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Fiction Workplace

Once Persuaded, Twice Shy

A Modern Reimagining of Persuasion

by (author) Melodie Edwards

Publisher
Penguin Publishing Group
Initial publish date
Feb 2024
Category
Workplace, Contemporary, Contemporary Women
  • Paperback / softback

    ISBN
    9780593440797
    Publish Date
    Feb 2024
    List Price
    $24.95

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Description

This modern reimagining of Persuasion is full of witty banter, romantic angst, and compelling characters as it captures the heart of the classic Jane Austen novel.

When Anne Elliott broke up with Ben Wentworth, it seemed like the right thing to do . . . but now, eight years later, she’s not so sure.

In her scenic hometown of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Anne is comfortable focusing on her successful career: filling her late mother’s shoes as town councilor and executive director of her theater company. She certainly keeps busy as the all-around wrangler of eccentric locals, self-centered family members, elaborate festivals, and the occasional attacking goose. But the more she tries to convince herself that her life is fine as is, the more it all feels like a show—and not nearly as good as the ones put on by her theater company. She’s the always responsible Anne, always taken for granted and cleaning up after other people, and the memories of happier times with Ben Wentworth still haunt her.

So when the nearby Kellynch Winery is bought by Ben’s aunt and uncle, Anne’s world is set ablaze as her old flame crashes back into her life—and it’s clear he hasn’t forgiven her for breaking his heart. A joint project between the winery and Anne’s theater forces both Ben and Anne to confront their complicated history, and as they spend more time together, Anne can’t help but wonder if there might be hope for their future after all.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Melodie Edwards is the author of Jane & Edward. She has a BA from the University of Toronto, a master’s degree from McMaster University and Syracuse University (2023), studied comedy writing at the Second City Training Centre, and works in communications.

Excerpt: Once Persuaded, Twice Shy: A Modern Reimagining of Persuasion (by (author) Melodie Edwards)

One

She should have kept her flats on.

Anne had made a hard rule for herself several years ago, when she thought striding around in her high heels would give her authority and also maybe calf definition. It did neither. It gave her aching feet and ruined her designer pumps.

Louboutins should never be treated liked that.

So, she made a rule. Flat shoes during the day, when she needed to get from her office to the box office, to backstage, to the lobby, in a hurry. Flat shoes in the evening right before the performance when the whirlwind of last-minute panics, missing props, drunk VIP guests, and ancient ushers losing their hearing aids down a seat back kept her running.

And only after that, maybe sometime around the third act, would she nip back to her office, touch up her makeup, slip into her cocktail dress, and swap her flats for heels. Then she'd be poised and ready in the lobby by last curtain call, ready to greet patrons and ready to make her speech as executive director of the Elysium Theatre Festival, while champagne flutes circulated.

This evening she had been lulled into a false sense of security. Everything had been running so smoothly.

And now-and she really could not believe she was dealing with this shit-she was walk/running from her office to backstage, her narrow-skirted dress and high heels cutting short each stride, while her assistant, Emmie, rushed along beside her-talking a mile a minute, trying to explain why their lead actress was suddenly convinced her dressing room was haunted-barely breaking a sweat in her ballet flats. Smart girl.

". . . and then after last night's ghost tour they took her to the Angel Inn for lunch, and you know how they like to take tourists down into the cellar and show them the original old beams with the musket-ball scars and talk about the ghost of Captain Butler who died there, and after that they took her to Fort George, where they were doing historical battle reenactments for the afternoon . . ."

Anne grimaced. "Two reports of upset school trips at the fort and now this. No one freaks out when they go to Colonial Williamsburg; why can't we make that our model?"

The town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, of which the Elysium Theatre Festival was the centerpiece, sat wedged between the shores of Lake Ontario and the mouth of the Niagara River, and downstream from the famous Niagara Falls. Its character was a confusing mix of year-round small-town life and seasonal leisure playground; it boasted several spas, a golf course, boutique shopping, romantic hotels, and endless hectares of surrounding wineries. It was also home to multigenerational farmers and small-business owners, a tractor festival, a beloved main street preserved from the last century, and miles and miles of hiking trails frequented by the locals. It had been an early site for European pioneers settling in the new world and had many confusing remnants from its journey through the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, not cleared away as they are in modern cities, but still standing as the local pub or courthouse or military graveyard. The town was nestled up as close as possible to the American border and had been the site of the infamous and bloody War of 1812: both Fort Niagara on the American side and Fort George on the Canadian side, once manned by the British, still stood-stone and wood and grass edifices forever peering tiredly across the river at their old adversaries.

That the historical society wanted to use this living history to enliven the town was commendable. That they were terrifying tourists and visiting actors was less than lovely. It was just like their idea two years ago-equally ill-conceived, in Anne's opinion-to reintroduce Canadian geese to the pond in the theater gardens. And now they had that one lunatic goose who kept dive-bombing the glass theater doors like it was his primordial purpose. He'd managed to get in once, squawked straight for the bar, and ended up flapping around madly with a martini shaker stuck on his head so that Emmie named him Double-Oh-Goose. The historical society was mysteriously absent when Anne had called them to come deal with that situation.

She smothered her frustration with them now. "Make a note for tomorrow: call Professor Davis at the historical society and . . ."

"Tell him his ass is fired and he'll never work in this town again!" Emmie cut in with relish.

"Absolutely do not do that; we are not firing anybody." She enjoyed mentoring Emmie, truly, but the girl's bloodlust was beyond comprehension. What were they doing in business school these days-just watching House of Cards on a loop?

"Please politely ask Professor Davis to tone it way, way down. And he if starts talking about his PhD and verisimilitude, you may politely remind him that I'm also a town councilor, and terrifying the tourists will be considered a detractor when we negotiate his annual funding. Never threaten someone you need to work with, Emmie; only gently remind them where their best interests lie."

They pushed through the heavy double doors that separated the office suites from the labyrinth of backstage areas, Anne treading carefully as they crossed over a steel-grate walkway just looking for a dainty stiletto to snap, and wound through several twisting hallways, the walls carpeted to baffle sound. A panel was starting to peel in one corner; Anne made a mental note for the production crew.

Quiet and dark enveloped them before they emerged into an antechamber that connected the senior dressing rooms, and there they found half the cast of Macbeth assembled watching a stellar diva performance.

"I want to talk to my manager!" Michelle Cranston, lead actress, her hands newly dipped in streaky red paint in preparation for the "Out, damned spot!" monologue, was wailing. "I can't work like this!"

"But we can fire her, right?" Emmie asked under her breath.

If only, Anne thought.

Choi, the artistic director, was standing beside a case of prop swords wringing her hands like she was the one meant to be Lady Macbeth, looking sick and pale. Several of the trees of Birnam Wood were shivering nearby as the stage hands holding them sniggered.

Macduff, Duncan, and Malcolm looked irritated, while Macbeth himself was trying ineffectively to shush Michelle and usher her to her starting spot at stage left. Various other Scottish warriors were watching with avid interest; one had pulled a cell phone out of his kilt and was texting. Ensemble cast should know better than to have their cell phone with them onstage; Anne made a mental note for the stage manager.

Right. This was clearly a disaster about to spiral out of control. She straightened her shoulders and waded in.

"Michelle, I'd like you to take a moment and calm down." Anne's tone was firm but soothing.

"Ms. Elliot!" She made a sweeping gesture of relief, like Anne had come to be her savior instead of coming to kick her back onstage. "I was just in my dressing room, and there was this terrible creaking and groaning sound, and a loud bang . . ."

Anne took a subtle step back as Michelle waved her painty hands, her cocktail dress narrowly escaping a gruesome red-streaked fate.

"Michelle, those noises were the pipes. Our matinee production this season is Singin' in the Rain. We installed a sprinkler system and the pipes were threaded down behind the dressing room walls. The pressure occasionally omits a bang. You already know this."

"It was a ghost."

"It was not a ghost."

"You weren't there. It was a ghost."

"Michelle . . ."

"It was a ghost, because there were details. He's an infantryman, and he's haunting my dressing room probably because some delinquent ancestor of mine killed him on the battlefield. It's xenophobic-he's haunting me because America won the Battle of Niagara."

"Hold up," said Banquo, crossing his arms over his leather chest plate. "Where do you get off thinking you won the Battle of Niagara? Canadians won Niagara in the War of 1812-that's why we have the better view of the falls."

"Canadians didn't win, and the Battle of Niagara was in 1814, you clown," said Arman. His stagehand all-black outfit was covered in red finger streaks. He had been first on the scene when Michelle had come out of her dressing room screeching about ghosts and thrown herself into the arms of the nearest handsome young man, as was her custom. "We weren't even Canadians then. England and France battled it out and France lost. That's why Quebec's still angry."

"Trying to push France out of Niagara was a totally different battle in 1759!"

"What bloody history book did you read?!"

"You know what?" Anne interjected, using her most reasonable voice. "It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter who won, or who lost, or who was what country. You know why? Because it was over two hundred years ago. We are not concerned with a battle that happened over two hundred years ago, and there is no ghost-soldier in your dressing room."

"Infantryman."

"There is no ghost-infantryman in your dressing room. There is, however, an audience of five hundred people waiting for Michelle Cranston, star of the hit TV show Law and Waiting, to deliver her finest performance as Lady Macbeth and show them that Juilliard training never fades."

Michelle preened.

"That's not what's faded," the understudy Macduff sniggered.

Michelle blanched.

Distantly Anne heard the lobby chimes; the backstage lights flickered. One minute to curtain rise.

No more time to play nice.

Anne turned to face Macduff and gave him her sweetest, sincerest smile. "Would you like to contribute meaningfully to this conversation? You've played the corpse on those CSI shows so often, I'm sure you understand the pressure Michelle is feeling moving from television to the stage."

He blushed but quickly folded. "No, Ms. Elliot."

"And, Michelle"-she turned back to Lady Macbeth, still using her mildest tones-"we can, of course, get your manager on the phone, and you can tell him all about the ghost in your dressing room. But I'll need a moment of his time after that, because unfortunately we will have to discuss this breach of contract and how that might affect the advance you were paid for the remainder of the season."

"Hit 'em in the paycheck," Emmie hissed. Anne briefly closed her eyes and exhaled through her nose. Another conversation about diplomacy tomorrow-she made a mental note.

Michelle quavered and then sniffed and raised her chin. "I'm a professional; I've never bailed on a performance."

"I'm so very glad to hear it," Anne said mildly. "Now, everyone take your places, please, before your director keels over from stress."

The cast scattered just as the lights dimmed. Anne moved to put an arm around Choi's shoulders.

"Just breathe in, and out. Deep breaths. Everything is fine; there's only the second half to go. You've had standing ovations all this week, and you'll have another one tonight, and then you'll come join me in the lounge, and you'll drink lots and lots of wine, okay?"

Choi gave a weak smile. "Thanks, Anne. I'm sorry I had to call Emmie to get you. I know I should manage . . ."

Anne shooed away her apologies. "Don't even worry about it. I hired you for your talent. I'm here to problem solve. I've been the executive director of the Elysium Theatre, all three stages, and all adjacent programming for four years now." She took a step back, ready to head to the lobby now that the crisis was averted. The tip of a discarded plastic sword scraped down the side of her shoe, leaving a laddered leather scratch in its wake. She did her best not to wince.

"This is what I do."

Two

There was a standing ovation, just as she'd predicted. Anne stood behind the closed doors, ensconced in the velvety cocoon of the quiet lobby, with only the soft tinkle of the waiters filling glasses nearby. The noise of enthusiastic applause reached her as a softly muffled wave that rose and fell before the ushers opened up the doors and the evening's theater patrons began to filter out.

