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Saturday, 3 March 2018

Cake and Courtship by Mark Brownlow - Blog Tour - Guest Post, Excerpt and Giveaway

Cake & Courtship by Mark Brownlow - Blog Tour
Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Mark Brownlow to the blog with his book Cake and Courtship, which has Mr Bennet as its protagonist. I'll share the blurb with you and then hand over to Mark for a guest post and excerpt. He's brought an international giveaway with him too!

Book cover: Cake & Courtship by Mark Brownlow
Book Description

When John Barton falls in love with the elusive Anne Hayter, there is only one man he can turn to for advice. Unfortunately, that man is Mr Bennet of Longbourn, a world-weary gentleman with five daughters pursuing their own marital ambitions.

To help John, Mr Bennet must emerge from his beloved library and face the challenges of the tearoom and dance floor one more time. In doing so, he finds his own romantic past catching up with him.

In this Pride and Prejudice variation, Mark Brownlow takes you on an Austenesque journey full of wry humour and Regency romance (with a few slices of sponge cake).

“As you get older, Lizzy, you will discover that life does not
bow easily to the wishes of even the most romantic of souls.
Quite the opposite. Life must be mastered with pragmatism
and sense, which explains why so few people succeed at it.“

Cake and Courtship is a standalone story, but also the first book of Mr Bennet’s memoirs. Look out for the sequel in 2018.

Guest Post and Excerpt from Mark Brownlow

Thanks Ceri for allowing me to drop in on your blog!

When I talk to people about Cake and Courtship, the question they tend to ask first is “Why Mr Bennet?” After all, he might be ahead of Mr Collins in the list of Jane Austen’s romantic heroes (who isn’t?), but he’s a long way behind Mr Darcy and Captain Wentworth.

The answer is part coincidence, part curiosity, and part inevitability.

“Coincidence” because, originally, I had no intention of writing a novel. I was simply playing with the idea of publishing Mr Bennet’s diary. He has some of the wittiest lines in Pride and Prejudice, so you can imagine how he might report on the Netherfield Ball, conversations with Mr Collins or the marital machinations of his wife.

But humour is not Mr Bennet’s only defining quality. There’s a cynicism to him, too. Even the hint of a cruel streak. This is when “curiosity” began to take hold. After writing a few diary entries, I found myself wondering what events and experiences might have moulded his personality and opinions?

Then I wondered how such a man might react if we took him out of his library and (back) into the world of courtship. What if Mr Bennet was charged with the task of bringing a young couple together?

And so a diary turned into a story, a story into a novel, and a novel into a romance. Not Mr Bennet’s romance, but that of a young friend and confidante. It gave me two canvasses to paint words on: Mr Bennet’s observations on the early events of Pride and Prejudice, and a fresh tale of love (and regret) as he tries to help John Barton court the elusive Miss Hayter. It’s that romantic thread that also reveals whether 20+ years of marriage to Mrs Bennet is the only cause of Mr Bennet’s cynicism (spoiler: it isn’t).

Which leaves us with “inevitability”. The obvious challenge for any author is putting themselves in the mind of their main protagonist. The more you identify with that protagonist, the easier this task becomes. I’m a middle-aged, world-weary father of teenagers, with a love of books, a touch of cynicism about me, and a dry sense of humour. Sound familiar?

The excerpt below is an example of the many places where the Pride and Prejudice story intertwines with both the new story and Mr Bennet’s perspective on life. Our protagonist has returned from visiting Netherfield and his daughters are curious about their new neighbour. 

He answers their questions at breakfast by comparing Mr Bingley with John Barton, who had visited Longbourn just a few days previously…

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Excerpt

Book cover: Cake & Courtship by Mark Brownlow
My daughters ignored me until they decided to turn speculation about my future son-in-law into hard fact.

It was Lydia who broached the subject. “Is he very handsome, Papa?”

“His face is not unpleasant.”

“Yes, but is he handsome?” she urged, fists clenched.

“Jane,” I said. “Be a dear and pass the butter.” She smiled as she did so, doubling the pleasure of my morning roll.

Lydia’s fists beat a staccato on the table as she looked imploringly at her mother, who was thrashing a boiled egg into submission with a spoon.

Pausing in her dismemberment of that oval delight, my wife sought to reassure my youngest. “Of course Mr Bingley is very handsome, Lydia. Not that it matters with his income.”

“Money does indeed disguise many a disfigurement, girls,” I said. “Sorry looks may be of no consequence in a marriage, though a poor character may demand a price that twenty thousand a year cannot pay.”

The clatter of cutlery and glass continued while six minds fought a private battle between curiosity and compliance with a father’s wish for peace. Curiosity won, as it nearly always did.

