Mr. Darcy’s Challenge: A Pride and Prejudice Variation (The Darcy Novels Book 2), by Monica Fairview – Preview & Exclusive Excerpt

Mr. Darcys Challenge by Monica Fairview 2014 x 200It is always a pleasure to introduce a new book by a treasured author. Many of Monica Fairview’s Pride and Prejudice sequels: The Other Mr. Darcy and The Darcy Cousins, are among my favorite Austenesque novels. Her latest, Mr. Darcy’s Challenge, is the second book in The Darcy Novels series of “what if” variations. Here is a preview and exclusive excerpt for your enjoyment.

PREVIEW (from publisher’s description)

In this humorous Pride and Prejudice Variation, Mr. Darcy is determined to win Elizabeth Bennet’s hand in spite of her rejection and he has a strategy worked out. He will rescue Lydia Bennet from Wickham and will return to Longbourn to convince Elizabeth to marry him. But when a chance encounter prompts Darcy to propose once again to Elizabeth before he has rescued Lydia, his plans go horribly wrong.

Broken hearted, disillusioned and bitterly regretting his impulsive action, Darcy sees no point in assisting Miss Bennet. After all, rescuing Lydia might save Elizabeth’s reputation, but why should he care when they have no future together? His code of gentlemanly conduct, however, demands that he fulfill the terms of his promise to her. Once again, Darcy finds himself faced with impossible choices: helping Elizabeth when she is certain to marry someone else, or holding onto his dignity by turning his back on the Bennets once and for all.

Pride and love are at loggerheads as he struggles to choose between his mind … and his heart.

Volume Two of The Darcy Novels continues the story began in Mr. Darcy’s Pledge but can be read as an independent book as well.

Continue reading

The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla: A Pink Carnation Novel, by Lauren Willig – A Review

The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla by Lauren Willig 2014 From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:

A new Pink Carnation novel is always the highlight of my reading season, though the anticipation for The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla was stifling. How could Lauren Willig’s eleventh addition equal or surpass her previous highly-successful novels seeped in Napoleonic spies, romance and burlesque comedy? Yes, comedy. They say “dying is easy; comedy is hard” and it is so true. There are few authors in the genre who will even attempt it. Willig excels.

One of the main reasons I enjoy the “Pink” series so much (besides the humor) is that they take me back to Regency England, and the characters are SO original. Willig started the series in 2004 with The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. Each successive novel features a new set of protagonists: a romantic couple thrown together by mystery, espionage and love. After ten novels I have never been disappointed.

Set in 1806 London, The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla re-introduces us to the three young Misses from Miss Climpson’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies in Bath, brought together in the seventh novel, The Mischief of the Mistletoe: Miss Sally Fitzhugh, Miss Agnes Wooliston and Miss Lizzy Reid. They are in Town for the Season, chaperoned by Lord and Lady Vaughn whose next door neighbor is reported to be a vampire. Yes, vampires are all the rage in London at the moment due to Lizzy Reid’s step-mother’s best-selling novel The Convent of Orsino. No one is above suspicion, especially aristocrats. Continue reading

The Passion of the Purple Plumeria: A Pink Carnation Novel, by Lauren Willig – A Review

The Passion of the Purple Plumeria, by Lauren Willig (2013) From the desk of Christina Boyd

Acclaimed author Lauren Willig’s latest offering, The Passion of the Purple Plumeria, is the tenth novel in her New York Times best selling Pink Carnation series. This historical romance series of Napoleonic era English spies, that fight for Britain and for love, is constructed within a modern day love story, told from the point of view of the American grad student Eloise Kelly who is writing her dissertation on the true identity of the Pink Carnation, the master British spy of the time.

In Purple Plumeria, (those of us who have been previously “Pinked,” often refer to the novels by the abbreviated Flower title…), the handsome Colonel William Reid, who we first encountered in Blood Lily (The Betrayal of the Blood Lily) has returned to his daughters in England from a lifelong military career in India only to discover his youngest has recently disappeared from boarding school with one of her classmates.  Soon we learn the other missing student is Agnes Wooliston, the sister of British spymaster, errr, ehm, spymistress, the Pink Carnation – generally known as Miss Jane Wooliston – recalling  her home from Paris to England. And where Miss Wooliston goes, so goes her caustically witty and straight-laced companion, and adroit, clever, parasol-wielding agent of the War Office, Miss Gwendolyn Meadows. While conducting an interview with the headmistress, they meet the aforementioned comely, charming Colonel.

