Duke Darcy’s Castle: A Dare to Defy Novel (Book 3), by Syrie James—A Review

Duke Darcy Castle by Syrie James 2020From the desk of Pamela Mingle:

A castle in Cornwall overlooking the sea. A dashing, though reluctant, duke who’s just taken over the dukedom. And a heroine who desperately wants to have a career as an architect rather than a love affair. Taken together, a perfect catalyst for a romance that has more than its share of obstacles. Syrie James’s latest novel, Duke Darcy’s Castle, is the third entry in the “Dare to Defy” series set in the Victorian period.

From the moment they meet, an irresistible attraction ignites between the tenth Duke of Darcy, Lance Granville, and Kathryn Atherton, New York heiress. When she arrives at St. Gabriel’s Mount with a proposal to redesign the castle, Lance mistakes her for the village school teacher, and she puzzles over why a duke would answer his own door. They stare at one another, each mesmerized by the other. After a moment, Lance comes to his senses and invites her in.

Kathryn is desperate to show what she can achieve as an architect, a profession exclusively the domain of men during the Victorian period. When a skeptical Lance is about to turn her away, she tries one more time to persuade him to give her a chance. Having learned of his background as a captain in the Royal Navy, Kathryn awes Lance with a drawing of her vision for his study, replacing the “cluttered, gilded look” with a nautical theme. He’s amazed that after such a short time, she knows exactly what would please him. Lance agrees to Kathryn taking on the job, at least for a trial.

Lance insists that financing the castle renovation is no problem. But the truth is, he is deeply in debt, and the notes are due in a few months. He has no idea where he’ll find the money. His late brother’s fiscal management was a disaster for the duchy. For her part, Kathryn is also less than honest. She doesn’t tell him she’s an heiress. Both of her sisters are countesses, having married English earls a while back, but Kathryn doesn’t want to follow in their footsteps. She’s delighted to hear that Lance is well off.

On the first night she stays at the castle, Kathryn has too much to drink. She and Lance give in to their attraction for each other. She passes out while committing a major indiscretion with him. In the morning, Kathryn is disgusted with herself and offers him her resignation. Lance persuades her to stay, and they both vow to keep things on a strictly professional level. Moving forward, Kathryn impresses Lance, both with her talent and her work ethic.

Keeping each other at a distance works reasonably well until Lance’s solicitor reveals the truth about Kathryn’s background. Lance decides it would be a good idea to propose to her. After all, they’re attracted to each other, and both have a vested interest in the castle renovations. And he desperately needs her fortune. So what if they’ve only known each other for three days?

When Kathryn turns him down, he’s mortified. Her sisters married English earls! It seems he chose the one woman in all of England who doesn’t want to be a duchess. Bewildered, he turns to his grandmother for advice. Get to know her, she counsels. Find out what makes her tick, open up to her. He can do those things, but Lance doesn’t appreciate her final words: “Trust me on this. If you want to win that young woman’s hand, you will first have to win her heart.”

Duke Darcy’s Castle impresses with its scrupulous attention to historical detail, from Kathryn’s professional wardrobe to the toys given out at the Children’s Fete. The same is true of the setting. At times, I thought I was in Cornwall looking at the spectacular view of the ocean, feeling the warm slant of the sun, walking across the sand to Rosquay at low tide, and climbing up the hill to the castle.

The love between Lance and Kathryn had the right number of steamy interludes balanced with quiet, sweet moments of speaking freely and openly to each other. However, the frequent interruptions of their lovemaking became somewhat irritating. There is an element of unease for readers that goes along with the fact that Lance absolutely needs Kathryn’s money. The condescending way he views her career aspirations, even after he knows how talented she is, is also disquieting.

James’s focus on Kathryn’s career as an architect moves the novel into a different realm, one of self-realization. One in which the heroine’s work is as fulfilling as her love life. There were limited career choices for women in the Victorian era, and Kathryn showed determination and drive in pursuing her dream, even when her own parents thought it ridiculous, and when Lance belittles it. Modern readers will identify with Kathryn’s dilemma: Can she be a loving wife and mother, yet still have a satisfying vocation?

