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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.5 out of 5 Stars

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

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

Disclosure of Material Connection: The reviewer purchased a copy of this book. We only review or recommend products we have read or used and believe will be a good match for our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 out of 5 Stars

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

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

Disclosure of Material Connection: The reviewer purchased a copy of this book. We only review or recommend products we have read or used and believe will be a good match for our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund – A Review

For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund (2012)From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder

Several months ago I kept hearing a lot of buzz about a book by Diana Peterfreund entitled For Darkness Shows the Stars. Nearly every blogging friend I had seemed to be reading and raving about this novel.  As I did some research on it I discovered that it’s a young adult, sci fi/dystopic version of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I was 100% interested. When Laurel Ann suggested I review it for Austenprose, I was at first super excited and simultaneously nervous. What if it didn’t live up to my expectations? Nerves aside, I dove in eager to see how Persuasion translated into a dystopic world.

Many years ago, the scientific over-manipulation of food, animals, and even people resulted in an event known as the Reduction, which set humanity back hundreds of years technologically and socially and ushered in a new nobility that outlawed most forms of technology. Elliot North is a member of this group, and understood that it was not her place to run away with her childhood sweetheart, a slave known as Kai. Now, years later, the world has begun advancing back to its former glory. A new generation is beginning to reignite progress and cause change, and with this comes the stagnation of the old elite. Therefore, Elliot’s estate is forced to rent land to the Cloud Fleet, a mysterious group of shipbuilders, in order to make ends meet. Little does she know that one of these men is Captain Malakai Wentforth, the same man she loved but dutifully left so many years ago, now under a new name. Although she wonders if this may be her second chance at love, Kai does not seem so sure. He also holds a secret which could alter the very course of their humanity for good or otherwise. Will Elliot be able to persuade him to give her a second chance? What will Kai do with his secret?

At first this book moved very slowly in my opinion. It took me a good 70 pages to really become invested in the story and understand the history as to how the world got to be in its present state. The terminology of all the different social classes was confusing at first, as the “racist” terminology that the upper class used was completely separate from how the underprivileged classes spoke. After I understood this, however, the book definitely caught my attention. Elliot is a conundrum of a character, as she’s stuck in this in-between place of fearing how modernization and technological advancement could harm society again, but also seeing how said advancements could help the depressing current state of affairs. She has all these people on her farm that she needs to feed, yet doesn’t have enough money or time to grow enough food. Therefore, she sees what genetically modifying food could potentially do to save hundreds around her. On the opposite spectrum her grandfather is extremely sick, but comes to find out that there are medications and procedures that had they not been outlawed could have prevented his continual deterioration. She’s a revolutionary in her own right, doing everything in her power to help those around her. The inner battle that she experiences for the majority of the book is an understandable one, and one that can be relatable in multiple contexts. She has all these things that she has been taught to fear, yet sees the benefits of certain modifications once Kai and the Cloud Feet people become a part of her life. She learns that not everything has to be a lesson in extremes, that everything doesn’t have to be either one way or another, and that sometimes the hardest sacrifices you have to make yield the best and worthiest results.

One thing that truly surprised me about this book was the characterization of Elliot’s father and Kai. Elliot’s father was extreme and harsh. The events towards the end of the novel and his reaction to certain revelations were frankly shocking. Upon first glance he seemed aloof, but he’s actually very observant and conniving. He knows exactly what buttons to push to get the results he expects. Additionally, I felt similar feelings about Kai. The level of his anger, rudeness, and spitefulness was too extreme in my opinion. At one point he violently grabs Elliot and is unforgivably rude to her. It’s understandable that he is angry over what happened between the two of them four years prior, but it just seemed a tad too much at times.

Upon finishing this book, I read the prequel, Among the Nameless Stars. The prequel delves into Kai’s journey after he leaves the North State but before he returns to it for the events of this novel. It definitely helped me get a better understanding of the emotional turmoil that Kai faced alone. His anger became more understandable, but only slightly. I’d recommend reading the prequel after For Darkness Shows the Stars, as there are things revealed that are better left as surprises.

I truly enjoyed the way that Peterfreund adapted Austen’s work into this dystopic world. It fit surprisingly well, especially the whole idea of differentiating social classes. The small pieces of the novel told in an epistolic fashion made me all the more anxious for the “Wentworth letter” (I can happily tell that you the letter does not disappoint.) Peterfreund has definitely earned a new fan in me, and I’m excited to continue this new series with her as she adapts The Scarlet Pimpernel next. 

Peterfreund’s website describes this series as, “In a distant future, teens work to rebuild their societies in breathtaking adventures inspired by timeless classics.” This series is made up of novels about hope, change, love, and redemption. I can’t think of traits I’d want the current teenage generation to learn more. This is definitely a series I’d recommend sharing.

4 out of 5 stars

For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund
Balzer + Bray (2013)
Trade paperback (448) pages
ISBN: 978-0062006158

Cover image courtesy Balzer + Bray © 2012, text Kimberly Denny-Ryder © 2013, Austenprose

Find Wonder in All Things, by Karen M. Cox – A Review

Find Wonder in All Things, by Karen M. Cox (2012)From the desk of Christina Boyd.

