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.

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