Duke Darcy’s Castle dazzles with its career-driven, determined heroine and her captivating duke, who doesn’t know his own mind—or heart. Now that I’ve had the pleasure of Kathryn and Lance’s story, I intend to read the first two books in the “Dare to Defy” series. I look forward to the many moments of joy this will bring.

4 out of 5 Stars

Duke Darcy’s Castle: A Dare to Defy Novel (Book 3), by Syrie James
Avon Impulse (384) pages
eBook ASIN: B07DCD1HYB (February 25, 2020)
Mass market paperback ISBN: 978-0062849717 (March 24, 2020)

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The Dare to Defy series by Syrie James

RUNAWAY HEIRESS BOOK SERIES:

Three American heiresses defy their family’s wishes, and social convention, to strike out and find their own happiness in late Victorian Cornwall.

Runaway Heiress: A Dare to Defy Novel (Book 1)

Brainy and college-educated, American heiress Alexandra Atherton will do anything to avoid marriage to the English peer her mother has chosen for her—even abandon the life of privilege she’s always known. But as her escape goes horribly wrong, Alexandra must invent a new identity to gain the help of a handsome stranger.

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Summer of Scandal: A Dare to Defy Novel (Book 2)

An American heiress and an English earl fight against the conventions of society — and their attraction to each other — in the second book in the Dare to Defy series by USA Today bestselling author Syrie James. 

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Syrie James SYRIE JAMES is the USA TODAY and Amazon bestselling author of thirteen novels of historical, contemporary, and young adult fiction and romance. Her books have hit many Best of the Year lists, been designated as Library Journal Editor’s Picks, and won numerous accolades and awards, including Best New Fiction by Regency World Magazine (the international bestseller “The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen”), and the national Audiobook Audie for Romance (“The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte”, also named a Great Group Read by the Women’s National Book Association). Los Angeles Magazine dubbed Syrie the “queen of nineteenth-century re-imaginings,” and her books have been published in twenty languages. A member of the Writer’s Guild of America, Syrie is also an established screenwriter and playwright who makes her home in Los Angeles. An admitted Anglophile, Syrie has addressed audiences across the U.S., Canada, and the British Isles.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS | BOOKBUB

Austenprose is pleased to be part of the Duke Darcy’s Castle Review Roundup in celebration of its release. Please follow along to discover additional reviews and exclusive excerpts.

International bestselling author Syrie James tours the blogosphere February 24 through April 24, 2020, to share her new historical romance, Duke Darcy’s Castle: A Dare to Defy Novel (Book 3). Twenty-three popular book bloggers specializing in historical romance and Austenesque fiction will feature, spotlights, exclusive excerpts, and book reviews of this acclaimed Victorian romance novel featuring a strong, independent heroine and complex, swoon-worthy hero.

Cover image courtesy of Avon Impulse © 2020; text Pamela Mingle © 2020, Austenprose.com

Jane Austen, the Secret Radical, by Helena Kelly—A Review

Jane Austen Secret Radical 2018From the desk of Tracy Hickman:

Was Jane Austen a radical? Was she sympathetic to the “radical reforms” of Charles James Fox and others that included universal male suffrage, the abolition of slavery, and women’s rights? Few would readily place her in the company of Thomas Paine, William Godwin, or Mary Wollstonecraft, but perhaps that is because she kept her dangerous views so well hidden that most of her contemporaries, as well as later generations, have missed them. While I began reading Jane Austen, The Secret Radical with an open but somewhat skeptical mind, I was curious to see what evidence Helena Kelly would provide. In Chapter 1, she throws down the gauntlet: 

We’re perfectly willing to accept that writers like [William] Wordsworth were fully engaged with everything that was happening and to find the references in their work, even when they’re veiled or allusive. But we haven’t been willing to do it with Jane’s work. We know Jane; we know that however delicate her touch she’s essentially writing variations of the same plot, a plot that wouldn’t be out of place in any romantic comedy of the last two centuries.  

