The Suspicion at Sanditon, Or, The Disappearance of Lady Denham, by Carrie Bebris – A Review

The Suspicion at Sanditon Carrie Bebris 2015 x 200From the desk of Christina Boyd:

Seemingly moments after reading the end of award winning author’s Carrie Bebris, The Deception at Lyme (Or, The Peril of Persuasion) in 2011, the sixth novel in her Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mystery series, I, along with other fans wondered what Bebris might write next. Much speculation surfaced whether she would attempt a mystery with Austen’s lesser known works: Sanditon, The Watsons, and Lady Susan or abandon the scheme altogether! Not four years later, and all anticipation, I had my hands on an advanced copy of Bebris’s seventh in the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mystery series, Suspicion at Sanditon (Or, the Disappearance of Lady Denham).

Only the most astute Austen fans will know Sanditon is the unfinished novel that Jane Austen began writing in January 1817 and forsook after the first eleven chapters on March 18—dying 4 months later on July 18, 1817. Others might be interested to understand this first draft centers on a Miss Charlotte Heywood, the daughter of a country gentleman, who travels to a developing seaside resort, Sanditon, and encounters a ridiculous baronet Sir Edward Denham, the Parker family who were always imagining themselves unwell, and the twice-widowed dowager Lady Denham with no heir apparent. “In those few chapters she sets her stage, populates it with memorable characters, and infuses the whole with humor reminiscent of her earlier writings.” (332) Author’s Note. Continue reading

A Will of Iron, by Linda Beutler – A Review

A Will of Iron by Linda Beutler 2015 x 200From the desk of Monica Perry:

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Anne de Bourgh is a character who seems not to have much to offer. She’s just sort of there at Rosings Park, quiet and sickly and under her mother’s thumb. Readers can only hope that she occasionally has an original thought of her own. In A Will of Iron, a Pride and Prejudice what-if, author Linda Beutler exposes the last year of Anne’s journal. With her isolated life at Rosings, and a mother like Lady Catherine, who wouldn’t be curious what Anne has to say? I know I was! I was hooked from the second paragraph, where she drops quite the bomb. For months, she’s been scheming to extricate herself from Lady Catherine forever, and finally succeeded in setting her plan in motion. Sadly, she dies before getting the satisfaction of revealing her news in person, and seeing her meticulously plotted future come to fruition. Anne’s companion Mrs. Jenkinson knows all and delivers the journals to Charlotte Collins at Hunsford parsonage for safekeeping. Lady Catherine is desperate to get her hands on them to keep the circumstances of Anne’s death hidden, and as Charlotte makes her way through the journals she begins to suspect how far Lady Catherine might go to get her way.

I really liked Anne; she’s astute and blunt and had things gone differently, she and Elizabeth Bennet could have been great friends. Her journals chronicle not only her dealings with her mother and a Mr. C., her mysterious beau, but also her relationships with her Darcy and Fitzwilliam cousins, from their childhood to their current romantic tangle with Elizabeth. She genuinely cares for them and wants them to be happy, and has some very decided opinions on how she will make that come about. Anne’s logic with regard to her plan is a bit skewed, but her desire to be free from her mother makes her desperate and bold. It’s no wonder, as this Lady Catherine is truly cold- blooded! I had previously seen this book referred to as a macabre comedy. I’d say that’s a fitting description because as unhinged as Lady Catherine is, she is so outrageous I couldn’t help shaking my head and laughing. She even gave Mr. Collins the heebie-jeebies. I thought her final justice was perfectly done, if a bit messy! Continue reading

Mr. Darcy’s Rival: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Kara Louise – A Review

Mr Darcy's Rival by Kara Louise (2015)From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Rider:

I’ve reviewed three of Kara Louise’s works now (Only Mr. Darcy Will Do, Darcy’s Voyage, and Pirates and Prejudice), and I can confidently say that she’s been gaining popularity as one of my favorite Jane Austen fan fiction authors. One of her strongest points is her imaginative ability to create such great variations on the traditional Pride and Prejudice storyline. It was with this in mind that I was eager to start a new installment in this great line of variations, Mr. Darcy’s Rival, which I knew was sure to intrigue me from the beginning.