This was Anne's showtime.

"Mr. and Mrs. Lightbourne, so lovely to see you this evening. Did you enjoy the performance?"

"Delia, it's wonderful to see you back again this year. We were so sorry to hear about your husband's passing last summer . . . Oh you did receive the flowers, I'm glad."

"Sir Phillip, did you enjoy the performance? Yes, our new artistic director, Choi Young, such an incredible talent. We were so lucky to get her after her last Broadway run. I must introduce you later."

"Jason, nice to see you again. And this is your, er, companion? Yes, our staff are circulating with champagne, but of course the bar is open and our very talented bartender will be sure to fix you that drink . . . Pardon? No, your ex-wife declined using her ticket this evening."

"Lilian, so lovely to see you, and your dress is gorgeous! Don't tell me it's couture again-it'll break my heart to know I can never own one like it."

A gentle touch to the elbow here, a gracious smile there, the picture of elegance and poise, with not a drop of her earlier haste, Anne wove her way among the attendees with all the grace of a well-choreographed dancer on full charm offensive. She greeted circulating patrons, delicately made introductions, and subtly signaled waiters when a drink refill was needed or should be neglected based on the sobriety of the guest.

When Anne's mother passed away four years ago and the role of executive director of the festival was left open, the board of directors had tutted and fussed over giving the position to Anne. That an Elliot had always run the festival, for as many years as it had been around, was inescapable. That the Elliots were considered a first family of Niagara-on-the-Lake, and used to own much of the town's property, was undisputed. That Anne's qualifications were excellent, an MBA and a bachelor of commerce degree from a first-rate university with a minor in arts management, was unquestionable. That she had been twenty-eight, delicate looking and soft-spoken, did not drink, and did not play golf was somehow-as Anne would come to realize-an insurmountable series of faults.

The five board members had sat around the conference table that June, their patronizing smug smiles never wavering as they told her.

Anne had come to the meeting prepared to prove that she did not expect to be awarded the job based on tradition or nepotism. She had her résumé, her notes on the theaters' finances, and her business proposals neatly laid out for how to capture a wider market, and she would not mention that she'd been handling more and more of her mother's day-to-day tasks since the cancer diagnosis and that she had de facto now been doing the job herself for some time.

Editorial Reviews

"Jane Austen's Persuasion is beloved for its capable, introspective heroine and the quiet romantic who's been carrying a torch for her all these years . . . and Melodie Edwards delivers the same in her pitch-perfect modern retelling. Once Persuaded, Twice Shy will have you rooting for Anne to learn to live her own life, reading everything into the tiniest interaction with the one-who-got-away Ben Wentworth, and cackling at the antics of a certain theater-loving goose. I loved it!"
—Alicia Thompson, bestselling author of Love in the Time of Serial Killers
“Smart, swoony and hilarious, Once Persuaded, Twice Shy was the Persuasion retelling I didn’t know I needed. I fell in love with the brilliant Anne on page one and never looked back. Utterly charming!”
—Lynn Painter, New York Times bestselling author of The Love Wager

"Reading Melodie Edwards is the closest you can come to reading a modern-day Jane Austen. Fans of Austen will find Once Persuaded, Twice Shy a gorgeously romantic homage to one of history’s best second-chance romances and most relatable protagonists. Edwards’ narrative voice is exquisite, her Anne Elliot(t) perfectly rendered, her Wentworth swoonworthy, and her small-town setting (Kellynch Hall exchanged for Kellynch Winery) a place you’ll ache to visit. This gem of a story is the Persuasion update we deserve."
—Ashley Winstead, author of The Boyfriend Candidate

“Perfectly captures the contemplative tone of Austen’s Persuasion and delivers a superbly nuanced heroine…. Combine this with a sublimely evoked Canadian small-town setting in all its autumnal glory, a charming plot that embraces everything from dealing with family expectations to the relationship wisdom embedded in Taylor Swift songs, and a bracing sense of wit, and you have the perfect read for Austen fans and every reader who enjoys artfully executed love stories.”
Booklist (starred review)

