For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund – A Review

For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund (2012)From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder

Several months ago I kept hearing a lot of buzz about a book by Diana Peterfreund entitled For Darkness Shows the Stars. Nearly every blogging friend I had seemed to be reading and raving about this novel.  As I did some research on it I discovered that it’s a young adult, sci-fi/dystopic version of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I was 100% interested. When Laurel Ann suggested I review it for Austenprose, I was at first super excited and simultaneously nervous. What if it didn’t live up to my expectations? Nerves aside, I dove in eager to see how Persuasion translated into a dystopic world. Continue reading “For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund – A Review”

Return to Longbourn: The Next Chapter in the Continuing Story of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, by Shannon Winslow – A Review

Image of the book cover of Return to Longbourn, by Shannon Winslow (2013) © Heather Ridge Arts 2013From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder: 

Ever since Shannon Winslow debuted with The Darcys of Pemberley (DoP) in 2011, she’s been an Austen fan-fiction author that I’ve kept on my radar. In the two years since she published DoP I’ve not only read everything else she’s written, For Myself Alone (2012) and Mr. Collins’s Last Supper (2012), but have shared countless conversations with her about life, Austen, and everything in between. She is a woman that truly understands people and deep feelings. It’s easy to understand this without knowing her when you read her latest novel Return to Longbourn. The depth of feeling that the characters go through by the end of the novel is nothing short of astounding.

Mary Bennet is happily ensconced at Netherfield Park as the governess for the Farnsworth family. All is well in her life until her father suddenly passes away. Back at home in mourning with her family she realizes how alone she feels. Her sisters Elizabeth and Jane have their husbands to turn to, while Kitty has Lydia. She feels that her only value is to remain stoic and take care of the household while the rest of her sisters fall apart emotionally. It’s this event that triggers a sudden heaviness in her life. When it’s announced that her cousin Tristan Collins (the heir to Longbourn) will be notified of Mr. Bennet’s death, well, that’s when her life turns a bit hectic. Mrs. Bennet announces her plan to have Kitty marry Mr. Collins so that they can remain at Longbourn, while Kitty confides to Mary that she is planning her escape to Pemberley. Mary understands Kitty’s reluctance to enter a marriage without love and agrees to keep their new cousin occupied until Kitty is summoned back to Longbourn. Much to everyone’s surprise, Tristan Collins arrives and is the complete opposite of his odious older brother William in every way. Mary feels herself beginning to fall in love with him and internally questions her decision to live her life without the love of a man. Add to all of this the bipolar friendship she maintains with her employer, the widowed Mr. Farnsworth, and you have the makings of much soul searching. Will Mr. Collins return her feelings? How will Mr. Farnsworth deal with her possible leaving Netherfield Park?

Upon first glance, many readers will find this to be a story about love, and in some aspects, redemption.  The deeper, more beautiful story to take away from this novel is that of a young woman trying desperately to find her place in a world where she begins to feel valueless. Winslow’s Mary (and Austen’s too) is a stoic individual, not much taken with the fancies of romance, men, balls, or fine clothes. She much prefers to toil her hours away with books and reading. She can at times be a woman of unyielding character, but deep down past this hardened exterior is a woman just like any other. She wants to have a purpose, she wants friendship, and yes, she even longs for love. In Return to Longbourn, we see a Mary who is beginning to question the way she has lived her life emotionally. Add to that the grief from her father’s death and the relationships of her sisters and brothers-in-law, and you find a very lost woman indeed. All of this coupled together makes Mary a very relatable character. For who among us can claim to never have felt lost in their own skin and unable to make sense of a multitude of new and unusual emotions? Continue reading “Return to Longbourn: The Next Chapter in the Continuing Story of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, by Shannon Winslow – A Review”

All My Tomorrows, by Colette Saucier – A Review

All My Tomorrows, by Colette Saucier (2012)From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder 

As most Austenprose readers will know by now, I’m a big fan of Pride and Prejudice variations, what-if’s, and retellings.  In fact, if you look at the scope of Jane Austen fan fiction that I read it’s almost entirely comprised of Pride and Prejudice inspired novels.  A recent addition to this group that I adored was Colette Saucier’s Pulse and Prejudice (review is here).  After reading this I couldn’t wait to see what else she had in store, and I was excited to find she’d written another P&P influenced novel entitled All My Tomorrows which promptly was added to my to-read list.  I’m also a huge sucker for the melodramatic romance novel, so when I read further into All My Tomorrows’ plot and discovered it was about a soap opera AND a melodramatic romance novel….well my heart did a little flutter of excitement.

