Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Jane Austen's nod to Gothic Romance

1897 version book cover
“It is only a novel... or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language”    Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey. 

Jane Austen's works usually conjure up images sunny drawing rooms and brightly lit ballrooms. Or a well maintained estate like Pemberly.  Few people think of a remote castle, a dark mystery, and a young heroine alone in a remote place where danger lurks.

Northanger Abbey is Jane Austen's nod to the Gothic Romances that were so popular in her time. Gothic romances were contemporary romances in Jane's time.  Jane met the famous Mrs. Ann Radcliffe, who you have likely never heard of.  Jane admired Radcliffe's work, and her one Gothic story is a compliment to a writer she admired. Some say it is a spoof of Radcliffe's works, I disagree.

If you're hungry for Austen, and have read Pride & Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Emma until the pages are worn and the ink is fading, try this work as a taste of something different, yet so classically Jane Austen.

The basic story: Plain looking Catherine Moorland is 17 years old. She lives with her parents and numerous siblings in the country.  They are not well off.  Wealthy, childless friends of her parents, Mr. & Mrs. Allen, decide to take Catherine to Bath with them for a holiday. This is a boon for her as her family is not out about in society and Catherine will not have a season in London. At Bath, Mrs. Allen will introduce her to the society there. Off she goes to Bath with her patrons.

At Bath, Isabella Thorpe befriends her. Isabella also loves Gothic romances, so the girls bond over their shared joy in dark romance. Isabella's brother, John Thorpe, flirts with Catherine. She's never had a beau before, so she is a little flattered by his attention. But Thorpe is not well educated and is often quite rude and condescending. Catherine also meets a very handsome, quiet, intelligent man, Mr. Henry Tilney.  Henry dances with Catherine at a ball and then invites her to go out walking with him and his sister.  Catherine likes him a lot, as any 17 year old girl would when being courted by a handsome man in society. So, she has two suitors, one conniving, the other sunny and cheerful.

Her new friends, the Thorpe siblings, manipulate Catherine while she's in Bath. John is under the mistaken impression that Catherine is the Allen's heir, so he wants her for her money. Isabella is mischievous and vain. She uses Catherine to get closer to Catherine's older brother, James, by pretending friendship with her for her own reasons.

Sounds like high school, doesn't it? Well, for these young ladies, it sort of is. They adolescent girls out in society, young and hopeful, some of them very hopeful of making a good match so they can leave home and become mistress of their own home through marriage. Catherine is the dreamy, bookish type. She's always reading Gothic novels, which are all the rage at the time. She has an active imagination and her reading choices only fan the flames for trouble.

1968 cover
After several mishaps in Bath, and learning that Isabella and John are not her real friends, she accepts an invitation to visit Northanger Abbey from Eleanor, Henry Tilney's shy, quiet sister. Henry Tilney and his father have decided to leave Bath, and as the daughter is lonely, she asks to have Catherine accompany them to their isolated estate for an extended visit.
Once Catherine arrives at the castle, her imagination goes into overdrive. She suspects Mr. Tilney murdered his wife years ago, and thus indulges herself in some amateur sleuthing activities and some heavy snooping about the castle. She is frightened by her surroundings as the castle appears to be haunted.  So there you have it, romance with Henry, intrigue and dark suspicions, a girl alone, away from family in an isolated castle, and a dark, sinister host as once Mr. Tilney Sr. returns to his home he becomes a different man than the one she knew in Bath.

It's suspenseful, and it's Jane Austen. You can't miss. I've read the story several times, and watched a movie version several times. It is highly entertaining, and very Austen!

There are a couple of movie versions out if you are looking for a quick fix.  I've only watched one of them, an older version from 1995. Unlike her more popular works, there aren't a bazillion film versions of this one.  As far as I could find, there is only this one (photo below), and one made for TV by Masterpiece in 2008 which I have not watched. The best way is to read the book! Or listen to it in audio. I downloaded a free audio version from iTunes a few years ago and listened to it at bedtime on my Ipod....ah, how times change, now you can download it to your smart phone and listen or read!

1995 BBC version

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Autumn Romance

Warm the apple cider or open that special bottle of wine. Autumn Romance is in the air.

With September comes that lovely time of year when leaves turn bright red, orange and yellow and pumpkins are everywhere in the northern U.S. Pumpkin recipes abound. (check out my mom's pumpkin bar recipe on the right sidebar under pages). It's time to bring out that favorite sweater again and get your football stadium blanket out of storage in prep for the football games.

I have a few favorite reads of my own to share with you. These are curl up with a blanket in the evening and enjoy hot cider while you relax kind of books. You will feel you are in Wisconsin with the characters, and their love stories will sweep you away.

Autumn Wish: 
Can a marriage of convenience lead to Happily Ever After? 

Nikki Rowen desires a family of her own—but first comes love, then comes marriage. She thought she had the former, until the moment she mentioned the latter and her boyfriend left her with nothing but a broken heart. Just as she’s beginning to doubt she’ll ever have a ‘til death do us part Happily Ever After, she meets her new neighbor in the most unexpected way. 

In Sam Mallin's experience, the word family is synonymous with abandonment; he’s more than content on his own. Yet, in less than a week, he finds himself caring for an infant dropped on his doorstep, and playing house with his beautiful next-door-neighbor. When his feelings for Nikki deepen, he fears he’s nothing more than the ready-made family she so desperately wishes for. How can a self-proclaimed loner hold onto the two females most important to him without history repeating itself in a world of heartbreak? 
Autumn Wish on Amazon

Autumn Bliss: 
She's getting out of town and never looking back—until she meets the one man who tempts her to stay. 

Mallory Parker is convinced her future lies way beyond the streets of the small home town that stole her mother’s hopes and dreams. Even after she meets a man who makes her second guess her choices, she can't risk getting stuck in backwoods Wisconsin for the rest of her life. 

Army veteran Levi Jenkins is still dealing with the aftermath of his last tour of duty. Working in the background as a maintenance man at Whispering Pines Lodge gives him the peace his soul craves, and a sense of home he thought lost forever. Then Mallory teaches him to smile again and he begins to believe in the future. Too bad she's hell-bent on leaving. 

Opposites attract--can they compromise to find common ground, or is Happily Every After doomed from the start? Autumn Bliss on Amazon

Autumn Kiss; 
For eight years, Josie Sullivan has managed to keep memories of Nash Riley buried in the past. Now he’s back, and he claims he’s here to stay—in the apartment above her bakery. How in the hell can she keep her distance when she runs into him every time she turns around? Even worse, her traitorous heart whispers she never let him go... 

Years ago, Nash made the mistake of leaving Josie behind, and now she won’t give him the time of day. Buying the building that houses her business seemed like a good plan to win her back, but she refuses to believe he’ll stick around this time. Seeing her every day becomes pure torture when she stubbornly maintains the defensive walls she erected when he left. Autumn Kiss on Amazon

I've read many of Stacey Joy Netzel's books, and she is one of my favorite authors. With 25+ books to her credit, once you discover her works you'll be well fed for a while. Granted, this is a contemporary romance series and my theme has always been more about historical romance, but Ms. Netzel is one author who delivers consistently with each book I read of her works so I'm passing on this sweet set to my blog readers so you can enjoy the warmth and spice of these delightful Autumn Romances.  They are part of a series, Romancing Wisconsin, but they are also stand alone so you can read them before trying out the other seasonal titles in the series.

For more info on Stacey Joy Netzel and her amazing books, check out her website: