I am excited to have Jane Odiwe, a fantastic Austen inspired author on my blog today. Her latest novel involves one of my favorite literary heroes, Captain Wentworth from Austen's wonderful novel, Persuasion. It's next on my "to-read" pile and I can't wait to get to it!
My new book, Searching for Captain Wentworth, is inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion - my favourite of her novels.
When aspiring writer, Sophie Elliot receives the keys to the family townhouse in Bath, it's an invitation she can't turn down, especially when she learns that she will be living next door to the house where Jane Austen lived. On discovering that an ancient glove belonging to her mysterious neighbour, Josh Strafford, will transport her back in time to Regency Bath, she questions her sanity, but Sophie is soon caught up in two dimensions, each reality as certain as the other. Torn between her life in the modern world and that of her ancestor who befriends Jane Austen and her fascinating brother Charles, Sophie's story travels two hundred years across time and back again, to unite this modern heroine with her own Captain Wentworth. Blending fact and fiction together, the tale of Jane Austen's own quest for happiness weaves alongside, creating a believable world of new possibilities for the inspiration behind the beloved novel, Persuasion.
I’ve loved being able to write about a contemporary love story as well as one in the past and it’s been wonderful to write about all the places I love that Jane wrote about too.
One of these places is the Pump Room in Bath and it’s here that my heroine Sophie first meets my hero Josh who lives in the flat beneath her. He is rather a mysterious figure - Sophie’s never met him face to face - she’s only had a little glimpse of him from the back. And because she’s ‘borrowed’ something, which belongs to him and not yet returned it, she’s taken aback when fate brings them together before she has a chance to explain. Knowing he is completely in the dark about her, she’s not at all sure what to do or say. Here’s an excerpt:
The room was buzzing with chattering people whilst a trio on the stage entertained everyone with music from a piano, viola and violin. Presiding over it all was the statue of Beau Nash who along with the portraits of stern gentlemen looked as if he might climb down from his stony pedestal at any moment to remonstrate with the table underneath him, a noisy family who were gathered to catch up with their gossipy news. At the water fountain in the bow-windowed alcove, a man in fancy livery was dispensing water into glasses. A little queue was forming and there was a lot of laughter and pulling of faces as people decided whether they liked or disliked the taste of Bath’s spa water. I made my way to the counter, pulling off my gloves and hat and leaving them to one side. The steaming water frothed from an urn into the mouths of copper fish, green with verdigris, as the Pumper filled the glasses placing each one before reticent customers. He put one before me with an enquiring look. I couldn’t really come to Bath and not try the waters. After all, I was sure Anne and Captain Wentworth had managed, as had Jane herself, so I handed over my money. I must admit, I wasn’t thrilled by the smell and I did end up holding my breath so that I couldn’t taste the warm, sulphurous liquid. But, I managed to get to the bottom of the glass, which I felt was an achievement, though I wasn’t sure I was going to do it again. I was just about to leave when I was suddenly aware of someone standing too closely behind me, right by my elbow, wedging themselves in between the person next in line and myself. I think I probably looked a bit cross when I turned round, but I was sure that they were rudely barging in.
‘Does this belong to you?’
I started and stared, both at the glove in his hand and the face looking down at me. Although I’d never seen this face before, I immediately recognized the mop of chocolate curls. Registering the lightly tanned skin and deep velvet eyes; brown as the bed of the brook I paddled in as a child, I watched sensuous lips curve into a smile revealing white teeth. I’m sure my mouth fell open in surprise.
‘I’m sorry if I made you jump,’ he said, ‘but I just saw your glove fall to the floor a moment ago and someone tread on it. The next thing it had been kicked to one side, and I thought you might not notice, or find it yourself.’
I managed to say thank you, but I couldn’t utter another word.
‘Are you sure you’re okay? You know, you look really pale. Would you like to sit down?’
I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was Josh whatshisname. Though I hadn’t seen his face before, I knew the rest of him so well. Standing right next to me, he was so close, I could have put a finger up through one of those long, loose curls that tumbled in dark, unruly waves. I could just imagine what Lara would have said about his leather jacket, the silver chain he wore round his neck and his snug fitting jeans. I admit I was slightly over-awed; he had such presence. He was one of those people that command attention, who everyone stares at when they enter a room. His large, expressive eyes were looking at me in concern, but he smiled again, a sort of funny, half smile that just hinted at a sense of humour. I was shocked, utterly dumbfounded. I just kept thinking, he must wonder if I’m totally stupid as I stood with my mouth open doing a very good impression of the copper fish on the water pump behind the counter. It was so unexpected.
‘Have you come for your usual, Mr Strafford?’
‘Yes, line them up, Toby,’ Josh said, thumping the counter, ‘I’m ready and willing!’
Toby, the pumper, poured three glasses of spa water and placed them before Josh. I watched him drink the first, draining the glass without flinching once. I noticed his hands, like artist’s hands, I thought, with long, slender fingers. He looked at me again with those eyes that seemed to acknowledge the effect he was having on me and he winked playfully.
I felt myself blushing but, at last, I found my tongue. ‘You’re not going to drink them all, are you?’ I asked, before I realized that I’d actually spoken my thoughts out loud.
He paused to turn and grin at me. ‘Every morning without fail, I’m here to take the waters. Isn’t that right, Toby?’
‘That’s correct, Mr Strafford,’ replied the pumper, with a tone that suggested a certain pride in what he obviously thought was a very admirable habit in his customer.
‘But, do you actually like it?’ I persisted. Drinking one glass had been quite enough as far as I was concerned.
Josh licked his lips and grinned, his eyes sparkling mischievously. ‘Don’t you?’
I wanted to say yes. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I really wanted to agree with him. I hesitated.
Picking up the next glass, he threw back his head in a theatrical manner and I watched his throat move as the liquid disappeared. ‘One to go,’ he cried, dashing the glass down noisily upon the wooden counter top.
Then he suddenly leaned towards me, which surprised me so much, my immediate reaction was to back off, but there was nowhere to go as I was up against the edge of a tall column. He buried his face in my hair and I remembered thinking how sorry I was that I hadn’t had a bath or shampooed my hair that morning, but hot water was something in short supply and I’d just had a quick wash. Thank goodness, I’d drenched myself in perfume, I thought.
‘The water is disgusting,’ he murmured, ‘but don’t tell Toby, it would break his heart.’
I couldn’t help but laugh. Toby, I noticed, was on the other side dispensing more water to hopeful clientele. Josh now turned away, looking straight ahead as if there had been no communication between us, all innocent and quite like a small boy who has just been very naughty.
‘Can I get you another?’ he asked, with a twinkle in his eye, just as Toby passed by.
‘Oh, no thank you, but it was delicious,’ I said, loud enough for Toby to hear and be rewarded with a smile.
‘I’m Josh,’ he said, putting out his hand very formally, the smile friendly, but less conspiratorial.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little excerpt from Searching for Captain Wentworth. Have you ever visited Bath? If you could travel to the UK, would you like to visit Bath and where would you like to go first?
Author Jane Odiwe has graciously offered a giveaway of one signed copy of Searching for Captain Wentworth.
If you would like to win a copy of this book please leave a comment about what intrigues you about the this book and/or answer Jane's questions from above about Bath. I so long to visit Bath myself!!
As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner.
For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway or post it on your sidebar. Provide a link to this post in your comment.
I will be using random.org (or a monte carlo simulation in excel) to pick the winners from the comments.
This contest is International!
The deadline for entry is midnight on Friday September 28, 2012.
Please make sure to check the first week of October to see if you are a winner. I send emails to the winner but lately I have been put in their "junk mail" folder instead of their inbox.