We know wrong. (4%)

Kelly cites a number of reasons for what she calls the misreading of Austen, including a lack of reliable biographical information about Austen, the destruction of most of her letters by her sister Cassandra, and a concerted effort by surviving family members to reframe Jane’s life and creative endeavors along more conventional and non-threatening lines. Delays in the publication of her early works obscured themes that were rooted in the upheavals of the French Revolution and the literary phenomenon of the Gothic novel. Add to these the many film adaptations and biopics that have nearly overtaken the original novels in the consciousness of the current age:

When it comes to Jane, so many images have been danced before us, so rich, so vivid, so prettily presented. They’ve been seared onto our retinas in the sweaty darkness of a cinema, and the aftereffect remains, a shadow on top of everything we look at subsequently. (10%) Continue reading

And Dangerous to Know (Rosalind Thorne Mystery Book 3), by Darcie Wilde—A Review

And Dangerous to Know by Darcie Wilde 2020From the desk of Sophia Rose:

When a mystery series is introduced with such words as, “…inspired by the novels of Jane Austen,” you may be sure that I will be more than willing to delve right in with alacrity. Wilde created a capable heroine who was high born, fallen with her family’s disgrace, and risen by her own resolution and strength as a useful woman to those who were once her peers, and what began with curiosity continues to impress with a deep appreciation for her spirit and intelligence.

And Dangerous to Know is so titled to best suit one of the intriguing real historical elements of this third installment in the Rosalind Thorne series which works best read in order. In this latest, Rosalind is involved with ‘mad, bad, and dangerous to know’ Lord Byron, indirectly. While never actually present, he can be felt throughout the book.

Rosalind has recovered from her last encounter with murder and peacefully keeping up her prodigious amounts of correspondence, her household affairs, and trying to help her friend Alice figure out where Alice’s brother George has been disappearing to each evening. Meanwhile, she ponders the affairs of her conflicted heart—a duke or a detective?

This is all interrupted when an imperious summons brings her to the august doors of Melbourne House and she encounters its notorious mistress, Lady Melbourne, and her more notorious daughter in law, Lady Caroline Lamb. Lady Melbourne has letters written by Lord Byron that have gone missing and they are such that ruin for several will happen if they are ever published or the contents bandied about.  Rosalind has a bad feeling about the whole thing, but when Lady Jersey recommended her and another society queen wishes to hire her, there is only one answer to give. Continue reading

Promised: A Proper Romance Regency, by Leah Garriott—A Review

Promised by Leah Garriott 2020From the desk of Katie Patchell:

Promises are tricky things, are they not? As quick as a word, as light as a breath, yet as unyielding as an adamant stone. In Promised, Leah Garriott’s 2020 debut, we see promises kept and promises broken; vows to engage and vows to escape engagements; promises for true romance and promises to create nothing except idle mischief.

Mischief is something our heroine decidedly does not enjoy, yet she is without the benefit of a Kindle or cozy reading nook. I put it to readers to ask yourself this question: In this season of Cupid, don’t we all want a little bit of true romance and idle mischief in our lives?

Promised opens to a matchmaker’s paradise: one lavish house-party; countless single, handpicked, and moderately wealthy guests; and one agenda meant solely to pair off couples by party’s end. While other single women attend for love or acquiring more money, Margaret Brinton has only one purpose – that of entering into a marriage of convenience. Once long ago she had searched for love and thought she’d found it, but then she discovered her fiancé had chosen her solely for her dowry. Heartbroken, she promised herself that whatever she did, she would never, ever fall in love.

A husband, on the other hand, is a different story. Hoping to find a means to pave the way for her younger siblings to marry and for the malicious whispers to silence, Margaret selects the rakish Mr. Northam to be her future husband. Handsome? Yes. Rich? Decently. Able to attach her heart? Blessedly no.

