter ever written in Persuasion when Captain Wentworth reveals his renewed love for Anne Elliot? 

“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.” 

Swoon! Even that elusive cad Frank Churchill in Emma appreciates a well written letter! 

“I shall hear about you all,” said he; “that is my chief consolation. I shall hear of every thing that is going on among you. I have engaged Mrs. Weston to correspond with me. She has been so kind as to promise it. Oh! the blessing of a female correspondent, when one is really interested in the absent! she will tell me every thing. In her letters I shall be at dear Highbury again.”

Yes the blessings of a female correspondent are indeed a treasure in the early nineteenth-century and today.  I am always thrilled to get a letter, but recently I must console myself with reading about characters receiving letters in novels.  Three of my anthology authors embraced the value of a female correspondent and supplied stories in epistolary format or inspired by a letter.  Here are their descriptions:

“Love and Best Wishes, Aunt Jane,” by Adriana Trigiani

Love and Best Wishes, Aunt Jane is a story that celebrates the art of the written letter, sent person to person, in private to impart news, feelings of love or to warn of impending doom.  One of the joys of reading Jane Austen’s novels are the letters written by the characters that change the course of the action, and send the plot off in new and unexpected directions.  I imagined Jane today, and with the sketchy biographical information we have of her, wrote this letter in her fictional voice. Viva Jane!

“Letters to Lydia,” by Maya Slater

While visiting her newly married sister Charlotte Collins, Maria Lucas writes to her best friend Lydia Bennet of her experiences in Kent.  Top on her list of tittle-tattle is the budding romance of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy.  Present throughout the Hunsford episode, which culminates in Darcy’s first disastrous proposal of marriage to Elizabeth, we are privileged to Maria’s own account of their romance from the point of view of her naïve sixteen-year-old imaginings.  Although she misinterprets everything she observes, it turns out that she is partly responsible for bringing about the marriage of Elizabeth and Darcy.

“The Love Letter,” by Brenna Aubrey

Young doctor Mark Hinton thinks his life is perfect.  He is just about to finish his residency and has accepted the offer of a fabulous new job.  Things could not be better…  until the arrival of an anonymous letter in the mail forces him to confront the truth he’s been hiding from for seven years.  Sent on a quest by the mysterious contents of the letter, he is forced to discover the contents of his own heart thanks to Jane Austen, a canny librarian, a cantankerous patient, and a coolly observant sister.

We may not write letters in today’s “you’ve got mail” world, but thank goodness we can still read about them!

Thank you again for letting me share my thoughts on Regency-era letter writing Kim. It is always a pleasure to visit your blog.

Cheers, Laurel Ann

A life-long acolyte of Jane Austen, Laurel Ann Nattress is the author/editor of Austenprose.com a blog devoted to the oeuvre of her favorite author and the many books and movies that she has inspired. She is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, a regular contributor to the PBS blog Remotely Connected and the Jane Austen Centre online magazine. An expatriate of southern California, Laurel Ann lives in a country cottage near Snohomish, Washington. Visit Laurel Ann at her blogsAustenprose.com and JaneAustenMadeMeDoIt.com, on Twitter as @Austenprose, and on Facebook as Laurel Ann Nattress.

Giveaway: Laurel Ann is graciously given us a one lucky reader a chance to win their own copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It.  To enter for your chance to win, simply leave a comment below stating what intrigues you about reading an Austen-inspired short story anthology.  Comments will be accepted through midnight on Monday, November 14, 2011.  Winner will be drawn at random and announced on Tuesday, November 15, 2011.  Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only.  Good luck to all!