Published by Tabby Cow Goodreads
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, can’t wait for her friends to arrive and the Festival to start, unaware one of the recently arrived guests will turn her life upside down by sharing with her a secret that ultimately puts Jane Austen’s entire literary legacy at risk.
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?
I’d like to thank everyone for joining me this year for another Haunted Austen blog event. It’s been such fun sharing these great JAFF stories with a paranormal twist with my readers! I also owe tremendous thanks to the authors who participated this year and who offered such generous giveaways for my readers! I hope you enjoy this final post and have a safe and happy Halloween.
How does our love of the past help to shape our very own future?
I have become rather fond of fictional stories that bring Jane Austen to life as a true flesh and blood character, especially when they are as charming and insightful as Cass Grafton’s and Ada Bright’s latest collaboration, The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen. Even though I have not been to England, this story truly immersed me in the many joys and the pleasures that Janeites are able to take pleasure in within the glorious city of Bath.
As the story opens up we meet the two main characters, Rose and Morgan, two close friends who connect with each other in Bath, England for the Jane Austen Festival, after the two ladies have developed a close friendship through many their virtual exchanges. I quickly became immersed in the easy-going friendship that these ladies shared between themselves, and as they become better acquainted with each other, the reader also befriends them through their shared experiences in the story. As someone who has made several good friends through my own online exchanges, I could easily relate to their growing friendship.
We also learn that the two friends have some serious crushes going on with two of the men in this story. For Rose, Dr. Aidan Trevellyan, an archaeologist who loves digging up the past, plays an important role in her present life, as well as in her past, when she’s desperately seeking answers for Jane. Even though he’s a bit aloof and serious, which reminded me a bit of my favorite Austen hero, Fitzwilliam Darcy, he’s also kind and sincere, but her own inhibitions don’t allow her to read him very well. Morgan’s eye is caught by Rose’s boss, James, whose gregarious by nature and seems taken with her early in their relationship, which reminded me of another Austen hero, Charles Bingley. I loved watching their relationships with these men unfold within the story and how Rose was able to grow more confident in herself through the lessons she learned throughout the story and her relatiosnhip with Aidan.
However, there’s an unsettling feeling that grows within both of the ladies when they observe that a woman who has a striking resemblance to Jane Austen seems to be following them throughout Bath. Eventually, Rose decides that she must investigate this mysterious woman a little closer, which eventually leads them both to travel back in time through the magic contained in a particular charm.
Yet, the worst part for Rose isn’t the fact that she’s living back at home with her mother again, or that she can’t remember even the simplest information related to her daily life; it’s that events from the past have unfolded in a way which made Jane Austen herself go missing in 1803, before she ever published any of her beloved novels. So now Rose, and millions of other people, must live in a world without Jane’s stories, unless Rose and Jane can work together to find a way back to the present-day. Is there a worse fate than that for such a devoted Janeite?
It was true. How could she have known what a love of Jane Austen’s writing had brought her: the friends, the life choices which had led to a job she loved, a slow but steadily growing confidence in herself as someone of value?
She felt like someone had died, the sense of loss was so severe. Time and again she had turned to Google and searched: Jane Austen, the names of her oh-so-famous novels, Chawton House, the museum in what was her last home, the Jane Austen Society – nothing. It was all gone.
So had the many forums and blogs she had religiously visited and followed, where she had met people – made friends – who could talk as endlessly as she about all things Jane Austen. This is where she and Morgan had built on their early acquaintance and become the very best of friends, soul sisters for each other, because for all her extended, multicultural family, Morgan had confessed years ago to Rose about how adrift she felt, even amidst the loving family around her.
How many of us can imagine how our lives have been changed for the better through Austen’s work?
I loved spending time with Miss Jane Austen in this book, and particularly witnessing her acclimate herself to living in our modern-day world. How does one who has lived so long ago adjust to our “conveniences” and culture without any preparation for this new role? Naturally, Jane handles her peculiar situation with a bit of humor and optimism, which were some of my favorite parts of this story.
‘Do not be despondent, Rose.’ Jane patted her reassuringly on the shoulder. ‘Three of the stories you know so well remain firmly in my head, and I am just as capable of writing in this century as I was in the past – perchance even more so with such modern conveniences.’ Jane frowned. ‘Or perhaps not, for here, young women are obliged to complete all manner of chores in addition to their profession. Household duties I am somewhat familiar with, but I do not care for these convenience stores.’ Jane’s voice perked up. ‘How much pecuniary recompense must I command in order to pay someone to procure my provisions?’
The writing flowed really well between these two writers; one can’t tell where one starts up or leaves off. Ada Bright and Cass Grafton communicate their shared vision and passion for this story through their seamless collaboration. As an ardent Austen admirer, I could certainly relate to their love for Austen and the sheer despair their characters experienced in a world void of Austen’s work. My hope is that they’ve written this ending with a sequel in mind, even though the ending wraps this story up quite nicely.