“Melodie Edwards charmed me from start to finish with this fresh and original take on a classic tale. Once Persuaded, Twice Shy delighted me with its quirky-small-town hijinks, and the tension filled, slow burn second chance romance made me swoon. Readers will root for smart and selfless Anne to find her way back to Ben, the one who got away, and will cheer as she learns to draw boundaries with her family and take back her life.”
Meredith Schorr, author of As Seen on TV and Someone Just Like You

“Edwards puts a 21st-century spin on Jane Austen’s Persuasion in this fast-paced second chance romance…. Edwards successfully captures some of the essence of Austen’s Anne, a woman who puts others’ needs ahead of her own, often to her detriment. Readers will have no trouble rooting for her to reunite with the one that got away."
—Publishers Weekly

“Edwards is clever in the way she uses the main plot and themes of Persuasion to create her story without feeling like she must translate it directly to modern times… This artful novel keeps to the core of the Jane Austen source material, while allowing the updated story to soar on its own.”
Library Journal

"Jane Austen meets Parks and Rec in this delightful second-chance romance overflowing with heart and small-town charm. With its wonderfully quirky cast of supporting characters, Melodie Edwards’ enchanting reimagining will have readers rooting for Anne to find herself as much as find her way back to Ben—and likely wanting to plan a trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake! The perfect read to cozy up and fall in love with."
—Holly James, author of The Déjà Glitch

"With hilarious supporting characters and satisfying depth... Edwards remains true to the classic while deftly modernizing it, and I loved falling into this fresh, fun story about what happens when you regret letting The One get away."
Sierra Godfrey, author of The Second Chance Hotel
Praise for Jane & Edward

“I adored this book! Jane & Edward is instantly captivating and utterly charming. I found myself smiling (sometimes through tears) from start to finish. This sexy, funny, razor-sharp rom-com is one of the best books I’ve read all year. Melodie Edwards delivers a first-rate, modern take on the classic Jane Eyre, so deliciously romantic that Charlotte Brontë herself would be dazzled.”
Lori Nelson Spielman, New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany
“Razor sharp, wickedly funny, and touchingly poignant...This is an absolute must read!”
Jenn McKinlay, New York Times bestselling author of Summer Reading
"Melodie Edwards’ witty reimagining of Jane Eyre gives us a pitch-perfect protagonist who’s somehow even more endearing than the original. Edwards’ elegant, slyly funny prose makes it so you can’t help but cheer on the pragmatic Jane as she moves through the high-stakes worlds of corporate law and academia, learning to assert her value. Like any classic worth its salt, this book is brimming with heart, characters that stick with you, and smart, timeless insights about life and love."
Ashley Winstead, author of The Boyfriend Candidate

“[T]ruly a masterpiece that will set the bar impossibly high for other future retellings….“[A] beautifully heart-warming and enchanting story destined to be a comfort read for countless bookworms.”
The Nerd Daily

“A jaunty homage to the beloved classic novel.”
Danielle Jackson, author of The Accidental Pinup
"Melodie Edwards delivers the Jane that we’ve all been dying for—a thoroughly modern, pragmatic and droll heroine we can all adore. Set in the savagely funny ecosystem of a storied Toronto law firm, Jane & Edward is a sophisticated, sexy and hilarious retelling that nails the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of workplace relationships and forging your own path in the world."
Jessica Martin, author of For the Love of the Bard
“Masterfully weaves a layered love story between an irresistibly irritable hero and a spirited young woman finding her place. Exquisitely written and full of big emotions, this fresh take on timeless themes is both swoon-worthy and empowering. Just like its resilient heroine, this modern reimagining can stand firmly on its own.”
Holly James, author of Nothing But The Truth
"[P]erfect for Brontë readers or anyone looking for a romance with depth."
—Shelf Awareness

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