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Jane and her fatherSome years ago, I painted a little picture of how I imagined Jane and her father would look when she was about five years old. I thought about this painting whilst I was writing a little scene in Project Darcy when Ellie goes back into the past and becomes Jane Austen, and tied it in with what seem to be Jane’s own recollections that she wrote about in Northanger Abbey. Although she is writing about Catherine Morland when she says her heroine was ‘noisy and wild, hated confinement and cleanliness, and loved nothing so well in the world as rolling down the green slope at the back of the house’, I have a feeling she was referring to a memory of doing that herself. If you’ve ever been to Steventon to see the site where the rectory stood, the back of the garden has a pronounced slope! Here’s how I imagine Jane and her beloved brother Henry playing at the back of the rectory. I hope you enjoy this little excerpt from my latest novel, Project Darcy.

 

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The slope at Steventon Rectory


The moment she stepped through the hedges and trees that screened the fields, Ellie knew something was different – her world was changed in more ways than she could ever have imagined. Like the little girl in Alice in Wonderland, she’d grown smaller and everything around her had doubled in size. Trees were so tall she could not see the top of them and the grass that tickled her bare legs nearly came up to her knees. Ellie looked back towards the way she had come but she knew it was fruitless. There was only one way to go, and that was to follow the sound that beckoned her. It was as if she saw everything through mist, layers of white vapour that rose to reveal a reality that became sharper with every passing minute. She was no longer Ellie Bentley; that she knew. She was a child, perhaps no more than five years old, and her thoughts intruded until Ellie had none left of her own. Her world was larger, more defined, sounds and smells were fresher, brighter and vivid. More than that, she felt different. Ellie saw life through the eyes of someone else, and when she heard the boy’s voice calling her name she knew him to be her brother.

Site of Steventon Rectory

Site of Steventon Rectory

Henry pulled me up the slope to the top of the field where the elm trees stood like sentinels and whispered over our heads in their hushing, leaf language. The day was hot like the one I’d left behind, and my legs struggled to keep up with him in the heat. He sensed that my small legs were tiring and he turned to wait, looking at me with a grin. Light flickered in his hazel eyes, those that I knew grown-ups said were so like mine, but his were almost golden on this day, like Baltic amber. The grass up at the top of the terrace was so long; it prickled the back of my legs. Beads of dew, like fairy necklaces strung along green blades, felt cold under my feet. When we reached the top, he showed me how to lie down in line with the trees, my toes pointing one way and my arms stretched over my head.‘Come on, Jane, let us go again!’

‘Jane, wait until I count to three,’ I heard him say.

Lying in the sweetly fragrant meadow, I felt so excited I started to giggle, and my body fidgeted in response. And before he’d managed to shout out the number three, I’d started going, rolling down the hill, and gathering momentum until the world was spinning. There was a blur of blue sky; then green fields, and then over I went again like a flyer on Nanny Littleworth’s spinning wheel. I could see Henry overtake me, going faster than ever. He got to the bottom before me but I came to a standstill at last, my heart beating with pure pleasure as I lay in the grass chuckling and laughing. There were grass stains on my dress and daisies in my hair, which Henry picked out, one by one.

Sitting up, I could see a house that I knew was my home and I had a sudden longing to see my father.

 Site of Jane Austen's home, Steventon Rectory


Site of Jane Austen’s home, Steventon Rectory

‘Are you not coming up again, little Jenny?’ Henry asked, calling me by the pet name my family used when they wanted to appeal to my better nature. He had his hands in the pockets of his breeches. His shirt was crumpled and stained like my gown. Brown curls flopped over his eyes, which looked into mine so tenderly that I almost changed my mind. I ran to hug him, stood on my tiptoes and planted a kiss on his cheek. Henry was my protector, and my beloved playmate. I longed to be just like him but my mother scolded me when I behaved too much like a tomboy. I knew I should not run or jump or shout, as my brothers did, but nothing she said would deter me, so when Henry begged me to play with him I did not usually need to be asked twice. But, as much as I wanted to be with him, home was calling.

I shook my head and muttered, ‘I’m going to see Papa.’

