Thursday, November 21, 2019

Review, Interview The Knight Before Christmas by Marilyn Brant

Long time favorite author and Austen enthusiast Marilyn Brant delivers a fantastic contemporary Austen inspired holiday tale plus she sits down and chats with me about her latest novel.

Publisher: Twelfth Night Publishing

Release Date: 10-28-2019

 Author for review
Buy It: Amazon/ B&N/ IndieBound


THE KNIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS is a light contemporary romance by New York Times & USA Today bestselling author Marilyn Brant, who also penned the award-winning and Jane Austen-inspired novels ACCORDING TO JANE and PRIDE, PREJUDICE AND THE PERFECT MATCH.When successful building contractor Austin Knightley returns to his hometown of Crystal Corners, Minnesota after a decade away, he vows to avoid pampered and popular types like his old high-school crush Emma Westwood—the town's biggest queen bee and self-appointed matchmaker—only to get swept into a community Christmas project she's now organizing.With nods to Jane Austen's classic novel EMMA, this modern heroine may be a little "clueless" in the Midwest, but she's got gifts to share and plenty to learn from the boy next door, who's all grown up and handsomer than ever. Even when a snowstorm threatens to derail her plans, she's determined to figure out how to set things right and save THE KNIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS.This sweet and heartwarming holiday romance is a story that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

Interview with Marilyn Brant:

Marilyn hi! Welcome back to The Reading Frenzy it’s been way too long my friend. Your new novel The Knight Before Christmas was so good, just the kind of heartwarming read to get you in the Christmas frame of mind.
Tell my readers just a bit about it.
Debbie, first and foremost, thank you so much for having me back as a guest! It’s such a pleasure to get to visit you and your readers here ;).
As for the book, The Knight Before Christmas is categorized as a "sweet" (meaning G-rated) & "light" (humorous, I hope!) contemporary romance that I wrote for readers, like me, who enjoy Hallmark Christmas movies and holiday stories that revolve around tight-knit families and small-town communities. Emma Westwood & Austin Knightley grew up together in the little Minnesota town of Crystal Corners, but after a decade away, Austin returns -- now a grown up and successful building contractor. Emma, who stayed much closer to home and relishes her role at the center of their community (and who plays at amateur matchmaking, too), is organizing a Christmas event, and it turns out that she needs Austin's help. At first, he resists, but the holiday spirit eventually takes over, in part thanks to a few nudges from well-intentioned friends and family.

This Austen inspired book is right up your alley.
How old were you when you read your first Austen novel?
I was a freshman in high school and had just turned 14 when I was assigned my first Austen novel. Reading her masterpiece, Pride and Prejudice, quite literally changed my life. She became my favorite author on the spot, and she still is today. My debut novel, According to Jane  (Kensington Books, 2009), is about a young woman who has the ghost of Jane Austen in her head giving her dating advice, which was a fantastical bit of literary wish fulfillment on my part, LOL.

Austin and Emma are different as night and day.
Which one was the easiest to create and why?
This is a really interesting question, Debbie, and no one has asked me it before! I love that!! Oddly, the answer is a little counterintuitive. I'm more introverted by nature, like Austin, and I've never been remotely a fashionable, queen-bee type like Emma. However, Emma was the easier character for me to write, probably because I could see her so clearly in my mind's eye. I recalled Gwyneth Paltrow's performance as "Emma" in the cinematic version of Austen's classic novel. Or Alicia Silverstone in the modern movie adaptation, "Clueless." It was fun to imagine a similar style of heroine for my book, only headlining a story set in the American Midwest during the festivities of Christmas. 

I loved the minimal drama in the book and the characters were strong enough on their own not to need it.
Is there ever a time when you’re critiquing that you need to ramp up or ramp down the drama?
Yes, absolutely. One of the first things many of us learn as writers is to determine who our intended audience is for every story we write. For example, when I was working on my young adult mystery, The Road to You, I was aware that the narrative tension was deeply tied to the story's plot. There were darker and much more serious elements imbedded into the very premise of that book, and I was conscious of that throughout the drafting and revision process. There were definitely times when I was writing it that I looked for ways to heighten the conflict and suspense -- which is naturally easier to do when there are life & death issues at stake! The Knight Before Christmas, by contrast, is written specifically for those seeking a comedic holiday romance reading experience.  Stylistically and from a plot & pacing standpoint, there's a guarantee given from an author to her readers with stories like this one that they won't have to face high-angst situations. This is intended to be an "exhale deeply after your day, put on your slippers, and relax on the sofa with a cup of hot cocoa" kind of read. And, yes, there were scenes where I could have created more serious drama and taken the novel in a more conflict-laden direction, but that would have defeated the purpose of what I was trying to achieve with this lighter premise.

I think besides Holiday Man, which really isn’t about Christmas, you haven’t written a Christmas themed book.
Did writing it bring those warm fuzzy feelings of Christmas to you?
You're right. This is my first entirely Christmas-themed novel -- and it was so fun to write! I've had Christmas scenes in several of my books, and in Someone Like You (a novella included in my Mirabelle Harbor series duet, Coming Home), the majority of that story took place during the holidays. But it was the big family wedding that was more of a focus in that story than the seasonal aspect. I came up with the idea for The Knight Before Christmas on a sweltering day in August (!!), so I must've been daydreaming about cooler weather ;). I did the vast majority of the writing, however, during January and February of this year, so the freezing temps and snowfall were pretty easy to visualize! And being that I'd celebrated Christmas last year, just a few weeks before I dove deep into drafting the book, I think those warm and fuzzy holiday feelings were still very much with me. 

