Sunday, November 30, 2014

Bookspotting: Jane Austen's First Love, Blog Tour and Giveaway

I just want to direct the novel-consuming readers out there to the attention of a new Jane Austen inspired novel that may be of interest: Syrie James’ latest book, Jane Austen’s First Love.  Little is known about Austen's  love-interest, Edward Taylor, who may have inspired some of her admired male protagonists, however James has unearthed some new information about him in the process of writing her book.  From the publishers:



In the summer of 1791, fifteen-year-old Miss Jane Austen is determined to accomplish three things: to do something useful, write something worthy, and fall madly in love. While visiting at Goodnestone Park in Kent for a month of festivities in honor of her brother's engagement to Miss Elizabeth Bridges, Jane meets the boy-next-door—the wealthy, worldly, and devilishly handsome Edward Taylor, heir to Bifrons Park, and hopefully her heart! Like many of Jane’s future heroes and heroines, she soon realizes that there are obstacles—social, financial, and otherwise—blocking her path to love and marriage, one of them personified by her beautiful and sweet tempered rival, Charlotte Payler.

Unsure of her own budding romance, but confident in her powers of observation, Jane distracts herself by attempting to maneuver the affections of three other young couples. But when her well-intentioned matchmaking efforts turn into blundering misalliance, Jane must choose between following her own happily-ever-after, or repairing those relationships which, based on erroneous first impressions, she has misaligned.

The book has been receiving great reviews and is currently making the rounds on its blog tour.  There is also an amazing giveaway where you can get all sorts of Austen prizes just by leaving a comment here or on other stops along the tour.  


In the meantime we are lucky enough to have an excerpt from the book on a subject close to my heart: hair powdering:


It is June 1791, and Jane Austen is at Goodnestone Park in Kent visiting the Bridges family. Jane, age fifteen, is not yet “out,” but her mother has allowed her to attend her first ball that evening to celebrate her brother’s engagement to Elizabeth Bridges. Jane is all dressed in her best gown and filled with excitement, her only regret that her mother will not allow her to powder her hair, as her older sister Cassandra and the preponderance of the company is expected to do.

