Emma, Mr Knightley, and Chili Slaw Dogs: An interview with Mary Jane Hathaway

Hello My Dear Romantics!

So as I mentioned last week I am interviewing the fabulous Mary Jane Hathaway writer of the Austen Takes the South series.

You may have seen my previous review of the first book in the series Pride, Prejudice, Cheese Grits, well since that review Ms. Hathaway has been fortunate enough to have her series picked up and republished by Simon and Schuster Publishing House!

So in honor of her re-launch for the series I’d like to welcome to the blog Mary Jane Hathaway!

Hi Mary Jane! I’m so excited to have you join us today. For my readers who are just getting to know you please tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be a writer.

Mary Jane Hathaway is the pen name of an award-nominated writer who spends the majority of her literary energy on subjects un-related to Jane Austen. A homeschooling mother of six young children who rarely wear shoes, she’s madly in love with a man who has never read Pride and Prejudice. She holds degrees in Religious Studies and Theoretical Linguistics, and has a Jane Austen quote on the back of her van. She can be reached on facebook at ‘Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits’ or her regular author page of Virginia Carmichael (which is another pen name, because she’s just that cool).

Who, other than Austen herself, are your literary heroes and how did they contribute to your literary career?

I love classic literature! I grew up in a house packed to the brim with old books and my heart still beats wildly for Elizabeth Gaskell, Louisa May Alcott, The Brontes, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and many more.  In modern literature I love Franny Billingsley, Laura Whitcomb, Shannon Hale, Rick Riordan, Cassandra Clare, Alan Bradley, anyone with a truly distinct voice and story to tell. I guess they remind me to search for my own words, and although we want to imitate our heroes, we also know that our voice is a God-given unique gift. There is only one of you and only one of me. We’re meant to speak our own story. 

I know you write under a few pen names what are they and what is the story behind them?

At the time of my first contract, someone (can’t exactly remember who now) told me that Munoz was too difficult to remember. So I went with my maiden name for my books with Love Inspired/ Harlequin. Then as I wanted to self publish my Austen books but was afraid that people would be confused when I switched to longer, stand alone novels, I chose Mary Jane Hathaway. Mary is my legal first name. Jane should be obvious!! And Hathaway is my mother’s side of the family. So, both of my pen names honor both sides of my family (and Miss Austen).

What was your inspiration for this series?

I read Bridget Jones’ Diary and laughed myself silly. But I couldn’t share that series with most of my friends because of the immorality and the language. It started me thinking of a sweet version of Bridget Jones’ Diary (which was really a new take on P&P). I needed the perfect setting because so much of the story relies on family obligations and expectations. I also needed a place with a very rich dialogue and long-standing customs. What better place than the South? I live in Oregon and we pretty much sound like every newscaster you’ve ever heard. We also eat normal food, nothing out of the ordinary. We also have very little history (our big claim to fame is living on the Oregon Trail). So, it was a blast to dive into the rich heritage and history of the South to set the stage for a P&P retelling!

So I have to be honest I’ve read almost every book Austen ever wrote and Emma was one of my least favorites however your spin on the story actually raised my opinion of the Emma character.  What about this character spoke to you and made you want to take on her story?

I love Emma because she always thinks she has the perfect plan. I’m the same way! I always think I can (refurbish that vintage desk, paint the house, bake a soufflé, write a novel). Most of the time, it’s a major fail and someone has to come in and fix my mess. With Emma, she has a good heart, truly. And that is her saving grace. In my book “Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili-Slaw Dogs”, Caroline comes up with plans that she believes will help everyone around her. As her plans don’t work out, she has to face the fact that her idea of what people need isn’t always the reality.

Was there any part of this story that you had trouble writing about and why?

I was attracted to the story of Emma because she’s such a fun character, but the love story was hard to write. We’re all used to the ‘cute meet’ and instant attraction and characters finally admitting their love for each other. But this story has the hero and heroine in love, without really understanding the depths of their feelings. I had to find ways to plant that idea in the readers’ mind, without bringing the characters together too soon.

In the end, I loved writing it because it taught me how to subtly describe two people in love, but in such gentle ways that the characters themselves could be caught off guard my the realization.

I know there were some added scenes between your original release and the relaunch of Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili Slaw Dogs.  Without giving too much away can you tell us what they are and how they add to the story?

