Sanditon: A Novelization of Andrew Davies’ TV Adaptation of Jane Austen’s Unfinished Novel, by Kate Riordan

Sanditon, by Jane Austen and Kate Riordan PBS (2019)A new Jane Austen adaptation/continuation written by Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice 1995) debuted last night in the US on Masterpiece PBS. Inspired by an unfinished novel that Austen began shortly before her death in 1817, Sanditon, the original novel, the television series, and the novelization by Kate Riordan, all share the same title. A tie-in novel based on a screenplay based on an uncompleted novel. That is six degrees of separation that is a challenge to get my mind around. Today we are reviewing the novelization!

The story unfolds from the perspective of Charlotte Heywood, a young lady experiencing her first trip away from her family as a guest of the Parkers of Sanditon, an emerging seaside village on the Sussex coast. Mr. Parker and his business partner Lady Denham are the two entrepreneurs behind its redevelopment from a fishing village into a fashionable watering-place offering the therapeutic and curative benefits of sea-bathing. Mr. Parker has three siblings: Arthur and Diana, a comical pair who are obsessed with their health, and the mysterious Sidney, whose handsome portrait greeted Charlotte when she entered the Parker home. Lady Denham is a widow twice over whose heirs are circling in anticipation of her “ shuffle of this mortal coil,”: Sir Edward Denham and his sister Esther, and Clara Brereton, all young and eager to please their aunt to win her approval, and her fortune.

Every experience in Sanditon is a new adventure for Charlotte—seeing the ocean for the first time and meeting new people. Her first day after her arrival is spent sea-bathing, a bracing experience from the cold temperature of the ocean, and by the view of naked men bathing from an adjoining stretch of the beach. Later, while walking with Mrs. Parker to visit Lady Denham at Sanditon House, she sees Sir Edward and Clara together in the park engaging in an intimate activity that she is uncomfortable with. Inside, Charlotte is in awe of the splendor of the grand manor house. Everything about Sanditon and its residents is so different than her life as the daughter of a gentleman farmer. Continue reading

A Good Name: A Modern Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Sarah Courtney — A Review

A Good Name, by Sarah Courtney (2019)From the desk of Debbie Brown:

This is one of those books that completely took me by surprise. I’m still gobsmacked by it. Do NOT be put off by the fact that the first part of the story — well, actually, the whole book — is centered squarely on George Wickham. Please trust me. It works.

The book’s Prologue tugs at your heartstrings, introducing George at age ten. His mother is a neglectful drug addict and he doesn’t even know who his father is; Rebecca Wickham has had several boyfriends, and Mark, the guy she’s currently living with, is better than most only because he doesn’t beat them. George has just one set of clothes, and he’s always hungry. He gets bullied at school. He can read, but not very well. With such a start in life, there doesn’t seem to be much of a future ahead for him.

But little eight-year-old Lizzy Bennet approaches him on a playground bench, offers him a sandwich, and unconsciously introduces him to the perfect escape from his miserable life by reading aloud a Harry Potter book. “[H]e wished she didn’t have to go. It was like coming out of a dream somehow, to close the book and go back to real life. He felt let down. Going home, going to bed, lying there hungry… how could he go back to that now that he had been on a train to magic school?” It’s a game-changer for George.

The story continues. The two friends are separated, but George’s situation improves thanks to Mr. Darcy (senior). Fitzwilliam Darcy eventually turns up in the book a couple of years later. His entrance is an inspired twist, and I hope other reviewers are kind enough not to spoil the surprise.

More time passes, with Will becoming COO of his father’s company, AirVA, which is a national air ventilation system corporation based in Virginia. Anyway, when Will’s father and mother are in a car crash, Mr. Darcy’s injuries and subsequent rehab require Will to step up as CEO years before originally planned. It’s a difficult transition for an introverted, insecure young man. Everyone seems to want a piece of him — both in business and in his social life.

The plot gets into recognizable Pride and Prejudice territory with Will reluctantly attending Charles Bingley’s engagement party, hugging the periphery, and resisting his friend’s suggestion that he enter into the spirit of things. When Charles offers to introduce Will to Jane Gardiner’s sister Elizabeth, we just know what’s coming. As expected, Elizabeth overhears him say, “Charlie, leave off. I have no interest in dancing with whatever floozy you’re trying to throw at me this time.” …aaand we’re off! Continue reading

A Preview of Strong Objections to the Lady: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Jayne Bamber

Strong Objection to the Lady, by Jayne Bamber (2019)Pride and Prejudice variations are the most popular Austenesque books in print. There are thousands of them now. I kid you not. While the genre can credit Abigail Reynolds as a pioneer in the Darcy and Elizabeth redux, there are always new authors with new stories breaking into the throng to add to the mix.

