Given Good Principles: Boxed Set, by Maria Grace – A Review

Given Good Principles Boxed Set by Maria Grace 2013 x 200From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder:

I have a confession to make dear reader: I’m a book series binger. I’ll find myself reading the first novel in a series (in this case Darcy’s Decision by Maria Grace), and find it so intriguing that I have to buy the rest of the (available) books in the series and read them one right after another. It’s not a huge problem when it’s a series of three books or less, but when it’s four plus books, my husband starts to get worried that I’ll begin collecting dust from immobility. So, with all of that in mind I offer to you a post on Maria Grace’s Given Good Principles series.

Grace starts off her series with two completely creative and unique prequel novellas:

Darcy’s Decision

Beginning with the death of Darcy’s two parents and ending with preparations for his trip to Hertfordshire with Bingley, this unique and creative prequel (and about The Future Mrs. Darcy as well), is that Darcy and Elizabeth must go through situations that make them question their natures PRIOR to meeting. This means that as they are introduced to each other for the first time, they are aware of their own personal flaws. I fell head-over-heels in love with this idea. It’s not something I’ve seen in any other Pride and Prejudice re-telling, so from page one Grace had already hooked me with this fresh approach. The creation of the character of John Bradley was a stroke of genius. His fatherly, no-nonsense approach to discussions with Darcy was a pleasure to read. He simply tells Darcy how it is and doesn’t “scrape and bow” just to appease Darcy’s status.

4.5 out of 5 Regency Stars

The Future Mrs. Darcy

Elizabeth and her sisters are forced to re-examine their behavior after a wealthy neighbor removes his sisters and himself from Meryton society as a direct result of a lack of decorum shown by Kitty and Lydia. What is special about this novella is the character development that is present for all of the Bennet sisters. (Well…..almost all of them. I’ll let you guess which one is the hold-out.) Grace gives each sister a skill that she focuses on. Kitty: dressmaking, Mary: herbal remedies, etc. Seeing the focus and determination that each sister had while still remaining true to their individual selves cannot be an easy thing to author, and for that I highly commend Grace.

4.5 out of 5 Regency Stars

All the Appearance of Goodness

The series then continues with a full-length novel that takes place during the events of Pride and Prejudice. Darcy and Bingley take a trip to Meryton, during which Darcy meets Elizabeth. Of course courtship is the furthest thing from being on his mind, but a pang of jealousy helps move things along when he finds that Mr. Collins of all people is another interested party for the hand of Ms. Elizabeth Bennet. Will the intervention of Mr. Collins be enough to cause Darcy to completely change the purposes of his trip and soften his tough exterior, or will his pride be strong enough to let Collins take the object of his affections?

One of the best parts of this novel was the ability of Grace to convey the angst that Darcy and Elizabeth felt due to their inner turmoil over the events of the first two novellas. It really helped to tie the series together up to this point, and I felt that this was a crossroads for their relationship. It is appropriate that this work is the longest of the group, as it contains a new and unique set of events between Lizzy and Darcy that are sure to surprise and please you. This isn’t the typical path to love that we’re so familiar with. I’ll leave it at that as to not spoil any of the surprises awaiting readers!

4.5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Twelfth Night at Longbourn

After Lydia’s elopement and Elizabeth’s wedding, Kitty is now alone at Longbourn. She has only her tarnished reputation as company, which has been badly damaged by Lydia’s ways. She can only hope to redeem it by transforming from Kitty to Catherine Bennet, hoping that new sophistication will endear her to the man who broke her heart long ago. Now she again has a chance to meet him at Pemberley, but will her newfound fortitude be enough to save her?

This work was definitely my favorite in the series due to its primary focus on Kitty. Her growth in the overall series arc was my favorite to follow (after Elizabeth and Darcy’s of course!), because of how deeply she matures. Gone is the frivolous girl that cared for nothing but parties, balls, and officers. Instead we have a woman who has grown into a hard-working, good-natured member of society. She finds herself satisfied with keeping occupied with sewing and other quiet tasks, which are a 180 degree turn from the days when she was ever-present in Lydia’s shadow and prone to every whimsy. Overall, I’m happy to see Kitty find herself in Twelfth Night. It is a fun read that concluded the overall story arc on a high note.

With quick novellas under 100 pages and one full-length novel, this series is a great read for any Jane Austen fan-fiction lover.  With great characters, witty writing, and a swoon-worthy romance, Maria Grace’s Given Good Principles series is a solid addition to your bookshelf.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Give Good Principles: Boxed Set, by Maria Grace
White Soup Press (2013)
Digital eBook (576) pages
ASIN: B00HK5TVJO

Cover image courtesy of White Soup Press © 2013; text Kimberly Denny-Ryder © 2014, Austenprose.com 

Undressing Mr. Darcy, by Karen Doornebos – A Review

The Pride Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge (2013)This is our twelfth and final selection for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013, our year-long blog event honoring Jane Austen’s second published novel. Please follow the link above to read all the details of this reading and viewing challenge. Sign up’s are now closed but you can read the reviews and comment through 31 December 2013.

From the desk of Christina Boyd: 

With a title like Undressing Mr. Darcy, author Karen Doornebos’ new release is sure to turn a few heads this holiday season. “Sex sells, even to smart, liberated women, and Mr. Darcy was the smart girl’s pinup boy.” p. 7 And like the novel’s heroine, a master PR rep who has turned tweeting into an #artform, Doornebos has carefully crafted another contemporary romance novel about an ambitious, highly energized, very modern woman who meets a charming Mr. Darcy re-enactor, sure to draw the attention of Janeites and romance readers alike.

When Vanessa Roberts, PR extraordinaire with the perpetually-present smartphone and ever-ready clever social media tweet or posting, takes on a pro-bono job as a favor for her elderly Jane Austen loving aunt, little does she expect promoting the English author of, My Year as Mr. Darcy, to turn her organized world topsy-turvy. When she finally meets Julian Chancellor, who has capitalized on his good looks “as he gives a little historical background on his Regency-era clothing as he proceeds to take it off –down to his drawers” at his book signings, she finds she too, like the throngs of Darcy fans in the audience, is caught by his artful allurements.

