The Darcy Brothers, by Monica Fairview, Maria Grace, Cassandra Grafton, Susan Mason-Milks and Abigail Reynolds – A Review

The Darcy Brothers by Monica Fairview, Maria Grace, Cassandra Grafton, Susan Mason-Milks and Abigail ReynoldsFrom the desk of Monica Perry:

When I first heard that some of the authors from austenvariations.com were planning a Pride and Prejudice: Readers’ Choice collaborative story wherein Mr. Darcy had a younger brother, I was all excited curiosity–a story with two Mr. Darcys?  Yes, please! Would Mr. Theophilus Darcy be strong and stoic like his elder brother, a model of amiability like Mr. Bingley, or perhaps more of a rakish Mr. Wickham? Participating in the Readers’ Choice voting each week and having so much interaction with the writers was great fun, and I was eager to read this published version of The Darcy Brothers.  Monica Fairview, Maria Grace, Cassandra Grafton, Susan Mason-Milks, and Abigail Reynolds are authors whose works I’d read and loved in the past, and The Darcy Brothers was no exception.

From the very first page, as Theo and Fitzwilliam Darcy reluctantly make their way to Rosings Park for Easter, we see the way they typically interact (read: Theo pushes Darcy’s buttons and Darcy gets his trousers in a twist). In the wake of childhood tragedy and the more recent near-elopement of their young sister Georgiana with Theo’s friend Mr. Wickham, their relationship is strained and they’ve all but given up on getting along. Darcy is dismissive and distrustful of Theo, and Theo delights in vexing him because he knows he’ll never live up to Darcy’s impeccable standards anyway. When Theo makes the acquaintance of the charming Miss Elizabeth Bennet they form an easy friendship, and Darcy begins to feel that twisting sensation again, a little nearer his chest this time. Each brother’s affection for Elizabeth is noted by the other and although they don’t see eye to eye, each wants the other to be happy. How far would a Darcy go to make it happen, even if it goes against his heart’s desire?  Bargains are struck and along with some meddling assistance from Georgiana, Anne de Bourgh and Colonel Fitzwilliam, and a surprising series of events at Rosings, Darcy and Theo begin to see themselves, and each other, in a different way. Darcy realizes he has underestimated Theo, withheld the praise and affection a younger sibling craves, and used him as an easy scapegoat; likewise, Theo sees he’s had a childish understanding of Darcy’s responsibilities as heir. Can they overcome their pride and start again, and will it last?

“How did one respond when the world no longer obeyed its natural order? The sky was blue, the grass green and his brother angry.  That was the way of things. Was it possible for such truths to change?”

Theo Darcy is a wonderful original character and I loved getting to know him not only as a foil for Darcy, but as a fleshed out person in his own right. We see him diligently applying his profession as a bewigged barrister (I’m going to go out on a limb here and say probably the cutest one ever) and a protégé of the famous Mr. Garrow, kicking back as men do with his best friend, Sir Montgomery Preston, and happily encouraging his sister’s most unladylike interests. Sir Monty is also a delightful addition and is hilarious alongside the new and debate-ably improved Anne de Bourgh!

I feel the authors did a marvelous job of making the book cohesive and seamless. Picking up writing a chapter where another author left off, while limited to the plot dictated by readers cannot be easy.  As I was reading, I found myself attempting to remember or identify which author wrote which parts, and I couldn’t do it. The poignant moments and witty banter were both well done. Elizabeth’s humor in particular was delightful. There was quite a bit of action taking place in a short period of time: illness and injury, a compromising situation and elopement, comings and goings between Kent and London, and even a cat fight or two at Rosings. Had it been only Darcy there to clean up all the chaos I’d have thought it way too much to be plausible, but there were others there to divide and conquer. As someone who takes particular interest in social psychology (or in other words, is diverted by the “follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies of others”), I personally loved the dynamics of the Darcy’s relationship, and seeing how one traumatic event can shape the lives of siblings with different personality types.

