Sons of Pemberley: A Pride and Prejudice Reimagining, by Elizabeth Adams — A Review

Sons of Pemberley by Elizabeth Adams 2020From the desk of Sophia Rose:

A few authors have written variations that speculate on how Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice would alter if the Darcy parents had not passed off the scene so early in the story. I enjoy these “what-if” scenarios and was eager to take up this latest novel by Elizabeth Adams, particularly because I enjoy her heartwarming and often whimsical touch to her writing.

Sons of Pemberley beings as a prequel to the original, opening during the youth of George Darcy and Samuel Wickham, the fathers of Fitzwilliam Darcy and George Wickham. After Wickham saves Darcy’s life, they become fast friends. Darcy grows up to become the master of Pemberley whose youthful wish is realized by making his best friend the steward of his grand estate. The two men go on to marry: George Darcy has the joy of marrying a woman he loves dearly, while poor Samuel Wickham who on the eve of courting sweet Rachel, ends up with her cunning, beautiful cousin Rebecca. Lady Anne Darcy has her husband’s love and a beautiful son, and then the Darcys along with the Wickhams, receive their share of heartache when she loses her next baby.

The ongoing story follows of the Darcys and Wickhams lives, along with those connected by family, friendship, and neighborhood, continue forward as their children grow up and the parents are tangled in complicated situations.

Alternating with this past story is the later years when Lady Anne and her grown children visit Hertfordshire with her son’s friend, Charles Bingley, and his family at Netherfield where they get to know the lively Bennet family. Lady Anne observes her quiet, serious son come to life with each new encounter with vivacious Miss Elizabeth and she shares a special connection with Mrs. Bennet while guiding all the young people through love and life after she has acquired her own life wisdom over the years. Continue reading

Ladies of the House: A Modern Retelling of Sense and Sensibility, by Lauren Edmondson — A Review

The Ladies of the House by Lauren Edmondson 2021From the desk of Sophia Rose:

Some might quote that old chestnut about ‘when life tosses you lemons…’ to those who are going through life’s trials, but in the cutthroat world of DC politics in this exciting new release, one learns the only thing to do with lemons is cut them up and put them in a cocktail while saluting backstabbing one-time friends. Lauren Edmondson chose to retell a classic and portray three women going through the refining fires of grief, loss, and political scandal. While The Ladies of the House stays true to the heart of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility it also accurately portrayed life in America’s capital and politics that will resonate with many.

Daisy Richardson is at the top of her game as chief of staff for a progressive, up and coming senator from Maryland and the admiring daughter of a senior senator at the top. All that comes crashing down when her dad dies in the bed of his secretary! In addition, it has been leaked in the news that he was misappropriating funds. Her mother, Cricket, needs her to sort out life after scandal and death. Her best friend, Atlas, a star journalist who has been her secret love for years is back in the states and wants to do an expose’ into her father’s life and seems to only want friendship. And her sister, Wallis, who has been doing relief effort works in Southeast Asia, has come home only to fall for the son of a senator from across the political aisle, making Daisy’s already tenuous job even harder. The family must learn to live on less and live under the disapproving eyes of those who were once friends down to total strangers on the street. Daisy is a fixer and discovers that there are not enough Band-Aids in the world to fix the mess her father left behind him. However, she also discovers that in this adversity that she didn’t know herself and those around her like she thought she did, and here-in lies the beginning of something more if she has the courage to accept a new path.

Ladies of the House introduces a world that I have watched from a distance on TV or in fiction—the world of Washington DC. That said, I felt that the author captured it so well that natives of the town and the political world would nod in appreciation for the setting of the story. Daisy has grown up in this world and chooses it for her own career. Her sister is an activist, and her mother is a political wife. All three women are integral to the story even though Daisy does the sole narration of the story.

In the early pages, I was not as taken with Cricket or Wallis. They seemed content to let Daisy shoulder the load, and this is true to a certain extent. However, later, they grew on me when insightful scenes and dialogue between the Richardson women showed other sides to them. It becomes obvious that what is Daisy’s strength is also her weakness. She lives for work and responsibility and must lose all this before she sees her own worth as not just in how she can serve others—or, sadly, make up for her dad’s failings by serving penance to others—and the worth of her mother and sister. Cricket teaches Daisy that a woman can bend and not break while Wallis shows her that her daring to take chances in love and be herself completely takes more courage than playing it safe and hiding her true self. Wallis tells Daisy, “Be the Brick!” in reply to Daisy’s fear of what others think and that another brick might get thrown through their window. Continue reading

The Vanishing at Loxby Manor, by Abigail Wilson — A Review

The Vanishing at Loxbury Manor by Abigail WIlson 2021From the desk of Sophia Rose:

Mystery surrounds a family, a ruined abbey, and a sudden disappearance making a young guest and friend of the family fearful about her visit. The atmospheric suspense, attention to the historical setting, and complexity in the characters made The Vanishing at Loxby Manor, the latest release by Abigail Wilson, a must-read.