When she realizes his incentive for writing his book is to raise money to support the restoration of his ancestral home, coupled with his charm and gentlemen-like behavior, she can’t help herself but start to fantasize what a fling, nay relationship, with him might be like. As they all attend the Jane Austen Society North America (JASNA) Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Chicago, while surrounded by Austen lovers fully immersed in the hubbub, Vanessa is busy promoting her author, “Want to tie the knot with Mr. Darcy? He’s in Cravat Tying 101 right now.#JASNAagm #UndressingMrDarcy #OrDressingMrDarcy?” p. 71 Surprisingly amongst all the bonnets and lace, she discovers she might be open to the possibilities of something more to life than constantly being plugged in.

It felt as if some of his Austen quotes were speaking directly to her at times, and it occurred to her that it might be time that she gave the author another chance. Perhaps her aunt had been on to something all these years. Was there something beyond the happily ever after stories and the demure portrait of a woman in a white ruffled cap that popped in Vanessa’s head every time ‘Jane Austen’ was mentioned?” p. 36

Undressing Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos (2013)As Julian’s clothes come off, the heat turns up. But it’s not just his fine person that captivates her; his endearing friendship with her beloved aunt coupled with his affection and knowledge of all things Austen soon bewitch her body and soul. “‘The conversion has begun. It’s in your blood. Resistance is futile.’ He looked into her eyes and took a step backward. ‘You’re becoming an Austen fan.‘” p. 9

But like in life, ever dry spell has its flood. And for the lonesome, loveless Vanessa, soon after meeting Julian she meets a handsome, amiable pirate! Turns out HeroCon is happening simultaneously at the same Chicago hotel. Is Chase MacClane a rogue of the highest order or is he the hero in disguise?

Two Austen events later, Vanessa finds herself in England for the celebrated ten day Jane Austen Festival in Bath. As soon as the plane lands, the consummate media maven posts, “‘Here I am once more in this Scene of Dissipation & vice, and I begin already to find my Morals corrupted.’ Could a girl ask for more? All sorts of sordid things happen in London.” p. 209 But all may not be how it appears. Later as she scampers about London and Bath on a wild, Austen-inspired scavenger hunt, she questions the authenticity of her relationship with Julian, her friendship with Chase, her aunt’s imminent Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and what she is going to do about any of it. “She laughed at her own folly. Folly? Had she ever used that word before? Why did she palpably feel Jane Austen’s presence across the room, near the trio, with folded arms and laughing at her?” p. 214 Doornebos’s storytelling had me biting my bottom lip until the very last, guessing who, if anyone, our fair heroine might choose!

Karen Doornebos, the author of Definitely Not Mr. Darcy, has certainly delivered me good tidings of comfort and joy this holiday season with this latest offering. Because of her concise research of Austen, in concert with the believable dialogue and madcap romantic antics, I am compelled to tweet: “@xtnaboyd Undressing Mr. Darcy is the #perfectstockingstuffer for Austen & Darcy lovers everywhere- regardless who are naughty or nice!”

5 out of 5 Stars 

Undressing Mr. Darcy, by Karen Doornebos
Berkley Trade (2013)
Trade paperback (368) pages
ISBN: 978-0425261392

Cover image courtesy of Berkley Trade © 2013; text Christina Boyd © 2013, Austenprose.com

Undressing Mr. Darcy Book Launch with Author Karen Doornebos and Giveaway!

Undressing Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos (2013)Please join us in celebration of the launch of author Karen Doornebos’ second novel, Undressing Mr. Darcy, published today by Berkley Trade.

Karen has joined us to chat about her inspiration to write her new book, a humorous contemporary romance inspired by the chemistry between Jane Austen’s characters Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Her publisher, Berkley, has also generously offered a giveaway chance for a paperback copy of Undressing Mr. Darcy to three lucky winners. Just leave a comment with this blog post to enter. The contest details are listed below. Good luck to all. 

Thank you for joining us Karen.

Inspiration for Undressing – shall we say – a flame? 

Laurel Ann asked me to talk a bit about my inspiration for Undressing Mr. Darcy. Full disclosure: when I was researching Regency male clothing for my first novel, Definitely Not Mr. Darcy, I hit upon an English website called The History Wardrobe that did a show called Undressing Mr. Darcy. It seems a “Mr. Darcy” would disrobe down to his drawers while a woman lectured about his articles of clothing.

Wow. What more could a Darcy fangirl ask for?! I never saw the show and it’s now defunct, but my imagination started clicking and it wasn’t long until I came up with:

He’s an old-fashioned, hardcover book reader from England who writes with a quill pen. She’s a modern American career woman, hooked on her social media. Can he find his way into her heart without so much as a GPS?!

So, undressing caused the cognitive wheels to turn. ;) But, going deeper than that, what else inspires?

It’s cliché, but: sparks flying.

There is no better way to describe the air between Darcy and Elizabeth than: flammable in a good way. And I love that! I loved it at 16 years old when I read Pride and Prejudice and I love it now. There isn’t any sex in Austen, but P&P is especially rife with sexual tension, and the entire book feels ready to ignite at the inevitable union of Darcy and Elizabeth.

In Undressing Mr. Darcy I haven’t tried to recreate Darcy and Elizabeth, but rather, bring a similar kind of energy to Julian, who has been called “adorably old-fashioned” by RT Book Reviews, and Vanessa, my thoroughly modern Millie.

I also think the eternal appeal of Darcy and Elizabeth happens to be the fact that they need to learn something from each other. They came into each other’s lives to be educated, so to speak, by each other. They need to calibrate and recalibrate. Likewise, my flawed characters need to learn a thing or two from each other—but do they? Who learns and who doesn’t?

When, back in 2011, I stumbled across the Undressing Mr. Darcy idea, what I didn’t know was that a pirate would get into the mix. To say this character was inspired by Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow would be…true! Does he bear any resemblance to Wickham? You’ll have to read and find out!