 

I have vivid memories of rolling down the slope in the park at the back of my childhood home with my brother and sister, which was a thing we all loved to do. I remember one time when we were recovering from German Measles, and the grass made our rashes flare up again, all very prickly and itchy – but we were all so glad to be outside again. Most of my childhood seemed to be spent outdoors playing, or indoors drawing and writing if the weather was bad – I’d love to know what pastimes you enjoyed as a child!

15b02-projectdarcycover-09-10-13I am absolutely thrilled with this review from Joceline Bury in this month’s edition of Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine

Thank you to Joceline and everyone at the magazine! 

CARDS ON THE TABLE: I’m a sucker for time-travel fiction – from H. G. Wells to, well, to Jane Odiwe in this instance. Her latest Austen-inspired romance takes Ellie Bentley, a modern-day student, to Hampshire, where her best friend has arranged for them to take part in an archaeological dig. Not particularly interested in either digging or Jane Austen, Ellie does have a gift for ‘seeing’ things – and on the girls’ first night at Ashe Rectory she encounters a very handsome ghost. So the scene is set for Ellie to be spirited back to Steventon during the winter of 1796 to witness just what happened when Jane Austen met Tom Lefroy and to – perhaps – unravel the real love story behind the romance at the heart of Pride and Prejudice. Odiwe writes with great charm and assurance: her contemporary characters are engaging, her historical protagonists convincing. In Project Darcy she takes a slice of literary history and turns it into a thoroughly entertaining, often very funny, and frequently touching piece of modern romantic fiction.

9a3c5-img_0950Jane Austen travelled to Bath at the beginning of May in 1801. It seems they enjoyed fine weather, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we will enjoy the same soon-though it’s raining today! I love this letter, full of gossip and news, the price of food, plans for a new gown, and the purchase of a new bonnet!

