How to Eat Your Way Thru Our Book!

IMG_6006One unexpected result of writing our book was that Bath became more than a setting in The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen.  The city has such a unique feel to it, a really lovely regal quaintness.  Anyway, we strived to paint a picture of this place the way we know it very, very accurately.  We knew exactly where each of our characters would live, socialize and… just as importantly, where they would eat!

I’m not sure how this became such a priority for us, but I think it started with Las Iguanas. Cass wanted to make sure I tried their fajitas (which is a favorite food of mine), and we had such a nice seat by a big window overlooking an attractive little courtyard that we immediately agreed the moment had to be mirrored in the book.

Boater pubFrom there, the idea took root.  By the time we were together again for the book launch we pretty much exclusively went to the restaurants that our characters had gone to.

The Boater is a cute little pub close to where we (and one of our characters, Morgan) stayed.  It is a little dark, in a homey sort of way, and only about two tables wide (though it goes back quite a bit and there are other levels, including a garden!).

Bill’s Restaurant is a nice restaurant, very amenable even when your very large, loud group want to stay to close out the place.  They had the BEST spicy chicken sandwich.  I tried to get Cass go to back only to there the whole rest of the trip.

Las Iguanas, as I’ve already mentioned, has a really nice location and very good food.  After a few days without salsa, my California soul starts to shrivel up, so they were incredibly refreshing.

Speaking of location, Graze has an incredible one:

They are on the top floor of a building near the train station so not only do they overlook the tracks, but the city centre below. We had some lovely blue skies which shone through the 360 degree windows when we ate there and the food was great (and the scene set here is a fav with some of our readers – we know, because they told us so!)

The Chequers feels like more of a secret Bath location, though I’m assured they are well known.  It’s very nice inside, with easy seating and the menu feels straight out of a reality show cooking competition.

Chequers pub sign

Hall & Woodhouse has special significance because this is where our two female lead characters meet face to face for the first time.  It is one of those bars that has a ton of character.  The outside feels very traditional Bath, and the large sprawling inside is inviting and warm even though it’s spread over two floors  – and it has an awesome roof terrace!

Finally, there’s also a key scene set in the Roman Baths Kitchen. We didn’t get to eat there together (though Cass is a bit of a regular!), but they did us the most awesome buffet for our post book launch party… party!!

Basically, even if you have no interest in Jane Austen or the Roman Baths, Bath is still a wonderful place to spend some time at and, oh yes, with more than a few delicious fares to choose from.

“If you’re going to Bath – take it (The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen) with you – it’s also a wonderful guide to some of the best pubs and restaurants in town.” – Jane Odiwe

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On my to do list for next time (because our characters got there before me!):

Jolly’s Tea Room,  The Pulteney Arms and The Raven

21 Reasons to Choose our Book for your Next Book Club Selection!

IMG_5563c copyWhat Book Club charm does The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen hold? We’ve been considering just that question after the subject was broached by some of our friends indicating we might be their next pick.

  1. IMG_1416FRIENDSHIP is a strong theme in the book and also sometimes in Book Clubs! (I mean, I guess it’s not a pre-requisite for those of you into the serious art of reading literature, but I assume it helps!)
  2. It’s got history in it! I mean, not all of it is totally true, but a good amount of it is, and I think it’s fairly easy to spot where we deviate (intentionally anyway).
  3. IMGP2161It’s a virtual tour of Bath, UK.  And trust me, Bath is AWESOME.  I hate traveling.  But I love Bath.  When a cranky traveler gives a place a thumbs up, I feel that should mean something.
  4. It’s FUNNY.  And considering the sometimes subtle, sometimes substantial differences in UK and US humor, the fact that we both thought it was funny might just mean it is.
  5. It’s LIGHT (the Kindle edition is anyway – *insert rim shot here*).  In some Book Clubs, the books (no matter how worthy of being read) can be a tad heavy and depressing.  The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen can be a nice palette cleanser between Nobel prize winning novels.
  6. NChands - Copy (2)ROMANCE that you don’t have to cover your eyes for.  I mean, I enjoy extra steamy love scenes as much as the next gal, but I grew up with the sort of subtle, funny romance that was almost like a secret between the writer, the characters, and only some of the readers.  All my favorite romance novels have dog-eared pages where I’ve distinguished hints that the relationship is progressing, but would otherwise struggle to find those moments again.
  7. Most our characters have British Accents!  Okay, perhaps not as fascinating to you British people, but I love the British accent and feel extremely lucky to have an actual, real, live British person writing with me, transforming my Americanisms into verified Britspeak (unless I’m writing for an American character).
  8. It has at least one American accent! No? This doesn’t get anyone excited? Of all the billions of people that adore the British accent, I thought maybe there would be one oddball who wanted an American one but no… How about… It has an American! Which I find funny and refreshing because it does help to highlight some of those subtle but all important differences between our cultures and why we should appreciate each other.