Yet, as much as I enjoy the romance, the teasing, the push and pull, I like learning something as I read (back to that learning thing again)! That’s why I think Austenprose readers will especially enjoy Undressing. Aside from the Jane Austen Society of North America gatherings and Jane Austen Festivals, I delve into Jane Austen’s life, weaving into the story a bright colored ribbon of biography to follow along with (but not in a lecturing, pedantic way)!

To educate myself, I reread Austen’s letters to her sister Cassandra. I traveled to Bath, Chawton and London to see what she saw and experience for myself her cottage, especially juxtaposed with her brother Edward’s massive inherited estate. One of the most poignant moments and certainly a highlight of my trip was seeing Austen’s writing desk at The British Library in London. I incorporated all of this into the book: a modern American woman’s perspective of Austen. Yet, when we analyze Austen, we analyze ourselves, do we not?

Austenprose readers, check out the first chapter of Undressing Mr. Darcy here!

So much more to say, but I have to thank Laurel Ann again for hosting me on this special day! So great to be here.

Author Karen Doornebos in Bath (2012)

A * wave * from the top of Bath Abbey! 

On each leg of the Undressing Mr. Darcy Blog Tour, I’m taking you along for a ride to England, where I traveled during the summer of 2012 to do some research for my new book. Where am I on this stop? I climbed the 212 steps to the top of Bath Abbey for the panoramic views of the hills and crescents. Afterwards I promptly treated myself to a fluffy Bath bun at the famous Sally Lunn’s, established in 1680 in a house built in 1482… The bun arrived smothered in butter and strawberry jam, but the real topper was enjoying that and peppermint tea in Sally Lunn’s Jane Austen Room!

Sally Lunn's in Bath

JOIN THE BLOG TOUR OF UNDRESSING MR. DARCY: 

12/2: The Penguin Blog

Launch! 12/3: Austenprose

12/4 Laura’s Review Bookshelf & JaneBlog

12/5 Chick Lit Plus – Review

12/6 Austen Authors

12/9 Fresh Fiction

12/10 Writings & Ramblings

12/11 Brant Flakes & Skipping Midnight

12/12 Risky Regencies Q&A

12/13 Books by Banister

Jane Austen’s 238th Birthday! 12/16 Jane Austen in Vermont,

My Jane Austen Book Club &

Author Exposure Q&A

12/17 Literally Jen

12/18 Savvy Verse & Wit – Review

12/19 Kritters Ramblings

12/20 Booking with Manic- Review

12/23 BookNAround

12/26 My 5 Monkeys – Review

12/27 All Grown Up – Review

12/30 Silver’s Reviews

1/2 Dew on the Kudzu

Mr. Darcy’s Stripping Off… 

His gloves. At each stop on the Undressing Mr. Darcy Blog Tour, Mr. Darcy will strip off another piece of clothing. Keep track of each item in chronological order and at the end of the tour you can enter to win a GRAND PRIZE of the book’s, “DO NOT DISTURB I’m Undressing Mr. Darcy” door hangers for you and your friends, tea, and a bottle of wine (assuming I can legally ship it to your state). US entries only, please. 

Thank you Karen for joining us today on Austenprose. Best wishes on the success of your new book. 

Please visit us on December 11 for our review of Undressing Mr. Darcy.

Author Karen Doornebos (2013)Author Bio: Karen Doornebos is the author of Undressing Mr. Darcy published by Berkley, Penguin. Her first novel, Definitely Not Mr. Darcy, has been published in three countries and was granted a starred review by Publisher’s Weekly. Karen lived and worked in London for a short time, but is now happy just being a lifelong member of the Jane Austen Society of North America and living in the Chicagoland area with her husband, two teenagers and various pets—including a bird. Speaking of birds, follow her on Twitter and Facebook! She hopes to see you there, on her website www.karendoornebos.com and her group blog Austen Authors.

A GRAND GIVEAWAY

Enter a chance to win one of three copies available of Undressing Mr. Darcy, by Karen Doornebos by leaving a comment including your favorite Mr. Darcy quote from Pride and Prejudice, or by asking Karen a question about her writing process or the characters in her new book. The contest is open until 11:59 pm PT, December 11, 2013. Winners will be drawn at random from the comments and posted on Thursday, December 12, 2013. Shipment to US addresses only. Good luck to all.

Undressing Mr. Darcy, by Karen Doornebos
Berkley Trade (2013)
Trade paperback (368) pages
ISBN: 978-0425261392

Cover image courtesy of Berkley Trade © 2013; text Karen Doornebos © 2013, Austenprose.com

My Own Mr. Darcy, by Karey White – A Review

My Own Mr Darcy, by Karey White (2013)From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder:

How often do we envision the partner we will (hopefully) spend the rest of our lives with? What will he/she look like? For those of us who have read Pride and Prejudice, I’m sure Mr. Darcy has played a part in those visions. Anyone fortunate enough to have seen the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice knows Matthew Macfadyen’s portrayal of Darcy is a good place to start (I’m a Colin Firth girl myself though!) When I heard that Karey White had written a book about the pursuit of a perfect Mr. Darcy a la the wonderful 2005 film adaptation, I figured I had to give it a try.  My Own Mr. Darcy is the title, and it is an interesting idea to say the least.

Elizabeth has seen the man she wants to have for the rest of her life. The only problem is that he is Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy in the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice. After Elizabeth first glimpses Macfadyen when she watches the movie with her mother, she vows to never date another man until she finds one that matches her idealistic views. However, this seems to do her more harm than good, as six years pass without Elizabeth going on a single date. Finally, Elizabeth is convinced by her roommate to attempt ten dates with a man named Chad. Although she finds the idea revolting, she soon finds that Chad is kind and down to earth. As a school science teacher and swim coach, Chad is not the kind of guy that Elizabeth envisioned herself dating. However, while dating Chad, she meets Matt Dawson, a wealthy bookstore owner who appears to be everything she saw in Mr. Darcy from the beginning. However, as she gets to know Matt, she finds that what she originally wanted in a man may have been wrong from the beginning. Will Chad’s nondescript background be enough to sway Elizabeth from the dazzling Matt Dawson?

