Thursday, November 6, 2008

Pemberley by the Sea By Abigail Reynolds (with interview and giveaway)

Although the man seemed oblivious to her presence, she asked, 'Do you have a partner for the next dance?'

For a moment he said nothing, and had Cassie been more timid, she would have be cowed by the look he gave her. 'I'm not planning to dance, thank you.' His lips barely moved when he spoke.

She was suddenly conscious she was still wearing her lab clothes and no makeup. But she hadn't gotten where she was by giving in to her insecurities. 'If you've never tried it before, it's easy to pick up. Everyone here was a beginner once.'

'I don't think so.' He scanned the hall as if looking for someone.

His refusal stung, leaving her with the unpleasantly familiar feeling of having been judged and found wanting, even if he was the one violating the unspoken rules of the contra dance by refusing her. She hadn't done anything wrong. She was tempted to make a response as curt and rude as his had been, but she had higher standards for her behavior. 'Never mind, then.' (from Pemberley by the Sea, pages 4-5)

Abigail Reynolds' modern-day retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Pemberley by the Sea, brings the tale of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy from England to Woods Hole on Cape Cod. In this contemporary version, Elizabeth is replaced with Cassie Boulton, a marine biologist and college professor who spends her summers at a research lab on the Cape and the rest of the year teaching at a small college in Pennsylvania. Darcy's replacement is Calder Westing, a writer and the son of a well-known U.S. senator who meets Cassie in Woods Hole as a guest in the summer home of his friend Scott (Mr. Bingley), a biotech executive dating Cassie's vulnerable friend and lab partner, Erin (Jane Bennet).

Like Elizabeth, Cassie is intelligent, strong, and stubborn. Like Mr. Darcy, Calder is rich, brooding, and arrogant (at least at first). Unlike Pride and Prejudice, we don't have to wait until the end of the book for Cassie and Calder to act on their intense attraction (which is a good thing because Pemberley by the Sea spans 426 pages, though it is a quick read). But the summer ends and Cassie and Calder must part ways--not sure if they'll ever see each other again and uncertain how they truly feel about one another. Not surprisingly, the two encounter one another at various times over the next year or so, and in true romance fashion, numerous obstacles work to keep them apart, namely Calder's ruthless father and a secret about her family that Cassie refuses to share with anyone.

For a romance novel and a Jane Austen retelling, Pemberley by the Sea is impressive. It was easy to forget that the story parallels Pride and Prejudice, as the characters and their challenges could stand on their own without any reference to Austen's beloved novel. Reynolds does a brilliant job getting readers to feel the passion and tension between Cassie and Calder. There are several steamy, descriptive sex scenes in the book, but they weren't distracting. Knowing the characters and the storyline, the sex scenes made sense. While Cassie's stubbornness and inner turmoil were annoying at times, I still liked the characters. Pemberley by the Sea is a light read, something to pick up to escape the stresses of the day. I sped through the book in just a few days of commuter reading, and I'm looking forward to the rest of The Woods Hole Quartet series.

I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Abigail Reynolds about Pemberley by the Sea, Jane Austen, and her writing. I wish to thank her for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions.

Where did you get the idea to write a modern-day Pride and Prejudice set on Cape Cod with a marine biologist and a politician's son?

It all started with wondering about what kind of people Darcy and Elizabeth might be in the modern world. Jane Austen's Darcy isn't a social creature, but it's important to his character that he's socially prominent and powerful in society. He constantly gives offense and is very private, so I couldn't see Calder/Darcy as a CEO, socialite, or voluntarily taking on a public role. So I started to look for something that would make him famous, but not of his own volition. I also wanted something that would make Cassie/Elizabeth take an immediate and serious dislike to him, which would take more than just an insult. The animosity between scientists and right-wing politicians seemed like a good setup.

There's a pitfall of a writing about a politician's son, though. Politics change! When I wrote Calder's speech at the end, it was a year after 9/11, Republicans were powerful, and issues like health care were on the back burner, so his speech was really quite radical. But in 2008, he's saying the same thing many people are saying, and his father the Republican senator wouldn't have anything like the clout I imagined in 2002. Calder's speech was supposed to be an extreme position against a very powerful father, and it's turned into a middle-of-the-road position against a father in the minority party.

Cassie's role was much easier--there are lots of ways to present a smart, witty, strong-minded woman in today's world. I love marine biology, so it was easy to see her as someone passionate about it, and I know just enough about it not to sound like a complete idiot when talking about the science part. It also gave me the excuse to set the book in one of my favorite places, Woods Hole, a coastal town on Cape Cod dominated by marine scientists of all sorts. Woods Hole has its own peculiar culture which added flavor (and squid!) to the book.

