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Merits and Mercenaries (The Bath Novels of Lady A~, Book 1) Paperback – April 28, 2011
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"Gorgeous!" Patricia Rozema, Writer/Director, Mansfield Park.
"A dashing and imaginative work, I loved it!" Laurie Kaplan, Professor of English and Academic Director of George Washington University's English Center, and former editor of Persuasions.
"Merits and Mercenaries ... has all the hallmarks of a dashing Regency romp.... for all fans of Austen 'tribute fiction', this is a promising start to a fresh series of romances." Joceline Bury, Jane Austen's Regency World.
"What is remarkable is the skillful echoing of Jane Austen's wit and irony through refined diction and detailed research." Maria Grazia, My Jane Austen Book Club
From the Author
Merits and Mercenaries is the first of a collection of seven books entitled The Bath Novels of Lady A~. The concept behind the Bath Novels came from two things: a very intriguing incident that occurred in Jane Austen's travels and the 'claim' that she wrote nothing substantial during all the years that she lived in Bath and Southampton. That gave me an idea to 'suppose' that 'Lady A/ A Lady' (JA's pen names) was, surreptitiously, working on 'something' during that time; and catalyzed by the aforementioned 'incident'. In short, seven secret, 'dissident', companion novels that were as stylistically similar to her six sublime classics, as they were definitively different in their 'controversial' content. Each a story with themes that Jane Austen might very probably have wished to write about, but, just as likely, dared not do so as a (19th-century) clergyman's daughter.
Merits and Mercenaries, as the debuting Bath Novel 'dissident', is replete with such things provoking. The characters, though leaning every way 'Austen', have a very modern and universal 'feel', as they evolve before a 21st-century audience's eye. Men share their private thoughts/deeds with men and the ladies behave very badly amongst them! In every facet of this book, as with the upcoming Bath Novels, I wanted to use all I could of Jane's literary DNA to create a refreshingly original 'hybrid' for the Janeite community. Something unique to read, follow and collect besides the 'sublime six'; and all that their plots and characters have generated over the course of time. Rather like Jane herself, who was mutually inspired by the likes of Edgeworth and Burney, I wanted to make my own way in the 'comedy of manners' genre. In doing so, I have endeavored to write a singular set of Regency-Austenian (Regaustenian) novels about the English gentry that at once reflects contemporary social values, but is deliciously cased in the 'bonnet drama'--and comedy--of the bewitching Regency period.
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Top Customer Reviews
And so begins Lady A~'s exquisitely written Austen-esque masterpiece, Merits and Mercenaries. It isn't very often I'm completely absorbed in a book. So absorbed that I go to bed thinking about the story's many layered conflict, and dreaming about the characters, planning and plotting in their behalf, trying to sort out in my head just where the story might go, and all the seemingly impossible obstacles that must be overcome to get it there. It was just that way for me as I read this wonderful book.
This was just a superbly written, cleverly concocted, shining example of what Historical Fiction ought be but rarely is. Here were no attempts to modernise the heroine, or even the conflicts of the story. So much of what motivated and concerned humanity two hundred years ago, motivates and concerns us today. On the other hand, here was no overwrought attempt to recreate Austen-esque literature. It was certainly recreated, but the product could hardly be called overwrought. The narrative was natural and flowing and the dialogue absolutely sparkling with wit and charm. The author never once talks over our heads, and when she fears a question may arise, she cleverly refers us to annotations kindly included in the back of the text. This is a welcome embrace to fellow fans of Jane Austen, and, too, of Literary Historical Fiction, as well.
I like complex plots; I yearn for them. I like big, thick books with rich characters that are engaging and compulsively followable. This book gave me both, but in a way I found cleverly deceptive. The conflict was simple. A young woman, Katherine, is taken to the country by her guardian aunt, in the hopes of presenting her with some new prospects for marriage. Of course Katherine is naive to her motivations and goes about her life, adjusting, albeit reluctantly, to the countryside. In Hampshire we are introduced to country society, among them potential friends, some worthy, others not so much. Here among them as well are one or two--or perhaps four--potential suitors. It isn't a grand mystery for whom Katherine is intended, but the hero is engaged to another. And it's an unbreakable commitment, assigned to him upon his father's deathbed. What are two people in love to do? Save, of course, to resign themselves to their unhappy fates. But it isn't the hero's prior commitments alone that stand in the way of our dear Katherine's happiness, for an intricate web of deceit and interference is slowly woven to ensure that Katherine does not prove an irresistible temptation to our would-be hero. For he simply must marry as he has been charged to do. Mustn't he?
And so we are guided, led, drawn, through each and every page, as if the author were leading us on a long walk, on a warm spring day, on our very first journey through Holland Park, where some new bit of scenery, an unexpected but always pleasant surprise, awaits us at every turn. I look forward with great pleasure--with anticipation--for Lady A~'s next work.
If you are a die-hard Jane Austen fan who is looking for something truly authentically Austen, this is sure to be the book for you! 'Merits and Mercenaries' is the very witty debut novel of 'The Bath Novels of Lady A' collection--a series of original Jane Austen-styled novels. The collection is based on a 'cracker' of a (historical) concept that invites the reader to believe that the author 'A Lady' is in fact 'Lady A' (Jane Austen's [little-known] Regency pseudonym). With this in mind, as you turn each dapper page of 'Merits and Mercenaries', one has the (thrilling) feeling that you're looking at a newly discovered Austen manuscript. The style is at once convincing, but also has a contemporary relevance makes it connect with a modern audience. The story itself is just everything you would find in an Austen novel, and then some. Not only is it full of the romance, wit and style of Austen's work, but it has a little Wilkie Collins in it too. Lady A throws in a 'mystery' that starts to unravel very craftily from the beginning of 'M and M' to the theatrical climax. The characters are also marvelously drawn; the hero and heroine are intriguingly complex and the (host of) villains, especially Maria Beckett and Francis Pope, are just plain masterful. What is great about this book is that it is a complete original; so you're meeting new people, visiting new places and grand homes and discovering new things about the English Regency and its society. Bonus to this novel: it has a set of fine period illustrations and very interesting, clear and informative end notes. 'Merits and Mercenaries' also works interactively with The Bath Novels of Lady A website so you can get, among many unique things, a hands-on, (ongoing) behind-the-scenes view of how this particular book was created, access to its Georgian illustrations, the music mentioned in the story and great background to the Bath Novels 'domain' and 'Lady A'. If you are going to buy anything other than Austen this summer, this is the one you should spend your money on!