Northland Cottage: Where the Heart Comes Home, by A. P. Maddox – A Review

Northland Cottage, by A. P. Maddox (2012)Review by Jeffrey Ward

Many readers may think a contemporary retelling of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility the ‘lazy way’ to a debut novel.  Just hang everything on the framework of the classic original since Jane Austen did all the work.  Easy? Not!  Can you imagine the adjustment difficulties in making the two-century quantum-leap in technology, societal mores, and the fleshing-out of contemporary characters from the original to author A.P. Maddox’s Northland Cottage?  Let’s find out of it worked…

Having visited both locales myself, I was thrilled the author chose North Carolina for the setting of Northland Cottage because I consider it nearly as romantic a location as Sense and Sensibility’s South Devon, England.

I’d almost forgotten how complex the cast and plot is for Sense and Sensibility but I’ll make a “go” at first introducing the characters in Northland Cottage, then their Sense and Sensibility counterparts in parentheses, followed by a brief plot synopsis.  (Take a deep breath and plunge ahead)

The Hathcocks (Dashwoods) are an old-moneyed traditional southern family whose wealth came from agriculture, textiles and furniture.  Following the death of their father, the Hathcock ladies’ beloved Hamilton Estate (Norland Park) is inherited by Brother Frank (John Dashwood) and his wife Dottie (Fanny Dashwood) who brashly move in and take over.  Dottie makes life miserable for Mrs. Hathcock (Mrs. Dashwood) and daughters Caroline (Elinor), Ashelynn (Marianne), and Maggie (Margaret), who look for a means of escape.  Before they move out, Caroline is introduced to Dottie’s brother Conner Burroughs (Edward Ferrars) and the mutual attraction is instantaneous.  The Hathcock ladies are invited to live in a vacant cottage on their cousin Lloyd Honeycutt’s (Sir John Middleton) Northland Estate near Winston-Salem.  Kindly and generous, Lloyd and his wife Ilene (Lady Middleton) love society and dote upon Sarah and her daughters.  The ladies are introduced to Lloyd’s busybody matchmaking mother-in-law Mrs. Johnson (Mrs. Jennings) and a wealthy close friend, Afghanistan war hero Captain Harrison Lowder (Colonel Brandon).  Despite being much older than Ashelynn, he is immediately smitten by her.  But before he can make a romantic move, Ashelynn injures herself while hiking and is gallantly rescued by handsome young Will Houston. (John Willoughby)  Ashelynn tells her sisters about Will’s advances:

 “He kissed me,” Ashelynn sighed with a dreamy smile…”Aw,” Maggie sighed, enraptured.  “I hope my first kiss will be that wonderful.  How about your first kiss Caroline?  Was yours that wonderful?”  Both sisters looked at Caroline, expecting to be thrilled with another amazing first kiss story…”When or if it ever happens, I’ll let you know.”

Ashelynn is head-over-heels in love, but before they can plan an engagement, Will mysteriously escapes to the city of Charlotte with no further explanation.  Lydia (Lucy Steele), Nancy Anne (Anne) and their parents visit Lloyd at Northland and Caroline is shocked to learn that Lydia is secretly engaged to Conner! No wonder his behavior towards Caroline is so ambivalent.  Scheming Lydia encourages Randall’s (Robert Ferrars) advances at a Halloween masquerade:  

 “Well, you’re a Pirate,” Lydia giggled.  “Why should I trust anything you say?”  “Don’t trust me,” Randall warned with a devious gin.  “My only purpose here tonight must be to steal someone else’s treasure.”

Harrison tries unsuccessfully to keep a family secret from Ashelynn. He has a young ward named Kathryn (Eliza) who has been taken advantage of by Will and is expecting.  Caroline and Ashelynn are invited to attend college in Charlotte and live with Mrs. Johnson.  Will avoids Ashelynn at all costs and Conner seems miserable.  Harrison continues to be a loyal and helpful friend to the Hathcock ladies, but especially to Ashelynn, whose love he fears he will lose to Justin Holliday.  For those of you who have not read Sense and Sensibility, I’ll stop here, for fear of spoiling the original masterpiece because Northland Cottage is that accurately rendered.