Did you find any parts of the book hard to write? Pemberley by the Sea is among the few romance books I've read where I actually can feel the intensity and passion between the lead characters. You did a brilliant job, and I'm just curious if it was difficult to capture these emotions on paper.

Thank you! The book practically wrote itself the first time, for which I give credit to Jane Austen for her fabulous characters and Woods Hole as a vibrant setting. Then I spent several years putting it through one revision after another based on various critiques I'd gotten. Finally I realized that the changes I was making might make the book more marketable, but it was also destroying my voice and vision. So then I had to undo a lot of the damage I'd done.

The scenes that I think are the most vibrant--the squid scene and the bioluminescent scene, for example--are all from that first draft, and flowed naturally from the characters and settings. I wish I'd listened to myself more at that stage.

The hardest part to write was the section where Cassie is reading Calder's book. I had to compress segments from his book as much as possible to try to keep up the pace, but I still had to show important moments. Trying to show Cassie's pain and astonishment at what she's reading while not interrupting the flow of his story was a major challenge. Also, Calder had to write in a different style than I do, and it had to be consistent. It was hard to learn to speak with another writer's voice!

How do you think Jane Austen would feel about all the Pride and Prejudice sequels and spin-offs?

Jane Austen had a gift for finding life amusing, and like Mr. Bennet, she seemed to enjoy making sport of her neighbors. She had an incisive and cutting wit, but at the same time, she was rarely negative about people. Looking at Pride and Prejudice, there are characters who are rude, or are fools, or are petty gossips, but I never get the feeling that Austen dislikes them, more that she looks on them with tolerant amusement for human foibles. I think she'd be very amused by all the sequels, and she might say some biting things about them in private, but I don't think she'd be angry about them. I think it took a lot to shock Jane Austen. If you read her letters, you see a very different side to her than you might with a modern reading of her novels.

I'm often told that Jane Austen would be spinning in her grave if she read any of my Pemberley Variations books because of the intimate scenes. I don't believe that, because I've learned enough about the regency period to understand that Jane Austen wasn't a prude by any means, but that many modern readers miss this. In Pride and Prejudice, she tells us flat-out that Mr. Bennet didn't have affairs because he was too lazy, and in his speech to Lizzy at the end of the book, he tells her that she won't remain "respectable" (meaning faithful to her husband) if she doesn't esteem her husband as a superior. Having a father tell his daughter that isn't exactly pure!

How many times have you read Pride and Prejudice? What's your favorite screen adaptation?

I can't even count! I've probably read it dozens of times cover to cover, and I'm always picking it up to read a scene here or there. I can pick it up and open it to any page and be right in the middle of it. Lines from it pop into my head out of the blue, which is why they keep appearing in my Pemberley Variations. Every time I read it, I discover new levels and gain new insights. That's what I love about it.

My favorite adaptation is the 1995 BBC production because it comes closest to my vision of the story. There are some things I disagree with in it, but I love the way Jane Austen's original dialogue is woven in.

How long did it take to write Pemberley by the Sea? Do you have a particular writing routine?

I wrote the first version in about 8 months, then revised it for several years, then unrevised lots of it! I must have written over a hundred versions of the opening scene. My writing routine is a non-routine. I have kids and a part-time job, so writing happens whenever I can squeeze it in. I carried a notebook with me everywhere and wrote during my kids' swimming lessons, sitting on a bus, between meetings at work, and everywhere else. My son was in a serious accident while I was writing Pemberley by the Sea, and a lot of it was written in his hospital room at 3 in the morning and in the waiting room of the Rehabilitation Clinic during his constant physical therapy appointments. Sometimes I think I should have included his PT in the acknowledgments!

Which Austen heroine are you most like?

I'd love to say that I'm like Elizabeth Bennet since she's my favorite, but I'm not at all. I'm boringly sensible, reserved, and responsible Elinor Dashwood. If I were a character from Pride and Prejudice, I'd be Darcy rather than Elizabeth, standing off in a corner at parties and listening to other people's conversations.

Besides Austen, what other authors do you read?

I'm pretty eclectic in my reading. I'm fond of Gillian Bradshaw's historical books, Kate Elliot's fantasy novels (especially Jaran, which really is a covert Pride and Prejudice retelling--she even mentions Jane Austen in the acknowledgements), Kristin Hannah, and Sharon Shinn. I read across genres, and the common denominator is that the books I like generally have strong female characters. I've never been able to get into chick lit, but I love women's fiction. I read Mary Oliver's poetry and I enjoy non-fiction about places I love. Tim Traver's book of essays, Sippewissett, all about the salt marsh that Cassie loves so much in Pemberley by the Sea is a natural favorite.

