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Guest Post & Giveaway: Jessie Lewis, Author of Speechless, Talks About Historical Buildings and Inspiration

Today’s guest is someone new to the blog — Jessie Lewis — and she will share with us some of the inspirational historical buildings she’s used to write her novels. First, please read what her new novel, Speechless, is about:

Could anything be worse than to be trapped in a confined space with the woman you love? Fitzwilliam Darcy knows his duty, and it does not involve succumbing to his fascination for a dark-eyed beauty from an unheard of family in Hertfordshire. He has run away from her once already. Yet fate has a wicked sense of humour and deals him a blow that not only throws him back into her path but quite literally puts him at Elizabeth Bennet’s mercy. Stranded with her at a remote inn and seriously hampered by injury, Darcy very quickly loses the battle to conquer his feelings, but can he win the war to make himself better understood without the ability to speak?

Thus begins an intense journey to love and understanding that is at times harrowing, sometimes hilarious and at all times heartwarming.

Being trapped in a confined space with Mr. Darcy, who wouldn’t love that? This sounds delightful, doesn’t it? If you agree, stay tuned for the giveaway. Please welcome Jessie Lewis.

Thank you, Serena, for hosting me on your blog today to talk about my new novel, Speechless. I love the Regency era and am lucky enough to be surrounded by historical buildings and places here in England, many of which have been inspirational to my writing. I thought it would be fun to share a few pictures of those that inspired the setting for this particular story.

In Speechless, Darcy and Elizabeth are stranded together at an inn called The Dancing Bear, owned by the kindly Mr Timmins. The inn boasts a large stuffed bear at the foot of the stairs, which Elizabeth nicknames Mr Collins. You would be forgiven for thinking this is a little odd, since bears are not native to the UK—or if they ever were, it was a really long time ago. In fact, I based The Dancing Bear on a real pub called The Bear of Rodborough, situated in the Cotswolds. It’s so called because it famously has a large stuffed bear in its foyer. (The bear was presumably hunted and imported at some point in the past, the ethics of which I shall not venture to discuss here!) A big scary bear just seemed to suit the location of Mr Timmins’ inn—on the outskirts of a village, surrounded by woods—as well as the events that take place there, which are, at least at the beginning, pretty frightening for our dear couple. Thus, The Dancing Bear was conceived.

The room in which Darcy and Elizabeth spend most of their time in the story belongs to Mr Timmins’ sister, who acts as a housekeeper-come-cook. Her role is pertinent because it demanded certain features be in the room that were essential to the story. I took the inspiration for this room from the housekeeper’s apartments at the beautifully restored Regency Townhouse in Brighton (a visit to which I heartily recommend to anyone interested in Regency life). The room at the townhouse (pictured) differs from the one in Speechless in that it is bright and airy as opposed to dark, dingy and cluttered—but it was the design of the space that really interested me.

Purpose-built for a housekeeper by the C19th architect, it has a large walk-in cupboard where she would have kept all the most expensive domestic items carefully locked away. You’ll have to read the story to find out why this was such an important feature to have in the room, though…

The taproom at The Dancing Bear is themed around the interior of a wonderful old hotel in my own hometown of Hertford. The Salisbury Arms (originally The Bell) is a coaching inn dating back to the fifteenth century. It has two front parlours, a taproom and a restaurant; three more rooms than I gave The Dancing Bear, which only has one taproom. The gorgeous old room in this picture shows the mixture of bricks, plaster and timber frame that I imagine made up the walls of Mr Timmins’ humble inn.

In complete contrast to all of this is Darcy’s townhouse. I admit, I have never visited the place in this picture. I’m not even sure where it was taken—it’s an image I stumbled across on the internet a long time ago—but I used it to help me envisage one of the most pivotal scenes in the story. Not, as you might think, for the splendour, though it is beautiful. In fact, it was, again, the layout that inspired me. The logistics of where things are in whatever imaginary world I’m writing about can prove problematic if I don’t have a clear idea of that space. Characters can end up whispering to someone too far away to hear, walking through a door that wasn’t there moments before, sitting down in a chair where another character is already perched … the potential for pitfalls is endless. I find that having in mind a particular room I’ve visited or seen in a photo, or even sketched out on paper, helps me better inhabit the space I’m describing, thereby ensuring that what I write makes sense. The way the furniture is arranged in a circle around this particular room, with one chair closest to the door, from which a person might hold a quiet conversation with someone half-in and half-out of the room whilst everyone else talks amongst themselves, proved remarkably useful to a certain gentleman protagonist in Speechless.

Of course, I also like to think of Darcy’s houses as tastefully and gorgeously decorated, so this photo was no hardship to work with.

