Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Author: Jessica Ashley Dafoe

Jessica Ashley Dafoe is on tour with CLP Blog Tours and she's here today with a guest post and an excerpt from her novel, The Tantalizing Tale of a Bitter Sweetheart. Don't miss the Rafflecopter giveaway for a $35 Amazon gift card at the end of the post.

About the book:

Successful, lucky in love, taking the world by storm?.....not quite. Portia Delaney is down on her luck, disgruntled in a dead end, mind- numbing career with little prospects and is not even close to finding a stimulating romance to take her mind off her lack-luster situation. Her defeatist attitude and unmistakable idiosyncrasies don’t help much either. 

But with rock bottom comes a choice, lie down and enjoy the cold and barren ground beneath, or climb that ladder of success to the top. Portia finally sets out to do just that. With a fantastic group of friends and a bit of fateful circumstance on her side, she begins her trek up and out of the despair filled trenches. But Portia soon finds out that with success, often comes hardships and unwelcome competition.

Guest Post 

by Jessica Ashley Dafoe

Leading Ladies of Inspiration

It is interesting that after taking a moment to reflect about all of the novels I have read over the years, and to select from those my most favourite of all, those that stand out among the others are of course novels which focus on a somewhat lost and inadvertently helpless, even seemingly hopeless, female heroine.

My love for Jane Austen and her romantically charged tales, which are plotted around the stringent rules in regards to class structure and expected decorum of her day, has been strong and true since the tender age of 14 when I picked up Pride and Prejudice for the first time. It most certainly was not the last time I would flip through its pages. I have read that novel countless times and with each read through it feels as though it's my first perusal. There is a magic behind Austen's writing.

It seems as though with each read the true agony I imagine to have been felt by Elizabeth Bennet during her passionate and heated exchanges with Mr. Darcy is more and more identifiable. Her yearning for him, so muddled by her confusion and misinterpretation of his intentions, leaves a young woman like myself feeling just as gutted and despairing as the adrift heroine seems to feel. The eloquent language and incredibly developed characters left me infatuated with the genius behind the work. I will forever view Austen as an icon to English literature. I must say, as a side note, that when I lived in London, England for a year, I fell head over heels for the great (x many) grandnephew of the very legend herself. Romance is in the Austen line, and this was proven to be the case as our relationship continued through the entirety of my time there. I suppose I may have been starry eyed from the get-go after being made aware of his connection to my icon.

The Brontes have also made a tremendous impact on my literary experience. Out of the three it is Charlotte's Jane Eyre which I esteem above the others. In Grade 12 English class I was asked to complete an independent study followed by a seminar presentation on this very novel. That seminar ran 30 minutes longer than allotted simply because I did not feel that only touching on the major events in the novel would do it justice. My seminar turned into ‘Story Time with Jessica’ as I verbally recounted the entire action of the plot right up to the mysterious unveiling in the final chapters. My English teacher at the time gave me an "A" even though I sorely misjudged the timing of the presentation. The "A" grade was allocated due to the enthusiasm with which I shared the extremely accurate and exact details of the plot. Jane Eyre, much like Pride and Prejudice is a novel I picked up to read and re-read many times over the years. The isolation and rejection initially experienced by a young Jane produces such compassion and sympathy. The seemingly pathetic, plain abandoned girl's journey is one of great victory in the face of uncertainty.
'I am not an angel,' I asserted; 'and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself. Mr. Rochester, you must neither expect nor exact anything celestial of me - for you will not get it, any more than I shall get it of you: which I do not at all anticipate."
-Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

Finally, and this may seem a far cry from the two writing styles that I have previously focused on and deemed as being partly responsible for my inspiration to write my debut novel, yet Sophie Kinsella has managed to entertain and inspire me with her frivolous and witty tales involving female protagonists such as Rebecca Bloomwood. In The Secret Confessions of a Shopoholic, Becky is a hopeless wreck and not only that, she's got a keen eye for fashion. She is simply a character that I easily identified with as it was during my early-twenties that I discovered her; a time when my finances were in a dire situation, straight out of university with little to no income and still living at home with my parents. I had a love for shopping and not a spare dime to act on my impulse with. 

Kinsella made light of a horrendous situation in the life of Becky and the humour allowed me to escape from the less than perfect situation I found myself in. I continue to this day to be a hardcore Kinsella fan, ensuring to pick up a copy of her latest book as soon as it hits the shelves. Yes, Shopaholic to the Stars is next on my ‘To Read’ list!

"Ok, don't panic. Don't panic. It's only a VISA bill. It's a piece of paper; a few numbers. I mean, just how scary can a few numbers be?"-Sophie Kinsella, Confessions of a Shopaholic

I suppose the main character of my novel The Tantalizing Tale of a Bitter Sweetheart, encompasses aspects of all three female protagonists mentioned. Portia’s dream is much like that of Elizabeth's, her journey is much like that of Jane's and she is quirky, impulsive and somewhat of a mess, just like Becky Bloomwood. I love her just the same and am sure you all will too!

