Her Summer at Pemberley: Kitty Bennet’s Story, by Sallianne Hines—A Review

Her Summer at Pemberley by Sallianne Hines 2020From the desk of Katie Jackson:

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Kitty Bennet—the fourth of five sisters—has always been something of an enigma. Her father thought her silly, but mostly she was just an easygoing follower, overshadowed by the gregarious personality of her younger sister and the cleverness or beauty of her older ones. Imagine, if you will, a slightly older and more mature Kitty. Three of her sisters have married, and she’s yearning for a new life of her own. On that note begins Kitty Bennet’s story in Her Summer at Pemberley, a Pride and Prejudice sequel by Sallianne Hines.

At nearly 19 years old, Kitty Bennet “was still seen as merely a dimmer version of Lydia. How could Kitty gain respectability and marry well?” (1) “With an indifferent education, a less than respectable fortune, and a family estate entailed away, Kitty’s prospects were bleak at best.” (2)

Forlorn over her seemingly dismal future at Longbourn, she requests and is granted an invitation to visit her older sister, Elizabeth Darcy, at Pemberley.

“This visit would be a new beginning, away from her dull childhood home and the same tiresome people. Kitty was determined to prove herself worthy of a fine future, but she needed assistance.” (5) And assistance soon arrives in the form of a grand ball to be hosted by Darcy and Lizzy in her honor. Kitty will officially make her debut in society on her nineteenth birthday. The Darcys invite all of their dearest friends and neighbors to join in the festivities, and it seems this is the new beginning Kitty had been hoping for. She could finally enjoy the great pleasure of developing loyal and lasting friendships with other genteel ladies and gentlemen. Most importantly, she is finally at liberty to establish a close connection with her own sister Lizzy, as well as Mr. Darcy’s sister Georgiana, and even Mr. Darcy himself. Reliable relationships she never knew she was missing until she’d discovered them. “This was new—having others interested in knowing her, without the interference of a dominating sister.” (38) Continue reading

Forget Me Not: The Gents (Book 1), by Sarah M. Eden—A Review

Forget Me Not by Sarah M. Eden 2020From the desk of Katie Jackson: 

I unabashedly admit to gasping with delight when I first heard about a new Georgian-era book series being crafted by one of my all-time favorite historical romance authors, Sarah M. Eden. Then I discovered that the stories begin with none other than the elusive Lucas Jonquil, father of the delightful brothers in the Jonquil Family series. Commence a jubilant pirouette! Forget Me Not is the first book in the new series The Gents that will be centered around six, close-like-brothers friends, supporting each other through life’s varied challenges.

In 1777 Nottinghamshire, Lucas Jonquil has come “face-to-face with the extreme frailty of life.” (3) Grief-stricken, he is determined to leave his family home Lampton Park for untold escapades. His motto: “Don’t forget to live.” (3) Thinking of those he’s lost, he declares, “I mean to have enough adventures for two lifetimes. Maybe even three.” (11)

Julia Cummings, age 12, Lucas’s intrepid childhood playmate at neighboring estate Farland Meadows, relies on him as an older brother and best friend and feels abandoned and betrayed by his sudden departure. Heartbroken and lonely, she turns inward and seeks comfort in her forced isolation. “It didn’t do to set one’s heart on people when all people did was leave.” (8)

After eight years away, Lucas returns home from his travels to discover his sweet little Julia is all grown up. He is thoroughly confused by the unexpectedly cold welcome he receives from the dear friend he’s never forgotten, utterly oblivious to the part he played in it. And then, their well-intentioned parents deliver a shocking blow with a joyful announcement at Lucas’s homecoming ball: Lucas and Julia are betrothed and shall marry by special license within days.