A.P. Maddox’s bio reveals she has written for children and young adults and cherishes traditional family values.   The book is thus squeaky clean and returns us to a time not long ago when young people fell in love and actually wanted to (gasp) get married!  The author’s writing style is wholesome and seems aimed squarely at the young adult market.  That shouldn’t put you off one bit because I think Jane Austen herself would heartily approve.  The author’s North Carolina is lush and scenic.  Her updated characters are instantly recognizable.  Finally, after you have enjoyed this timeless romance, you can pass it down to your daughter or even granddaughter with complete confidence in its appropriateness.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Northland Cottage: Where the Heart Comes Home, by A.P. Maddox
Brighton Publishing LLC (2012)
eBook (293) pages
NOOK: 2940014225779
Kindle: B007RO91LG

Jeffrey Ward, 65, native San Franciscan living near Atlanta, married 40 years, two adult children, six grandchildren, Vietnam Veteran, degree in Communications from the University of Washington, and presently a Facilitator/designer for the world’s largest regional airline.  His love affair with Miss Austen began about 3 years ago when, out of boredom, he picked up his daughter’s dusty college copy of Emma and he was “off to the races.”

© 2007 – 2012 Jeffrey Ward, Austenprose

19 thoughts on “Northland Cottage: Where the Heart Comes Home, by A. P. Maddox – A Review

  1. Whoops! A couple of clarifying comments on my review: Justin Holliday is the ONLY character not in JA’s original S & S and acts as a kind of ‘foil’ to Capt Harrison Lowder (Brandon). Also, Randall Burroughs is none other than Robert Ferrars so the quote of him with Lydia (Lucy Steele) should now make more sense! My sincere apologies for the minor vagueness….

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  2. Thanks, Jeffrey, for the review.

    You’re right, rewriting Austen as contemporary fiction is no easy task! Kudos to Ms Maddox for crafting an Austen story that can be enjoyed by all women.

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    • “all women?” Check that. I’m on a personal mission to at least get some of the men/boys to read some Jane Austen and Austen-inspired lit also. Men should be secure enough in their sexual identity to unashamedly get lost in a good old-fashioned romance, don’t you think? It is an uphill struggle…

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      • I wholeheartedly agree Jeffrey. When I read JA I feel as though her stories are inspiring me as to what manner of woman I ought to be. If men/young men read JA and were inspired to be more like Darcy, Wentworth, Brandon, Knightly, etc.; I believe the world could only be improved.

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  3. Thank you so much Jeffrey for you kind and generous review! I’m delighted you enjoyed reading Northland Cottage and I’m thrilled you’ve recommended it to the Austenprose followers. I truly hope everyone will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
    Thank you Laura for the kudos. I have two young daughters of my own and wanted to write something they could read and feel good about.

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  4. Ha, Jeffrey, you are RIGHT !! I stand corrected.

    I have had many guys as readers—shame on me for not remembering this! —though my publisher’s choice of the PINK COVER has been a test of True Manhood.

    My post-college-age son failed this test, though he devoured the books. I gave him print copies, but he downloaded an app in order to read them on his phone. You’re right, Secure Men read romance.

    Thanks for the smiles, Jeffrey!

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  5. FYI….My 12 year old granddaughter is putting us all to shame! She just finished Northland Cottage in FOUR hours. She says it has greatly increased her understanding of Jane Austen’s original Sense and Sensibility which she is struggling with. There you go, dear readers….an ideal story for your daughters and granddaughters!

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    • How very glad I am to hear that her reading of Northland Cottage increased her understanding of the original; for such was one of my original reasons for beginning the project. The other of course being that I was never fully satisfied with Marianne and Brandon’s ending; I’ll leave it at that. ;-)

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