    The Brit & The American (authors, that is)!
    The Brit & The American (authors, that is)!
  9. The characters are NERDS for Jane Austen (for those of you less nerdy than me, a nerd nowadays can be another way of saying fanatic). I know there are people out there that would not count themselves as nerds for anything, but these people are basically nerds about not being nerds.  I mean, you kinda have to work at not being a nerd nowadays.  We are in the Age of Nerd! a time when you can nerd out on gourmet cooking shows as easily as you can Star Trek.   I can proudly list a dozen things in which I am overly invested (read: nerdy about) and a million ways to connect with others through each and every one of them.
    York, July 2007
    Nerd Alert!

    Nerds create communities in which to be our most nerdy selves and these communities can be long- lasting, rock solid, and immeasurably fulfilling. Hey! Book clubs are communities too!  Even if it’s not Jane Austen that you’re nerdy for, I bet you will recognize that spark – that love that inspires your nerd-hood in our characters’ love for Regency fiction.

  10. A reader recently said of our book that “Loving Jane Austen is not a prerequisite but is a repercussion“. Speaking of, The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen has a lot of Austen references: JANE AUSTEN character references, JANE AUSTEN book scene location references, etc.  It was a little unbelievable for me to be walking the SAME streets, seeing many of the same facades, the same views not simply of THE Jane Austen, but of her imagination as well. BUT you don’t need to ‘know’ Jane Austen or her life to enjoy the book. We know; we’ve been told!
  11. There are animals!  Both Cass and I adore animals and maybe your Book Club does too!  One animal in particular changes the course of our character’s lives in an unexpected, but we hope charming, way.IMG_6146
  12. Our main female characters are SMART.  There are no damsels in this book, though one of our main females does tend to be flighty about directions and keys which may or may not reflect the real life of one of the two authors of this book who still believes she is smart despite this defect and a few more she may or may not have.  No, don’t ask my husband if it’s me, I don’t want to talk about it! I have degrees people!  Okay, they are in English and Art, but that doesn’t make me any less of a female person!
  13. Our male characters are smart too.  Our female characters do not need to puIMG_6147t men, individually or as a gender, down to prove their own salt.  Everyone’s great in their own way – except for that one character and, face it, we all know that one person we wish no harm to, but would rather not be forced to work with daily!  It’s probably that person you talk about with your Book Club before you all buckle down to business and discuss the book you’re supposed to have read but didn’t have enough time to because THAT person mucked up the workflow and you were late.
  14. There are HATS.  Actually, this is just a test to see if you’re still reading.
  15. This novel is rare in that it is co-written.  That could be an interesting topic of discussion in a Book Club.  It certainly was an interesting topic of conversation between us while we were co-writing it!
  16. There is a lot of talk of what influences shaped our characters that could be good Book Club discussion.  What are the small things that would change in your life if one key influence from your past disappeared?  What were those influences? How would their absence have affected your life (if at all)?  And would you be the only one who’s life changed?  Would an entire industry or city change? Or… would there simply be something indefinable in the universe missing?

Love Hearts17. It introduces us Americans to the Love Hearts candy which you can have shipped and available to serve at your Book Club meeting.  Cheerful colors, sweet messages and it doesn’t even have to be Valentine’s Day!

18. There’s an element of fantasy to The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen.  And how often do you have an element of fantasy in your Book Club selection?  Probably often if you’re fantasy fans… but if you are… all the more reason to choose us.

19. Our characters love books too! I mean – if you’re in a Book Club you are probably there for one of two main reasons.  1. You wanted to spend more time with the people in your Book Club; 2. You wanted to read more books.  Both of these themes – friendship and the love of reading – are of central importance in The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen.