I think that contemporary novels inspired by Austen’s works are my favorite works to read in the sphere of Jane Austen fan fiction. I’m always curious to see how authors will modernize Austen’s storylines or characters, or how their story will be influenced by Austen. I was really impressed with the way White’s story was influenced. The idea of holding out for the perfect man (aka Mr. Darcy) is something I’m sure many women have done. I give White a lot of credit for also pushing forth the idea that sometimes the idea of what is perfect for us is actually disastrous. So many times books that focus on relationships about idealistic men or women in larger-than-life scenarios directly impact what we want and wish for in real life. Elizabeth is a perfect example of what perfectionistic romances can do to a woman! White gets two thumbs up from me for writing romance with a realistic approach.

White’s storytelling and writing was effective, flowed easily from page to page, and was thoroughly enjoyable as a whole. My one complaint is that I would have liked to have seen a longer conclusion to the novel. We worked up this conflict between Elizabeth, Matt, and Chad for most of the book only to have it resolve too quickly and be done with. I’m a reader that enjoys the building of a good conflict as well as a de-escalation after the resolution (I like dessert with my dinner!) Regardless of the short ending, this book makes a perfect companion to a cold day. With a warm cup of cocoa and blanket you’ll fall in love with these characters just as much as I did.

4 out of 5 Stars

My Own Mr. Darcy, by Karey White
CreateSpace (2013)
Trade paperback (288) pages
ISBN: 978-1490537269

Cover image courtesy of Karey White © 2013; text Kimberly Denny-Ryder © 2013, Austenprose.com

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, by Helen Fielding – A Review

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, by Helen Fielding (2013)From the desk of Christina Boyd:

We were first introduced to Bridget Jones’ Diary in 1997. Readers kept it on the New York Times bestseller list for over six months. We were utterly addicted to this new confessional literary genre author Helen Fielding had created—the unguarded, neurotic ramblings of a London singleton in search of love—and her obsession with Jane Austen’s romantic hero Mr. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice, (admittedly Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in the 1995 BBC/A&E mini-series). We devoured the sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason in 1999, and the subsequent movies with an all-star cast of Renée Zellweger, Hugh Grant, and, yes, Colin Firth as dishy, love-interest Mark Darcy. Now 14 years later, Fielding has resurrected her most popular character …

STOP. If you haven’t heard about the big, gigantic, SPOILER in her new novel, Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy—DO NOT PROCEED. This is your chance to bail now. Save yourself the trouble and time of ranting at me in some long-winded diatribe. You have been given due notice. But, please do come back here and let’s compare notes, once you have read the book, of course.

However, if you have heard the big news about this third book in the series, then carry on. My little review won’t ruin anything for you that has not already been broadcast worldwide. Also, a slight warning as to the sailor-like language sprinkled throughout that we have come to expect from Bridget and friends. (My apologies to sailors everywhere who do not swear or speak in a vulgar manner. Terrible, terrible stereotype. I know.) Though jarring, cringe-worthy really, if any of my American friends were to spew such vulgarity, coming from Bridget, any Brit really, this American reviewer tends to give a pass. Maybe it’s the charming British accent? Or the Renee Zellweger narrative I hear in my head?

Channeling my inner-Bridget’s up to the minute, daily diary-style format, the following is an account of my ponderings on Fielding’s latest offering:

SPOILER ALERT…SPOILER ALERT…SPOILER ALERT…SPOILER ALERT

Monday 30 September 2013 

Number of times I said “WHAT?” when The Today Show announced author Helen Fielding killed off Mark Darcy 20, number of negative thoughts 1000, number of Facebook posts and threads I mentioned this spoiler 9, hours it took me to overcome my shock of Mark’s death 26, days I had to wait after this bombshell until my advanced copy was released from the publisher 10, days I had to wait until my copy was forwarded on from Austenprose blogmistress 2, hours I had to wait to get a moment to myself from delivery of said book until I could crack it open 10, number of days it took me to actually finish because of the rude intrusions of real life 3.

7:17 a.m. Breaking news on The Today Show. “Hearts are breaking wide open around the world. Bridget Jones is back. Minus Mr. Darcy.” What? What?! No Mark Darcy! My dear husband tried to offer his condolences by pointing out the British are not afraid of killing off their favorites in their television programs, reminding me of the recent Downton Abbey debacle of doing in yummy male lead, and all-around good-guy, Matthew Crawley, and even many of my favorites from MI-5, aka in Great Britain as Spooks. (Not helpful.) Still, how can this be? Is this a prank? Pfffffft. What’s the point? Who wants to read about Bridget Jones if there’s no Mark Darcy?

7:27 a.m. Facebook, twitter, and blogs are all abuzz with devastating news. I knew the book had been embargoed to all advanced copies for reviews. Was this the reason? Maybe so, and yet, somehow a copy must have slipped out, and the publisher must have said, “Go ahead, leak the bloody spoiler,” says my wildly, active imagination. Amidst the U.S. economy being held hostage by its own government, earthquakes, typhoons, Iran’s nuclear program talks, Mark Darcy’s death has pushed aside Miley Cyrus’s “strategic hot mess.” Or, was so-called leak possibly part of cleverly choreographed marketing scheme? Hmmm…? On to reading the book…

Friday 11 October 2013

Number of times nits are mentioned 43 (plus or minus), number of times I scratched my own head after reading about nits 43 (plus or minus), number of times I scratched my head at the mention of some clearly British word or product like: spag bog and Fairy Liquid 2, number of barn owl sightings 2, number of times I cried at the end of barn owl scenes 2, number of times I wept over Bridget’s memories of Mark 3, number of times I laughed out loud 78, number of pages I giggled at the repeated mention of the f-word (and I mean fart) 3 ½, number of pages until the use of the other f-word is used (and I mean “fuckwit”) 12, number of times used thereafter 278 (plus or minus), number of Jane Austen references 2 (maybe 3), number of days since I finished reading it (yet am still mulling over the details) 5.

