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Book CoverC2’s review of The Official Essex Sisters Companion Guide by Jody Gayle and Eloisa James
Behind the Scenes Guide/Historical Romance published by HarperCollins 24 May 16

Have you ever wanted to climb inside the brain of your favorite author and see how she comes up with your favorite books? Well, Jody Gayle did exactly that (well, figuratively that because EWWWWW).

Ms, Gayle has been such a huge fan of Eloisa James’s Essex sisters quartet that she wanted to create a guidebook for the series and include all sorts of trivia and whatnot. So, when Ms. James was having a book signing nearby, Ms. Gayle approached her with her idea and *BOOM* – not only did Ms. James like the idea, she agreed to help. May I say that’s awesome? Because it is!! Along with providing notes, email, all sorts of things connected to the building of the series, Ms. James even wrote a brand new novella to include with the companion book. (Again, SO awesome!) As well as an additional novella that released concurrently with the companion.

The companion book has two main parts – one written by Ms. James that includes bits of her notes, email, research, etc. and the other written by Ms. Gayle that includes all sorts of trivia and research about the era in which the books are set (things like fashions, publications, horse racing, gambling and more).

But wait! There’s even more! Also included is an alternate ending for Kiss Me, Annabel. Apparently, Ms. James and her editor decided the original ending was too dark, so she scrapped a whole slew of chapters and rewrote. (Disclaimer: I didn’t read the alternate ending because my memory is so awful. I don’t remember the ending of the published version and didn’t have time to re-read. Sorry, ladies!)

The section written by Ms. James is a fascinating look into a writer’s process. And serves as extra proof to me why I shall never be a writer (and don’t want to be, truthfully…am too lazy). My brain just doesn’t work like that – but I’m glad hers does. She takes us from the beginning concept of the series to the final stages of publication and beyond.

The section written by Ms. Gayle is a treasure trove for trivia lovers (and you know I love me some trivia, faithful reader). So many interesting details about life in the era. Really, there is so much information in this book! I’m not sure I can explain it to you! (And it is a Kindle bargain at $1.99 – at least, when I was typing this up).

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Grade: A (for potential writers and hardcore fans); B- (for regular readers who have no interest in writing)



The included novella is tons of fun, too! Titled “A Midsummer Night’s Disgrace”, it tells the story of Cecilia Bellingworth, a friend of Josie’s (you may recall her from Pleasure for Pleasure).

Cecilia and her mother are attending a house party at the home of the new Duke of Ormond (a childhood frenemy of Cecilia’s). As a youngster, the brat would who be duke liked to drop insects down Cecilia’s dresses. So, obviously, she doesn’t have a lot of fond memories.

Little does she know that the divine pianist performing for the party is her old nemesis. So, when she decides to create a scandal by having a fling with the dashing pianist (so she can be cast from good society and retire to the country with her brother), she has no idea what’s about to happen.

The novella is so sweet and funny. Lighter than Ms. James’ usual writing – not that her books are super serious and filled with gloom and doom. I very much enjoyed it!

CSquareds C2 IconGrade: A


New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James delivers fascinating behind-the-scenes look in the Essex Sisters world, along with a brand-new short story in the series

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?

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