13914098     20. Our book is set during the Jane Austen Festival in Bath.  This is an amazing annual event that you and your book club could attend together after reading the novel!  And if you book thru Bath Boutique Stays, you might even be able to stay in 4 Sydney Place (one of Jane Austen’s actual residences!).

PC front and back21. And finally, our TPCoMJA (wow, what a catchy acronym!) would be a great addition to your Book Club list because: For a limited time we are trying to figure out a way to get you a discount on the physical books if you buy 6 or more for your Book Club.  Full disclosure: We haven’t figured out shipping costs yet, and I am slightly concerned that shipping will end up making this less exciting.  But we’re working on it! Message us and you might be the Beta group for this offer!!

Once Upon a Time

Many years ago, I lived with my husband in a house on a hill.  We were both working for my Father-in-Law and we had three cats even though we didn’t realize my husband was allergic to them yet.  I was (and still am) a homebody and a book worm – which made online friendships extremely handy.

As with most people, the illusion of anonymity on the Internet lent me to do things that I wouldn’t normally do… like share my stories with them (thought I was going somewhere else with that didn’t you? Get your minds out of the gutter!).

You see, I’d been writing fanfiction long before I knew what fanfiction was.  In high school, I used to write stories for my friends using their real life hopes and dreams… mostly about the boys they liked.  So, when I was introduced to the idea of fanfiction thru the Scarecrow & Mrs. King community, it made absolute sense to me.  Looking back, I realize it was an incredibly small and oddly like minded set of people compared to most fandoms.  When I discovered them, they were just a bunch of fans rejuvenating a television show that had limped so sadly to its end.  It was incredibly cathartic.

So when I quickly became obsessive about Harry Potter and impatient for the publication of new books in the series, I innocently searched for what the fans were doing in the fanfiction world.  And… my eyes! my eyes!!!!

I realized quickly that what I had to find was another, smaller, set of like minded fans to obsess and share with.  And that is where Cass comes in.  On a sweet little Harry Potter site, a fellow forum poster and I hit it off.  We were both totally hilarious, if I do say so myself.  Once we were both assured that the other was not a psycho serial killer pretending to be an awesomely funny person, we became “real” friends who talked about “real” life.  And one day, I honestly can’t remember how or why (maybe she does?), we started writing Harry Potter fanfiction together.

And that is how Cass and Ada first met and…why Cass and Ada finally met in person.

Ada & Splatt
California, 2003

(TO WRITE!  Isn’t that crazy? And 14 years later, that’s what we’re STILL doing!)

Anyway, I was pregnant, and not at all nervous… until I was at the baggage claim.  Then, several concerns crowded me all at once:

  • What if I didn’t recognize her? All the pictures of her I’d seen to that point suddenly melded together in my mind as one (kind of general) amalgamation of a nice human face with brownish reddish hair.
  • What if I’d screwed up in some way the directions? I am NOTORIOUS for getting directions wrong and giving bad directions.  Granted, the airport should have sent her in a pretty direct way to baggage claim, but… I really can’t take any chances with my direction-challenged brain.
  • What if my cell battery died? Oh – by the way – it did.

For at least five minutes I smiled at every female-ish person in the LAX baggage claim hoping to send a welcoming, non-psycho vibe that I wouldn’t be kicked out of the airport for. It was at this point that anxiety started in.  I jealously thought, well at least SHE knows she’s looking for a pregnant person.  That’s at least SOMETHING.  Why hadn’t we worked out a code? A red hat! A white rose! A Harry Potter Scarf!

But it wasn’t long before a person with a suddenly distinct Cass looking face appeared on the escalator.  Crazy how people look how they are supposed to when you’re not in an anxiety fueled panic.

Anyway, a big hug and a lot of undignified giggles later we were off.

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 4.36.01 PMThe drive to and from LAX had long ago become old hat to me.  Apparently it didn’t feel terribly old hat to Cass who looked green and not at all impressed with my impromptu attempts at tour guide (there may have been some weaving involved).  Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 4.36.07 PM

This started a several years long in joke with me sending her pictures of the Staples Center lit up purple at night (it was midday when we passed it so she couldn’t see how purple it got!).

