Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen - Spotlight Book Tour

Publication Date: June 20, 2015
Hardcover, Paperback, & eBook
Genre: Historical Fiction

Everyone should marry once for love – Even Jane Austen
Jane Austen, single and seemingly comfortable in the role of clergyman’s daughter and aspiring writer in the early 1800s, tells friends and family to hold out for true affection in any prospective relationship. Everybody, she says, has a right to marry once in their lives for love.
But when, after a series of disappointing relationships, the prospect of true love arrives for her, will she have the courage to act? The Marriage of Miss Jane AUsten re-imagines the life of England’s archetypal female by exploring what might have happened if she had ever married. It shows how a meaningful, caring relationship would have changed her as a person and a writer.

It also takes her beyond England’s tranquil country villages and plunges her info what the Regency era was really about: great explorations and scientific advances, political foment, and an unceasing, bloody war.  In such times, can love—can marriage—triumph?

Amazon | Austen Books | Barnes and Noble

Whether his subject is literature, history, or science, Collins Hemingway has a passion for the art of creative investigation. For him, the most compelling fiction deeply explores the heart and soul of its characters, while also engaging them in the complex and often dangerous world in which they have a stake. He wants to explore all that goes into people’s lives and everything that makes tThe hem complete though fallible human beings. His fiction is shaped by the language of the heart and an abiding regard for courage in the face of adversity.

As a nonfiction book author, Hemingway has worked alongside some of the world’s thought leaders on topics as diverse as corporate culture and ethics; the Internet and mobile technology; the ins and outs of the retail trade; and the cognitive potential of the brain. Best known for the #1 best-selling book on business and technology, Business @ the Speed of Thought, which he coauthored with Bill Gates, he has earned a reputation for tackling challenging subjects with clarity and insight, writing for the nontechnical but intelligent reader.

Hemingway has published shorter nonfiction on topics including computer technology, medicine, and aviation, and he has written award-winning journalism.

Published books include The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen trilogy, Business @ the Speed of Thought, with Bill Gates, Built for Growth, with Arthur Rubinfeld, What Happy Companies Know, with Dan Baker and Cathy Greenberg, Maximum Brainpower, with Shlomo Breznitz, and The Fifth Wave, with Robert Marcus.

Hemingway lives in Bend, Oregon, with his wife, Wendy. Together they have three adult sons and three granddaughters. He supports the Oregon Community Foundation and other civic organizations engaged in conservation and social services in Central Oregon.

For more information please visit Collins Hemingway’s website and blog. You can also find him on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram, and Goodreads.