The head writer at a storied and long-running soap opera entitled “All My Tomorrows”, Alice McGillicutty has enjoyed steady success until the show’s ratings have recently begun to plummet.  Desperate for a way to save the soap from inevitable cancellation if ratings do not improve, Alice begins frantically searching for inspiration, even reading the old and crazy melodrama “The Edge of Darkness” in the hopes that it will spark new ideas.  Meanwhile, fate intervenes when controversial Hollywood star Peter Walsingham comes to Alice’s studio.  He signs on to “All My Tomorrows” due to contractual obligations after his character is killed off in his previous project.  Unfortunately for Alice, however, Peter’s ego seems to be larger than the studio can hold, and the two butt heads immediately.  In this tale of Peter’s pride meeting Alice’s prejudice, can the two manage to work together to save the show or are they destined for cancellation?

One of the great things that Saucier has accomplished with this work is how she managed to modernize the story and include so many of my guilty pleasures as well!  I was so impressed by the way that Saucier created a book (“The Edge of Darkness”) within All My Tomorrows.  It was a wonderful, melodramatic addition to the work, and goodness, do I love a melodramatic novel.  It’s something about the way in which these works weave an over-the-top love story with a great plot that makes me want to keep turning the pages.  Returning to the book at hand, All My Tomorrows, it was evident that the more serious tone of this main work was meant to balance the melodrama of “The Edge of Darkness”.  It did this perfectly.  All My Tomorrows has solidified the thoughts I had after reading Pulse and Prejudice, in that Saucier is a master storyteller.  Her ability to keep the reader engaged throughout both works, even though they are contained within the same novel, is fantastic.  Additionally, the character development was phenomenal, Peter (Darcy) is throughout the shining example here.  His total transformation from pretentious jerk to kindhearted, thoughtful, selfless man is not only believable, but an honest portrayal of Austen’s true vision.  The subsequent supporting characters were all visions of genius as well.  This, combined with the excellent storytelling, engaging plot, and melodramatic addition made for a read I won’t soon forget.

5 out of 5 Stars

All My Tomorrows, by Colette Saucier
Southern Girl Press (2012)
Trade paperback (248) pages
ISBN: 978-0615657387

© 2012 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

Bewitched, Body and Soul: Miss Elizabeth Bennet, by P. O. Dixon – A Review

Bewitched, Body and Soul: Miss Elizabeth Bennet, by P. O. Dixon (2012)

From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder

With the amount of Jane Austen fan fiction writers that write “what if” variations, you’d think that by now they would be running short on new scenarios.  Thankfully, new and imaginative writers keep entering this genre and introduce new variations on our favorite old classic.  P.O. Dixon is one of these fresh new faces.  I was first introduced to this creative woman when I heard of a novel that had mixed Arthurian legend with our favorite characters of Pride and PrejudiceHe Taught Me to Hope was this novel, and after reading it, I’ve been a fan of Dixon ever since.  Knowing how creative Dixon could be, I couldn’t wait to read her latest installment, Bewitched, Body and Soul: Miss Elizabeth Bennet.

After attending the ball at Netherfield Park, Jane Bennet’s heart is completely won over by the amiable and charming Mr. Bingley. When he promptly departs for London without much explanation, she is deeply depressed, feeling the loss of any chance she had at happiness in life.  Her sister Elizabeth, genuinely disturbed over her sister’s sudden emotional change, decides that she must do something about it.  She travels to Town to spend the holidays with her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner, although it is merely a ruse for her true purpose: to find Bingley and discover why he left Netherfield in the first place.  Her search for Bingley leads her first to Mr. Darcy’s townhouse in the hopes that he will provide a measure of assistance in her search.  Unfortunately for Elizabeth, Darcy flatly refuses and turns her out.  To make matters worse, a sudden rainstorm drenches her and she falls ill at Darcy’s home.  Sick with fever, Lizzie almost faints and Darcy rushes to save her.  Will this sudden turn of events cause a shift in Darcy’s attitude towards Lizzy?  What will become of Jane and Bingley?

While readers of Pride and Prejudice all know the outcomes to my questions above, the path to get there is long and filled with moments of despair, hope, and tender goodness.  I truly enjoyed seeing all of the interesting new scenarios that Dixon came up with.  She created varying scenes that allowed us to learn the tumultuous nature of Lizzy and Darcy’s individual minds as they struggled to come to terms with their changing feelings for each other.  Dixon executed the description of Darcy’s riotous mind flawlessly—so in tune with him throughout the whole novel—that it only aided in my ability to connect with him as a character.  The turmoil that Elizabeth feels at not being able to help her sister Jane in her time of need is also conveyed to perfection.  As someone who has a sister myself, the storyline was extremely relatable, adding much to the work.  I also have to give Dixon two thumbs way up for giving Mr. Darcy’s little sister Georgiana such a crucial part in the plot.  I’m a big fan of authors who give her a voice and a bigger role!