“Papa, you must allow us some insight into Mr Bingley. The privilege of your sex allows you to visit him; we merely exercise the privilege of ours to ask questions of his character.”

“I do not deny you the right to ask, Lizzy; I am merely disinclined to answer.” I emphasised the point by lifting the paper to block my view of the table and, more importantly, the table’s view of me. “Besides, I am not used to describing young men. They are rarely sighted at Longbourn, so what I know of them comes mostly from books. My vocabulary would not do him justice.”

“Then we must take another approach, Papa,” said Lizzy. “You might simply compare him to other young men of our acquaintance. To John Barton, for example.”

“Interesting.” I lowered my paper. “Let me think. Well, let’s see. Yes, Mr Bingley’s eyes are decidedly bluer.” I raised the paper again. My statement produced nothing but groans from the table.

“Papa,” said Jane. “John’s eyes are chestnut.”

“Precisely,” I said from behind my protective printed wall. “And Mr Bingley’s are blue, so they are indisputably bluer.”

“Is he taller or shorter than Mr Barton?” said Kitty.

“He is,” I said.

“What about his hair?” said Lydia.

“He certainly had some.” I peered over the paper. “Does that help?” It seemed not, based on the girls’ expressions.

“You might at least say how he was dressed, Papa?” Lydia would not let up.

As I was old and married, fashion was now as mysterious to me as the supposed movement of the heavens. I resolved to give Lydia’s question more attention at my next meeting with Mr Bingley. “I am pleased to say he was definitely wearing clothes.”

Kitty and Lydia giggled. I turned down the paper enough to see even Mary raise a half smile. Mrs Bennet was still savaging her egg, which refused to give up its gold and ivory without a struggle.

“Is he a kind man, Papa?” A question only Jane would ask.

I folded away the paper and wiped all evidence of the buttered roll from my mouth. “I believe he is, Jane, I believe he is.”

“It does not matter if he is kind,” mumbled Mrs Bennet through a victorious mouthful of yolk. 

“When he has—”


“Four thousand a year,” chorused the girls before erupting into laughter. They knew their mother well.

* * *

Buy Links

Cake and Courtship is available to buy now.

Paperback: Amazon.com* | .co.uk* | .de
eBook: Amazon.com* | .co.uk* | .de | Kobo | iBooks | Nook / B&N
Goodreads: Book page

Author Mark Brownlow
About the Author

Mark Brownlow is a British-born writer living in Vienna, Austria. His debut novel, Cake and Courtship, is a Regency romance narrated by Pride and Prejudice’s Mr Bennet.

Book cover: The Lovesick Maid by Mark Brownlow
He has also written a novella, The Lovesick Maid: a cozy mystery set in Jane Austen’s fictional village of Hunsford. You can find Mark at LostOpinions.com, where he is known for his reimagining of classic literature as emails. When not writing or teaching, he watches costume drama and football (though not at the same time).

Connect with Mark

 Website • Goodreads • Author page at Amazon.co.uk • Author page at Amazon.com • Twitter • Facebook •

Giveaway Time

Giveaway books and chocolate
Mark is very kindly offering a giveaway to commenters on the blog tour. You can choose between a signed paperback of Cake and Courtship, or, as he lives in Vienna, some Viennese chocolates! To enter, just comment on this post by the end of the day on Friday 9 March. This giveaway is open to international entrants.

Other Blog Stops

Mark is visiting a number of blogs with Mr Bennet and Cake and Courtship. Details of the stops are below:

Feb 28 Diary of an Eccentric – guest post, excerpt, giveaway
Mar 1 Half Agony, Half Hope – review, excerpt
Mar 2 Austenesque Reviews – interview with Mr Bennet, giveaway
Mar 3 Babblings of a Bookworm – guest post, excerpt, giveaway
Mar 4 Laughing with Lizzie – Mr Bennet’s inbox, giveaway
Mar 5 From Pemberley to Milton – guest post, excerpt, giveaway
Mar 6 My Vices and Weaknesses – author interview, giveaway
Mar 7 More Agreeably Engaged – guest post, excerpt, giveaway
Mar 8 So little time…so much to read – Mr Bennet’s diary, giveaway
Mar 10 Just Jane 1813 – guest post, excerpt, giveaway

Giveaway stops


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46 comments:

  1. I enjoyed 'seeing' more of Mr Bennet in Cake and Courtship. It was fun to picture him as a young man!

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    1. Thank you - isn't it great how Jane Austen has given us even minor characters we can imagine so much with?

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    2. Hi KarmaCatKeeper. Isn't it fun to think of these characters from new angles?

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  2. I pity John Barton if he has turned to Bennet

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    1. I think Mr Bennet would probably agree with you, Vesper.

