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Saturday, January 03, 2015

Highlights from 2014!

What a year 2014 has been! Here is a post with my highlights, both of events, things I have done and people I have met, and also of the books I have read!

Let's start with the books... Here are my favourite reads of 2014, in no particular order I might add!

To Refine Like Silver by Jeanna Ellsworth - read my full review here!

... this is a very different and unique book. It is emotionally very touching and I was completely drawn into it as I read. It was a book where reaching the 'happy ending' - and not just for Lizzy and Darcy - has never felt more satisfying!

Pride and Persistence by Jeanna Ellsworth - read my full review here!

A thoroughly enjoyable read, particularly when you need a good book to cheer you up, and it is the perfect book for curling up with after a trying day at work; brilliantly funny and wonderfully romantic which will leave you feeling perfectly content and with a huge grin on your face - well I did anyway!

Jane Austen Cover to Cover by Margaret C. Sullivan- read my full review here!

This is a book which should grace the shelves of every Austen fan, in my opinion! It really is a very interesting and a very unique book and a fantastic way of celebrating 200 years of Austen's work.

Rainy Days by Lory Lilian - read my full review here!

It is a superbly written book with an inventive story which is full of humour and wit, breath-taking romance, wonderful characters and great drama to keep you turning the pages and racing to the end!  I enjoyed every single second of this book. Just read it!

A Father's Sins by Joy King - read my full review here!

I really enjoyed this story. It was unique and different. This is a much more serious variation than I usually read, but it was an interesting and enjoyable change ... The story was very dramatic and fast paced but had romance and humour - a perfect mix! Joy really is a talented author and I can’t wait for more!

The Subsequent Proposal by Joana Starnes - read my full review here!
I really enjoyed this story. It has a good balance of pain and sorrow, but also plenty of romance and some humour! I loved going along the journey through Darcy’s eyes and it was very clever how the author intertwined the characters from Persuasion and I loved the whole idea of the switching of partners from two of Jane Austen’s wonderful novels.

A Second Chance by Joana Starnes - read my full review here!

Joana Starnes really has done it again. Humour, romance, tension and a wonderful mix of characters and story lines - it's got it all!  ...this was so well written and such a clever, brilliant and different story.

Haunting Mr Darcy by KaraLynne Mackrory - read my full review here!

I really cannot express just how much I loved this story! The plot itself was extremely clever and unique, it was absolutely hilarious and also supremely romantic. Just read it. End of.

Dear Mr Darcy by Amanda Grange - read my full review here!

I found the format refreshing to read as well as being very clever and it worked brilliant for the story. I never imagined I would enjoy it so much! The letter style was absolutely fascinating and showed so much more insight into so many of the characters we already know and love as well as adding some very interesting new characters ... If you love Pride and Prejudice as much as I do, then I highly recommend that you read this story.

Miss Armistead Makes Her Choice by Heidi Ashworth - read my full review here!

I really loved this story. It think it may even have become my favourite of this authors novels, for I loved the more serious nature as it resulted in such beautiful and heart-wrenching romance, the most powerful of all her stories in my opinion. But yet there was still some wonderful humour throughout.  The characters, and not just the hero and heroine, were also brilliant and very strong, really adding to the story.

Now onto the things I have been up to during 2014!

Jane Booker (centre)
I have seen some wonderful performances on stage this year. I saw a fantastic performance of Sense and Sensibility in April. It was a brilliant performance, with a cast of nine.

I think my highlight of the play would be the performance of Edward and Robert Ferrars, who was played by the same actor. Seeing him play both the shy and sensible Edward and the silly and outrageous Robert was pretty funny! It was also nice to see Jane Booker playing Fanny Dashwood and Mrs Jennings, who was Mrs Shaw in North and South (2004).

I also saw an absolutely unbelievable performance of Pride and Prejudice in October, adapted and performed by the fantastic Two Bit Classics - and as suggested in the title, yes there were only two of them playing the 21 different characters!

I can't begin to describe to you how brilliant and clever it all was - it was so good I saw it twice!

 I am interviewing the actors in Two Bit and I will be posting the interview very soon - keep your eyes peeled for that one, it is going to be a good one!

I made a wonderful purchase in April - I spent my 18th birthday money on a beautiful 1820s writing slope!

Vincent Warren Low

And what was even more exciting was that it had a name on the top, and thanks to the wonderful and lovely Hazel Mills I was able to find out all about who owned it - he even had a memoir! To see more pictures and read more about it, have a look at my post about it here!

I have also managed to tick off quite a few of my film locations this year! Of course, I couldn't resist making up a few comparison shots!

In August I visited the beautiful Stourhead Gardens, which was the location of the first proposal in the 2005 film of Pride and Prejudice.

In October, I visited Basildon Park, which was Netherfield Park , also in the 2005 film of Pride and Prejudice. I visited here with the lovely Joana Starnes, who I met this year and have since been on many delightful outings!

And at the end of October, I went to see if Lady Catherine was at home, at Belton House - Rosings in the 1995 mini-series!