We learned several things during the trip:

  • California waiters cannot understand the word “water” when said with a British accent
  • My three cats had no hunting prowess (they surrounded a spider and it got away)  Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 4.34.58 PM
  • We CAN write together faster in person
  • We DO like each other in person
  • We CANNOT understand each other in a loud restaurant

And it was upon these truths that our “real life” friendship was founded and these truths have carried us through!*

*ok, the inability of my now deceased cats to catch spiders has not recently affected us, but you get the idea.

 

Double Giveaway Winners Announced!

PrintWe’ve finally come to the end of our first series of Guest Posts to celebrate the launch of our debut co-written novel, The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen!

Thank you so much to our seven lovely guests, who generously gave their time to write a blog post for us, sent us oodles of photos and responded to the lovely comments on each post.

Thank you also to all the many commenters from around the world who read the guest posts and entered each week’s draw, and congratulations to all our winners!

Today, we’re delighted to announce the last two giveaway winners for this series, and they are:

US Winner

Karylee Marin

Rest of the World Winner

thatlittlegirl

Congratulations to you both! We will contact you by email to find out your choice of book and your address for the Jane Austen goodies!

And thank you again to our gallery of guests! You’ve all been amazing, and we hope you’ll come back to see us again soon!

 

 

Final Guest Post and Giveaway: Sophie Andrews

SA black dress

It’s the final week in our series of guest posts (for now, at least!), and today we’re welcoming Sophie Andrews, also known for her popular Blog, Laughing with Lizzie. 

As it’s the final one, we’re making sure we finish with a bang, so the giveaway is a double one (more at the end of the post)!

Sophie was given three questions to consider, much as our other guests were, and here are her responses!

How and when did Jane Austen enter your life?

Jane Austen has been very important in my life, for many different reasons. I was just 9 when I saw the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice, but I was a little too young to fully understand the language, so it didn’t really make an impression on me. (I remember very vividly the evening I watched it with my mother, and how she had to keep pausing it to explain what had just been said whenever I looked particularly confused – they often speak very quickly in that film too!)

I watched that film a few more times, and as I grew up I began to fall completely in love with it! But I still wasn’t hooked on Jane Austen, it was just Pride and Prejudice – or actually, to be more accurate, I was just hooked on Mr. Darcy!

SA bookHowever, back in 2011 I was going to be studying Pride and Prejudice for my English exams, and so that summer I had to read it – you have to understand that at the time I really wasn’t a reader. However, given I enjoyed the film, I was looking forward to it. When I was on my summer holidays (in the, rather appropriate even if Lizzy didn’t get there in the end, Lake District!) I read it in a week. I just couldn’t put it down! It seemed strange to my family to see me engrossed in a book, as I guess I used to be like Emma Woodhouse in regards to books and reading!

Pride and Prejudice was amazing from start to finish; I was entranced by the humour and social commentary, and I enjoyed reading the scenes I knew well from the film. I knew Jane Austen was brilliantly funny, but you really don’t get to appreciate her wit first hand unless you read the books. Something seems to get lost in translation when it is adapted into a film; the true Austen humour must be experienced straight from the authoress herself.

SA notebookFrom that moment I was caught up in the elegance and eloquence of Miss Austen’s world and words! I re-read Pride and Prejudice straight away, and I really enjoyed studying it at school, becoming the class expert, and earning myself the nickname “Mrs Darcy” – hence the blog persona! I also got Sophie Jane “Austen” Andrews, as Jane actually is my middle name!

SA notebook interiorAs you can see from these photos, my poor homework diary was completely vandalised that year – I had very dedicated friends too, as the “I ❤ Mr Darcy very much” was scrawled on EVERY page. (They even went so far as to go backwards and write it on the old pages from previous weeks as well!)

Following this, I read Sense and Sensibility, then Emma, followed by Persuasion, Northanger Abbey and finally Mansfield Park. There was no stopping me! Having devoured the 6 main stories, I devoted myself to studying all aspects of the Jane Austen phenomenon, from the film and television adaptations, to the fan fiction, commentaries, critiques, information books and biographies, as well as the worldwide online Jane Austen community. There was no going back now – I had become a true and proud Janeite.