Of the Jane Austen-related novels, I particularly like Kara Louise's Assumed Engagement and Judith Brocklehurst's A Letter to Lady Catherine. I also read a lot of non-fiction about Austen and the Regency. Tea with Jane Austen by Kim Wilson, So Odd a Mixture by Phyllis Ferguson Bottomer, and Emily Auerbach's Searching for Jane Austen are particular favorites. I'm currently reading In the Garden with Jane Austen, also by Kim Wilson.

Are you working on another novel? Do you have any plans to write something not related to Pride and Prejudice?

I'm working on several other projects, including a sequel to Pemberley by the Sea called Morning Light. You can read the first chapter on my website. It was originally intended to be loosely based on Persuasion, but once the characters were done changing all my plot plans, the only resemblance that's left is that the heroine's name is Annie and that she and the hero are separated for years. There's a lot more about Cassie, Calder, and their families in it. I'm planning two other books in the series which don't have any connection to Jane Austen (at least not any conscious ones!), but who knows where the characters will take me?

I'm also putting finishing touches on another Pemberley Variation called Bounds of Decorum, which shows some sides of Regency society that are less familiar to modern readers. What's next? Who knows! It depends on what character grabs me in the middle of the night and demands to have their story told.

Thanks, Abigail! What a great interview! I wish you much success, and I'll definitely be reading more of your work!


Would you like to read Pemberley by the Sea? Sourcebooks is offering a copy to one lucky reader!! Just leave a comment on this post by midnight EST on Wednesday, Nov. 12.

This giveaway is open those with U.S. and Canada addresses only, as the the book will be shipped directly by the publisher.

Make sure to include your email address if you want your entry to count! I need a way to contact you if you win! Good luck!

Disclosure:  I received a free copy of Pemberley by the Sea from Sourcebooks for review purposes.


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Tee hee! Guess who's on top of (at least this part) of her reader?

I've posted at Win a Book. And, like usual, no need to enter me, although this looks delish.

The interview is fabulous, too.

Anonymous said...

I'd like a chance to read this one. Enter me, please!

Julie P. said...

Sounds interesting! Count me in.

Alyce said...

I would love to win a copy of this book. It's nice to know that this book is so good.

akreese (at) hotmail (dot) com

Kaye said...

Oh, I just love Cape Cod and would be interested in seeing how Austen translates into the contemporary. Please enter me in the drawing

Wrighty said...

This sounds really good! Please include me and thank you!

Jeannie said...

OOOHHHHH, this looks wonderful. Please enter me in the contest, Anna. Thanks a bunch!

themiyamas at hotmail dot com

Book Sp(l)ot said...

I'd like a chance to win this one, too :) Thank you.


Anonymous said...

this book looks really interesting. i'm curious to see what i would think of it after loving pride and prejudice.. and the interview was great!:) it made me want to read the book!!
do enter me for this one!

Becca said...

I would love to read this. Please enter me! Thanks.

Serena said...

No need to enter me since this is on deck for me to read by the end of the month.

I loved that she reads parts of Pride & Prejudice randomly...I do that a lot...I'll just pick it up and read it from wherever I pick it up from.

I'm glad that she reads poetry...Mary Oliver is great.

Shana said...

What is it about those rich, brooding, arrogant men that makes them so attractive, at least in a novel???

That's pretty cool that the scenes Abigail feels are most vibrant are from the first draft.

I have this book already, Anna, and your review has made me really want to read it!


The Bookworm said...

This sounds like a great read, Pride & Prejudice is one of my favorite novels.
Wonderful interview too! Its fun hearing the authors thoughts.

Anonymous said...

SO interested.

sadoatcakes [@] gmail

Unknown said...

OoO Sounds like a great book and thank you for entering me!

Brimful Curiosities said...

Huge Pride and Prejudice fan here. Would love to read this one. Thanks for your review and giveaway!

Jenna said...

sounds like a great book. I recently had spinal fusion surgery so I am going to have plenty of time to read it. Thanks!

Janicu said...

This book sounds great. I came in through a link from West of Mars. I'd like to throw my name in the hat, thanks!

Leslie said...

Wonderful review ~ thank you ladies! PEMBERLEY BY THE SEA sounds like an enjoyable read. As does MORNING LIGHT.

katayoun said...

i'd love to be entered!

Margay Leah Justice said...

This sounds like a great retelling of Pride and Prejudice. And where I am from Massachusetts, the setting is kind of close to my heart.

Gwendolyn B. said...

What an interesting post! And the book sounds like wonderful fun -- I'd love to read it. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.
geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

Unknown said...

I love Pride and Prejudice and it sounds like I'll love Reyonlds' book too.

djecse at yahoo dot com

Rebekah E. said...

Thanks for the great interview. Sounds like a great book.


Unknown said...