So, there is a small glimpse of the world I lived in while I was writing Speechless. I hope your readers have just as much fun imagining their own setting for Darcy and Elizabeth if they have the chance to read the story themselves.

Thanks, Jessie, for sharing all of these glorious, inspirational buildings with us.

GIVEAWAY:

Quills & Quartos Publishing is giving away one ebook of Speechless per blog tour stop. All you need to do to enter the giveaway is comment on this blog post, and Quills & Quartos will randomly choose winners for the entire blog tour on December 19. So, make sure you join in the conversation!

About the Author:

Jessie Lewis, author of Mistaken and The Edification of Lady Susan, enjoys words far too much for her own good and was forced to take up writing them down in order to save her family and friends from having to listen to her saying so many of them. She dabbled in poetry during her teenage years, though it was her studies in Literature and Philosophy at university that firmly established her admiration for the potency of the English language. She has always been particularly in awe of Jane Austen’s literary cunning and has delighted in exploring Austen’s
regency world in her own historical fiction writing. It is of no relevance whatsoever to her ability to string words together coherently that she lives in Hertfordshire with two tame cats, two feral children and a pet husband. She is also quite tall, in case you were wondering.

You can check out her musings on the absurdities of language and life on her blog, LifeinWords.blog, or see what she’s reading over at Goodreads. Or you can drop her a line on Twitter, @JessieWriter or on her Facebook page, JessieLewisAuthor.

Mistaken by Jessie Lewis

Source: Meryton Press
Ebook, 424 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Mistaken by Jessie Lewis is a Pride & Prejudice variation that will take Mr. Bingley to task for his easy-going manners that allow others to influence his decisions and will demonstrate how mistaking another’s actions can lead to disaster.  Misunderstandings in Jane Austen are nothing readers are unused to by now, but Lewis amps up the miscues and the drama in her variation.

“Life was muted in her absence.” (from Mistaken)

Much of the story from Austen remains intact here and Lewis shows readers what may have happened behind Austen’s scenes.  She also engages Austen’s characters in new ways and creates her own subplots. What worked well was the main love story between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, and his demonstrable grief and her anger are tangible in Lewis’ deft hands.  Their romance is believable, despite the obstacles, and his fierce protection of Lizzy rings true.

“‘Cease hiding behind the Titan and admit it. You agreed with him.’

‘I did?’

‘Aye! He did not make you leave. You chose to do it.'” (from Mistaken)

However, in ramping up the misunderstandings, we see a side of Jane, Lizzy’s sister, that is less than pleasant as jealousy and resentment consume her to the point where her relationship with Lizzy appears altered forever. As Jane’s behavior dragged on and worsened to the point where this reader no longer liked her, it was hard to watch Lizzy deal with not only her new responsibilities, but also the absence of her best friend and sister and the repeated flirtations of men she had no interest in.  It read a little too much like a daytime drama in some instances, but the scenes where the ton are gossiping was exactly as readers would imagine it to be and demonstrates how fragile a woman’s reputation was in those times.

Mistaken by Jessie Lewis is unique in the number of misunderstandings that occur and how they are resolved in a series of puzzles that are laid out in pieces for the reader.  Lizzy is still headstrong and lively, but it is clear that this personality could get her in loads of trouble among upper society.  Readers of Pride & Prejudice will recognize various differences in their beloved characters, and the lack of resolution at the end for one plot may leave the door open for another part to come. Lewis’ novel is engaging and terrifying all at once, especially if you’ve grown attached to the Bennets and their new husbands.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

I’ve always loved words—reading them, writing them, and as my friends and family will wearily attest, speaking them. I dabbled in poetry during my angst-ridden teenage years, but it wasn’t until college that I truly came to comprehend the potency of the English language.

That appreciation materialised into something more tangible one dark wintry evening whilst I was making a papier-mâché Octonauts Gup-A (Google it—you’ll be impressed) for my son, and watching a rerun of Pride and Prejudice on TV. Fired up by the remembrance of Austen’s genius with words, I dug out my copy of the novel and in short order had been inspired to set my mind to writing in earnest. I began work on a Regency romance based on Austen’s timeless classic, and my debut novel Mistaken is the result.

The Regency period continues to fascinate me, and I spend a good deal of my time cavorting about there in my daydreams, imagining all manner of misadventures. The rest of the time I can be found at home in Hertfordshire, where I live with my husband, two children, and an out-of-tune piano. You can check out my musings on the absurdities of language and life on my blog, Life in Words, or you can drop me a line on Twitter, @JessieWriter or on my Facebook page, Jessie Lewis Author, or on Goodreads, Jessie Lewis.

