The Crossroads Novels of author Shannon Winslow! #CoffeeWithColette @JaneAustenSays

Coffee with ColetteGood morning, dear readers! 
I am thrilled to be having this fellow Austen Variations Author  join me for Coffee again so I can get to know her even better. My guest today is the gorgeous and talented Shannon Winslow, who has not one but TWO new releases to share! (Meanwhile, my muse has been on vacation...) Of course, we share a love of all things Darcy, and I know that Shannon is an amazing writer; but can someone from Seattle really know how to make jambalaya? (Being from Southeast Louisiana, I much prefer the paella-inspired Creole jambalaya created in New Orleans over the Cajun variety, which is more like dirty rice in my opinion.) I suppose I shall have to ask her preference!

Although readers have already devoured her Pride and Prejudice sequels and variations (The Darcy's of Pemberley, Return to Longbourne, Mr. Collins' Last Supper) and her Austen inspired novels (For Myself Alone, and my personal favourite The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen), now Shannon is taking her own leap of faith - and hope! - by jumping into the contemporary romance genre with her Crossroads Collection, which focuses on the extremely Austen-esque "idea that a single choice in life can change everything that happens subsequently." This theme resonates with me so much personally that I cannot wait to dive right in! I bet you'll feel the same...

Jambalaya to Chocolate

When Colette invited me to stop by on the blog tour for my two new books, I started brainstorming about what sort of post I should write for her. She calls these little visits Coffee with Colette, so I decided it might be appropriate for me to contribute something – perhaps a tasty treat – to go with the coffee she’s serving.

By Amadscientist (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsIt wasn’t a conscious decision, you understand. Maybe I was just hungry at the time… or my heroine was. Anyway, somehow food analogies and images began showing up in Hope’s head and then on the page as I was writing Leap of Hope: Chance at an Austen Kind of Life. A few of the chapter titles even reflect that theme. We’ve got Making Jambalaya, The Dinner, The Dessert, and The Cherry on Top!

Hope O’Neil is a Jane Austen-obsessed college student who gets spirited off to the Crossroads Center and offered the chance at a new life – a life of her own choosing, wherever and whenever she likes. Out of all the possibilities, she immediately imagines herself at a reasonable facsimile of Pemberley with her very own Mr. Darcy. Here was the chance she’d always dreamed of! She could try for a life like Elizabeth Bennet’s in Regency England!
But it’s risky, and she has a lot to take in before deciding. Since she’s from the American south, her mind puts the situation in Cajun terms:

I needed to absorb what I’d learned. Certain things take time, and there’s no way around it.
It’s like making jambalaya. If you just throw everything in the pot and don’t let it simmer, all you’ve got is water, boring rice that’s like to break your teeth, and a bunch of other separate flavors that don’t make any sense at all. Give it another half hour on the stove, though, and it starts comin’ together. The spiciness of the sausage and peppers rubs off on the shrimp and melts into the chicken. The rice turns chewy soft from soaking up all that tasty goodness. With a little patience, you end up with somethin’ a person’s taste buds can really appreciate. The jumble settles into jambalaya.
That day, I was plain white rice thrown into a pot with a bunch of foreign and unfamiliar ideas. It was going to turn out yummy in the end, I expected. I just needed to sit and let things simmer a while.
One new question did occur to me while I was stewing, though. I wondered if anybody knew how to cook real Cajun in Regency England.

Anybody hungry yet?
As you may have guessed, Hope decides to go for it! (There wouldn’t be much of a story otherwise.) Her entrance into her new life, lands her in a sick bed, though, subject to doctor’s orders. She’s completely famished and yet not allowed to go down to a big family meal. This is what she gets instead:

Food! Finally! I was so hungry by then that I reckon I could have eaten the north end of a southbound goat…
Flossie deposited her burden on the small table by the door, helped me arrange the pillows so I could sit up straighter, and then brought the tray over to me. “Here you are, Miss,” she said, “a nice basin of gruel.”
I’d heard of gruel, of course, but I didn’t know exactly what it was, only that Mr. Woodhouse had set great store by it. In Emma, I remembered, he recommended it as the cure for whatever ailed a body and protection against any other danger that might happen to come along in the future. I didn’t recall anyone else being as enthusiastic, though, and I soon found out why. With my first bite, I discovered that gruel was basically a thin, runny version of oatmeal – an unappealing, bland kind of drivel, not at all the oatmeal my mother had made for me when I was a kid. Where was the brown sugar? Where were the cream and the dollop of melting butter? From the way it tasted, I don’t think any salt had even been used to cook it.
I didn’t want to complain, and yet I was SO HUNGRY! A little tact and diplomacy might serve my purposes best, I decided.
“Mmm,” I murmured. “Did you make this yourself, Flossie?”
She smiled and blushed. “Yes, Miss. I am glad you like it.”
“I do, but I was wondering if you might bring me something else too. Perhaps some toast with jam and a nice slice of ham. I must keep up my strength, you know.”
“Oh, dear,” she said, twisting her apron nervously. “I’m sorry, but I may not do as you ask, Miss. Mr. Cavanaugh left very precise instructions. You are to have nothing but gruel for now.”…
“I see,” I told Flossie. Then I tried a new strategy. “Did Mr. Cavanaugh give any orders restricting amounts?”
“I don’t believe so, Miss.”
“Then will you kindly bring me another basin of this delightful gruel, perhaps this time with just a pinch of salt added? I will have this first one finished off in no time.”
She seemed pleased to be able to do that much for me. And I discovered that if a person is hungry enough, almost anything becomes palatable, even gruel.

