Pride’s Prejudice: A Novel, by Misty Dawn Pulsipher – A Review

Pride's Prejudice by Misty Dawn Pulispher 2014 x 200From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder:

We all make first impressions. Every time we meet a stranger we immediately form an initial opinion, whether it be good, bad, objective, subjective, or any other form. Sometimes, after meeting this person, his/her actions fall so far opposite to your initial impression that it simply astounds you. I myself am guilty of developing a wrong first impression. When I first met my husband, I felt he was a bit odd. Yet here we are, still blissfully happy after 9 years! Anyway, back to wrong first impressions. Such was the case with Beth Pride in Pride’s Prejudice by Misty Dawn Pulsipher, who after seeing a handsome man at a benefit auction soon realized he was in fact an arrogant and selfish idiot. Does her original assessment do William Darcy justice? First, some backstory:

At the Hartford College Children’s Benefit Auction, a chance to dance with Beth, along with other women in attendance, is auctioned off. Dejected after no one bids on her, her hopes are lifted when Darcy steps forward, only to be crushed shortly thereafter when he pays the bid and leaves her, telling her he only felt sorry for her. She then decides to never speak to this man again, but sadly her plans are foiled when her roommate Jenna begins to date Darcy’s best friend, Les. While they are again thrust into each other’s company, Beth continues to try and keep up her hatred of Darcy, but his looks and surprising banter make a serious attempt at breaking down that wall. She begins to rethink her original assessment of Darcy, but doesn’t want to fall for this handsome man a second time without seriously thinking it through. Will Beth’s pride (no pun intended) keep her from letting her true feelings out, or can she learn to trust this man who she up until recently has sworn off?

When I first started reading this novel, the writing voice was a bit odd. The book changes tenses from using pronouns to describe the characters to using their names. After a few chapters, however, this change seemed to be for the better and became permanent, and I began to become more involved in the story. One of my favorite aspects of Pulsipher’s story is that she was able to take events that would be difficult to translate now (i.e. Jane can’t leave Netherfield Park due to her cold) and believably contemporize them. For example, the above storyline turned into a sprained ankle on a camping trip that kept all of the characters in a centralized location due to a mudslide on a mountain.

While there were editing issues (namely continuity) I really enjoyed the work as a whole and got really involved in William & Beth and Les & Jenna’s stories. Darcy wins the prize at being my favorite character of the novel because of his snark. He knows that he doesn’t have a shot at getting Beth’s attention by normal means, so he decides to try and win her by alternative means:

“Dude.” Les said in an accusatory tone. “You’re shooting yourself in the foot.”

“Nope,” William said in a firm tone, swigging his water generously. “I’m coming in at an angle.”

“You honestly think she’s ever going to like you if you keep this up?”

“I’m not into the ‘liking’ phase of my plan yet. Right now I’m on ‘getting her attention even if it’s negative.’”

“She’s going to hate you,” Les said candidly.

“She already does. But love and hate have a common denominator: passion.” (67-68)

Additionally, it should be noted that this is a very clean story, with no premarital sex as the characters don’t believe in it. I thought that this was interesting considering the more modern trends in today’s literature. It’s not often that you read a story centered around 20-somethings that share such views. I’ve read other stories like this that rang as unbelievable and difficult for me to enjoy, but Pulsipher deserves kudos for implementing it in a realistic fashion. I won’t reveal why Darcy feels the way he feels as it is a major spoiler, but it makes his lifestyle choice believable, understandable, and downright chivalrous. If you’re in the mood for an engaging contemporary version of Pride and Prejudice, give Pride’s Prejudice a try this summer.

3 out of 5 Stars

Pride’s Prejudice: A Novel, by Misty Dawn Pulsipher
CreateSpace (2013)
Trade paperback (312) pages
ISBN: 978-1484917848

Additional Reviews:

Cover image courtesy of CreateSpace © 2013; text Kimberly Denny-Ryder © 2014, 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.