On the other hand, the biggest problem I had with the last Dixon novel I read (He Taught Me to Hope, you can read my review here) was that there were some plot holes left open and unfinished at the end of the novel.  This left me feeling slightly unsettled at the conclusion of the work.  I’m happy to say that this is not the case with Bewitched.  Everything ties together nicely, leaving the reader satisfied that all is as it should be with the Darcys.

Dixon has created a new variation of a classic favorite that is just as romantic and engaging as the original. In all, I foresee Dixon becoming more and more popular as people begin to discover her creative literary voice.  I urge you to begin discovering her works on your own as they will be a delight to read.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Bewitched, Body and Soul: Miss Elizabeth Bennet, by P. O. Dixon
CreateSpace (2012)
Trade paperback (182) pages
ISBN: 978-1475275773

©2012 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

Pride & Pyramids: Mr. Darcy in Egypt, by Amanda Grange and Jacqueline Webb – A Review

Pride & Pyramids, by Amanda Grange and Jacqueline Webb (2012)Review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder

In the entire spectrum of Pride and Prejudice sequels, variations, retellings, and what-if’s I’ve seen Darcy as a vampire, werewolf, zombie, ranch owner, and rock star.  I’ve seen Elizabeth as a master zombie fighter, scientist, doctor, sleuth, and time traveler.  I’ve seen them in WWII England, Colonial America, Thailand, Texas, and Oxford, but never have we seen them the way Amanda Grange and Jacqueline Webb have envisioned them in Pride & Pyramids: Mr. Darcy in Egypt. Taking them down the Nile and into the sprawling deserts of Egypt, Grange and Webb turn our beloved couple into amateur archeologists on an expedition in the land of the pharaohs!

Pride & Pyramids begins approximately 15 years after the fairytale ending of Pride and Prejudice.  Elizabeth and Darcy are comfortably tending to their many children and leading a comfortable, happy life.  This changes with a visit from Edward, brother of their cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam.  Recently, Edward has been stricken with the latest craze in Regency England: Egyptology!  Begging for an adventure, Darcy gives in to Elizabeth and asks Edward if he can bring the family along with him to Egypt.  After months of preparation the whole clan heads out on an epic journey to Egypt.  What happens when they get there can only be described as Egyptian myth……

When I first heard that there were two authors writing this, I’ll admit that I was nervous.  Grange is already known for her excellent insight into the heads of Austen’s men with her diary series.  I was concerned that the book would read oddly with an Egyptologist as a co-author.  Webb has certainly made her mark in a wonderful way, helping weave her knowledge of Egyptian myths and beauty into the story.  The juxtaposition of Austen-styled writing with Egyptian myths is mesmerizing.  The story is effortlessly told, transporting the reader on this epic journey with the Darcy family.

While Elizabeth and Darcy are obviously important to the narrative, their children and their cousin Edward are the focal characters.  These new character creations make great additions to Austen’s cast of we know and love.  I was THRILLED that Mrs. Bennet was able to wheedle her way into the novel, as her “fluttering and spasms” made for great humorous fodder.

In all, this is a great new way to explore the Pride and Prejudice sequel JAFF genre!  It was entertaining to read this refreshing take on these familiar characters.  If I ever get the chance to go to Egypt I’ll be sure to remember all the sights and sounds that I read about in this work!

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Pride & Pyramids: Mr. Darcy in Egypt, by Amanda Grange and Jacqueline Webb
Sourcebooks (2012)
Trade paperback (320) pages
ISBN: 978-1402265341

Kimberly Denny-Ryder is the owner/moderator of Reflections of a Book Addict, a book blog dedicated to following her journey of reading 100 books a year, while attempting to keep a life! When not reading, Kim can be found volunteering as the co-chair of a 24hr cancer awareness event, as well as an active member of Quinnipiac University’s alumni association.  When not reading or volunteering, Kim can be found at her full-time job working in vehicle funding. She lives with her husband Todd and two cats, Belle and Sebastian, in Connecticut.

© 2012 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

Wentworth Hall, by Abby Grahame – A Review

Wentworth Hall, by Abby Grahame (2012)Review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder

If you enjoy Persuasion, Downton Abbey, or even Gossip Girl, you’re going to want to pay attention to this review.  Abby Grahame’s debut novel, Wentworth Hall, is a combination of all of the above and more.  Filled with themes and story lines that involve the mixing of social classes, lies, deceit, unrequited/lost loves, gossip and more, this book is jam packed from start to finish.