When last we read about Bridget Jones it was the year 2000, and at the close of The Edge of Reason Mark Darcy was arranging his case load in America and, or Thailand, with Bridget in tow. Over a decade later, the world has changed. Major life changes. 9-11. Technology. The Internet. Bridget and Mark now have two children.

Mad About the Boy opens with Bridget in a quandary about her friend’s 60th birthday party. Should she, or should she not, invite her boytoy Roxster, who happens to be celebrating his 30th birthday on the same night? Then it proceeds right into a calamitous episode of nits (head lice), vomit and diarrhea. She must handle it all alone, if we are to believe the spoilers, without Mark. For the next 20-odd pages all the usual Bridget chatter about her boytoy, and bumbling about as a single mother, without one mention of Mark. I quite think if I had not heard Fielding had killed off Mark prior to this reading, I would have been Googling to see if I had missed a Book 3 and was in fact reading Book 4. And then on page 26, there it was:

Mark Darcy 1956-2008

Told from Bridget’s perspective, with long chunks of her irreverent monologue, her often minute by minute running commentary, her texting conversations, and now with Twitter, her attempt to get current, she tweets:

Thursday 12 July 2012, 155 lbs, pounds lost 20, pages of screenplay written 10, Twitter followers 0. <@DalaiLama Just as a snake sheds its skin, so we must shed our past again and again.> 

“You see? The Dalai Lama and I are one cyber-mind. I am shedding my fat like a snake.” (p. 55)

So this is Bridget a decade and a half later. Widowed, 51-year-old, cheeky single mother of two small children, attempting to write a screenplay and still struggling with how she fits into the world—a tech savvy world. Forlorn, without her rock Mark Darcy. She is still friends with the bawdy cast we love and adore: Talitha, Jude, Tom and Magda, and as they are all now deeply entrenched in that other vulgar phrase “middle age,” are determined to get rid of Bridget’s lonely, “Born-Again Virgin” status. 

“I’ve had enough of this! What do you mean ‘middle-aged’? In Jane Austen’s day we’d all be dead by now.  We’re going to live to be a hundred. It’s not the middle of our lives. Oh. Yes. Well, actually it is the middle.” (p. 67) 

Yet, she is determined to find her new normal. Mark wouldn’t want her to be alone and miserable. 

And just like that, she decides to get back out there. After all, it has been four and a half  years since she has even kissed a man. But, like most times when you are trying something new, or rather something you have done before but not in a very, long time, and trying to be 30, when you are in fact 51, events do not always turn out as you hoped. 

“We all became crestfallen, our confidence collapsing like a house of cards. ‘Oh God. Do we just look like an ensemble of elderly transvestites?’ said Tom. 

‘It’s happened, just as I always feared,’ I said. ‘We’ve ended up as tragic old fools convincing ourselves the vicar is in love with us because he’s mentioned his organ.’ (p. 80)

However, Bridget does find love and affection via Twitter. This story-line is chock full of tender, LOL, randy moments, and amusing texting dialogue as she enjoys re-discovering her sensuality with her 30 year old boytoy, who really does fancy her. But Bridget is still Bridget—sure  to cock something up as she fumbles about and never showing herself to her best, especially in front of smug marrieds, potential career makers and her son’s chess/music/sports department teacher Mr. Wallaker. Bridget describes him as “fit, tall, slightly younger than me, crop-haired, rather like Daniel Craig in appearance.” (p. 5). Surely this must be Fielding’s nod to who should play the new teacher in the future movie? Yes, puleez.

At the moment when you think you can’t take one more self-destructive, idiotic, nitwit antic, Bridget takes a breath, adjusts her priorities and performs a few self-less acts—that end up turning things around. I think that’s what Bridget would call Karma. And what would a series be (that began with what Fielding confesses was stolen from the plot of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice), without a romantic, happily ever after? Bridget-style, of course.

“He took a step closer. The air was heavy with jasmine, roses. I breathed unsteadily. It felt as though we were being drawn together by the moon. He reached out, like I was a child, or a Bambi or something, and touched my hair. ‘There aren’t any nits in here, are there?’ he said.” (p. 321-322)

And that’s not even with the loveable Daniel Cleaver, who, yes, is in this book as… wait for it… the children’s godfather!

Keep Calm and Carry On Without Mark Darcy

So, let me be the one to say, although I loved Bridget with Mark Darcy, (her grounded, stabilizing life-force, her Yin to his Yang), I do accept that horrible, tragic things do happen in real life. Fielding took a brave leap (others might say foolish) in killing this beloved character off. Believe me. Those first 26 hours after I learned of his death I was as dazed as Jones in a vodka induced stupor. Fielding could have played it safe. But where would she have gone with that? Every day real life women get up, face the day, and soldier on. If our Bridget can do it… you can too. Stay calm and carry on without Mark Darcy. Mad About the Boy is a delicious, boisterous, raucous triumph championing a re-awakening of life. Read the book. As in real life, you’d hate to miss out. <@Dalai Lama An open heart is an open mind.>

5 out of 5 Stars

P.S. I was going to knock off ½ a star for killing Mark, but then reminded self it would have been a predictable, pointless, fuckwit move.

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, by Helen Fielding
Alfred A. Knopf (2013)
Hardcover (400) pages
ISBN: 978-0385350860

Cover image courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf © 2013; text Christina Boyd © 2013, Austenprose.com

Steampunk Darcy Book Launch Party with Author Monica Fairview & Giveaway

Steampunk Darcy, by Monica Fairview (2013)Please help me welcome author Monica Fairview today in celebration of the release of her new novel, Steampunk Darcy. This story cleverly combines Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with the Victorian steampunk genre. Get ready, dear readers, to have your bonnets blown off in this creative new twist.