Tell us about Laughing with Lizzie 

Carrying on from the above, fast forward a year or so, and after a lot of ‘persuasion’ (if you’ll excuse the pun!) from a friend, along with the offer that she would set it all up and design the layout for me (I am such a technophobe!) I eventually started my blog, “Laughing With Lizzie“.

It was my space to rant and rave about my passion for Jane Austen. It was also my escape; I was having a hard time at school and some family health issues at the time, and so I really threw myself whole heartedly into the world of Jane, enjoying my escape into her world through her books and, subsequently, my blog. Slowly, slowly my blog became more well known, and then about 2 years ago I started my Facebook page. From there, I have no idea how, but so many amazing things have happened for me, and I have participated in so many wonderful events. I have to pinch myself every day, as it is all beyond my wildest dreams!

I have now been blogging for just over 4 years, and I still love to rant and rave about Jane – I don’t think I will ever run out of things to say about her! Since my blog becoming more well known, I have enjoyed being asked to participate in blog tours and having various authors visit with excerpts or guest posts, and I have enjoyed the various interviews I have hosted there too.

SA Zombies
My friends and me having fun at the Vyne recently being Zombie fighters, as we all enjoyed the recent film Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Also, since beginning to participate more in the annual festivals and events throughout the year, I have loved sharing my Austen adventures in posts on my blog.

Beginning my Facebook page has been a wonderful way to meet many more Janeites and has been a fun way to share smaller and often silly Jane Austen related things which don’t really necessitate a blog post, so I am very pleased to have gone down that route. (I am currently attempting to get to grips with Twitter as well, but I am still learning the ropes at the moment!)

What I love about my blog and Facebook page is seeing the vast numbers of people, and in so many different countries, that the Jane Austen fandom reaches. I find my blog statistics fascinating; about a year ago my country count reached over 100 different countries, and I have just hit 10,000 followers (or ‘likes’) on Facebook, which just astounds me. It really makes me feel happy to know that through sharing my thoughts and adventures with so many wonderful people and Janeites across the globe, in some small way, I am helping to bring us all together as a ‘family’ with a common interest and passion!

A winter picnic at Basildon park. Another fun adventure, if a little cold!
A winter picnic at Basildon park. Another fun adventure, if a little cold!

Through my various Internet mediums I just love to spread the wit and wisdom of Jane Austen to every corner of the world, and the fact that people seem to enjoy what I share, and like following all my adventures is just a bonus!

How would your life be different if something had prevented Jane Austen from publishing any novels?

SA mirrorOh don’t even say such a thing! Jane Austen really was a saviour for me, so it just doesn’t bear thinking about! She has been such a huge influence in my life, even in this short time since I really got absorbed by the Jane Austen fandom. She has really helped me to find myself as well.

How would it be different… Well, where to begin! Probably most significantly, would be, well, you know how I mentioned earlier that I never used to be a reader? Well, the truth is that I had never read another ‘proper’ book before Pride and Prejudice! Jane Austen brought me to reading, and so without her, I highly doubt if I would be a reader today!

My most recent ball at the Guild Hall in Bath, in my new ball gown!!
My most recent ball at the Guild Hall in Bath, in my new ball gown!!

My love of all things Austen has opened up so many exciting opportunities for me; I have dabbled in the world of audiobook narration, I have been asked to and have had a go at editing or reviewing new Austen-related publications, I play the piano and naturally love to play Regency era piano pieces and music from the screen adaptations which has led me to being asked to perform music recitals for various Jane Austen societies across England, and I attend many annual events, festivals and (which are my favourites!) balls across England throughout the year in full regency costume – I even organised my own regency house party!

I have also been given the opportunity to become an ambassador for the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation, a charity founded by Caroline Knight, Jane Austen’s 5th great niece, which has been a wonderful chance to give something back and feels like a way to thank Jane Austen, and in a way which is going to do some real good for others who are less fortunate.

I could go on and on and on, but I don’t want to bore your readers! In summary, I really don’t want to think about my life without Jane. I can’t even try to imagine it anyway! As well as being the perfect escape when I first read Pride and Prejudice, she is also a perfect escape for me now, for, as many of you are aware, I suffer with some health conditions and have been battling them for the past few years, so yet again, Jane Austen is there for me to escape to, and to give me a welcome and much needed change from hospital appointments!