Jayne Bamber is one of those new additions to the pack. She is certainly prolific. She published four Pride and Prejudice variations last year. One assumes that she had them squirreled away and brought them out in a flurry of industry. Her latest, Strong Objects to the Lady, is part variation and continuation. You will find familiar settings at Rosings Park and Hunsford Parsonage in Kent and beloved characters created by Jane Austen sent off in new directions. Here are a book description and an exclusive excerpt for your enjoyment.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

A tale of…Intrigue & Inheritance… Meddling & Manipulation… Sisterhood & Self-Improvement…

When Lady Catherine de Bourgh learns of Mr. Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth Bennet, her wrath sets in motion a series of events at Hunsford Parsonage which embroil Darcy and Elizabeth in a family fracas that grows more complicated daily.

The shades of Rosings Park are soon polluted by the shocking transformation of its new mistress and her guests, as well as secrets of the past and schemes for the future.

Appearances and alliances shift amidst the chaos wrought by a well-intentioned house party, and Darcy and Elizabeth must finally face their feelings for one another despite mounting obstacles and misunderstandings of every kind.

Set chiefly in Kent and spanning the short space of just a month, this stand-alone variation begins the morning after Mr. Darcy’s failed proposal at Hunsford. From there, chaos quickly erupts and the lives of three strong young women tangle together in a day-by-day journey of growth, sisterhood, and ultimately romance, in the wake of tragedy.

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Continue reading

A Preview of Miss Austen: A Novel, by Gill Hornby, & Exclusive Sweepstakes

Miss Austen, by Gill Hornby (2020)Happy New Year Janeites! I am starting off the new decade by introducing you to a fabulous forthcoming book in the Austenesque genre, Miss Austen, by Gill Hornby.

I had the great pleasure of reading an early manuscript of Hornby’s new novel Miss Austen last year. If like me, you have always been baffled by Jane Austen’s older sister Cassandra destroying much of her sister’s correspondence after her death and are curious why she felt she needed to do so, this forthcoming novel which releases on April 7th fills in the story, and much more. I was moved by this beautiful and engaging story and I hope that you will be intrigued by the book description and the exclusive excerpt here and add it to your TBR pile. There is also an announcement of a sweepstake by the author’s publisher Flatiron Books of a giveaway of five (5) copies of an advance reader’s copy of the book. Enjoy, and good luck to all.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

For fans of Jo Baker’s Longbourn, a witty, poignant novel about Cassandra Austen and her famous sister, Jane.

Whoever looked at an elderly lady and saw the young heroine she once was? England, 1840. For the two decades following the death of her beloved sister, Jane, Cassandra Austen has lived alone, spending her days visiting friends and relations and quietly, purposefully working to preserve her sister’s reputation. Now in her sixties and increasingly frail, Cassandra goes to stay with the Fowles of Kintbury, family of her long-dead fiancé, in search of a trove of Jane’s letters. Dodging her hostess and a meddlesome housemaid, Cassandra eventually hunts down the letters and confronts the secrets they hold, secrets not only about Jane but about Cassandra herself. Will Cassandra bare the most private details of her life to the world, or commit her sister’s legacy to the flames? Continue reading

Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things, by Jacqueline Firkins — A Review

Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things, by Firkins (2019)From the desk of Katie Patchell 

For all its stylistic elegance and its iron-backboned heroine, Mansfield Park is the black sheep of the Jane Austen canon. It’s the book most likely to be placed at the bottom of “Which is your favorite Austen novel?” polls. Public opinion hovers somewhere between “That’s a book by Jane Austen?” and “Gross…cousins marrying.” For many readers, it’s the heroine that’s frustrating. Fanny Price is usually seen as duller than dishwater – her moral compass providing a guide for the plot, but no passion. Even though I’m a staunch fan of Mansfield Park and Fanny’s quiet strength, I can understand why not everyone enjoys it to the level I do. However, the novel’s understated beauty, full cast of characters who are neither fully good or fully bad and Jane Austen’s characteristic humor is all too good to miss. It is this magnetic, complex blend that I eagerly searched for in Jacqueline Firkins’ new Mansfield Park adaptation, Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things.

