Preludes, a new Persuasion variation, by Riana Everly

Preludes, a new Persuasion variation, by Riana Everly

When I started writing my modern Persuasion-based novel, the recent Netflix movie was not at all on my mind. In fact, I’m not certain it had even been announced. But how fortuitous it is that with the movie just out (love it or hate it), my novel is nearly ready for release!

As always, I take a ridiculously long time between the first draft and the final version, and this novel has been sitting in my files, in one form or another, for about two years. But it is almost there. I have sent it out to one final beta reader, whose instincts have never steered me wrong, and my editor has the almost-final draft, and – to my great joy and excitement – I got the cover art yesterday. There might still be a tiny tweak or two, so I won’t reveal the cover yet, but trust me, it’s fabulous! I used a different cover artist this time, since this is a modern piece rather than Regency, but she has captured the basic style of my other covers while having the whole thing look very fresh and contemporary.

Let me tell you a little bit about the book. The title is Preludes: A Modern Persuasion Improvisation, and it is set in present-day Toronto, Canada, where I live. This is a huge and vibrant city with a great arts scene and a lot of natural beauty as well as interesting areas, and I’ve tried to capture some of that in the novel.

Anne Elliot is a composer who burst into the public eye with her soundtrack to a hit movie. She has just taken up a position as composer-in-residence with a major orchestra in Toronto and is working on a symphony. Her career is blooming, she has lovely friends (especially Sophia and Jeremy Croft), and her future seems bright. But there’s something missing from her life.

Fred – in my story he is Frederico Valore – is that something. Or someone. They were together eight years ago until career choices led to a bitter break-up. In the interim, he has become a highly regarded conductor, taking the classical music world by storm, and he has just been appointed as principal conductor at the same orchestra where Anne will be composer-in-residence.

Anne might be stuck in the past, but Fred seems to have moved on with his life. He is the life of every party, is more handsome than ever, and is seen all over town with a spunky horn player from the orchestra. But suddenly Anne’s life is looking brighter as well. She seems to have caught the eye of William Barnett (my Mr Elliot who wants to be a baronet), and her old school friend Jasmine Smith has reached out to say hello.

Forced to work together, can Anne and Fred move past long-ago bitterness and heartbreak to create a new friendship? Will they (gasp) ever make beautiful music together again?

Right now, I am looking at a release date in late September or early October, so keep your eyes open!

Before I add an excerpt, however, I need to bore you with photos from my trip to the UK last month.

We started in Edinburgh and spent a few days with a dear friend (and fabulous author in her own right) who lives in Yorkshire. Oh, what a beautiful part of the world that is. I had my Medieval Fangirl moment when we spent a day exploring the ruins and grounds of Fountains Abbey near Ripon. Then we drove to Wales and spent a week wandering through Medieval castles, Victorian fantasies, stunning scenery, and state-of-the-art modern government buildings, as well as Swansea University, where my daughter hopes to study in a couple of years. I even spoke my six words of Welsh! (Dw i ddim yn siarad Cymraeg, which means I don’t speak Welsh.)

All photos are mine.

Fountains Abbey Celarium
Beaumaris Castle, built by Edward 1
Carreg Cennen, a romantic ruin near Swansea
The new Welsh Senedd (Parliament)

Then it was Austen Time! As well as spending time in Bath, we did indeed visit Stourhead, where part of the 2005 P&P movie was filmed. The house there was also fascinating, a real glimpse into what Longbourn or even Pemberley might have been like. I was quite ready to move into the library and stay. And then, something we had considered but not conclusively planned, we went to Winchester, where Jane Austen spent her last days. We toured the cathedral, braving the crowds around her burial site, and then got rather lost trying to find the house where she died in 1817. But find it we did. I whispered my Thank You as we left, because without her, we would all be a great deal poorer.

The Pump Room, Bath
Bath Abbey
The plaque on the cathedral wall
Here lies Jane Austen, in Winchester Cathedral
Winchester Cathedral
The house where Jane Austen lived her last days
At Stourhead, the Temple of Apollo

But now, my excerpt.

