Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Snow Storms and Kissing Games by Sarah Johnson and an excerpt - with giveaway!

Today I welcome Sarah Johnson to my blog! I will be reviewing her recent novella, Snow Storms and Kissing Games, and I also have a video of myself reading an excerpt from her latest novel, Just to Hear 'I Love You'. And there is also a giveaway - details below!

"A sudden and fierce snow storm causes Elizabeth, Jane, and Lydia Bennet, as well as their would-be rescuers, Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley, to take shelter in an empty cabin. Lydia’s suggestion to pass the time with games might be just what Bingley needs to prove Jane truly cares for him. Will Elizabeth’s prejudices of Mr Darcy hold up under the scrutiny of being stranded with him? What changes could possibly come from the effects of ‘Snow Storms & Kissing Games’? 
A 'Pride & Prejudice' Novella Variation"

This was a really fun little story which I would sum up as short and sweet! 

It begins around the time when Jane is invited to dine at Netherfield Park. Due to the threat of snow and Mrs Bennet's instance that Jane still go to her dinner at Netherfield, Lizzy decides to accompany her sister. And, unbeknownst to them, Lydia decides to follow them as well! Consequently, when the snow begins to fall they must seek shelter in a nearby disused cottage. As panic ensues back at Longbourn, a note is sent to enquire whether the Bennet daughters made it to Netherfield, and upon hearing that they did not, Darcy and Bingley rush to the rescue to try and find them! However, this means that once they do find them they must also join the ladies in the cottage as the weather takes a turn for the worst!

The premise of the story of having Lizzy, Jane, Lydia, Darcy and Bingley getting snowed into a small cottage together was rather fun! The 5 of them was a very interesting mix and made for some... interesting scenes and conversations! 

One of the real problems with novellas is that due to the length, the story often feels rushed or unrealistic, particularly when it comes to Darcy and Lizzy who often need to go from Lizzy really not liking Darcy to loving him in a very few pages! This problem was tackled well in this book because of where the story picks up; by this point Lizzy is not completely set against Darcy as 1. Wickham hasn't come on the scene to blacken his name and 2. The full issue around Jane and Bingley hasn't reached its peak as Bingley hasn't been persuaded to leave the neighbourhood. Therefore, while Lizzy isn't a friend of Darcy's at the beginning of this tale, it is much easier for her opinion to change when they are forced to get to know each other more, as situations arise during their forced time together which reveal certain aspects to Darcy's personality that Lizzy had perhaps overlooked or ignored before.  These 'situations' which arise I don't want to ruin for you, but the use of games (and don't let 'kissing' worry you - it's nothing very scandalous!) as a distraction while they wait for the weather to improve comes in very handy for many different reasons and many different people!

The time in the cottage is very important for Lizzy and Darcy's relationship as Lizzy learns that perhaps her initial opinion of Darcy wasn't quite correct and that maybe she was being too harsh on him. Once the weather is better and they get back to Netherfield, Darcy and Lizzy begin to quickly become more than friends and it is very cute to see their relationship change! Darcy is unbelievably cute in this story - but in a good way! We see his teasing and also his more forward (and persuasive!) side which was fun. And as the last line of the novella states, "who would have thought that snow storms and kissing games could bring two people such as us together!"

Jane was sweet, as always, in this book but she had a slightly less 'looking through rose-coloured glasses' and a more realistic view on the world, which made a change. Her and Lizzy were sweet in this tale! Bingley is also very sweet and the forced confinement together proves to be very beneficial for the couple!

We mustn't forget that Lydia also was snowed in with them! Due to certain topics of conversation which arise we begin to see a different Lydia and the whole experience ends up having a positive effect and influence on her which was lovely! I will let you read it to see exactly how!

Caroline Bingley still had to make her appearance and she was just as annoying as she should be, and very fun to laugh at!

This really was a light-hearted, cute and fun read! Short and sweet, as I said. I enjoyed it! Perfect if you need a break or 'pick me up' during the day or as an uplifting read before bed!

