Of Noble Family: Glamourist Histories Book 5, by Mary Robinette Kowal – A Review

Of Noble Family Mary Robinette Kowal 2015 x 200I am going to miss Jane and Vincent, Mary Robinette’s heroes in her acclaimed Glamourist Histories series. Of Noble Family is the married couple’s fifth and final adventure set in an alternate Regency Britain enhanced by glamour, the loveliest system of magic I’ve encountered. But while their glamoured displays are often breathtaking, Jane and Vincent have taken ether-based illusions far beyond the ubiquitous drawing room decorations created by accomplished young women. In previous books they’ve found practical, if hair-raising, applications for glamour in the war against Napoleon, the Luddite riots, and an escapade involving pirates on the Mediterranean. For this last story the couple will be off to the Caribbean.

When the book opens, Jane and Vincent have been resting after their harrowing exploits on the Italian Island of Murano and enjoying the company of Jane’s family, especially her sister Melody’s new baby boy, who is already showing a precocious ability to see inside glamoured images. But things don’t stay relaxing for long. Vincent receives a letter from his brother Richard that turns their world upside down.

The first shocking piece of news is that Vincent’s father has died of a stroke at the family estate on the Caribbean island of Antigua. Lord Verbury fled to the island in an earlier book to avoid being imprisoned for treason. Since Vincent was badly abused by his father while growing up, the death wasn’t as upsetting to him as it might be, but the bad news didn’t end there. Upon their father’s death, Vincent’s oldest brother Garland inherited the title Lord Verbury, bought himself a new barouche-landau, and then died when the vehicle overturned on the badly maintained road leading to Lyme Regis. Vincent’s middle brother, Richard, was severely injured in the accident, losing one of his feet. In his letter Richard asks Vincent for a very large favor.

Apparently their father’s most recent will is in Antigua, and it will only be released to one of the sons. Richard’s injuries make it impossible for him to travel right now, so he’s asking Vincent to make the journey and straighten out any problems on the estate that need attention. Jane is completely against it. Why should Vincent go? She’s seen how poisonous anything to do with his father is for Vincent, and Vincent has already disassociated himself from his family by changing his last name.

But Richard has always been kind to Vincent and was just as badly treated by their father himself. Plus, being professional glamourists Jane and Vincent have no possibility of work in Britain for the time being anyway. Beloved Princess Charlotte, daughter of George IV, recently died in childbirth so the country is in mourning for a year and all glamour has been stripped from homes and public places. For these reasons, Vincent decides to help Richard by traveling to Antigua, and Jane of course goes with him, but nothing turns out as they expected. The boat journey across the Atlantic is much more difficult than any water trip they’ve made before, and once they reach the island they discover they’ve been lied to as shocking family secrets begin to come to light.

Of Noble Family is a heart-racingly superb conclusion to the series and includes all the charms I’ve come to expect from Kowal. I love that the books don’t shy away from charged historical issues–here Jane and Vincent are confronting slavery, and grappling with their own prejudices and well-meaning but sometimes short sighted feelings about it–and I love that the stories aren’t set only generally during the Regency period–all the stories take place at specific times, this one during the mourning period for Princess Charlotte.

It continues to be a pleasure to see what happens after an Austen-like happy ending marriage. Jane and Vincent have a strong relationship but it’s not effortlessly wonderful and they have to work at it. Also, Of Noble Family is a richer story than it might have been in other hands because Jane and Vincent aren’t its only heroes. The slave characters practice their own forms of glamour, and act with agency, resource, and intelligence.

My only complaint is the one you’d expect–I wish there was going to be another book. But Kowal wraps everything up in a moving and satisfying way, and there is at least one more thing to look forward to. Kowal always narrates the audio versions of her books, but since Of Noble Family has characters with Caribbean accents this time she has the help of two other readers. I’ve listened to a sample and it’s wonderful, especially Prentice Onayemi’s deep, Mr. Darcy-like interpretation of Vincent’s voice. I’m going to enjoy revisiting the story in audio form.

5 out of 5 Stars

Of Nobel Family: Glamourist Histories Book 5, by Mary Robinette Kowal
Tor Books (2015)
Hardcover, eBook & audiobook (576) pages
ISBN: 978-0765378361

Read Our Previous Reviews of The Galmourist Histories 

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Cover image courtesy of Tor Books © 2015; text Jenny Haggerty © 2015, Austenprose.com

Disclosure of Material Connection: We received one review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. We only review or recommend products we have read or used and believe will be a good match for our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Naxos AudioBooks Narrator Juliet Stevenson Chats with Austenprose

Juliet Stevenson head shot 2I have had the pleasure of listening to and reviewing many of the Naxos AudioBooks classic recordings narrated by a variety of talented British actors, but collectively my favorite readings are those by award winning actress Juliet Stevenson—whose five interpretations of Jane Austen’s novels remain paramount in my personal audio collection.

Awarded the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 1992 and the C.B.E. (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1999, Ms. Stevenson’s vocal talent is deeply rooted in her classical training at RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts) and her time with Royal Shakespeare Company. While a friend boasts of seeing her stage performance of Hedda Gabler in London in 1989, beyond her audio recordings I have only had the pleasure of her film and television career—and that alone could sustain any lover of finely measured and intimate interpretations of human nature. Some of my favorite Stevenson performances are her tormented, grieving Nina in Truly Madly Deeply (1990), a part tailored for her by screenwriter/director Anthony Minghella, her outrageously pompous Mrs. Elton in Emma (1996), Evie in Being Julia (2004), and the Oracle in Atlantis (2013-2015). Everything she touches turns to gold. Continue reading

New Poldark Series to Premiere on Masterpiece PBS on June 21, 2015

Eleanor Tomlinson and Aidan Turner in Poldark 2015

Jane Austen fans, hold on to your bonnets. The new BBC/Masterpiece screen adaptation of Poldark will air on Masterpiece PBS on June 21st, 2015.