Mr. Darcy, as always, is dreading his annual visit to his aunt Lady Catherine, as he knows that he will face the usual barrage of questions from the officious woman regarding his marrying her daughter. Accompanied as usual by his cousin, Col. Fitzwilliam, Darcy finds that there are two additional guests at Rosings Park this time: a Mr. Rickland and Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Although Darcy knew Miss Bennet during his time in Meryton and left in order to mask his feelings for her, he cannot deny that his affections have grown even greater since their time apart. There are many obstacles to his ultimate goal of winning her hand, none more formidable than Mr. Rickland. Will he be able to secure Elizabeth’s love against all odds and be able to make his feelings known in the face of Lady Catherine’s alternate plans?

Initially the book was slightly slow for my taste, but about 60 pages in the story became vivid and lively, and really took off. I like how Louise was able to take pieces of the original work and reinvent them, such as the scenes with Darcy’s famous, “be not alarmed, Madame,” letter. In Pride and Prejudice this letter acts as the catalyst of Elizabeth’s epiphany, making her realize that first impressions aren’t always accurate (i.e. Wickham and falsehoods regarding Darcy.) In Mr. Darcy’s Rival, although the circumstances and text of the letter are different (she isn’t even meant to receive it,) it still performs the same action, making her reevaluate her behavior and thoughts towards Darcy. Therefore, although Louise is using the same plot device, she is changing it and making the story her own. Continue reading

Suddenly Mrs. Darcy, by Jenetta James – A Review

Suddenly Mrs. Darcy, by Jenetta James 2015From the desk of Monica Perry:

What happens when the independent, outspoken Miss Elizabeth Bennet finds herself forced to wed the proud Mr. Darcy, a virtual stranger whom she can barely tolerate? With their history of heated interactions, can they co-exist peacefully, let alone find companionship or affection? Jenetta James’s Suddenly Mrs. Darcy is a Pride and Prejudice what-if story that deviates from Jane Austen’s canon at the point of the Netherfield ball. I love forced marriage scenarios and all their angsty goodness! With such differing personalities as Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth, I was eager to see how Ms. James would explore the dynamics of such a hasty union between my favorite literary couple.

When Elizabeth brings up in conversation Darcy’s infamous treatment of her friend Mr. Wickham, Darcy seeks to clear his name and takes her aside to a dimly lit salon to talk. Here they are seen by Mrs. Bennet, who immediately sounds the alarm that her daughter has been compromised. Despite Elizabeth’s protestations that nothing untoward has occurred, Mr. Bennet steps in, Mr. Darcy steps up and Elizabeth has no choice but to marry him and quickly. She can’t fathom why he would agree to marry her with nary a word of protest when it’s so obvious their dislike is mutual.

Here we have a “pre-Hunsford” Mr. Darcy who has not yet seen the need to modify his proud and disdainful behavior toward others. He acts unfeelingly with regard to Elizabeth’s family, and finds little need to explain himself to her. Because the story is told from only Elizabeth’s perspective, readers don’t have the luxury of knowing Darcy’s feelings, motivations, etc because he is not very forthcoming with her. It’s natural for readers to project onto Darcy what they think or hope his character is, but they really don’t know, and it is so frustrating! As they spend more time together at Pemberley, Elizabeth does achieve a sense of contentment, and her intimate times with her husband gradually deepen her affections. When contention does arise between them, she is angry but tends to push the issue to the back burner to be dealt with later, or not at all. Continue reading

Lady Elizabeth: Everything Will Change Book One, by P.O. Dixon – A Review

Lady Elizabeth by PO Dixon x 200From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder:

What would you do if you realized your entire childhood was a farce? Of course we occasionally hear of stories of children who are mistakenly switched at birth, or whose families raise them in oppressive cults or religions that distort their very realities. It would be quite a lot to take in once the truth was uncovered, and that is precisely the focal point of P.O. Dixon’s latest offering, Lady Elizabeth: Everything Will Change, the first of two works.

Over a decade ago, the Duke of Dunsmore experienced a great tragedy in his life: his only son and granddaughter died in a horrific carriage accident, with only his daughter-in-law and his grandson surviving. Wrecked with guilt, he is desperate to bring happiness back into his family’s life. While visiting Lambton he notices a young and pretty girl, kidnaps her and raises her as his own granddaughter. This girl, who is only four at the time, is raised without want for anything. She is known as Lady Elizabeth, and her life is quite carefree, that is until a Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy decides to upend it. He finds that Lady Elizabeth, whom he has known for her whole life, resembles the sisters of the Bennet family. They reside in an estate near Netherfield Park, where he is currently staying with his friend, Mr. Bingley. What will become of Darcy as he attempts to unravel this decade-old mystery? And what will become of the growing attachment he seems to have forged with the woman at the center of it all? Continue reading

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? Continue reading