Chapter 3

Blooming like a fifty-foot hydrangea in the Sydney Gardens behind the hotel, a hot-air balloon towered over a gathering crowd. “Hurry!” Jane said. The exhibition by a French balloonist was the major end-of-summer social event for Bath. The town had been talking about it all week, and she did not want to miss anything. As a girl, just a few years after the first flights had begun, Jane had seen a hot-air balloon drifting southward over Hampshire. Having chased the balloon for the better part of an hour, she succeeded in getting the aeronaut to wave. This huge blue and gold balloon was the first to come to Bath, an indication of how rare aerostats remained.
Jane and her sister, Cassandra, were, however, rebuffed by the attendant at the entry to the gardens. With the delay and the exasperation of their time with Aunt Perrot, followed by the sudden appearance of the balloon through the trees, both sisters had forgotten that today’s demonstration was not included in their season admission. “No change for lace, no change for balloons,” Cassandra said. “We really must wake up rich one day.”
“Here t-they are a-after all,” they heard from behind them. “The l-lovely Austen sisters.”
They recognized the man’s voice and its stutter. Ashton stood behind them, alongside his sister Alethea. Both were smiling.
“We are so glad that you are able to join us,” Alethea said. “We had not heard anything.”
“We had planned to attend,” Jane said, confused. “But I am afraid that in our haste we left our tickets at home.”
“It will take only a minute,” Cassandra said. “Our lodgings are just on the other side of the hotel. Please do not wait for us, though. We would hate for you to miss the launch.”
Now Ashton and Alethea looked confused.
“But Jane, dear, we have your tickets right here,” Alethea said.
“I have no idea what you mean,” Jane said. “We have not—”
“D-did you not receive our letter,” Ashton broke in, “asking y-you to join us?”
“Ashton bought a book of tickets,” Alethea said. “He has been giving them out to friends. We thought to make a small party.”
“We have been gone all morning tending to our aunt and uncle,” Cassandra said. “We must have missed the messenger.”
“How very kind of you to invite us,” Jane said, “but we prefer not to be indebted to others.”
“M-Miss Austen,” Ashton said, “the tickets were only a shilling each to begin with, and they were half price in a book of ten.”
 “It is not the amount involved but the sense of obligation it creates. Your family already does us so many kindnesses,” Jane said. “We will watch from our upstairs window. After the first few minutes, the view will likely be better from there anyway.”
“If you do not accept them,” Ashton said, “the tickets will go unused. You are too wise a steward of finance to permit such extravagant waste.” As always, Ashton’s stutter lessened as his confidence increased; and what little stammer remained became unnoticeable as Jane became attuned to his speech. It was the same way when one stepped outside in the evening. At first the crickets were deafening, yet within a few minutes one could barely discern their presence.
Cassandra’s nudge compelled Jane to capitulate. They entered on Ashton’s tickets, to the amusement of the attendant who had moments before shooed them away. They worked through the crowd, which had swollen to several hundred people. Many more watched from outside the gardens, where the view was free. “I fear paid attendance may not meet their expectations,” Ashton noted. The balloon was roped off from the audience. At intervals were signs that proclaimed the experience and valor of Monsieur André-Jacques Garnerin, the only man still flying from the first generation of aeronauts. The rest had died in crashes or wisely retired. A small man wearing pants and jacket that repeated the colors and designs of his balloon, Monsieur Garnerin barked orders at half a dozen assistants—locals, Jane guessed, given that Monsieur Garnerin spoke to them through an interpreter and did not seem happy with their work. The balloon was not quite full, nodding slightly as if it still napped before the day’s exertions. Every few minutes, Monsieur Garnerin would turn to the crowd with a smile and shrug as if even the most intrepid adventurer faced delays of the most ordinary and infuriating kind.
“The newspaper,” Cassandra said, “says that he was the first man to safely parachute from a balloon!”
“That does admit of considerable valor,” Jane said, “to hurl oneself into space with nothing but a bed sheet to break the fall.”
“I daresay that the parachute may have been safer than the balloon,” Ashton remarked. “Look carefully at the skin.” The balloon’s mottled blue surface was covered with garish gold designs of hieroglyphics and mythological figures and beasts. It was as if the balloon, rather than being the latest advance in science, were itself a creature from a pagan past. The skin was made of silk and paper lined with rubber and alum for fire protection (this, the Chronicle had also explained). A complicated netting encased the balloon. The basket for passengers was shaped rather like a chaise longue, an odd but suitably French flourish for a utilitarian vehicle. At irregular intervals across the monstrous surface were another set of smaller gold designs that disguised their nature: patches.
“Unbelievable!” Jane said.
“This pony has been ridden hard,” Ashton said.
A flurry of activity drew their attention. A couple of workmen brought wooden ladders to a particular spot on the left side perhaps ten feet up. It became clear in a few moments that they had found a leak. Monsieur Garnerin climbed the ladder to inspect the problem. Using a repair kit, he himself made the first set of stitches to overlay a patch onto the balloon skin.
“They could use a woman’s touch,” Ashton said to Jane. “How are your sewing skills atop a ladder?”
“Not sufficient to warrant the responsibility.”
Monsieur Garnerin gave hurried instructions in French to his assistant, turned over the sewing kit to him, and from the ground oversaw the remaining steps in the repair, in which workers spread what appeared to be a rubber compound over the patch. For half an hour, during which time the crowd became restive, the repair operation carried on. Workmen kept the balloon’s brazier stoked to keep the balloon as inflated as possible. The combination of straw, chopped wool, and dried horse manure sent whiffs of smoke through the crowd. The smell reminded Jane of the time when several weeks of severe winter weather prevented her family from the routine process of spreading manure on their fields. The manure pile grew so compressed that it spontaneously combusted, smoldering for days, the heat creating gaps in the snow.
The continuing delay with the balloon caused a few attendees, working-class people for whom the price of admission was a day’s wage, to heckle the Frenchman from the corners. Monsieur Garnerin came forward to apologize and seek the crowd’s indulgence. His appearance was unusual, for his sloping forehead formed a single line with his prominent nose.
“Sometimes the balloon is damaged in transit,” the assistant said, translating for the Frenchman. The assistant had a French accent, but his English was good. “It is a delicate flying instrument, and packing is a complicated process. We should be in the air shortly.” He looked at his pocket watch as if uncertain whether “shortly” would be soon enough.
