Austensibly Ordinary Makes its Debut
Ever since writing Austentatious, I’ve been boggled by the number of people who are confused by the spelling of that word. (The correct spelling being, of course, ‘ostentatious.’) So many have embraced ‘austentatious’ as the correct spelling, and I admit, it has me wondering whether it’s because they associate the word somehow with Jane Austen.
But Jane Austen doesn’t exactly scream ‘ostentatious’ [marked by conspicuous, pretentious or vainglorious ways].” She lived a quiet life and contented herself with family, friends, and her writing, which I wouldn’t exactly describe as ostentatious either. I confess: I’m baffled.
I liked it for my first Jane-inspired novel, both because it was a clever play on words (word?) and because it seemed to fit the manner that Jane had appeared in the novel in modern-day Austin, Texas. With no warning but with very specific intentions and bits of advice. She is utterly no-nonsense and absolutely convinced of her eventual success in a spot of twenty-first century match-making.
She and the journal are back in my latest release, Austensibly Ordinary, and Jane is just as feisty this time around! The storyline draws from my favorite Austen classic, Emma, so you can expect match-making, misunderstandings, and plenty of mischief. This time around, the title continues on trend and implies that perhaps not everyone is as they seem… This word seems a much more accurate descriptor of Ms. Austen, and I will definitely be watching to see if there is also widespread misspelling of the word ‘ostensibly.’ I’ll keep you posted.
Until then, I’ll offer a blurb for Austensibly Ordinary and a quick preview:
Cate Kendall is no stranger to daydreams of brooding men and fancy parties–after all, she teaches one of her beloved Jane Austen novels in her English classes every year. But as for romance or adventure in her own life, the highlight of most weeks is Scrabble with her cute coworker, Ethan, and he draws the line at witty banter. But Cate is ready for a change. When she finds a mysterious journal that seems to have a link to the soul of the great Jane Austen herself, she knows it’s her chance. And she grabs on with both hands…
Before she knows it, Cate has invented an alter ego with an attitude, attended some seriously chic soirees, and gotten tangled up with a delicious mystery man. And she’s uncovered enough unexpected secrets about Ethan that her Scrabble partner has taken to brooding looks and unfathomable silences. It’s a positively Austenite predicament, and Cate is sure she’ll land in hot water and heartbreak–but maybe not with Jane herself to guide her…
The following excerpt is from chapter four of Austensibly Ordinary. I hope you’ll enjoy.
With a little zigzagging, scanning top to bottom, putting it all together, it read at times the answer is hidden in plain sight, and that had potential written all over it. My mouth dropped open and I heard my own audible gasp of astonishment. This really was a message. A secret message to me… A small voice in my head whispered, “Or, more likely, the journal’s previous owner,” but I shushed it.
For one fleeting moment, I imagined this was a philosophical truism posed by the universe and magically appearing in the book like an image of the Virgin Mary in the rind of a cantaloupe. Good sense quickly took over and just as quickly subsided when I succumbed to the power of wishful thinking as my eyes widened in mingled excitement and disbelief. Clearly this was some sort of wonky spy gadget!
As far as I was concerned, this was as good an explanation as any, and further, it was the one I wanted right now. Beyond that superior logic, everything was nebulous, but I had a good feeling about this. Questions and possibilities flooded through my mind and left me clinging urgently to this solution.
Was this like Charlie’s Angels? Would I be messaged instructions for secret missions via this book? Would I need to learn some karate kicks and maybe the wuxi finger hold? Was I ignoring a completely obvious explanation, letting my imagination spin away from me, altering reality to fit my daydreams? Was I hallucinating the whole thing? Mom had made grilled vegetable sandwiches for lunch—had she been experimenting with questionable outsourced mushrooms?
Okay, wait! What about the dedication—how did that fit in? Could Jane Austen be the key? Were the remaining words some sort of book cipher key that used one of Austen’s novels to send a secret message? That would be freakin’ awesome! But which one? And how the hell was I going to figure out how to do that?? I was a British lit major. My code-breaking skill was limited to figuring out which of my students read the assignments based on their answers in class and which chose the Dark Side. And even if this were true, who the hell was sending the code?
And let’s not even forget the personal questions: Why me? It was pure coincidence that I was at Torchy’s Tacos Thursday night, that I sat at that table and knocked the book from its hiding place. Was it meant for me to find? This was sounding embarrassingly ridiculous, even within the confines of my own mind, but how could I not ask these questions?? This stuff was always happening in books…Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Mary Poppins, Peter Pan… And probably plenty of modern fiction as well, which I’d be up on if I weren’t so enamored with classic British lit. So why couldn’t it happen to me?
A squeamish little shiver ran up my spine, and I felt compelled to rain on my parade a little. Did I really want any of this to happen to me? Did I want the responsibility involved with quests, secrets, and missions?
It took me all of two seconds to decide.
Hell yeah, I did!
Still…I didn’t have a lot to go on. Other than at times the answer is hidden in plain sight. Right. I guess I’d figure it out. Or maybe an experienced sidekick would show up with all the answers.
The sudden knock on my door was way too clichéd, but it sent my heart ricocheting around cartoon-style all the same. I slid my cagey little spy book under the couch and answered the door.
Of course it was Ethan.
I knew that. I’d been expecting him. I just hadn’t been expecting him to show up at the precise moment I was itching for a sidekick. I gave him a quick once-over, getting momentarily hung up on the slope of his biceps in the short-sleeved, oil-stained Austin City Limits T-shirt he had on. Ethan could be great sidekick material if he wasn’t always treating me like I needed to just grow up and get on with things. Then again, maybe this was my moment of truth, my chance to show Ethan what lurked behind my teaching glasses and teasing grin.
Friday’s class discussion of Emma had touched on this very topic: how one person’s preconceptions about another can blind them to the reality. I’d considered it an elegant little tease, hinting at the undercurrents of my own personality. I seriously doubt any of my students picked up on it.
“You all may only see a high school English teacher, but what don’t you see? For all you know, I’m a millionaire with an altruistic love of the classics.” I leaned my rear against the front of my desk facing the smirks and twitters, lifting my eyebrows in question, daring them to look closer. “An undercover narcotics officer…a jewel thief…a government operative. I could be anything with the cover of a high school English teacher, using my position on the faculty, spying for personal gain.”
“Seems like the irritations would far outweigh any potential benefits,” Alex murmured sardonically.
“Oh, it definitely seems that way. But perhaps that’s what makes me the perfect candidate. Beyond reproach, above suspicion,” I said, walking around the side of my desk. A mystery,” I said, meeting his eyes with a smile and relishing everything the word implied.
The bell rang then, with impeccable timing, and I imagined they all trailed out wondering about me and my secret life. Deluded, I know. Still, I knew, and that was plenty.
I am giving away three copies of Austensibly Ordinary to Austen Authors readers. Good luck!
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