I am thrilled to welcome New York Times & USA Today bestselling author, Marilyn Brant, to More Agreeably Engaged this morning. When I asked her if she would consider being my guest and she said yes, I have to tell you, I was excited 'beyond belief'!
Marilyn, it is so good to have you visit and talk about the influence that Jane Austen has on so many of us, as well as share an excerpt from her book, Take A Chance On Me. Dear Readers, since this is Ms. Brant's first visit here, please join me in giving her a very warm reception.
Janet, thank you so much for inviting me to visit you at More Agreeably Engaged! I’m thrilled to be here ;).
I love classic literature and have always enjoyed reading stories set in the Regency and during other historical periods. But Jane Austen was special. When I first read her work as a 14-year-old high school freshman, Pride and Prejudice rocked my world. Anyone who knows me knows that she became my all-time favorite author that year, and my favoritism has never swayed.
As an author now myself, though, my writing voice and literary sensibility has always been rather contemporary. But the mark that Jane’s stories left on me was very deep. However modern my characters may be or whatever present-day situations they may find themselves in, they all carry around with them a kind of Austen tattoo. It may not be flashed outwardly and often, but it’s always there. And readers who look for it will find it every time.
My debut novel, According to Jane (Kensington, 2009), was about a young woman who had the ghost of Austen in her head giving her dating advice, so that story was an obvious nod to JA. So were my two sweet contemporary romances, Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Match (2013) and Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Bet (2014), which were both novels that featured a modern-day Darcy and Bingley, along with their Elizabeth (aka “Beth Ann”) and Jane counterparts.
But while the Austen influence might be more subtle in my new Mirabelle Harbor series, it’s there nonetheless. The characters in Take a Chance on Me and The One That I Want are residents in a contemporary Austen-inspired community, albeit one set in the northern Chicago suburbs rather than anywhere in England. Their families know each other. They interact with each other in the neighborhood. And they form opinions about each other, which may not always be accurate “first impressions...” They are, I think, characters JA might recognize, underneath their 21st Century exterior and despite their Midwestern American vernacular.
Because JA created such relatable characters herself—and such timeless situations that took place between them—I can almost imagine a modern Darcy and Bingley, who acted as much like brothers as good friends, IMO, having a conversation similar to this one below. This scene is between Chance Michaelsen (from Take a Chance on Me) and his older brother Blake.
The next day I called Blake and told him we were going out for lunch. “I’ll drive. Pick you up in fifteen minutes,” I informed him. I didn’t leave him any choice in the matter.
“So, what’s on your mind, little brother?” he asked me when we’d gotten our deli sandwiches and were seated on our favorite rock by the lake. We’d come here as a family when our parents were still alive. A part of me could still feel their presence.
“I can’t talk to Derek about this because, once he met Olivia, it was like he’d never dated anyone else in his life. Chandler is wandering around somewhere in the southeastern United States and is lost until he wants to be found. And Sharlene is a girl.”
Blake laughed. “So, I’m Option D. Last one left, right?”
“Pretty much.” I grinned at him. “Actually, I think you’re the only one who might be able to help me anyway. There’s this woman—”
“There always is.”
“Yeah, well, I’m kind of crazy about her, and I think—I think—she’s noticing me, too, but I’m not positive. I don’t know. This is just not normal for me. I’m not used to feeling this...insecure or whatever. This unsure of someone’s feelings. I send out these obvious signals to her and I think she’s sending signals back, but there’s been nothing definite.”
Blake took a big bite of his sandwich and stared at me thoughtfully as he chewed. Finally, he said, “You mean, she’s not actually throwing herself at you, like most women?”
“Right,” I had to admit. That was the usual scenario, and Nia definitely hadn’t done that.
My brother rolled his eyes. “Did you maybe try asking her out?”
I shook my head. “No. There’s a complication—”
“There always is.”
“Yeah, well, it involves another guy,” I said.
“Her supposed ‘boyfriend,’ I guess.”
“You guess that she has a boyfriend? Are you kidding me, Chance? You’re encroaching on another guy’s girl?”
“I don’t think it’s a serious thing. There’s no real commitment, from what I can tell. She just introduced him to her parents for the first time on Friday and—”
“She introduced him to the family? Bro, that’s kind of serious.”
I shook my head. “But I saw them together Friday night, and that wasn’t the vibe I got. Not at all. He was barely looking at her. And she seemed...not entirely herself. Thing is, he’s a big shot. One of the dudes at the Jordan-Luccio Corporation.”