I can absolutely tell you what sort of scenes were added. My wonderful editor, Beth Adams, asked if I could expand a little on the reasons behind Frank’s deception, Lauren’s reasons for assisting him, and Caroline’s job issues in the end. She also wanted a little bit more time between the moment that Caroline and Brooks first kiss (and misunderstand each other so thoroughly) and the actual proposal. The plot line of Lexi Martinez was central to the story, but it didn’t get much page time, so that was another place I got to fill in details. In the new version, Caroline goes to Lexi’s home and talks to her dad at the gas station. This is a pivotal scene, because she realizes how arrogant she was to assume she knew what was best for Lexi. Just like Emma assuming that she could tell Miss Harriett Smith that she should refuse Robert Martin just because he’s a farmer, Caroline meant well, but was very wrong. I also tried to give a little more satisfaction to the villain, since that was something  readers mentioned. In the original Emma, Frank and Jane Fairfax get to ride off into the sunset happily married, I tried to leave the “villains” of my books un-chastised. But what works for Miss Austen doesn’t always work for us! I needed to give them some comeuppance.

What’s the next Austen book you are going to take on in this series and can we get a little taste of the new story?

Persuasion, Captain Wentworth, and Cracklin’ Cornbread is the next book. It’s about an African-American woman from a wealthy, very traditional family. She falls in love with a white boy  from the wrong side of the tracks who has an unmarried single drop out for a mom and an absent father. Her aunt convinces her to dump him before she leaves for Harvard, saying he had no future.

  The story begins as Jeremiah “Jem” Chevy (our hero) comes back into Tupelo, Mississippi on a program from his medical school called the Rural Physician’s Program. (We have it here in Oregon, too. A qualifying medical student can erase their school debt by serving in a rural area for a certain number of years.) His heart has healed, or so he thinks, and he isn’t too worried about running into the beautiful girl who broke his heart ten years before.

Our heroine, Lucy Crawford,  is now on the verge of losing her home, Crawford House, because her father has reversed mortgaged it to the max, and her two sisters are living off his credit cards. She’s trying her hardest to keep the family together, but her job as a historian at a Civil War battlefield isn’t going to save the house. Their family history is rich and they have the respect of the entire community, but they’re in massive debt. In the ten years since Jem left, her life has only gotten sadder and more solitary. She was wrong to break up with him, but by the time she realized her mistake, he was gone forever.

    These broken-hearted people might never cross paths, if the board of the Free Clinic didn’t manage to work out a deal with her father, and now Jem and Lucy are thrown together on a daily basis.
  A story of love lost, love found, and second chances set in the beauty of the deep South. There’s laughter, hope, and lots of Jane Austen!

So, I like to ask a personality question just for fun.  I know you’re happily married but, if you could meet and marry any Austen hero who would it be and why?

Mr. Knightley!!! He brought Emma a book, and he was always in his library reading. I think we’d make a great pair and raise lots of lovely little bookworm children! 😀

Mary Jane, it’s been great talking to you about your re-launch. Before you go, do you have any advice for our aspiring writers out there?

Write the book you want to read. I’d heard that before, but never quite understood it, until I laughed my way through Bridget Jones’ Diary. I just kept thinking, “This is great, but I sure wish…” So, I decided to stop wishing and start writing.

Thank you so much for having me over here!

Caroline Ashley is a journalist on the rise at The Washington Post until the sudden death of her father brings her back to Thorny Hollow to care for her mentally fragile mother and their aging antebellum home. The only respite from the eternal rotation of bridge club meetings and garden parties is her longtime friend, Brooks Elliott. A professor of journalism, Brooks is the voice of sanity and reason in the land of pink lemonade and triple layer coconut cakes. But when she meets a fascinating, charismatic young man on the cusp of a brand new industry, she ignores Brooks’s misgivings and throws herself into the project.

Brooks struggles to reconcile his parents’ very bitter marriage with his father’s devastating grief at the recent loss of his wife. Caroline is the only bright spot in the emotional wreckage of his family life. She’s a friend and he’s perfectly happy to keep her safely in that category. Marriage isn’t for men like Brooks and they both know it… until a handsome newcomer wins her heart. Brooks discovers Caroline is much more than a friend, and always has been, but is it too late to win her back?

Featuring a colorful cast of southern belles, Civil War re-enactors, and good Christian women with spunk to spare, Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili-Slaw Dogs brings the modern American South to light in a way only a contemporary Jane Austen could have imagined.

Emma, Mr. Knightley and Chili-Slaw Dogs

Re-Readability Rating:

4 out of 5 stars

This book has made it to my list of books I love to wander back around to when I need a good read to pass the time of day.

Romance Rating:

5 out of 5 stars

Love the kiss scene! Great banter and dialog but I will say the lack of communication did get on my nerves just a tiny bit.  We human beings can be so silly sometimes.

