Author Syrie James was inspired to write Jane Austen's First Love by references in several of Jane Austen's letters to Edward Taylor, heir to Bifrons Park in Kent (pictured above!). You will feel like you are on holiday with Austen as the book looks back to real events and people Jane encountered while visiting the countryside with her sister Cassandra.
Much to her displeasure, however, there is another seeking his attention. Jane seeks distraction by attempting to correct the pairings of three other prospective couples. But when her matchmaking aspirations do not all turn out as anticipated, Jane discovers the danger of relying on first impressions.
To celebrate the holidays and the release of Jane Austen's First Love, Syrie is giving away five prize packages filled with an amazing selection of Jane Austen-inspired gifts and books!
To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on this post.
Increase your chances of winning by visiting multiple stops along the Jane Austen's First Love Holiday Blog Tour! Syrie's unique guest posts will be featured on a variety of subjects, along with fun interviews, spotlights, excerpts, and reviews of the novel. Contest closes at 11:59pm PT, December 21, 2014. Five lucky winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments on the tour, and announced on Syrie’s website on December 22, 2014. The giveaway contest is open to everyone, including international residents.
Good luck to all!
Continue reading for a peek inside the new novel!
A peek inside the new novel!
Excerpt from Chapter the Seventh, Jane Austen’s First Love By Syrie James
Jane Austen, age fifteen, has arrived at Goodnestone Park in Kent, home of the Bridges family, for a month of festivities in honor of two engagements: that of her brother Edward Austen to Miss Elizabeth Bridges, and Elizabeth’s older sister Fanny to Mr. Lewis Cage. That morning, Jane met a charming young man, Edward Taylor, who is growing more fascinating every moment...
The house was alive with the laughter of children as the family gathered for dinner. The moment we entered the drawing-room, my brother Edward moved to Elizabeth’s side, and the two fell into the quiet, affectionate tête-à-tête peculiar to lovers. Fanny and Sophia were apprehended by their mother, whose opinions she sought with regard to changes in the menu for the al-fresco party to be held a few days hence.
My heart leapt when Edward Taylor’s dark eyes caught mine, and beat even faster when, after exchanging a few words with his cousin, the two crossed the room to where Cassandra, Marianne, and I stood together.
“How have you fared since your arrival, ladies?”
“I hope you enjoyed a lovely afternoon?” added Mr. Payler, with a shy glance at Cassandra.
“We did, thank you,” answered she.
“My only regret is that I never had the opportunity to thank you both again for your assistance this morning,” replied I. “Had you not appeared so fortuitously and been so obliging, our unfortunate incident on the road might have had a more disastrous result.”
“I am truly sorry for the inconvenience and distress this morning’s events must have caused you,” replied Edward sincerely; continuing, with a twinkle in his eyes, “however I must admit, for my part, I cannot consider it to be an unfortunate incident.”
Edward Taylor's dark eyes catch Jane's from across the room.
“No; for it provided me a chance to—” He paused, as if rethinking what he was about to say. “—a chance to do something very rare, which is essential to my happiness.”
“Pray tell, what is that, Mr. Taylor?”
“It allowed me the opportunity to prove useful.”
I smiled. “To prove useful is, indeed, something to which I daily aspire; but it so often eludes me."
“Well then, you understand how I feel. The circumstance also provided another benefit, Miss Jane. It concluded with an invitation to dinner at Goodnestone, which is always a delightful prospect."
Our conversation was interrupted by the announcement that dinner was served, and we all progressed into the very sizeable dining-room, which Sophia explained was the room they used for dancing, when the furniture was removed. I was astonished by how elegantly the long table was draped and set, and the quantity of plate on view, considering that it was only a family dinner.
A great many footmen assisted us as the family took their seats by rote, leaving open seats only on the side of the table opposite Mr. Taylor, which (to my disappointment) prevented any meaningful continuation of a discussion I had only just begun to enjoy.
The moment we entered the drawing-room, my brother Edward moved to Elizabeth’s side, and the two fell into the quiet, affectionate tête-à-tête peculiar to lovers.
Sir Brook made a toast of welcome to his visitors, noting his delight that we had come all the way from Hampshire to celebrate his daughters’ engagements. To my brother Edward he added, “It is no secret how pleased Lady Bridges and I are by our Elizabeth’s choice of husband; and as for Fanny’s intended, Mr. Lewis Cage—he too is a most amiable man, and we look forward to his joining us for what I believe will be a remarkable month.”
As the soup was served, I said to Sophia beside me, “What is Mr. Cage like? Do you know him well?"
“Not really,” answered she quietly. “Their betrothal was very sudden, and just a fortnight after Elizabeth and Edward announced their engagement. We have only met a few times. I know that he is very fond of books.”
Marianne added in a low voice, “I dare say Fanny has never read but one book in her entire life—and I cannot be certain she even finished it.”
Has Fanny ever read a book?
“She and Mr. Cage must have found other interests in common,” said I, smiling, “other than reading."
Sophia did not immediately reply, and Marianne said with gravity, “Of course you are right, Jane.”
As the dinner continued, light conversation was heard from the top of the table, and congenial laughter from the children at the bottom. I made a point of complimenting all the dishes that I tried, which seemed to please Lady Bridges when she overheard it. At one point, I found Edward Taylor looking at me, and our glances converged in a brief but mutual smile.
After the desserts were consumed, we left the men and withdrew to the drawing-room, where Charles and Brook Edward engaged in a game of chess, the younger boys played on the floor, and Lady Bridges held court on a sofa, with Fanny and Sophia on either side, Elizabeth and Marianne seated beside them, and Louisa and Harriot at their feet, in a tableau which looked to be a family habit of long standing. Cassandra and I procured two unoccupied chairs close by, and I said to Lady Bridges:
“I believe you mentioned in your letter, ma’am, that both your daughters’ weddings will take place at the end of the year?”
“Yes.” Lady Bridges’ smile reflected her genuine enthusiasm with regard to the subject matter. “It was Mr. Knight’s wish at the first, that Edward and Elizabeth not be married immediately, as they are both so young, and Sir Brook and I could not agree more. We think to have a double wedding in December.”
Hair powder remained fashionable in
England longer than in France,
even with taxes and fines!
What intrigues you about this excerpt from Jane Austen's First Love? Can you guess what shocking thing does Edward Taylor persuade Jane to do that very evening? Read the book to find out!
Bonus questions: Did you also visit the Jane Austen’s First Love blog tour stop at The Duchess of Devonshire’s Gossip Guide?
Do you think Jane Austen ever powdered her hair? If so, why and when?
Remember to leave a comment here to enter the giveaway!
Perhaps Jan van der Vaardt, 1647–1721. Bifrons Park, Kent. 1695-1705, oil on canvas. Yale Center for British Art.
Reynolds, Joshua, The Ladies Waldegrave. 1780, oil on canvas. The Scottish National Galleries.
Thomson, Hugh, Jane happened to look round. Engraving, 19th century. Private Collection. Bridgeman Ed.
Circle of Henri-Pierre Danloux, Portrait de jeune homme en buste. c1753-1809, oil on canvas. Christies.
Hoppner, John, R.A. (1758-1810), Portrait of Charlotte Walsingham, Lady Fitzgerald. Oil on canvas. Christies, 2005.
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