Once Upon a Second Chance, by Marian Vere – A Review

One Upon a Second Chance by Marian Vere 2012 x 200From the desk of Lisa Galek:

Little girls grow up on fairy tales. From a young age we’re inundated with stories about handsome princes who ride in on their white horses and sweep heroines off their feet. Everyone wants that happy ending. But, what if Prince Charming came by and you missed him? In Once Upon a Second Chance, Marian Vere explores what happens to a heroine after she lets her happily-ever-after slip through her fingers.

Ever since she was a little girl, Julia Basham dreamed of finding the guy of her dreams. When she meets Nick Kerkley, a college dropout with big plans for starting his own tech business, she thinks he might be the one. After a whirlwind romance, Nick pops the question and Julia finally sees a happily-ever-after in her future. Her older sister, Lisa, is less thrilled. Lisa convinces Julia to break off their engagement, which also breaks Nick’s heart. The two part ways, but Julia convinces herself that it’s for the best.

Fast forward eight years. Julia’s dreams haven’t exactly come true. She works as a secretary for a financial consulting firm and still has yet to stumble across “the one.” Nick, on the other hand, is doing pretty well. The tech company he started has made him big money. 17.7 billion dollars to be exact. When Julia’s firm takes Nick on as a new client, she’s forced to come face to face with her biggest regret. Julia realizes that she let the love of her life get away all those years ago. Will she let it happen again? Or is it time for a second chance?

Once Upon a Second Chance is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, but with a few little twists. Sure, it’s updated and told from the point of view of a modern day woman living in New York City, but the author also sneaks in some fun references to folk tales and fantasy. Julia keeps waiting for a fairy godmother to come take her hand and make her world magically better, but, sadly, that’s just not in the cards for her.

Julia is actually a really interesting character. Part of her emotional journey—like Anne Elliot’s—is discovering her inner strength, though there were times when I wished she would just figure it out already. Julia spends a whole lot of time and energy (and internal monologues) freaking out about Nick. She panics when he becomes a client for her firm. She panics when he walks into a room. She panics when he looks at her. And she panics when she even thinks about talking to him. It was a bit much at times.

Even though Julia could be overwhelming, the romance between her and Nick was really well developed and enjoyable. We get to see some flashbacks of their life together, how they met, and how things ended so badly between them. The moments that they shared in the present were pretty magical, too. Even when it was just a stolen glance across a room, I was getting butterflies in my stomach. I truly wanted these two crazy kids to just kiss and live happily-ever-after.

The story trimmed some of the subplots from Persuasion and simplified a lot. Mr. Elliot makes a brief appearance, but he doesn’t pose much danger to Julia. Lisa is obviously a variation on Lady Russell and Julia’s best friend and co-worker, Bree, has a bit of Louisa Musgrove in her. None of these characters feels as weighty or important as they did in the original. Julia and Nick are the main focus here and everyone else just seems to orbit around them. I didn’t mind much because the romance was so good, but the story did lose a bit of the complexity by slimming down these minor characters.

In the end, the novel really does pull off its goal. Not only is it a fun romance, but it’s a great critique of the ways that women are taught to be passive. Sometimes we’re told to ignore our instincts and listen to other people’s judgment. Other times we hear that we should just wait around for love and life to just happen to us. Julia has to learn to take charge of her own life and to figure out that she’s the only one with the power to make her dreams come true. No Fairy Godmothers necessary.

Once Upon a Second Chance is a light, bright, sparkling read. It’s well-written, funny, and very romantic, but it also has some interesting things to say about life and love. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

4.5 out of 5 Stars

Once Upon a Second Chance, by Marian Vere
Omnific Publishing (2012)
Trade paperback (210) pages
ISBN: 978-1623429157

Cover image courtesy of Omnific Publishing © 2012; Text Lisa Galek © 2014, Austenprose.com 

Disclosure of Material Connection: The reviewer purchased a copy of this book. 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.”