Mary Jane Hathaway is also giving away some awesome Prizes!!!!

Leave a comment telling us your favorite Austen character and why for a chance to win a free e-book copy of Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili Slaw Dogs or a pair of Jane Austen inspired earrings from Etsy.com! You have until Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 11:59pm EST

Book EARRINGS Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen quote vintage Typewriter

You can also keep up with Mary Jane on Facebook: Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits Fan PageVirginia Carmichael Author Page

Twitter: Mary Jane’s Twitter

and her blog: Virginia Carmichael @ Blog Spot

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How Sweet It Is by Bonnie Blythe

Hello Romantics!

Happy Birthday to me! Happy Birthday to me! Happy Birthday to me! Happy Birthday to me!

Yay, I turned 35 years old today!

I decided to celebrate in two ways. One will be today’s review of How Sweet it Is by Bonnie Blythe. The other will be announced at the end of this post so you have to stay with me to hear that announcement!

First off, How Sweet It Is by Bonnie Blythe is one of my personal favorites of her work.

In this lovely book we meet Brad Larsen a semi pro surfer turned Business graduate who is in Belgium with his parents on a little vacation.  His biggest weaknesses are chocolate and pretty girls. So of course when the story opens we find him salivating over chocolates in a Belgian chocolatiers shop window.  While staring in the window and waiting for the crowd to thin out Brad notices a strikingly beautiful girl in the shop.

Without an ounce of hesitation Brad decides to brave the crowds just so he can meet this vision of loveliness. Of course being an American who doesn’t know French doesn’t help when he tries to help the pretty “French” girl.

Delphine D’Arleux, who is in Europe for some candy making courses to sharpen her skills, is quite scandalized by the attentions of the American man who had the nerve to call her a “village maiden”. Is again broke after spending the last of her travel money on some chocolates at the shop, for research purposes of course.  All she wants to do is go to her hotel, rest, and get on her plane to go home to California. However, being hungry in a foreign country and seeing as though she hasn’t had any real adventure while in Europe, she decides to let Brad buy her a snack. After a lovely cup of cocoa, Brad decides to kiss away a chocolate smudge on Delphine’s lips. Which earns him quite a slap in the face and a disappearing act by Delphine. (To be honest, I don’t blame her I’d have smacked him too!)

Delphine has no intention of seeing Brad again but imagine her shock and dismay when her already paid airplane ticket disappears from the system and Delta tells her she has to buy a brand new ticket to go home!

Unfortunately, her parents spent all of the money in the checking account and she has no way of getting home.  Enter Brad and his parents to the rescue.

Now that Brad has re-found Delphine, the beautiful stranger, he has no intention of letting her out of his sight again.  Isn’t it just miraculous that they are supposed to be on the same flight to California and only happen to live about 30 minutes away from each other?

A surfer boy who loves chocolate and a beautiful French-American girl who makes chocolate of course this has got to be a match made in heaven.

Will Brad be able to win Delphine over? Will Delphine be able to open the chocolate shop of her dreams? Will Delphine learn how to enjoy life and all it has to offer?

Hmm…Sounds like you’ll have to read the book to find out!

How Sweet It Is

Re-Readability Rating:

4 out of 5 stars

Whenever I want a good easy read, this is one of my go to books.

Romance Rating:

Solid 4 out of 5 stars

Great kissing scenes, wonderful banter between characters, and a delightful Christian Message of redemption.

And Now for my Announcement!!

Next week I will be interviewing Mary Jane Hathaway, writer of the Jane Austen Takes the South Series and in honor of her Relaunch of the series she is giving away some great Jane Austen Inspired Swag!!!!

So get  yourself ready for a fun interview next week and a chance to win some free stuff!

Hmm…I wonder if I can finagle something out of her for myself? LOL 😉

See you next week!

Miss Moseley the Matchmaker by Caylen McQueen

Shop Amazon – New Year, New You in Books

Hello Romantics!

Next week is my 35th Birthday!!!!    Too excited!  Yes, I’m that person who still gets excited about their birthday.  So in preparation for my own personal holiday (yes, I truly do think this way.) , Here is a lovely sweet short story I found.

Miss Moseley the Matchmaker by Caylen McQueen

In this lovely novella Molly Moseley, a hopeless romantic,  is well-known as a matchmaker among her friends and family but, unfortunately for herself she hasn’t been able to make a successful match for herself.  With her being 30 years old she is pretty much considered an old maid for the times. (Funny how times change a lot of women these days don’t get married until their 30’s)

Molly is in love with her best friend Lord Rocksavage. They’ve been friends since childhood and she’s secretly loved him all this time.  After coming home from a visit in town (Imagine calling London a town.) Lord Rocksavage comes to Molly to ask her to find him a wife!