In other exciting news, I am just entering the world of audiobook narration and my first book to narrate is going to be this one, Snow Storms and Kissing Games! A shorter novella to get me going, so keep your eyes peeled for that in next few months!
"Mary Bennet’s life changes forever when a childhood accident leaves her isolated in a silent world. Her sister Elizabeth emerges as her fiercest champion and unstinting protector. When further tragedy befalls Longbourn, Aunt and Uncle Gardiner embrace their orphaned nieces into their London household. Mary and Elizabeth must face the disapprobation of London society as they endure a Season of intense scrutiny. Will Mary’s own dearest wish— just to hear ‘I love you’ —ever come to be, or will her deafness forever consign her to life apart? The sisters must face their past and Mary’s worst critic when another family’s tragedy lands directly on their doorstep. Will they both have the strength to return love from unexpected suitors?"

** GIVEAWAY - ends Thursday 6th November **

Sarah has provided me with a giveaway with four lucky winners!
I have an ebook (international) and paperback (US only) of both Snow Storms and Kissing Games and Just to Hear 'I Love You'.  

To enter, leave a comment below and the winners will be picked randomly.

Please leave your email address and which draws you would like to be entered into (remembering the paperbacks are US only, but ebooks are international).

If you are one of the lucky winners, I will pass on your email to Sarah who will be in touch.

Good luck!
Thank you again to Sarah for this giveaway, and for the brilliant extract! I wish you all the best with these stories and any future stories! I have already read and enjoyed her first story, Leaving Bennet Behind: Chosen, (review here) and so I am looking forward to another story from her!

Your affectionate friend,
post signature

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My Day at the Jane Austen Festival 2014!

Leaving for Bath!

Better late than never, but here is my post about the Jane Austen Festival! And what a fantastic day it was! For those of you who follow my Facebook page you will have seen all the millions - and I mean millions! - of photos I have posted, but I will give a bit more detail about the day, and as it has been a while maybe you won't mind seeing the photos again! I did a post about how I put my outfit together (thanks to Marion May Designs) a few weeks ago. To read about that go here.

The lovely Míra!

10am: I arrived at the Assembly Rooms, where we were all to meet in the hopes to break the world record. No more than 5 minutes after I had arrived and was busily searching for Joana Starnes, who I was to meet there, the lovely Míra Magdó came rushing towards me and then absolutely made my day - which was an achievement given that I was already on cloud 9 anyway! - by coming up to me and saying 'I follow you!'! I cannot tell you how exciting it was to be recognised by a blog follower! And what a lovely lady she is!

The lovely Joana!
It was crowded!

10.30am: We got in the queue to head into the Assembly Rooms and signed the list for the world record - I was number 207! - and then we found the delightful Joana Starnes and we hovered in the Assembly Rooms waiting for the big moment when we would try and get our record back!

While we waited for everyone to arrive, we had some lovely entertainment from some very sweet children performing some regency dances, accompanied by a brilliant authentic music group!

The lute player was charming and played some lovely pieces recognisable from the adaptations between the dances.

I also was able to take in the wide variety of outfits everyone wore!

While the majority were ladies, there were more gentleman than I expected and some looked very dashing indeed! One in particular was very Darcy looking in my opinion! (Apart from the fact that he smiled more!)

(This was before I plucked up courage to ask him for a photo and was just trying to sneak a photo of him! He isn't wearing it in this photo but he had a very long, billowy coat as well!)

10:50am: We were all getting rather hot and bothered as there were a lot of people gathering in that one room! It really made you imagine what it would have felt like 200 years ago! But, our discomfort was quickly forgotten as the recently appointed patron of the Jane Austen Festival, Adrian Lukis (aka Mr Wickham from the BBC series!), came out onto the gallery above us to say hello and open the festival!

And what can I say, all my deep hatred I had had for this man ever since seeing him as Wickham was banished... he was absolutely charming! But more on him later!


                                 I'm right at the front!

11am: The count down begun! To break the record, we needed to have more than 491 people dressed in Regency Costume in one place for 5 minutes. And so, the stop watch begun and we waited!