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    2. Mr Bennet wouldn't be my first choice of helper either Vesper :)

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  3. I love Mr. Bennet wry humor and dry wit. Can’t wait to read his memoirs!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the post!

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    2. Hey Dung. I think that's the best of Mr Bennet, such a dry humour.

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  4. This whets one's appetite for more of Mr. Bennet's wit. And a serie. . .even better.

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    1. Thank you - we hope to get the sequel out later this year.

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    2. I'm glad you enjoyed the excerpt Betty.

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  5. I’m loving your version of Mr Bennet. Thanks for the excerpt.

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    1. Thanks for following the tour - a virtual wave to you from Vienna!

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    2. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Darcybennett :)

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  6. Carole in Canada3 March 2018 at 21:49

    I believe you have given Mr. Bennet's wit and cynicism a new venue! Loved the excerpt and the visual of Mrs. Bennet beating that poor egg into submission! Do you think she was contemplating it as Mr. Bennet's head?!

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    1. Hah! Either Mr Bennet's head or Mr Collins's...

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    2. I'm so glad somebody else enjoyed the egg too, Carole, that was the bit that made me laugh the most :)

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  7. I enjoyed reading about your thought processes as you developed your idea into this novel. Mr. Bennet's wit and sarcasm are still present! The breakfast table conversation is exactly what one would expect it to be. Thank you for the excerpt and giveaway.

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    1. A pleasure! Good luck with the giveaway - if I don't send off some of the chocs soon, there may well be none to send.

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    2. Hi Eva, thanks for stopping by. I thought Mark captured Mr Bennet's tone wonderfully. I could just imagine the breakfast scene unfolding like that.

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  8. I would love to read about Mr. Bennett! He is one of my favs. :)

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    1. Glad to see a Mr Bennet fan here, Emz! I hope you enjoy this book when you read it.

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  9. Mr. Bennet's POV - should be amusing. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I forsee amusement ahead in this book too, Sheila!

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  10. Wow, a POV from the family patriarch! This has got to be good!! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. It's not the usual POV is it! Thanks for commenting, Leah!

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  11. Mr. Bennet putting himself to the trouble of considering another person? Definitely worth reading!

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    1. I bet he was capable of it Kathy, even if he didn't feel moved to do it much :)

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  12. Fascinating to read the developement of the original idea into a novel. Thanks for sharing this new excerpt with us, with so many new and ejoyable snarky Bennet thoughts and comments.

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    1. Hi Anji, thanks for commenting. I look forward to seeing more of Mr Bennet's acerbic wit :)

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  13. what a wonderful excerpt! love the idea of a story through Mr. Bennet's eyes.

    denise

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    1. Thanks for the kind words!

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    2. Glad you enjoyed the exceprt too, Denise!

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  14. It will be interesting to see everything happening through his eyes - we don't see much of that in the book. He is extremely witty and funny and although he is cynical at times, he truly loves his family and I don't think he would change them at all (well maybe except for Lydia LOL). He's always been one of my favorite characters from the novel because even when Lizzie is sad and all the stuff around Lydia is happening, he somehow still manages to keep going.

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    1. I think we're so lucky that the minor characters in P&P are also so well drawn - Lydia, Mr Collins etc. (and, of course, Mr Bennet)

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    2. That's an interesting point you raise, Erika, about Mr Bennet not wanting to change his family. On the one hand, it would have been better for them if he had been more moved to change their behaviour, but you are right, he accepts his family's foibles.

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  15. I am very interested in reading Mr Bennet's POV. Thank you for the giveaway

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    1. Thanks for commenting Becky. Good luck in the giveaway :)

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  16. It would be fascinating and fun to read Mr Bennet's diary and learn his thoughts on the events that occurs in P&P. Maybe you can still take that path as I feel it would be a unique premise in the Austenesque world. There are already several books written from the hero's point of view in diary format but I have not encountered one featuring Mr Bennet as the protagonist.

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    1. I wonder what Mr Bennet would make of some of the events and how much he was aware of or suspected. I hope you enjoy the book when you read it :)

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    2. I'm still interested in doing the diary option - lots of ideas, but as always, so little time to do everything (unfortunately)

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  17. I assume "football" refers to American football. I think a combination of costume drama and American football would be quite entertaining--but I fear the bonnets would not provide much protection!

    jsmith[delete brackets]3may[delete brackets]2011

    [at symbol]

    yahoo[dot]com

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    1. Okay, I realize it must be English football. Still--bonnets would add an interesting touch!

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    2. Ah, yes, divided by our common language!

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    3. American football never even occurred to me! I'd love to see bonnets in football, the image it conjures up is so funny. It'd get in the way of heading the ball though :)

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