A Captain for Caroline Gray: Proper Romance Regency, by Julie Wright — A Review

A Captain for Caroline Gray by Julie Wright 2021From the desk of Katie Jackson:

An outspoken bluestocking lady in Regency England, unless independently wealthy, was most likely to be shunned by Society into involuntary spinsterhood and poverty. Suitable husbands were difficult enough to come by, but for a lady with a clever mind and vibrant opinions, her options were fewer still. Desperation led many a spurned lady onto a ship bound for India in search of Englishmen with lower standards and plentiful wealth. That long and arduous journey is depicted in author Julie Wright’s latest Proper Romance, A Captain for Caroline Gray.

Miss Caroline Gray’s unconventional education at the behest of her well-meaning parents had included “politics, science, and literature” (99) and none of the silly arts of flirtation that might have secured her future. Consequently, she had endured three London Seasons where the gentlemen “all liked her well enough before she opened her mouth. Conversation with her led them from interest to wariness. And when they’d discovered that she was often found at public lecture courses on physics, their wariness turned to outright disdain.” (182)

Living with her widowed mother on the family estate, Caroline is not prepared for the sudden news that her cousin—her father’s heir—has decided to marry and claim his inheritance, thus displacing Caroline and her mother. Her future looks bleak indeed as her mother asks if she wishes to see herself passed around by their relations like an unwanted parcel, a perpetual nursemaid or caregiver, husbandless and childless. The reality of their economic situation was that “all of her prospects hinged on marrying. Without marrying, she had no possibilities. No prospects. No choices.” (168) Caroline berates herself for her inability to make a match but quickly realizes that she could have been nobody but herself. And “did she truly want to cheat some man out of genuine happiness by making him believe her to be what she was not?” (210)

An opportunity arises in the form of an offer from her mother’s acquaintance. Mrs. Barritt’s third son has a purchased commission as a captain in the army is making his own fortune in India, and is looking for a pretty and proper English wife. She will pay half of Caroline’s passage to India in exchange for Caroline’s obligation to spend some time with her son, Captain Nicholas Barritt. Caroline is determined “to pretend she felt some excitement. She would pretend to thrill at the adventure of it all. She would pretend that her heart was not breaking at the thought of leaving her family and her beloved England.” (192) Continue reading

The Price of Pride: A Pride & Prejudice Variation, by Abigail Reynolds — A Review

The Price of Pride by Abigail Reynolds 2020From the desk of Katie Jackson:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that unbridled pride can result in unintended consequences. Much to the dismay of those who realize it too late, it often requires an event of heart-wrenching significance to stir them from their self-righteous stupor. But what sobering fates will befall them due to their untimely awakening? Prolific and bestselling Austenesque author Abigail Reynolds explores the uncertain destinies of two such prideful characters in her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, The Price of Pride.

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy had returned home to Pemberley in Derbyshire a broken man following the stunning refusal of his marriage proposal to Miss Elizabeth Bennet at Hunsford parsonage in Kent. “The four months since then had not been enough to begin to erase the traces of her from his heart. Instead, losing her had only deepened his feelings for her, the woman he loved so passionately but could never have.” (33)

In an effort to prove himself to be a better person than the arrogant, unfeeling gentleman he had been, Darcy reaches out with an olive branch to his younger brother Andrew, who had been disowned by their father many years before under mysterious circumstances. Now a clergyman and active abolitionist, Drew warily accepts Darcy’s offer of the generous living at the parsonage in Kympton. Darcy “was determined to change, to become a better man, one who could be worthy of a woman like Elizabeth.” (52)

In a cruel twist of fate, Drew arrives at Pemberley bringing glad tidings of his own unexpected betrothal. Although envious of his brother’s happy news, Darcy wishes him well, wanting only to repair the estrangement that has plagued the brothers for far too long. And then … Drew unknowingly informs him that the bride-to-be is a lady formerly acquainted with Darcy. “It could not be. Drew, engaged to Elizabeth? How was such a thing possible. How had his brother even met Elizabeth? Why had she never mentioned him? But all the questions in the world could do nothing to calm the agonizing pain ripping through him.” (77) Continue reading

The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh (A Pride and Prejudice Novel), by Molly Greeley — #BookReview, #HistoricalFiction, #GothicFiction, #JaneAusten, #Austenesque, @MollyJGreeley, @WmMorrowBooks

The Heiress by Molly Greeley 2021From the desk of Katie Jackson:

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Miss Anne de Bourgh is known only as the sedate and sickly shadow of her mother, Lady Catherine’s, condescending and loudly opinionated character. The heiress of Rosings Park in Kent, Miss de Bourgh was intended from infancy—as a favorite wish of both her mother and her aunt—to marry her first cousin, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley in Derbyshire, thereby uniting two grand fortunes and estates. But when Mr. Darcy ultimately marries that obstinate, headstrong Miss Elizabeth Bennet instead, what is to become of Miss de Bourgh? This is one of many questions explored in Molly Greeley’s fascinating second Pride and Prejudice variation, The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh.

