Each year, Shari graciously allows me to host on Delighted Reader a special birthday celebration for my all-time favorite author, Jane Austen. This year, I’ve asked a pair of talented authors who wrote a sensational modern day story about two two friends who have a magically charming experience with Jane Austen, herself.
Welcome Ada! Welcome Cass!
Hi! We are Ada Bright and Cass Grafton, good friends and co-authors of The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen. Wait! Don’t stop reading yet! This post (or novel for that matter) is not just for avid Jane Austen fans. Though a couple of our main characters happen to be great fans of her works, the book (and this post) is more about friendship and romance than it is about the literary great mentioned in the title.
We often talk about why we co-write (mostly because it’s fun) and about what exactly inspired our book (we’ve written several posts for other blogs on this), so for our wonderful host, Sophia Rose, we thought we’d talk more about why this particular (forgive the pun) story appealed to us, and what was so special about it.
It’s Ada speaking now (you can tell by my flamboyant use of parenthesis), and I want to talk about romance. I have such a love/embarrassment relationship with romance, and the books I grew up reading tended to play towards that. I wouldn’t read a book that didn’t have romance in it; however, I prefer my romance to be subtle i.e. though it may seem secondary to plot, it’s also of utmost importance to the characters.
This sort of balance works great in a mystery book or in historical fiction and, coincidentally, Regency stories as well. In times such as Jane Austen’s, love and marriage for a woman was (well, I hesitate to be too gothic about it, but) life or death. Marrying well (having nothing to do with love) could mean rescuing your entire family from starvation and marrying poorly, or making reckless decisions on marriage, could literally destroy everyone you know. I mean, there are no higher stakes in any of my favorite mystery novels, and just like in all those novels, Jane Austen threads stories of genuine romance through hers.
Alas, I binge books like other people binge drink, and there comes a time I simply can’t re-read the same lines for the 2500th time and get the same effect. Eventually, I have to go back to the market for some serious thirst quenching (on books). So, not long ago I found myself desperate for a good simple romance and some of the places Amazon’s referrals sent me were traumatizing.
I’m old enough to appreciate a little steam in my romantic fiction, but I still struggle not to put my fingers over my eyes so I read just the bits I’m comfortable with. And, as much as I enjoy imagining a man who understands my inner most fears and instantly knows how to quell them, there is a level that that fantasy can sink to that is not attractive. Just as I wouldn’t watch a movie in which the heroine was the ultimate stereotype of a male fantasy, I don’t feel comfortable reading a book where the same is true of the hero. I am married to a good, strong man who can surprise me with the depth of his understanding of me… and yet still have three different corners at which he deposits his dirty laundry (ugh!).
So the timing of Cass being available to co-write was perfect. My book cupboards were bare, and I was desperate for some good subtle but really dreamy romance.
There were a few rules I wanted to set and, luckily for me, Cass had similar feelings about love in fiction. First, our female characters needed to be doing just fine without their respective romantic leads. Second, just because our gals were independent, it didn’t make them averse to matters of the heart. Third, our girls had to be loyal to each other and true to themselves.
In The Particular Charm, our two main characters are female friends who met very much like Cass and I did: over the Internet on a Harry Potter fan forum. Though we drew from our experience as friends rather than from our actual personalities (as neither of us were trying to insert ourselves into the story), there are some similarities between our two female leads, Rose and Morgan and us.
Rose is British, on the quiet side, and highly efficient (a bit like Cass), and Morgan is from California, quick to speak to strangers and even quicker to be lost two steps from any doorway (like me). The fact that Jane Austen herself makes an appearance takes the entire romp in a different direction, but nothing – not time traveling 200-year old authors nor alternate realities – takes us far from the romances we are building for Rose and Morgan.
We do also have two irresistible male characters, but we didn’t want to pair them up with the easiest match. We wanted to create a spark; that same spark that I get when I’m reading and notice that first subtle nod from the story that there just might be something between two characters. And, as much as we were falling in love with the characters and the romances we were creating, we tried not to deviate from the legacy Jane Austen had left for us.
Our women characters do not have quite as rough a path to autonomy as their 19th century counterparts, but they do struggle at times (as we all do?) with their identity, their roles, and ultimately, how hard they will fight to achieve what they want to achieve or how much they will have to surrender to reach their goals.
Hey! This is Cass, trying to get a word in edgeways – only joking! (You’ll know it’s me because of my excessive indulgence in exclamation marks!)
There’s not much I can add to Ada’s comments, because they stand for me too! Oh how I loved reading romance as I grew up! All through my impressionable early teens, I existed on a diet of Mills & Boon (Harlequin) romances, devouring them with a voracious appetite. And then I discovered Jane Austen at the tender age of 15. Between them, my love of pure romance and classic literature has intertwined, and part of the pleasure for me in writing our story was the feel that, though a contemporary novel, we had that link to the past throughout!
I’m passionate about the dance of the courtship, whether I’m reading or writing. I don’t need to follow the hero and heroine into their post-marriage world to show me how life is after that ‘happy ever after’ moment. I’m content to let them sail off into the far blue yonder, and just wallow in (and re-read time and again) those delicious moments where you can feel the characters falling in love.
So although when we first had the inspiration for the story, we started with a mystery linked to a time-travelling Jane Austen, the heart of the story became all about a beautiful friendship and the early first steps of two dreamy romances!
And there you have it! Why we wrote The Particular Charm is wrapped up in our friendship, in loving books, romance (and the city of Bath). When it comes down to it, we are trying to create what we so love in all the books we’ve read before – just with our own characters, in a world we created together.
Thank you so much, ladies! I’m always eager to get a glance behind the scenes of the workings of a book and its authors.
The Particular Charm of Jane Austen Blurb
It’s September, and the city of Bath is playing host to the annual Jane Austen Festival, a celebration of the famous author and her works.
Rose Wallace, Bath resident and avid Jane Austen fan, isn’t only looking forward to the Festival, though. Her anticipation is at its height because also attending this year will be one of her best friends, an American called Morgan, and this will be the first time in their 7-year online friendship they will meet in person! To add a further frisson of excitement, it’s the one time a year she gets to see her secret crush, an eminent archaeologist who often comes to the Festival to deliver a presentation.
What Rose doesn’t know is that one person attending the Festival has a stronger connection to it than anyone else; someone who will turn Rose’s orderly life upside down by sharing an astonishing secret with her, after which the entire legacy of Jane Austen’s work fades into oblivion.
With the happy melody of her life in tatters, Rose has to face up to a new one; a life devoid of her favourite books, characters, her beloved job and home and even some of her friends.
With the support of a displaced two hundred year old author and a charmed necklace, can Rose help to bring back some of the most beloved stories of all time and turn her own life around in the process?
Links to Add and Buy
Where to find Ada and Cass:
Ada and Cass did not come empty-handed. They have a paper copy and an e-copy of their book, The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen to giveaway one each to two lucky commenters. The giveaway is Int’l and will last for one week. First name drawn will be for the paper copy and will need to supply a mailing address and Second name drawn will be for the e-copy with Delighted Reader turning over this information to the authors who will dispense the books. Winners will have 72 hours to respond or other winners will be drawn.
Comment ideas might be about Jane Austen’s birthday or her books, Ada and Cass’ new book, or your preferences for romance type.