Passionate Persuasion: A Date by Mistake Novella, by Rosemary Clement-Moore – A review

Passionate Persusion Clement Moore 2014 x 200From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder:

Perhaps one of the most relatable parts of any book is heartbreak. Most of us have experienced it, and it leaves one with such sorrow and sadness that won’t soon be forgotten. Such is what makes the story between Anne and Frederick in Jane Austen’s Persuasion so riveting. When considering a modern retelling of this story, why not try and imagine it from a flipped perspective, with the man doing the heartbreaking and the woman being wooed. Such is the case with Rosemary Clement-Moore’s Passionate Persuasion, where we meet Alex and Kiara, an everyday couple who experience their own version of heartbreak and rekindled affections.

Alex and Kiara have a past not unlike many couples in today’s society. After having dated for a while in college, Alex unexpectedly and suddenly ended their relationship, and the two drift apart, losing contact after graduation. Nothing about this past is extraordinary, except for the fact that it all comes roaring back eight years later, after Kiara and Alex meet again at what Kiara thought was supposed to be a blind date at a bar. While trying to compose herself from the shock of seeing Alex after so much time has passed, Kiara has to try even harder to maintain her composure after she realizes Alex is coming on to her with no reservations. Will drudging up old emotions bring back the fire of their relationship, or is it destined to bring up the pain of their breakup all over again?

So what roped me into this novella was definitely the character of Kiara (Anne Elliot.) She’s pretty badass and snarky from the moment we first meet her. Having gone through heartbreak myself, I could totally relate to how she built walls up around her heart for protective purposes.  From the moment that Kiara and Alex meet again, the dialogue filled with snark and double-entendres was both hot and hysterical at the same time. Alex has a great way of interjecting statements into their dialogue that forces Kiara to realize that he knows her and to remember what she was like before all those walls were erected. A great example of this was this particular exchange between Alex and Kiara:

“Well, I wouldn’t say it to just anyone,” he said, leaning an elbow on the bar. “We have history.”

Ancient history,” she hissed, with a glance to assure herself that it only felt like everyone was staring. No one in the busy bar was actually paying attention.

Alex gave an innocent shrug, “If you’re going to sit there all ice maiden, I’m going to remind you that I know you’re not.”

She blushed even deeper, feeling gauche and young again, feeling – heaven help her – the ghost of arousals past. “By reminding me you’re a Neanderthal?” (8)

What was most enjoyable to me was that everything was based in modern reality. In a lot of relationships today you meet someone at a younger age, and you’re both not in the correct mindset and don’t possess the correct maturity level to deal with the emotions you’re experiencing. Once you get older and you do have the experience to fully form your expectations of a relationship, it’s much easier to immediately fall into a deep and fulfilling relationship, just as Alex and Kiara do. It’s realistic because both of them have had the time to develop their own needs and therefore they’re able to communicate better and hit the ground running. Overall, Passionate Persuasion, like Jane Austen’s Persuasion, is filled with sharp dialogue and two very likeable and realistic characters which will have you finishing this 65-page novella in a heartbeat.

4 out of 5 Stars

Passionate Persuasion: A Date by Mistake Novella, by Rosemary Clement-Moore
Entangled: Indulgence (2014)
Digital eBook (65) pages
ASIN: B00IHCJ5U4

Cover image courtesy of Entangled Indulgence © 2014; text Kimberly Denny-Ryder © 2014, Austenprose.com

Disclosure of Material Connection: The reviewer purchased a copy of this book. 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.”

Northanger Abbey: The Austen Project, by Val McDermid – A Review

Northanger Abbey Austen Project Val McDermid 2014 x 200From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:

In the second installment of The Austen Project, bestselling Scottish crime writer Val McDermid takes a stab at a contemporary reimagining of Jane Austen’s most under-appreciated novel, Northanger Abbey. Written in the late 1790’s when Austen was a fledgling writer, this Gothic parody about young heroine Catherine Morland’s first experiences in Bath society and her romance with the dishy hero Henry Tilney is one of my favorite Austen novels. Fresh and funny, the writing style is not as accomplished as her later works but no one can dismiss the quality of Austen’s witty dialogue nor her gentle joke at the melodramatic Gothic fiction so popular in her day. I was encouraged by the choice of McDermid as author and intrigued to see how she would transport the story into the 21st century.