The book opens with Edie, the heroine (based off of Fanny Price), en route to live with her kind but absent uncle and his unkind and controlling wife (switched around a bit and based off of Mrs. Norris). Edie doesn’t fit in with her two very rich cousins, Maria and Julia, and not just in the financial category. They only care about fashion and kissing hot boys in the neighborhood, while Edie cares about writing music, reading classics, and avoiding romantic entanglements at all costs. Without her mom or best friend by her side, all she has left is her guitar without strings and memories of better times…including one blissful summer spent playing with the adventurous boy next door. Once she arrives at her new home, life becomes way more complicated than she imagined. For starters, that boy next door, Sebastian, is now a (secretly) aspiring author…and still magnetic to Edie. The only problem? He’s already dating someone way out of her league. Henry Crawford, the local handsome but slimy flirt, seems to think he can take turns trying out each of the Price cousins, including Edie. With college application deadlines looming and a mess of drama to contend with, what’s a level-headed, heartsore girl to do?

What I loved about this book is a long list! Chief among them is the writing. I felt connected to Edie every step of the way, more than I’ve felt for a heroine in a while. Her pain over her mom’s death, she struggles to fit in and yet not conform….these things were deftly and beautifully written. Readers expecting this adaptation to be written in the style of Jane Austen will be disappointed, although some characters do occasionally use long, 18th century words. In my opinion, however, because Firkins didn’t aim for replicating the style of Jane Austen’s original (a near-impossible task), she was able to consistently capture its heart. Twists and turns – some like the original, some uniquely different – weave a story that still centers around the main question: Can discovering and staying true to your values help you weather any storm and bring lasting happiness? Continue reading

12 Terrific Historical Christmas Novels and Short Story Collections for Your Holiday Reading

It’s that time of year again when the holiday spirit takes hold and I am compelled to read Christmas stories in between shopping and baking. I especially appreciate short stories during this busy time and there are a lot of historical anthologies to choose from along with novellas, and novels to get me in the mood and distract me from the craziness at work and home. Here are twelve books in my personal collection set in Regency and Victorian times that Jane Austen and historical romance readers will devour. Be sure to add to them to your #TBRpile. You won’t regret it.

How the Dukes Stole Christmas: A Christmas Romance Anthology, by Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, and Joanna Shupe

Make some time in your busy holiday schedule for yourself with a cup of tea, Christmas cookies, and this delightful short story collection by four bestselling historical romance authors that will sweep you away and into the Regency ballrooms of London, to Scottish castles, and to the Gilded Age New York. I always enjoy Tessa Dare’s novels and the other three authors are at the top of their game too.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

“Meet Me in Mayfair” by Tessa Dare

Louisa Ward needs a Christmas miracle. Unless she catches a wealthy husband at the ball tonight, the horrid, heartless Duke of Thorndale will evict her family from their beloved Mayfair home. But when her friend begs to switch dance cards, Louisa finds herself waltzing with the enemy: the horrid, heartless–and unexpectedly handsome–Thorndale himself. Now the duke’s holding her future in his hands…and he’s not letting go.

“The Duke of Christmas Present” by Sarah MacLean

Rich and ruthless, Eben, Duke of Allryd, has no time for holidays. Holidays are for whimsy and charm–the only two things his money cannot buy. Lady Jacqueline Mosby is full of both, even now, twelve years after she left to see the world. When Jacqueline returns for a single Christmas, Eben can’t resist the woman he never stopped loving…or the future that had once been in reach. It will take a miracle to convince her to stay…but if ever there were a time for miracles, it’s Christmas…

“Heiress Alone” by Sophie Jordan

When Annis Bannister’s family leaves her behind in the rush to escape an impending snowstorm, she finds herself stranded in the Highlands, left to fend off brigands terrorizing the countryside, robbing homes locked up for winter. Her only hope falls on her neighbor, a surly hermit duke who unravels her with a look, then a kiss … until she fears the danger to her heart outweighs the danger of brigands and snowstorms.

“Christmas in Central Park” by Joanna Shupe

Women all over America devour Mrs. Walker’s weekly column for recipes and advice. No one knows Rose, the column’s author, can’t even boil water. When the paper’s owner, Duke Havemeyer, insists she host a Christmas party, Rose must scramble to find a husband, an empty mansion, and a cook. But Duke is not a man easily fooled and she fears her perfect plan is failing–especially when Duke’s attentions make her feel anything but professional. To save her career will she give up her chance at love?

