I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Official Essex Sisters Companion Guide by Eloisa James, Jody Gayle
Series: Essex Sisters
Published by Avon Impulse on May 24th 2016
Genres: General, Historical, Reference, Regency
Purchase Links: Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | IndieBound
ADD TO GOODREADS:
This is a book no Eloisa James fan should miss! Eloisa revisits the scintillating world of the Essex Sisters with "A Midsummer Night's Disgrace," a new story featuring a young lady, Cece, who would rather ruin her own reputation than endure further speculation about whether her children will be "silly," like her brother, Billy. Happily for fans of Pleasure for Pleasure, Cece's best friend is Josie, Countess of Mayne!
Just as exciting, the Companion includes not only Eloisa's original notes about each book and her "extra" chapters, but a 170 page alternate ending to Kiss Me, Annabel. Eloisa discarded this shockingly different plot after writing one draft, and the published novel went in an entirely new direction. Make up your own mind about which is better-Eloisa's original, or the final book!
Super fan Jody Gayle's engaging guide includes essays about fascinating historical details, including period fashion designs. Explore the world of horse racing and tour the London theater scene. Delve into the rich history and deep literary tradition that makes Eloisa one of the top writers of historical romance.
The Companion also gives you a sneak peek at Eloisa's newest full-length novella, "A Gentleman Never Tells"-which springs from the world of the Essex Sisters! What will happen when one of the men who ruined an heiress' debut by labeling her a "Wooly Breeder" (and Josie Essex a "Scottish Sausage") decides that it's time to make amends?
Also by this author: My American Duchess
Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for Print Copies (US Only) of the ESSEX SISTERS novels including Much Ado About You, Kiss Me, Annabel, The Taming of the Duke and Pleasure for Pleasure
Author Eloisa James has penned some of the most well received and well-written historical romances in recent memory. Her eloquence, humor, and unique spin on classic romantic tropes make every novel a must-read. Readers are especially lucky when Eloisa James weaves together a story across several books, as in her spectacular Georgian Era Desperate Duchesses series and the equally beloved Essex Sisters series, set in the Regency Era.
Readers are now offered the opportunity, through the work of Jody Gayle, with input from Eloisa James herself, to an unprecedented in-depth look at the Essex Sisters series. Not only the historical references and characters receive attention, Eloisa James lifts the veil on her writing process — from idea through publication.
The Essex Sisters series consists of four books: Much Ado About You, Kiss Me, Annabel, The Taming of the Duke, and Pleasure for Pleasure. If you are NOT familiar with these books, STOP READING NOW. I’ll do my best not to spoil any important plot points in this review, but I can’t say the same about The Official Companion. I cannot recommend this series strongly enough, this review will be here waiting for you after you return from your marathon reading session, SO GO READ Much Ado About You, Kiss Me, Annabel, The Taming of the Duke, and Pleasure for Pleasure.
Ok, now on to the Official Companion …
There are at least four compelling reasons to devour the new Official Essex Sisters Companion Guide by Jody Gayle with Eloisa James … and one reason I wish I hadn’t.
1. The Essex sisters themselves. Hopefully, most of you are familiar with this series and the charming orphaned heroines, whose searches for love and acceptance are the cornerstone of each novel. The quartet of beautiful sisters travels from their homeland of Scotland to the elegant drawing rooms of England aristocracy and ballrooms of the haute ton as the new wards of the Duke of Holbrook.
In this Companion Guide, we learn details of each sisters journey toward love and self-discovery. Being able to explore their creation in depth only makes them each more dear: the steadfast Tess, practical Annabel, besotted Imogen, and sharp-witted Josie. Each sister finds the perfect mate for them (some through trial and error) and this examination of character motivations and author’s intent only enhances the books’ relationship with the reader.
2. Author Eloisa James provides an insightful and detailed look behind the scenes of her beloved series. From initial concept through research, drafting, editing, and cover selection – offer unique insight into the entire process. Eloisa shares e-mails, drafts, notes, etc. between herself and her research assistant, editor, and copyeditor, among others. There is so much more that goes into creating these memorable books and I love the way Eloisa shares her experiences bringing the Essex Sisters to life.
3. Jodie Gayle’s fabulous exploration of Regency-era fashion, publications, pastimes and entertainment. I am a HUGE history nerd and Jody’s essays—and the accompanying illustrations— truly bring the time period alive. If you have ever wondered about the details of fashion that help set the stage for historical fiction, here you will find a wonderfully detailed look at the clothing of the day, including an informative essay by author Candice Hern about “Regency Fashion Categories.” Now I know the difference between a Morning Dress and a Walking Dress.
In addition to fashion, Jody explores the publications mentioned in the Essex Sisters series, which were part of aristocratic life in England at the time. Plus she supplies fascinating information about the sporting life, racing, the theater, and more risqué entertainments. This section of the book is a must-read for ANY fan of Regency Era historical fiction, as it adds such a deeper understanding of life in the early nineteenth century.
4. Author Eloisa James shares an original new short story in the Companion Guide, A Midsummer Night’s Disgrace, about a friend of Josie’s who was also subjected to the cruel mocking and name calling of the ton, thus ruining her chances of making a suitable match. Josie and Mayne make an appearance as the lovely Cecily (cruelly called “Silly Billy”) decides she’s tired of her Wallflower label and takes her face into her own hands.