Based on the beloved novels by Winston Graham set in 1780’s Cornwall, many period drama fans will be familiar with the first screen adaptation by the BBC and Masterpiece from 1975-77 staring Robin Ellis (Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility 1971). It was a huge hit on both sides of the pond and remains the second most popular drama series only behind the 1995 Pride and Prejudice.

This new eight part series stars Aidan Turner (The Hobbit) as rebellious Captain Ross Poldark and Eleanor Tomlinson (Death Comes to Pemberley) as Demelza, a fiery young street urchin who he employs as a kitchen maid at his estate. Airing since March in the UK to critical and public acclaim, the new series sports a beautiful and talented cast and high quality production. Filled with romantic, passionate drama and swashbuckling action, this new series introduces new viewers to an unique, swoon-worthy hero that will win the respect of fans of the original and the hearts of everyone. Here is a preview for your enjoyment.

Be sure to mark your calendars, follow #PoldarkPBS on Twitter for the latest updates and check back here for reviews of the novels and each episode after they air.

Cheers, Laurel Ann

Image and film clip courtesy of Mammoth Screen Limited for Masterpiece PBS © 2015

The Loner: (The Canyon Club Book 1), by Kate Moore – A Review

The Loner by Kate Moore 2014 x 200From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder:

I’ve always been a sucker for dark and brooding men in romance novels (hello Mr. Darcy!) One trait that seems to go along well with these types of characters is that they are loners in their own right. Yes, they may have friends and family around them, but their internal isolation is the first thing that they must overcome before they take on a new romantic interest. I find this struggle quite interesting, and therefore was excited to read The Loner by Kate Moore, which stars a loner much in the same predicament.

Will Sloan is a loner with a tough upbringing, coming from nothing and making a name for himself. His mother was a waitress and his father was a rodeo cowboy, killed in a tragic accident in the ring. The former scholarship student is now a wealthy tech entrepreneur, with a net worth in the billion dollar plus range. By all conventional accounts he shouldn’t have any shortage of friends, yet he still finds himself adrift amongst the party atmosphere of L.A., while his so-called friends urge him to get out and find Mrs. Right. He decides to attend his high school reunion on a whim in order to get out of this funk, and that’s when it happens: he sees Annie again. Continue reading

A Peculiar Connection: A Pride and Prejudice Alternate Path, by Jan Hahn – A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt

A Peculiar Connection by Jan Hahn 2015 x 200It is pleasure to welcome author Jan Hahn to Austenprose today. Meryton Press has just published her latest Austenesque novel, A Peculiar Connection.  Hahn has written several very popular Pride and Prejudice-inspired books including The Journey and An Arranged Marriage. Here is a brief preview and excerpt for your enjoyment.

DESCRIPTION (from the publisher)

Will a mysterious note from the past doom the love of Jane Austen’s most beloved couple?

A Peculiar Connection begins near the close of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Bent on preventing the engagement of her nephew to Elizabeth Bennet, Lady Catherine de Bourgh declares that any union between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth would be “a sin against Heaven itself!”  Her shocking revelation, along with a cryptic message written over twenty years earlier, thrusts the couple into a whirlwind of heartbreak and disbelief.

Could a deserted mansion in Derbyshire or a small church hidden in the wood hold the key to solving the puzzle?  And why is Elizabeth inexplicably drawn to the portrait of three young boys in Pemberley’s gallery?

Determined to confirm or refute Lady Catherine’s accusation, Darcy and Elizabeth are forced to embark upon a twisted trail into bygone days and family secrets.  All the while, they must endure the exquisite torture of denying the indisputable desire that still hovers between them.

Continue reading

Becoming Lady Lockwood: A Regency Romance, by Jennifer Moore – A Review

Becoming Lady Lockwood by Jennifer Moore 2015 x 200From the desk of Katie Patchell:

While most of Jane Austen’s beloved novels are set in the countryside or resort towns, there is one that stands out from the rest because of its tantalizing glimpses of life at sea: Persuasion. In Jane Austen’s novel, readers discover her own admiration for the daring men in the British Navy with her addition of the remarkable Captain Wentworth into her cast of Regency heroes. Debut author Jennifer Moore follows Jane Austen’s lead by focusing on Navy life during the 1800s in her 2014 Regency romance, Becoming Lady Lockwood, a novel featuring a brave heroine, heroic captain, and the excitement and peril of life on the high seas.

At twenty, Amelia Beckett has happily accepted her sudden widowhood—after all, she’d never met Lord Lawrence Walter Drake, Earl of Lockwood, the man her father had forced her to marry. Amelia expects her life to continue as before; her father, now content, would continue living a debauched lifestyle in London, and she would run the family’s sugarcane plantation in Jamaica, finally free of chaperones and matchmakers. But Amelia’s plans are dashed when her father commands her to travel to London in order to fight for Lord Lawrence Drake’s fortune, and he sends the one man who will fight against her rights in court to pick her up: Captain William Drake, brother to Amelia’s deceased husband, and new Earl of Lockwood. Continue reading