As I emerged into the passage, Louisa and Harriot appeared, attired in their new gowns, their hair elegantly styled with supplementary hair pieces, and fully powdered in bluish gray—the very image of all the fashionable ladies of the age whom I had so long admired.
I had never seen girls so young attired in such a manner except in old paintings, and the picture they presented was very striking. The young girls skipped up to me.
“Do not we look magnificent?” cried Harriot, beaming, as she paused to twirl in all her finery.
“You both look fit to be presented to the queen,” replied I sincerely, to which the girls broke out into giggles and ran off.
I stood still for half a minute, steeped in misery, listening to the laughter from behind the closed doors along the passage, wherein the other young ladies were dressing. Lining the corridor were various ancestral pictures of regal men and ladies, all of them wearing wigs or with powdered hair. I yearned with all my heart to look just like them. My melancholy and despair grew to such a height, that I could no longer bear it. Tears started in my eyes; and, sobbing, I ran down the hall to the bedroom which I knew to be newly occupied by my mother. I rapped urgently on the door, identifying myself; she bid me to come in.
“What is the matter, Jane?” exclaimed my mother from the chair where she was reading. She was fully dressed in her best russet gown and white fichu, her curly hair already powdered beneath her white cap. “What do these tears signify?”
“Oh! Mamma! You cannot mean to humiliate me like this!” I flew to her side and knelt before her, taking one of her hands in mine, as my tears flowed.
She set down her book. “How have I humiliated you?”
In between sobs, I told her about Louisa and Harriot. My mother looked surprised.
“I have wanted this for such a long time, Mamma. It is my only opportunity to feel what it is to be truly grown-up. Will not you consider and relent? Otherwise, I am to be the only person at the ball to-night with natural hair! I will be laughed at!”
My mother was silent for a moment; then she patted my back distractedly. “Well, well, we cannot have that, can we? We are not at Steventon now. If those are the rules of this house—if little Harriot Bridges, at age ten, is to have powdered hair—well!”
I glanced up at her, hope rising. “Do you mean—”
“I have been here but a few hours, Jane, but already I have sized up Lady Bridges. That woman has her nose so high up in the air, it is a wonder she can take a step without falling on her face! We cannot have her looking down on us! Why, her daughters are all so beautiful and accomplished, nobody else’s daughters can hope to hold a candle to them! Even her strawberries are the best in the land, or so she claims, and her precious roses won a prize at some fair or other; well! My own roses are equally as fine, I assure you, for all that they have not been judged and won ribbons! You are a young lady now, Jane! Even if you are not yet out, we cannot have Lady Bridges or any of her ilk looking at you like a child!”
“Oh! Thank you, Mamma!” I threw my arms around her, so filled with relief and happiness that I thought I might burst.
“There, there, Jane,” said my mother, “you will ruin my ensemble. Now dry your tears, and go get your hair powdered. Mind you, this indulgence will apply this one night only.”
“I understand.”
“One thing further: remember what I said, you are not to dance to-night with any strange men, only your brothers or your cousins.”
“Only brothers and cousins?” cried I, distressed once again. “But Mamma, there are but a handful of young men who meet that description! I have been here some days already. I have become good friends with some of the Bridgeses’s friends, and in particular with their cousin, Edward Taylor. He is a remarkable young man, Mamma. I would give anything to dance with him.”
“Edward Taylor?” She pursed her lips. “Is he the young man just come back from abroad, who is heir to that big house down the road, what is it called?”
“Bifrons. Yes. That is he.”
“Well, Lady Bridges has her cap in a twist about that young gentleman; she seems to perceive anyone who is musical, well-educated, or well-travelled as a threat to her own precious progeny. Let us give her something else to fret about, Jane! He is, in any case, soon to be our cousin through marriage, is not he? You have my permission, my dear; you may dance with him—and I suppose with anyone else you call a friend. But I still say: no strangers.”
“Thank you!” cried I again, kissing her cheek with relief; and I flew from the chamber.
I returned to my own room, where the scent of lavender hung heavy in the air, and I found that my sister had been transformed into a regal beauty.
“You look stunning,” cried I, and without pausing added, “and you will never guess what has happened! Mamma has just given her consent for me to powder my hair! And to dance with any friends I like!”
“Has she?” replied Cassandra. “I am happy for you, Jane.”
“Well done, miss,” said Sally, beaming.
I resumed my seat at the dressing-table, my heart drumming with anticipation, as Sally covered my shoulders and upper body with a protective drape; she then applied pomatum to my hair, and liberally added the fragrant, bluish gray starch with a puff. Very quickly, powder filled the air and got up my nose and into my mouth, causing me to choke and sneeze. When she had finished and removed the drape, I was so enveloped by the flowery aroma, I felt slightly ill.
Cassandra, who had been watching from a chair by the hearth, said:
“There, you have achieved your goal. Are you content?”
“I am not sure.” Coughing and brushing off the excess powder from my gown, I added, “I did not realise it was such a messy business.”
“I tried to tell you.” She smiled. “You look very elegant, Jane.”
“Do I?” Turning and glancing in the mirror again, I viewed my reflection with a start. “I hope so. For in truth, I do not recognise myself.”


Jane Austen's First Love is out now where all good books are sold.

35 comments:

  1. Really enjoyed reading this excerpt, how Jane was so excited to get her hair powdered, to fit in with all the other ladies.

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  2. Love the excerpt, but I cannot understand the fashion of powdering one's hair... I mean, why bluish gray hair? Look so unhealthy to me now... but maybe it's just we aren't used to it anymore :)

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    1. Luisa, I couldn't understand the fashion of powdering one's hair either, so I did a great deal of research on the topic and what I discovered is fascinating! What I learned is revealed in the novel, in an important and provocative conversation between Jane and Edward Taylor when they sneak away from the ball room that evening. Read the novel to find out what happens!