Here is a snippet from Preludes. Anne and Fred have reconnected, but it seems that Fred is just not interested anymore, and Anne is nursing a newly-broken heart. But someone is coming for coffee!

***

“Anne? Want to talk about it?” Sophia handed her a tall ceramic mug. “Chai, just the way you like it, with vanilla sugar on top.”

They were sitting in their usual places at Percolations, their favourite coffee shop, the one where the friendly counter staff brought you your order with little pieces of chocolate beside each drink. Outside the sun was blistering. Inside the air conditioning kept everybody comfortable, allowing them to sit at the window and people-watch without the inconvenience of exposure to nature. It was a busy downtown corner in the part of town where daytime commercial enterprise blended into funky streetscapes and upscale residential buildings. Anne’s condo was not too far away, on a somewhat less funky and upscale street. But Sophia loved this spot. It was trendy and interesting and close enough to the financial core that Jeremy could stop by for a coffee if he knew she was at her favourite table.

“Anne? You’ve been in the dumps all week. Is it your nephew? How is he?”

Once again, Anne hid her face behind her drink while she scrambled for a response. The warm spicy notes of the chai tea stimulated her senses, all cinnamon and clove and cardamom, and she breathed deeply before taking a small sip of the creamy hot liquid. Something in the warm drink soothed as it titillated, and she squashed the memory of panic enough to answer her friend.

“Poor Dylan. I can’t stop feeling I should have been able to do something. I guess it’s something I’ll have to live with forever. But he’ll be okay. He needed surgery on his broken arm and he was unconscious for a while, but he’s definitely on the mend. He’s coming home from the hospital today, thank heavens. Marie will probably never talk to me again, though.” She buried all her conflicting emotions in another sip of the chai.

Because it wasn’t really Dylan who dwelt constantly in her mind. It was Fred. And she was not at all ready to talk about that.

Sophia gave her another of those looks, but just smiled serenely. “I am pleased to hear that. About him coming home, of course. And I’m sure Marie will forgive you soon enough. She is still traumatized. Who wouldn’t be? I’ll send over a little something for the boy this afternoon. Something soft. Does he still like teddy bears? I think I saw one that’s three feet tall. He should like that. And flowers for Marie and Charles. And of course something for Jake. Maybe some building blocks? No, no flowers. A meal. After all this, the last thing they need is to have to cook.”

“You are generous to a fault. Thank you. They’ll appreciate it.” Another sip of tea.

“It’s a gorgeous day today, if a bit hot.” Anne changed the topic. “I brought my camera with me to try to get some photos in the parks, or maybe some streetscapes. Are you planning on a walk later?”

Sophia shook her head. “Not today. I’m meeting Jeremy here later on. He’s bringing someone he wants me to meet. He’s new to the orchestra’s board of directors and he wants to talk about fundraising ideas. They’ll be along in…” she checked her watch, “about half an hour. You can stay if you’d like. I’m sure he’d be pleased to meet you too.”

Was it that man who had been at the rehearsal those short weeks ago? She had hardly given him another thought afterwards, although he had made the effort to look friendly and nod at her whenever their eyes met. He was the only new board member she had heard of, but she had not exactly been paying attention to the orchestra’s press releases regarding its board members. Fred’s desertion last Tuesday still left its mark on her psyche and clouded out all other thoughts.

“I’m not sure I’m up to meeting a new board member right now. I’m not quite feeling all sparkly and brilliant like I should. And look at me. I didn’t dress to meet anybody; I’m a bit of a mess.”

Her eyes dipped to take in her dark blue t-shirt and patterned broomstick skirt. More than adequate for a coffee with an old friend. Less than impressive for meeting a new member of the board. Her hand crept up to her hair, which she was certain was a mess from being crammed into her sun hat.

But Sophia laughed away her inadequacies with the wave of a manicured hand. “Nonsense, Anne. You are in fine spirits today, and you look lovely. I know I tell you not to wear so many dark colours, but that blue suits you. Your cheeks look positively rosy today. Something else is the matter, I know it. You’re sure you don’t want to talk about it? Here, have a taste of this cake. It’s got just the slightest hint of burned caramel in the icing. Chocolate helps everything.”