The Darlington family is one of the most powerful families in all of England in the beginning of the twentieth-century.  Under their massive estate, Wentworth Hall, all the intricate daily goings-on of all the family members coincide with each other and secret and scandal run amok.  Maggie Darlington, the elder sister, has always been known to be more raucous and carefree, yet she is now much more reserved and secretive since returning from her year away.  Although her secret is not revealed until the end of the novel, its effects on all the other members of the household are immediate, as the Darlington family fights to save its polished image as it begins to crack amongst whispers in the local media.  A series of newspaper articles that are supposedly satirical on the surface seem to be all too similar to the actual lives of the Darlingtons, and soon everyone begins to speculate as to the fate of this famed family.  Will they be able to uphold the noble status of their estate?  What is Maggie’s secret?

Wentworth Hall can be summed up in one word – glamorous.  While the hall itself isn’t, Grahame’s rich writing and fascinating storylines can 100% be described in this way.  (For a perfect example of her glamorous writing style, check out the guest post she posted last week here on Austenprose)  I’m still surprised that this is Grahame’s debut novel.  Her understanding of the culture, most specifically the social aspects, is captivating.  Similar to Persuasion and even Downton Abbey, Grahame explores the mixing of social classes using a love story as her plot device.  Using the Edwardian Era as the backdrop for her sweeping drama allows her to use the upstairs/downstairs and master/servant mentality to clearly demonstrate her narrative style.

I really enjoyed all of characters different secrets and how they were revealed and unraveled, merging together in the end.  It wasn’t difficult for me to figure out what each person was hiding, but I think it’ll be less obvious for the younger crowds that pick this up to read.

My major disappointment was the vagueness of the ending.  This young adult novel builds and builds and does resolve itself, but with few details.  It’s like going from point A to Z with nothing in the middle.  It left me wondering if this was going to be part of a series.  If it is in fact scheduled to be part of a series, then the vagueness sets up the plot for future books nicely.  Despite this, the splendor of Grahame’s writing combined with the excitement of the plot made me into a big fan of Wentworth Hall.  I humbly suggest that it becomes the next addition to your “to read” pile.

4 out of 5 Stars

Wentworth Hall, by Abby Grahame
Simon & Schuster (2012)
Hardcover (228) pages
ISBN: 978-1442451964

Kimberly Denny-Ryder is the owner/moderator of Reflections of a Book Addict, a book blog dedicated to following her journey of reading 100 books a year, while attempting to keep a life! When not reading, Kim can be found volunteering as the co-chair of a 24hr cancer awareness event, as well as an active member of Quinnipiac University’s alumni association.  When not reading or volunteering, Kim can be found at her full-time job working in vehicle funding. She lives with her husband Todd and two cats, Belle and Sebastian, in Connecticut.

© 2007 – 2012 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

For Myself Alone: A Jane Austen Inspired Novel, by Shannon Winslow – A Review

For Myself Alone: A Jane Austen Inspired Novel, by Shannon Winslow (2012Review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder

Gossip.  It has the power to create larger than life reputations, but also has the ability to destroy said reputations.  Within Jane Austen’s novels we’ve seen just what gossip can do; Mr. Darcy’s reputation and person are vilified by Wickham, John Thorpe gossips about the true size of Catherine Morland’s dowry to a displeased General Tilney, and Captain Wentworth hears gossip that shares the good tidings of Anne Elliot’s non-existent engagement to her cousin William.  It should come as no surprise then that Austen fan fiction writer Shannon Winslow should write an Austen-inspired novel that focuses on just what can happen with gossip!

For Myself Alone takes place in Bath and Hampshire in the 1800’s.  Winslow tells the story of Josephine Walker, the recent recipient of a large inheritance totaling almost twenty-thousand pounds, an unimaginably large sum at the time.  While Josephine is grateful for the inheritance from her Uncle, she also is concerned that people will now view her as a walking pile of money instead of the sweet and caring girl that she normally is.  What’s more, the suitors that come courting her can’t be trusted, and the only man in her life that she feels she can trust is Arthur, who also unfortunately happens to be the betrothed of her best friend, Agnes.  Engaged herself, Josephine begins to lose trust in her own fiancé, Richard, after she overhears a conversation between him and his father.  With all of these events happening to poor Josephine, how will she cope?  Will she be able to find comfort in Arthur despite their inability to be together?  What will she do with all of that money?