Jane Austen’s most serious and compelling work, Persuasion, is all about retribution, forgiveness and second chances.  Her masterpiece begins seven years after the broken engagement between the young heiress, Anne Elliot, and a junior naval officer, Frederick Wentworth—when he is thrown back into her sphere and both must face the pain from their past.  Karen M. Cox’s award winning novel, Find Wonder In All Things is a modern day homage to this Austen classic.  The tale begins with a lakeside friendship in the Appalachian foothills of Kentucky between Laurel Elliott and James Marshall.  As the two grow, childhood friendship turns to summer romance and halfway through Laurel’s first semester at the local college, James decides to move to Nashville to pursue his music dream.  He assumes she will drop everything to join him.  But at just eighteen and with a generous art scholarship, weighted by family expectations as well, who would fault her for refusing him and staying on the college track?

Eight years later, James, now rich and famous, returns to the lake to visit his sister, while Laurel has turned into a reclusive, starving artist.  Ok, not quite starving but by no means a financial success story.  And most definitely alone.  “Unbidden, he came to mind:  handsome, dashing and determined.  The eight years of separation had softened any flaws she ever saw in him, and now he was almost larger than life to her.  He had been right to believe in himself and in his ability to make his mark on the world.  He had made it, too – perhaps not in the way he intended but still successful beyond his wildest dreams.” p.115.  Captain Wentworth, I mean, James is determined to play it cool and aloof towards Anne.  I mean Laurel!  And Laurel’s regrets are freshly re-visited as she is keenly aware of her depraved status and jealously towards the younger woman James now bestows his attentions.  But Laurel’s generous, self-assured spirit unearths old feelings he thought long buried and a companionable friendship blossoms.  When a water skiing accident throws the two together, emotions come to the surface.  “And he had whispered her name and called her beautiful and sweet.  She could hear the words, and then ‘want…want…’  It had made her roar to life inside her lower belly.  Yes, she thought, I want too.’ But then he left.” p 177.  Maybe too much time and hurt had passed between them…

If you are looking for the cookie cutter formula of a Persuasion adaptation, this may not be it.  For example, you might be surprised that Austen’s pretentious, preening Sir Walter Elliot has been transformed into a struggling but kind hearted marina owner.  And Anne Elliot’s selfish, self-absorbed elder sister Elizabeth has morphed into an affectionate, married, and doting mother named Virginia.  Although many of Austen’s key characters have also been re-named and undergone a modern makeover, they remain comfortably familiar to the Austen fan.  I admit, some of my appreciation was in recognizing the subtle parallels. (Please note that although the prologue opens with Laurel and James as children, their tender love scenes later in years most assuredly rates this an adult read.) However, one need not have read Persuasion beforehand to enjoy this novel.  Find Wonder In All Things stands on its own and no wonder at all, why it was awarded the GOLD MEDAL in the Romance category at the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards.  Congratulations, Karen Cox on another lovely read!

4.5 out of 5 Stars

Find Wonder in All Things, by Karen M. Cox
Meryton Press (2012)
Trade paperback (254) pages
ISBN: 9781936009176

© 2012 Christina Boyd, Austenprose

Persuaded: The Jane Austen Diaries #3, by Jenni James – A Review

Persuaded, Austen Diaries #3, by Jenni James (2012)From the desk of Kimberly Denny Ryder

Most of us bon-a-fide Austen lovers strive to share our love of Austen with everyone around us.  Whether it’s sharing her novels, a film adaptation, or a novel from the JAFF (Jane Austen Fan Fiction) world, we try and spread the “word of Austen” everywhere we can.

When trying to share Austen with the younger generation I’ve frequently found that teens lose interest due to the terminology and writing style of that time period.  The explosion of young adult writers using Austen as their inspiration is, I think, the answer to this problem! Jennie James is doing her part to get the next generation “into Austen” by modernizing each of her six major novels in her Jane Austen Diaries series.

In Persuaded, a modern retelling of Austen’s Persuasion, James introduces us to Amanda, a high school student who has a crush on her classmate, Gregory.  Although her heart tells her otherwise, she bows to peer pressure and rejects Gregory’s advances, telling herself that he isn’t good enough to win her heart.  Saddened, Gregory and his family move out of Farmington, the town in which Amanda resides.  Three years later, these words come back to haunt her, as Gregory returns to Farmington and is a whole new man.  He’s matured physically, and all the girls who previously mocked him are drooling over him.  Can Amanda convince him that her actions in the past were an act?  How can she make him believe that she’s secretly had a crush on him the whole time, and not just after his transformation?

James definitely writes in an upbeat and accessible way that is appealing to the young adult crowd.  This is especially important as winning this demographic over is crucial to the continued success of Austen’s works, and ensures that they will have an eager audience for many years to come.  I was curious as to how she would handle the adaptation of certain aspects of the original, such as the famous scene where Louisa Musgrove jumps off the Cobb at Lyme and hits her head.  With a bit of imagination and four-wheelers in the desert, James handled it quite well!  It dovetailed nicely with the modernity of the work, which included texting, email, and other modern comforts that made the book all the more appealing to younger generations.  Although the story seemed almost a bit too polished and puffy at certain times for me, it is most likely due to the fact that I don’t read YA fan fiction as much as I should.  Regardless, if you’re looking for a great way to introduce a friend or family member to the wonderful world of JAFF (and perhaps the original works themselves!) give Persuaded a try.  It’s a delightful, clean, and fast paced YA read that is sure to be a hit.

4 out of 5 Stars

Persuaded, by Jenni James
Walnut Springs Press (2012)
Trade paperback (242) pages
ISBN: 9780983829348

© 2012 Kimberly Denny Ryder, Austenprose