Charity Halliwell once thought to marry the oldest Cavanagh son, Piers, until her family’s sudden move to Ceylon and his letter ending their prospects left her bereft and vulnerable. An attack in the dark of the tea plantation has left her disgusted at her naiveté in venturing outside on her own and quelled her spirit as well as her dream of ever marrying and having a family. Now, when her parent’s journey to join her brilliant chemist of a brother in America, Charity longs for her old neighborhood and friends as a comfort. She knows from Selene’s letters that Piers will not be there as he lives away from the family.

The first night of her visit to the Cavanaghs is enough to convince her that she made a mistake seeking solace in the past. Mrs. Cavanagh isn’t exactly welcoming and mischievous Selene sneaks into Charity’s room to admit that her mother wanted her to leave Charity to her own devices. However, Selene has been a hoyden kissing a groom and flirting with others. She wants the only man in a neighborhood with a title, but she will toy with the others. On this night, she mentions a secret plan to have her way and then whisks off into the night with Charity’s dark cloak about her never to return.

The youngest Cavanagh, Avery, is sent to search for Selene on the road to Gretna Green and Piers returns to support his family trying to ignore the spark between Charity and himself that he purposefully extinguished. She has since learned that he challenged Selene’s lord to a duel and then didn’t show which had him branded a coward and ostracized from polite society. Charity has her own reasons for keeping her distance from any man let alone Piers, but she is certain that Selene never ran off with the groom she kissed and she is equally certain that Piers is no coward whatever the reason he didn’t show to that duel. She will stand by the family and help get to the truth even if she must brave a mysterious shadowy enemy. Continue reading

Persuading the Captain: An Austen Inspired Romantic Comedy, by Rachel John— A Review

Persuading the Captain by Rachel John 2020From the desk of Sophia Rose:

Modernizing a classic through a retelling can be fraught with authorial peril. One must do more than simply slap a pair of blue jeans on a heroine and put some slang on her lips, but at the same time, one has a duty to the legacy of the classic and the reader should recognize the original story within the fresh tale. Did author Rachel John avoid these pitfalls in Persuading the Captain, inspired by Jane Austen’s final novel Persuasion? Stick around and see.

Anne is about to start a new chapter in her life when her family must leave her childhood home in Hollywood when her actor father’s fading career is not generating the money to match the extravagant lifestyle that he and her older sister think that they deserve. Anne is done catering to their whims and has taken a step away toward her own dreams by getting a dinosaur museum job up in San Francisco along with taking on part-time babysitting for her younger sister Mary in exchange for room and board. She is joining Mary and her husband’s family for their family reunion up at a lake cabin before it all begins. Naturally, the reunion brings some family excitement and tension when Carl’s younger sisters corral one of their cabin neighbors into joining some family camping activities. He is Eric Wentworth, her hottie ex-boyfriend who she is definitely not over, yet.

Eric knew Anne’s family were snobs toward a guy who grew up far from Hollywood, but he never thought she’d pick her family over him. Breaking off their engagement left him at a loss so he threw himself into his work. His commercial pilot job has taken him all over the world and rarely staying in one place. But, now after all these years, he’s taken a job for his brother in law in a new commercial venture to do air charters for the wealthy and the venture is based in San Francisco. His sister and brother in law have invited him to enjoy the cabin and the lake before diving back into their new work. He thought he put Anne her in the rear-view mirror until being near her and seeing all the wonderful traits he appreciated and loved about her is a danger to him and he struggles hard to keep away from her and hide by hanging out with vibrant Lucy. Then a drastic situation makes the choice for him and Anne is further away than ever. Continue reading

Schemes of Felicity: A Pride and Prejudice Variation (Skirmish & Scandal Series Book 1), by Suzan Lauder — #BookReview, #Austenesque, #HistoricalRomance, #RegencyRomance, @SusanLauder, @MerytonPress

Schemes of Felicity by Suzan Lauder 2020From the desk of Sophia Rose:

Suzan Lauder, an author whose Austenesque books I have appreciated in the past, offers a new variation inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with an interesting twist. Schemes of Felicity begins like many variations of the novel after the stormy failed marriage proposal made by Fitzwilliam Darcy to Miss Elizabeth Bennet in the Hunsford rectory. What if this proposal is followed by not one, but two letters to Elizabeth and the second altering the original events completely?