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    2. I still powder my hair :D
      ...though not as heavily as Jane I suspect!

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  3. Thank you for the book excerpt. I can't wait to read more about Jane's First Love....:)

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  4. Great scene. Such an interesting custom.

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  5. I think my scalp is still itching! It certainly seems like a strange custom to us now but what would Regency people think of our propensity to dye our hair all the colours under the sun? If it had been possible at the time, I can see some characters in Austen novels dyeing their hair to match their outfits - Caroline Bingley, for instance!

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  6. Powder my hair? No. The more I read about Jane's dance and coming out parties, I guess it might be an equivalent to our high school proms now.Thank you for the giveaway.

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  7. What fun to read about Jane wanting to powder her hair & not being alloud to dance with strange men :D

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  8. it's not just the added powder to the hair it's the added hair pieces I don't get, and this is for young people who usually will still have an abundance of hair

    meikleblog at gmail dot com

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  9. I found this part of the book fascinating as well. Great excerpt.

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  10. So, the fashionable powdering differentiated adults from those who were not. Interesting. Although quite messy. Hmmmmmm....hairspray also leaves a residue.

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    1. Forgot to add my email address....

      skamper25 (at) gmail (dot) com

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    1. Thank you for commenting, Raquel. It was exciting to research and write Jane Austen's First Love, and I hope you love the novel!

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  12. Never understood why they did powder their hair. Thanks for making me go hmmmm...lol nrslalee00@yahoo.com

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    1. Lagina, you can learn all about it in Jane Austen's First Love. At first I was a little worried to talk about hair powdering--would Jane Austen enthusiasts be able to imagine Jane powdering her hair? But it was all the rage back then. It was a fun subject to research and discuss in the novel. I hope you enjoy it!

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  13. Wealthy, worldly, and handsome does it every time.

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  14. That was a wonderful post, thanks! Just watched "The Secrets of Chatsworth" which was on PBS channel. I had no idea the duchess had actually had a son and her gambling phewy!!!

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    1. Thank you for your comment! I'm a huge PBS fan, too. I'm so glad you enjoyed my post and except from Jane Austen's First Love on the Holiday Blog Tour. You can learn more about Jane Austen's First Love at www.syriejames.com.

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  15. This sounds like a very realistic scene between a mother and daughter, but in today's times, it wouldn't be about powdering her hair but about how much leg or cleavage she's showing!

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  16. Like a holiday in Lyme, just to read it

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    1. What a lovely thought, Lucy. Thanks for commenting!

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  17. Ugh- I can't imagine powdering my hair! I assume it makes the greasy bits sort of disappear, but it seems antithetical to the usual portrayal of youth as attractive (gray hair, even from powder, just looks old). I wonder how that became a symbol of refinement and attractiveness?

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    1. Beth, in Jane Austen's First Love, Edward Taylor answers your question when he explains the history of hair powdering to Jane--and why he abhors it! I hope you enjoy t e novel. Thanks for following the Jane Austen's First Love blog tour!

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  18. Can't wait to read this book!!

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  19. I am definitely putting this novel on my reading list wich is getting every day longer and longer. Why are there only 24 hours in a day ?! Waiting impatiently the holidays to read more but before that I'm enjoying reading on subway ride.

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  20. I never knew about powdering ones hair before reading this excerpt, this is interesting!

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  21. I could not see myself powdering my hair, lol


    dlsmilad at yahoo dot com

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  22. This looks great and I would love to win.
    dez3b@yahoo.com

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  23. Awesome - I can not see Jane getting into the powdering of her hair - she just doesn't seem like that was something she would be into, but I love this excerpt! Thank you for hosting a stop :)

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  24. Balls, gowns, history, Jane Austen, what is there not to love. rickjess@sbcglobal.net

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  25. como no amar estas historias sobre Jane! me gustaría que lleguen a mi país, sera una belleza

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