You write both series and stand alone novels.
Do you have a preference?
Has any stand-alone turned into a series?
Truly, there are joys to writing both types of books. Some story ideas lend themselves better to one form or the other. But I've been caught by surprise before. When I wrote Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Match, I'd intended for it to be a single release. Readers, however, kept asking me about the secondary characters (Bingley & Jane), so a few years later, I published their story -- a standalone sequel called Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Bet. And in the Mirabelle Harbor series, is originally written the second book, The One That I Want, as a completely individual title, but as I was plotting out the series, I realized how well it fit in with my Mirabelle Harbor concept. So I made a few revisions and got to include it in the series, which was exciting for me! 

Is this the first of a new series and will all the novels have an Austen feel?
I wrote The Knight Before Christmas to have series potential (there are 3 Knightley brothers after all...and a trilogy would allow me to revisit Crystal Corners again, which I'd love!), but I'm leaving it open at this point as to whether I'll continue with another book. The epilogue, entitled "A Midsummer Knight's Dream," gives a glimpse into the point of view of Connor (one of Austin's younger brothers) and his first encounter with his soul mate Helena. If I find that readers are interested in more of this series, the second story would have the same setting and community dynamics as the first, but the plot would be more reflective of its Shakespearean namesake than that of a Jane Austen novel. The Bard reminds us that love is unpredictable and that, perhaps, there's a touch of magic involved, so Connor's story would revolve around that...

Since this interview is posting right around Thanksgiving tell us how your perfect Thanksgiving Day would be.
Ahhhhh, it would be utterly relaxing and delicious. The roads would be clear of snow so travel wouldn't be treacherous for anyone. There would be lots of food favorites on hand (creamy mashed potatoes, cranberry-orange salad, pumpkin pie...) and close family sharing the feast with me. And, since this is my perfect Thanksgiving fantasy, I wouldn't have to do any of the dishes or clean-up afterward!!

Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions. Good luck with the new book!
Thank YOU for the good wishes and for always being so gracious, Debbie!! Happy Thanksgiving to you and to all of your blog visitors ;). XOX ~Marilyn

My Review:

The Knight Before Christmas
Marilyn Brant

Marilyn Brant’s latest, The Knight Before Christmas, hints of that classic Austen tale Emma only this Emma is all 21st century. A well written, well paced, character driven novel with minimal drama that has snowy scenes reminiscent of a Currier and Ives print, a fun snowball fight, some save-the-day carpentry and realistic family interactions and will leave readers with a definite warm fuzzy feeling. This fantastic holiday themed small town, big-hearted romance has genuine likeable characters and a remarkable down-to-earth pair who actually get to know each other and enjoy a refreshingly chaste romance. Austen Fans, romance fans and fans of holiday Hallmark movies will love this lighthearted tale.
Austin Knightley made his fortune away from his hometown of Crystal Corners, MN but with his parents getting older he and his siblings agree its time to come back to the nest, so it’s fortunate that he’s able to run his company remotely because he’s homeward bound.  Moving back has been an adjustment and before he’s even able to settle in Emma Westwood, still as bossy as when they were kids, asks for his help on one of her projects. His first reaction is to say no but he soon learns that it’s not easy to say no to a force of nature like Emma.
Emma Westwood has had a charmed life, growing up in the lap of luxury never wanting for anything, now all grown up she believes in giving back and runs her family’s philanthropic foundation. This Christmas season with her parents on a month long European vacation she’s extra busy with all her charity work. When a special display case she ordered isn’t going to be delivered she needs help fast making a replacement, unfortunately the best person for the job is for some reason unwilling to help, but she’s not giving up.
These two opposites who aren’t looking for love may find it during the season of miracles.
 Other works by Marilyn

About Marilyn:
Marilyn Brant is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of contemporary fiction, and she was also named the Author of the Year (2013) by the Illinois Association of Teachers of English.


  1. As usual, fun and informative interview, Debbie and Marilyn. I adored this story and yes, hand is up, for making this a series. :)

    1. hands up here too Sophia Rose. I've known Marilyn since waaaay back in my B&N book club days so it's good to have her chat here too!

    2. Debbie & Sophia, HUGE thanks to you both!! ♡♡ And in your honor, I'm adding 2 tally marks to the "Continue the Series" side of the vote :-). Thanks, you two, for making me smile today!! xo

  2. 2 of my favorite things! Xmas novels and Austen! Love

    1. Blodeuedd, thank you! Those are 2 of my favorite things, too!! :) :)

    2. I hope you get a chance to read it Blodeuedd

  3. Lovely interview. Love me a good Christmas romance. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

    1. Nadene, thanks so much for taking the time to stop by & read Debbie's interview with me. (She asks excellent questions! :)

    2. you are welcome Nadene I hope you get a chance to read it

  4. I'll have to be honest and say, I am not a big Austen fan! Ouch! However this does sound like a good Christmas read and I am drawn. Love the title.

    1. you don't need to be just an Austen fan to enjoy this, in fact if you're not you'll just enjoy it for it's own story too Kathryn.

  5. This sounds like a really sweet romance, and I love holiday stories! Thanks so much for sharing Debbie :)

    Lindy@ A Bookish Escape