An unrepentant author

  • Jenny Brown Contributed photo

  • “Undisciplined Ardor” by Jenny Brown Contributed photo

For the Recorder
Published: 7/18/2019 8:32:01 AM

Jenny Brown has “done a little bit of everything,” the Gill resident told me recently. She has written and performed original songs. She has worked with computers. She has raised children. She has written books in a number of genres.

Her current writing output is dear to her heart, a trio of novels set in 19th-century England. The series is called “Unrepentant Scoundrels.” Although Brown herself is far from a scoundrel, she is unrepentant about life and literature.

She always loved fiction, but took a while to get a handle on how to write it. In 2000, she recalled, after many years as a nonfiction author, she drafted her first novel.

“Like most first-time authors, I didn’t know how bad it was,” she sighed.

She began to enter writing contests, which led to reading other writers’ manuscripts. The mistakes she saw in their work helped her find the flaws in her own. She wrote and rewrote and rewrote, and finally produced a novel of which she could be proud.

It helped that Brown had a master’s degree in history from the University of Massachusetts, specializing in 19th-century English history. She found a publisher for her first book, which became a series. 

Brown was “distracted” from novel writing for a number of years, but returned to the craft about three years ago to finish the books in her “Scoundrels” trio, which are self-published. She is happy with the situation and loves her work.

“I’m not chasing the mass-market thing. I’m just enjoying myself,” she told me. Her books are classic romances that focus on character.

“I’m valuing creativity at this point in my life,” she said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen when I write a novel. These characters show up, and they just take things in all directions. You can shut down that process by focusing on (marketing). ... I have a certain trust that my books will find their readers.”

The new book she recently sent me to read, “Undisciplined Ardor,” is lively and well crafted. The novel is set in England in 1812. Its heroine, Jo, has been brought up as a boy, thanks to her father’s unfulfilled desire for a male heir. She wears boys’ clothing whenever possible and detests the idea of marriage.

At the outset of the novel, the orphaned Jo is living with her uncle and aunt, who are appalled by her clothing and manners. To punish her, they sell her beloved horse, Comet. Out walking one day, she spies Comet being ridden by the arrogant Viscount Wixford, a notorious rake with a disgraceful past.

Jo and the Viscount fall in love and end up facing more than the usual boundaries to romance in the era. She doesn’t want to give up her autonomy or her trousers. He wants to appear macho (his masculinity has been challenged in the past) and thus doesn’t wish to appear with a woman who looks and acts like a boy.

Both of them need to learn that a mature relationship involves taming one’s wilder impulses.

The pair eventually achieve a meeting of minds and bodies by earning each other’s respect and by cultivating self-discipline through their shared love of horses and exercise. Brown’s historical background adds to the fun. 

I asked Brown about the appeal of England’s Regency period (1811-1820). “I always am just so intrigued by that period just before everything changes,” she replied. “As a kid, I was sent to this prep school that was run by British teachers, elderly expatriates. ... I feel like I grew up in the regency period.”

She added, “People say, ‘You want to set stories in the modern-day.’ 

“I say, ‘I don’t live there!’”

Brown noted that she often encounters readers who look down on the romance genre. “I don’t care because romance sells better than every other genre,” she explained. “I’ve had about 50,000 people read ‘Lord Lightning’ (the first book in the trio) by now.

“It’s a wonderful genre. A lot of (romance novels) are really wonderful books written by women for women. … The women that got me into reading romance, many of them have Ph. Ds.”

Jenny Brown’s three “Unrepentant Scoundrels” books are available on Amazon.com. Paperback editions cost $14.99. Kindle editions cost $3.99 or come free with Kindle Unlimited. The books are only in a series thematically, by having strong heroes; they are stand-alone stories.

Readers who would like to hear Jenny Brown perform a couple of her original songs may find her at the Western Massachusetts Songwriters Collaborative’s open mic event at Club One in Feeding Hills on Sunday, July 21, beginning at 2:30 p.m. 

Tinky Weisblat is the award-winning author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook,” “Pulling Taffy,” and “Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb.” Visit her website, www.TinkyCooks.com.




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