Paragon: Tuesday (May 5).
MY DEAR CASSANDRA,
I have the pleasure of writing from my own room up two pair of stairs, with everything very comfortable about me.
Our journey here was perfectly free from accident or event; we changed horses at the end of every stage, and paid at almost every turn-pike. We had charming weather, hardly any dust, and were exceedingly agreeable, as we did not speak above once in three miles.
Between Luggershall and Everley we made our grand meal, and then with admiring astonishment perceived in what a magnificent manner our support had been provided for. We could not with the utmost exertion consume above the twentieth part of the beef. The cucumber will, I believe, be a very acceptable present, as my uncle talks of having inquired the price of one lately, when he was told a shilling.
We had a very neat chaise from Devizes; it looked almost as well as a gentleman’s, at least as a very shabby gentleman’s; in spite of this advantage, however, we were above three hours coming from thence to Paragon, and it was half after seven by your clocks before we entered the house.
Frank, whose black head was in waiting in the Hall window, received us very kindly; and his master and mistress did not show less cordiality. They both look very well, though my aunt has a violent cough. We drank tea as soon as we arrived, and so ends the account of our journey, which my mother bore without any fatigue.
How do you do to-day? I hope you improve in sleeping — I think you must, because I fall off; I have been awake ever since five and sooner; I fancy I had too much clothes over me; I thought I should by the feel of them before I went to bed, but I had not courage to alter them. I am warmer here without any fire than I have been lately with an excellent one.
Well, and so the good news is confirmed, and Martha triumphs. My uncle and aunt seemed quite surprised that you and my father were not coming sooner.
I have given the soap and the basket, and each have been kindly received. One thing only among all our concerns has not arrived in safety: when I got into the chaise at Devizes I discovered that your drawing ruler was broke in two; it is just at the top where the cross-piece is fastened on. I beg pardon.
There is to be only one more ball — next Monday is the day. The Chamberlaynes are still here. I begin to think better of Mrs. C—-, and upon recollection believe she has rather a long chin than otherwise, as she remembers us in Gloucestershire when we were very charming young women.
The first view of Bath in fine weather does not answer my expectations; I think I see more distinctly through rain. The sun was got behind everything, and the appearance of the place from the top of Kingsdown was all vapour, shadow, smoke, and confusion.
I fancy we are to have a house in Seymour Street, or thereabouts. My uncle and aunt both like the situation. I was glad to hear the former talk of all the houses in New King Street as too small; it was my own idea of them. I had not been two minutes in the dining-room before he questioned me with all his accustomary eager interest about Frank and Charles, their views and intentions. I did my best to give information.
I am not without hopes of tempting Mrs. Lloyd to settle in Bath; meat is only 8d. per pound, butter 12d., and cheese 9 1/2 d. You must carefully conceal from her, however, the exorbitant price of fish: a salmon has been sold at 2s. 9d. per pound the whole fish. The Duchess of York’s removal is expected to make that article more reasonable — and till it really appears so, say nothing about salmon.
Tuesday night. – When my uncle went to take his second glass of water I walked with him, and in our morning’s circuit we looked at two houses in Green Park Buildings, one of which pleased me very well. We walked all over it except into the garret; the dining-room is of a comfortable size, just as large as you like to fancy it; the second room about 14 ft. square. The apartment over the drawing-room pleased me particularly, because it is divided into two, the smaller one a very nice-sized dressing-room, which upon occasion might admit a bed. The aspect is south-east. The only doubt is about the dampness of the offices, of which there were symptoms.
Wednesday. – Mrs. Mussell has got my gown, and I will endeavour to explain what her intentions are. It is to be a round gown, with a jacket and a frock front, like Cath. Bigg’s, to open at the side. The jacket is all in one with the body, and comes as far as the pocket-holes — about half a quarter of a yard deep, I suppose, all the way round, cut off straight at the corners with a broad hem. No fulness appears either in the body or the flap; the back is quite plain in this form [hourglass shape], and the sides equally so. The front is sloped round to the bosom and drawn in, and there is to be a frill of the same to put on occasionally when all one’s handkerchiefs are dirty — which frill must fall back. She is to put two breadths and a-half in the tail, and no gores — gores not being so much worn as they were. There is nothing new in the sleeves: they are to be plain, with a fulness of the same falling down and gathered up underneath, just like some of Martha’s, or perhaps a little longer. Low in the back behind, and a belt of the same. I can think of nothing more, though I am afraid of not being particular enough.
My mother has ordered a new bonnet, and so have I; both white strip, trimmed with white ribbon. I find my straw bonnet looking very much like other people’s, and quite as smart. Bonnets of cambric muslin on the plan of Lady Bridges’ are a good deal worn, and some of them are very pretty; but I shall defer one of that sort till your arrival. Bath is getting so very empty that I am not afraid of doing too little. Black gauze cloaks are worn as much as anything. I shall write again in a day or two. Best love.
Yours ever, J. A.

 

As it’s May 1st, I thought you might like to see how we celebrate in Oxford in the UK!

IMG_2934 Happy Valentine’s Day!

We’re celebrating over at Austen Variations with some writing – excerpts from our books and a poem by Diana Birchall, plus there are links to authors’ websites for their special contributions!

Here’s an excerpt from Project Darcy which follows on from my piece at Austen Variations - I hope you enjoy it. Jane Austen and her friend, Tom Lefroy, are falling in love at the Manydown Ball!

heart2My spirits were dancing in silent rapture just as much as my feet when Tom escorted me to the dance floor. I think something of the joy we felt on the occasion pervaded the whole room like the fragrance lingering on the air as the atmosphere lightened. There was laughter and movement and flurries of white muslin as dashing young men spun their partners round, satin slippers kicking up the chalk. As the musicians played faster the handclaps and boot stomping grew louder. Everywhere looked a blaze of colour and sparkle under glittering chandeliers as the dancers skipped and hopped, galloping down the set to reach their place in time. It was wonderful to feel his hand in mine, to catch his eye, and to have his fingers linger in the small of my back like a caress.

By the time the supper bell rang, we were all starving hungry. Such a spread, like a king’s feast, was laid out on the dining table. My brother James carved the turkey with great perseverance, whilst Henry made it his job to help all the young ladies. He was on fine form and had encouraged his brother to dance every dance. Catherine and Alethea exchanged smiles with me. I knew Catherine would tease me about Tom as soon as she had the chance. Catherine’s brother Harris was helping James. He was growing up, and looked quite the young gentleman in his evening attire. I saw him look up and catch my eye. He was very shy, but I knew that he liked me. Knowing that I was one of the few people he preferred to talk to, I gave him my best smile back again.

