I met Barbara Cornthwaite almost twenty years ago on a message board. As an American, married to an Irishman, living in England with her adopted children (from several countries), her mere existence fascinated me. Her kindness and humor drew me in, but… I know, I know. It’s self-serving and shameless, but our mutual love for writing and Austen is what actually cemented our friendship in the beginning.
You have her to thank for keeping me from messing up the cultural facts in my Regency novel. And, you can thank her for breaking me of the terrible habit of using non-parallel phrases. I do, however, confess to throwing in an “it’d” every now and then if I know she’ll be reading it. Just to make her smile. Or shake her head. Or both.
Because of her, I learned to love and appreciate Emma by Jane Austen, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Why I LOVE Barbara Cornthwaite & Think You Will Too
In this week’s episode of Because Fiction, I got to chat with Barbara Cornthwaite… way over on the other side of “the pond” (and thanks to internet issues, now and then one of us sounds like we’re in it, but for the most part, it’s clear.)
Barbara Cornthwaite’s first book, A Fine Young Lady takes place in a Victorian village and features a character who seems deceptively shallow at first—all the appearance of a “fine young lady” without any substance—and then grows into the best meaning of her name. Verity. It features interracial adoption in the Victorian era, baby farms, and a whole lot more. Our family loved it so much that I had to hound her to put it in print for my daughter (and I’d totally forgotten that tidbit!).
Barbara went on to write a retelling of Jane Austen’s, Emma from Knightley’s perspective, the George Knightley Esquire duet including Charity Envieth Not and Lend Me Leave . That’s where I first learned to appreciate not only the original book but Emma as a character. Through Knightley’s eyes, you see what it is otherwise difficult to see from an individualistic, ruggedly independent, 21st-century, American mindset.
In recent years, she’s been working on more Emma stories—one for the honeymoon and after, and one about Miss Bates. I don’t know about you guys, but I think she should get a move on! I want all the stories!
Then came the A Very Austen Anthologies. Those are:
In these anthologies, Barbara Cornthwaite has novellas about:
- Edmund Bertram and Fanny Price (Mistletoe at Thornton Lacey)
- Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet (Pretense & Prejudice)
- John Knightley and Isabella Woodhouse (John Knightley Wins a Wife)
One of the other Austen Anthology authors, Laura Hile says she’d read Barbara’s grocery lists, they’re so beautifully written, and I heartily agree.
However, recently, she’s been working on something completely different. How opposite can you get from Regency balls and gowns?
How about… Contemporary Cozy Mysteries?
(I think I’ve been a bad influence… shhh… don’t tell. It worked this time).
When we recorded the episode, we hadn’t settled on titles for her books, on the series title—nothing. However, with book one now available and book two releasing on July 24th, well… I think it’s time to let a few cats free from all their baggage. (sorry, it’s late and been a long day, folks!)
What could possibly interest anyone about a fortyish college English professor (which Barbara was… just a few years younger… ahem), a college town, and a bookstore with the captivating title of “Frank’s Bookstore?”
Tons. Barbara Cornthwaite writes a solid Christian fiction cozy with both spiritual depth (exploring wishes versus convictions and how sometimes we confuse the two) with an interesting mystery that kept me second-guessing myself, Brought to Book is the first title in the Wilkester Mysteries.
The second book, Snuffed Out, is even better on the mystery score. She managed to stump me. I could only tell who it wasn’t. And yet, I had to be wrong because I was convinced it wasn’t anyone!
I’ve read the first few chapters of book three, Written Off, and am eager to see where this one goes.
So… who’s with me on trying to get Barbara to write more in this series?
If you don’t know because you haven’t read any, I recommend moseying on over to the links above and snagging one or both. If you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read there.
Or, if you’re a die-hard Austen fan, check out her retellings and expansions of Jane Austen’s original stories. You’ll find that Barbara stays true to Austen’s characters even when she fiddles a smidge with the story (as in Pretense & Prejudice).
To learn more about Barbara, find her at:
Website (in progress)
For synopses of the Wilkester books… here you go!
There’s nothing in Emily Post about dealing with murder.
Katrina just wanted to spend time among the books at Frank’s Bookstore. Yes, that’s an unimaginative name for a store, but Frank’s an unimaginative guy–or he was.
Now he and his murder are the reason Katrina is spending her spare time with Wilkester detective, Todd Mason. Or, that’s what she tells herself.
Why would anyone want to kill Frank Delaney? Who would do it? And is Katrina herself even safe?
Mixing faith, literary humor, sweet romance, and a cozy mystery that will keep you guessing, Barbara Cornthwaite’s first Wilkester Mystery has everything you want for a cozy read.
Begin your investigation of Brought to Book today.
Picnics can be murder… scenes.
What was supposed to be a romantic picnic at “their spot” turns criminal when Katrina and Todd stumble—almost literally—over a body.
What’s the college chef doing under a bush up in the mountains? Other than being dead, that is.
Who killed him? Why?
All clues point to people who Katrina is certain didn’t do it. Especially the one who ends up dead himself.
Thanks to a slow-burning romantic relationship that can’t seem to get past chapter one, and a determination to save her friend from false arrest, Katrina joins Todd again as they riddle out bizarre clues, weed through unlikely suspects, and learn to communicate on a more personal level.
What do you get when you combine literary humor, sweet romance, and a practical helping of faith? A cozy mystery that’ll keep you guessing. Barbara Cornthwaite’s second Wilkester Mystery has everything you want for a cozy read.
Snag Snuffed Out today.