When I reviewed Winslow’s first novel The Darcys of Pemberley, I put in my review that Winslow was sure to be around the JAFF world for a while.  For Myself Alone cements that thought in my opinion.  Winslow has a fantastic ability to not only create a story that could be a long lost Austen novel, but to write it with the same wit and vivacity we’d expect from Austen herself.  Told in a completely first person narrative (which may I add is refreshing in this genre) it opened up the doors to allow us into the mind of our heroine.  We know exactly what she is feeling throughout, affording us the opportunity to really connect with her.  I find the more you can connect with your heroine/hero the bigger the enjoyment of the work becomes.

The prologue of the novel did a fabulous job at grabbing my attention and making me eager to learn about Josephine’s story and why she was the sudden target of the local gossips.  While the beginning of the novel moved slightly slowly, events in Bath pick up at heart-racing fast pace that doesn’t stop until the last page!   For those who want a fresh story with a definite Austen flair, For Myself Alone is the way to go.  I’m so glad that Winslow is back with another great work.  I can’t wait to see what she can do in the JAFF world!

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

For Myself Alone: A Jane Austen Inspired Novel, by Shannon Winslow
Heather Ridge Arts (2012)
Trade paperback (262) pages
ISBN: 978-0615619941
Kindle: B007PWINR8
NOOK: 2940014192712

Kimberly Denny-Ryder is the owner/moderator of Reflections of a Book Addict, a book blog dedicated to following her journey of reading 100 books a year, while attempting to keep a life! When not reading, Kim can be found volunteering as the co-chair of a 24hr cancer awareness event, as well as an active member of Quinnipiac University’s alumni association.  When not reading or volunteering, Kim can be found at her full-time job working in vehicle funding. She lives with her husband Todd and two cats, Belle and Sebastian, in Connecticut.

© 2007 – 2012 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

A Pemberley Medley: Five Pride & Prejudice Variations, by Abigail Reynolds – A Review

Pemberley Medley, by Abigail Reynolds (2011)Review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder

Whenever I finish an Abigail Reynolds book, I never feel like I’m completely done with the story.  What I mean by this is her writing always gets me totally engrossed in the stories making me wish they’d never end.  I always feel satisfied with where they’ve gone plot wise, but she writes characters so well that I always end up wishing for more. Fortunately for us Reynolds fans, she published A Pemberley Medley, a collection of short stories that represent different “what if” scenarios for our beloved Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet.  All five short stories are variations on the original Pride and Prejudice that we all know and love.  I wanted to leave you surprised by the plot of the majority of the works, but I couldn’t pass on the chance to tell you about my favorite (and also the first) short story of the book.

Entitled “Intermezzo”, it takes place on Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley’s wedding day, although Darcy is nowhere in sight.  He is still too brokenhearted and raw over the failed proposal attempt at Hunsford.  He decides that staying away and not seeing Elizabeth would be a better option.  What would happen if Darcy chose to show up at the last minute, only to find himself seated next to Elizabeth for the wedding breakfast?  Will he find a changed Elizabeth, or will she still be filled with hatred and contempt for him?

The other creative short stories are entitled “Such Differing Reports”, “Reason’s Rule”, “The Most Natural Thing”, and “A Succession of Rain”.  Fans of Reynolds’ To Conquer Mr. Darcy will want to pay special attention to “Reason’s Rule”, as it’s a scene from that novel that was left on the editing room floor.   The Most Natural Thing is a novella told in three parts that see Darcy as a “dark” character.  Fans will definitely be pleased with the variety of stories this compilation offers.

I feel that Reynolds has always excelled most at her characterizations.  She writes wonderful soliloquies that offer great insight into the character’s thoughts, feelings, and wishes.  Her ability to really connect with what her characters makes them that much more lifelike, and adds to the authenticity of the work as a whole.  Perhaps that is what makes Reynolds such a bastion of the JAFF world.  She keeps us wanting more, and makes any retelling of Pride and Prejudice seem like it’s the first time we’ve ever read anything outside of the original.

I especially enjoyed the short story format, which allowed Reynolds to cover more characters and plot than she would have in a traditional novel, and this added to the quickness and overall tone of the work.  I felt as if I covered a lot more ground in one reading than I would have with a detailed novel.  (Maybe these short stories will be fleshed out into full length novels? We can only hope!)  It was a fresh approach that I hope Reynolds will repeat in the future.  Overall, it came as no surprise that I enjoyed all of these short stories, especially the one that required the biggest change of heart for Mr. Darcy.  I’m always a sucker for a good romance, and Reynolds knows just how to appease my palate.  Bravo for a job well done!