My only quibble is that the pace of the story was a bit slow for the first several chapters; however, this did serve to establish the background of the story and made the development of the Rose’s and Morgan’s lives feel more realistic to me, which ultimately led to a more fulfilling reading experience. I highly recommend this story to Janeites who want to experience the pleasures of Bath alongside the lovely Jane Austen and friends, as well as for readers who enjoy stories that allow us to explore the possibilities offered to us through friendship, shared optimism, and the bond we can share with other people through our love for the treasures found in the past.
Ada Bright and Cass Grafton have offered two giveaways of this book for my Just Jane 1813 readers. To enter your chance to win one of their two ebooks of “The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen,” please leave a comment on this blog by midnight, ET on November 6th. The winners will be announced on November 7, 2016.
Thank you to Ada Bright and Cass Grafton for writing a story that allowed a Janeite, such as myself, to enjoy some time with the lovely Miss Jane Austen, for their generous giveaways for my readers, and for sharing the lovely excerpt below from this story.
Excerpt from The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen
Setting: Rose Wallace, an avid Janeite, has created a happy life for herself in the city of Bath, a life where her love of Jane Austen and her works has influenced some of her key decisions, including making her home in the basement flat of No 4 Sydney Place (the Austens’ former home).
Excited to be attending the annual Jane Austen Festival, along with friends and other fans from all over the world, Rose could not be happier.
Even the slight annoyance of the young woman staying in the holiday flat above Rose’s – she keeps very odd hours and has a tendency to set off the smoke alarm late at night – cannot dampen her spirits. Despite enjoying the Festival, however, Rose’s suspicions are aroused and her attention is constantly drawn to this lady. Dismissing her as a slightly ‘crazy’ fan at first, it’s not long before Rose starts wondering if the visitor from upstairs – Jenny Ashton – has ever lived there before… as in, 200 years before.
In this excerpt, Rose runs after Jenny to challenge her about something she saw earlier in the week which is making her question her own sanity. Is this woman a dedicated Method actor, preparing for a role in a Regency film or play? Or is she something – or someone – else entirely?
Jenny was quick on her feet, but Rose was catching her up. ‘Jenny! Wait!’ There was no response as the lady hurried across the road ahead and rounded the corner at the top of Great Pulteney Street. Putting on a spurt of speed, her long skirt clutched above her knees, Rose managed to be just a few paces away as her quarry took the step to number 4 Sydney Place.
Holding onto the railings bordering the steps to her own flat, Rose was out of breath, but she managed to summon enough to call, ‘Jenny!’ It was as though she was invisible and for a moment, Rose’s resolve stumbled, but then she recalled the lady’s formality. ‘Miss Ashton? Please, could we speak?’
There was no response again as Jenny placed her key in the lock, and desperate now, Rose said firmly, ‘Miss Austen.’
Sure enough, the lady froze. ‘I would like to talk to you. Please?’
Rose held her breath, but slowly the lady removed the key and turned to look at her. ‘I suspected as much – perchance it was inevitable. How may I assist you?’
Swallowing quickly, unsure whether she was relieved or not, Rose walked forward to meet her as she stepped back onto the pavement.
‘There’s something I have to know.’ The absurdity of what she was doing struck Rose, but she pushed on. ‘I hope you don’t mind me asking. It’s just – it’s just I saw you, you see.’ She gestured towards the ground-floor flat. ‘In the garden – and then, the other night; the letter on your desk, written in a fair imitation of Jane Austen’s hand.’
The lady looked amused by this. ‘It would be surprising were it not.’ She studied Rose in what felt like an assessing manner. ‘Yet these are mere observations; what is it you would wish to know?’
What was it she wanted to know? ‘I – er – I just wanted to know that–’ Rose grasped at straws. ‘You – well, you have no plans to try and sell the letter.’
‘I do not follow you. Why would I wish to dispose of a letter penned to my sister in such a manner?’
Rose blinked – her sister? Either this woman was as delusional as Morgan suggested, or she was so deep into living her upcoming role that she just refused to pull herself out of it. Nevertheless, Rose tried to plough on. ‘I need to know you have no intention of pretending… to try and pass the writing off as…’ She stopped. If this woman was playing at being Jane Austen, then she would consider her letters to be genuine, as far as it went.
‘I cannot comprehend your meaning. There is nothing untoward in writing to my sister, in whom I have every faith, for she destroys each letter as soon as it is read. Is this your concern, that someone might discover what is afoot?’
Rose frowned. ‘So you aren’t writing them to sell them?’
‘Most indubitably not. What a singular notion.’
‘I’m so pleased.’ Rose smiled in genuine relief, but it was fleeting. ‘But wait! How did you plan to send it – to Cassandra, I mean? Is she also a – er –’
‘You are acquainted with my sister? This is most singular.’
‘No – of course not.’
‘Yet you hesitate not to use her given name. Such informality is a little precipitous. ’Tis almost an impertinence.’ Rose stared at her; then she narrowed her gaze. The lady was almost laughing at her. ‘’Tis but a tease, Miss Wallace. Forgive me.’