There I am!                                                                            

And 5 minutes later it was announced that we had beaten the 'uppity colonials' (not my words, watch the video below!) and achieved a nice, Englishly-round number of 550!

Watch the video below to see the moment when we broke the record. They also show the entire room filled with all 550 of us - you can see me and Míra down at the front; I'm in blue and Míra in pink, and Joana can be seen even further forward in her purple-y dress with a lovely bonnet with two large feathers!

As I said, I was number 207 of 550, and you'll never guess, but the Limited Edition Jane Austen Festival 2014 mug that was sold, I bought one of the 75 that were made and I got number 27 - what a great link as I was number 207!

(oh, funny story - after we broke the record Adrian Lukis came out again and started taking some photos on his phone, and he was looking in Míra and I's direction and waving at people, so we started waving as well, and then he looked directly at us and waved back, and then he took a photo of us on his phone! So, Míra and I can claim to be on Wickham's phone!)

What do you think? A Mr. Knightley behind me?

11.30am: We finally escaped the heat of the Assembly Rooms and we all set off on the promenade! 


Photo taken while we held up the promenade!

We liked to think of ourselves as Catherine Morland (me), Eleanor Tilney (Míra) and Mrs Allen (Joana)!

Below is a video taken of the entire gathering heading out on our promenade around Bath. You can see Míra, Joana and myself holding up the entire promenade for my mother to take a photo at about 3 minutes into this video! Whoops!

Rachel from Regency History in the red!

We met the lovely Rachel Knowles from Regency History and her charming daughter and brilliant photographer Mirabelle Knowles, who took some amazing photos! (Have a look at her page Chou-Fleur Photography), and we walked around the first half of the promenade with them.

There is Mirabelle - she wasn't dressed up,
but she was a fantastic photographer!


We walked from the Assembly Rooms through the Circus and to the Royal Crescent.

Love this - a photo of a photo being taken!
Nice one Mirabelle!

I couldn't have got my reticule
better lined up to cover Joana's face if I tried!

Whilst walking through the Circus I noticed a photographer on the floor...


..and imagine my surprise and delight when one of the photos he had taken started to appear in a few newspapers and in many articles online - very exciting to become one of the faces of the festival! 

I managed to contact the photographer and get hold of the other photos he took while I walked past him, as I remembered his camera going 'click click click' many times as we walked past!

As we were coming around the corner and heading to the Crescent guess who we ran into, (almost literally!)? Adrian Lukis! He had come out to watch some of the promenade, and of course he was going to be pounced on!

And he was, Míra and I being the first! Míra spotted him at the side of the road and she grabbed my arm and pulled me towards him/onto him! Poor man! Again, he was charming and so friendly - not Wickham like at all! (I wonder why? Perhaps something to do with the fact that he is an actor?) He kept telling us and the others who wanted a photo to keep walking as he didn't mean to hold up the promenade, but really, if he was going to come and watch where he could be seen, then of course we were going to want to meet him!

'I just met Adrian Lukis!'

Eventually we let him go and we made our way back towards the Assembly Rooms.

This was my 'I just met Adrian Lukis!' face, as I walked past and told my mother!

12.15pm: We landed back at the Assembly Rooms and there was a short interlude while we waited for part two of the promenade to begin. During this break, we bumped into the lovely Jane Odiwe! We had a nice chat with her until the crowds started moving again as we began to head towards our final destination, the beautiful Parade Gardens.

A lovely (American) Mr Bennet!

Almost at the Parade Gardens!

I think Míra and I were trying to come to terms
with the fact the we had just met Wickham!

On our way you'll never guess who we bumped into again! Yes, Wickham! And we couldn't resist pouncing on him again! We all got better, individual photos with him and it was less rushed! Again, he was very charming when I spoke to him, and - I don't know what possessed me - I told him that up until now I had hated him, because all I could associate him was Wickham, but having met him my opinion had completely changed and that I now liked him! (what was I thinking!? He found it funny though!)