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Pemberley Medley: Five Pride & Prejudice Variations, by Abigail Reynolds
Intertidal Press (2011)
Trade paperback (212) pages
ISBN: 978-0615470337
Kindle: ASIN: B0069TPCQ8

Kimberly Denny-Ryder is the owner/moderator of Reflections of a Book Addict, a book blog dedicated to following her journey of reading 100 books a year, while attempting to keep a life! When not reading, Kim can be found volunteering as the co-chair of a 24hr cancer awareness event, as well as an active member of Quinnipiac University’s alumni association.  When not reading or volunteering, Kim can be found at her full-time job working in vehicle funding. She lives with her husband Todd and two cats, Belle and Sebastian, in Connecticut.

© 2007 – 2012 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

Dreaming of Mr. Darcy, by Victoria Connelly – A Review

Dreaming of Mr. Darcy, by Victoria Connelly (2012)Reviewed by Kimberly Denny-Ryder

There are many readers in the Jane Austen fan fiction world that appreciate a good, clean love story.  Author Victoria Connelly obviously appreciates them as well, as she publishes contemporary novels that fit those parameters.  Her popular Austen Addicts trilogy seems to have really struck a chord with Austen lovers the world over.  The second book in her trilogy, Dreaming of Mr. Darcy, has a plot influenced by Pride and Prejudice and Emma, with a location taken directly from the pages of Persuasion!

Kay Ashton has struck it rich.  After receiving an unexpected cash windfall, she decides to indulge a lifelong dream of hers to live in the Regency Era world that Jane Austen’s characters enjoyed so many years ago.  Ashton purchases a decrepit bed and breakfast in Lyme Regis, and begins the processes of restoring it to its former glory.  Halfway through the renovation, all of the available rooms are booked by producers of a movie adaptation of Persuasion.  In time, Kay begins to fall for Oli Wade Owen, the actor slated to play Captain Wentworth.  However, a writer by the name of Adam Craig has fallen for Kay despite her feelings for Mr. Owen.   Will Adam ever tell Kay about his true feelings?  When will Kay realize that Oli is hiding a big secret?

It took me a really long time to get into this story, but when I did I connected.  Connelly’s strongest suit as a writer is unquestionably her ability to create uniquely appealing and relatable characters.  Kay is a dreamer- one who creates really vivid imaginings.  Even though she spends a lot of time up in the clouds (much like Emma and maybe a bit like Catherine Morland too?), she still stays rooted to the ground with the rest of us, experiencing amazing new things with Adam.  Adam is that nice guy who girls become friends with, yet never date (he’s got a bit of Darcy, Bingley, and Knightley all thrown in).  He’s kind, considerate, and completely selfless.  The supporting cast of characters (most notable are Oli and Gemma) also have their own character quirks that have been influenced by other Austen characters.  All in all, these characters combine to form a wonderful mix of personalities and traits that Connelly draws from to form the plot.

With this great character description I became extremely invested in the lives of the characters, only to be disappointed in the end.  I felt like so much time had been spent getting to know these characters (300 pages) that I was faced with a very short conclusion.  It left me feeling bereft to be honest!  Gemma’s story was probably my favorite out of the whole novel, and unfortunately it is never really “officially” wrapped up.  This caused a gaping hole in my heart (yes, a gaping hole I have filled by creating my own happy ending for her!).

All in all this was a fun book.  Even with the shortened ending it was still a good, clean love story that any romance reader (Austen fan or not) can enjoy.  Even though the character buildup was met with a shortened ending, you may be able to imagine a more substantial ending if you give it a try.  So, I suggest you pick up a copy and get reading! The Third novel in the Austen Addicts trilogy, Mr. Darcy Forever, will be released April 1st, 2012.

3.5 out of 5 Stars

Dreaming of Mr. Darcy, by Victoria Connelly
Sourcebooks (2012)
Trade paperback (368) pages
ISBN: 978-1402251351

Kimberly Denny-Ryderis the owner/moderator of Reflections of a Book Addict, a book blog dedicated to following her journey of reading 100 books a year, while attempting to keep a life! When not reading, Kim can be found volunteering as the co-chair of a 24hr cancer awareness event, as well as an active member of Quinnipiac University’s alumni association.  When not reading or volunteering, Kim can be found at her full-time job working in vehicle funding. She lives with her husband Todd and two cats, Belle and Sebastian, in Connecticut.

© 2007 – 2012 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

Rosedale in Love, by Lev Raphael – A Review

Rosedale in Love, by Lev Raphael (2011)In honor of Edith Wharton’s 150th birthday yesterday, Kimberly Denny-Ryder has generously shared her review of this new novel inspired by Wharton’s The House of Mirth.