Poor Hope! But things begin looking up for her when she’s released from her sickroom confinement to start her new life in earnest. She gets to know her adopted home and family, and at first everything matches up so well to her Pride and Prejudice fantasy that she begins to wonder is Jane Austen actually could have based her portrayal of the Bennets on them. There’s even a young gentleman who purchases the adjoining estate and takes a strong interest in her sister. But he doesn’t seem to have a rich and handsome friend anywhere – no Mr. Darcy in sight. Then things go a little further off course… and a little further, until Hope has to acknowledge that she’s definitely not in Pride and Prejudice any longer.
For now, let’s just skip over all the messy complications (no food metaphors there) and get to the good part: the dessert!
Hope thinks she may finally have found her very own version of Mr. Darcy. But since she’s still not sure, she’s determined to get to know him better:

I’d saved him for last, sort of like dessert, I suppose. But what kind of dessert would he turn out to be, I wondered? Cold, like ice cream? I hoped not, although ice cream did melt in the mouth. Hmm. Cake started out warm but cooled over time, much like many doomed relationships. That wasn’t a promising analogy. I was rooting for crème brûlée: a little crusty and unapproachable at first, but sweet, rich, and oh-so-yummy once you take the trouble to break the shell and dig in. I never got tired of it, and I always ate it with a spoon so as not to miss one tasty bit.
After lingering on that mental image a minute or two, I went in search of Mr. Crème Brûlée…

Crème Brûlée goes well with coffee, doesn’t it? Oh, but so does a gourmet, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate bar! Deciding between the two would make a tough choice. Which would you advise Hope to pick? She gets her happy ending; I can tell you that much. But I won’t spoil the ending by divulging what her favorite flavor turns out to be at the last.

The Crossroads Collection is an innovative new series by author Shannon Winslow, stories all about turning points, possibilities, and second chances. Who hasn’t wondered at least once how life would have changed by making an alternate choice at some crucial moment in the past? Where would you be today if you’d turned right instead of left at an important crossroads or been able to sidestep a particular misfortune? Or perhaps you’ve daydreamed about a different life altogether, in a different place and time. Each book in the Crossroads Collection stands alone and features a new hero/heroine who’s given the extraordinary gift of a second chance at life, the chance to answer for themselves the intriguing question “what if?”

At the Crossroads Center, they’re in the business of granting second chances. And their newest client is Ben Lewis, a former star athlete who never recovered from the death of his dream to make it big in the big leagues. Now he’s being offered the opportunity to return to 1991 and try again, this time without the illness that originally ended his baseball hopes. What’s the catch? He will pay for his second chance by forfeiting his memories of the first… and possibly along with them, the love of his life. Can he find his way home to the woman he’s long forgotten but never stopped missing? Or will reaching for the brass ring with both hands cause the treasure he once possessed to slip forever from his grasp?

At the Crossroads Center, they’re in the business of granting second chances. And their newest client is Hope O’Neil – college student and Jane Austen devotee, who always believed she’d be more at home in Regency England, wearing corsets and courted by men in cravats. But can a modern girl really fit into a world with no electricity, cell phones, or indoor plumbing? Hope is about to find out when her wish for an Austen kind of life is unexpectedly granted. Although she envisions her second chance will be like something straight out of Pride and Prejudice – complete with her own Mr. Darcy and a romantic happy ending – she gets more than she bargained for in this delightful romp through Regency England… a lot more.

About the Author

“Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody not greatly in fault themselves to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest.”
I claim this Jane Austen quote (taken from Mansfield Park, chapter 48) as my motto, in that it illustrates my literary philosophy. I’m interested in books that entertain, that make you feel good, that sweep you away to another world. Although I know that without conflict there is no story, I’m glad when it’s time to do away with the culprits and reunite friends and lovers for a happy ending. Reader satisfaction, in my opinion, stems from the hero or heroine overcoming difficulties, not being destroyed by them. If someone prefers a dose of harsh reality, they can turn to “other pens” or turn on the news instead. But I can be trusted to not dwell on guilt or misery any longer than necessary, and to restore the characters I’ve come to care about to tolerable comfort by the end of the book, as Jane Austen always did.
Twitter: @JaneAustenSays


  1. Thanks so much for hosting me, Colette! I had fun putting this post together, but now I'm a little worried. Did I make the jambalaya correctly?


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