We dragged ourselves away from Wickham, again - I wouldn't be surprised if Míra and I receive a restraining order to keep us away from poor Adrian Lukis in the future! - but as a result of our... distraction, we had sort of lost the rest of the promenade! We walked and realised we had got a bit lost, but we did come across them again, even if we had sort of cut out part of the route! At least we were back on track, and it was worth getting lost to properly speak to Wickham!

I couldn't resist this comparison! I didn't realise how tall he was!
(Lydia is sitting on a wall next to Wickham in the photo - I am not that short!)

1pm: We arrived at the Parade Gardens! They were really lovely, not to mention that the weather was perfect on the day!

Regency deck chairs ;)

A lovely Regency picnic!

We caught up with Rachel again at the Gardens!

Can you see me?

When we got there, Joana, Míra and I strolled around the grounds taking in the gardens and all the beautiful outfits, and I went on a mission to get as many photos with as many different gentleman as I possibly could! And I think I did quite well, don't you?

I have to say in the presence of soldiers I turned into a little bit of a Lydia as apposed to Catherine Morland! ;)

The Greeter from the Jane Austen Centre!


After completing my 'mission' I met with the lovely Hazel Mills and her husband Keith. I had been talking to Hazel for a long while on facebook and I was thrilled to be able to meet her properly. We had a lovely long chat about a variety of different topics and it was so nice! (And imagine my delight when I was invited to go and stay with them for a few days, which, in fact, I am going to do this Friday! I am very excited!)

2.30pm: We said goodbye to the lovely Míra, and then Joana, Hazel and I headed to the Guild Hall to have a look around the Regency Fayre.

The dancers and musicians had made their way there as well and were providing a lovely atmosphere as we browsed the various stalls of jewellery and clothing for sale. I met the publisher of the Jane Austen's Regency World Magazine, who earlier in the year was kind enough to print a letter I sent into the magazine (see the post here!)

Also, there were various cameras around as we learnt that Japanese television were there and also a German filming company who were making a documentary!

This gentleman was part of the German filming company!

The man kneeling down in front was from the Japanese TV company - there were quite a few of them around!

(Any German and Japanese fans watch out for me on your television! ;) )

3.30pm: After browsing all the stalls, I came across a stall where silhouettes were being taken! I couldn't resist! The Roving Artist Charles Burns was unbelievably clever! I don't know how he did it!

I had a full length taken, and all I had to do was stand in front of him for 5 minutes and he cut my silhouette out with the tiniest scissors I have ever seen!

The detail is astounding! You can see my ringlets, and the buttons on my spencer!  

(Someone suggested I compare it Jane's own silhouette!)

And I cannot wait until Christmas as my mother bought my a fancy new bonnet! It is so pretty! And now I will need a new dress to match it - what a shame ;)

But I haven't got a photo with me wearing it as my mother quickly hid it away as it is for Christmas!

I also bumped into the lovely Katy Stockwell from Regency Regalia who I purchased my reticule from. It was lovely to meet her!  

Whilst we were talking we had about 3 or 4 different random people ask if they could have a photo with us! You really are famous when in Bath during the Jane Austen Festival if you are dressed up!

The final photo I took
before I had to head off home!

4.30pm: After an absolutely wonderful day, I had to drag myself away to head home, and back to boring reality! As you can probably tell, I had the most amazing day and I have vowed to at least attend the promenade every year!

I can't tell you how amazing the buzz and the atmosphere is! Everyone is so friendly and you happily talk to complete strangers as everyone is there for the same reason, a love of Jane Austen! It really is impossible to describe how much of a wonderful day it was!

Below is a video I took as soon as I got home from Bath as I thought it would be an easier way to try and express how unbelievably brilliant it was!  

I believe next year when I would love to be able to stay and attend more of the festival, I would like to stay at 4 Sydney Place, Jane Austen's own house!

I must say a special thank you here to both Cassandra Grafton who was so kind as to take a few of my new calling cards and to Bath Boutique Stays for displaying them for me!

(My calling cards!)

It really was amazing and while this post has been very late, it has been really enjoyable for me, reliving it all as I have written this post, and I have realised just how this day has impacted on me as I could remember every single little detail!

Your affectionate friend,
post signature