‘Right. Okay.’ Rose drew in a breath, trying to get back on track. ‘So why do you write them, then?’
‘To send intelligence of myself. Why else?’ She peered at Rose. ‘Does aught sicken you? Your faculties seem not wholly at your disposal.’
‘Look, enough of this. I know what you are; who you are pretending to be.’
‘Miss Jenny Ashton?’
‘No – wait. Is that not your real name?’
The lady looked taken aback. ‘You know it is not.’
‘Yes, but then what…’
There was silence for a moment, a frown on the lady’s brow. ‘Is there a deficiency in your memory, Miss Wallace? Did you not acknowledge me not five minutes hence?’ She gave a delicate shrug. ‘So be it. ’Tis unfortunate, though long has Cass warned me of its inevitability and, to be sure, there is no little liberation in speaking of it at last.’
Rose stared at the lady before her. They were almost on a par for height and possibly age, yet there was a noticeable air of something different about her… A pair of intelligent, hazel eyes held Rose’s steadily, and she was struck, now they stood in the natural light of day, by the hint of resemblance in her features to the descriptions and attempts at visual manifestations of Jane Austen. Yet it was as if none had been quite right. This was like the master bringing all those images into focus.
Feeling very glad James and Morgan had not come with her, Rose shook her head. Was she still slightly drunk? What was happening to her? Why did her skin tingle, right to the tips of her fingers?
Her voice came out in a whisper. ‘I thought I saw you… disappear.’
The lady merely continued to hold Rose’s gaze. ‘And pray, when was this?’
‘Thursday morning – early. You came out into the garden, and I was down in the courtyard. I convinced myself I must have blinked and you’d moved out of sight – the view is so restricted.’
‘I see. I shall take more care in future. And this is common knowledge, hereabouts?’
‘Not… exactly.’ Rose wasn’t sure if she was talking to a delusional woman or becoming one herself. This must be what being brainwashed was like. Was she saying she really did disappear the other morning?
Rose shook her head. ‘It’s not possible.’
The lady cautioned Rose with a finger to her lips. There was an elderly woman walking past with a small yapping dog on a lead, no doubt heading for Henrietta Park.
Once she had turned the corner into Sutton Street, Rose looked at her companion again. This is not happening, she chanted to herself.
‘It is said all things are possible.’ The lady reached into her pocket and withdrew a soft pouch. Then she smiled at Rose. ‘How convenient are your pockets in comparison to ours. Oft one would be caught reaching for the recalcitrant thing in a manner most inelegant.’ She tipped the contents of the pouch onto her palm and raised it for Rose to inspect. ‘This is the means by which I come here.’ It was a topaz cross and chain.
Rose caught her breath as she stared at it, mesmerised. ‘It’s very pretty.’ Then she frowned, a hand raised to her own necklace. ‘It’s very similar to the ones belonging to Cassandra and Jane Austen. I’ve seen the real thing.’
The lady’s shoulders rose and fell. ‘As have I – and also the likenesses in books of the crosses they believe belonged to my sister and me, the ones they display, by all accounts, in a cottage in Hampshire where I go to live… or rather, once lived.’
‘It’s not true? They didn’t belong to you – I mean, them?’ Rose felt like a small part of her world was splintering.
‘In part, but they numbered three. Why only two survive today, I know not. This,’ she gestured towards the replica cross hanging around Rose’s neck, ‘is a copy of my mother’s, not of mine.’
They both stared down at the cross, still resting in her palm, as Rose tried to grapple with all she was hearing. ‘And this,’ Rose pointed warily at it, ‘this has been a – a way through time?’ It sounded completely ludicrous when said out loud, but instead of looking at her as though she was stupid, the lady nodded.
‘Indeed. I simply place it about my neck, and lo, I am either taken forward or back, dependent upon which way the cross faces. I only ever use it within the confines of the house and the walled garden.’ She gestured towards No 4 Sydney Place. ‘For then, though it moves me from one time to another, the place remains constant.’ Then she laughed. ‘How well it would look, would it not, if I were to journey between time and arrive…’
A sudden burst of noise interrupted her, and they both turned quickly to see the small yapping dog, now free of its restraint, racing around the corner towards them, the elderly lady panting along behind and calling its name in a high-pitched squeal: ‘Prancer! Prancer, you come here this minute!’
Prancer threw a disdainful look over his shoulder and kept running, unfortunately straight into the skirts of Rose’s companion, who stumbled and, as she righted herself, the cross and chain fell from her hand.
Both she and Rose instinctively reached for it, but not soon enough. Snatching it as it fell, Prancer seized it in his teeth and with one quick swallow consumed it, disappearing immediately into thin air.
Thank you, ladies, for the wonderful excerpt! It’s just a taste of the particular enjoyment readers will experience when they read, “The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen!”
Readers can find Cass and Ada at the virtual spaces below:
Ada – @missyadabright
Cass – @CassGrafton
Check out Goodreads to see what your friends are saying about this story.