From 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
From 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
From 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
From 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
From 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
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
From 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
Another fabulous year of reading has passed with many memorable books for Janeites to devour. We reviewed 68 of them this past year and would like to share our list of what we feel were the Best Austenesque Books of 2014.
Best Austenesque Historical Novels 2014:
- Consequences: A Cautionary Pride and Prejudice Variation, by C. P. Odom (5 stars)
- Jane Austen’s First Love, by Syrie James (5 stars)
- The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen, by Shannon Winslow (5 stars)
- The Forgotten Sister: Mary Bennet’s Pride and Prejudice, by Jennifer Paynter (5 stars)
- The Secret Betrothal: A Pride and Prejudice Alternate Path, by Jan Hahn (5 stars)
- Pirates and Prejudice, by Kara Louise (5 stars)
- Emma and Elizabeth: A story based on The Watsons, by Jane Austen, by Ann Mychal (5 stars)
- Mr. Darcy Came to Dinner, by Jack Caldwell (5 stars)
- Follies Past, by Melanie Kerr (5 stars)
- First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen, by Charlie Lovett (4.5 stars
From 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
From 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
From the desk of Tracy Hickman:
I have been a Kim Wilson fan since reading her books In the Garden with Jane Austen and Tea with Jane Austen. Her latest work At Home with Jane Austen, a luscious coffee table book, promises a virtual tour of the places Austen called home. Some of these homes were permanent residences and others were temporary: the sites of visits to wealthy relatives or seaside holidays with her family.
The chapter titles follow the course of Austen’s life. After introducing “The Author” in the first chapter, the remaining chapters are Steventon, Away at School, Bath, Travels and Tours, Stately Mansions, Southampton, By the Sea, Chawton, London, and Winchester. True to its genre, you could have a lovely experience of this book by merely turning the pages and looking at the illustrations and photographs. However, I found Kim Wilson’s narrative of Austen’s life, focused on her surroundings and travels in southern England, to be equally appealing and informative. As Ms. Wilson points out:
Though Jane changed her residence many times, family and home remained the emotional center of her life. She expressed her love of home in her work, creating heroes and heroines who also cherish the idea of home, even when, like Fanny Price in Mansfield Park, they are uprooted and must learn to love a new one: “When [Fanny] had been coming to Portsmouth, she had loved to call it her home, had been fond of saying that she was going home; the word had been very dear to her; and so it still was, but it must be applied to Mansfield. That was now the home. Portsmouth was Portsmouth; Mansfield was home.” (10)
From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder:
Anyone with siblings can tell you how tumultuous of a relationship you can have with them. There are times where you love them to death for being a shoulder to cry on or a voice of reason. Then there are the times where they think they know everything and refuse to see you as your own individual. Katherine Reay explores the complex relationship of two sisters undergoing some intense situations in both their personal and professional lives in Lizzy and Jane.
After losing her mom to cancer, Lizzy cannot deal with the emotional burden and leaves home. She turns her anguish into a relentless energy to create in the kitchen, and works endlessly to become a respected chef. Eventually Lizzy becomes the owner of a swanky New York City restaurant, Feast. After a good amount of success, she begins to lose some of her earlier skills and the restaurant begins to falter. Paul, the restaurant’s financial backer, brings another chef in to fix this, and Lizzy does what she does best—runs away. Unfortunately she runs into another cancer diagnosis, and this time it’s her sister, Jane. Lizzy decides to finally stand her ground and deal with this new blow, and as she tends to her family she finds her abilities to create amazing foods return to her. Now, Paul attempts to woo her back to New York, but how will she react to this now that old hurts with Jane are healed? Continue reading