Mailbox Monday #446

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog. To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links. Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Martha, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what we received:

The Crooked Path by Irma Joubert for TLC Book Tours.

Lettie has always felt different from and overshadowed by the women around her– this friend is richer, that friend is more beautiful, those friends are closer. Still, she doesn’t let this hold her back. She works hard to apply her mind, trying to compensate for her perceived lack of beauty with diligent academic work and a successful career as a doctor. She learns to treasure her friendships, but she still wonders if any man will ever return her interest.

Marco’s experience in the second world war have robbed him of love and health. When winters in his native Italy prove dangerous to his health even after the war has ended, he moves to South Africa to be with his brother, husband to one of Lettie’s best friends. Marco is Lettie’s first patient, and their relationship grows as she aids him on the road back to restored health.

In the company of beloved characters from The Child of the River, Marco and Lettie find a happiness that neither of them thought possible. With that joy comes pain and loss, but Lettie learns that life—while perhaps a crooked path—is always a journey worth taking.

Displaced by Stephan Abarbanell for review.

British-occupied Palestine, 1946: Elderly writer Elias Lind isn’t convinced by reports that his scientist brother, Raphael, died in a concentration camp. Too frail to search for Raphael himself, Elias persuades a contact in the Jewish resistance to send someone in his place.

Lilya joined the resistance movement to help form a new state, not to waste her time on a fruitless chase across a war-ravaged continent at the request of a frail, most likely delusional, old man. As her comrades make their final preparations for a major operation, a bitter Lilya must accept her orders and embark on her journey to Europe. She is traveling as a member of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, one of the largest aid organizations for Jewish survivors—many of whom survived the Nazis only to find themselves with no family or home to return to. If Raphael is alive, odds are she will find him among the refugees trapped in displaced persons camps and prevented from immigrating to Palestine by the British.

Lilya’s search leads her from the hushed corridors of London’s Whitehall, home to the British Secret Intelligence Service, to the haunted, rubble-strewn strasses of Munich and Berlin. Visiting Föhrenwald, an overcrowded and underfunded DP camp, she makes a breakthrough. But Lilya isn’t the only person pursuing the missing man. Someone has been mirroring her every move—a dangerous adversary who will go to drastic lengths to find Raphael first.

Mistaken by Jessie Lewis for review.

Fitzwilliam Darcy is a single man in possession of a good fortune, a broken heart, and tattered pride. Elizabeth Bennet is a young lady in possession of a superior wit, flawed judgement, and a growing list of unwanted suitors. With a tempestuous acquaintance, the merciless censure of each other’s character, and the unenviable distinction of a failed proposal behind them, they have parted ways on seemingly irreparable terms. Despairing of a felicitous resolution for themselves, they both attend with great energy to rekindling the courtship between Darcy’s friend Mr. Bingley and Elizabeth’s sister Jane.

Regrettably, people are predisposed to mistake one another, and rarely can two be so conveniently manoeuvred into love without some manner of misunderstanding arising. Jane, crossed in love once already, is wary of Bingley’s renewed attentions. Mistaking her guardedness for indifference, Bingley is drawn to Elizabeth’s livelier company; rapidly, the defects in their own characters become the least of the impediments to Darcy and Elizabeth’s happiness.

Debut author Jessie Lewis’s “Mistaken” invites us to laugh along with Elizabeth Bennet at the follies, nonsense, whims, and inconsistencies of characters both familiar and new in this witty and romantic take on Jane Austen’s beloved “Pride and Prejudice.”

The Art of Drawing Dangles: Creating Decorative Letters and Art with Charms by Olivia A. Kneibler for review.

Dangles are a beautiful and whimsical new art form for people who love coloring and tangles. By adding charms and pretty embellishments to letters and artwork, you can make your own dangles. With 50 projects in the book, you can add stunning patterns and color to dangles, personalize your dangles with charms that are unique to you, and create dangle words from the dangle alphabet in the book. Dangles are a perfect way to accentuate your stationary, invitations, lettering, and more.

Killing Summer by Sarah Browning for review from the poet.

“Poetry must be honest and precise, yes–but it must also dare us to see what we are invited not to see and say what seems easier not to say. In Killing Summer, Sarah Browning writes what is difficult but essential in a time when buffoonery in our nation’s highest office tempts us to shake our heads and close our eyes. Perhaps the first step in asserting the need for a new paradigm is finding the words that reveal the brokenness of the current one. These are those words. With both tender ferocity and subtle elegance, this book helps to sustain us.” – TIM SEIBLES

What did you receive?