Can you just imagine the heartache that has to come with that Request!?!

So after some internal struggle Molly agrees to help him find a wife.  After two misses, Molly hits gold with Ms. Iris Crawford.  A beautiful, blonde who is constantly surrounded by suitors. Lord Rocksavage falls for her right away and Molly is left eating her heart out…or is she?  Ms. Crawford is the ward of her uncle, an older gentleman by the name of Julian Crawford.

Will Molly be able to get over her love for Lord Rocksavage? Will Julian Crawford be able to win Molly’s heart? Has Lord Rocksavage truly fallen for Iris Crawford?

All good questions! But you’ll have to read the book to find the answers!

Miss Moseley the Matchmaker

Re-Readability:

3 out of 5 stars

Great short read for anytime you need something a little sappy.

Romance Rating:

3 out of 5 stars

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Once Upon A Prince by Rachel Hauck

Shop Amazon – New Year, New You in Books

Hello My Dear Romantics!

So back at work at my day job and back to work telling you about some of my fabulous finds!

So you already know I love Cinderella (Don’t groan I’m not doing another Cinderella remake book.) But I’m also a closet royal watcher.

(Gasp! What’s this you say!?!)

Yes, it’s true I have a slight fascination with royalty. I actually woke up around 5 am in the morning to watch Will and Kate get married. (Which is saying something. I don’t like getting up early for anything)

I also saw the famous double kiss on the balcony. The whole wedding took my breath away.

Now I’m sure you’re asking, “Why is she telling me all this?”

Because this week’s pick is about royalty!

Once Upon A Prince by Rachel Hauck

What girl doesn’t dream of the day when her long time (12 yrs long) boyfriend calls her out to the beach to talk to her? She’s expecting to finally be asked the question every single girl waits to hear. “Will you marry me?”

Unfortunately, for Susana Truitt she gets, “I found the right ring, but not the right girl.”

That’s right after 12 years of waiting for her Marine Captain boyfriend, Adam Peters, comes home from his last tour of duty to tell her that he doesn’t love her and can’t marry her.

Isn’t that a lovely way to end your day?

After that awful conversation Susana goes for a drive around her home town of St. Simons Island, GA to think and process her life choices. She drives to her favorite spot the Lovers Oak on Prince Avenue and ends up with a flat tire.

There on the island for a vacation/official visit is the Crowned Prince of Briton (fictitious country) at the cusp of taking on the throne from his ill and dying father. Nathaniel is about to become king during a time of great upheaval in his country and he’s not sure if he is up to the task. So he goes for a drive to find a fair damsel in distress trying to ward off a vagrant and change her flat tire.

Nathaniel of course stops and pays off the man to leave her alone and then proceeds to help her with her tire. because e doesn’t want her to know he is royalty just yet he introduces himself as Nate Kenneth.

For Nate though meeting  Susanna is love at first sight! (I know only in fairy tales and books but it just makes me want to sigh anyway)

Susanna leaves and has some curiosity about the foreign stranger but is sure she will never see him again. Then to her surprise she literally runs into him again a few days later at a huge hospital benefit/fundraiser, While trying to find her boss so that she can get him to take her to the hospital to see her father who has just had a heart attack.

I can’t tell you anymore because I will have told you the whole book right here! What fun would that be?

Will Nate ever tell Susanna who he really is? Will Susanna fall in love with Nathaniel? Will Nathaniel be able to make the right choices for his country during its time of political upheaval?

You’ll have to read the book to find out!!!!!

Once Upon a Prince (Royal Wedding Series)

Re-readability Rating:

5 out of 5 stars

I read this so many times over my vacation I couldn’t put it down!

Romance Rating:

4 out of 5 stars

Very cute dialog between the characters and the kiss at the end was so worth waiting for!

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No Review this week but some links to free and low price books!

Product Details

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Happy New Year Romantics!

I’m off enjoying my vacation away from my job so I decided to take a tiny break from reviews this week.

I do however have a list of websites and newsletters that I like to check pretty regularly to score dozens and dozens of free and reduced priced books in all sorts of genres. Take a gander at them and I’ll see you all next week!

Ereader News Today

Pixel of Ink

Sweet Free Books

Inspired Reads

Book Bub

Ereader Love

That’s my short list of favorites. I’ll make sure to make another list soon so you can catch more steals and deals in the future.

Product Details

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