SA ParasolRight, I shall end my rambling there. Thank you, Cass and Ada, for inviting me to your blog and congratulations on the new book! I remember sitting with you both at Basildon Park over a year ago and hearing you talk about this book – I look forward to finally reading it! And so, all that remains to be said is…

My dear Miss Austen, I thank you. Most ardently.

Links:
Blog: Laughing with Lizzie

Facebook: Laughing with Lizzie page

Twitter: @LaughingWithLiz

YouTube: Laughing with Lizzie YouTube Channel

JALF Charity: Jane Austen Literacy Foundation

The Giveaway!

Cass & Ada on the Royal Crescent!
Cass & Ada on the Royal Crescent!

As this is our final guest post for this series, we’re offering two lucky commenters the chance to win (one from the US and one from Europe/Rest of the World)!

Up for grabs is a copy (paperback or eBook) of our new release, The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen* (find the blurb here), along with the following:

For US entries:

  • A ‘Peacock’ cover tote bag
  • Darcy & Elizabeth paper dolls
  • Blue beaded replica Jane Austen bracelet (from the Jane Austen House Museum)
  • A Pride & Prejudice colouring book (hope you can supply your own pens!)
  • A laminated bookmark

For Europe/Rest of the World entries:

  • A silver Jane Austen silhouette charm (made exclusively for the Jane Austen Centre Gift Shop in Bath)
  • A set of Jane Austen bookplates
  • A set of Bennet sister badges
  • A laminated bookmark
  • A Mr Darcy miniature canvas and easel (how cute is this?!)
  • A build-your-own Chawton Cottage

How to Enter

It’s simple! Just leave a comment below about anything in Sophie’s post above, or simply share how your life would be affected if Jane Austen had never published her novels.

All those who comment will be entered into the draw to select the prize winners, which will be announced the following week.

IMPORTANT! Please let us know in your comment which of the two draw categories you fall into: US or Rest of the World! Many thanks!

Good luck!

Latest Giveaway Winner Announced!

Cass & Ada on the Royal Crescent!
Cass & Ada on the Royal Crescent!

We’re delighted to announce the winner of the latest giveaway:

Sophia Rose!!!

Congratulations, Sophia Rose! You have been commenting all through our many guest posts, and we were delighted when your name finally came out of the hat today when we drew the winner for Hazel Mills’ post last week!

We will email you, but in the meantime, thank you for following our guest blog posts so ardently!

Our final guest in this series will be here on Wednesday, and as it’s the last one for now, we’re ending with a mega-giveaway (open internationally, as always). Do come along to read Sophie Andrews‘ (from Laughing with Lizzie) post and leave a comment to enter!

New Guest Post & Giveaway: Hazel Mills

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Now that all the excitement of the release of The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen is behind us, we are happy to resume our series of guest posts and giveaways today! Please welcome Hazel Mills to our Blog!

Hazel is a founding member of the Cambridge Group of the Jane Austen Society, and a dedicated book collector (including finding different copies of Pride & Prejudice, her current tally being 246!)

Over to you, Hazel!

I must first say think you for inviting me to be part of this series amongst such august Austen people celebrating this exciting new venture and book. I feel highly honoured!

My Austen journey began many years ago, in the late 1960s, thanks to Thomas Hardy. I was brought up in the beautiful county of Dorset and as such was required to read, in my first years at school, the celebrated local author, Mr Hardy. The books we were forced to read were The Trumpet Major and Jude the Obscure, the latter being an incredibly depressing book for any twelve year old girl to read with children being murdered. However, the next class reader was…Pride and Prejudice! Suddenly death and destruction was replaced with sparkling wit and Mr Darcy. I was hooked. Pride and Prejudice became the first class reader I completed before it was necessary and I soon followed up reading Jane Austen’s other books as quickly as I could.

Hazel pp coverThe books, Pride and Prejudice particularly, continued to give me pleasure throughout my school life and my set of Penguins followed me to college when I left home to learn to be a science teacher. My relationship with Mr Darcy was very strong, (even though Captain Wentworth and Colonel Brandon were making claims on my heart too) and I found that I went back to the book many times when I felt in need of a bit of comfort. At that time I did not realise that, as much as I loved Jane Austen and her works, that she would in fact change my life and what I would do with it!