Author Monica Fairview:

Darcy the hero. As Pride and Prejudice inspired spin-offs have proliferated, we have seen Darcy in many shapes and forms.  Darcy werewolves, Darcy with fangs, Darcy fighting zombies, Darcy playing detective. While this may seem surprising, it is in fact perfectly logical. Darcy is our epitome of a romantic hero, and if that’s the case, then each one of us in turn, writers or readers, has to interpret in our unique way who and what our ideal hero is. Every setting, every generation needs its Darcy. As does the future.

In Steampunk Darcy, William Darcy doesn’t have actual monsters to fight. Instead, Darcy, as a Victorian-style scientist, is out to save the world against – climate change. In the retro-Victorian society of Bostontown, the biggest threat against humans isn’t monsters; it’s the slime rain.

Imagine a world in which roads have been washed away, fossil fuel can no longer be used, and we have reverted to the world of our ancestors – the Victorians. This is the Age of Steam, a word of invention and science, of ladies in pretty dresses and parasols and dapper gentlemen in top hats and frock coats, of barouches and corsets and goggles. It’s the Victorian Era with a difference.  A world in which women are aviators and gentlemen like Fitzwilliam Darcy’s descendent can conduct experiments that may (or may not) enable him to take retro-images of his ancestors, Darcy and Lizzy.

The perfect setting for a hero. Allow me to introduce you to: William Darcy, the ultimate gentleman, and Seraphene, the definitely-not-malleable young lady who, like Lizzy Bennet, doesn’t seem to understand what’s good for her. Or at least, she doesn’t seem to understand that money is what matters, nothing else. She is far more interested in asserting herself than in being sensible, and this is both her flaw and what creates her appeal to both reader and hero. Not that Lizzy would recognize Seraphene in her mirror. Seraphene is the product of a post-apocalyptic context. She’s tough, she’s determined, and she’s suspicious to a fault.

In addition to the hero and the heroine, several of the characters from Pride and Prejudice also appear in Steampunk Darcy, though admittedly with a twist. Mr. Wickham is there to encourage Seraphene in her rejection of Darcy’s arrogance. Gianna is the teenage rebel who trusts too easily. Caro as Miss Bingley will resort to any means to capture Darcy, and Lady Catherine appears on the scene as Darcy’s stepmother who wants to preserve the Darcy family’s good name. Other characters are there, too, but they take on different forms. Seraphene is embarrassed to have Darcy meet her mother, but for entirely different reasons. Her sister Bree, like Lydia, is a clueless teenager, but Steampunk Darcy doesn’t follow the Jane/Bingley plotline, and the Wickham/Lydia story gets transposed onto other characters.

As well as the characters from Pride and Prejudice, many of the themes of Pride and Prejudice come up: Is Seraphene’s prejudice towards Darcy justified? Does Darcy’s preoccupation with Pemberley and pride in his Darcy family heritage affect his relationships with others? Is it possible to transcend class boundaries? And perhaps, most importantly, what constitutes a gentleman? Because that’s what we love most about Darcy, isn’t it? He is able, most unexpectedly, to introduce romance into a social context that judges a man by how large his fortune is, and to show that nobility isn’t about “noble” connections, but about behaving honorably.

After all, isn’t that what’s at the center of Pride and Prejudice? Where can we find a more satirical indictment of that problem than in the first sentence that we all know so well? “A man who is in possession of a fortune…” Notice how Austen says “a man”. This isn’t about anyone specific, it isn’t about Darcy. It isn’t about Bingley. The point is, no one cares who that man is. What is important is how much money he possesses. The conflict is set up on the very first page – between relationships based on material benefit on the one hand and relationships based on something more noble, more meaningful on the other. Marriage, the patronage system typified by the relationship between Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine, the power of money to define a relationship as in Wickham and Lydia’s case are all contrasted with Darcy’s willingness to change, to become more humble, to stand by the heroine at her hour of need.

In Steampunk Darcy, William Darcy is the hero in more ways than one. As the bigger-than-life Boss of the Charles River, he dominates over Bostontown almost literally, since it is he who is responsible for building the biodome that protects the township from the effects of slime rain. Seraphene sees him as a powerful figure whose determination implies a blatant disregard of others. Such power, such control over people’s lives and livelihood (as Darcy would have had over his tenants at Pemberley) can corrupt. We see this in the figure of Darcy’s half-brother Richard. But Darcy, like his ancestor, has a strong gentlemanly code that he consciously follows, and Seraphene comes to learn, like Lizzy Bennet, that he is willing to put that code at her service.

Because at the heart of Steampunk Darcy, as in Pride and Prejudice, is the romance. In Pride and Prejudice, Darcy puts the power of his influence and wealth at the service of the Bennet family, who are staring helplessly into the face of social ruin. In Steampunk Darcy, Wickham is yet again is the means by which William Darcy proves that he is a hero, willing to sacrifice himself for others. And, like his ancestor, he is willing to change, to make himself worthy of the heroine’s love.

But enough said. Any more and I’ll be giving away spoilers. Which won’t do at all.

Many thanks to Monica for her visit with us today. Best wishes for the success of this groundbreaking new novel.

Author Monica Fairview (2013)Author Bio:

Monica Fairview is an ex-literature professor who abandoned teaching criticism about long gone authors who can’t defend themselves in order to write novels of her own. Monica’s first novel was An Improper Suitor, a humorous Regency. Since then, she has written two traditional Jane Austen sequels: The Other Mr. Darcy and The Darcy Cousins (both published by Sourcebooks) and contributed a sequel to Emma in Laurel Ann Nattress’s anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It (Ballantine). Steampunk Darcy is her latest novel.

Originally a lover of everything Regency, Monica has since discovered that the Victorian period can be jolly good fun, too, if seen with retro-vision and rose-colored goggles. She adores Jane Austen, Steampunk, cats, her husband and her impossible child. Visit Monica at her at Monica Fairview Author; Austen Authors; Facebook and Twitter.