Excerpt from The Tantalizing Tale of a Bitter Sweetheart

“Portia!! Portia!! Get up already! You’re about a zillion minutes late for your first day. Come on you lazy imp!”

Oh, I hate being torn out of a lovely slumber when I’m in the middle of the most wonderful dream; woken up by the horrendous bellowing of none other than my meddling, unbearable roommate, Minnie. The dream was perfection, and waking to a reality that can only be described as the exact opposite of perfection, is highly undesirable, yet this similar feeling each morning as I come to, has been my lot in life.

I slowly open one eye to see a familiar, thin, curly haired red head glaring at me from my bedroom doorway. I quickly shut it and feign being back in a deep sleep. Why oh why can’t I wake up to a dark haired, charming and handsome man as opposed to this?

“I saw that, Portia Delaney!” she sounds frustrated. “Not only are you late, but you’re making me late too, because I’m doing my duty as your friend and roommate to be sure that you don’t screw this one up! Now get on with it! Up, up, up!”

At this point she has found her way to the bottom of my bed and is now dragging me by my perfectly pedicured feet, because you never know when you may end up on a date with a gentleman who is won over by a well-cared for set of tootsies, (although I haven’t been on a date with a “gentleman” in over 6 months), and has just about gotten me to the point of full on bailing off the bed when I give in.

“OK! OK! You maniac! I’m up and I can be ready in 5 minutes flat, so get your skinny rear out of my room and let me get myself together. Thank you and please be on your way now.” I quickly jump to my feet after Minnie has unhanded them, and sternly guide her out into the hall slamming the door behind her. “Have a lovely day!” I manage to say in a sharp and clearly irritated voice.

Minnie is a workaholic, freakishly organized, highly paid executive at an ad agency. Why she still wants or needs a roommate is beyond me. I suppose it’s because work is her life and any ounce of energy she has, she wants to be poured into her career, not her home life or even love life for that matter. Minnie is the power-hungry career oriented woman who honestly, no word of a lie, could not give a damn whether she ever marries or has a family of her own. Sometimes I wish I had that mindset, because I, Portia Delaney, am ever hopelessly focused on finding that one soul mate.

Now what? Dressed, yes I must choose an outfit for the first day at yet another mind-numbing, low paying office job at yet another medical office. I really want to be styling the rich and famous, not to mention designing clothes that are intended to be strutted down the runways of Paris and Milan; not to be stuck in a dead end job that has me working for pompous and self- absorbed doctors, who get to drive off in their luxury cars and head home to their glamorous trophy wives not to mention who give absolutely no notice of the front desk help. Why didn’t I listen to my heart instead of my nagging parents?

Alright, outfit, yes outfit. Well this is the most inexcusable tidbit of all. I’m here selecting an outfit for a first day at a job where my only selection can be from an assortment of various coloured scrubs, when I want to be making a selection between Gucci and Versace. Lavender it is, I suppose. With that disgruntled decision made, I reach for my terribly ordinary lavender scrubs, quickly pull them on, jet into the bathroom and whisk a brush through my hair while applying a pinch of foundation and blush. A bit of tinted lip gloss and a quick once over with the toothbrush and I’m set to go. Yes to go to my...well...bore of a career. Pay increase or not, just the thought of getting compensated to give up my dreams on a daily basis makes my stomach turn, and anxiety take over.

“But enough of this negativity Portia Delaney” I say out loud to my reflection in the hall mirror, “You are a successful, adorable, intelligent, creative and inspirational woman with amazing potential. For you nothing is impossible!” Ok, so do I actually believe this bunk...not a word. My shrink surely is trying to make me think I do, but let’s face it I’m at rock bottom with S.O.S. carved in the sand and flare guns blazing.

I suppose, however, there is nowhere to go but up.  Work is blah, love life is blah, family life is… well, is what it is. My friends are mostly amazing, but sometimes having great friends, who seem to have it all together, just help to highlight everything lacking in your own life. With that summation of my view on my life circumstance, I slip on my god awful, yet comfy crocs, grab my Mark Jacobs purse, because I must still demonstrate some good taste in my daily wardrobe, and strut out the door while working those lavender scrubs to the max.

About the author:

Jessica Ashley Dafoe resides in Toronto where she is an educator by day and a literary enthusiast and writer by night. She attained her BA in English Literature at The University of Ottawa and her B Ed at Brock and Queen’s University. 

When Jessica does not have her nose in a book or is not scribbling out her ideas for her newest tantalizing tales, she's most likely keeping busy trying out various exciting activities and delicious cuisine that the great city of Toronto has to offer or planning her next getaway to her immediate destination of choice. The traveling bug bites her often.

 A romantic comedy addict to the core, she enjoys all things silly, frivolous and emotionally endearing which is the reason she writes stories that encompass all of these qualities. 

Connect with Jessica:
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