Anne took the offered tidbit. “Yeah. I’m sure. Just processing. Tell me more about the trip you were planning.”

“Ah, the trip. That requires more cake and another latte. Back in a jiff!”

Sophia slipped out of her chair for a moment and returned with a grin. “They’ll bring it right away. Well. About our plans… We wanted to go to Venice, but Jeremy has a former colleague who once rented a villa near Dubrovnik…”

By the time Sophia finished talking about her ideas and plans, two more mugs sat empty on the table between them and the cake–with two forks–had been reduced to a few stray crumbs decorating the white plate.

The recitation must have taken longer than Anne thought, for just as she was about to slip out of the coffee shop, Jeremy’s voice sounded through the place.

“Soph, my love! And look, Anne is with her. Come over, William, and meet my two favourite ladies.”

In a moment, Jeremy was standing by the table, another man at his side. It was, indeed, the same stranger who had been at the rehearsal not so long ago. Sophia shifted over and the two men pulled up chairs to sit as well.

Jeremy started to make the introductions, but the newcomer reached across the table with an open hand. “William Barnett. A delight to meet you, Dr. Elliot. I saw you at the rehearsal, of course. Your symphony is just wonderful.”

“Anne, please.” She shook the offered hand. His skin was warm and soft and his nails neat, the hand of a man who takes good care of himself. She looked up at his face. It was, as was her first impression, rather handsome, with light brown wavy hair and an easy smile. His entire appearance matched his manicured hands: elegant, very well-tended, suave. Now, in the full light of the bright window, she could see his eyes were light blue, and that they crinkled at the corner when he smiled. Which he did a lot.

“William has just joined the board,” Jeremy explained as he introduced him to Sophia. “He is a property developer, and a true lover of the arts.”

 

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10 Responses to Preludes, a new Persuasion variation, by Riana Everly

  1. It looks like it was a lovely trip! Thank you for sharing your pictures and the wonderful excerpt. I am looking forward to reading the finished product.

    • Thanks so much! I’ve really loved writing this book and sharing something of my city and my love of music.

  2. I absolutely love the photos! I admit I’m not as up to speed with Persuasion so I did struggle a little with the changed names but I’m certain I’d soon get accustomed. I do hope Anne isn’t totally taken in by William? I’m looking forward to seeing the cover.

    • Thanks. We saw so many beautiful and fascinating things, I could fill volumes with my photos. For the new novel, the story should stand on its own, with Persuasion just giving it another dimension. I’ve only changed a few names to make it fit the details a bit better, so hopefully it won’t give readers trouble once they start the story. And yes, you’ll love the cover! I’m just thrilled with it.

  3. Sounds great! Love the pics especially Jane Austen s place of rest. They are all beauriful! I expected to see a sea monster in the water at the castle!lol So nice you got to see all of those Jane Austen places. Glad you left her know how much her readers appreciate her very sweet to tell her Thank You.

    • That castle really is the perfect place for a sea monster! The setting is lovely. Pity is was built for war and not as a fabulous summer cottage.
      I’m not really one for pilgrimages, but it’s hard to stand in front of Jane Austen’s final home, or in front of her burial site, and not send some thoughts out into the universe. It was more moving than I expected.

  4. The plot sounds like lots of fun! I love a good modern adaptation. Excited to see more of that sneaky yet charming Mr. Elliot.
    Beautiful photos!

    • I took so many photos, it’s a bit embarrassing.
      My beta readers have been so enthusiastic about this novel, and I loved writing it. I can’t wait till I’m ready to show the world the cover I have too.

  5. Yay, that’s great timing for your Persuasion release! I love the set up and I love the music world–sounds like a great modernization. And what beautiful photos from your trip, looks like a great time!

    • It really was fortuitous. Persuasion is my favourite of Austen’s novels, and I’m just thrilled that so many people are more aware of it now. It’s funny that I’ve never had music as an important part of my novels until now, since music is my first passion. I really enjoyed working in music – new and old – into my other passion, which is writing JAFF.

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