Dejected and brooding, Fitzwilliam Darcy simply wants to be left in quiet to lick his wounds on the way back to London from Kent, but his friendly cousin is curious about their sudden departure and the vivacious guest at Hunsford. By the time the journey concludes, both cousins are ready to be done with one another and Colonel Fitzwilliam shares with his mother that Darcy was abominable on the journey and wouldn’t explain what had him in such a state. The countess does her own investigation and concludes that it is high time her nephew was married and calls a family council for an intervention that Darcy only agrees to if they will stop pestering him. Yes, he will agree to one month of attending balls and events of the London Season and put himself out there socially to promising young ladies.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Bennet is chagrined after reading his explanatory letter and has a change of heart about the man at whom she threw such undeserved vitriol when he proposed with words that were too honest about her situation and family even when stunning her with his professed love. She had him wrong and thinks better of him though he was still responsible for separating her sister Jane from Mr. Bingley. A letter from her father that sends her to join Jane in London and be chaperoned by their aunt and uncle for a season among eligible men while he takes his wife and her younger sisters to task over their impropriety lands her right in Fitzwilliam Darcy’s world. There she encounters a Darcy who defies her past prejudices and gives them a second chance. Continue reading

The Ladies of Norland: Twisted Austen (Book 6), by Alexa Adams — #BookReview, #Austenesque, #GothicRomance, #HistoricalRomance, @ElegantExtracts

The Ladies of Norland by Alexa Adams 2020From the desk of Sophia Rose:

For several years beguiling authoress Alexa Adams has enjoyed warping our comfortable and familiar Jane Austen stories into quick, deliciously revolting variations that readers can experience with a tingling sort of shock at the new outcome. Her cold, conniving Jane Bennet, in Jane and Bingley: Something Slightly Unsettling (2013), to a pitiable Mrs. Norris in Becoming Mrs. Norris (2014), left me properly aghast as the hair on my arms stood on end. For her latest Twisted Austen effort, The Ladies of Norland, she revisits the Dashwood family in Sense and Sensibility to give us an alarming ‘what if’.

When the invalid owner of Norland Park dies and leaves his estate in the hands of his nephew, niece, and their girls, he goes a step further to protect the female dependents. This is followed by Mr. Dashwood when he too passes on. Instead of being left bereft of a father, home, and future income depended on the dubious honor of a selfish, grasping brother and sister-in-law, they are heiresses and the Misses Dashwood of Norland.

Naturally, Mrs. John Dashwood nee Ferrars is chagrined but has not lost hope to fill her family’s coffers. She is determined to see her oldest brother Edward attached to the oldest Miss Dashwood. All seems to be going her way as the Dashwood ladies, Elinor, Marianne, and their mother are happy to have Edward as a dear friend and possibly more. Felicities are on the tips of many tongues until…

Surely, you can guess, dear friends, that there must be a monstrous twist of fate or this could not be a Twisted Austen tale. I have enjoyed each of the tales from when they started out on the author’s blog in installments and eventually were published. I like the quirky pleasure of seeing some of the worst imaginings in story variations and appreciate the author’s deft hand in making them in the style that is strongly Austen-flavored in the process which gives it more possibility and suspense. Continue reading

Gentleman Jim: A Tale of Romance and Revenge, by Mimi Matthews—A Review

Gentleman Jim by Mimi Matthews 2020From the desk of Sophia Rose:

With only one other experience reading Mimi Matthew’s work, I have still come to the conclusion that she has a gift for marrying the classical to vintage historical romance. I hadn’t gotten five chapters in before my head was full of Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo or Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Kidnapped. No retellings here, but an engaging story of struggle, heartache, and the triumph of love.

Gentleman Jim opens on a terrifying and tragic scene of a stable boy accused of theft from his best friend, the fiery-tempered local squire’s daughter. Nicholas has born trouble from his employer’s son, Frederick Burton-Smythe, who bullies him and from everyone else because he’s the illegitimate son of a tavern wench. But, to be thrashed and then hanged for stealing Maggie Honeywell’s jewels when it was Fred? Perhaps his love with Maggie would have come to nothing since their stations in life were so different, but now escape is his only option leaving Maggie free to marry the baronet’s son as her father always wanted.

Ten years later, Maggie has endured much as a result of her father’s death. His heartbreaking will that will legally force her to marry Fred if she wants to keep the beloved family lands and her inheritance and the further clause that made Fred her guardian and have veto power over any man she may marry to get said inheritance. It is no wonder her health broke and she is a shadow of her once vibrant self. The time allotted is nearly up and her father may win his way after all. Continue reading