The Gilded Age of America is one of my favorite time periods to read about.  This is probably due to the fact that I grew up near NYC and also made frequent trips to the mansions in Newport, RI owned by the billionaires of that era.  The amount of wealth that was thrown around in those days is truly astounding.  To see the ostentatious nature of some of the landmarks of that era is mesmerizing: houses with elaborate ballrooms, private tea gardens, marble EVERYTHING, etc. etc. – you get the idea.  When Lev Raphael approached me about reviewing Rosedale in Love, a historical fiction novel taking place in the Gilded Age, you can imagine my immediate acceptance!

The time is 1905, and America is booming.  Considered the first real decade of consumerism and materialism, Americans were spending their hard-earned money in droves.  At the center of this madness in New York City is Simon Rosedale, a Jewish financial wizard who has big plans to break into the elite upper-class society that controls everything there is to control in the city.  However, not having any beneficial family ties, and feeling slightly outcast due to his faith, Rosedale sets his aim on marriage as his way into this exclusive club.  Enter Lily Bart, a down-on-her-luck member of this aristocratic society who has recently been fodder for the tabloids.  Rosedale sees a way in via Ms. Bart.  She’s hurt enough socially that she just might take the plunge with Rosedale.  But would she really marry someone like Rosedale?  Would this make the gossip go away, or would it intensify even further?  Add into this mix Florence, Simon’s cousin who is secretly head over heels in love with Simon and you have one hell of a love triangle. Continue reading “Rosedale in Love, by Lev Raphael – A Review”

A Crimson Warning (Lady Emily Series #6), by Tasha Alexander – A Review

Crimson Warning, by Alexandra Tudor (2011)Guest review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder

Jane Austen spoiled us.  She wrote novels about amazing women who oftentimes bucked society’s norms.  Nowadays, it’s difficult to find heroines like Elizabeth Bennet that have us rooting for them page after page.  Luckily, author Tasha Alexander decided to gift the world with a tenacious woman Austen herself would be proud of: Lady Emily Hargreaves.  In A Crimson Warning, the sixth novel in the Lady Emily mystery series, we are again thrown into a mystery that seems to have no clear ending.  It is up to Lady Emily’s wit and cunning to save the day and keep the forces of evil at bay for yet another day.

Lady Emily has been busy.  From barely escaping with her life in Constantinople and Normandy, she hopes to finally wind things down and come home to Mayfair and enjoy the normal comforts of being happily married and finally settled.  For a while, she actually accomplishes this.  Lady Emily even gets to join the Women’s Liberal Federation and work towards obtaining the right to vote for women.  Unfortunately, this ideal world is shattered in A Crimson Warning, when Lady Emily learns that an unknown person has been splashing red paint onto the fronts of many of the wealthier homes in London.  These are no ordinary homes, however, as their owners possess secrets that are potentially damaging and are hidden for one reason or another.  Soon enough, all of the upper class in London fear that they too could be the target of this criminal, and that he or she may be involved in more sinister acts than simply painting the front of a home with a red slash.  Can Lady Emily and Colin find this evil individual before it is too late and people start disappearing?  What are the secrets that these wealthy Londoners go to such lengths to protect?

Less than a month ago I had never heard of the Lady Emily series.  Shame on me!  I’ve now read all six novels in the series and am eagerly awaiting Death in the Floating City, the seventh in the series, which is scheduled for release this October.  When I reviewed the first Lady Emily novel, And Only To Deceive, my thoughts on Alexander’s writing was that it was a hybrid between Jane Austen and Agatha Christie.  Six novels later, those feelings remain unchanged.  Alexander is an amazing mystery writer.  I still had no idea whodunit 40 pages from the end.  Sure, I had my guesses regarding the culprit, but her writing is so precise and clean that it is not until the antagonist is finally revealed that you realize all the clues that were left for you to follow.

As I said above, Lady Emily is a woman that Austen herself would be proud of.  She completely disregards what society expects of women.  She refuses to be an idle wife, staying home with nothing to do but plan balls and dinners and make social calls.  Instead, she uses her mind to explore literature, art, and languages, much to the delight of her husband, Colin.  Colin works as an agent for the crown and is fully supportive of her “crimes against society”.  In A Crimson Warning we get to see a more political side of Emily, as she gets involved with the Women’s Liberal Federation.  It’s through all of her side interests (i.e art, literature) that we learn about that time period.  Alexander uses Emily’s “hobbies” to inform us about what was going on back then.  It’s obviously meticulously researched and has oftentimes led me to want to read and research certain time periods further.