‘Come on, Jane,’ whispered Tom, ‘surely there’s a corner where we can sit without the whole world attending to our every word.’

‘Tom Lefroy, you will have people talking about me, if they are not already, but there is a little place in the greenhouse where we might find a seat.’

I led him from the room and along the corridor. Everyone was so busy eating, drinking and swapping gossip that I was certain we would not be missed, but I knew we should not be long. At the back of my mind, a voice told me I was behaving badly but it felt we were the only two people in the whole world who mattered. We abandoned our plates and glasses, and ran tiptoeing, hand in hand, as soon as we were out of sight. Amongst the Persian orange trees and exotic plants, I found my rustic bench, a favourite spot where I often took a book when staying with my friends. Screened by greenery, we could not be seen. The space was a cosy one, warm from the glow of candles set in coloured lamps that lent a magical glow to the darkness of the interior.

‘Thank you for making this Christmas visit so enjoyable,’ said Tom, turning to face me. ‘I must admit that I was truly dreading being away from my family.’

‘I, too, have enjoyed every minute of your company … even when you were behaving like an arrogant coxcomb.’

‘You wound me, Miss Austen, and in more ways than you will ever know.’

I fiddled with my reticule and thought of the picture hidden inside. ‘You will have to go away soon, I think.’

Tom nodded. ‘I have to study, and I have a long way ahead of me before I shall be started in my chosen career.’

‘And I suppose you will not stop at being a mere lawyer. I can see you as a judge, Tom, with a long white wig on your head looking rather stern.’

Tom threw back his head and laughed. ‘If my Uncle Benjamin has anything to do with it, you’re right. He is my sponsor and I do so hope to make him proud. I wish to do the best for my family. With so many children, you know yourself, money is stretched to its limits.’

images ‘I wish you weren’t going away,’ I said. The words were out, and the secrets of my heart were unleashed. It was too late to go back.

‘But, I will go and you’ll soon forget me. It’s probably for the best, you know. Besides, you have so many ardent suitors I could not flatter myself that you would wish to confine yourself to me alone.’

He took up my hand between two of his own and turned it, as if studying my fingers before entwining his in mine and holding them up to the curve of his mouth, pressing his lips against the kid leather. I wanted to feel his mouth on mine, and I knew I might never have another moment so exquisitely right.

‘Kiss me,’ I dared to say.

‘Jane … we should not.’

I heard his words but I did not believe them. I tried again. ‘Do you not wish to kiss me, Mr Lefroy?’

Tom stroked the flesh exposed above my wrist where he hooked a finger beneath the buttoned opening of my glove. ‘Jane, it’s not that … but I do not think kissing you is a good idea.’

‘It would just be a kiss between friends. I am always kissing Catherine and Alethea. It would signify nothing more than a seal to friendship.’

Tom shook his head. ‘Oh, Jane, you have no idea how much I’ve dreamed of kissing you, and it would be a terrible thing if I did.’

‘I don’t understand. If we both wish it, why is it so wrong?’

Tom gazed into my eyes and I saw his anguish. ‘Because I do not trust myself to behave like a gentleman.’

‘Kiss me, Tom, or I will kiss you.’

His hand caressed my face and a finger traced my mouth before he placed his lips on mine so gently that tears filled my eyes. I touched his cheek, threaded my fingers through his hair, and felt our lips and our breath join as one. I fell into his arms and he drew me closer with kisses of love and tenderness.

Thank you to everyone who entered my blog tour competitions to win some jewellery and an embroidered bag -

We have three winners – Congratulations!!!!

The winners are:

June Williams for the Georgian brooch

Nicole Platania for the Victorian brooch

Cassandra Grafton for the embroidered bag

Could the winners please contact me here so I can learn how to get your prizes out to you! Thanks again-I hope you all enjoy your prizes!

Thank you to everyone who joined in last week’s Giveaway to win a copy of Pride and Prejudice illustrated with photos from  the Greer Garson/Lawrence Olivier film and a pack of my Christmas cards.