There is also an except an Eloisa James novella, A Gentleman Never Tells, which explores the effects of bullying on the now remorseful bully, which will be released separately from the Official Companion Guide.
Most exciting — an Essex Sister BONUS CHAPTER (set 10 years after the last novel, Pleasure for Pleasure), where we catch up with all the sisters, their devastating delicious spouses, and their offspring. PLUS a bonus chapter to the end of The Taming of the Duke, where Imogen and Rafe discuss his ‘disguise.’ In addition to a detailed character index, this Guide contains a unique opportunity to explore a different route to happiness for Annabel and Ewan.
Apparently, Eloisa’s editor at the time had misgivings over Eloisa’s approach to the ending of Kiss Me, Annabel — the entire last nineteen chapters, in fact. Eloisa rewrote the chapters in question and it is this revised version that was published. The original, darker alternate ending, which also includes a focus on Ewan’s faith, to Kiss Me, Annabel is provided here in unedited manuscript form. I can’t say which I prefer, but more Annabel and Ewan is never a bad thing.
And the one reason I regret losing myself in this entertaining and educational treatise … it made me want to re-read all four books IMMEDIATELY! I don’t have time to binge read four books—not that that will stop me. 😜 I no sooner finished the Official Essex Sisters Companion Guide and I was firing up my e-reader and losing myself in the fascinating and compelling world of Eloisa James’ Essex Sisters.
If you need me, I’ll be indulging in my crush on Rafe, the Duke of Holbrook and wishing Josie Essex and I could be BFF’s in real life.
The Boundaries of a Book by Eloisa James
When Jody first approached me with the idea for an Essex Sisters companion consisting of historical essays addressing various aspects of the novels, I imagined contributing a couple of pages. But once we began discussing possibilities that went beyond historical investigation, my contribution grew to include an original novella, extra material that had previously been published only on my website, and this narrative essay, which traces my initial idea for the quartet to an “extra” chapter set a decade after Pleasure for Pleasure, the final book in the series. While Jody and I quickly agreed to include material already available to readers, the really crucial question for me had to do with Kiss Me, Annabel, which exists in sharply different versions.
The original plot of Kiss Me sprang from the fact that my husband is an observant Catholic, whereas I was introduced as a child to a confusing medley of religions, from Lutheran to Buddhist, none of which I now practice. I wanted to write a novel in which hero and heroine are not of one mind with respect to faith.
My editor at the time found the second half of the novel far too dark. The change she requested required me to cut the last nineteen chapters and rewrite them. As it happened, I was reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books aloud to my daughter at the time; I credit those books with inspiring me to reshape my overly dark story into a lighthearted road trip (with a detour into the mysteries of butter churning).
The two endings are so different that I don’t think it’s possible to say that one is “better” than the other. Reading the original draft all these years later, I love the focus on Ewan’s faith, as well as all the drama. But I might as well add that when I recounted the original plot to my current editor, Carrie Feron, her eyes grew round and she said that she likely would have found the story a bit dark.
For me, including the original half of Kiss Me, Annabel here definitively transformed this companion from a bunch of complementary essays to something that questioned our conception of a genre novel. Why shouldn’t a book exist in two different versions, as long as each ends happily? Why shouldn’t a reader be able to follow—and take pleasure in—two completely different paths by which the same characters end up in the same place?
Once I accepted that, the temptation to meddle with other parts of the series was irresistible. As I again immersed myself in the world of the Essex Sisters, I found loose ends in Pleasure for Pleasure that, interestingly enough, all had to do with bullying. The novel is a reader favorite, not least because Josie’s experience of being labeled with the horrid nickname the “Scottish Sausage” resonates with so many readers. What happened to the other girls mentioned in the book, who were ostracized along with Josie? What about the young lady deemed unmarriageable because her brother was “silly,” leading everyone to assume that her children would be cognitively impaired? Or the “Wooly Breeder,” so named because she had unruly, curly hair and a father who owned many sheep?
Part of the reason this companion took two years to assemble was that I found myself writing new, discrete novellas to answer those questions. A Midsummer Night’s Disgrace, included here, tells the story of the sister of “Silly Billy,” and her recognition that she was tired of being shunned; instead of silly, she chooses to be scandalous. A Gentleman Never Tells, another new novella, is being published in tandem with the companion; it answers the question of what happened to the “Wooly Breeder,” while also considering the long-term consequences of bullying on the bully. I hope readers will be happy to see that Josie and her husband, the Earl of Mayne, make a brief appearance in the companion, and then reappear in company with their daughter in A Gentleman Never Tells.
About the Authors
ELOISA JAMES is a New York Times best-selling author and professor of English literature who lives with her family in New York, but who can sometimes be found in Paris or Italy. She is the mother of two and, in a particularly delicious irony for a romance writer, is married to a genuine Italian knight. Visit Eloisa at www.eloisajames.com or on Facebook or Twitter.
JODY GAYLE, best-selling author and researcher, likens her work to that of a literary archeologist rather than a traditional author. She is dedicated to unearthing publications of the past, and sharing these long-forgotten books … the jewels and riches of the written word. She has uncovered tens of thousands of old publications from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and wants to bring them to life, and send her readers traveling back in time.