Our modern heroine, sixteen-year-old Cat Morland, is a vicar’s daughter living a rather disappointing life in the Piddle Valley of Dorset. Her mother and father seldom argued and never fought, and her siblings were so average she despaired of ever discovering any dark family secrets to add excitement to her life. Homeschooled, she can’t comprehend history or French or algebra, but delights in reading to fuel her vivid imagination, favoring ghost stories, zombie and vampire tales. After years of exploring the narrow confines of her home turf she craves adventure abroad. Rich neighbors Susie and Andrew Allen come to her rescue by inviting her to travel with them and attend the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland where Cat “is in her element, seeing potential for terror and adventure around every twist and turn of the narrow streets.”

Introduced to theater, art and books, and thanks to fashionista Mrs. Allen, Cat soon acquires a new wardrobe and dancing lessons where she partners with a charming and witty young attorney, Henry Tilney. After researching Henry on Facebook and Google she discovers that his father is the much-decorated general who made his name in the Falkland’s war before she was born. Even more interesting to Cat’s Gothic infused imagination, he owns Northanger Abbey, a medieval Borders abbey in Scotland. Cat also meets Mrs. Allen’s long-lost school friend Martha Thorpe and her three daughters, one of which is just Cat’s age. Bella, who recognizes the Morland last name, knows Cat’s elder brother Jamie who is attending Oxford with her brother Johnny. Before long they were “gossiping about the things that entertain young women of a certain age and type,” and becoming bff’s.

Blowhard Johnny Thorpe arrives in his racy red sports car with friend James Morland in tow. He attempts to court Cat but all she can think of is Henry and his sister Ellie. When Cat attends a céilidh, she anticipates dancing the Highland fling and hopes to encounter Henry Tilney again, who will surely save her from the unwanted attentions of crude Johnny Thorpe. As she and Bella scout the room they notice a beautiful, pale young woman dressed all in white:

“Who on earth was that?” Bella asked, “She acts like she’s in Pride and Prejudice.”

“That’s Henry Tilney’s sister Ellie.” Cat stared after the disappearing figure. There was something about Ellie, something out of time and out of style, like there would be if you were a two-hundred-year old vampire, she thought with a mixture of dread and delight.”

The story continues, mirroring the text of Northanger Abbey page for page, and scene for scene. Cat travels to Northanger Abbey as guest of the Tilney’s and the story turns Gothic and mysterious – just as Austen had devised.

McDermid made clever, creative and sensible choices in modernizing Northanger Abbey by moving the action from England to Scotland. The Edinburgh Festival easily replaces eighteenth century Georgian Bath allowing for a social hub similar in context: theater, shopping and country dancing. Later, we are treated to a really creepy medieval setting for a Scottish castle/Northanger Abbey. Cat is appropriately addicted to modern Gothic novels rivaling the famous Northanger Canon: Herbridean Harpies, Ghasts of Ghia and even Pride a Prejudice and Zombies! McDermid builds the vampire theme slowly, allowing Henry and Ellie to be pale in complexion, anachronistic in demeanor and just mysterious enough to trigger Cat’s imagination. Her characterizations are spot on: Henry is droll and swoon-worthy as ever, Cat a bit air-headed and impressionable, Bella a slick piece of work, and General Tilney deceptive and tyrannical.

The plot plays out as one would expect, and if you had not read Northanger Abbey before you would not notice that the author has really created a complete translation, scene for scene, and sometimes word for word—a No Fear Shakespeare version of Northanger Abbey. While I admired McDermid’s creative choices to bring the story into the modern world (cell phones, Facebook, language and culture), I was immediately puzzled by her choice of narrative style. This novel is really a retelling instead of the reimagining that it was advertised as. The downside of a translation is in its creative limitations, resulting in McDermid’s sentences being affected and unnatural. I just wanted her to break out of the stranglehold she had placed on herself and use the plot and characterization as a spring board, and not a noose. Limiting herself in this manner may have been her way of honoring Austen, but I think she has done a great disservice to her own writing. Having not read any of her acclaimed crime novels I have no idea of her real talent. I believe that Austen herself, who honed her craft so precisely, would be baffled at one author lessening their gifts at the expense of another.