Congratulations!!! The winner is Janet T!

Can you please contact me here to claim your prize – Congratulations!!!!!

My blog tour for Project Darcy continues – if you missed the start of it, you can catch up here:

Wednesday, October 30th   - Wondrous Reads
Sunday, November 3rd - My Jane Austen Book Club
Tuesday, November 5th - Austenprose OFFICIAL BOOK LAUNCH
Wednesday, November 6th –  Indie Jane
Thursday, November 7th - More Agreeably Engaged
Tuesday, November 12th Calico Critic
Wednesday, November 13th Meditating Mummy
Monday, November 18th Austen Authors
Monday, November 18th The Book Rat
Wednesday, November 20th Austenesque Reviews

It’s not too late to enter the GIVEAWAY for two lovely brooches (closing date Monday, 18th November) – click here to read more and also to win a vintage bag – click here to read more

Thank you, everyone, for making this such fun, and for all the lovely words of encouragement here and elsewhere – it truly means the world to me!
Tomorrow, I am a guest of Laura Hartness at Calico Critic – I hope you’ll join me for a chat and a giveaway of Project Darcy!

I hope you’re enjoying my blog tour as much as I am! Today, I’m a guest on Indie Jane, talking about grandfather clocks, time, and Project Darcy – I hope you’ll join me.

Tomorrow, you’ll find me at More Agreeably Engaged with Janet Taylor!

STOP PRESS! I’ve just received a review from Kath Eastman - here it is in full at her blog – Nut Press – here’s a little of her review below – she’s made my day!

I pretty much read Project Darcy in one sitting. Even though I knew at least how Jane Austen’s own story would end, I loved spending time with Jane Odiwe’s imagining of her again in that period, as well as being anxious to see where the modern-day characters would be at the end of the book – and who with! This was a highly enjoyable read for me because it had a bit of everything: sumptuous period detail – I can imagine that Jane Odiwe had fun imagining the interiors of Ashe, both in Jane Austen’s time and in its more contemporary setting; seeing who the candidates for Jane Austen’s characters were from her own circle of acquaintances and their modern-day counterparts; a good sprinkling of romance and pairings, including a glimpse into one of Jane Austen’s own rumoured romances and the delicious puzzle of piecing all the connections together made Project Darcy for this reader.

Wednesday, November 6th –  Indie Jane
Thursday, November 7th - More Agreeably Engaged
Tuesday, November 12th Calico Critic
Wednesday, November 13th Meditating Mummy
Monday, November 18th Austen Authors
Monday, November 18th The Book Rat
Wednesday, November 20th Austenesque Reviews

Today’s treat inspired a little scene in Project Darcy – Ellie has a vintage bag similar to the one below – I’d imagined Ellie’s bag, but this one is similar in style, only with flowers and a short strap!
Ellie is getting ready for a party whilst she is staying near Steventon, at Ashe Rectory -
Half an hour later, Ellie was feeling refreshed for having had a scented soak in the bath. She’d washed her hair and was now standing in front of the wardrobe hanging her clothes, and trying to decide what she was going to wear for the party. It was still warm and light so she selected some cropped jeans and a short-sleeved cotton top, with a scoop neck and embroidered pin tucked front. The detail made it a little bit more special than the every day and to set it off, she picked a chunky necklace from her jewellery roll with turquoise stones and silver beads threaded on a long leather cord. Choosing a warm scarf in coral, scattered over with hummingbirds and edged in silk fringe in case it got cooler later on, Ellie then added a pair of canvas trainers to complete her outfit.
Jess knocked on the door. ‘I’ll just round up everyone else so I’ll see you downstairs in a minute!’

Ellie shouted back that she’d join them in a second and looked around for her bag. It was her favourite, an antique bag that had belonged to her great-grandmother. Made of black silk moiré, it was embellished with a bluebird and had a long silk strap.She’d left it on the chest of drawers in front of the window next to a blue and white jug and bowl. Dashing to fetch it, she was stopped in her tracks by the sense of something or someone moving outside in the garden below. 


If you’d like to own the little bag, please leave a comment below!

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