“They had better hurry,” Cassandra said. “The wind picks up in the afternoon.”
“Meanwhile,” the assistant said, “Monsieur Garnerin will be pleased to answer any questions you may have.”
Monsieur Garnerin smiled gamely and waited. No one had any queries. The lower orders wanted nothing less than to see the impossible—for a Frenchman to rise into the sky and, with any luck, to return to the earth with a thud. The more genteel seemed awed, as if they lacked the vocabulary to express their skeptical questions. Ashton signaled Monsieur Garnerin to come over. When the Frenchman approached, the two men exchanged bows and introductions.
Alerted by Ashton’s notice of the somewhat ragged nature of the balloon, Jane saw similar signs of wear on Monsieur Garnerin. Small, solid, and fit, he had a youthful face and long, dark, wavy locks. Yet the first etchings of age had begun to appear in his face along with a few thin streaks of gray in his hair. Monsieur Garnerin’s suit had undergone numerous minor mendings, well done but obvious to a seamstress’s eye. It was like an actor’s costume: bright and lush from a distance, rather shabby up close.
“You speak French, do you not, Miss Austen?” Ashton asked.
“A little. As do Cassandra and Alethea.”
“Would you be so kind as to assist me?” Ashton asked. Not waiting for a reply, he said: “See if he will take passengers.”
“Passengers? You cannot be serious, Mr. Dennis.”
“I am quite serious. This contrivance is built to hold three or four people. Please, Miss Austen, do as I ask. Is it possible for one to go up in his hot-air balloon?”
Jane had not studied French since she was a schoolgirl. It took her several moments to compose the question, and she was not certain that her phrasing was correct.
Monsieur Garnerin laughed and shook his head—no! “C’est très dangereuse. C’est seulement pour le spécialiste.”
Ashton did not need help understanding the reply.
“Ask what makes him a spécialiste. All he does is set fire to horse dung and climb aboard.”
“Mr. Dennis, I will absolutely not ask such an uncouth question of a man who has taken extraordinary risks in the interests of civilization. What is your specialty, after all, except to be rude to people for no reason?”
Ashton regarded her, as Monsieur Garnerin regarded them both. “P-please ask again, w-with the appropriate level of s-subjection, whether he would c-condescend to allow a p-passenger to ride with him for a sum that would indicate the a-appropriate level of r-respect.”
Jane doubted whether she could translate into French such a complex request. However, the assistant, who turned out to be Monsieur Garnerin’s brother, had been listening. He put the question to Garnerin, leaving out (Jane was sure) everything except that Ashton would pay a great deal of money to accompany the aeronaut. The assistant-brother nodded toward the workmen as if their wages were not entirely secured.
Monsieur Garnerin faced Ashton squarely and said in a thick French accent, “Fifty pounds.”
“I w-would not pay five pounds to ride your infernal m-machine, but I would pay one hundred pounds to buy it.”
Garnerin’s brother translated again, and Ashton asked Jane to confirm the accuracy of the words.
“I am not entirely sure,” Jane said, “but I believe the brother considers you dim enough to pay three hundred.”
“Anyone with the least acuity,” Ashton said to Monsieur Garnerin and his sibling, “can see that you will not have enough francs to return home at the end of your tour. Very likely, this balloon will be left on the dock with most of your other belongings. I offer a fair price to guarantee your safe return home and to make your expedition worthwhile.”
Jane was not certain why his comments vexed her so. She reacted at some deep level to an arrogance in which a man with resources felt content to dictate to a man without. “You cannot buy a man’s life work simply because you have too much money and not enough sense,” she said. “A hundred pounds for an apparatus that will gather dust in your barn? Think about what that amount would do for the poor in your county.”
“I am g-giving him the opportunity to c-continue his life’s work, not to mention staying out of d-debtor’s prison,” Ashton said. “I will find a use for this device.”
The assistant translated these exchanges as they occurred.
“Two hundred pounds,” Monsieur Garnerin said, thickly and nearly unintelligibly.
“One hundred and fifty,” Ashton said. “However, if you kill me, my sister will reclaim the fee.” Once again Monsieur Garnerin heard the offer via the brother, and had him counter at one hundred and seventy five. He smiled and offered a handshake to seal the deal. Ashton took his hand and said gleefully, “Agreed!”
Jane was stunned at both the speed and the amount of the transaction. One hundred and seventy five pounds was enough to feed her family for a year. How could a man decide so quickly to squander so much capital on a purchase as frivolous as an aging, leaky balloon?
“It is not necessary for you to spend money to prove your worth,” she said. “We are more likely to respect a show of restraint.”
Ashton waved her off.
By now, the rubber compound had sufficiently cured. Workers increased the fuel in the brazier. The balloon was full and beginning to bounce against its moorings as if eager, after all the delays and negotiations, to be on its way. Perhaps, Jane thought, the balloon felt insulted by the hard negotiations and wanted to prove that its worth exceeded the bargain price. Monsieur Garnerin raised the rope so that Ashton could join him, and Ashton turned to Jane. She tried to think of something to say on his leave-taking, something optimistic but also involving the kindest of regards in case the flight ended badly. In truth she was not sure how to respond: It was beyond belief that someone she knew was about to depart on the most dangerous mode of transport devised by man. To fly!
But Ashton did not wave farewell. He held out his hand to her. “There is room for two. Hurry, now.”
For the second time in as many days the women stood transfixed. Alethea said: “Ashton, you have run mad—” Jane shook her head no. Upon reaching the basket, Ashton turned back one last time with a beseeching but humorous glance, almost identical to the fleeting look he had given Jane when she refused him at the ball. He made the same coin-disappearing movement as he had the day before, mouthing “Poof!”
“Little brother lacks both mental stability and common sense,” Alethea said. “God help him.”
Just as he began to clamber into the balloon, he stopped one last time and called out: “Miss Austen, you will be the first woman in Bath to fly!”
The first woman—! This was madness—lunacy. The first—. Outrageous. Yet the trees swayed like an expectant crowd. The countryside beyond the buildings, beyond Bath, lay open and inviting. Jane ducked under the barrier, lifted her skirts, and raced to join Ashton where the bright sky beckoned. 

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The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen

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