Julia flees. “She had not survived all she had these past years to simply cower and accept the absurdity of other people’s moments of madness.” (36) Lucas attempts to negotiate with his parents, arguing the seeming incompatibility between him and his childhood friend now that they were grown. His father’s opinion on the matter seals Lucas’s future. “This is the match we have chosen for you, son. I know you don’t see it now, but it will be a good one. You will sort out your difficulties so long as you are willing to try.” (43) After Julia’s efforts to reason with her own father fail, she resigns herself to her fate: marriage to a man who does not care for her and will surely leave her again. “She was about to be married, and she had never felt more wretched.” (59) Continue reading

A Very Austen Romance: Austen Anthologies (Book 3), by Robin Helm, Laura Hile, Wendi Sotis, Barbara Cornthwaite, Chautona Havig, Mandy H. Cook—A Review

A Very Austen Romance Anthology 2020From the desk of Katie Jackson:

Dear readers, we are living in a golden age, filled to brimming with a wealth of Jane Austen-inspired tales that creatively explore the endless possibilities of her beloved characters. We are rich, indeed, my friends, and A Very Austen Romance: Austen Anthologies Book 3 is a fine addition to our Austenesque universe. Comprised of six novellas crafted by skilled authors, we are treated to a wide variety of alternatives.

“The King of Hearts” by Robin Helm is a Pride and Prejudice continuation centered on the oft-ignored Kitty Bennet. At the age of 20, she is Elizabeth Darcy’s only unmarried sister. “I am very nearly on the shelf. She sighed. I must be extremely unattractive. Or foolish. Or dull.” (134) As the guest of honor at a ball hosted by the Darcys in London, Kitty soon has suitors sprouting from the woodwork while some surprising intrigue simmers in the background.

“You’ve Got to Kiss the Girl” by Laura Hile is a Pride and Prejudice variation that includes Lady Catherine’s point-of-view alternating with Mr. Darcy’s and Elizabeth’s. “For the past decade, she had hinted, suggested, nagged, cajoled—even commanded him. But did Darcy propose to Anne? No.” (1231) Desperate, Lady Catherine gets a devious idea from a “rubbishy novel left lying about” (1262) to take matters into her own hands, with unexpected consequences.

“A Step Too Far” by Wendi Sotis is a Pride and Prejudice variation wherein Darcy and Elizabeth meet unexpectedly when he witnesses her fall and comes to her rescue soon after his arrival at Netherfield and several weeks before the Meryton assembly. Without all of the misunderstanding from that original event and the interference from Wickham soon after, they are free to form an acquaintance based solely on their first impressions of each other. Darcy learns early on about Elizabeth’s familial links to trade and her father’s small estate and is determined to resist his feelings for her, to honor his family duty. “Love-matches were just not done. Darcy was forced to pay attention to the rules of society.” (3509) As Elizabeth recuperates at Netherfield, however, their mutual admiration only grows stronger. Continue reading

Tempted: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Nicole Clarkston—A Review

From the desk of Katie Jackson:

Most variations of Jane Austen’s classic novels are set in England, in the same Regency time period as the original stories. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to discover that this new Pride and Prejudice variation—Tempted, by prolific Austenesque author Nicole Clarkston—takes place in a unique time and multiple locations.

In July 1900, we are introduced to an American Elizabeth Bennet, born and raised on a ranch in Wyoming and recently wed to Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, cousin of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy and second son of the Earl of Matlock. Elizabeth’s amenable yet annoying cousin Billy Collins has escorted her and her sister Jane from America to London so that she may present herself to the colonel’s parents, Lord and Lady Matlock. Colonel Fitzwilliam, a cavalry officer, had been sent to Wyoming as a special envoy of Her Majesty’s Army—and someone with a good eye for horseflesh—in search of horses for the military. While on his mission in Wyoming, the colonel was called to the Boer War in South Africa and married Elizabeth shortly before he departed. There are mysterious circumstances surrounding their hasty marriage, and Elizabeth soon discovers that the colonel’s family is completely unaware of her existence and refuses to receive her as his wife. Instead, she is met by Mr. Darcy, serving as a family representative, who bears unwelcome tidings about her new husband.