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY | INDIEBOUND | GOODREADS

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas, by Stephanie Barron

Continue reading

A Preview of The Knight Before Christmas, by Marilyn Brant

The Knight Before Christmas, by Marilyn Brant (2019)Hey-ho-ho Jane Austen fans. How are your holiday festivities and shopping shaping up? My neighborhood has decked their houses with lights and a few Santa’s on the rooves. One even sports a giant green Grinch. Ouch! They could use a good dose of holiday cheer, like watching one of the billion Hallmark Holiday movies airing on TV right now or reading The Knight Before Christmas, Marilyn Brant’s new holiday-themed contemporary romance. We have reviewed several of Marilyn’s previous novels here in the past with glowing results. Her Jane Austen-inspired According to Jane, and Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Match are worthy of adding to your shelves.

However, today we are introducing you to her latest release, The Knight Before Christmas. Inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma, she takes the essence of Austen’s nonsensical heroine Miss Emma Woodhouse and her older, wiser neighbor George Knightley and gives them a modern spin. Here is the book description from the publisher and an exclusive excerpt from the author herself for your enjoyment.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

When successful building contractor Austin Knightley returns to his hometown of Crystal Corners, Minnesota, after a decade away, he vows to avoid pampered and popular types like his old high-school crush Emma Westwood—the town’s biggest queen bee and self-appointed matchmaker—only to get swept into a community Christmas project she’s now organizing.

With nods to Jane Austen’s classic novel Emma, this modern heroine may be a little “clueless” in the Midwest, but she’s got gifts to share and plenty to learn from the boy next door, who’s all grown up and handsomer than ever. Even when a snowstorm threatens to derail her plans, she’s determined to figure out how to set things right and save The Knight Before Christmas. This sweet and heartwarming holiday romance is a story that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Continue reading

The Clergyman’s Wife: A Pride & Prejudice Novel, by Molly Greeley — A Review

The Clergyman's Wife, by Molly Greeley (2019)From the desk of Tracy Hickman:

Readers of Pride and Prejudice often compare Charlotte Lucas unfavorably with Elizabeth Bennet who bravely resists financial and familial pressure to accept a proposal from the comically inept Mr. Collins, the man who stands to inherit Longbourn upon her father’s death. While nothing but the deepest love will induce her into matrimony, her closest friend Charlotte decides that she does not have the luxury of waiting for love and quickly catches Mr. Collins on the rebound. Lizzy’s bold refusal stirs our hearts; Charlotte’s pragmatic and calculated choice elicits feelings of resignation and dismay. But I’ve often thought that Charlotte is unfairly maligned by readers, who seem to expect her to possess courage equal to that of Jane Austen’s daring heroine. Could a P&P-inspired novel offer Charlotte something other than a loveless marriage of convenience?

Molly Greeley’s debut novel The Clergyman’s Wife explores Charlotte’s married life in the village of Hunsford. The main storyline takes place three years after Charlotte becomes Mrs. Collins. Her life is quiet, comfortable, and secure, though she must endure visits to Rosings Park from time to time. Housekeeping, parish duties, and raising her infant daughter, Louisa, keep Charlotte busy. While this is the life Charlotte chose, the opening pages of Chapter 1 hint at her well-concealed malaise:

“Behind me on my writing desk, a fresh piece of paper sits ready. The salutation at the top—Dear Elizabeth—has been dry for some time. I never feel the quiet uniformity of my life as fully as when I am trying to compose a letter to my friend…There is always the menu to plan, the accounts to balance, the kitchen garden to tend. I embroider a great deal more than I used to, and my designs have improved, I think. But descriptions of embroidery do not an amusing letter make.” (8)

Continue reading

Matters of the Heart, by Fiona Palmer — A Review

Matters of the Heart, by Fiona Palmer (2019)From the desk of Sophia Rose:

One of the brilliant things about modern retellings is the amusement in discovering the similarities in the characters and scenes to the original while still getting a unique flavor to the story by seeing them in a new setting. Fiona Palmer’s, Matters of the Heart, a modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice set in rural Western Australia strikes a happy balance between complete correspondence to the original and wise alterations to suit the times and keeps it fresh for the readers. The draw of an Australian author and setting for Austen’s classic could not be missed.

The book opens with an introduction to the main character, feisty Lizzy Bennet, her family, and her small town, Coodardy. Lizzy pursues her deep-seated fulfillment in farming and bravely forges ahead using new methods in agriculture and animal husbandry to save the family farm following a few tough years and her dad’s indifference. Lizzy is not immune to other people’s doubts that a mere woman can be a farmer let alone save her family farm which causes her to stick out her chin and resent a certain rich, successful, and handsome farmer’s officious remark. So much for being excited about having the farm next door purchased and new people arriving in the neighborhood, she thinks. Charles might be nice enough and fun to converse with about farm methods, but his sister and best friend are as welcome as a bank foreclosure in Lizzy’s mind.