Cassandra Grafton, me, Joana Starnes, Abigail Reynolds

And now, back to June when I spent two lovely days in Chawton with Joana, during the Regency Week.

Joana Starnes, me, Cassandra Grafton

On the first day, I met the lovely Abigail Reynolds and Cassandra Grafton. We attended the Regency Day in Alton, followed by a stroll through the pretty Selborne.

Joana Starnes, Monica Fairview, Cassandra Grafton,
Abigail Reynolds, me, Jane Odiwe

On the second day I was lucky enough to have a tour of Chawton House Library, where I met with Cassandra and Abigail again, as well as Jane Odiwe and Monica Fairview.

Joana and me in Chawton Cottage gardens

Joana and I also attended the Jane Austen House Museum's open evening, which was a lovely end to the day!

Onto August, which was a month of preparation as I put together my first regency outfit, ready for the festival in September!

It was such fun choosing all my accessories and designing my dress with the lovely Sarah from Marion May.

To see my full post about my outfit and links to where I purchased everything, have a look here!

And onto September, and possibility the best day of the year - The Jane Austen Festival Promenade 2014!

Joana and me

It was a fantastic day! I met with the lovely Joana again, and met Hazel for the first time in person!

Me, Joana Starnes, Hazel Mills and her husband Keith

I also made the acquaintance of the lovely Míra Magdó!

Míra Magdó and me in the Assembly Rooms

Adrian Lukis aka Wickham!

It was amazing to be among so many Janeites! (Not to mention that I met Wickham!) To see a full account of my day, take a look at my post here! 

During October I had a lovely surprise when I had a message from the lovely Barb Chancey saying she had been practising her new felting hobby and had made something I would be interested in, and she then sent me a photo of mini-me!

It is really cute!

This is the photo it was based off, taken by hazel at the Festival in September.

Also in October I went to visit with the lovely Hazel in Cambridge and she took me to see Cambridge university, Rosings (Belton House) and I saw Two Bit's Pride and Prejudice for the second time with her. It was a brilliant week! I also was in awe of Hazel's book collection - this is all Jane Austen novels!

Hazel Mills and me,
in front of her impressive collection!

In November I made an amazing purchase, meaning I now own an 1894 Peacock edition of Pride and Prejudice!

It was my Christmas present and it is stunning! My thanks must go to Hazel who found on for such a reasonable price and in such good condition!

And finally December, when I had another fantastic day when I performed a piano recital for the Jane Austen Society of Cambridge's Birthday Lunch. It was lovely to see Hazel again and also Míra who was so kind as to drive an awfully long way to come and see my performance. It was a very nerve-racking day but I really enjoyed it! Here is a video of the recital...

My recording studio in my bedroom!

Another exciting event in December was the completion of my first audiobook! After recording a few extracts for authors, I was persuaded to look into audiobook narration, and so a few months down line I am narrating audiobooks! I have completed my first one, Snow Storms and Kissing Games by Sarah Johnson, and it will be on sale on Audible and iTunes in a week or so!  


I hope you have all had a good 2014 as well!
Bring on 2015!

Christmas at Basildon Park (Netherfield 2005)

Your affectionate friend,
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Friday, December 05, 2014

Blog Tour: The Muse by Jessica Evans

Today I am part of the blog tour for Jessica Evans' new story, The Muse. Jessica will be sharing an excerpt from the book today, and I am lucky enough to the have a giveaway - details below!
"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 whom 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?"
This scene happens during the second rehearsal for William Darcy's new work of choreography at Ballet Theater of New York. Elizabeth is a dancer in his piece. 