Anne de Bourgh was a wretchedly inconsolable infant. Her parents and nurse were therefore quite thankful for the medical intervention when the local doctor prescribed a dose of sleep-inducing laudanum and declared that she would always possess a delicate constitution. Consequently, Anne spends her formative years receiving twice-daily doses of her magic drops that keep her in a permanent state of lethargy. “My medicine turned me stone-heavy, a breathing statue, eyelids drawing down despite all my best efforts and thoughts drifting like milkweed fluff.” (118)

Under her mother’s formidable thumb, Anne drifts through her days in a stupor, confined to the house and gardens, wearing only what her mother selects, eating little but what her mother approves and her weak appetite allows, not permitted to dance or sing or play an instrument, and restricted from learning or reading too much. All are convinced that she is far too frail to do much of anything at all but simply exist. “If I had a shell like the snail, I thought, I would tuck myself back inside of it, away from their branding pity. I felt at once all-too-visible in my fine gowns and gaudy bonnets, and ill-defined as the edges of a ghost.” (316)

Anne is merely a detached observer of her own life, her languorous health slowly turning to vivid hallucinations. Despite her governess’s insistence that she could aspire to be so much more than what she has settled for, “if you did not stun yourself so thoroughly with your medicine” (1171), Anne continues to see herself as she has long been trained to. “Useless, I whispered inside my head, little mortified arrows that pierced my softest inner places. Useless, stupid, useless.” (1188) Continue reading

A Christmas Promise: Timeless Romance Anthology® (Book 16), by Joanna Barker, Annette Lyon, and Jennifer Moore— #BookReview, #HistoricalRomance, #HistoricalRegency, #ChristmasReading

A Christmas Promise 2020From the desk of Katie Jackson:

Christmastime often recalls the many forms that love takes. We all know what it is to love our family and friends, and even to find love when we least expect it, all year round. There’s something special about this time of year in particular that amplifies those warm feelings. The many forms of love are beautifully demonstrated in A Christmas Promise, the latest Timeless Romance Anthology® featuring bestselling and popular Regency romance authors Joanna Barker, Annette Lyon, and Jennifer Moore.

“The Two Bells of Christmas” by Joanna Barker brings readers to a country house party with identical twin sisters Cassandra and Vivian Bell, who have been invited by the mother of a most eligible bachelor, Roland Hastings—unbeknownst to him. After a promising introduction in London, Miss Vivian Bell has set her matrimonial sights on Mr. Hastings. During the Bell sisters’ travels, however, Vivian falls ill. It soon becomes apparent that she will be bedridden for most of their visit, so she begs unconventional Cassie to pretend to be prim-and-proper Vivian and keep Vivian’s quarry from being captured by another husband-seeker. “I am still determined to do what I can to claim his attention. I’ll not leave such a thing as love to chance.” (56) When Roland arrives home from London anticipating a quiet Christmas with his mother, he is dismayed to find his home filled with houseguests of the single young female variety. Reminded of the promise he made before his father’s death to marry and produce an heir, Roland reluctantly agrees to make an effort to get to know the ladies his matchmaking mother has chosen for him. He is most intrigued by the outspoken Miss Bell and her contradictory behavior. Can eccentric Cassie protect her heart and make her sister’s dreams come true during her risky masquerade?

“Promise Me Again” by Annette Lyon presents Miriam Brown, the daughter of a sheep farmer, and Jacob Davies, the younger son of a landowning merchant. The enamored young couple wishes more than anything to marry and start a happy life together. But Jacob’s controlling elder brother Norman has lofty goals for him, and low-born Miriam is a hindrance to those plans. In an attempt to marry without Norman’s knowledge, Jacob and Miriam secretly plan to wed on Christmas Eve morning by special license in the church of a distant town. Seeking power and influence, Norman will stop at nothing to bend his brother’s will. Miriam wholeheartedly believes that “their love could conquer anything, including a misanthropic, jealous elder brother.” (1680) But will they emerge unscathed? Continue reading

Joy to the World: A Regency Christmas Collection, by Carolyn Miller, Amanda Barratt, and Erica Vetsch—A Review

Joy to the World: A Regency Christmas Collection 2020Season’s greetings, gentle readers! It is once again time to immerse ourselves in the traditional comforts of the holiday season. And how better to do so than by getting cozy and settling in to read a lovely book about this special time of year. Joy to the World is an inspirational Christian anthology comprised of three very different Christmas stories with a golden thread of joy, hope, and faith woven through and binding them together.