Gwen didn’t like any of this. She didn’t like it one bit. All her instincts, well honed over years of midnight raids, were shouting “trouble.” How much of the trouble was coming from the situation and how much from a certain sun-bronzed colonel was a matter for debate. Bad enough that Agnes had gone missing; worse yet to have to deal with the parent of the other girl, poking his nose in—however attractive a nose it might be—and posing questions that might prove inconvenient for everyone. And by everyone, she meant the Pink Carnation.  p. 55

Finding they must work together if they have any hopes of finding the two young ladies, the Colonel discovers his partner to be quite a delightful, refreshing conundrum and not only because of her dexterity while under attack. The lines at the corners of Colonel Reid’s eyes crinkled. “Do you ever allow anyone else the last word, Miss Meadows?”  “Not if they haven’t wit enough to seize it,” said Gwen. “That,” said Colonel Reid, ‘sounds remarkably like a challenge.” p. 92 She on the other hand, never expected to be partnered with such a man and is surprised by the thoughts and emotions he inspires.  He looked at her quizzically. They were close enough that she could make out the faint hint of a scar beside his lip, close enough to kiss. Where had that ridiculous thought come from? p. 93 Could our uptight, upstanding, paragon of virtue, spinster-heroine have passion simmering beneath that starchy, purple plumed facade?

We last left our modern day Harvard grad student Eloise in book #9, The Garden Intrigue, the story telling the story, (or is it the story in the story? much like the chicken or the egg?), researching the Napoleonic Wars, specifically, the Pink Carnation, while living with her boyfriend, Colin Selwick at his country family estate, Selwick Hall. As it would happen, she fell into this love affair while researching his very ancestors – and with only 2 months left until she is expected to return to Harvard, the American one on the other side of the pond – she is as anxious about leaving him as she is about discovering her research has come to an unexpected standstill.

No matter where I looked, I couldn’t find any reference to Miss Jane Wooliston or Miss Gwendolyn Meadows in my sources post 1805. Edouard de Balcourt went on merrily living in the Hotel de Balcourt, toadying up to the Emperor (until the Restoration, at which point he abruptly remembered that his father had been decapitated during the Revolution and he’d never liked that upstart Corsican dictator anyway), but his cousin and chaperone had left the building. p. 72

And when the Selwick family legend of “the lost jewels of Behar” stirs up the skulking about of Colin’s loathsome douche of a cousin/step-father, Jeremy Selwick-Alderly, their family’s matriarch demands the two men work together to find the treasure, or else.  Guided by childhood familial stories, a three-lined riddle, and a 200 year old book entitled, The Convent of Orsino by A Lady, the trio, embark on their own intrigue, which fortuitously re-ignites Eloise’s dissertation.

In the cunningly written Reader’s Guide, interviewing both the authors of The Convent of Orsino and the author of Purple Plumeria, Willig admits no little intimidation in pursuing Miss Gwen’s story and even wrote her Edwardian era stand-alone novel The Ashford Affair as a means of deferment. As much as I loved reading the fruits of her willful, blatant procrastination of this next Pink book, I am thoroughly satisfied with her win-win stratagems. The Passion of the Purple Plumeria has all the trademark characteristics of Lauren Willig’s previous Pink Carnation books: clever players and Napoleonic spy intrigue united with heart pounding romance. My only complaint: this book is not offered in hardback. In the spirit of Miss Meadows this reader snaps, “Hmph! It mars the look of the rest of my collection! The wrong trim on the wrong bonnet!”  *Sniff!* But since that is not the author’s fault and falls clearly to the publisher, Lauren Willig’s latest is still a 5 star read! Be certain to add it to your summer reading list. Added bonuses: Discussion Questions perfect for your book club, as well as an excerpt for her next in this series, due Summer 2014.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

The Passion of the Purple Plumeria: A Pink Carnation Novel, by Lauren Willig
NAL Trade (2013)
Trade paperback (480) pages
ISBN: 978-0451414724

Cover image courtesy of the Penguin Group © 2013; text Christina Boyd © 2013, Austenprose.com.