I generally don’t have a problem with compromising situations, but I found myself a little upset by it here. I felt every ounce of sympathetic mortification on the couple’s behalf, and that their being set up interfered with the natural progression that the characters needed to make. Though, who knows what would’ve happened without it – readers could’ve had one elderly couple on their hands, still tiptoeing around and no closer to a resolution! Darcy and Elizabeth’s romance does share page time, but since the story is entitled The Darcy Brothers, and most of the action was decided by the readers, it’s difficult to begrudge the authors anything, nor would I wish to do so.

Overall, I’d give The Darcy Brothers 4.5 stars, and highly recommend it to anyone who loves delightful, character-rich Austenesque fiction. I think readers would be hard-pressed not to love Theo!

4.5 out of 5 Stars

The Darcy Brothers, by Monica Fairview, Maria Grace, Cassandra Grafton, Susan Mason-Milks and Abigail Reynolds
White Soup Press (2015)
Trade paperback and eBook (398) pages
ISBN: 978-0692370308

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound | Goodreads 

Additional Reviews:

Cover image courtesy of White Soup Press © 2015; text Monica Perry © 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.”

How to Be a Heroine: Or, What I’ve Learned from Reading too Much, by Samantha Ellis – A Review

How To Be A Heronie, by Smantha Ellis 2015 x 200From the desk of Jenny Haggerty:

Those who don’t enjoy reading may assume it’s a solitary activity, and they’d be partly correct because page turning (physical or virtual) is usually done alone. But we literature lovers crave community as much as any social animal. It’s why we join book clubs and haunt web sites like Goodreads, BookLikes, and of course Austenprose. We love to connect with other readers to share passions, recount experiences, and exchange opinions about books. And reading about reading is an irresistible meta-pleasure that’s almost as fun as getting lost in a novel. For all these reasons Samantha Ellis’s, How to Be a Heroine: Or, What I’ve Learned from Reading too Much piqued my interest.

Her book opens on the Yorkshire Moors with Ellis and her best friend arguing about which Brontë heroine they’d rather be, Jane Eyre or Cathy Earnshaw. Ellis made what to her was the obvious choice: passionate, gorgeous Cathy. Cathy had been her role model since first reading Wuthering Heights at twelve, and Jane had always seemed too stoic, virtuous, and, well, plain to her. But Ellis’s friend shocked her by disagreeing. Jane Eyre from is independent, her friend pointed out. Jane doesn’t suffer fools and she sticks to her principals. Her friend thought Cathy looked silly–always weeping and wailing, and marrying a rich boy because she’s a snob even though she claims to love Heathcliff. “Why not just not marry the wrong man?” Ellis’s friend asked her. Continue reading

The Second Chance: A Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility Variation, by Joana Starnes – A Review

The Second Chance by Joana Starnes 2014 x 200From the desk of Christina Boyd:

In this wild, wild west of the new publishing world, we are seeing more books being published and through many different avenues. No longer are traditional publishers the only way to get a book into the hands of readers as there are smaller independent presses, hybrid publishers and many self-publishing resources. In the past, I have been an unabashed on-line Jane Austen fan fiction reader. During the height of my on-line Jane Austen fan fiction (JAFF) addiction, I might have followed anywhere from 10 to 15 works-in-progress (WIPs) at various on-line sites. Anything from continuations (a story that continues after the original novel ends), alternative universe (a story when the author deviates from the original canon and creates events to effect a different action) and even crossovers (a fan fiction integrating characters and places from another story source). But I must confess, as many of these on-line authors have taken their stories to the next step and even stepped away from posting their new works on-line, I too have transferred my reading of on-line fan fiction to my e-reader by purchasing the published works and even adding the bound books to my collection.

One rainy day in December, I found myself reading in my pajamas all day author Joana Starnes’ newly released “The Falmouth Connection”. I was instantly engaged by the unexpected, surprisingly smart, and innovative handling of “Pride and Prejudice” in a very alternate universe where Elizabeth becomes an heiress to a fine fortune. Therefore, when Laurel Ann, our blogmistress, asked if I would be interested in reading Starnes “The Second Chance: A ‘Pride & Prejudice – ‘Sense & Sensibility Variation’ ” for review, how could I not jump at the chance! Continue reading

For Elise, by Sarah M. Eden – A Review

For Elise by Sarah Eden 2014 x 200From the desk of Katie Patchell:

Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot’s romance in Jane Austen’s Persuasion is one of the most captivating in classic literature. Opinion varies as to what it is that makes their romance so satisfying, but something almost all fans of Persuasion can agree with is the complete beauty that is found when a hero and heroine, after long separation and opposition, discover that the time apart has done nothing to lessen the strength of their affection. Sarah M. Eden follows this timeless pattern in her latest Regency romance, For Elise, but unlike in Persuasion, the hero and heroine do not face a father’s disapproval or society’s disappointment—they face a murderer.

It is the spring of 1815, and Miles Linwood, recently returned from the West Indies, cannot pass a day without being haunted by memories of his carefree childhood friend and neighbor, Elise. Four years previously a tragedy had shattered both of their lives, leaving them to cope as they always did: together. A few weeks later and with no explanation Elise left Miles’ estate, vanishing without a trace—until four years later, when Miles catches a glimpse of familiar brown curls and Elise’s peculiar blue eyes in a small town. Miles is overjoyed to discover his best friend, but Elise is drastically altered from who she used to be, and is now hostile and untrusting, particularly towards Miles. Continue reading

The Muse: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Jessica Evans – A Review

The Muse by Jessica Evans 2014 x 200From the desk of Lisa Galek:

When most people think of Jane Austen, they probably don’t think of ballet. I know I certainly didn’t. That was until I read The Muse. With her contemporary reimagining of Pride and Prejudice, Jessica Evans proves that the demanding and competitive world of a professional ballet company is exactly the place where you might find a modern Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy.

Elizabeth Bennet is a young dancer at the Ballet Theater of New York. While Elizabeth might not have her sister Jane’s perfect technique or ideal body, she still dreams of rising up the ranks to one day become a star. That’s why she’s thrilled when she finds out that she’s been cast in an upcoming ballet by former superstar dancer and legendary choreographer, William Darcy.

But, when Elizabeth finally meets Darcy, he’s not what she imagined at all. Sure, Darcy is immensely talented (and incredibly dreamy), but he’s also arrogant, abrasive, and dismissive in rehearsals. When Darcy asks Elizabeth for help as he choreographs, she grows to dislike him even more. What Elizabeth doesn’t realize is how much she’s inspiring Darcy as he creates. He’s finally found his muse. Continue reading

Life in an Eighteenth Century Country House, by Peter and Carolyn Hammond – A Review

Life in a Eighteenth Century Country House Peter and Carolyn Hammond x 200From the desk of Tracy Hickman:

The Grove was a large country house and estate in Chiswick, England owned by Humphrey Morice, the son a highly successful London merchant and slave trader. Morice was an animal lover, and in contrast to the common practices of his day, did not destroy animals that were unable to work any longer. He kept a number of horses, dogs, and other animals at Grove House, causing many of his contemporaries to consider him an eccentric.

The main attraction of Life in an Eighteenth Century Country House is the series of letters written by head groom Will Bishop to Morice during his stay in Italy from 1782-1785. Bishop wrote regularly to his employer, sending detailed accounts of all the bills for the house and stables for Morice’s approval. This was unusual, as most estate owners employed a “man of business” to handle these matters. As head groom, Bishop was mostly concerned with the welfare of the animals of the estate and wrote extensively about them, especially those that were unwell. He also kept Morice abreast of the personal lives of the staff, recounting their illnesses and conflicts with other workers, as well as general news about local people Morice would have known. One of my favorites was the “he said, she said” battle in the kitchen between the cook and stable lads: Continue reading

Pride, Prejudice and Secrets by C. P. Odom – A Review

Pride Prejudice and Secrets Odom 2014 x 200From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder

Last year I had the pleasure of being introduced to Jane Austen fan fiction author C. P. Odom via his novel Consequences. His writing invoked deep feelings, as he was able to draw me in completely to his story. He had me fully enveloped in his characters and their lives, which resulted in Consequences being one of my favorite reads of 2014. When I heard about his latest “what-if” novel, Pride, Prejudice and Secrets, I immediately began searching for a way to receive a review copy.

Secrets tells the tale of our beloved Lizzie and Darcy in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, although it’s Elizabeth now instead of Jane who falls ill in an untimely manner. Darcy has just worked up the courage to deliver an ill-conceived and prideful offer of marriage, and Elizabeth, still in a haze and unsteady from sickness, accepts his offer. When she fully recovers from her ailments, however, she is mortified to learn that she is betrothed to “the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.” Not only this, but all of society has become accustomed to the prospect, so for her to break off said engagement would be the equivalent of social banishment, not to mention the effect it would have on her unmarried sisters. How, then, is she to avoid this unfortunate misunderstanding and escape with her and Darcy’s pride unharmed? She has to use every ounce of her sharp wit and captivating personality to pull off this accomplishment. Will she be forced to remain with Darcy or will she be able to extract herself with her reputation intact? Continue reading

Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Covers, by Margret C. Sullivan – A Review

Jane Austen Cover to Cover Margaret Sullivan 2014 x 400

From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder:

In my opinion, the true sign of loving a book is owning multiple copies and versions of it. For example, I myself own six different copies of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. Over the years, I’ve found annotated versions, paperbacks, hardcovers, illustrated, vintage, and many other types of printings. I enjoy collecting different copies to compare covers, prefaces, introductions, and illustrations (if they have them.) I love finding new and used bookstores and scouring the shelves for new copies of my favorite books. As a collector will tell you, you can never have enough. I was therefore understandably excited to receive a copy of Jane Austen Cover to Cover by Margret Sullivan, which is a great companion for any Austen collector. Continue reading

The Vagabond Vicar, by Charlotte Brentwood – A Review

Vagabond Vicar Charlotte Brentwood 2014 x 200From the desk of Katie Patchell

A young vicar trapped in a country village, dreaming of exotic lands. A woman pressured to marry the next eligible gentleman that comes along, yet yearning for freedom and true love. Whether or not the hero and heroine attain their dreams can be discovered in Charlotte Brentwood’s 2014 debut, The Vagabond Vicar, a traditional Regency novel containing romance, danger, and just a little bit of small-town gossip.

William Brook dreams of experiencing adventure and saving lives as a missionary to lands far away from English shores. When he receives a summons from the Dean of St. Mary’s, William expects his dreams to be realized, but within five minutes all his hopes are dashed: rather than the difficult but meaningful life of a missionary, he has been given the title of vicar and a safe living in pastoral Shropshire, England. On arriving in the small village of Amberley, William views the peaceful fields, chattering busybodies, and pushy mothers of single daughters with dread. When he first meets the lovely Miss Grant, he expects her to be a husband-hunting gossip, but on closer acquaintance, William discovers that she is the most intriguing and perceptive woman he has ever met. But his past experiences of love and friendship have trained him to reject what is bound to only hurt him in the end. Continue reading

In Her Own Hand: Volume the First, Volume the Second, and Volume the Third, by Jane Austen, introduction by Kathryn Sutherland – A Review

In Her Own Hand 2014 x 200From the desk of Tracy Hickman:

The first time I read a collection of Jane Austen’s juvenilia, I remember relishing the sheer fun and silliness of the stories and plays. It was a slender paperback that included transcriptions of selected works from the original notebooks written from 1787 to 1793. These handwritten notebooks had circulated within Austen’s family during her lifetime and were later given to family members by her sister Cassandra, but the stories were not published until the twentieth-century. Because none of Austen’s six completed and published novels exist in manuscript form, these early notebooks are rare examples of her fiction that have survived intact “in her own hand” and reside in the collections of the Bodleian Library, Oxford (Volume the First) and the British Library (Volume the Second and Volume the Third).

The three-volume set, In Her Own Hand, gives Austen fans the opportunity to read Jane’s handwriting in facsimile pages that match the size of the original notebooks, the color of the paper, and the brown-black iron gall ink that Austen used. Inkblots, smudges, and revisions pepper the pages, giving the reader a glimpse into Austen’s early creative process. When faced with deciphering a difficult word or phrase, text transcriptions by Austen scholar Robert W. Chapman provide a handy reference. Each volume contains an introduction by Professor Kathryn Sutherland that places the writings in context and highlights important aspects of the stories and sketches such as their chronology and how they relate to later Austen works. As Sutherland points out, these notebooks were not Jane Austen’s private journals but rather “confidential publications” that were “intended and crafted for circulation among family and friends.” (6) Continue reading

The Secret of Pembrooke Park, by Julie Klassen – A Review

The Secret at Pembrooke Park, by Julie Klassen 2014 x 200From the desk of Katie Patchell:

A manor filled with secrets, frozen in time. Rumors of hidden treasure. Whispers of murder. Stubbornly silent local residents. One newly arrived and extremely curious heroine, a young woman who will stop at nothing to discover the secrets of Pembrooke Park. Whether or not the heroine prevails can be discovered in Julie Klassen’s latest Regency novel, The Secret of Pembrooke Park, a novel which delves into the darkness that resides in all human souls.

At the age of twenty-two, Abigail Foster believes that her future is secure: after building the house that she and her childhood friend, Gilbert Scott, designed, he will propose, Abigail will say yes, and they will happily spend the rest of their lives together. But when Abigail witnesses a loving interaction between her younger sister, Louisa, and Gilbert, she realizes that her dreams may never become a reality. With her father’s shocking news of a failed investment and significant loss of wealth, Abigail begins her search for a small place in the country for her family to reside, and is stunned by the generous offer given by a mysterious solicitor on behalf of an unknown distant relation: to live in Pembrooke Park, a manor that has been uninhabited for eighteen years. When Abigail arrives at the large country manor house, she opens the front door to an eerie sight—everything inside had been left in a state of disarray, preserved as if the last residents had suddenly fled. Continue reading

Persuasion, Captain Wentworth, and Cracklin’ Cornbread by Mary Jane Hathaway – A Review

Persuasion Captain Wentworth and Craklin' Cornbread x 200From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder:

Mary Jane Hathaway’s Jane Austen Takes the South series has a new addition. Persuasion, Captain Wentworth, and Cracklin’ Cornbread was just released last month and follows Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits, and Emma, Mr. Knightley and Chili-Slaw Dogs. Readers should not worry if they haven’t read the other two novels in the series. Each book can be read as a stand-alone. The title was enough to pique my interest. I’m always a fan of Persuasion retellings (in my opinion, there aren’t enough of them.) So, it seemed like a forgone conclusion that I would quickly turn the pages of this read, and discover a new (to me) author.

Every community has some well-renowned and connected families that are integrated into the local history and fabric of the area. One of these families is the Crawfords, a wealthy, respected family from Brice’s Crossroads, Mississippi. One of the Crawford daughters, Lucy, has recently felt the respect of her family wane slightly as her mother’s death throws the family estate into disrepair and her father’s debts become public knowledge. Terrified that she may be forced to sell the family mansion in all its former beauty, Lucy is intrigued to learn from her Aunt Olympia that there may be a way to save the property. A local medical clinic has been looking for a larger space for their practice, and the Crawford mansion would be a perfect new home for the organization. The only problem, however, is that one of the clinic doctors is Lucy’s high school sweetheart and first love, Jeremiah Chevy. Jeremiah and Lucy had a tumultuous history due to Jeremiah’s family and upbringing, which led to their break-up despite her strong feelings for him. Ten years later, Jeremiah is again in Lucy’s life, now a charming doctor who is the envy of all the other ladies in town. Will she be able to get him to forgive her past actions and see if their old flame can be re-ignited? Continue reading