A GRAND GIVEAWAY 

Enter a chance to win two print copy or one of two Kindle digital copies available of Steampunk Darcy by leaving a comment before 11:59 pm PT Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013 stating what intrigues you about this combination of genre’s, or by asking Monica a question about her writing process. Winners will be announced on Thursday, October 24th. Print copy mailed to US and UK addresses only; digital copies internationally. Good luck to all.

UPDATE: Because of the strong turnout, author Monica Fairview has generously increased the number of giveaways to two (2) print copies and four (4) digital copies, and extended the time of the contest through Wednesday, November 6th, 2013. Winners to be announced on Thursday, November 7th, 2013. 

Steampunk Darcy, by Monica Fairview
White Soup Press (2013)
Trade paperback (328) pages
ISBN: 978-1492193234

Cover image courtesy of White Soup Press © 2013; text Monica Fairview © 2013, Austenprose.com

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World (A Pride and Prejudice Variation), by Abigail Reynolds, read by Rachel E. Hurley (Audible Audio Edition) – A Review

The Pride Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge (2013)This is my tenth selection for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013, our year-long event honoring Jane Austen’s second published novel. Please follow the link above to read all the details of this reading and viewing challenge. Sign up’s are now closed for new participants, but you can join us in reading all the great reviews and comments until December 31, 2013.

My Review:

This Pride and Prejudice variation asks readers “What if Elizabeth Bennet had accepted Mr. Darcy’s first proposal?” After reading this question in the book’s description my first reaction was, ACK, why would she?

Like the two other novels by this author that I have read, the story begins on familiar ground at a certain point in Austen’s novel and then quickly takes a left turn—changing the course of the plot and the characters’ lives. In this case it starts at a very critical moment, the first proposal scene when Mr. Darcy so arrogantly assumes that the less-socially-endowed Elizabeth Bennet would jump at the chance to accept his generous offer of marriage. Reynolds’ Lizzy is still repulsed by the thought of this man as her husband and frozen with disgust. Since Austen’s last sentence in Elizabeth’s refusal contains the title of this novel, I was all anticipation of reliving Elizabeth’s famous put down:

“From the very beginning — from the first moment, I may almost say — of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form that groundwork of disapprobation on which succeeding events have built so immoveable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.”

But no—this is where the road veers and Reynolds’ twist begins. Darcy misinterprets Elizabeth’s hesitation as acceptance and kisses her, witnessed by his cousin Col. Fitzwilliam and a gamekeeper. Unaware of her true feelings, Col Fitzwilliam congratulates Darcy while a panicked Elizabeth spins the reasons in her mind why she cannot deny it: her reputation has been compromised and if she does not marry him the future happiness of her family, and her sisters prospects will be dashed. Trapped, she cannot decline and agrees to marry him.

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy The Last Man in the World by Abigail Reynolds Audio (2013)Their one-sided marriage begins on rocky ground. Wrought with misunderstandings: his cold indignation, and her fear and depression, Elizabeth is hindered in her attempts to fit in and learn her new duties as mistress of Pemberley. She is not allowed to be very useful—in fact, anything she does seems to anger and annoy her new husband. After Mr. Darcy is involved in a life-threatening riding accident she dutifully cares for him day and night until she is past exhaustion. During his illness she comes to realize that she really does love him and tells him so when he is finally conscious. They are reconciled, until the laudanum wears off and he returns to his sour and confusing self. When she learns from a servant that he is leaving for London, even though he has not fully recovered and fit for travel, she is crushed blaming his dislike of her. While he is away she learns of her younger sister Lydia’s elopement with George Wickham and their subsequent marriage, facilitated by her husband. She is thankful to him for helping her family out of this devastating scandal, but he again misinterprets her gratitude for wifely obligation and not love. Her unhappiness continues until she reaches the point where she feels the only solution to their dilemma would be her death—relieving him of the disgrace of her inferior connections and releasing him to marry another.

One thing that readers new to variations must embrace immediately is change. The point in re-inventing the plot in a “what if” is the experience of revisiting beloved characters in new scenarios. You are not reading a sequel or a continuation of Austen’s story, but a re-imagining of what her characters might do if the action changed. Logically those characters would exhibit the same personality traits that Austen awarded them, but that can be changed too. Just think of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. You are not in Kansas anymore. If you are open to change and can accept tinkering with Austen’s creations and complete changes in her plot, then variations are for you.

In this sub-genre of Austen paraliterure Reynolds reigns supreme in her level of creativity and fluent prose. She is very skilled at crafting tension between lovers and can think up innumerable ways to keep them apart to prolong our anticipation. Her ardent love scenes were passionately rendered, reaching the blushing point for me every time. One of the major challenges I found with the premise of this story is that I did not like Reynolds’ Mr. Darcy. He was not the honorable man that Austen had crafted, nor a man that I was attracted to. He had duped Elizabeth into marrying him (albeit ignorantly) and he is pretty oblivious to his wife’s feelings, misreading her kind intentions continually. Or so it would appear on first impressions. The couple are at continual crossed purposes, going in circles of misunderstanding and rejection, to a glimmer of brief reconciliation, then back to total despair and unhappiness. After about the third time I was as depressed as the heroine. Once I got over my fixed notions of how Austen’s characters should deport themselves and accepted Reynolds’ alternate universe for Elizabeth and Darcy, I began to enjoy their twisted, tormented souls. It was like Jane Austen morphing into Charlotte Bronte, even though neither author would approve of each other’s style.