“Which one of the dudes? A manager or something?”
“No. The Jordan one.”
Blake raised a dark eyebrow, impressed. “You’re telling me that you’re trying to steal Grant Jordan’s girlfriend?”
“Screw you. I’m not trying to steal her. I think she’s attracted to me, too, but she just won’t say anything. So, then I find myself wondering... Oh, never mind.”
I kicked at a pebble with my sneaker. “Maybe she’s not saying anything because she wants Grant Jordan.”
“Do you mean his body? Or do you mean his money, his position in society, and his relative fame?”
“All of the above,” I admitted. “I suppose he’s not ugly. Women seemed to find him attractive, anyway.” I shrugged. “And I know his net worth is in the millions, but I don’t get the sense that she’s a gold digger. I just wonder if, maybe, he’s the better man.”
Blake squinted at me and put down his sandwich. “Look, Chance, I’m your brother. I’m biased. But I don’t think a woman could find a better man than you.”
“I’m not fishing for compliment—”
“I know you’re not. Hear me out, though. All bias aside, you’re not asking the right question here. It’s not whether Grant is a better man, which I think is debatable and highly unlikely.” Blake looked me in the eye and, without the slightest trace of humor, said, “The question is whether Grant is the better man for her.”
Hope you liked this scene snippet!
When were you first introduced to Austen? Was it as a reader or as a viewer? And was it love at first sight...or did you have to revise your first impression later? :)
About the Novel:
Dedicated personal trainer Chance Michaelsen falls hard for Nia Pappayiannis—his complete opposite and a member of the family that owns the Greek bakery just down the street from his gym. He considers their pastries to be the enemy of good health, but he can’t quite shake his attraction to Nia, who doesn’t seem nearly as impressed with him or his sculpted physique as most of the women around town.
Unfortunately, between her doctor’s orders and the interfering ways of Chance’s crazy-making ex-girlfriend, who just happens to be one of Nia’s long-time friends, Chance gets assigned to be Nia’s fitness coach for the month. Pure torture. And if his ex weren’t already causing enough problems, he also has to deal with Nia’s current boyfriend—some hotshot Chicago CEO who talks big but, in Chance’s opinion, is as fake as a Styrofoam barbell.
Nia may have her doubts about a romance with him, but Chance has a well-developed competitive streak and might just be willing to give it a shot...if he can convince her to do the same.
In matters of the heart, would you risk it all? TAKE A CHANCE ON ME, a Mirabelle Harbor story.
Marilyn Brant's books are available on all platforms (B&N, iBooks, Kobo, etc.), but here are the direct Amazon links for the books mentioned in this post:
Marilyn Brant is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of contemporary women’s fiction, romantic comedy & mystery. She won RWA's prestigious Golden Heart Award for her debut novel, According to Jane, and she was named the Author of the Year (2013) by the Illinois Association of Teachers of English. She loves all things Austen, has a passion for Sherlock Holmes, is a travel addict and a music junkie, and lives on chocolate and gelato. Look for all of the contemporary romances in her new Mirabelle Harbor series, beginning July 2015! And for giveaways and more information on her stories, please visit her website.
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Thank you for agreeing to be my guest, Ms. Brant. It is such a privilege to have you visit. I hope you will consider coming back again in the future. To answer your question at the end, I was first introduced to Austen in high school. I was too 'in love' at the time to be too interested. I was re-introduced in 2010 and fell in love! I, like many, could not get enough so started searching for more and more to read. It has been a fantastic time and I am still enjoying all the many books available. Another wonderful thing about this Jane Austen world, is meeting so many nice JA fans and authors. It has been an amazing journey and has even given me a new direction in life. I had not done much with my drawing until I started drawing scenes from the 1995 miniseries. Now I am doing book covers and commissioned art.
Marilyn Brant is kindly offering an eBook for giveaway. Open internationally - one ebook copy of the romantic-comedy novella TAKE A CHANCE ON ME (Mirabelle Harbor, Book 1). Available in epub, mobi, or pdf format. Please tell us which format you prefer in your comment along with your contact information. Below is the question that Ms. Brant asked at the end of her post. Please have your share in the conversation and tell us...When were you first introduced to Austen? Was it as a reader or as a viewer? And was it love at first sight...or did you have to revise your first impression later? :) Giveaway will end at 11:59 PM on 7 September, 2015. Good luck to all!