Living in Cambridge certainly had its benefits; there were often days dedicated to different writers. I was so glad that I chose to attend a literary day dedicated to Jane Austen at Newnham College. I picked up a flyer asking if there were any people interested in starting a Cambridge Jane Austen Society. Did I need asking twice? Of course not! Then I saw the date, my husband’s birthday! To say I have an understanding husband is an understatement!

Hazel Keith 2Duly, on the 11th November 1997 I became a founding member of The Jane Austen Cambridge Group for which I am the social secretary and editor of the newsletter, so a great deal of my time is taken up thinking of all things Austen for the group. Thanks to them I began giving illustrated talks, some of which have become very popular, particularly a talk on travel in Jane Austen’s time which I have been lucky enough to give in many places including Dunfermline, Exeter, London, York, Bath and even, most satisfyingly, Chawton Cottage.

I am also thrilled to have worked for the Jane Austen Society of the United Kingdom as a regional speaker giving Society talks on Jane Austen and her works to groups, societies and schools who contact the society for talks in the eastern region of the UK. One week I could be helping a group of schoolgirls understand what it was like to be a woman in the early nineteenth century and the next telling a Rotary Club group about Jane Austen’s life!

Dinner Table at QueensThe Cambridge group meets five times a year for a variety of events. We have talks by a range of speakers, discussions, a Strawberry Tea every July when the sun always shines, and a wonderful Birthday Reception and Lunch in December at Queens’ College, Cambridge in rooms which were built in the mid fifteenth century so would have been known to Harry Austen, cousin to Jane’s father and rector of Steventon before her father George; Sackville Austen, son of her Godmother Jane Chadwick Austen and Old Uncle Francis; Samuel Egerton Brydges, brother of Jane’s particular friend Anne Lefroy and John Papillon, rector of Chawton in Jane’s time, as all were Queens’ men.

Anyone interested in more information on the Cambridge Group can find it here.

One of the most momentous moments of my life was a group visit to Kings College Library where I was able to hold the manuscript of Sanditon in my own hands, without gloves! A very precious experience indeed!

Hazel KeithI was asked how my life would be different if something had prevented Jane Austen from publishing any novels. The short answer would be, I would be a lot richer financially! I mentioned my set of Penguins that followed me everywhere earlier. The Pride and Prejudice had become so tatty that, in about 1984, my lovely husband replaced it with a beautiful copy from Purnell. It was so lovely that I almost didn’t want to read it. About the same time I found a very old biography of Jane and bought that too.

Peacock editionThat was the slippery slope. I then began buying other copies of Pride and Prejudice and biographies. Then came the purchase of the other novels and literacy criticism, swiftly followed by historical books, books Jane may have known, influences on her writing, the Juvenilia etc. At the last count I have about 246 copies of Pride and Prejudice including the much desired Peacock Edition and 14 audio books, and about 2,500 books in my collection altogether. My Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, Walter Scott collections and modern novels were all relegated to the attic as my collection grew. However they are now all boxed for our move where I will have a library!

Without doubt, a life without Austen would not be as full as my life is now. I cannot imagine a world without my books but as importantly, it is the wonderful people I have found in the online Austen world that have now become ‘real’ friends whom I meet regularly, maybe in Regency Costume, maybe not. Previously my love of Austen was shared with those people in my Cambridge group. Now I can share my passion with fellow lovers of Austen from all around the world!

Thank you ladies, for allowing me to share my Jane Austen story with you all.

Hazel, thank you so much for visiting Tabby Cow and for such a delightful post! It’s been lovely to learn all about how you discovered Jane Austen and about the impact she has made on your life! Thank you also for supporting us last week by coming along with your husband to the launch party for our book in the beautiful city of Bath!

The Giveaway!

PrintOnce again, we’re offering one lucky commenter the chance to win a copy of our new release, The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen (find the blurb here), along with the following:

  • A ‘Peacock’ tote bag
  • A Jane Austen silhouette pin
  • A miniature version of both Persuasion and Sense  & Sensibility, from the Jane Austen House Museum
  • A build your own Chawton Cottage

How to Enter

It’s simple! Just leave a comment below about anything in Hazel’s post above, or simply share how your life would be affected if Jane Austen had never published her novels.

All those who comment will be entered into a draw to select the prize winner, which will be announced the following week.