I have to say of all six novels I think that A Crimson Warning is my favorite to date.  We really get a sense of Alexander’s witty and playful side here.  Her scavenger hunt through the British Museum and whiskey drinking scene between Emily and her good friend Jeremy were the best parts of the novel in my opinion.  Although we don’t normally see this side of Alexander, I’m really glad that we got to in this novel.  It added an extra touch to an already wonderful novel that I heartily recommend to everyone.  Fast paced and full of wit and terrifying danger, A Crimson Warning (and the entire Lady Emily series) is not one you want to miss.  Add it to your to-read pile as soon as possible, you won’t be disappointed.

5 out of 5 Stars

A Crimson Warning (Lady Emily Series #6), by Tasha Alexander
St. Martin’s Press (2011)
Hardcover (336) pages
ISBN: 978-0312661755

Kimberly Denny-Ryderis the owner/moderator of Reflections of a Book Addict, a book blog dedicated to following her journey of reading 100 books a year, while attempting to keep a life! When not reading, Kim can be found volunteering as the co-chair of a 24hr cancer awareness event, as well as an active member of Quinnipiac University’s alumni association.  When not reading or volunteering, Kim can be found at her full-time job working in vehicle funding. She lives with her husband Todd and two cats, Belle and Sebastian, in Connecticut.

© 2007 – 2012 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

Miss Darcy Falls in Love, by Sharon Lathan – A Review

Miss Darcy Falls in Love, by Sharon Lathan (2011)Guest review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder of Reflections of a Book Addict

In Sharon Lathan’s newest venture into the world of Pride and Prejudice, readers are given a chance to fall in love with one of Austen’s minor characters, Georgiana Darcy.  For those that have been following Lathan’s Darcy Saga, you’ll know that Georgiana falls in love at the end of The Trouble with Mr. Darcy.  Readers who are not familiar with the previous storyline, will be able to retrace her courtship in Miss Darcy Falls in Love, and experience the entire thing from the beginning.

Georgiana Darcy, now coming of age, embarks upon a tour of Europe without her brother Fitzwilliam and sister-in-law Elizabeth.  During her time in Europe, she meets many new acquaintances, most significantly Sebastian Butler, a fellow music lover, and Lord Caxton, a teacher at The Conservatoire, a renowned musical school in Paris.  Both pay her a great amount of attention, albeit in different ways.  Sebastian becomes her musical collaborator, both playing and writing original compositions with her, while Lord Caxton seems to be intent on escorting her to balls, parties, and operas, taking her away from the musical world.  Both men engage in a bidding war over her heart, yet only one will win.  Who will Georgiana give her heart to?  How will she choose amongst these two charming yet exceedingly different men?

Having followed all of Lathan’s previous works I will say I was slightly confused when I started reading Miss Darcy Falls in Love.  Knowing the end of her last work I immediately went to check online to see if I missed a book in the series.  Just to save you the confusion, this book takes place prior to the ending of The Trouble with Mr. Darcy, and ends after its conclusion.  I’m actually really glad that Lathan decided to go back and tell Georgiana’s story.  She was one of my favorite minor characters from the original, and I was always left wanting with her story. After everything that happened between her and Mr. Wickham in Austen’s original novel, she certainly deserves someone writing her a happy ending!

One of the most amazing things about this book is how it’s infused with “music.”  What I mean by this is Lathan takes musical terminology and intertwines the story with it.  The story itself is also written in a lyrical manner, flowing like a beautifully tuned instrument.  Georgiana’s rapidly changing feelings are similar to arpeggios, fast-paced in their movement, yet rising and falling in a steadfast manner.  She is conflicted in her feelings towards these two new male characters in her life, and is constantly questioning these new feelings.

Lathan does a fabulous job at expanding the framework that Austen laid out of Georgiana’s characteristics.  She is still a doting sister, constantly wondering how her brother and family are at home, as well as phenomenal musician.  It’s wonderful to see her grow in confidence under the tutelage of her companion and Sebastian Butler.  Their confidence in her and her talents lets the accomplished Georgiana within shine through.

Lathan has another home run hit on her hands here.  Her name is certainly solidified with what good Jane Austen fan fiction should be.  If you haven’t given her novels a try, I suggest you do.  Fast-paced and always full of the romance we all dream about, Miss Darcy Falls in Love is not one you’ll want to miss.

4.5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Miss Darcy Fall in Love, by Sharon Lathan
Sourcebooks (2011)
Trade paperback (288) pages
ISBN: 978-1402259043

© 2007 – 2011 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

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