Giveaway Winner Announced for Miss Lacey’s Last Fling

Miss Lacey's Last Fling, by Candice Hern (2012)22 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win a copy of Miss Lacey’s Last Fling, by Candice Hern. The winner drawn at random is

  • Elsie who left a comment on July 26, 2013

Congratulations Elsie! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by August 7, 2013. Please tell me if you would like a print or digital version of the book. Print book shipment to US addresses, or eBook internationally.

Thanks to all who left comments, and for all those participating in the Regency Romance Reading Challenge 2013. It has been great fun. Our next review of “Lady Anne’s Excellent Adventure: A Regency Short Story,” will be on Wednesday, August 28th. I hope you can join us.

Book cover image courtesy of © 2012 Candice Hern; text © 2013 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

The Ashford Affair: A Novel, by Lauren Willig – A Review

Image of the book cover of The Ashford Affair, by Lauren Willig © 2013 St. Martin’s PressFrom the desk of Christina Boyd

In a departure from her Napoleonic spy romances of the Pink Carnation Series, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Willig ventures into new territory with The Ashford Affair. Entwining one generation’s story with that of another, from post-Edwardian British society to modern day Manhattan to a coffee farm in Kenya, the long veiled secrets of a woman are unraveled.

Clementine Evans, a focused, driven law associate on the cusp of making partner in a large Manhattan firm, attends her beloved grandmother Adeleine’s 99th birthday and is accidentally enlightened to a family secret. At 34, Clemmie, feeling like her life is nothing but a 70-plus hour workweek, and a failed engagement, this intrigue becomes more than a distraction to the un-fulfilling, lonely details of her days.

Clemmie slid the picture back into the drawer. There was another underneath it, a studio portrait of a woman, her head tilted. Her pale hair was crimped in stylized waves around her face and her pale eyes gazed soulfully into the distance. She looked, somehow, strangely familiar, her cheekbones, the shape of her lips, as if Clemmie had seen her somewhere before.” p. 65.

But trying to get any information from her own tight-lipped mother proves difficult. And how is it that her ex-stepbrother knows more about the family histories than she does?

Adeleine Gillecote’s parents die when she is almost six and she grows up as the mouse-brown ward of her aristocratic aunt and uncle at Ashford Park, a grand English country house. Though brought up with her cousins, Addie never overcomes the status of a poor relation. Despite this, her best friend from almost the start is her vivacious, beautiful, golden cousin, Bea, who takes Addie under her wing, sheltering Addie from her unwelcoming mother, and earning her love and fidelity. As the girls grow and experience the pre-WWI balls and English society, Addie tries not to begrudge Bea’s beauty or her unaffected graces. But when a man comes between the two, it appears all loyalties come to an end, and, escaping to Kenya still isn’t quite far enough. “Addie pressed her fist to her lips, trying not to think what she was thinking. She closed her eyes, fighting a terrible certainty, the certainty that what she was hearing was true, that this was Bea, that Bea had, did, and always would do what she liked, regardless of the consequences, regardless even of Addie.”  p. 196.

Although this latest offering is a non-Pink novel, fans of Willig’s the Pink Carnation Series will be giddy with delight when they meet the handsome, cynical and witty descendant of Lord Vaughn. Yes! That Vaughn from The Masque of the Black Tulip.

“He looked feline himself, all boneless grace, with the measureless self-satisfaction afforded by knowing his ancestors had been dining off gold plate when others had still been scratching about in the dirt: the Honorable Theophilius Vaughn, the despair of the ancient line. According to his frustrated family, he had both the morals of a cat and all of its nine lives.” p. 248.

The spawn of Vaughn.”  Ha!! Her words from her website, not mine!

Some have described this novel as Out of Africa meets Downton Abbey. *sigh* Well, use those cinematic visuals if you must, but I can honestly attest, The Ashford Affair is so much more. Much more. This is the kind of the novel that will stay with you; keep you mulling over the vibrant characters and intrinsic detailing long after you’ve inhaled that satisfying last page. Lauren Willig’s The Ashford Affair is brilliant! Glittering brilliance.