Like the reaction to Joanna Trollope’s contemporary reimaging of Sense and Sensibility published last year, whenever you fiddle with the classics there are bound to be those who are open to the concept and those completely closed off. I read this novel in anticipation of enjoying it. In hindsight, I do not think that it was written for an Austen fan familiar with the original, but for the uninitiated who may view it in a completely different light.

3.5 out of 5 Stars

Northanger Abbey: The Austen Project, by Val McDermid
Grove Press (2014)
Hardcover (368) pages
ISBN: 978-0802123015

Cover image courtesy of Grove Press © 2014; text Laurel Ann Nattress, 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.”

Happy Birthday Mr. Darcy: Austen Addicts Vol. 5, by Victoria Connelly – A Review

Happy Birthday Mr Darcy by Victoria Connelly 2013 x 200From the desk of Christina Boyd:

The Austen Addicts series has evolved through the years into a guilty pleasure for me. Happy Birthday Mr. Darcy is Victoria Connelly’s fifth installment in this contemporary romance series loosely inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The novella reunites us with her original characters from the first in the series, Weekend with Mr. Darcy, and opens a week prior to when Warwick Lawton (Austenesque author who writes under the female nom de plume, Lorna Warwick) is to pledge his troth to his Austen scholar/fiancé, Katherine Roberts.

Katherine is enchanted with the Regency themed wedding plans, her antique Russian engagement ring, and her empire-styled gown. She had never seen anything so beautiful. Well, not since Matthew Macfadyen had strode across the dawn meadow in the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. She really didn’t feel worthy of such a dress and it felt like a terrible extravagance to have something so lovely for just one day. Though passionately in-love with her fiancé, not unlike many brides, doubts about the marriage state and how her life is to change loom overhead right up until the wedding hour.

A colorful cast of characters with nods to Austen’s own characters, including Warwick’s marriage-cynic of a sister and his handsome, jovial best man, add to the wedding festivities. Dame Pamela, a favorite from Weekend with Mr. Darcy, opens her manor home to host the wedding and quips these two Janeites are marrying the same year that Pride and Prejudice celebrates its two-hundredth birth. “Mr. Darcy is doing well for his age,” Dame Pamela said with a little chuckle. “Pleasing women for two centuries is no mean feat!”

It was autumn of 2011 when I first discovered Victoria Connelly. I was in high dudgeon as it was the weekend of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Fort Worth, Texas and I would be missing the festivities. Austenprose blog mistress Laurel Ann Nattress had left me with a copy of A Weekend with Mr. Darcy, the first in the Austen Addicts series, as some consolation; I could not help but commiserate with Kitty Bennet when her sister Lydia left her home at Longbourn for her adventure at Brighton! Although not the thrill of attending an AGM Regency ball, Connelly’s first in her Austen Addicts series was a balm to my battered spirits. Since then, the Austen Addicts’ series continued: Dreaming of Mr. Darcy, Mr. Darcy Forever, and then the novella, Christmas with Mr. Darcy.

There are no big surprises in Happy Birthday Mr. Darcy. But I must agree with the sage Mr. Knightley from Emma: “Surprises are foolish things.” However, despite being a harmless bit of Austen pastiche, this little darling of a book was but a light, nibble of meringue that left me wanting more.

4 out of 5 Stars

Happy Birthday Mr. Darcy: Austen Addicts Vol. 5, by Victoria Connelly
Cuthland Press (2013)
Trade paperback (118) pages
ISBN: 978-0956986672

Cover image courtesy of Cuthland Press © 2013; text Christina Boyd © 2014, Austenprose.com