Matters of the Heart was very much in tune with Austen’s story. That said, it was freshened due to the Australian farm setting, Australian customs, and dialogue with new characters for the reader to engage with whether brand new to Austen or an old fan.

This version of Elizabeth Bennet, the jewel of the story for me, is a woman succeeding in a non-traditional career and is a bright non-conformist like the original. Continue reading

A Preview of Loving Like Jane (Princeton Ladies Book 1), by Connie E. Sokol

Loving Like Jane, by Connie E. Sokol (2019)How many contemporary Austenesque books have you read? If you are like me, my bookshelves and Kindle are packed with stories set in the Regency era with just a few set in modern times. It is a challenge to transport Austen’s characters and plots into contemporary settings. Authors must tweak much of it to fit and that does not always work. I have found that the best bet is to incorporate Austen elements into the story, like Marilyn Brant’s According to Jane, and Karen Doornebos’ Undressing Mr. Darcy. Both authors have excelled at this subgenre of Austenesque fiction in the past.

Adding to this niche is Loving Like Jane, by Connie E. Sokol. What intrigued me about this new novel was that it used the same premise as the successful Austenesque books by Brant and Doornebos. A Jane Austen obsessed heroine gets thrown into a challenging situation and uses her “Austen powers” to work through it to overcome her obstacles in her career and her love life. Here are a book description and an exclusive excerpt from the publisher for your enjoyment.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Allie’s dream of writing a best-selling novel for a top literary agent is finally coming true. Except, she’s already agreed to go on a bucket list Jane Austen Tour for three weeks with her newly divorced aunt and widowed mother. To complicate matters, Allie can’t decide what the Best Novel Ever idea should be, and the first three chapters are due in, what else, three weeks. Determined to buckle down, Allie devotes her time to writing while refusing to engage in the trip’s delights, or gorgeous but enigmatic Beckett, the assistant tour director. Despite her attempts to stay focused, Allie is drawn to Beckett’s quick wit, Jane Austen wisdom, and deciding if his help will further her dreams or get in the way. Join Allie on her inspiring, hilarious, and romantic adventure as she learns how loving like Jane Austen creates unexpected changes that could lead to the life she loves.

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Continue reading

A Preview of Yuletide: A Jane Austen Inspired Collection of Stories (Audiobook), Narrated by Harry Frost

Yuletide: A Jane Austen-Inspired Collection of Stories (Audiobook), edited by Christina Boyd, read by Harry Frost (2019)Hey-ho gentle readers!

The holiday season is quickly approaching with all of its delights. My local radio station started playing Christmas music the day after Veterans Day. Retailers are hanging garland and stocking their tables with gift-giving fare. A friend told me that they are finished with their shopping and have already mailed their gifts. It’s not even Thanksgiving and I am behind!

Desperate to get myself in the seasonal mood I coincidently learned of the new release of the audiobook of Yuletide: A Jane Austen Inspired Collection of Stories. I had read the book last year, so this was a nice surprise. It contains seven Pride and Prejudice-inspired stories set during the holiday season in Regency and modern-day. You can read my review of Yuletide for a summary of the stories and my impressions. Here are the book description and audio excerpts from the publisher.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

I went up to the Great House between three and four, and dawdled away an hour very comfortably….” — Jane Austen

A holiday short story anthology with some favorite Austenesque authors, Yuletide is inspired by Jane Austen, Pride and prejudice, and the spirit of the season. Regency and contemporary alike, each romance was dreamt to spark love, humor, and wonder while you dawdle over a hot cup of tea this Christmas.

  • Chapter 1: Opening Credits
  • Chapter 2: “The Forfeit” by Caitlin Williams
  • Chapter 3: “And Evermore Be Merry” by Joana Starnes
  • Chapter 4: “The Wishing Ball” by Amy D’Orazio
  • Chapter 5: “By a Lady” by Lona Manning
  • Chapter 6: “Homespun for the Holidays” by J. Marie Croft
  • Chapter 7: “The Season for Friendly Meetings” by Anngela Schroeder
  • Chapter 8: “Mistletoe Management” by Elizabeth Adams
  • Chapter 9: Closing Credits

AUDIO EXCERPT: Continue reading