“Heaven and Nature Sing” by Carolyn Miller invites readers to an elegant house party where young people have gathered to make merry during the snowy days leading up to Christmas. In attendance—as guests of their shared godmother—are Edith and George, former sweethearts torn apart by circumstances and misunderstandings. The traditions of the season remind them “of grace and forgiveness and the second chances God gives.” (1275) As they navigate the uncomfortable tension between them, will their faith in God and their love for each other be enough to help them overcome foolish pride?

“Far as the Curse is Found” by Amanda Barratt transports readers to dreary London in winter, following Dwight Inglewood, the Earl of Amberly, as he trudges through the remnants of his once-promising life. He bears the unsightly scars of severe wounds sustained at Waterloo and internally suffers from the loss of all those he’s ever loved. “The world was harsh, and in it he felt fragile. Life and the people he’d trusted had pierced him deeply. Isolation seemed the only remedy.” (3095) A twist of fate, or perhaps divine intervention, crosses his lonely path with that of a desperate unwed mother and her young child. Jenny Grey “knew the wounds the gazes of others could inflict.” (2234) Can two kindred souls with disparate backgrounds provide solace for each other in an often cruel world? Continue reading

Amelia Webster: A Novel After Jane Austen, by Robert Rodi—A Review

Ameila Webster A Novel After Jane Austen by Robert Rodi 2020From the desk of Katie Jackson:  

Long before Jane Austen was widely known for her six complete novels, she was a youthful storyteller who wrote humorous tales for the amusement of her family and friends. In more recent years, Austen’s juvenilia has been put in the spotlight and given the adaptation treatment that was previously only bestowed on her most famous works. Indeed, this year’s Jane Austen Society of North America Annual General Meeting focused on Austen’s earliest stories. Robert Rodi—author of this latest juvenilia variation—was a plenary speaker at the JASNA AGM and discussed how Austen’s writing had evolved from pure farce to social satire and finally to the irony of her mature novels.

The original Amelia Webster epistolary short story by Jane Austen—introduced by the young author as “an interesting & well-written Tale”—was comprised of only 454 words in seven brief letters, and yet masterfully presented eight protagonists and a fairly complete storyline. In a most amusing fashion, Robert Rodi has crafted a sardonic wink of a novel out of Austen’s juvenile attempt in the upcoming Amelia Webster: A Novel After Jane Austen.

Welcome to the tiny village of Rovedon in Hertfordshire, where the gossips make sport of predicting the nuptial pairings in the extremely limited number of local youth. Our narrator begins with the introduction of Tom Pierce and Jack Fitzmark, two gentlemen who “took up residence together at two-and-thirty, thus making it apparent that they would marry no one at all.” (4) Tom and Jack, no longer the subjects of matrimonial speculation themselves, carry on with their own thoughtful conjectures about the eventual wedded bliss of the remaining young people. Continue reading

Otherwise Engaged: A Regency Romance, by Joanna Barker—A Review

Otherwise Engaged by Joanna Barker 2020

From the desk of Katie Jackson:

Regency romances have their fair share of obstinate, headstrong girls, yet it is always a delight to discover another less-than-perfect heroine. Especially when “pictures of perfection, as you know, make me sick and wicked,” as the incomparable Jane Austen once wrote. Joanna Barker’s Otherwise Engaged is one such Regency romance with an imperfect heroine getting herself into unladylike scrapes and earning our respect along the way.

Rebecca Rowley is a bold, rebellious young woman with a sarcastic wit and a determination to leap over fear as if it were a hedge she wished to jump with her horse. While riding bareback. On muddy ground. Hatless. In other words, Miss Rowley had a tendency to be reckless. Her brother William admonished that “you could cut stone with a tongue that sharp.” (588)

During a visit to Brighton with a friend, Rebecca encounters Edward Bainbridge, the charming son of her deceased father’s business partner-turned-enemy. The longstanding animosity between their families is a puzzle to them both. No matter what others might think—or perhaps because of it—Rebecca does what she wishes, pursuing the enticingly off-limits Edward.

Yet she is not without remorse. She tries to be a dutiful daughter and a trustworthy sister, to protect her beloved mother and brother from worry. And it is those good intentions that lead her to hide her sudden and secret engagement to Edward. Arriving home to Havenfield in Hertfordshire, Rebecca is certain she will get to the bottom of the mysterious feud on her own and win her family over with her explanations and, eventually, her betrothed’s charm.

Continue reading