Of course she's obsessed with Jane Austen...
Surrounded by appalling exes and fawning students, the only thing keeping professor Katherine Roberts sane is Jane Austen and her personal secret love for racy Regency romance novels. She thinks the Jane Austen Addicts conference in the English countryside is the perfect opportunity to escape her chaotic life and finally relax.
But then she encounters a devilishly handsome man at the conference who seems determined to sweep her off her feet. Is he more fiction than fact? Or could he be the hero she didn't know she was looking for?
PRAISE FOR VICTORIA CONNELLY:
"Witty and original. "—The Romantic Novelists' Association
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About the Author
Victoria Connelly's first novel was promoted in Germany to celebrate World Book Day and was adapted into a TV movie. Her second novel was published as a lead title in the UK and chosen as a "hot pick" in Closer magazine. Her new trilogy is her first foray into Jane Austen related fiction. Connelly lives in London.
Read an Excerpt
Dr Katherine Roberts couldn't help thinking that a university lecturer in possession of a pile of paperwork must be in want of a holiday. She leant back in her chair and surveyed her desk. It wasn't a pretty sight. Outside, the October sunshine was golden and glorious and she was shut up in her book-lined tomb of an office. Removing her glasses and pinching the bridge of her nose, she looked at the leaflet that was lying beside a half-eaten salad sandwich, which had wilted hours before. The heading was in a beautiful bold script that looked like old-fashioned handwriting. Purley Hall, Church Stinton, Hampshire, it read. Set in thirty-five acres of glorious parkland, this early eighteenth-century house is the perfect place in which to enjoy your Jane Austen weekend. Join a host of special guest speakers and find out more about England's favourite novelist. Katherine looked at the photograph of the handsome red-bricked Georgian mansion taken from the famous herbaceous borders. With its long sweep of lawn and large sash windows, it was the quintessential English country house, and it was very easy to imagine a whole host of Jane Austen characters walking through its rooms and gardens. ‘And I will be too,' Katherine said to herself. It was the third year she'd been invited to speak at the Jane Austen weekend, and rumour had it that novelist Lorna Warwick was going to make an appearance too. Katherine bit her lip. Lorna Warwick was her favourite author-after Jane Austen, of course. Miss Warwick was a huge bestseller, famous for her risqué Regency romances of which she published one perfect book a year. Katherine had read them all from the very first-Marriage and Magic-to A Bride for Lord Burford, published just a month earlier, and which Katherine had devoured in one evening at the expense of a pile of essays she should have been grading. She thought of the secret bookshelves in her study at home and how they groaned deliciously under the weight of Miss Warwick's work. How her colleagues would frown and fret at such horrors as popular fiction! How quickly would she be marched from her Oxford office and escorted from St Bridget's College if they knew of her wicked passion? ‘Dr Roberts,' Professor Compton would say, his hairy eyebrows lowered over his beady eyes, ‘you really do surprise me.' ‘Why because I choose to read some novels purely for entertainment?' Katherine would say to him, remembering Jane Austen's own defence of the pleasures of novels in Northanger Abbey. ‘Professor Compton, you really are a dreadful snob!' But it couldn't be helped. Lorna Warwick's fiction was Katherine's secret vice, and if her stuffy colleagues ever found out, she would be banished from Oxford before you could say Sense and Sensibility.
To Katherine's mind, it wasn't right that something that could give as much pleasure as a novel could be so reviled. Lorna Warwick had confessed to being on the receiving end of such condescension too and had been sent some very snobby letters in her time. Perhaps that was why Katherine's own letter had caught the eye of the author. It had been about a year earlier when Katherine had done something she'd never ever done before-she'd written a fan letter and posted it in care of Miss Warwick's publisher. It was a silly letter really, full of gushing and admiration and Katherine had never expected a reply. Nevertheless, within a fortnight, a beautiful cream envelope had dropped onto her doormat containing a letter from the famous writer. How lovely to receive your letter. You have no idea what it means to me to be told how much you enjoy my novels. I often get some very strange letters from readers telling me that they always read my novels but that they are complete trash! Katherine had laughed and their bond had been sealed. After that, she couldn't stop. Every moment that wasn't spent reading a Lorna Warwick novel was spent writing to the woman herself and each letter was answered. They talked about all sorts of things-not just books. They talked about films, past relationships, their work, fashion, Jane Austen, and if men had changed since Austen's times and if one could really expect to find a Mr Darcy outside the pages of a novel. Katherine then had dared to ask Lorna if she was attending the conference at Purley Hall and it had gone quiet, for more than two weeks. Had Katherine overstepped the boundaries? Had she pushed things too far? Maybe it was one thing exchanging letters with a fan but quite another to meet a fan in the flesh. Just as Katherine had given up all hope, though, a letter had arrived.
I'm so sorry not to have replied sooner but I've been away and I still can't answer your question as to whether or not I'll be at Purley. We'll just have to wait and see.
Yours truly, Lorna
It seemed a very odd sort of reply, Katherine thought. If Lorna Warwick was going to be at Purley, surely the organisers would want to know as she'd be the biggest name and the main pull because she was famously reclusive. In comparison to the bestselling novelist, Katherine was just a dusty fusty old lecturer. Well, young lecturer, actually; she was in her early thirties, but she knew that people would come and listen to her talks only because they were true Janeites. At these conferences, anyone speaking about Jane Austen was instantly adored and held in great esteem. In fact, any sort of activity with even the lamest connection to Austen was pursued and enjoyed, from Jane Austen Scrabble to Murder in the Dark which, one year, ended in uproar when it was discovered that Anne Elliot had somehow managed to murder Captain Wentworth. Katherine smiled as she remembered, and then, trying to put thoughts of Purley out of her mind, she made a start on the pile of papers to her left that was threatening to spill onto the floor. It was mostly rubbish that had accumulated as the term had progressed. It was what she called her ‘tomorrow pile,' except she'd run out of tomorrows.
With fingers as dextrous as a concert pianist's, she filed, threw away and recycled until she could see the glorious wood of her desk again. She was just about to pick up her handbag and briefcase when there was a knock on the door. ‘Come in,' she said, wondering who was calling so late in the day without an appointment. The door opened and a tousled head popped round. ‘Stewie,' she said, sighing inwardly as one of her students stumbled into the room. Stewie Harper was in his first term studying English literature and he'd spent most of that time banging on her office door.