This audio edition of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World was aptly read by Rachel E. Hurley with entertaining variations in voice to character and scene. Reynolds has crafted a clever love story and applied familiar characters to suit. That dear reader is what variations are all about. If you are prepared to be taken down the yellow brick road, this is a great introduction to the genre.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World (A Pride and Prejudice Variation), by Abigail Reynolds, read by Rachel E. Hurley
Audible Audio Edition (2013)
Digital, unabridged (6 hrs and 27 min)
ASIN: B00BCXCZCU

Cover image courtesy of Audible © 2013; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2013, Austenprose.com

Finding Colin Firth: A Novel, by Mia March – A Review

Finding Colin Firth by Mia March (2013)From the desk of Christina Boyd:

What Janeite would not stop dead in her tracks when she spies “Colin Firth” in the title of a book? Mia March’s latest offering Finding Colin Firth: A Novel certainly set off all my bells and whistles. The smolderingly sexy British actor not only won our hearts when he emerged dripping wet from Pemberley pond as Mr. Darcy in the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, he has had an acclaimed career, winning the best actor Academy Award in 2011 for The King’s Speech. Who wouldn’t want to find Colin Firth? But no, dear friends, this is not a “How to” book sharing tips and advice on how to track and successfully have a Firth encounter. Eeesh! It’s a work of fiction about three women unknowingly bound together and whose lives intersect when the actor is slated to film a movie in a coastal Maine town. Daily rumors of Mr. Firth’s arrival fuels fantasy and stirs the excitement in their lives and aspirations. (Just imagining spotting Mr. Firth in my little town sets this fan-girl’s heart racing!)

A year after her mother’s death, (who incidentally was a Colin Firth fan), 22 year-old Bea Crane receives a mysterious letter from her deceased mother, confessing she adopted Bea as a newborn. “…Now that I feel myself going, I can’t bear to take this with me. But I can’t bear to tell you with my final breaths, either, I can’t do that to you. So I’ll wait on this, for both of us. But you should know the truth because it is the truth.” Shocked, Bea tracks down her birth mother to Boothbay Harbor, Maine and decides she must see this unknown woman for herself.

In Boothbay, Bea learns that 38-year-old Veronica Russo is an unmarried waitress-slash-magic pie baker-slash-Colin Firth fan who has only in the last year returned to her hometown. After years of failed relationships, her friends worry she will end up alone.  “…she’d started saying what felt light-hearted but true at the same time, that she was holding out for a man who felt like Colin Firth to her. Her friend Shelley from the diner had known exactly what she meant. ‘I realize he’s an actor playing roles, but I get it,’ Shelley had said. ‘Honest. Full of integrity. Conviction. Brimming with intelligence.  Loyal. You just want to believe everything he says with that British accent of his –and can trust it.’” Having failed to escape haunting memories of her youth, Veronica has come home to confront her past then “maybe her heart would start working the way it was supposed to. And maybe, maybe, maybe, the daughter she’d given up for adoption would contact her.” Now back to those magic pies by Veronica… She calls them elixir pies claiming to cast hope, love or banishment– or anything that conjures up a solution to one’s troubles. “For a heartbroken friend, Healing Pie. For a sick friend, Feel Better Pie. For a down-in –the dumps friend, Happiness Pie. For the lovelorn, Amore Pie.” And they seem to work! On everyone except Veronica. At least so far.

After seeing her birth mother at the diner, but not brave enough yet to approach her, Bea decides to take a tour of Hope Home, a home for unwed pregnant girls where she was born. There she meets a Manhattan journalist, Gemma Hendricks. Upon first coming to town, the recently fired Gemma thought she could curry favor with her old magazine by scooping a coveted human-interest story on Colin Firth. Instead she is offered a free-lance gig at the local newspaper to write a story on the 50th anniversary of Hope Home.  At a crossroads herself, Gemma has only just discovered she is pregnant but has yet to share the news with her devoted attorney husband. She loves living and working in the city but already knows her husband wants to move to the suburbs and start a family.  “How would she ever get back what she had at ‘New York Weekly’? Alexander would realize this in a hot minute and argue her into that Dobbs Ferry house before she new it.  He’d make his own case until she had no arguments of her own. And once she had the baby? He’d bombard her with articles about working mothers and bad nannies and reckless day cares.”

Although this is an intricate concoction, cooking up a potentially emotionally heated story, it would be a failing indeed were I not to mention the elephant in the room. A glaring error, in fact. And I mean GLARING—Red-light GLARING error—in the beginning of the book. Veronica is baking a pie while supposedly watching the mini-series Pride and Prejudice. The Colin Firth, 1995, A&E five-hour version. March writes, “Fitzwilliam Darcy’s face filled the TV screen. ‘If, however, your feelings have changed, I will have to tell you; you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on…’” Although it’s not Austen’s prose, this Janeite loves that line and all it’s saccharine sweet sentiment. I know for a fact it’s what the Matthew Macfadyen’s Mr. Darcy from the Joe Wright 2005 version of P&P says to Kiera Knightley’s Lizzy Bennet as they meet in a mist covered field at daybreak!  So, I went back and made sure I hadn’t missed something—something like, Veronica was watching the newer version. But no, she is supposed to be watching the Colin Firth version. Ugh! It is incredulous any author writing about the namesake of her book, or her editor, or the layers of people who read it before publication could let such an obvious blunder slip through unnoticed. From then on I had my doubts March was a fan of Colin Firth or P&P – and speculated maybe she wrote this bit of pastiche to take advantage of the current popularity and ready-made fan base of both. Prejudiced thereafter, I read any mention of Mr.Firth or his movies with a cynical eye, thinking this could be any popular actor and his movies dubbed in. Nevertheless, I soldiered on because honestly, I liked the premise—and was hopeful.

Did I enjoy the book? Hmmmmm… Yes, I did. It was an interesting story with strong plot lines. Although Finding Colin Firth: A Novel dealt with powerful issues regarding teenage pregnancy, adoption, marriage and relationship struggles with a happy ending for all, I must admit I never felt overly invested in any of the characters to really like them. There seemed no shortage of disjointed “telling” from the three main characters’ point of view but scant, soulful interaction. Given the themes, I thought there would have been more depth. Pity. In short, it’s a good book. Easy, breezy bit of chic-lit that I liked. Not loved.

Yes, there is a Colin Firth sighting, eventually, but then again, he’s not really the story. Just the bait.

3.5 out of 5 Stars

Finding Colin Firth: A Novel, by Mia March
Gallery Books (2013)
Trade paperback (336) pages
ISBN: 978-1476710204

Cover image courtesy of Simon & Schuster © 2013; text Christina Boyd © 2013, Austenprose.com