The only hitch to her plan is Mr. Northam’s infuriatingly resolute, seemingly honorable (but decidedly arrogant) cousin, Lord Williams. The insufferable man insists that his cousin is a rake and not worth her attention. Even worse, Lord Williams simply does not know when to give up. His stubbornness to block her marriage to Mr. Northam by engaging himself to her by means of her father’s dictate—all without her consent—turns their already oil-and-water relationship to a blazing inferno. As the weeks go by, angry confrontations and comical mishaps transform into surprising honesty and mutual respect. Yet is this enough to base a future on? Is this enough to enter into—or break—iron-clad vows? Continue reading

Thaw, by Anniina Sjöblom—A Review

Thaw by Anniina Sjöblom 2019Epistolary novels were all the rage in the late eighteenth century prior and during Jane Austen’s early writing career. One does not run across novels written in letters very often today. The fact that characters do not meet face-to-face is restrictive and can be a challenge to readers.

Thaw, by Anniina Sjöblom harkens back to Austen’s first epistolary format before she re-wrote Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice. Not only is it a novel written entirely in letters, it is told in the first-person by one character—Elizabeth Bennet—and is a variation on Austen’s classic tale. With all of these unconventional restrictions and plot changes, one does not know what to expect. If this complex hook is not enough to get your attention, dear reader, then you are not paying attention.

The story begins with a letter by Elizabeth to her sister Jane from London on Christmas day. It is one month after the ball at Netherfield and Elizabeth is married to Mr. Darcy. Their marriage, however, is not the HEA that we imagined after Austen’s classic tale, but a patched-up business due to a devastating scandal. While walking near a frozen pond, Elizabeth’s misstep lands her in the icy waters. Injured and freezing, Mr. Darcy rescues her and returns her to her family, but not before a local resident witnessed the mishap and is telling a different story. Elizabeth’s reputation is ruined, and Darcy, being an honorable man, agrees to marry her. Neither is happy about the forced marriage, yet agree that they must marry.

So, there is no longer three-quarters of the story that Austen wrote. No departure of Darcy and Bingley to London. No Mr. Collins proposing to Lizzy and then later to Charlotte. No trip to Kent by Lizzy and the first failed proposal by Darcy. No trip by Elizabeth and the Gardiners to the north on holiday where they visit Pemberley, and no reconciliation of Elizabeth and Darcy after Mr. Bingley proposes to Jane. Just jump straight to Elizabeth as Mistress of Pemberley writing long missives to her Aunt Gardiner and her sister Jane about her miserable existence as the wife of a surly, disagreeable man. That is the big leap-of-faith part for readers in this variation. You will need to disarm reproof and just go with it. Continue reading

A Preview of The Jane Austen Dating Agency: An Uplifting Romantic Comedy, by Fiona Woodifield

The Jane Austen Dating Agency (2020)Happy Valentine’s Day Janeites!

Jane Austen has been attributed as the mother of romance, so in honor of Valentine’s Day, let’s all crack open Persuasion and let Captain Wentworth pierce our soul and Mr. Darcy say to us, “dearest loveliest (insert your name here).”

In celebration of a holiday devoted entirely to romance, we are previewing a new romantic comedy that is Jane Austen-inspired. Debut novelist Fiona Woodifield and I crossed paths on Twitter and I snagged an exclusive excerpt from her new contemporary novel, The Jane Austen Dating Agency.

Fiona’s heroine Sophie is a dating disaster and has a lot to learn before she gets her HEA. I hope you are in the mood for some laughs with that romance today while you wash down Godiva chocolate with a perfectly paired glass of wine.

Many thanks to Fiona and her publisher Bloodhound Books for letting me feature The Jane Austen Dating Agency. I hope you give it a try. It’s very reasonably priced as $.99 and is sure to make you smile.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Does true romance really exist?

Sophie Johnson is young, intelligent and attractive. So, when she lands the dream position of Sales Executive at a leading fashion magazine, it appears she has it all.  But in reality, she hates her job, is sick of her controlling mother and is a dating disaster.

Then she discovers The Jane Austen Dating Agency, an exclusive club for ladies who want to meet real gentlemen and believes her luck has changed. And when Sophie meets Darcy Drummond, she thinks her dreams have come true. That is until she discovers he is arrogant and hard-headed.

So, when Daniel Becks steps into her life, she thinks she’s found the one. But is he really all he seems?

The Jane Austen Dating Agency is for anyone who has ever dreamed of romance and wondered if it really exists.

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Continue reading

A Preview of Two More Days at Netherfield, by Heather Moll

Two More Days at Netherfield by Heather Moll 2020It’s raining Austenesque books! Last month, according to the industrious Meredith at Austenesque Reviews, there were 52 new Jane Austen-inspired books released in January 2020. 50 of those were Pride and Prejudice variations. That is a lot of Lizzy and Darcy!

I’d like to spotlight the two authors who went out on a limb and wrote non-P&P stories: Emma the Matchmaker: An Austen Inspired Romantic Comedy (Austen Series, Book 2), by Rachel John (audiobook), and Off Script (A Seeking Mansfield Companion Novel Book 3), by Kate Watson. My congratulations ladies. You win the Austenesque Sunshine and Syllabub Prize for bravery.

Among the throng of Lizzy and Darcy “what if’s” published last month was Two More Days at Netherfield, by Heather Moll, a variation of the classic love story with a twist. Moll’s story explores what happens when Elizabeth and her sister Jane’s visit to Netherfield is extended by two days. Could additional conversations with Mr. Darcy change Lizzy’s feelings for him?

This is Moll’s second Austenesque novel after her debut, His Choice of a Wife, released last year. It was a Pride and Prejudice variation also. I sense a strong flame burning for this novel and its characters by this author. Here is a book description from the publisher and an exclusive excerpt from the author for your enjoyment.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

While her sister Jane is ill at Netherfield, Elizabeth Bennet overhears Miss Bingley and the proud Mr Darcy discussing his admiration of Elizabeth and her fine eyes. Not sure what to think of his praise after all of their previous disagreements, and more flattered than she wants to admit, Elizabeth teases him for the disparaging remark he made about her at the Meryton Assembly. Darcy is then forced to reconsider his opinion of a woman who has truly bewitched him more than any other.

The result of this unintended eavesdropping leads to confrontations and apologies on both sides and, eventually, the beginnings of a friendship between Darcy and Elizabeth. Their warming acquaintance impacts the courtship of Darcy’s friend and Elizabeth’s sister, the jealous temper of Miss Bingley, and even the behavior of Mr. Wickham after he arrives in Meryton.

How are the events of the winter drastically affected by the Bennet sisters choosing to spend two more days at Netherfield?

SETUP BY THE AUTHOR:          Continue reading

The Winter Companion (Parish Orphans of Devon Book 4), by Mimi Matthews—A Review

The Winter Companion, by Mimi Matthews (2020)From the desk of Debbie Brown:

Neville Cross doesn’t fit the mold for a leading character. He’s appeared in the previous books of this series in a relatively minor role, and that’s where he seemed to belong. It’s true that, physically, his description as “a gentle giant” and “[a] handsome, golden Galahad” ordinarily would make him an ideal protagonist. Unfortunately, his personal history dispels the visual image. He doesn’t own his own estate, doesn’t have a boatload of money, and doesn’t have much in the way of charm. He grew up dirt poor in a miserable orphanage, where he experienced hunger and neglect. His years working and living at a convent in the neighboring village weren’t any kinder to him. Fortunately, his successful childhood friend, Justin Thornhill, brought him to live at the VERY remote Grayfriar’s Abbey. Most significantly, though, a serious head injury when Neville was just a lad continues to affect his word-finding ability; he’s incapable of speaking with any eloquence. Due to his halting speech, the poor man is more comfortable in the stables with the animals than in the house. He has no desire to see the world, feeling safe where he is and avoiding people he doesn’t know. Not exactly the adventurous, swashbuckling hero type. It takes a talented author like Mimi Matthews to allow Neville to shine as he does in her newly released The Winter Companion (Parish Orphans of Devon #4).

The “companion” in the title refers to Clara Hartwright, Ms. Matthews’ equally unlikely heroine. Justin and his wife, Lady Helena, are hosting his two friends and their wives for a month-long Christmas house party at Grayfriar’s Abbey, along with Neville, of course. Clara arrives as a paid companion to Mrs. Bainbridge, aunt of one of the wives. Clara’s brother Simon currently attends Cambridge, an experience she herself covets but is not attainable for a woman. As reparation for some dreadful misstep Clara made that ended both Simon’s tutoring lessons and her teaching position at the village school, she pays his university bills from her wages. More importantly, Simon has agreed to send copies of all his lesson notes so Clara can learn along with him. She hopes eventually to leave her current employment behind. “She couldn’t attend a proper university, or earn a position in the scientific community. But there was nothing stopping her from being a secretary to a scientist, or a gentleman with an interest in natural history.” Continue reading

A Preview of The Stars We Steal, by Alexa Donne

The Stars We Steal, by Alexa Donne (2020TGIF Janeites. Do you have your reading lined up for your weekend yet? If not, I present for your consideration, The Stars We Steal, a new young adult novel inspired by Jane Austen with an out of this world twist.

Yes, it’s Persuasion in space. Who would’ve thought Jane Austen’s Regency-era plot and characters could be transported on to a spaceship hundreds of years in the future?

Author Alexa Donne did! She has re-imagined Miss Anne Elliott and Captain Wentworth as two teens in the future traveling through the galaxies. Here are a book description and an exclusive excerpt from the publisher to give you a taste of Austen from another era and universe.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Engagement season is in the air. Eighteen-year-old Princess Leonie “Leo” Kolburg, heir to a faded European spaceship, has only one thing on her mind: which lucky bachelor can save her family from financial ruin?

But when Leo’s childhood friend and first love, Elliot, returns as the captain of a successful whiskey ship, everything changes. Elliot was the one who got away, the boy Leo’s family deemed to be unsuitable for marriage. Now he’s the biggest catch of the season and he seems determined to make Leo’s life miserable. But old habits die hard, and as Leo navigates the glittering balls of the Valg Season, she finds herself falling for her first love in a game of love, lies, and past regrets.

Fans of Katharine McGee and Kiera Cass will be dazzled by this world of lost love and royal intrigue.

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Continue reading

A Preview of The World of Sanditon: The Official Companion, by Sara Sheridan

The World of Sanditon, by Sara Sheridan (2019)Welcome to Sanditon, an 1819 Regency seaside community in Sussex England—the fictional site of the new ITV/PBS television adaptation/continuation of Jane Austen’s final unfinished novel.

For those who are watching the eight-part series currently airing in the US on PBS, The World of Sanditon, by Sara Sheridan will be catnip to heighten your addiction. A copiously illustrated behind the scenes look at the making of the new television series, it also is filled with a biography of Jane Austen, historical information on the era, seaside life and health resorts, and Regency life for women.

In addition, there are spotlights on the characters and interviews with the actors who brought them to the screen. Here is a description of the book from the publisher Grand Central Publishing, details on the content, and images from the production for your enjoyment.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Sanditon, the final novel Austen was working on before her death, has been given an exciting conclusion and will be brought to a primetime television audience on PBS/Masterpiece for the very first time by Emmy and BAFTA Award-winning screenwriter Andrew Davies (War & Peace, Mr. Selfridge, Les Misérables, Pride and Prejudice).

This, the official companion to the Masterpiece series, contains everything a fan could want to know. It explores the world Austen created, along with fascinating insights about the period and the real-life heartbreak behind her final story. And it offers location guides, behind the scenes details, and interviews with the cast, alongside beautiful illustrations and set photography.

SANDITON SLIDESHOW:

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CONTENTS: Continue reading