“He could not form his own words, so at last, he opened the letter and read a portion of the excruciating print. ‘…We regret to inform you that Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam of the 4th Battalion of the Derbyshire’s has been listed as Missing in Action….’” (117)

Continue reading

A Timely Elopement: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Joana Starnes—A Review

From the desk of Katie Jackson:

For a Pride and Prejudice enthusiast, there is nothing quite like an unusually talkative and passionate Mr. Darcy to pique one’s interest. And it becomes particularly intriguing when the story is told almost exclusively from his perspective. Ironically, it is perhaps his most blundering speech that is mercifully interrupted in this variation, A Timely Elopement, from master storyteller Joana Starnes.

The tale begins in the parlor at Hunsford Parsonage near Rosings Park in Kent with the only two occupants; a visibly agitated Mr. Darcy and a startled and wary Elizabeth Bennet. Darcy has been at Rosings with his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam to visit their aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh and their cousin Anne, while Elizabeth visits her friend Charlotte Lucas, newly married to Elizabeth’s cousin and one-time suitor, Mr. Collins, Lady Catherine’s parson.

Darcy’s unexpected and ardent marriage proposal to Elizabeth is fortunately interrupted just before he manages to insult her with his ungentlemanlike manner, although she cannot forget that morning’s revelation from an unwitting Colonel Fitzwilliam that Darcy’s intervention had ruined her sister Jane’s chances for happiness with his friend Charles Bingley. Colonel Fitzwilliam barges in at that fortuitous moment to announce, “We have reason to fear that Anne has eloped. To own the truth, with Wickham.” (Kindle 82) Shock settles over the group as they consider the dire situation of Anne de Bourgh, known only as a sickly but wealthy heiress, possibly eloping with George Wickham. Lady Catherine later exclaims, “All saints preserve us! A steward’s son! What was the girl thinking?” (Kindle 496) Unbeknownst to her, he was the same fiend who had attempted to elope with Darcy’s sister Georgiana, also a wealthy heiress, from Ramsgate the previous summer. Thus, Darcy ceases his proposal just after confessing his love for Elizabeth. He briefly apprises her of the previous situation between his sister and Wickham before hurrying off to search for Anne, unaware that his aunt is about to summon his ladylove to accompany her to London for the same purpose. Continue reading

Being Mrs Darcy, by Lucy Marin—A Review

Being Mrs Darcy, by Lucy Marin 2020From the desk of Katie Jackson:  

In Regency-era novels, which are popular for their promotion of proper behavior and swoon-worthy romantic declarations, forced-marriage tropes spice up the angst and the inevitable, slow-burn romances that result. It is satisfying to read of gentlemen doing the right thing, marrying not for love but as their duty to protect a lady’s reputation, and it is equally satisfying to observe the couple’s meandering journey to an ultimate love match. As a Pride & Prejudice enthusiast, my curiosity was piqued when I discovered this forced-marriage situation between two beloved characters, in a location only referred to in hindsight in the original story. Pride and Prejudice variations are like choose-your-own-adventure stories that take readers through various what-if scenarios, making them ponder how a single decision might entirely change the destiny of their characters. Debut author Lucy Marin reveals an unusually bleak beginning for Miss Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy in her Pride & Prejudice variation, Being Mrs Darcy.

This variation’s prologue opens on the August morning of Elizabeth’s forced marriage to Darcy, as they are traveling from Hertfordshire to London with his sister, Georgiana, and cousin, Sterling. Darcy is brooding, and “Elizabeth’s sense of dread grew with each successive mile they travelled.” (Kindle location 25) The situation worsens when they arrive at Darcy House. “Only the housekeeper and butler greeted them, and Elizabeth tried not to feel the slight; the entire household should be there to meet their new mistress.” (Kindle location 37) Darcy himself merely goes through the motions of his duties, dining with her and spending a short time in her company afterward, although almost entirely in silence. Elizabeth knew “he was unhappy about the marriage and despised her, as he had shown repeatedly in the six weeks of their acquaintance.” (Kindle location 58) She ends her wedding day in hopeless tears, haunted by her single fateful decision on a July night in Ramsgate that marked the point of no return. Continue reading