5 out of 5 Stars

The Ashford Affair: A Novel, by Lauren Willig
St. Martin’s Press (2013)
Hardcover (368) pages
ISBN: 978-1250014498

Cover image courtesy © 2013 St. Martin’s Press; text © 2013 Christina Boyd, Austenprose

Giveaway Winner Announced for An Affair of Honor

Image of the book cover of An Affair of Honor, by Candice Hern © 2012 Candice Hern26 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win a copy of An Affair of Honor by Candice Hern. The winner drawn at random is

  • sherrysbooks who left a comment on March 29, 2013

Congratulations Sherry! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by April 10, 2013. Please tell me which item you have won and if you would like a print or digital copy. Print book shipment to US addresses, or eBook internationally.

Thanks to all who left comments, and for all those participating in the Regency Romance Reading Challenge 2013. The challenge is open until July 1st, 2013, so please check out the details and sign up today!

Image courtesy © 2012 Candice Hern; text © 2013 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Falling For Mr. Darcy, by KaraLynne Mackrory – A Review

Falling For Mr. Darcy, by KaraLynne Mackrory (2012 )From the desk of Jeffrey Ward

We know from the surviving canceled chapters of Persuasion that Jane Austen penned an alternative conclusion to her final novel with stunning results. Based on the now 200 year old masterpiece Pride and Prejudice, debut Author KaraLynne Mackrory has likewise crafted her own romantic detour. Let us find out, through the eyes of this old-school traditionalist reviewer if this spin-off embodies similar gratifying qualities.

The opening deviates immediately following the disastrous Meryton assembly with Mr. Darcy taking a morning horseback ride out from Netherfield, trying to calm his already intense attraction to Elizabeth and his mortification for insulting her. Miss Elizabeth Bennet simultaneously is taking her morning walk and pauses to rest in her favorite wooded copse. Darcy spots and admires her from afar. Suddenly, a gust of wind snaps a dead oak that Miss Bennet scrambles to avoid being struck by. Her ankle injured, Darcy comes to her rescue showing great concern. This chance meeting between hero and heroine fills many pages with absorbing and delicious detail which typifies the author’s unique style. As Darcy attempts to lift the injured Miss Bennet to his horse, as gentlemanly as possible, this charming dialogue ensues:

“Miss Bennet, I must help you to the horse, if you will give your consent again.” Mr. Darcy tried to sound as casual as possible even as his mind was screaming – yes, say yes! You belong in my arms Elizabeth! She laughed, and the hair on his neck stood up at the musical sound. “Mr. Darcy, I cannot see any other way I could get up there unless another gust of wind were to pick me up and place me atop your horse! You may assist me, thank you.” p. 21

The author’s route then heads straight from Longbourn to London, bypassing Pemberley. Things are proceeding much too smoothly between Darcy and Elizabeth when at about the half-way point his pride rears its ugly head, he comes to his senses, (loses his senses?) and affirms to himself that he can never marry a lady with poor connections and embarrassing family members.

The author, much to my satisfaction, also emphasizes the significance of Mr. Bennet as a major character who loves all of his daughters and has a hidden but joyous surprise for each daughter, should they marry for love instead of convenience. The odious Mr. Collins also makes an appearance and with the influence of Mr. Darcy be shocked at whom the clueless curate sets his eyes upon for matrimony!

Especially effective throughout is the mood of latent sexual desire between our heroine and hero without referring to any of the currently abused secondary sexual characteristics. Instead, the author delicately features the eyes, hair, facial expressions, garments, hands, posture, and the glimpse of a feminine ankle, much as it was two centuries ago. Combine this subtle sexual tension with the author’s dialogues, which faithfully stress the extremely polite civility between the sexes, and you are treated to page after page of crisply entertaining Regency conversations and situations.

A particularly savory moment is Elizabeth’s coincidental encounter with Georgiana Darcy in a fine London clothing shop where neither is aware of the other’s identity, yet they take an instant liking to each other as Elizabeth draws the shy Georgiana out:

“You will think me most silly, but I had teased my brother that I would shop for a wife for him today and choose a pair of slippers for her as well. He was so pleased to get out of coming in here with me that he laughed and went along with it.” Georgiana then frowned as she realized her silliness. Elizabeth laughed at the unusual declaration and said, as she glanced around the shop, “I did not see the ‘wife aisle’.” p. 183

My only minor criticisms? Somewhat departing from most of Jane Austen’s beloved characters who manifest both weaknesses as well as strengths, the author’s good characters are sometimes too-too good, the bad characters (Mr. Wickham) are too-too bad, and the ugly characters (Mr. Collins) are too-too ugly. This, at times, seemed to foster a cloying or schmaltzy atmosphere. We are also privy to the private thoughts of some of the characters (in italics) which are effective in some situations but perhaps reveal a little too much in others.