Rehearsal finished with Darcy proclaiming, “This choreography is about artistic expression, so I need to start seeing some from you!”
Not a positive end to two hours of grueling drills. A few dancers trudged out. Elizabeth stayed behind.
She had no clue what Darcy had meant. Attack the descent but don’t short-change the jump. Was she supposed to defy gravity? In the back of the room, Elizabeth studied her glissade in the mirror. A few other dancers honed steps around her as well, but the choreographer’s eyes settled on her. She noticed him pacing towards her—studied, cat-like.
“Your rhythm is off,” he said, when he was no more than a few feet away. “Duh-duh, duh-duh,” mimicking the music with his voice and the rhythm of the jumps with his hands.
She tried again, and he shook his head. Elizabeth placed her arms akimbo and looked down in frustration. Head still down, she cut her eyes up to the choreographer. “I must be having an off day all around.”
He looked annoyed. Rather than frightening Elizabeth, it made her feel triumphant.
“Don’t go for height. Go for movement. Imagine that someone’s carrying you across in the air. Both legs out.”
Unlike Caroline or even Lydia, Elizabeth did not have the quickness of feet to be a virtuoso jumper. She tried once more, and Darcy looked as if he was ready to give up and leave. Her temper flared. She suspected he was giving her BS corrections and nit-picking just to be a jerk. Well, she could be a persistent jerk right back. Elizabeth cocked her chin and looked him square in the face in a wordless challenge to show her the right way.
Sighing, Darcy suddenly walked behind her and grabbed her waist. Elizabeth sucked in a quick breath.
Glissade,” he ordered.
Heart thudding, she obeyed. His hands were strong but light on her back, gliding her over the floor. Then, she felt the pressure of his hands on her sides, guiding her down again. He had barely moved her off the floor, and yet the dynamics of the jump felt completely different.
“That,” he said, “is what I want.”
She tried it a few times herself. It pained her that the sequence now took on a different and vibrant musicality. Darcy looked at her smugly and then turned away. Success had never felt so defeating.
“Partnering a woman is like making love to her,” Mr. V had once told William’s pas de deux class in his heavily-accented English. They had been teenagers at the time, and most had chuckled with feigned knowing.
“You need to touch woman gently, but not too gently. You need to be strong but not too strong. Then the woman feels uncomfortable. You have to hold her just right. Good partner is good lover,” his teacher had said. William had never forgotten that advice.
Was it the chicken or the egg, he wondered? Had he bedded so many dancers because he had been a good dance partner? Or had he become a good dance partner by sleeping with so many women? In any case, he thought of that advice often before he touched a woman on stage or in the bedroom. The thought had been in his mind, too, as he placed his hands around Elizabeth Bennet’s waist and lifted her.
In his experience, the same truth held for women: The ones who let themselves be partnered were usually the ones who melted, molded, and danced under the sheets; the ones who blushed, flinched, or stiffened when a dancer touched her on the floor usually shriveled up in bed.
Although she had tensed initially, Elizabeth Bennet, he noted, had eased into him when he grabbed her. She had been light and pliant. A small detail, but one that was on his mind as he stood in the center of Studio B, staring at his feet, thinking of what came next.
In the choreography, he had reached a dead-end. He didn’t know how to get his dancers off stage and get the principal dancer on. Well, it wasn’t really a matter of not knowing how; it was more that he suddenly didn’t care. Did it really matter? He could have his dancers clip their toenails on stage, and the critics would call it a brilliant feat of post-modern dance.
He knew he shouldn’t complain. As a young choreographer creating dances for barely four years, William should have been grateful for the rebirth of his dance career. Life after his career-ending knee injury had been bleak, and choreography had resurrected him. For several years, he’d traveled to new dance companies, working with new dancers, pumping out new ballets, receiving ovations, and tasting glory again, even if it was from behind the wings. But over a year ago, choreography stopped being the panacea it had been. William began to feel empty again.
He approached the mirror and studied his face. Lines had emerged at the corners of his eyes. Twice in the past month he had yanked out a stray gray hair from the mass of dark brown waves on top of his head. William frowned. He was growing old. Once he could no longer dance, he began to feel the heaviness of time dragging down the skin on his face. The wrinkles didn’t show much now, but give them a few years. He sighed and sank into the chair at the front of the room.
After several minutes, William saw visions of his younger self bolting down the diagonal in a rapid series of leaps, turns, and beats of the leg. As a dancer, he had been a completely different person, cocky and brash. He had smiled more, charmed more. There had been nothing more ego-inflating than catapulting himself three feet off the floor in a grand jeté, whirling around in a quadruple pirouette. Nothing more gratifying than the explosion of applause after a perfectly executed variation. And now it was gone.
In envisioning his younger days, William suddenly thought of Elizabeth Bennet. He thought of her dancing. She was still clumsy in some of her movements, but she danced with an energy that he recognized: fierce and delicate at the same time. In her eyes, he recognized a passion for expression that he, too, had once felt. Elizabeth Bennet, he could tell, loved to dance.
William rose again and paced towards the center of the room. She definitely had a strength for balancés, those rocking steps done in a waltz rhythm. Perhaps less vertical movement and more horizontal would work better in this section. He attempted an impromptu phrase of balancés and piqués, and ending with a series of chaînés. It fit the music. It would work. Suddenly, William had direction. He got out his notebook and scribbled down the steps, imagining their execution by a petite corps de ballet girl with a penchant for haughty lifts of the chin and a pair of cold, glittering eyes.



A middle school English teacher by trade, I cut my writer’s teeth in various fan fiction forums starting at the tender age of fifteen. My debut novel, The Muse: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, is set to be published by Meryton Press in late November 2014.

In my spare time, I read a lot of Young Adult literature, cook and eat as organically/sustainably/artisanally/grass-fed-ally as possible, and work on improving my life one affirmation at a time. I live in Brooklyn, NY though am not a hipster. I swear.

**GIVEAWAY - ends Monday 15th December**

In celebration of the release, the lovely Jessica is offering a paperback copy of her story. This is open internationally.  

To enter, leave a comment below and the winner shall be picked randomly.

Please leave your email address. I will then be in contact for your address.

Good luck, and thank you again to Jessica for offering this giveaway! And good luck with the book and thank you for such an intriguing excerpt!


Your affectionate friend,
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