Today I’m giddier than Lydia and Kitty around a regiment of redcoats. Really! I’ve been looking forward to the release of A Summer in Europe for so long, and the past week has been a thrilling and exhausting rollercoaster of excitement. But I’ve been particularly anticipating getting to share the launch here on AuAu because, next to According to Jane, this novel is my most Austen-esque.
Some of you know a little bit about the book already. It’s the story of junior-high math teacher, Gwendolyn Reese, a woman unaccustomed to foreign adventures or, in fact, to dealing with anything at all outside of her ordinary routine. As a 30th birthday gift, her eccentric Aunt Bea gives her a “grand tour” of Europe in the company of Bea’s lively Sudoku-and-Mahjongg Club. Not Gwen’s first choice of travel companions, let me tell you! But, still, she decides to go. While abroad, she starts out very much as an “accidental tourist,” trying to control her environment and keep herself from being too affected by it. She’s also a bit naïve about love, similar to E.M. Forster’s heroine, Lucy Honeychurch, from A Room with a View, whose world is altered immeasurably by her own visit to the continent. So, of course, it goes without saying that Gwen is going to have a lot to learn over her five weeks of traipsing around Europe — about life and about love.
Many of you also know that I’m a big fan of traveling. Since becoming a mom 13 years ago, I haven’t been back in Europe (I’d love to go again!), but my husband and I were both teachers during our dating years and our early marriage, and we took several backpacking trips abroad over our vacations. With very few exceptions, I’ve seen all the places mentioned in the book, and I’ve been celebrating the story’s release by giving to readers a little piece of that journey. For more than a week now, I’ve been on a travel/book blog tour, talking about personal memories from many of the novel’s major sites, like Rome, Florence, Venice, Budapest, Pompeii, the Isle of Capri, Salzburg (tomorrow) and Lake Como (Wednesday). And I’ll be “visiting” the French Riviera, Pisa, Vienna and Paris soon, too. (I’ve got a schedule on my website that I’m updating as I go.) Today — because it’s Austen Authors, after all! — I wanted to share a romantic memory or two from a city I think many of you will especially appreciate: London.
England is the last stop on Gwen’s grand tour (the group arrives in Italy and works their way northward), and her interest in all things English is magnified by her increasing attraction to a British physicist that’s been on the tour with them. He’s a kind of Renaissance Man, in my heroine’s opinion. Certainly nothing like the sort of guys she’s encountered before…
Now, my husband, who was born in Illinois, is neither British nor a scientific type, but he’s got a good strong knowledge base. This is the man who, after all, read Pride and Prejudice for fun one Christmas vacation during college — and LOVED it!! So, he gets points in my book for being intelligent, open-minded and even a little romantic. Maybe more than a little because, knowing my love of London, he was sweet enough to propose there on our first overseas trip together. :All-I-See-is-Love: (This picture to the right was taken just moments after he asked me — on one knee, in the middle of London Bridge! – with the famous Tower Bridge in the background. This coming April, it will be 20 years ago…)
So, I have some very happy memories of London. It was also there that we visited the Globe Theatre (though they were still in the process of reconstructing it then), Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the Tower of London and the British Museum — all sites that Gwen would get to see on her tour. And we even went to a gorgeous production of “The Phantom of the Opera,” something my music-loving heroine very much wants to see while in the English city… I don’t blame her. I was blown away by it and, ohhh, to be able to sing like one of those amazing stage performers! How flawless their voices sounded!!
Are you a fan of musicals? If so, what are some of your favorites? Aside from “Phantom,” I loved “The Sound of Music,” “The Music Man,” “Chess,” “The Scarlet Pimpernel” and “Crazy for You.” Actually, there are dozens of them I really like!! I’d love to hear your thoughts, and I’ll be giving away one signed copy of the novel — along with an A Summer in Europe luggage tag – to one randomly selected commenter on today’s post. (I’ll do the drawing Thursday at noon, Central Time and post the winner’s name in the comments.)
If you’re interested in knowing more about my new novel, it’s a Literary Guild, BOMC2 and a Rhapsody Book Club featured alternate for the month of December, and it’ll be the B&N General Fiction Book Club’s selection of the month in May 2012 — very excited about that! If you’d like to read an excerpt, I’ve got a direct link HERE.
Thank you all so much for celebrating with me and letting me share some of my favorite travel memories!!