What a great combination, Cape Cod and modern Pride and Prejudice! Please enter me!

jgbeads AT gmail DOT com

teabird said...

This sounds delightful! Please count me in.

teabird 17[at] yahoo . com

Keyo said...

Hi anna,
its so nice to hear frm you. I always think of coming to ur blog to read ..but from work..its all so hard. but i do visit. And think of you more! haha :) hows ur daughter doing?

thanks for dropping by my blog. and hugs back to you too! :)

i can totally understand how hard it gets to do other things when reading so much is a priority.

btw..if u dont mind me asking. do u get paid to read & write reviews?
you wont believe, but when i was young, (well now as well) i always had a dream of getting paid to read books! i thought that would be the best job in the world for me! :) if there is a way to do that, pls enlighten me. i would love to do it part time. how fun tht wud be.

well u tc and i will come back soon i promise.

Keyo said...

oh can you enter me for this contest? thanks

Keyo said...

btw,,,when does your writing come out? i will surely buy ur autographed copy! :) keep us posted!

p.s i know u r employed as an editor/writer. but i was just asking in general (if u get paid to read all these fab books..if u me how i can too! :))

Anonymous said...

I'd love to read a version of P&P set at the Cape ... please enter my name in your giveaway.


dawn [dot] rennert [at] verizon [dot] net

Marie Cloutier said...

Great interview. :-) Sounds like a fun book and the Cape Cod setting sounds awesome! :-)

Lindsey said...

This looks SO good! Great interview and giveaway - thank you! I'm a follower now, too. :-)

ladyufshalott at

Unknown said...

This book sounds great! I loved Pride and Prejudice and I would love to read a modern version. Please enter me in the contest!

Unknown said...

I love Jane Austen, and this book sounds so good! Please count me in!
frog123 (at) cyipcom (dot) net

Anna said...

Thanks to everyone who entered! I'm glad the book is so popular!!

Susan: You beat me to the punch this time! Thanks a bunch for posting the giveaway!

Lindsey: Thanks for following me!!

Keyomi: I've emailed you! It was great to hear from you, too!

Serena: When she mentioned Mary Oliver, I immediately thought of you!

Shana: I haven't figured that out. But they sure are sexy! ;)

Anna said...

Janicu, Lisa, and Margay: Could you please provide your email addresses? I need a way to contact you if you win. Thanks!

windycindy said...

What a fantastic interview! I have read good things about this book. Light reads would be great right now! Please add my name to your virtual hat. Many thanks, Cindi

Melissa said...

This sounds lovely. I always like a good Austen retelling. :)

mmfbooks AT gmail DOT com

Amber said...

Please enter me and thanks for the contest!


Re said...

another awesome contest! thanks for a generous giveaway. I hope i'm chosen as the lucky winner!

Rainey Daye said...

OOOH...a remake of one of my fave classic books!! Would so love to win this!!

mommyjen99 said...

Please enter me to win. This sounds like a great read.

Book Lover Lisa said...

Please enter me. Looks like a good read.


Jennifer said...

I adore Austen's work, so this book looks quite fascinating to me and I am thrilled to have an opportunity to win.

knittingmomof3 AT gmail DOT com

Monique M said...

Please enter me too!! I would love to read it!

Anonymous said...

Please enter me in the giveaway! I read the original copy a couple of times and completely loved it! I would like to see the seemed perfect the first time.

Serena said...

not that u need me to but I posted this contest in my sidebar...sorry I'm so late.

Anita Yancey said...

This book sounds so interesting. Please enter me.

soonergal11 said...

I would like to read this! Thanks!

kaylee8 said...

I would love to have this for a great winter, snowy day, read!

pintolinda said...

How can I resist a book described as a modern day Pride and Prejudice? Please enter me in the giveaway.

Audrey B said...

It sounds wonderful, haven't been to the cape in a decade, would love to read it and bring back some memories of my own.

furygirl3132 said...

This sounds like a very beautiful book, thanks so much for such a great opportunity to win!


sweetsue said...

This sounds nice and romantic, please enter me!
smchester at gmail dot com

/\Heather/\ said...

I am so going to win this, because I am a P&P nut! :-) Thanks so much for the giveaway!
Email is in my profile.

KristenH said...

This sounds like a good romantic novel and I would love to read it since I love good romantic stories. This is a great giveaway. Thanks.

Anna said...

Thanks to everyone who stopped by my blog to enter!! Hope you come back to visit again soon!

Wendi said...

What a wonderful interview!! I'm sorry I missed the giveaway - lol! Simply another book to add to my wish list!


Your interview has been added to

About the Author - An Author Interview Index

Anna said...

Wendi: Thanks for adding the link. I hope you get a chance to read this one!