Nevertheless, I’m impressed by this debut novel and give praise for the author’s clever plot detour, character authenticity, genuine regency manners, and especially the tastefully rendered romantic eroticism between Elizabeth and Darcy which really drew me into the story right from the beginning.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Falling For Mr. Darcy, by KaraLynne Mackrory
Meryton Press (2013)
Trade paperback (264) pages
ISBN: 978-1936009206

© 2013 Jeffrey Ward, Austenprose

Top Jane Austen-inspired Books of 2012

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2012 was a banner year for Jane Austen-inspired books. From historical fiction to self-help to mysteries, Austen was visible in several genres and as popular as ever. Here are our top favorites reviewed here at Austenprose.com in 2012 with a bonus category, Readers Choice Awards.

Top 5 Historical sequels, prequels or retellings:

The Three Colonels: Jane Austen’s Fighting Men, by Jack Caldwell (4.5 stars)

Dear Mr. Darcy: A Retelling of Pride and Prejudice, by Amanda Grange (4.5 stars)

The Journey, by Jan Hahn (5 stars)

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, by Syrie James (5 stars)

A Pemberley Medley: Five Pride & Prejudice Variations, by Abigail Reynolds (5 stars)

Top 5 Contemporary inspired:

Compulsively Mr. Darcy, by Nina Benneton (4 stars)

Mr. Darcy Forever, by Victoria Connelly (4.5 stars)

Find Wonder in All Things, by Karen M. Cox (4.5 stars)

Hidden Paradise, by Janet Mullany (4.5 stars)

Darcy Goes to War: A Pride and Prejudice Re-imagining, by Mary Lydon Simonsen (5 stars)

Regency inspired:

The Garden Intrigue, by Lauren Willig (5 stars)

The West Yet Glimmers: The Lord & Lady Baugham Stories, by Gail McEwen & Tina Moncton (5 stars)

Mysteries:

Midnight in Austenland: A Novel, by Shannon Hale (4.5 stars)

My Particular Friend: A Charlotte House Affair (Volume 1), by Jennifer Petkus (5 stars)

Paranormal:

Jane Vows Vengeance: A Novel, by Michael Thomas Ford (5 stars)

Searching for Captain Wentworth, by Jane Odiwe (5 stars)

Nonfiction:

The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After, by Elizabeth Kantor (5 stars)

The Jane Austen Guide to Life: Thoughtful Lessons for the Modern Woman, by Lori Smith (5 stars)

Scholarly:

The Marriage of Faith: Christianity in William Wordsworth and Jane Austen, by Laura Dabundo (5 stars)

Jane Austen’s Cults and Cultures, by Claudia L. Johnson (5 stars)

Self-published:

Mr. Darcy’s Proposal, by Susan Mason-Milks (4 stars)

For Myself Alone, by Shannon Winslow (4 stars)

Young Adult:

The Beresfords, by Christina Dudley (4.5 stars)

Persuaded, by Jenni James (4 stars)

Debut Author: (tie)

All My Tomorrows, by Colette Saucier (5 stars)

Mercy’s Embrace: Elizabeth Elliot’s Story, Book 1: So Rough a Course, by Laura Hile (5 stars)

Readers Choice Awards:

1.) The West Yet Glimmers, by Gail McEwen & Tina Moncton

2.) Persuaded, by Jenni James

3.) The Journey, by Jan Hahn

4.) Echoes of Pemberley, by Cynthia Ingram Hensley (tie)

4.) Find Wonder in All Things, by Karen M. Cox (tie)

5.) Pulse and Prejudice, by Colette L. Saucier

Congratulations to all of the authors! Thanks for another great year of fabulous reading.

Cheers,

Austenprose review staff

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2013 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose